National Geographic : 1961 Aug
ance the plane so it wouldn't founder, but the waves slowly pounded it to pieces. In the nick of time, a Greek ship loomed out of the fog and picked us up. We were 70 miles from Horta, in the Azores. A towrope to the NC-1 became its noose, and it died in the crashing Atlantic swell. However, numbers spelled success; one plane, the NC-4, made it to Horta and then to Portugal and England (page 283). NC-3 land edatseaaswehad,butafairwindanda jury-rigged sail helped her get to the Azores. The Big Carrier Comes of Age In the years that followed, we built big ger and better flying boats. They were sturdy, awkward, and serviceable, but by the end of the second World War, I decided they had just about seen their day. Good work-horse planes, they lacked fighting ability. After the first World War, the fresh wind of change blew through military aviation. Sometimes it blew quite hard; the Army Air Corps' Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell attracted a great deal of attention when he charged that the Army and Navy high commands were 288 blind in refusing to admit that aviation made fleets and old-style armies obsolete. There was no unified naval aviation com mand. "Everybody's business is nobody's business," I used to say-and it is true that we lacked purposeful direction. The Bureau of Aeronautics had more real authority than any other office, although in the Navy's chain of command it had no control over operations. I make no bones about my bias. I did all I could to keep aviation from being pushed aside as a mere auxiliary, but with mixed success. "The eyes of the fleet," they used to call us, and when they did, my collar would heat up. I felt we were being patted on the head, as you might pat a toothless, faithful, not-too-bright seeing-eye dog. Still, we learned to build and operate big, modern carriers. At the beginning of World War II we had only eight. But with their crews and flying squadrons honed to a keen edge by ceaseless drill and maneuvers, they saved our necks in the Pacific.* (Continued on page 294) *See "The New Queen of the Seas," by Melville Bell Grosvenor, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, July, 1942.