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New Book Chronicles Embry-Riddle’s Leading Role in World War II Aviation Training

U.S. Military and Allies Relied on Embry-Riddle’s Florida Airfields

Daytona Beach, Fla. , February 24, 2009

Embry Riddles Leading Role in World War II Aviation Training

Author Steve Craft, left, presents a copy of the book Embry-Riddle at War; Aviation Training during WWII to Embry-Riddle President Dr. John Johnson.

Although World War II is one of the most thoroughly documented eras in history, the significant contribution to the war effort made by civilian aviation schools in the United States has mostly gone unrecorded -- until now.

In a new book titled Embry-Riddle at War: Aviation Training During WWII, scholar and historian Dr. Stephen G. Craft tells the story of the Embry-Riddle Company, a small Miami-based operation established in 1939 by pilot and businessman John Paul Riddle that rapidly developed into one of the nation’s largest aviation training centers for the U.S. military, its allies, and civilians.

In just four years the Embry-Riddle Company, which later evolved into Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, trained 26,000 pilots, flight instructors, mechanics, and aircraft factory workers at several airfields and a seaplane base in South Florida and at an airfield in Union City, Tenn. Many of these training opportunities were open to women as well as men, although women could not train as combat pilots.

Embry-Riddle at War: Aviation Training During WWII written by Dr. Stephen G. Craft, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

With its flat terrain and year-round flying weather, Florida proved the ideal location for Embry-Riddle to conduct the fast-paced primary training required by the military. Consequently, in 1942 Florida produced more pilots than any other state.

“Steve Craft’s book brings to life a period of Embry-Riddle’s history that we look upon with great pride,” says Embry-Riddle President Dr. John P. Johnson. “Our partnership with the U.S. military grew strong during those turbulent war years and flourishes to this day.”

Dr. Craft, the associate chair of the Humanities/Social Sciences Dept. at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus, was assisted in this five-year research and writing project by Dean Bob Rockett, coordinator of Embry-Riddle’s Heritage Project, and Kevin Montgomery, director of the University Archives. The book draws upon personal memoirs and interviews of the men and women who graduated from wartime Embry-Riddle.

“The adventures of the young cadets in the air and on the ground make a compelling story,” says Dr. Craft. “It’s a testament to the leadership of John Paul Riddle and his partner John McKay that so many fine pilots were produced so quickly.”

The book also describes the clashes and compromises between military and civilian styles of aviation training, and between American and British training methods.

Embry-Riddle at War has been praised by early reviewers. Dr. Tom D. Crouch, senior curator of the Aeronautics Division of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, has written that the book "sheds important light on a neglected but critically important aspect of the greatest air war in history."

Another reviewer, Dr. Donald J. Mrozek, a professor of American military history at Kansas State University, states that "Craft tells an important story of a company that 'went to war' for the duration of World War II—a tale of patriotic duty fulfilled, corporate ambition stimulated, and business challenges in the turmoil of the postwar years."

The 344-page hardcover book was published in February 2009 by the University Press of Florida as part of its Florida History and Culture Series. It may be purchased at Embry-Riddle campus bookstores, from the major national booksellers, or directly from the publisher:

University Press of Florida
15 NW 15th St.
Gainesville, FL 32603
(800) 226-3822

Craft’s in-depth look at Embry-Riddle’s role in World War II complements a previous book, The Sky is Home: The Story of Embry-Riddle—The World’s Leading Aviation/Aerospace University, written by John McCollister and Diann Davis. The Sky is Home provides an overview of Embry-Riddle’s history from its origins through the mid-1990s.

The 1939 establishment of the Embry-Riddle Company in Miami was preceded by an earlier version founded in 1926 by barnstormer pilot John Paul Riddle and entrepreneur T. Higbee Embry at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati, Ohio. That enterprise lasted until 1930, when it was absorbed into a holding company that eventually became American Airlines. The Miami operation moved to Daytona Beach in 1965.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world's largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 70 baccalaureate, master's and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business and Engineering. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., and through the Worldwide Campus with more than 150 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and, and find expert videos at