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Captain Mark L. Bristol, Director of Naval Aeronautics to Lieutenant (j.g.) Gregory B. Strickland, Office of Naval Inspector of Engineering Material


Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H.,

December 13, 1916.

Lieutenant (j.g.) G. B. Strickland, U.S.Navy.

     Office of Naval Inspector of Engineering Material,

          Navy Department, Washington, D.C.

My dear Strickland:--

     Your letter of the 31st of October was duly received and I was very much interested in your letter as well as the accompanying paper.1 I have not had time to give this paper the consideration that I desire. The pictures of the triplane and biplane are very instructive.

     Right now I want to point out the fact that officers who are to command and pilot our aircraft must have a knowledge of naval strategy and tactics as well as to know how to pilot their craft. It is utterly impossible for me to imagine that officers who pilot aircraft should be any less qualified than those who operate submarines, destroyers, battleships, or scouts. As far as I am able to determine from very careful study of the subject I see the mission of aircraft as scouts, for scouting, patrolling and reconboitering [i.e., reconnoitering] and of course like other scouts on the surface of the water they must be able to fight craft of the same type in order to accomplish their mission and to prevent the enemy from carrying out a similar mission. In the same way that a destroyer or a submarine would not openly attack a battleship in the daytime, whereas they are required to fight their own class of vessels. In the same way aircraft, in my opinion, will not fight vessels of other types to any extent.

     Now I started you off to give me your ideas. Now I want you to go further for two reasons, first, in order that I may get your opinion and second, in order that I may teach you to attack this problem in the proper way. I want you to sit down and assume the qualities of any of these types of machines that you suggest and then to give me in a definite way just what these airplanes can accomplish in order that I can then determine from these facts just how you arrived at the conclusion that these airplanes are needed for the Navy. I have a great deal of respect for your opinion and your conclusions and I would like to know the facts upon which you based your deductions in order to arrive at these conclusions. I want to be certain that you have made the right assumptions and used the correct facts and experiences in arriving at your conclusion. Now if you do not understand just what I am driving at, try to solve the problem as it seems to you and send it on to me taking one type of machine and I will give you my criticisms on it. The whole thing in a nut shell is this, before we decide on the machines for the Navy, we should decide what its mission is to be and how it is to accomplish it and what it is to accomplish or else we are groping in the dark. The science and design of construction of airplanes has reached the state where we can produce a machine that will come up to given requirements, therefore, our problem is first to decide just what the requirements are in order to carry out a required mission for Naval use.2 I will hope to hear from you in the near future. With best regards,

Sincerely yours,             


Captain, U.S.Navy,           


Source Note: LT, DLC-MSS, Mark L. Bristol Papers, Box 30. Document identifier in upper left-hand corner: “ANS.NC 2630-16.”

Footnote 1: The letter and “accompanying paper” has not been found.

Footnote 2: For a discussion of what Bristol believed was the role of aircraft in the U.S. Navy, see: Bristol to Henry E. Yarnell, 21 October 1916.

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