Commemorating the First Flights of the Wright Brothers December 17, 1903

‹--Return to the Shrine

Major Alford Williams, Jr.

1891 - 1958

United States Navy's First Chief Test Pilot; The Father Of Dive Bombing

Alford Williams enlisted in the United States Navy at the beginning of World War I and qualified as an aviator and a flight instructor. After being appointed the Navy's chief test pilot and the head of high-speed research, Lieutenant Williams represented the Navy in the high-speed Pulitzer Trophy air races. In 1923 he achieved a world speed record of 243.7 mph in a Curtiss R2C-1 Racer at the St. Louis Airport and was dubbed the "American speed king." In October of the same year, he broke the world's straightaway speed record by flying 266.7 mph at Mitchell Field, New York, in the same airplane.

For 13 years Williams specialized in developing fighter tactics and maneuvers. He conceived and developed the technique of vertical dive-bombing, which became a revolutionary air tactic in World War II.

Williams resigned from the Navy in 1930 but was accepted in the Marine Corps Reserves as a Captain and was promoted to Major in 1935. Later, Williams was forced to resign from the Marine Corps in 1940 for advocating an independent U.S. Air Force.

Just prior to the outbreak of World War II, Major Williams volunteered his services to the Army Air Forces. He performed thousands of precision flying and dive-bombing demonstrations for the public in his Grumman "Gulfhawk" series of aerobatic fighters. His "Gulfhawk" biplane is displayed in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as the "plane that taught young America to fly."