Albert Cushing Read
Rear Admiral, United States Navy
|Born at Lyme, New Hampshire,
March 29, 1887, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1906.
He married Bess Anderson Burdine, January 30, 1918.
He was commisioned an Ensign in 1908 and advanced through the grades to Rear Admiral, 1942. He was detailed to Naval Aviation in 1915 for a flight across the Atlantic in charge of NC-4 seaplanes, in a trip from Rockaway, New York, to Plymouth, England, via the Azores, Portugal and Spain (57 hours, 16 minutes flying time). This was THE first flight across the Atlantic Ocean and it took place in May 1919.
During his career he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the NC-4 Medal, Commenda de Torre d' Espada (Portugal), British Royal Air Force Corss, Military Order of the British Empire. He was a member of the Naval History Society and a devout Baptist. His wife was a member of the Burdine Family (department stores) of Florida.
He died in Florida in October 1967 and was buried in Section 2 of
Arlington National Cemetery.
He was born in New Hampshire in 1887 and was graduated with high honors by the Naval Academy with the class of 1907.
While he served with the fleet, he studied everything available on flying. When the Navy opened its first training school at Pensacola in 1912, he was among the first to be selected for training. After he soloed in 1915 he was designated Naval Aviator No. 24. When he served aboard the USS Carolina, the first Navy ship provided with aircraft, he made numerous catapult take-offs as part of his regular flight operations.
When America entered the war in 1917, the Navy ordered a series of large Navy-Curtiss flying boats and planned to deliver them to Europe by flying across the Atlantic. They were magnificent specimens and their wings spanned a distance greater than the Wright's first flight. Their hulls resembled large covered life boats and they were the first four-engine airplanes built in America.
The war ended abruptly before they were finished. After the war the Navy decided to attempt the first transatlantic flight with a fleet of these planes. The route started at Long Island, ran to Nova Scotia, proceeded to Newfoundland, then southeastward across the Atlantic via the Azores to Portugal, and finished at England. A string of destroyers were to be positioned along the route and pour out black smoke to mark the route in the daytime. At night, they were to point their searchlights windward and fire star shells periodically to identify themselves.
He was placed in command of the NC-4 and its crew of five. Trouble plagued the venture from the beginning. A mechanic lost a hand spinning a propeller. Fire broke out and threatened destruction of the flying boats. By May 8, they were ready and four-leaf clovers were handed out among the men as the flying boats were pulled down the track to the skidways. The engines thundered alive as the planes glided down the launching ways and taxied into the bay. Cheers arose from the onlookers as they sped down the long stretch of water and headed upward through the morning skies for Halifax. They were out over the ocean when he discovered an oil leak and had to cut off one engine. A few minutes later another engine threw a connecting rod and he had to make a forced landing on the open sea, some eighty miles East of Cape Cod. Unable to secure help, he taxied through the waves for five hours and reached Chatham Naval Air Station on Cape Cod safely. They fixed the oil leak and headed for Trepassey on three engines. It was a happy reunion among the crews when they arrived.
By May 16 the flying boat was repaired and Trepassey's harbor was lined with townspeople. Ship decks were crowded as each of the flying boats took off down the long narrow harbor. The NC-3 was in the lead followed by the NC-1 and his NC-4 as they headed eastward into the gathering night for the Azores. Shortly after dawn, they entered a large fog bank and visibility dropped drastically. They became lost and confused. The fog was so thick the plane dripped water continuously and once it sideslipped dangerously near the water when the pilot lost all reference to the horizon . The NC-1 and NC-3 became lost and landed on the open ocean. The NC-1 taxied for 5 hours before being picked up by a steamer. The NC-3 was forced to drift-sail their battered flying boat over two hundred miles of ocean to reach the Azores. The NC-4 completed the flight safely and taxied triumphantly into Horta's harbor. It was warmly greeted. When he was sure the other crews were safe, the NC-4 took off for Lisbon. Fog was encountered again but it landed safely at dusk and taxied into Lisbon's harbor. The warships and the guns of the forts sent echoing booms across the harbor. A Navy boat took him and his crew off the NC-4 and they went aboard the USS Rochester to be greeted by Navy and Portuguese officials. The triumph of the first flight across the Atlantic was theirs and he was presented the Portuguese award of Commander of the Military Order of the Tower and Sword.
Then, they took off for Plymouth, England and arrived on May 31. They were given a royal welcome by the Mayor of Plymouth and were honored during a two week tour of both England and France. The British presented him the Royal Air Force Cross for his historic flight. When they came back to America they were greeted in Washington by Navy officials, and he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and a special medal struck to commemorate the NC-4 flight. He and his crew then made an extensive goodwill tour of the country in the NC-4.
Returning to regular Navy aviation duty he successively served in numerous important commands until World War II when he became Chief of the Air Technical Training in Chicago and then commanded the Navy air activities at Norfolk until the end of the war. For this service he was awarded the Legion of Merit.
Albert Read passed away on October 10, 1967.
Updated: 20 June 2000 Updated: 23 November 2001 Updated: 15 February 2003 Updated: 22 December 2003 Updated: 4 December 2004 Updated: 10 September 2005
Photo By M. R. Patterson, 3 December 2004