Published: 1 January 2009
Air & Space Power Journal - Español  Cuarto  Trimestre 2008

César Álvarez Guerra by José Zlatar Stambuk.  Servicio de Imprenta FAP, Lima, Peru, 2005, 246 pages. (Not sold commercially.)

Colonel Álvarez GuerraColonel Álvarez was a distinguished early member of the Fuerza Aérea del Peru (FAP), known in his time as the Cuerpo Aeronáutico del Peru.  The book begins with a synopsis of the history of his home region since the 1500s, and then summarizes the milestones of his successful career from the 1920s until his tragic death in an automobile accident in 1947.  Colonel Álvarez was a bold pioneer who made the first military parachute jump in Peru in 1928.  A skilled educator, he served multiple tours as an instructor pilot and faculty member in military schools.  Like many aviators of his era, he survived a number of crashes, including one that injured him seriously enough to preclude his fighting in Peru’s 1932-1933 war with Colombia.  Always energetic and enterprising, he arranged an assignment to study with the Italian Air Force on the eve of World War II.  Other notable assignments included commanding the air base at Chiclayo, where he helped establish the First Parachute Corps, serving as el jefe del Agrupamiento Aéreo del Norte during Peru’s 1941 war with Ecuador, becoming the first air force member of the newly-created joint staff (Estado Mayor de Coordinación), and serving as Peru’s air attaché to Canada.

Two annexes comprise about half the book’s total pages.  The first annex contains personal papers related to Col Álvarez’s life and career.  The second, much larger one is a daily combat chronology of aviation events from 5 July to 15 October 1941 during the war with Ecuador.  These brief descriptions may interest historians.  One entry briefly mentions the death of Peruvian Air Force hero Lieutenant Jose Quiñones, noting that he “se incendió cayendo en llamas” on 23 July (p. 157).  The chronology does not mention him again until noting the dedication of a monument to him on 23 September.  Readers will note very few references to Ecuadorian air activities, and none to air-to-air combat, but the log refers to paratroop drops on Puerto Bolívar.  From a doctrinal standpoint, the chronology shows that the Peruvians usually sent very small numbers of planes to strike multiple targets rather than concentrating available forces on a single target.  Most entries simply state facts, such as a 26 August reference to a visit by the US military attaché, but a few entries critique events.  For example, the 31 July entry laments that poor liaison between land and sea forces led to “desgracias irreparables que han de ser tomadas en cuenta por el Commando para operations futures” (p. 183).  The text appears relatively unedited and includes minor discrepancies such as different spellings of the names of towns; however, some data seems to have been omitted for unknown reasons.  

Readers will find many insights into early Peruvian aviation, but the book clearly idealizes Colonel Álvarez, the FAP, and Peru in general.  For example, Ecuadorian readers may question the book’s depiction of the 1941 war between Peru and Ecuador.  The author, a retired FAP general, is highly qualified to interpret Álvarez’s military accomplishments.  All military institutions praise their heroes in order to build pride, but that practice can complicate efforts to make impartial historical assessments.  The book does not claim to be a definitive account and may leave readers hungry for more details so scholars will need to consult additional sources, but Latin American aviation historians will find this book a useful reference. 

Lt. Col. Paul D. Berg, USAF
Maxwell AFB, AL

Disclaimer : The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

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