Albert Cushing Read

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Albert Cushing Read, Sr.
Albert Cushing Read in 1919.jpg
Read in 1919
Born(1887-04-29)April 29, 1887
Lyme, New Hampshire
DiedOctober 10, 1967(1967-10-10) (aged 80)
Coconut Grove, Florida
Place of burial
AllegianceFlag of the United States (1912-1959).svg United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States Navy (1864-1959).svg  United States Navy
Years of service1907–1946
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Rear admiral
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
NC-4 Medal

Albert Cushing Read, Sr. (April 29, 1887 – October 10, 1967) was an aviator and Rear Admiral in the United States Navy. He and his crew made the first transatlantic flight in the NC-4 , a Curtiss NC flying boat. [1]

Rear admiral in the United States refers to two different ranks of commissioned officers — one-star flag officers and two-star flag officers. By contrast, in most nations, the term "rear admiral" refers to an officer of two-star rank.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. It has the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the third-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force and the United States Army.

A transatlantic flight is the flight of an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, Africa, or the Middle East to North America, Central America, or South America, or vice versa. Such flights have been made by fixed-wing aircraft, airships, balloons, and other aircraft.


Early life and Atlantic crossing

Read was born in Lyme, New Hampshire on April 29, 1887 into a Boston Brahmin family. He attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, graduating in the class of 1907. In 1915, he was designated naval aviator number 24.

Lyme, New Hampshire Town in New Hampshire, United States

Lyme is a town along the Connecticut River in Grafton County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 1,716 as of the 2010 census, with an estimated population of 1,674 in 2017. Lyme is home to the Chaffee Natural Conservation Area. The Dartmouth Skiway is in the eastern part of town, near the village of Lyme Center. The Appalachian Trail passes through the town's heavily wooded eastern end.

Boston Brahmin

The Boston Brahmins or Boston elite are members of Boston's traditional upper class. They form an integral part of the historic core of the East Coast establishment, along with other wealthy families of Philadelphia and New York City. They are often associated with the distinctive Boston Brahmin accent, Harvard University, Anglicanism and traditional Anglo-American customs and clothing. Descendants of the earliest English colonists, such as those who came to America on the Mayflower in 1620 or on the Arbella in 1630, are often considered to be the most representative of the Boston Brahmins.

United States Naval Academy The U.S. Navys federal service academy

The United States Naval Academy is a four-year coeducational federal service academy adjacent to Annapolis, Maryland. Established on 10 October 1845, under Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, it is the second oldest of the United States' five service academies, and educates officers for commissioning primarily into the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. The 338-acre (137 ha) campus is located on the former grounds of Fort Severn at the confluence of the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay in Anne Arundel County, 33 miles (53 km) east of Washington, D.C. and 26 miles (42 km) southeast of Baltimore. The entire campus is a National Historic Landmark and home to many historic sites, buildings, and monuments. It replaced Philadelphia Naval Asylum, in Philadelphia, that served as the first United States Naval Academy from 1838 to 1845 when the Naval Academy formed in Annapolis.

As a Lieutenant Commander in May 1919, Read commanded a crew of five on the NC-4 Curtiss flying boat, the first aircraft ever to make a transatlantic flight, a couple of weeks before Alcock and Brown's non-stop flight, and eight years before Charles Lindbergh's solo, non-stop flight. Read's flight started from Rockaway Beach, Long Island, took 23 days before arriving in Plymouth, England. The six stops included layovers at Trepassey Bay, Newfoundland, the Azores, and Lisbon, Portugal.

Flying boat Aircraft equipped with a boat hull for operation from water

A flying boat is a fixed-winged seaplane with a hull, allowing it to land on water, that usually has no type of landing gear to allow operation on land. It differs from a floatplane as it uses a purpose-designed fuselage which can float, granting the aircraft buoyancy. Flying boats may be stabilized by under-wing floats or by wing-like projections from the fuselage. Flying boats were some of the largest aircraft of the first half of the 20th century, exceeded in size only by bombers developed during World War II. Their advantage lay in using water instead of expensive land-based runways, making them the basis for international airlines in the interwar period. They were also commonly used for maritime patrol and air-sea rescue.

Transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown First non-stop transatlantic flight

British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in June 1919. They flew a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The Secretary of State for Air, Winston Churchill, presented them with the Daily Mail prize for the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by aeroplane in "less than 72 consecutive hours". A small amount of mail was carried on the flight, making it the first transatlantic airmail flight. The two aviators were awarded the honour of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE) a week later by King George V at Windsor Castle.

Charles Lindbergh American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist

Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, military officer, author, inventor, explorer, and environmental activist, and a spokesperson for the American First Committee. At age 25 in 1927, he went from obscurity as a U.S. Air Mail pilot to instantaneous world fame by winning the Orteig Prize: making a nonstop flight from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York, to Paris, France. Lindbergh covered the ​33 12-hour, 3,600-statute-mile (5,800 km) flight alone in a single-engine purpose-built Ryan monoplane, the Spirit of St. Louis.

Later in 1919, upon returning to the U.S., Read predicted: "It soon will be possible to drive an airplane around the world at a height of 60,000 feet and 1,000 miles per hour." The next day, The New York Times ran an editorial in reaction, stating: "It is one thing to be a qualified aviator, and quite another to be a qualified prophet. Nothing now known supports the Lieutenant Commander’s forecast. An airplane at the height of 60,000 feet would be whirling its propellers in a vacuum, and no aviator could live long in the freezing cold of interstellar space."

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 127 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 18th in the world by circulation and 3rd in the U.S.

On June 3, 1919, he was made a commander of the Order of the Tower and Sword by the Portuguese government. [2] In 1929, Read and the rest of the flight crew of NC-4 were awarded Congressional Gold Medals. [3]

Order of the Tower and Sword state order of Portugal

The Military Order of the Tower and of the Sword, of Valour, Loyalty and Merit is a Portuguese order of knighthood and the pinnacle of the Portuguese honours system. It was created by King Afonso V in 1459. The order may be bestowed on people or on Portuguese municipalities.

Congressional Gold Medal award

A Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the United States Congress. The congressional practice of issuing gold medals to occasionally honor recipients from the military began during the American Revolution. Later the practice extended to individuals in all walks of life and in the late 20th century also to groups. The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian awards in the United States. The congressional medal seeks to honor those, individually or as a group, "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement." However, "There are no permanent statutory provisions specifically relating to the creation of Congressional Gold Medals. When a Congressional Gold Medal has been deemed appropriate, Congress has, by legislative action, provided for the creation of a medal on an ad hoc basis." Thus, there are generally fewer gold medals than presidential medals. U.S. citizenship is not a requirement.

Later life

Read trained naval aviators through World War II. He was nicknamed "Putty Read" because his face rarely showed any emotion. [4]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

On June 4, 1962, he appeared on the TV game show I've Got a Secret. [5]

He died in retirement in Coconut Grove, Florida, on October 10, 1967. [1] [6] He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. [7] He was married to Elizabeth Anderson “Bess” Burdine (September 16, 1896 – December 8, 1992). [8]


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  1. 1 2 "Adm. Albert C. Read Dies at 80. First to Fly Across the Atlantic". The New York Times. October 11, 1967.
  2. "Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas" [Portuguese Honorary Orders]. Presidency of the Portuguese Republic (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  3. "A Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the crew of the first transatlantic flight". Archived from the original on 2012-09-16. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  4. Century of Flight: The Atlantic Challenge
  5. "Year 1962". 2009-03-03. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  6. Cunningham p. 153.
  7. "Albert Cushing Read". Find a Grave . Retrieved September 3, 2010.
  8. "Read, Bess B". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 2018-04-14.