/ Published March 28, 2018
Massachusetts Aviation by Frederick R. Morin and John Galluzzo. Arcadia Publishing, 2016, 128 pp.
In Massachusetts Aviation, the passionate duo of Frederick R. Morin and John Galluzzo draw upon their shared love of history to provide a short, but insightful monograph about the busy aviation history of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Morin’s deep understanding of the material, supplemented by his work as the past president of the Massachusetts Aviation Historical Society, former director for the Massachusetts Air and Space Museum, and personal piloting experience, lend itself well to Galluzzo’s experience telling the unique picture-centric history narrative that Arcadia Publishing is known for.
The book is photo-intensive, and each page is dominated by at least one picture that encompasses almost half of the page. The narrative is driven by the captions that accompany each picture, and they range from a few dozen to almost 200 words per picture. This book, by design, focuses more on the details of the photographs to engross the reader more than the words do. The captions simply guide the reader along the path that the pictures lay out for them. The authors did not try to make any deep arguments or attempt to reimagine history, they simply laid out the facts as presented in a series of black and white photographs from the first century of aviation. If the authors had a specific purpose in mind, it was to ensure that the legacy of Massachusetts’ aviators and innovative pioneers is remembered and maintains a place in history.
Massachusetts Aviation was clearly a passion project for its authors, and it will appeal to anyone who has similar interests: aviation pioneers, military history, and Massachusetts history. The book introduces the readers to the dawn of Massachusetts aviation: the 1910 Harvard–Boston Aero Meet. It was here that the larger-than-life personas of Wilbur Wright, Glenn Curtiss, a young Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President William Howard Taft, and British aviation pioneer Thomas Sopwith shared the same converted grass field near the railways and witnessed aviation history. During this aero meet, the debates of airpower were put to the test, and Lt Jacob Fickel, US Army, became the first person to ever shoot a rifle from an airplane—a full year before the first combat application of airpower during the Italo-Turkish War in 1911. Of similar airpower importance were the bombing competitions, where civilian pilots attempted to hit mock targets starting at an altitude of 100 feet. With the Secretary of the Navy’s encouragement, the champion was challenged to hit the target (a mock battleship) from an altitude of 1,800 feet, which he managed to do.
After hitting on the surprising number of aviation firsts (the first naval air reserve base) and interesting ties to the aviation elite (Amelia Earhart helped fund an early civilian airfield), the book weaves its way into the military aviation history of Massachusetts. With then Lt (later Rear Adm) Richard Byrd’s efforts after World War I, the Navy established the Naval Air Reserve (NAR), its first airfield began use in 1923 (two years before the NAR was officially established) on the same site as the 1910 Harvard–Boston Aero Meet. From there, the reader is greeted with a series of biplanes, monoplanes, amphibious airplanes, blimps, and helicopters from the Navy’s years in Massachusetts. The airfields proudly supported British flight training during World War II and antisubmarine warfare from World War II through the Cold War until the base was hit by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2005.
The Air National Guard is also discussed in detail in the brief histories of some aviation pioneers that accompany their pictures. Through the pictures and captions, the reader follows the birth, growth, and varied missions of Otis Field, Westover Air Reserve Base, and Logan International Airport. The authors carry the story from the earliest plans for a “Massachusetts Military Reservation” in 1935 to the actions of the 102nd Fighter Wing on 11 September 2001, when two of its aircraft were the first to respond in the skies over New York City.
An aspect of the history that may surprise many readers is the role the Coast Guard played in the development of aviation. Driven by the thought of a Massachusetts Coast Guard commander who believed that aerial searches would enable better patrol of the coast during the Prohibition Era, the Coast Guard acquired its first airplane. From there, Coast Guard aviators developed the first amphibious airplanes—designed with sea rescues in mind. Perhaps less heroic, but equally groundbreaking, was the Coast Guard’s use of their airplanes in conjunction with homing pigeons to notify the Gloucester fishermen where the schools of fish were located.
The historical narrative ends with a series of one-page stories to explain pictures and some multipage tales from various points in Massachusetts’ aviation history. The construction of the aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2), the doomed Hindenburg’s overflight of Boston, and Massachusetts’ role in both the creation of the modern jet engine a,nd the rockets of the Space Age round out the tale that began on a field in Cambridge in 1910.
Ultimately, this book is light on historical detail but heavy on material. Any part of this historical monograph could quite easily fill a book of similar size and be genuinely entertaining to aviation and local history buffs alike. However, the authors deliberately kept each topic short to fit in as much as possible within the deceptively broad scope of Massachusetts aviation history. As an aviation enthusiast and Massachusetts native, I was undoubtedly the target audience, but this book will also interest those who enjoy an intimate—and often candid—look at the people, events, and locations of the past. The purpose of this book was not to set the record straight or uncover new details, but to “urge one and all to keep their eyes on the Massachusetts skies” (127), and that goal the authors met with ease.
Capt Daniel W. McLaughlin, USAF
Laughlin AFB, TX
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."