The Tuskegee Airmen: An Illustrated History: 1939-1949. By Joseph Caver, Jerome Ennels, and Daniel Haulman. Montgomery Ala.: NewSouth Books, 2011. Maps. Illustrations. Photographs. Index. Pp. 230. $27.95 ISBN: 978-1-58838-244-3
Celebrated in film, books, and numerous other media, the Tuskegee Airmen have become one of the iconic faces of "the Greatest Generation" for their important role in hastening the defeat of both fascist totalitarianism abroad and institutional racism at home. Caver, Ennels, and Haulman, all historians associated with the U.S. Air Force's Historical Research Agency, have assembled the definitive collection of photographs detailing the origin and exploits of the famed "Red Tails" during World War II; in the early postwar period; and, to some degree, up to the present. As an illustrated history, the strength of this work is the photographs; but it also has a useful quick reference page of statistics, a fine 49-page chronology covering the establishment and units of the Tuskegee Airmen from 1939 to 1949, a page of unit emblems, and a pilot roster.
The text is quite readable, and the captions for the photographs integrate very well with the prose and structure of the work to detail the extraordinary story of these young African-Americans who fought for freedom on multiple levels. Virtually no aspect of their experience is left out. The authors provide all the evidence needed to rebut the dominant myths (such as having never lost a bomber during escort missions) surrounding the famous flyers while simultaneously reaffirming the valor and impressive capabilities of the Tuskegee Airmen. Even though the vast offering of photographs alone is enough to carry the book, the sources, facts, and detailed history are equally valuable and up to the same standards as the images.
There are, however, a few annoying typographical or editing errors that may rankle some readers. The biggest one is a reverse of a common mistake seen in many airpower related histories...