Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The Stars Were Big and Bright: The United States Army Azr Forces and Texas During
World War II. By Thomas E. Alexander. (Austin: Eakin Press, 2ooo. Pp. x+262.
List of maps and illustrations, acknowledgments, appendices, endnotes, bibli-
ography, index. ISBN 1-57168-323-2. $26.95, cloth.)
Texas became married to the military, especially the Army Air Forces (AAF)
during World War II. The state's good flying weather attracted the AAF and pow-
erful Texas politicians worked hard to ensure that their constituencies received
this government weal. Resultantly, over seventy (almost one-fourth of the total)
AAF training bases were located in Texas during the war, bringing about one
million uniformed visitors to the state. Even after the war, Cold War militarism
resulted in an Air Force base becoming a permanent appendage to many Texas
communities and earned for Texas the nickname among Air Force personnel as
the "Hometown" of the Air Force.
Thomas E. Alexander, an Air Force veteran himself, in this well-written and in-
teresting work, investigates this phenomenon that has received little serious his-
torical attention. He focuses on eight communities in which bases were located:
Pecos, Sweetwater, Amarillo, Greenville, Waco, San Antonio, Harlingen, and Py-
ote. He chooses these "because there is something unique either about how it
came into being, its mission, or what happened to it after the war ended" (p. 2).
Although he maintains that the bases had important economic and social impli-
cations for each community, his intent is not to explain how and why this hap-
pened, so much as to present the reader with a "series of thumbnail histories of
the cities, the airfields and some of the personnel that served there" (p. 3). This
is disappointing because this topic is worthy of much deeper investigation that
Alexander's book is certainly worthwhile even if it does not take this subject as
far as we would like. He adroitly uses a blend of secondary and primary sources,
especially oral histories, to provide background information on each communi-
ty, a look at the town when the base was in full swing during World War II, and
what happened after the war to provide the reader with the promised "thumb-
nail sketches." The author's technique of depicting a variety of geographically
scattered locations exposes trends that we can assume characterized military/civ-
il relations throughout the state. Perhaps the most striking trend was the willing-
ness of Texans to overlook tradition for the sake of prosperity at the hands of
the previously much-distrusted federal government. Also included are interest-
ing photographs of each community and useful appendices.
This book is enjoyable reading and will no doubt be popular in the eight com-
munities highlighted and among veterans who served at bases in Texas during
the war. Serious scholars too will find some useful information that will bolster
the limited material on military/civil relations during these all-important war
years in Texas.
Marine Corps Hzstorcal Center
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed September 3, 2015.