Henry C. Mustin
|Henry Croskey Mustin|
Captain Henry C. Mustin
|Born||6 February 1874
|Died||23 August 1923
Newport, Rhode Island
|Place of burial||Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia|
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1892-1923|
|Awards||Gold Life Saving Medal|
|Spouse(s)||Corinne DeForest Montague|
Henry Croskey Mustin (6 February 1874 – 23 August 1923) was a pioneering naval aviator who undertook the auspicious task of establishing the first Naval Aeronautic Station (now Naval Air Station Pensacola) on the site of the abandoned Navy Yard at Warrington, Florida in 1914. He was designated Navy Air Pilot No. 3 and later Naval Aviator No. 11.
Early life and career
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 6 February 1874, Mustin graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1896. He spent the two years at sea, as required by law, before he was commissioned an ensign in 1898. From then, until he reported to duty in aviation 15 years later, he distinguished himself as a remarkably capable officer in the surface navy.
After receiving his commission, Mustin served during the next 18 months on board six different ships. From October 1899 to March 1900, he served as commanding officer of USS Samar, a gunboat on the Asiatic Station. While commanding Samar, during the capture of Vigan in the Philippine Islands, Mustin won a commendation for towing the boats of the battleship USS Oregon to shore and aiding in covering the landing. After a night of carousing in May 1900, Mustin was court-martialed for leaving his station and sleeping on watch, resulting in the loss of five numbers in grade. The court martial reconvened to pardon him, and he eventually had his numbers restored by President Theodore Roosevelt, who heard that Mustin had punched a British sailor for insulting the U.S. Navy during the night in question.
Mustin was also interested in the technical aspects of ordnance and helped develop a telescopic sight that would aid in increasing the accuracy and range of naval gun fire. He made his first flight while on duty at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In January 1911, he aided Holden C. Richardson in an experiment with a glider, which Richardson designed and built. Mustin soloed on 13 March 1913.
In 1913, plans for a national naval air service were taking shape, and Pensacola, Florida, was chosen over Annapolis, Maryland, as the site of a training facility, as the warmer weather along the United States Gulf Coast would be better for year-round flying. On 31 December 1913, Mustin reported for duty as executive officer of USS Mississippi, a battleship being sent to Pensacola Bay for training purposes. On 6 January 1913, under a new ranking system for officers, Mustin was designated Navy Air Pilot No. 3 (after Theodore G. Ellyson and John H. Towers). A detachment of nine officers and about two dozen enlisted men arrived at Pensacola on 20 January and began to establish the new school. It was operational by February. Mustin and his wife and two sons, Lloyd and Henry, moved into Quarters A on the station.
Following the Tampico Affair on 9 April 1914, the United States sent a squadron of warships to Veracruz, Mexico. After first sending three planes to Veracruz aboard the light cruiser USS Birmingham, Lieutenant Commander Mustin took temporary command of Mississippi as her acting captain and led a second aviation detachment, along with 500 United States Marines, aboard her to the campaign. They arrived at Veracruz on the evening of 24 April 1914. The United States occupation of Veracruz marked the first operational use of naval aircraft. Mississippi began her voyage back to Pensacola on 12 June 1914 to make repairs to the aircraft which had seen continued use without means of maintenance. In July 1914, Mustin took Mississippi to Norfolk, Virginia, to be sold to Greece.
Mustin was named commandant of the Naval Aeronautic Station in April 1915. With USD $1 million in funding for the year, the station conducted antisubmarine patrols, worked on the development of a new bombsight and a gyroscopic sextant, and saw the arrival of ten new students in July 1915. A new station ship, the armored cruiser USS North Carolina, arrived in Pensacola on 9 September 1915. On 5 November 1915, Mustin launched himself from North Carolina via catapult in a Curtiss Model AB-2, recording the world's first catapulting of an aircraft from a ship underway.
Mustin was outspoken about the potential of naval aviation, despite conclusions by officials that "aeronautics does not offer a prospect of becoming the principal means of exercising compelling force against the enemy." He lobbied to halt funding of dirigible projects and focus development on high-speed fighter aircraft. He and fellow naval aviator Kenneth Whiting worked together on seaplane designs and filed a patent application for the design of a "hydroaeroplane" on 27 October 1916. However, the hurricane that struck Pensacola on 18 October 1916 caused more than $1 million in damage to the base, and Mustin faced accusations that his "wrong flying instruction methods" had caused the deaths of two naval aviators, Lieutenants, junior grade, Richard C. Saufley and James V. Rockwell – developments that greatly dampened plans for the Aeronautic Station. He was detached home from Pensacola on 30 January 1917, and his naval aviator designation revoked on 31 January.
On 15 January 1918, Mustin, then executive officer of the battleship USS North Dakota, saved the life of a sailor who was washed overboard, earning him the Gold Life Saving Medal. However, the effort took a heavy toll on his health, from which he never entirely recovered. Mustin began development of a "sea sled" carrier vessel that year, conducting tests from November 1918 to March 1919. The armistice with Germany and end of World War I on 11 November 1918 ended Mustin's sea sled development, although it would be revived during World War II and praised for its ingenuity.
In December 1919, Commander Mustin assumed command of the minelayer USS Aroostook with additional duty as commander of the Fleet Air Detachment, Pacific Fleet. While in command of the Fleet Air Detachment, later designated the Aircraft Squadrons, Pacific Fleet, Mustin led a flight of a dozen airplanes on a record breaking 3,019 mile flight from San Diego, California, to Balboa, Panama. Mustin was ordered to report to the United States Department of the Navy for duty as Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics in late October 1921, reporting for duty there on 6 November 1921. He was promoted to Captain on 1 January 1922.
Captain Mustin was admitted to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, in January 1923 suffering from chest pain. After a protracted illness lasting several months, he died at Newport, Rhode Island, on 23 August 1923. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
At Naval Air Station Pensacola – the former Naval Aeronautic Station – Mustin Beach is named for him and the Mustin Beach Officer's Club indirectly bears his name. Also named for Mustin was the Henry C. Mustin Naval Air Facility, which operated at the Philadelphia Navy Yard from 1926 to 1963.
- John Fass Morton. Mustin: A Naval Family of the Twentieth Century. Naval Institute Press, 2003.
- Captain Henry C. Mustin, USN - Manuscript Collection