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Marine aviation at Quantico, 1918-1941.

Maj. John M. Elliott, USMC (Ret.) Denver, Colo.: Outskirts Press, 2012. 248 pp. $31.00.

This long-awaited book is aviation history from one of this country's best. John Elliott's subject is the very early years of Marine Corps Aviation at the Corps' home base. He describes how at the end of World War I the Marines were consolidating their far-flung assets in one location. The construction of base facilities, buildings, and the airfield is detailed in text and drawings, and there are fascinating details of early weather forecasting systems, aviator equipment, and the officer and enlisted personalities who built Marine Aviation in time for World War II. Those familiar with this subject will delight in reading about the activities of a lieutenant or captain who went on to serve as a colonel or general at Cactus, Korea, or Vietnam.

Each chapter begins with a useful table showing how many and what type of aircraft were at Quantico in each year. This is new material by a master aviation historian. Elliott describes the Marine Corps' racing activities in the 1920s and 1930s, an era that provided so much experience for the men and machines that fought in World War II but has received little attention in books about the Corps.

It was a time when aviation became an integral part of military exercises, overcoming reservations by more senior officers and planners who were still not sold on the airplane's value in wartime. There is a wonderful description of one operation that included aircraft supporting the establishment of a beachhead during an amphibious landing--a harbinger of things to come merely a decade later, half a world away. Elliott even discusses the first true safety directives and programs, which were created at a time when aviation safety was nowhere nearly as important a consideration as it is today.

The book does have a few negative points. A publication such as this definitely needs an index. The wonderful photos, many from the author's own collection, also need to be larger to show their unusual subjects. Finally, the book is one of the new print-on-demand publications. The author apparently had difficulty finding a publisher that could see the value of producing such a work, which I find absolutely incredible in light of the recent celebration of the 100'h anniversary of Marine Corps Aviation.

I have seen several really terrible books published recently in the name of both the Marine Corps and Naval Aviation centennials. Here was a truly seminal book from a respected Marine Corps Aviation historian, one who knew his subject from the inside, and there were few who could see its value? Fortunately for us, Elliott believed in his work enough to go the self-publication route. Marine Aviation at Quantico can be found on the regular web sites from the larger book suppliers. I highly recommend it for the casual reader of Marine Corps literature as well as the dedicated aviation historian.

Caption: Aircraft came to Quantico in 1919 with the establishment of Brown Field (later enlarged and renamed Turner Field in 1931) This RR-4 (Ford Tri-Motor) was based at Quantico in the 19305 (Photo from National Museum of the Marine Corps)

By Cmdr. Peter Mersky, USNR (Ret.)
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Author:Mersky, Peter
Publication:Naval Aviation News
Date:Jan 1, 2013
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