Guide to Federal Records

Records of the Bureau of Aeronautics


(Record Group 72)
1911-72

Overview of Records Locations

Table of Contents

  • 72.1 Administrative History
  • 72.2 Records of Predecessors 1911-30
    • 72.2.1 Commingled records of the Bureau of Steam Engineering and the Bureau of Engineering
    • 72.2.2 Commingled records of the Office of Naval Aeronautics, Division of Operations, and its successors in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations
    • 72.2.3 Records of the Bureau of Construction and Repair
  • 72.3 General Records of the Bureau of Aeronautics 1917-61
    • 72.3.1 Correspondence
    • 72.3.2 Records relating to contracts
    • 72.3.3 Records of committees, boards, and conferences
    • 72.3.4 Other headquarters records
  • 72.4 Records of Divisions and Offices 1911-65
    • 72.4.1 Records of the Technical Data Division
    • 72.4.2 Records of the Ships Installations Division
    • 72.4.3 Records of the Power Plant Division
    • 72.4.4 Records of the Production Division
    • 72.4.5 Records of the Airborne Equipment Division
    • 72.4.6 Records of the Airframe Design Division and the Design Elements Division
    • 72.4.7 Records of the Aircraft Division and the Piloted Aircraft Division
    • 72.4.8 Records of the Logistics Program Office and the Plans Coordination Division
    • 72.4.9 Records of the Office of the Management Engineer
    • 72.4.10 Records of the Research and Development Division
  • 72.5 Records of Field Activities 1917-59
    • 72.5.1 Records of naval aircraft inspectors
    • 72.5.2 Records relating to airships at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, NJ
    • 72.5.3 Other records relating to naval air stations
    • 72.5.4 Records of the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, PA
    • 72.5.5 Records of other field activities
  • 72.6 Textual Records (General) 1936-72
  • 72.7 Cartographic Records (General) 1915-62
  • 72.8 Motion Pictures (General) 1951-59 and n.d.
  • 72.9 Still Pictures (General) 1917-38

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72.1 Administrative History

Established: In the Department of the Navy, August 10, 1921, under authority of the Navy Appropriation Act (42 Stat. 123), July 12, 1921, consolidating logistical and oversight functions for naval aviation previously scattered through several units.

Predecessor Agencies:

In the Department of the Navy:

General oversight functions:

  • Bureau of Navigation (1911-14)
  • Office of Naval Aeronautics, Division of Operations (1914-15)
  • Office of Naval Aeronautics, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OCNO, 1915-17)
  • Office of Naval Aviation, OCNO (1917-18)
  • Aviation Division, OCNO (1918-19)
  • Aviation Section, OCNO (1919-21)
Logistical functions:

(1) Air frames

  • Bureau of Construction and Repair (1913-16)
  • Aircraft Division, Bureau of Construction and Repair (1916-21)

(2) Power plants

  • Bureau of Steam Engineering (1913-17)
  • Aeronautics Division, Bureau of Steam Engineering (1917-20)
  • Aeronautics Division, Bureau of Engineering (1920-21)

(3) Instruments and flight clothing

  • Bureau of Navigation (1913-21)

(4) Aviation ordnance

  • Bureau of Ordnance (1913-21)

Functions: Advised the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Department of the Navy on matters relating to naval aviation. Directed testing and procurement activities for aircraft and components. Maintained and supplied shore stations and installations and the fleet air arm. Supervised the maintenance, repair, and salvage of naval aircraft.

Abolished: By an act of August 18, 1959 (73 Stat. 395), establishing the Bureau of Naval Weapons.

Successor Agencies: Bureau of Naval Weapons, 1959-66; Naval Air Systems Command, 1966- .

Finding Aids: William F. Shonkwiler, comp., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Bureau of Aeronautics, PI 26 (1951); Harry Schwartz, comp., "Supplement to Preliminary Inventory No. 26, Records of the Bureau of Aeronautics," NM 52 (1965); supplement in National Archives microfiche edition of preliminary inventories.

Security-Classified Records: This record group may include material that is security-classified.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Bureau of Aeronautics in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

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72.2 Records of Predecessors
1911-30

History: General supervision of naval aeronautics was first vested in Bureau of Navigation, March 13, 1911. Subsequently assigned to Office of Naval Aeronautics, established July 1, 1914, in Division of Operations (DO). DO redesignated Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OCNO) pursuant to the Navy Appropriation Act (38 Stat. 929), March 3, 1915. Under OCNO, Office of Naval Aeronautics became Office of Naval Aviation, 1917; Aviation Division, 1918; and Aviation Section, 1919.

Logistical responsibilities for air frames assigned to Bureau of Construction and Repair; for power plants to Bureau of Steam Engineering (Bureau of Engineering after 1920); for instruments and flight clothing to Bureau of Navigation; and for aviation ordnance to Bureau of Ordnance, by General Order 41, Department of the Navy, June 13, 1913. Aircraft Division established in Bureau of Construction and Repair, July 1916, and Aeronautics Division in the Bureau of Steam Engineering, July 1, 1917.

Logistical functions vested in bureaus were consolidated with oversight functions of Aviation Section, OCNO, to create Bureau of Aeronautics, 1921. see 72.1.

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72.2.1 Commingled records of the Bureau of Steam Engineering and
the Bureau of Engineering

Textual Records: Records, including those of the Aeronautics Division (1917-21), consisting of correspondence relating to aviation, 1914-22 (105 ft.), with register, 1911-22, subject index, 1918-19, and file classification guide, n.d.; and correspondence concerning contracts, 1917-22.

Related Records: Bureau of Engineering aviation correspondence, 1911-14, in RG 19, Records of the Bureau of Ships. Record copies of publications of the Bureau of Engineering in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

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72.2.2 Commingled records of the Office of Naval Aeronautics,
Division of Operations, and its successors in the Office of the
Chief of Naval Operations

Textual Records: General correspondence relating to aviation, 1914-21 (105 ft.), with card registers, 1917-21, indexes, 1914- 19, and a filing classification guide, 1919-21. Outgoing letters ("Yellow File"), 1917-21. Subject files, 1919-22. Dispatches, 1918-19, and formerly secret and confidential correspondence, 1917-20, of U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, and its Aviation Section, 1918-19. Records relating to naval air stations, airfields, and aircraft production factories, 1916-21. Naval Intelligence reports on aviation, 1920-21. Records relating to the demobilization and disposal of overseas property, 1920. Goodyear service bulletins, 1918-20. Miscellaneous records, including blueprints and drawings, 1917-21.

Lantern Slides (1,100 images): Training of navy aviators and photographers; ships, aircraft, equipment, naval air stations, aerial charts and maps; and flight of the PN-9 to Hawaii, 1917-26 (GS). see also 72.9.

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72.2.3 Records of the Bureau of Construction and Repair

Textual Records: Records, including those of the Aircraft Division (1916-21), to which were added relevant records of the successor Bureau of Aeronautics, consisting of correspondence relating to aviation (191 ft.), 1917-30, with card register and filing guide; correspondence concerning purchase orders, 1918-20, with record cards; and correspondence dealing with contracts, 1915-26 (142 ft.), with record cards, 1917-26.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Bureau of Construction and Repair in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

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72.3 General Records of the Bureau of Aeronautics
1917-61

72.3.1 Correspondence

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1925-47 (5,346 ft.), with a card register, 1925-40, and index, 1925-47. General correspondence, 1948-59 (2,298 ft.). Formerly security-classified correspondence, 1922-47 (1,245 ft.), with indexes. Formerly secret outgoing letters, 1943-46, with name and subject indexes. Security-classified correspondence, 1948-59 (2,857 ft.), with indexes, 1948-52. Correspondence and reports relating to the 1924 Naval Arctic Expedition, 1923-24.

72.3.2 Records relating to contracts

Textual Records: Contract correspondence, 1926-42 (640 ft.), with card register, 1926-42, and record cards, 1942-44. Contract records, 1940-60 (3,117 ft.), with record cards, 1940-59. Bureau purchase orders and related correspondence, 1921-26, with record cards. Miscellaneous records, 1917-42.

72.3.3 Records of committees, boards, and conferences

Textual Records: Proceedings of the naval Aviation Supply Conferences, Philadelphia, PA, 1945-52. Agendas and papers of the Bureau of Aeronautics' Assembly and Repair Officers Conferences, 1945-52. Minutes of meetings and other records relating to the Inter-Bureau Technical Committee, 1945-57. Records of the President's Aircraft Policy (Finletter) Commission, 1947-48. Agendas and records of the Research and Development Board and its committees, 1948-50. Records relating to the Arnold Board, 1953- 58. Transcripts of meetings of the Bureau of Aeronautics Committee on the Integrated Aeronautics Program, 1954-57.

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72.3.4 Other headquarters records

Textual Records: Experimental engine and flight logs of naval aircraft, 1917-42. Guide to naval aviation personnel, 1921. Press releases, 1921. Miscellaneous publications, 1921-45. Aircraft reports, 1923-56. Monthly summary reports of the Aviation Statistics Section relating to the quantity, type, and location of naval aircraft, 1926-40. Correspondence and other records relating to hearings on the 1931 naval building program, 1930-31. Report and photographs of the Porto [Puerto] Rican-Nicaraguan Aerial Survey Detachment, March 25, 1931. Aircraft manufacturers' proposals for aircraft that were not accepted by the navy, 1931- 41, 1943-61. Reports on the quantity, type, and location of naval aircraft, 1939-57. Division histories, 1941-57. Research and development memorandums, 1943-56. Instructions and notices, 1944- 59. Research and development plan master files, fiscal years 1946-48. Survey of Bureau of Aeronautics civilian personnel, 1944. Proceedings and notes of division directors' meetings, 1947-59. Information briefs, 1958-59. Records (1850-1958) collected for a history of pilotless aircraft and missiles, 1958, and related correspondence, 1953-58. Records relating to the flex-deck project, 1951-58.

Motion Pictures: Films collected by Rear Admiral D.S. Fahrney for a history of pilotless aircraft and guided missiles, 1941-58 (14 reels).

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72.4 Records of Divisions and Offices
1911-65


72.4.1 Records of the Technical Data Division

Textual Records: Contractors' weight and balance reports, 1919- 40. Naval Aircraft Factory reports, 1921-40. Aeronautical Engine Laboratory reports, 1922-65. Industry technical reports, 1923-47. Wind tunnel reports, 1924-45. Test reports on aircraft and aircraft equipment, 1925-42. Metallurgy Laboratory reports, 1930- 36. Physical Testing Laboratory reports, 1930-38. U.S. Navy Experiment Station reports, 1933-43. Records of the Aeronautical Materials Section and Laboratory, 1938-46. Records of the Instrument Development Section and Aeronautical Instrument Laboratory, 1938-46. University technical reports, 1940-47. British technical reports and handbooks, 1940-44. Translations of captured German documents, 1941-48. Patuxent, MD, Naval Air Test Center test reports, 1944-47. Aeronautical Radio and Radar Laboratory reports, 1944-47. Reports of the U.S. Technical Mission to Europe, 1945-46. Aircraft mock-up reports, 1946-56. Aeronautical Turbine Laboratory reports, 1956-63. Technical reports made by the Department of Defense and its contractors, 1920-59. Technical records relating to missile systems and electronic equipment, 1945-60. Technical reports relating to the structure and performance of airplanes, airships, helicopters, and guided missiles, 1918-63. Naval aeronautical specifications, 1919-50. Contractor descriptive specifications, 1925-42. Aircraft specifications, 1930-61. Joint air force-navy specifications, 1944-58.

Photographs (20,950 images):Navy airplanes and structural details supplied by manufacturers, 1928-54 (AC). see also 72.9.

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72.4.2 Records of the Ships Installations Division

Textual Records: Historical collection, 1925-39. Program records, 1922-39, 1952-64. Test reports, 1928-43. Projects relating to barriers and barricades, 1935-51; and to catapults, launchers, and missiles, 1941-53. Aircraft carrier drawings, 1942-51. Records of the Rocket Branch, 1947-54. Industry proposals for arresting gear, 1948-59.

72.4.3 Records of the Power Plant Division

Textual Records: Early records relating to engines, 1919-39. Manufacturers' test reports relating to the testing, design, and development of naval aircraft engines, 1923-38. Historical file on the development of the diesel engine, 1930-43. Test reports on superchargers and turbos, 1937-43. Engine contract records, 1940- 44, and flight test reports, 1943-45. Records relating to propellers, 1946-55. Research project files, 1946-53. Correspondence relating to engines, 1948-54. Records relating to the J-42, J-57, and J-58 engines, 1949-57. Analyses of inventions, 1945-59.

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72.4.4 Records of the Production Division

Textual Records: Aircraft production program monthly reports, 1947-49. Production digests, 1943-46. Correspondence of the Inspection Section, 1939-50.

72.4.5 Records of the Airborne Equipment Division

Textual Records: Reports relating to metals and other aircraft materials, 1941-59.

72.4.6 Records of the Airframe Design Division and the Design
Elements Division

Textual Records: Airframe reports, 1947-58. Correspondence of the Structures Branch, 1943-56. Correspondence of the Aeronautical and Hydrographic Branch, 1953-60.

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72.4.7 Records of the Aircraft Division and the Piloted Aircraft
Division

Textual Records: Reports and research memorandums, 1916-45; test reports and photographs, 1921-36; technical reports, 1928-38; and correspondence regarding helium and airships, 1917-25, of the Lighter-Than-Air Branch and the Airship Design Branch. Correspondence of the Patrol Design Branch, 1944-53. Conference notes, 1956-59. Records of the Army and Navy Helium Board and the U.S. Helium Production Plant, Fort Worth, TX, relating to the acquisition of helium by the Department of the Navy, 1919-30.

72.4.8 Records of the Logistics Program Office and the Plans
Coordination Division

Textual Records: Division and office progress reports, 1944-56. Administrative summary reports, 1946-59. Miscellaneous records relating to aviation logistics planning, 1946-53.

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72.4.9 Records of the Office of the Management Engineer

Textual Records: Historical records relating to naval aviation and to the Bureau of Aeronautics, 1911-59. Administrative records, 1927-60, including manuals and guides, issuances, organization charts and functional statements, records relating to management and organization, and mobilization charts. Weekly progress reports of various working groups, 1953-56. Reports of committees, task forces, advisory boards, and working groups, 1956-60.

72.4.10 Records of the Research and Development Division

Textual Records: Correspondence of the Design Branch, 1945-52.

72.5 Records of Field Activities
1917-59

72.5.1 Records of naval aircraft inspectors

Textual Records: Technical reports of the naval aircraft inspector, Akron, OH, 1933-41 (in Chicago). Records of the naval aircraft inspector, Friedrichshafen, Germany, 1922-24. Correspondence of the naval aircraft inspector, Philadelphia, PA, 1927-30 (in Philadelphia). Records of the naval aircraft inspector, Seattle, WA, 1917-19 (in Seattle).

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72.5.2 Records relating to airships at the U.S. Naval Air
Station, Lakehurst, NJ

Textual Records: Correspondence, reports, blueprints, photographs, and other records pertaining to the design, construction, inspection, and testing of the rigid airship ZRS-5 (U.S.S. Macon), 1932-35. Combined part, weight, and material list for ZRS-5, 1930. Final report of acceptance trials, Goodyear "K" and "L" nonrigid airships, 1938-42.

Engineering Plans (4,000 items): Blueprints and tracings of rigid airships (dirigibles) ZRS-1 (U.S.S. Shenandoah), ZRS-3 (U.S.S. Los Angeles), ZRS-4 (U.S.S. Akron), and ZRS-5 (U.S.S. Macon), and airship facilities at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, 1918-41. see also 72.7.

72.5.3 Other records relating to naval air stations

Textual Records: Monthly reports of engine overhauls, 1933-35. Records of inactive air stations ("Real Estate Files"), 1943-59.

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72.5.4 Records of the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, PA

Photographs (77,417 images): Construction and testing of dirigibles, balloons, aircraft, parachutes, and other materials at the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, PA, 1918-41 (AF, 76,000 images; AFC, 1,107 images; PE, 310 images). see also 72.9.

72.5.5 Records of other field activities

Textual Records: Records relating to the shore station development program, 1940. Records relating to the operations of Landing Aids Station, Arcuta, CA, 1946-50. Records relating to the establishment of the U.S. Naval Air Missile Test Center, Point Mugu, CA, 1945-47. Monthly progress reports of naval air test centers, 1951-53.

72.6 Textual Records (General)
1936-72

Handbooks of maintenance instruction, 1936-55. Publications, 1936-72.

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72.7 Cartographic Records (General)
1915-62

Engineering Plans: U.S. Navy aeronautical and related subject drawings, 1915-62 (1,576,000 items). Microfilm copy of naval aircraft drawings, 1942-60 (3,000 rolls).

see Engineering Plans under 72.5.2.

72.8 Motion Pictures (General)
1951-59 and n.d.

Unclassified National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics film on fuses, n.d. (1 reel). Security-classified films (41 reels), including HYDRO Annual Review, 1951 (1 reel); Air Material Command Engineering Division Film Report, n.d. (1 reel); SEASPARROW Film Report, n.d. (1 reel); Return of SPARROW!!!, n.d. (1 reel); HIGH CARD Film Report No. 2, n.d. (1 reel); and films on such subjects as airborne spray tank effectiveness, 1956 (1 reel); experiments on aircraft under-carriages, n.d. (1 reel); guided missile progress, n.d. (1 reel); Lark guided missile program, n.d. (2 reels); Operation Aesop (Sparrow One) and Aesop Two, n.d. (4 reels); Corvus, 1954 and n.d. (3 reels); Operation Bullpup, 1959 and n.d. (3 reels); British spring deck glider operations, n.d. (1 reel); the seaplane hangar, n.d. (1 reel); and miscellaneous topics, n.d. (19 reels).

see under 72.3.4.

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72.9 Still Pictures (General)
1917-38

Photographs: Identification photographs of U.S. Navy and Marine Corps trainees in aerial photography, 1917-18 (NTP, 80 images). Dirigible construction facilities at Naval Air Station, Wingfoot Lake, OH, and the dirigible field at Akron, OH, 1918 (DW, 50 images). Airships and balloons built by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, 1917-38, and Consolidated Aircraft Corporation, 1936-38; and activities at U.S. Navy airfields at Dayton and Akron, OH, 1927-28 (DG, 225 images; BA, 478 images). Construction progress on navy dirigibles, 1920-21 (CP, 250 images). Construction of dirigible U.S.S. Shenandoah, 1922-23 (DC, 400 images).

see Photographs under 72.4.1 and 72.5.4.
see Lantern Slides under 72.2.2.


Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.

Ordering information

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.


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