SUSTAINING THE PACIFIC CARRIER AIR WAR: THE DEVELOPMENT OF U.S. NAVAL AVIATION MAINTENANCE AND THE ENLISTED AIRCRAFT TECHNICIAN IN WORLD WAR II
Fisher, Stanford Edward
Sumida, Jon T
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The ability of the United States Navy to fight a protracted war throughout the Pacific Ocean in World War II was not solely the result of technology, tactics, or admiralship. Naval aviation maintenance played a major role in the U.S. victory over Japan. Naval aviation leadership throughout the period between World War I and World War II focused on the improvement of technology and tactics rather than training a new, and in the event of war, necessarily large cohort of enlisted personnel. Aircraft maintenance was an afterthought for much of the era because of the small number of carriers and aircraft. When the United States realized a two-ocean naval war was imminent and a drastic increase in the size of its aviation fleet was ordered, the navy was forced to reconsider its earlier practices and forge new polices and processes. The U.S. naval air war against Japan did not achieve sustained success until enough aircraft technicians were in place to support the doctrine of the Fast Carrier Task Force. The United States Navy was not ready to fight a protracted war at sea until its carrier aircraft technicians were trained and in place. The historiography of U.S. naval warfare in the modern era lacks any comprehensive study on the subject of naval aviation maintenance. This dissertation demonstrates the importance of considering all elements of the military institution, not just those that correspond to operational-battle history when studying the full dimensions of modern naval war in the age of the aircraft carrier. Recognizing the drastic institutional changes that accompanied an increase in maintenance personnel from less than 10,000 to nearly 250,000 over four years, a complete restructuring of the aviation navy’s technical educational system, and the development of highly specialized skilled labor force on board the aircraft carrier are essential to creating a more complete historiography World War II naval warfare. Analyzing the effect that aircraft maintenance and the aircraft technician had on carrier warfare is an added layer to the complex study of war that should not be overlooked. Even in the era of modern-technologically advanced warfare, people still matter.