The U.S. Naval Institute on Marine Corps Aviation

The U.S. Naval Institute on Marine Corps Aviation

Edited by Thomas J. Cutler

Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 2016, 176 pages

Book Review published on: May 18, 2018

The U.S. Naval Institute on Marine Corps Aviation is an anthology of articles from Proceedings, the U.S. Naval Institute’s monthly magazine; it comprises nine different articles that were published between 1949 and 2008. Historically, the topics covered are from 1927 to the early 1990s. The articles vary in length—one is less than two pages, while another spans sixty-five pages (over 40 percent of the entire book.)

Topically, most of the articles discuss Marine Corps close air support (CAS) and how it fits in with other U.S. and allied air forces. The recurring theme is that Marine CAS is, and should remain, of, by, and for the Marine Corps. Many other aspects of Marine aviation are very briefly touched upon, including a single article strictly on aviation in an air-to-air role (the shortest article in the book, for the record.)

Each article is penned by a different author, and the writing styles reflect this. Most are enjoyable and easy to read, with the right blend of entertaining story and historical information. Unfortunately, the longest article (a recap of Marine air in Vietnam from 1962 to 1970, written in 1971) is also the driest, mostly focusing on the shuffling of aircraft squadrons to, from, and within Vietnam, and the command and control of these aircraft. This article has a lot of data about numbers and types of airframes, but it doesn’t spend enough time explaining what missions they actually did. As rich and colorful as the Marine aviation history from that era is, this particular article is the one that sticks to “just the facts” the most.

The two most interesting articles deal with Marine CAS at its earliest. They discuss the use of aircraft to support marines on the ground in Northern China and Nicaragua, both in 1927. Both articles do a nice job of detailing the challenges and triumphs of the discovery learning that took place as Marine air was, literally, just getting off the ground.

Another article takes an interesting look at the employment of Marine air in Northern Europe during a possible Warsaw Pact invasion. Written in 1980, it argues that instead of providing reinforcement to Allied forces in Northern Europe as expected, it may be better used as an independent force in North Norway or the Baltic Approaches. The author suggests that placing Marine air under the command and control of a unified air component commander would strip away the unique capabilities that Marine aviation provides to its troops on the ground; a common theme throughout the anthology.

Overall, The U.S. Naval Institute on Marine Corps Aviation provides an interesting overview of Marine aviation during the encapsulated time period. I believe that it is appropriate that much of its focus is on CAS and air-ground interoperability. I would have liked a little more in-depth look at the rotary-wing aspect of Marine CAS, which is barely mentioned. I recommend this book for those interested in the historical aspects of Marine aviation and its command and control.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. Joseph S. Curtis, U.S. Army, Retired, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas