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Forca Aerea 50 Anos.

Forca Aerea 50 Anos edited by Coronel Antonio Tello Pacheco, POAF, retired; Maj Adelino Cardoso; and Nuno Esteves da Silva. Comissao Historico-Cultural da Forca Aerea Portuguesa, Portugal, 2002, 278 pages. (Not sold commercially.)

Portuguese military aviation has a distinguished history, and this lavishly illustrated official publication of the Forca Aerea Portuguesa (Portuguese Air Force [POAF]) celebrates that service's heritage on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 2002. The text is in Portuguese but includes an English translation, thus broadening potential readership and helping those who wish to study both languages. Presumably, the Portuguese text is primary, but some English translations appear to paraphrase the original text.

Like any official history or commemorative book, this one tends to emphasize the positive and is clearly designed to inspire national pride. Statements such as "the skies were now open the world over to Portuguese aviators, just like the oceans had been to Portuguese sailors 400 years earlier" (p. 17) illustrate how aviation feats of the 1920s and 1930s recalled proud historical achievements. On the other hand, the text says some surprising things. After noting aviation's effectiveness in the First World War, the book remarks, "It was thus only natural that in 1924 a reorganization of Military Aeronautics established it as a branch of the Army" (pp. 13 and 16). One might expect a book commemorating an air force's 50th anniversary to say that independence should have come even earlier. To its credit, the work frankly refers to painful events such as unsuccessful colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique.

Although the book covers a half century of history, only the first 65 pages deal explicitly with the past. The remaining 200 address current or recent events and are divided into sections about mission areas ranging from air defense to airlift and support of flight operations. A couple of these sections are especially interesting. The technical and military-cooperation section describes how students from former Portuguese colonies now attend training in Portugal and how the POAF conducts training and other support activities in Angola and Mozambique as well as Sao Tome and Principe. These encouraging developments suggest that Portugal and its former colonies are putting past conflicts behind them and cooperating for a better future. The maritime-patrol section highlights Portugal's substantial responsibility for providing security, search and rescue, and other vital services in the vast, heavily traveled ocean area extending from continental Portugal to the Madeira Islands and Azores.

Overall, Forca Aerea 50 Anos is an attractive introduction to the POAF. Readers will treasure the beautiful aircraft photos and find the bibliography useful for locating additional information, but they will gain few insights into POAF operations or doctrine. They will also enjoy the interesting vignettes about aviation pioneers, paratroopers, and other topics. The only thing one might wish for is simple maps of Angola, Mozambique, and POAF base locations in Portugal.

Lt Col Paul D. Berg, USAF

Maxwell AFB, Alabama
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Author:Berg, Paul D.
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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