Admiral John H. Towers

Admiral John H.Towers (1885 - 1955)

Admiral John H. Towers of Rome, Georgia, graduated in 1906 from the United States Naval Academy. Following a tour of sea duty aboard the battleship USS Kentucky, he learned to fly a Curtiss A-I seaplane, one of the Navy's first aircraft, and became only the third aviator qualified by the Navy. Towers later trained other Navy pilots in Annapolis, Maryland, and in 1914, set up the first training Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. He commanded the Navy's avi­ation forces that same year during the occupation of Vera Cruz, Mexico. During World War I and before the United States entered the conflict, he went to England to study naval aircraft and tactics, and was heavily involved in training pilots and developing aircraft for the U. S. Navy. Making aviation history, Admiral Towers commanded the first transat­lantic flight made by three navy Curtiss seaplanes in 1919. In 1921, he began training naval aviators in landing planes to prepare them for the first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley. He became the ship's executive officer and later its captain. After that, he commanded the USS Saratoga. Between the two world wars, Towers advocated a separate naval air force with the aircraft carrier as the primary offensive naval ship, a position unappreciated by battleship-oriented senior naval offi­cers. This position also put him in conflict with U. S. Army Brigadier General Billy Mitchell, who championed a separate U. S. Air Force with control of all military operations. Towers later became a rear admiral and Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. He expanded the Navy from 2,000 to 10,000 aircraft within two years and directed Naval and Marine Aviation in the opening period of World War II. When the United States entered the war, he was appointed Commander of the Naval Air Forces Pacific Fleet. He directed the expansion of the carrier forces and led the air arm of the largest fleet ever assembled in history. In 1941, his picture was on the cover of Time Magazine, which ran an accompany­ing story calling Towers one of the “airmen’s airmen." Towers later served as a representative of the United States at the surrender of Japan aboard the USS Missouri.

In recognition of his distinguished Naval aviation career, and dedica­tion to his country, Admiral John H. Towers, USN, (Retired), was enshrined on April 24, 2004 into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.