Cameron Briggs, 1944 (Source: Web)
Cameron Briggs landed once at Tucson, Monday, August 19, 1929. He flew an unidentified Boeing F2B. Based at San Diego, CA aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga, he arrived amidst nineteen other naval aviators, each signed into the Register on the middle third of page 112. Other than the first six, including Briggs, who signed their own names, the rest were entered by an unknown hand all at once. Please direct your browser to the link and review page 112. There you'll see that signers Chourre through Wick comprise the group of twenty. They all remained overnight at Tucson, departing the morning of the 20th for El Paso, TX.
Portrait, right, from the U.S. Naval Aviation Museum, drawn in pencil April 4, 1944 while he was Executive Officer aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown.
Photograph, below, from the Naval History and Heritage Web site (NHH) taken ca. November, 1940 aboard the U.S.S. Philadelphia. Briggs stands second from the left. He was a Lieutenant Commander at the time and served as Aviation Officer and Commanding Officer of Cruiser Scouting Squadron Eight (VCS-8).
Cameron Briggs (second from left), November, 1940 (Source: NHH)
Cameron Briggs, U.S. Naval Academy, 1925 (Source: Woodling)
What were twenty Navy pilots doing at Tucson all at once? They were on a grand cross-country flight headed from San Diego to Cleveland, OH and back to participate in the National Air Races (NAR) held August 24th-September 2nd at Cleveland that year. Lt. Cdr. Homer Wick was commanding officer of Squadron No. 1 based on the Saratoga.
Wick brought his entire squadron through Tucson on behalf of the NAR. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Navy ordered numerous activities by its personnel, ships and airplanes to build confidence in the naval force among the U.S. citizenry, to provide real-life training for personnel, as well as to encourage recruitment. Among the flyers and airplanes with Wick were the Navy aerobatic team named the "Nine High Hats."
Briggs' job was to participate with other Navy pilots in event No. 21 of the NAR, the Navy Pursuit Race. It took place on August 30th and covered 100 miles in ten, 10-mile laps. According to the Aircraft Yearbook for 1930, sixteen navy pilots competed. Briggs was maintaining a good speed, but was disqualified from the race because of fouled pylons. Please direct your browser to Wick's page to see a tabulation and identification of all the men in his squadron.
Briggs was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1925. At left is his photograph and text entry into the Academy yearbook for that year.
He spent his obligatory first sea duty on the U.S.S. Wyoming, and thereafter to WWII according to the following table.
1926 U.S.S. Wyoming
1927 Navy torpedo station, Newport (instruction)
1928 Naval Air Station, Pensacola (instruction)
1929-30 VF squadron 1B, Battle Fleet
1931-33 Naval Air Station, Pensacola
1934 V.O squadron 1-B
1935 V.S. squadron 4-B
1936 Naval proving ground, Dahlgren (instruction)
1937 V.P. squadron 5-F., F. A.B., Coco Solo, C.Z.
1938 Bombing squadron 6
1939 Bombing squadron 6 (U.S.S. Enterprise)
1940 Commanding Cruiser scouting squadron 8
During the 1930s, Cameron may have enjoyed a unique distinction of being the only Navy officer referred to by name in the "Tailspin Tommy" series of books and comic strips by author Hal Forrest. The link also mentions that Briggs flew with the High Hats. The photograph of the team of nine at Wick's link does not include Briggs. The link also mentions that Briggs flew on screen for the movie "Hell Divers" starring Register pilot Wallace Beery. There is no mention of Briggs in any of the online filmographies for "Hell Divers."
You may view a letter written and signed from author Forrest to Register pilot Hap Russell that is exhibited in the Russell Collection on this site. Below is an example of Briggs in "Tailspin Tommy."
Tailspin Tommy Comic Strip, Cameron Briggs (Source: Woodling)
Early in WWII Briggs was assigned to command one of the newly constructed and commissioned auxiliary air stations, Barin Field, near Pensacola, FL. Below, from the January 1, 1943 Naval Aviation News, is a citation of that assignment.
Naval Aviation News, January 1, 1943 (Source: Webmaster)
In April, 1944, he was executive officer on the U.S.S. Yorktown as it made its way through attacks on Hollandia and Truk (pronounced Trook). His Plan of the Day for Truk on April 29th read metaphorically: "Today we start a two-day engagement at that popular theater which was so receptive on our last visit. This time we intend our performance to knock them completely off their feet."
During the Korean conflict, then Captain Briggs commanded the Essex-class aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Boxer, from July, 1950 to August, 1951. The Action Report for the Boxer from July 27, 1951 (PDF 11 pages 300 kB) is at the link. It is signed by Briggs, but citation of his taking over command is not made in this report. It ends just before his first task with the Boxer. He had only taken charge of the Boxer 30 hours before it sailed for Japan with urgently needed craft for the Korean war. This was to transport 170 Navy planes, including F-51D fighters, from California toYokosuka, Japan for the Korean theater. He arrived at Yokosuka on July 23, 1950 in record time, sailing the Boxer across the Pacific in 8 days and 7 hours. On the return trip, Briggs drove the Boxer to break that record in 7 days, 10 hours, and 36 minutes. Those in the know said it was without doubt the fastest crossing of the Pacific by ship to date in maritime and naval history.
After a fast overhaul in the States, Briggs and the Boxer returned to the Far East by the end of August and supported the landings at Inchon, and patrolled the Formosa Straits to counter Cold War threats of Red China. The Boxer received 8 battle stars under Briggs' command. During January, 1951 the movie "Submarine Command" was filmed on board the Boxer. Please direct your browser to the link to view the Action Report for the Boxer dated August 27, 1951 (10 pages, PDF 290kB). This report, on page 5, cites the turnover of the Boxer to its new commanding officer on August 17, 1951.
Cameron was born July 15, 1904. He retired from the Navy as a Rear Admiral on July 1, 1955. He died at age 96, January 23, 2001 in California. He is buried at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego. Below is Cameron's obituary from the San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune of January 30, 2001. He is one of a handful of Register pilots known to see the 21st century. See also, Bobbi Trout, Wm. T. Piper, Jr., John Miller, West Moreau, Busch Voights and Bob Buck. As well, one of the officers who accompanied him through Tucson and on to the NAR, Jesse McClure, succeeded him in death on February 19, 2001 at age 97.
Deceased Name: Adm. Cameron Briggs, 96 saw action in WWII, Korean War
Retired Rear Adm. Cameron Briggs showed early in life that he was destined for high places. The son of a well-traveled Army officer, Adm. Briggs spent part of his youth in Japan, where he received an engraved silver sake cup from the emperor in 1913 for climbing the country's tallest mountain: Mount Fuji. One of the first American youths to scale the 12,388-foot peak, Adm. Briggs would go on to reach higher elevations as a Navy aviator and serve on the Navy's first aircraft carrier, the Langley. The decorated veteran of World War II and the Korean War died of natural causes Jan. 23 at his home in Point Loma. He was 96.
A 1925 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Adm. Briggs earned his wings as an aviator at Pensacola, Fla., in 1928. He helped perfect aircraft landings aboard the Langley and later served as executive officer of the carrier Yorktown during World War II. During the Korean War, he commanded the carrier Boxer, which received eight battle stars during the conflict. Assigned to carry military planes into combat, the Boxer set a record for a U.S. aircraft carrier by crossing the Pacific in 8 1/2 days in July 1950.
Its load included 150 Air Force and Navy planes, along with 1,000 troops. The return trip eclipsed the freshly set record, taking 7 days, 10 hours and 36 minutes for the Boxer to reach home port on Aug. 4.
When Adm. Briggs retired from active duty in 1955, his awards included a Legion of Merit with a combat V, a Bronze Star with a combat V, an Air Medal and a Presidential Unit Citation. Early in his 30-year naval career, he flew exhibitions with a group of aviators known as the Navy High Hats in the 1929 National Air Races in Cleveland. The High Hats, a formation team considered the Blue Angels of its day, dazzled onlookers by flying with their biplanes tied together with rope.
Assigned in the early 1930s to the carrier Saratoga, Adm. Briggs served with Fighter Squadron 1. As a pioneering fighter pilot, he was depicted in "Tailspin Tommy," a cartoon book illustrated by Hal Forrest. Along with "Betty Boop" and "Smilin' Jack," "Tailspin Tommy" was among the most popular so-called big little books of the 1930s. "In one of the episodes, he saved the lost hero in a storm at sea by leading the hero's plane to his carrier," said his son, Raymond.
Adm. Briggs was born in San Francisco, where he survived the 1906 earthquake as a young boy. His father, Raymond W. Briggs, an Army lieutenant at the time, was involved in dynamiting operations to demolish buildings on the edge of the Barbary Coast. The demolition was an attempt to keep fire from spreading into the financial district. Adm. Briggs later moved with his family to the Philippines and Japan before attending college preparatory school in Pennsylvania. He was 20 when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. For the next three decades, he would serve on destroyers, cruisers, battleships and seven aircraft carriers.
In retirement, Adm. Briggs was president of the Yorktown Association for veterans who had served aboard the vessel. In 1970, he helped coordinate census research in San Diego as district manager of the nationwide project. In 1996, he was among a group of carrier veterans honored at the dedication of the Aircraft Carrier Memorial on Harbor Drive. Adm. Briggs' wife, Doris, past president of the Star of India Auxiliary and an auxiliary to the Military Order of World Wars, died in August 1987.
Adm. Briggs is survived by daughters, Bette Briggs Humphrey of San Diego and Joan McLaughlin of Lacey, Wash.; a son, Raymond of Escondido; 14 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and four great-great grandchildren. A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, followed by burial at 2:30 p.m. at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
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