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William Adger Moffett
Rear admiral William A. Moffett
Born (1869-10-31)October 31, 1869
Died April 4, 1933(1933-04-04) (aged 63)
Place of birth Charleston, South Carolina
Place of death off the coast of New Jersey
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1890 – 1933
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Rear Admiral
Commands held USS Chester (CL-1)
Great Lakes Naval Training Center
USS Mississippi (BB-41)
Bureau of Aeronautics
Battles/wars Spanish-American War
*Capture of Guam
*Battle of Manila (1898)
Mexican Revolution
*Battle of Veracruz
World War I
Awards Medal of Honor
Navy Distinguished Service Medal

William Adger Moffett (October 31, 1869 – April 4, 1933) was an American admiral and Medal of Honor recipient known as the architect of naval aviation in the United States Navy.


Admiral Moffet meets the ZR-1 and crew, during flight test landing at St. Louis Flying Field, on October 2, 1923

Born October 31, 1869, in Charleston, South Carolina, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1890. He was the son of George Hall Moffett (1829–1875), who enlisted in the Confederate States army as a private, and was promoted for bravery on the field of battle, eventually attaining the rank of Captain and adjutant-general, Hagood's Brigade, Twenty-fifth South Carolina Volunteers.

Moffett was on USS Charleston (C-2) when she sailed across the Pacific and captured Guam.[citation needed] Ultimately ending up in the Philippines, a month after the US victory at Manila Bay. The USS Charleston then shelled enemy positions in support of American and Filipino troops at the Battle of Manila (1898). In December 1915 Moffett received the Medal of Honor for his captaincy of the USS Chester in a daring and dangerous night landing in 1914 at Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico. (See also United States occupation of Veracruz, 1914). (See text of the Citation set forth below.)

In World War I, he was commander of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago, and there established an aviator training program. While commanding the battleship USS Mississippi (1918–1921) he supported the creation of a scout plane unit on the ship.

Although not himself a flyer, Moffett became known as the "Air Admiral" for his leadership of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics from its creation in 1921. In this role, he oversaw the development of tactics for naval aircraft, the introduction of the aircraft carrier, and relations with the civilian aircraft industry. A master politician, he maintained official support for naval aviation against Billy Mitchell, who favored putting all military aircraft into a separate air force. In that regard, Moffett benefited from his longstanding friendship with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had been appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by Woodrow Wilson in 1913.

Moffett was also an advocate of the development of lighter-than-air airships, or "dirigibles." He lost his life on the USS Akron when that airship, which was then the largest dirigible in the world, went down in a storm off the coast of New Jersey on April 4, 1933.

He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, alongside his wife Jeanette Whitton Moffett. One of their three sons, William Adger Moffett, Jr., was also a Navy admiral; he died in 2001, and is also buried in Arlington Cemetery.


Rear admiral's Moffetts decorations included: Medal of Honor, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Philippine Campaign Medal, Lifesaving Medal, Mexican Service Medal, Navy Spanish Campaign Medal, World War I Victory Medal and Naval Aviation Observer wings.

Medal of Honor citation[]

Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy. Entered service at: Charleston, S.C. Born: 31 October 1869, Charleston, S.C. G.O. No.: 177, 4 December 1915. Other Navy award: Distinguished Service Medal. Citation:

For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. Comdr. Moffett brought his ship into the inner harbor during the nights of the 21st and 22d without the assistance of a pilot or navigational lights, and was in a position on the morning of the 22d to use his guns at a critical time with telling effect. His skill in mooring his ship at night was especially noticeable. He placed her nearest to the enemy and did most of the firing and received most of the hits.


  • The USS Moffett (DD-362) was named for him.
  • The naval air station that he helped establish near Sunnyvale, California was renamed Moffett Field in his memory soon after his death.
  • Mount Moffett, a mountain in Alaska.
  • John Phillip Sousa's march, "The Aviators" is dedicated to William J. Moffett, the man responsible for Sousa's commission in the American Navy during World War I.[1]

See also[]



  • Edward Arpee, From Frigates to Flat-tops: The story of the life and achievements of Rear Admiral William Adger Moffett, U.S.N. "The Father of Naval Aviation" October 31, 1869-April 4, 1933. (Published and distributed by the author, 1953).
  • William F. Trimble, Admiral William A. Moffett: Architect of Naval Aviation (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994)

External links[]

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