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NASP Celebrates 100 years Yr Ender

NAS Pensacola

Naval Air Station Pensacola spent 2014 celebrating its centennial, as the Navy’s oldest such installation. WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody looks back.

The events kicked off in January, as the base honored one of the Navy pioneers who helped put the installation on the map.  Walter Leroy Richardson was a photo enthusiast and began capturing aviation activities on film.

The air station’s Command Headquarters – Building 1500 – was rededicated in January and named in honor of Dick Richardson. After his retirement from the Navy, Richardson worked for the Bureau of Aeronautics until his death in 1945.

Rear Admiral Donald Quinn – Commander of the Naval Education and Training Command – told the gathering that since its beginning in 1914, Naval Air Station Pensacola has been a vital part of the nation’s security. The number of aviators and their training have ebbed and flowed with world events. But one constant has been the support of the Pensacola community.

Book ending the year-long celebration was a ceremony just last month aboard NAS Pensacola, honoring John Towers -- one of the original naval aviators – by the unveiling of a statue.

In 1914, the original naval aviation unit consisted of nine officers, 23 enlisted men, and seven aircraft. The first flight occurred on February 2. At the controls were Ensign Godfrey Chevalier, and Lt. John Towers – known as “Jack” and “Aviator Number Three.”

Towers eventually served as Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics at the beginning of World War II, and commanded carrier task forces during that war. He retired from the Navy in 1947 and died in 1955 at age 70.

The highlight of the ceremony was the unveiling of a bronze statue of Admiral Towers, done by retired Navy Captain and former Blue Angel Bob Rasmussen. The statue – a copy of one honoring Towers in his hometown of Rome, Georgia -- is near the National Fight Academy.

After the unveiling, the guest speaker was Vice Admiral Scott Swift -- Director, Navy Staff. In his remarks, he touched on John Towers’ influence on naval aviation – an influence that reaches over the span of a century.

In closing his 15-minute address, Admiral Scott Swift said that the march of technology, and the roll of honor of those who have served naval aviation, is present in the halls of the museum.