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First Name: William

Last Name: Moffett

Birthplace: Charleston, SC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Home of Record: Charleston, NC
Middle Name: Adger

Date of Birth: 31 October 1869

Date of Death: 04 April 1933

Rank or Rate: Rear Admiral

Years Served: 1890 - 1933
William Adger Moffett
'Air Admiral'

•  Mexican-American Wars (1846 - 1848)
•  Spanish-American War (1898)
•  Occupation of Veracruz (1914)
•  World War I (1914 - 1918)


William Adger Moffett

Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy

Medal of Honor Recipient

Occupation of Veracruz

Rear Admiral William Adger Moffett (31 October 1869 - 4 April 1933) was a U.S. Navy officer who received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during the Occupation of Veracruz. He is also notable as the architect of naval aviation in the U.S. Navy.

William Adger Moffett was born on 31 October 1869 in Charleston, SC. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1890. He was the son of George Hall Moffett (1829-1875) who enlisted in the Confederate States Army as a Private, and was promoted for bravery on the field of battle, eventually attaining the rank of Adjutant-General, Hagood's Brigade, Twenty-fifth South Carolina Volunteers.

Moffett was on USS Charleston (C-2) when she sailed across the Pacific and captured Guam. Ultimately ending up in the Philippines, a month after the U.S. victory at Manila Bay, the USS Charleston then shelled enemy positions in support of American and Filipino troops at the Battle of Manila (1898).

He received the Medal of Honor for his captaincy of the USS Chester in a daring and dangerous night landing in 1914 at Veracruz, Mexico.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy

Citation: For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. Comdr. Moffett brought his ship into the inner harbor during the nights of the 21st and 22d without the assistance of a pilot or navigational lights, and was in a position on the morning of the 22d to use his guns at a critical time with telling effect. His skill in mooring his ship at night was especially noticeable. He placed her nearest to the enemy and did most of the firing and received most of the hits.

In World War I, he was Commander of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago, and there established an aviator training program. While commanding the battleship USS Mississippi (1918-1921), he supported the creation of a scout plane unit on the ship.

Although not himself a flyer, Moffett became known as the "Air Admiral" for his leadership of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics from its creation in 1921. In this role, he oversaw the development of tactics for naval aircraft, the introduction of the aircraft carrier, and relations with the civilian aircraft industry. A master politician, he maintained official support for naval aviation against Billy Mitchell, who favored putting all military aircraft into a separate air force. In that regard, Moffett benefited from his longstanding friendship with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had been appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by Woodrow Wilson in 1913.

Moffett was also an advocate of the development of lighter-than-air airships, or "dirigibles."

He lost his life on the USS Akron when that airship, which was then the largest dirigible in the world, went down in a storm off the coast of New Jersey on 4 April 1933.

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Medal


• The USS Moffett (DD-362) was named for him.
• The naval air station that he helped establish near Sunnyvale, CA, was re-named Moffett Field in his memory soon after his death.
• Mount Moffett, a mountain in Alaska.
• John Phillip Sousa's march, "The Aviators" is dedicated to William J. Moffett, the man responsible for Sousa's commission in the American Navy during World War I.

Death and Burial

Rear Admiral William Adger Moffett was killed in the crash of the dirigible USS Akron on 4 April 1933. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 3, Lot 1655-A, alongside his wife, Jeanette Whitton Moffett.

One of their three sons, William Adger Moffett, Jr., also a Navy Admiral and who died in 2001, is also buried at Arlington Cemetery.

Honoree ID: 2016   Created by: MHOH




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