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Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Captain Mark L. Bristol, Director, Naval Aeronautics, to Rear Admiral Victor Blue, Chief, Bureau of Navigation



Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H.,

25 October 1916.   

From :    Captain Mark L. Bristol, U.S.Navy.

  To :    Chief of the Bureau of Navigation.

     1.   The Naval Flying Corps should be composed of:

(1) Officers of the Line of the Navy and of the Marine Corps, detailed as student aviators for the Courses of Instruction as laid down in the Bureau of Navigation’s Circular of 26 January 1916.1

          (2) Enlisted men of the Navy detailed as student airmen for the Courses of Instruction as laid down in the aforesaid Circular.

          (3) Enlisted men transferred to and rated as members of the Naval Flying Corps, in accordance with the requirements herein laid down.

          (4) Enlisted men enlisted in the Naval Flying Corps as herein recommended.

          (5) Acting Ensigns, Naval Flying Corps, as prescribed by Congress and under regulations prescribed by the Bureau of Navigation.

          (6) Student Flyers appointed as required by the law passed by Congress,2 and the regulations prescribed by the Bureau of Navigation.

          (7) Line officers for administration, (Airplane), Navy Air Pilots, (Dirigible), Naval Aviators, airmen and mechanicians detailed to duty in aircraft as may be necessary to man aircraft of the Navy.

     2. Acting Ensigns and student flyers appointed and enlisted for the Naval Flying Corps should be required to take the Courses of Instruction as laid down in the Bureau of Navigation’s Circular of 26 January 1916 and in addition, courses of instruction to suit them for naval duties. These courses to be specially prepared to meet this particular condition

     3. The following regulations for the formation of enlisted personnel for the Naval Flying Corps are recommended, viz:-----

(1) RATINGS: in the Aviation Corps should be

Airman, landsmen


Air Mechanician 2nd class

Air Mechanician 1st class

Chief Air Mechanician.

          (a) The distribution of ratings in the Aviation Corps at any time shall be based upon the total strength of the Corps at that time, and upon the following proportions:

Airman, landsmen 10%

Airman, 35%

Air Mechanician 2nd class 25%

Air Mechanician 1st class 20%

Chief Air Mechanicians   10%

          (b) This allows for chief mechanicians for inspection duty, instructors at enlisted personnel training school, assistants to officers in charge of aircraft squadrons and flying schools, and chiefs of large airplanes and of dirigibles.


          (a) The age limits for landsmen for airman shall be twenty to twenty-eight and for mechanician 2nd class shall be twenty-five to thirty-five.

          (b) This being a corps of large individual responsibility, every effort must be taken to enlist only men of particularly high character and capability.

          (c) For enlistment from civil life as mechanician 2nd class, a thorough working knowledge of gas engines and their appurtenances is required, in addition to ability with machine tools.

          (d) Men of any rating in the enlisted personnel of the Navy or Marine Corps may be eligible for transfer to the Aviation Corps. They must be recommended by their commanding officer as men particularly capable, careful and trustworthy. They must have sobriety during enlistment and must have served in the Navy at least one year. The same age qualifications hold for entrance into the Aviation Corps from Navy or Marine Corps as for entrance from civil life.


          (a) All men for the Aviation Corps, whether enlisted from civil life or transferring from the Navy or Marine Corps, shall be given a training course at an aviation school. They must complete this course and pass examination before being given an active duty other than such apprentice work as is prescribed by the course. For any except men from the Navy or Marine Corps this training course will include a modified general training such as will fit the recruit for duty in regular service. This will be provided for by a longer training period for the recruit from civil life than for the men entering by transfer from Navy or Marine Corps.

          (b) The aviation school for enlisted men shall be established at the U.S.Navy Aeronautic Station, Pensacola, Florida or other similar station that may be established hereafter, in order that ample opportunity may be afforded for practical work with motors and aircraft. It shall be in charge of a navy air pilot with other navy air pilots, and naval aviators and chief mechanicians as his assistants, as required.

          (c) The aeronautic course shall include theoretical and practical instruction in motors and their accessories, in work with machine tools, in airplane erecting and repair work, in daily routine of aircraft crews, in general work with balloons and dirigibles, in first aid, and in swimming and diving.

          (d) The additional course in general Navy subjects for recruits from civil life shall include signals, small arms, manual of arms, school of the squad, seamanship, boats under oars, ship routine and Naval customs and regulations. It shall aim particularly to instill a spirit of Navy loyalty and discipline.

          (e) Any man enlisted from civil life, whether as landsman for airman or as a mechanician 2nd class, may be discharged for inaptitude at any time during his training course. Men transferring from Navy or Marine Corps may be returned to Navy or Marine Corps respectively for inaptitude at any time during their training course.

          (f) When transferring from the Navy or Marine Corps to the Flying Corps men shall hold their Navy or Marine Corps ratings during their training course and upon graduation shall be rated airmen or mechanicians 2nd class, according as they qualify upon examination.


     An exception of requirements of the training course, age limits and initial rating no higher than mechanician 2nd class shall be made for such Navy or Marine Corps enlisted personnel as have had two years or more of previous experience on aeronautic duty. Men having had such experience may transfer directly into active duty in the Flying Corps in any rating that they may be found qualified for upon passing a suitable examination.

     (5.) UNIFORM:

     The uniform of enlisted personnel, Flying Corps, shall be the same as that of the Navy, with special distinguishing marks, and such additional clothing as may be specially required for flying.


     Regulations governing terms of enlistment, furlough, retirement and general Government and discipline shall be the same as those for the enlisted personnel of the Navy.

     (7.) PROMOTION:

     Promotion shall be along similar lines to promotion in the Navy and promotion to the higher ratings will require increasing knowledge of blacksmithing, coppersmithing, carpentry, electricity, ordnance and gunnery, and general work with balloons and dirigibles, as well as of aircraft motors and accessories, and general care and operation of aircraft.


      All aeronautical sub-inspector duty not performed by navy air pilots or naval aviators shall be performed by flying corps enlisted personnel of the higher ratings until such time as properly qualified civilian sub-inspectors can be developed.

     4.   It has become most apparent in the past development of aeronautics in the Navy that officers of higher rank are absolutely necessary for administration. The same conditions now exist in the Air Service that existed in the Submarine Service before it was reorganized. The younger officers are enthusiastic, energetic and most earnest in their work, and from my own experience would not ask for better officers. It is no fault of theirs that they have not had the years of experience that fit them for administration duties and for carefully deciding upon broad lines of development looking into the future.

      5.  There are certain fundamental principles of evolution in the development of war vessels that are learned by Naval experience, and are just as applicable to aircraft as any other craft. Flying an aircraft is no mysterious art, though it requires courage and nerve for the pioneers to master it. The art is not an accomplished fact and the same sort of officers who have done so much in developing the art are still required. Still the development of an Air Service composed of officers, men and vessels, trained in the necessary new tactics and strategy of the air is a far bigger problem than the art of flying.

     6.   I strongly recommend officers of high rank for developing the Air Service, and of course, with practical flyers and aircraft designers for assistants. This is in my opinion more needed at present time than anything else if we desire to get a proper Air Service in the quickest time.

Source Note: Cy, DLC, Mark Bristol Papers, Box 30.

Footnote 1: See, Bunav Circular, 26 January 1916, DNA, RG 45, Entry 517.

Footnote 2: Law passed by Congress for Student Flyers of the United States Navy.

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