Captain Hutchinson I. Cone, Commander, United States Naval Aviation Forces, Foreign Service, to Captain Noble E. Irwin
4 Place d’Iena,
January 22, 1918.
Some of the Reserve Officers attached to my office frequently get letters of interest from friends in the United States and as we are a sort of community with common interests here they frequently give me the benefit of this correspondence.
I am going to quote below extracts from a letter recently received from a man who has weight with a large number of Reserve Officers. Naturally you will not take his sentiments as mine, but I believe that you ought to know the view point of certain people at home.
Of course you can throw this letter aside as being anonymous and there end the matter, but know that you will not do it, but it will appreciate the spirit in which I forwarded this matter to you; in other words. I want you to have all the information I have in making your weighty decisions at home.
“On all sides one is held up by our bureau system. Naval Aviation will never get very far until it is a separate corps like the Marines. There is an Officer of the Royal Naval Air Service attached to Naval Aviation and being able to talk more clearly to the powers that be luckily keeps telling them that, but it is a long way off. We must treble our training system to keep step with the programme you are planning abroad but we are held up at [e]very turn. You say that we <will> have fifteen foreign stations on such and such a date, but no one realizes that five months later that we will want double the number of stations. Everything moves very slowly, even on ridiculous questions like orders for personnel. Aviation ought to be able to make out their own orders for Officers. Commander Johnson1 is taking over the training system and he is trying to put more of the Royal Flying Corps methods into effect, but it is hard work to kick against old customs and a lot of Navy rigmarole. What we need is a new system and a new corps. As long as they try to adopt old Navy systems nothing doing. Especially as regards supply. The appropriation for Naval Aviation before Congress now is ridiculously small. Do ask Captain Cone to keep pushing and pushing. It is all an amateur proposition so far., and will be until we are willing to spend money here for training the men before sending them over. If we only consider it a “side-show” one might as well wash it out altogether. Do it or do not do it. The English and French seem to think there is need for Naval Aviation. Send us the reasons why.”2
With best, wishes, I am,
H. I. Cone
Source Note: Cy, DLC-MSS, William S. Sims Papers, Box 23. Document reference: “1/3/G/J/S.” Addressed below close: “Captain N. E. Irwin, U. S. Navy,/Officer of Naval Operations,/Navy Department,/Washington, D.C.” Note at top of page: “Admiral Sims/Personal File.”
Footnote 1: Cmdr. Alfred W. Johnson.
Footnote 2: The desire for the air community to become independent climaxed with the unsuccessful attempt by Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell to create an independent air force modeled after the Royal Air Force.