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Alameda Naval Air Station
by William T. Larkins and the Alameda Naval Air Museum
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
Address:

420 Wando Park Blvd., Mount Pleasant, SC

Web Site: www.arcadiapublsihing.com
Price:
 $21.95
Copyright:
 2008
Binding:  Paperback Height:

 9.00

Width:

 6.00

Pages:  128 No. Photos:
 64 B&W photos
ISBN:
738580406

As one of the founding members of the American Aviation Historical Society, a prolific photographer and author, Bill Larkins should be to readers of this publication as Campbell’s is to soup. His newest book produced for Arcadia gives readers a glimpse of the complex world of one of the largest naval air bases in history. Condensing a story and photos of an enterprise that touched thousands of aircraft and millions of lives from 30 years before the base’s official commissioning in November 1930 to 2009, 12 years after it was closed, is a challenge only the likes of Larkins could have met, with the help of the coauthor listed as the “Museum” and a team of at least seven other historians led by its president Marilyn York. The turf and shore was home to aircraft starting in 1910, a base for Pan American transpacific “Clipper” flights, and brief photo coverage is presented in Chapter One. It is a story of a substantial piece of San Francisco ocean front geography’s gestation that seemed destined to aviation, life and afterlife in the years following the naval base’s closing in 1997.

When considering the market for this book Arcadia must have factored in the thousands of individuals whose kin had served as civilians and in uniform on the base, and likely asked the authors to include “the whole story,” which means pictures of lodging for officers, enlisted men, families, the movie theater, and a dentist administering to a patient in 1942. Only 34 of the 64 photos, including an aerial view of the main gate in Chapter 2, are of that kind, and they add a sense of humanity beyond airframes and avgas. By far, most of the more than 200 photos will draw the wings-focused specialist, including a view of F6Fs in the Overhaul and Repair Department leading Chapter 3 with a caption that directs readers to a stunning photo of more than 400 placed in outdoor storage on the base in 1947. Other chapters focus on aircraft carriers that tied up at the piers, squadron activity on the base, Navy and Marine Corps reserve squadrons that served there starting in 1961 following the closing of NAS Oakland and the Museum that today occupies the original air terminal.

A wealth of rare photos, including the Sikorsky XPBS-1 before and after its landing accident in the bay with only one fatality, aircraft arranged on modern carrier decks as few have seen them, maintenance and parachute shops in action, many from Larkins’ own cameras provide outstanding value, thanks in part to informative captions that seldom read as dull verbiage filler. Particularly moving is the photo of the DC-3 delivering the bodies of Wiley Post and Will Rogers back to the ‘States following their tragic crash in Alaska in 1935. Only the coverage of modern civil warbird appearances on the base commemorating VJ Day and the Doolittle raid of April 1942 seemed somehow out of phase with the rest of the content. This reader would have savored more pictures of F11F Tigers and fewer of restored machines even though there were commendably only four.

With its concise text and generous sampling of the big picture, this book is easy to recommend to military historians. I enjoyed it, and I’m confident you will too!

Job Conger

 

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