In 1914, the U.S. Navy established its first air station in Pensacola, Florida. Two years later, the U.S. Army, after training its pilots in the skies of Texas, conducted its first combat flights. In the decades that followed and through World War II, the Gulf South welcomed over two hundred air bases and Naval air stations. By the close of the twentieth century these installations had fostered critical advances in pilot training, producing many of the most acclaimed military personnel to take to the skies. Vincent P. Caire’s authoritative and inspiring photographic survey recognizes Gulf South aviation heroes like Brig. Gen. Claire Chennault and honors the role of key southern military air facilities like Eglin and Maxwell Air Force bases.
For more than a hundred years, the Gulf South—defined here as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas—has supported advancement in every branch of military aviation, contributing both technical prowess and fearless pilots to U.S. forces. Through many never-before-published photographs and an informative text, Military Aviation in the Gulf South celebrates these achievements, including the massive expansion of aviation in World War II, establishment of training facilities for officers—including Hollywood stars and the Tuskegee airmen—and commissioning of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron. Caire’s comprehensive history also highlights innovation—such as the designs of Lt. Harold L. Clark for Randolph Air Force Base—and sacrifice, like that of World War I pilot 2nd Lt. Samuel Keesler, the namesake of the Biloxi, Mississippi, base.
For generations of servicemen and women, their families, and the local civilian communities that support them, Military Aviation in the Gulf South pays tribute to the enduring impact of the region’s aviation programs on America’s security and the defense of freedom worldwide.
VINCENT P. CAIRE, writer and producer of the public television documentary film Sky Riders: Louisiana’s Aviation Pioneers, is the author of Louisiana Aviation: An Extraordinary History in Photographs. He has also contributed to Air and Space Smithsonian magazine and Aviation International News, among other publications. In 1986, Caire earned his private pilot’s license at New Orleans Lakefront “Shushan” Airport and now serves as director of the Port of South Louisiana Executive Regional Airport.
Praise for Military Aviation in the Gulf South
“The Gulf South’s contribution to the field of aviation is a great point of pride for its people. Vincent Caire more than proved his devotion to aviation history with this publication. The images depicted in these pages demonstrate how early airplanes and their pilots helped win wars, improve efficiency of transportation, and revolutionize modern flight design. Caire vibrantly portrays how these pioneers of flight influenced the field of aviation as we know it. The viewer has the advantage of a fresh, realistic perspective into the immense courage and resourcefulness required by these engineers of aviation.
My grandfather was a pioneer in aviation and his love for flight began around 1910 when, as a young farm boy he saw an airshow at the state fair in Shreveport, Louisiana. He studied aviation from the first time he sat in an airplane and his resulting innovative ideas about fighter tactics are now credited by many as having saved China during the Anti-Japanese War. He is now known as the “Father of Tactical Pursuit” in our modern-day Air Force. He would be very proud to be included in this beautiful pictorial book showing his contribution to flight as we know it.”—Nell Callaway, President, Chennault Aviation & Military Museum