Ceremonies will be held in New York Wednesday morning to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic flight led by Rome’s native son, Admiral John Henry Towers.
The crossing started from the Rockaway Naval Station on May 8, 1919, and ended in Lisbon, Portugal nearly two weeks later on May 21.
Towers was born in Rome in 1885. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1906 and was one of the first officers assigned to Naval aviation in 1911. In February 1919, then Lt. Cmdr. Towers, was ordered to command the proposed trans-Atlantic flight with seaplanes.
Two of the three seaplanes encountered bad weather and landed near the Azores. One was damaged, but Towers was able to keep it afloat for three days and ultimately was able to reach to Ponta Delgado. Only one of the aircraft, the NC-4, actually competed the final leg of the trip to Plymouth, England.
Robby Schwach, a chief of staff to New York City Councilman Eric Ulrich, said a monthlong exhibit has opened depicting preparations for the flight and the challenges they went through.
Towers has not gotten the credit he deserves for putting the flight together, choosing the crews, or later in his career, the efforts Towers made to establish Naval aviation for all of World War II, Schwach said.
“Certainly the massive mobilization that Towers supervised for World War II was like nothing we’ve seen or will see again,” Schwach said.
“Think of the challenges of getting that many people trained to fly aircraft. Think of how much raw material it took to build the planes and then get them to where they needed to go, all the logistics that went into it were ultimately made by a team of people that all came back to his decision making.”
The ceremonies in New York begin at 9:30 a.m., at the approximate site where the aircraft took off 100 years earlier.
“We will have presentations from both the Navy and Coast Guard, including a retired Navy Admiral who’s grandfather was a member of the crews,” Schwach said.
There will be a couple of flyovers, and family members from some of the original Navy aviators will attend. Howie Lowden of Rome is representing the local Towers descendants at the ceremonies Wednesday.