Naval Academy Park Dedicated in Honor of the First Naval Aviator
POSTED ON: Tuesday, October 8, 2019 9:51 AM by Mr. Ken Sabel
The Naval Academy held a dedication ceremony honoring the life and accomplishments of the Navy’s first naval aviator Monday, Oct. 7, next to the USNA Observatory.
The static display of naval aircraft was named Ellyson Park in honor of Theodore “Spuds” Ellyson, Naval Academy Class of 1905. A number of Ellyson’s grandchildren and great grandchildren were in attendance.
Ellyson was the first officer to be designated a naval aviator. He and Lt. John Towers, the third designated naval aviator and a 1906 Naval Academy graduate, were assigned to the Naval Academy in October of 1911 to oversee construction of the Navy’s first aviation field on Greenbury Point. From there they began training the first generation of navy pilots. Lt. Ellyson, who had qualified as an aviator four months earlier at the Curtiss factory in Hammondsport, N.Y., made his first flight from Annapolis on Oct. 7, 1911.
Ellyson became the first pilot to fly an aircraft from a catapult. The first attempt, made at the Naval Academy in July of 1912, failed. He succeeded three months later at the Washington Navy Yard.
Cmdr. Ellyson died February 27, 1928, when his plane crashed in the Chesapeake Bay while attempting to fly from Norfolk to Annapolis. He is buried in in the Naval Academy Cemetery.
A second marker was dedicated on Sept. 6 at the seaward side of Dahlgren Hall on the site from which the second naval aviator, Lt. John Rodgers, Naval Academy Class of 1903, took off on his historic flight in a Wright Brothers bi-plane from Annapolis to Washington, D.C., on Sept. 7, 1911.
Rodgers’ flight was the first time an aircraft owned by the Navy and flown by a naval aviator took off from naval property. This flight and the establishment of the Navy’s first aviation field makes the Naval Academy the “Birthplace of U.S. Naval Air Forces.” More information on this flight can be found here: https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/1951/october/nas-annapolis.
Cmdr. Rogers died August 27, 1926, when his plane crashed into the Delaware River. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.