Book Review: Rear Admiral Herbert V. Wiley: A Career in Airships and Battleships


by M. Ernest Marshall

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2019. Pp. xii, 326+. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $38,95. ISBN: 1682473171

A Most Unusual Naval Career

Herbert V. Wiley (1891-1954) had what would today be considered a very unusual career in the Navy, one reflecting the evolution of the service in the interwar period. Like a number of other innovators of the times, he was largely overlooked in the literature until now. Dr. Marshall, a former professor of medicine, has proven a very good naval historian, and gives us an excellent look at the life of this officer.

A 1915 graduate of the Naval Academy, like all officers of the day, Wiley was trained to serve in, and ultimately command, destroyers, cruisers, and battleships. But an interest in aviation led him to become an outstanding airshipman, serving in the Navy’s famous “flying cruisers”, which in their day captured the public interest on a par with the Space Shuttle of later years. In the course of his career, Wiley commanded two of the great airships, Los Angeles (ZR 3) and Macon (ZRS 5).

Marshall uses Wiley’s experiences as a way of also telling the story of these airships, a promising concept that in the end failed disastrously. In addition, we get a look at how the interwar Navy adapted to new ideas and technologies; during Wiley’s career he served both in aviation and in surface warships. During W. W. II, by which time the Navy no longer had rigid airships, he commanded a destroyer squadron and then the battleship West Virginia (BB 48), something unthinkable in today’s navy, with its rigid "community" divisions.

Rear Admiral Herbert V. Wiley is a good account of the life and career of an important officer, and also worthwhile reading for those interested in the rise of naval aviation or institutional change in the naval service.


Note: Rear Admiral Herbert V. Wiley is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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