Reviewed by Ens. Sydney M. Willis, USN
Homecomings is a collection of photos of the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels. This book is primarily comprised of photographs sprinkled with anecdotes, poems, and descriptions providing background for the photos. Laura Bogan is the officially licensed Navy photographer for the Blue Angels and their affiliated association and foundation. In her introduction, Bogan explains her connection to the Blue Angels and how this project began. She describes the intention of the book and the photos it contains as an attempt to portray the feeling of inspiration, awe, and passion the Blue Angels give on their Sunday flights home to NAS Pensacola. The normal schedule for the Blue Angels is to travel to air shows around the country during the week and to return home on the Sunday of each week while giving their hometown of Pensacola, Florida a beautiful flyover the beach. Homecomings is great for any casual fan of naval aviation and the Blue Angels, since it is full of breathtaking photos of their flights and the landscape of the Pensacola coast, and it serves as a great coffee table book.
The book begins with photos of the first Sunday Homecoming flight over the Pensacola coastline on their 70th anniversary and due to the city’s positive response, it became their regular route home. It also includes a letter from the former Blue Angels Commanding Officer, Capt. Ryan Bernacchi, who was a part of that flight in 2016. In the letter, he describes the feeling of flying as a Blue Angel provided him and says of Bogan’s photos, “the images reveal emotions that are elicited when experiencing the Blues– the emotions that lead to inspiration.” Every few photos Bogan includes a description and date of the flight detailing what was special about that particular photo. A touching example of this is her description of the solemn photo of “Fat Albert” and a lone jet flying the fallen Blue Angel, Capt. Jeff Kuss, home for the last time after an accident at a show in 2016. She includes small facts about Pensacola and the Blue Angels throughout, but what makes the book personal to Bogan is her poetry. She includes five short poems inspired by the photos they are displayed with. They are simple free verse poems that do not follow any classical meter or form but express the feelings she felt when capturing the photo. The book concludes with photos of the Blue Angels on the tarmac meeting their families after their time away from home. There is a sense of joy in the photos of children and families running to their dads and husbands with the jets in the background, and it’s a great way to end the book.
Homecomings is a simple book that succeeds in what it sets out to be, a photo book. There is no historical argument or addition to the discourse on naval aviation, flight demonstration squadrons, or the Blue Angels, but it does have its place. It is a great library addition for a casual fan of aviation and the Blue Angels or would be a great gift to someone who would be inspired by the photos inside. Bogan has an anecdote inside that describes her experience of seeing the Blue Angels as a kid and dreaming of flying with them one day, and I believe that describes the best use of this book. A way to inspire someone who has never seen them fly or cannot get enough of seeing their shows. It’s a great way to remind someone who has had aviation be a huge part of their life of times they may have experienced themselves. It is also simply a pretty book to have sitting in your living room.
Ensign Willis is a graduate of the USNA Class of 2022.
Homecomings. By Laura Bogan (Herndon, VA: 2018).