/ Published May 07, 2018
Military Aviation in the Gulf South: A Photographic History by Vincent P. Caire. Louisiana State University Press, 2016, 160 pp.
Vincent P. Caire begins this short, pictorial book with an advisory. This book does not act as an inclusive history of avionics throughout the South. He acknowledges that this would be virtually impossible. However, the author manages to pack decades of history into this little book and then some. The Gulf South plays host to the majority of pilot training for every branch of the US military. In a few short pages, Caire lays out how this developed over the years from the earliest flights of the Wrights’ to current military flight training. The book’s 6 chapters, 3 appendices, and more than 150 photographs touch on the highlights of aviation development and events. Several full-page color photographs are included, with a plethora of gray-scale photos as well. Many of the photos have never been published. Caire also utilizes several “features,” where specific tales are recounted. For example, the Pensacola Navy Yard, the Doolittle Raiders, and the Blue Angels all have a two-page spread. Caire is an aviation historian based in Louisiana, has also acted as a television producer, and it shows. This work focuses on the high points and important impacts in the Gulf South. True to form, there is no mention of bases or events outside of this area.
The largest portion of this work focuses on developments made during World War II when the scramble to establish bases and aircraft was in full force. However, the author notes specifically though that the time between the world wars was extremely productive for aircraft but is generally overshadowed by wartime events. True aviation enthusiasts will be delighted to note that an entire chapter is devoted to these 23 years between the wars.
The presence of full-page photographs and specific features serves to make the narrative somewhat choppy. This is not a book that can easily be read cover-to-cover without pause, but the title does indicate that this is a focus on photographic history rather than written. It should be noted that the color photographs included in the center of the book are randomly sorted chronologically, which seems to contrast with the rest of the book. The strategy behind why the Gulf South was so important to the development of aviation is pointed out in several instances, which will delight those who value this logistician viewpoint. Interestingly, the author notes whom each base or field was named for. This is a special touch to remember many aviators who lost their lives.
All in all, Military Aviation in the Gulf South is an entertaining and concise look at the development of an area rich in military and aviation history. There are several impactful features and spectacular photographs. The dialogue is easily read, although occasionally disjointed. This work will be a delight to aviation enthusiasts; however history buffs may be left wanting just a bit more.
Capt Miranda Debelevich, USAF
600 Chennault Circle
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6010