Book Review: Float Planes and Flying Boats: The U.S. Coast Guard and Early Naval Aviation


by Robert B. Workman Jr.

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2012. Pp. xx, 322. Illus., map, tables, appends., notes, biblio., index. $41.95 paper. ISBN: 1612511074

A history of Coast Guard aviation from its origins down to the eve of the Second World War.  

Workman (Capt., USCG, Ret) firmly places Coast Guard aviation within the framework of naval aviation.  Because of this, he includes extensive coverage of Navy and Marine Corps aviation in the period as well, which makes for some useful comparisons between the reasons for the differences and similarities among the three sea services in aviation.  Workman’s account jumps about a bit, as various topics overlap.

After a short introduction, Workman opens with a chapter that covers the period 1898-1913, from the Navy’s initial sponsorship of aviation research by Samuel P. Langley through its evaluation of the Wright brothers airplane and the initial acquisition of aircraft by the Navy and Coast Guard.  Workman follows this with a chapter on the impressive, albeit now largely forgotten, expansion of naval aviation during World War I, which inclulding the Coast Guard.  He the devotes three chapters to the first trans-Atlantic flight by the “NC-4” and her consorts, in which the Coast Guard played an important role.  Workman follows this with an interesting chapter on the development of scientific and engineering evaluation techniques for naval aviation.  Then come chapters on the origins of Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviation, the introduction of the aircraft carrier, and technological progress by all three sea service during the early 1930s.  Workman concludes with a chapter on the expansion of Coast Guard aviation through 1938.  Profusely illustrated, the book is an easy read, generally avoiding overly technological discussions to focus on needs and missions.
Float Planes and Flying Boats will prove rewarding reading for those interested in naval aviation.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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