[Congressional Record Volume 155, Number 78 (Wednesday, May 20, 2009)]
[Senate]
[Page S5694]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                  TRIBUTE TO ADMIRAL JOHN HENRY TOWERS

 Mr. ISAKSON. Mr. President, I wish to honor and commemorate in 
the Record of the Senate ADM John Henry Towers, pioneer naval aviator, 
on the 90th anniversary of the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 
an airplane on May 8, 2009.
  Admiral Towers was born and raised in Rome, GA, and graduated from 
the U.S. Naval Academy with the class of 1906. As one of the earliest 
of all naval aviators, he participated in the development of new 
aviation technology and the application of air power as a part of the 
surface fleet. By the time World War II was over, Admiral Towers was 
the senior surviving aviator of the Navy.
  In every chapter of the early development of naval aviation, John 
Towers made his mark. He organized the Navy's entry into aviation in 
1911. Admiral Towers worked very closely with Glenn Curtiss in 
designing the first naval aircraft and due to his efforts became known 
to his peers as the ``Crown Prince of Aviation.''
  Towers held aviation records for endurance, altitude, and speed. He 
survived a fall out of an airplane in 1913 by hanging onto the aircraft 
strut as it crashed into the Severn River from 1,300 feet. 
Unfortunately, his pilot-in-training, ENS, William Billingsly, was 
killed and became the first naval aviation fatality. As a result, 
Towers mandated seat belts and harnesses in all naval aircraft after 
the crash. He also took the Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin 
Delano Roosevelt, future President of the United States, for his first 
airplane ride, which secured a special friendship that lasted their 
whole careers.
  Admiral Towers was the first to use naval aircraft in combat in the 
Mexican War in 1914. Then, in 1919, he conceived, organized, and 
commanded the first flight of three Navy NC-flying boats to fly across 
the Atlantic Ocean, fulfilling his early vision to be the first flight 
across the Atlantic Ocean. The flights began at Rockaway Beach, NY, on 
May 8, 1919, and one of the planes made it to Plymouth, England, on May 
31, 1919. It was Towers' vision that inspired others and changed the 
world forever. The flight actually lasted 52 hours 31 minutes, for a 
distance of 3,936 nautical miles.
  Towers and his group became international celebrities. During their 
Atlantic crossing, the Nation was on pins and needles reading about the 
happenings each day, particularly when they received the news that 
Towers' float boat NC-3 went down and was lost at sea for 5 days. After 
he sailed the seaplane 200 miles to the Azores, his became a household 
name around the world.
  The significance of this epic flight affected the psyche of the 
American public because until that time, we were largely protected from 
invasion by having two oceans on either side of us. When the airplane 
made that first Atlantic crossing, Americans became aware that we were 
not immune from future wars on our soil. In addition, Britain, France, 
and Germany were more advanced in aviation than the United States. When 
the United States beat them across the Atlantic, we were immediately 
thrust into a ``super power'' status. The U.S. Navy beat the world in 
crossing the Atlantic.
  Admiral Towers' career was a stubborn, determined battle to gain 
acceptance for aviation from a Navy that was dominated by battleship 
admirals. He was the first to integrate women into the U.S. Navy and 
U.S. Marines by creating the W.A.V.E.S. in 1942. The W.A.V.E.S. 
eventually grew to 12,000 women officers and 75,000 enlisted women. He 
was also the first to obtain four stars in any branch of service in the 
State of Georgia and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
  Apollo 17 honored the admiral and his contribution to aviation by 
naming a crater on the Moon in his name. In addition, he was honored by 
Time magazine and placed on the front cover for his efforts during 
World War II. Towers began in naval aviation at its inception in 1911 
and remained dedicated to the field through his retirement in 1947. He 
is a member of five Aviation Halls of Fame.
  It is a privilege to pay tribute to the remarkable life of ADM John 
Henry Towers.

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