On April 1, 1943, the very first edition of the Jax Air News was published to chronicle the events and achievements of military members and civilian employees at Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax). In an article on the front page of the first paper, former NAS Jax Commandant Capt. Stanley Michael stated, “I take pleasure in welcoming the first issue of the Jax Air News, which I believe will fill an important need of the Jacksonville Naval Air Station and all outlying naval activities.”
He added that, the paper would provide a medium of expression for the spirit and talents of personnel on the station, provide a central source of general information, stimulate high morale of personnel through articles, photos and cartoons and that the success would depend on cooperation given to the editorial staff.
“It is my wish that everyone do his or her part to make Jax Air News the best service publication of its kind in the country,” said Michael.
Over the past 76 years, literally, thousands of photographs have been taken and stories written by staff members to accomplish those ideals and earn recognition with numerous Chief of Naval Information awards.
A hub during the 1940s for aviators learning to fly in preparation to go to war, staff writers covered the war efforts and base happenings, including the first Blue Angel Air Show in June 1946. Other top news stories included German POWs on the station and the first African-American aviator, Ensign Jesse Brown who earned his wings in 1948.
Jax Air News photographers took pictures of the N2S-3 Stearman, TBM Avenger and PBY Catalina aircraft taking off on the runway.
The 1950s brought the Korean War and again NAS Jax supported the war effort.
With the Cuban Missile Crisis threatening the U.S. in October 1962, NAS Jax sent patrol squadrons to monitor Soviet ship movements, sending photographs to leaders in Washington D.C., keeping them apprised of operations.
Jax Air News staff continued to cover squadron homecomings, new building construction, even a story about an officer who caught an alligator in Casa Linda Lake while fishing (front page story April 25, 1962). In 1964, the Jax Air News had its first official publisher – Holt Publishing Company which held the first contract to produce the weekly paper.
The 1970s saw the arrival of the new P-3A Orion aircraft and helicopters to the station, and the fighter squadrons relocating to NAS Cecil Field. Station personnel ramped up again in support of the Vietnam Conflict. The return of former Vietnam POW Lt. Cmdr. John McCain on March 8, 1973 after five and a half years was a top news story.
The 1980s brought a new Navy Exchange, Commissary, Navy Lodge and upgrades to the gates. The Jax Air News staff continued to cover squadron news, aircraft phasing out and new models coming into the fleet, aircraft overhauls at Naval Aviation Depot (now Fleet Readiness Center Southeast), VIP visits and the accomplishments of base personnel.
The station celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1990 with a year of celebrations including another Blue Angel Air Show. During this time Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm sent thousands of American servicemen and women to the Middle East. With the closing of NAS Cecil Field as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process, Outlying Field Whitehouse was transferred to NAS Jax as well as Sea Control Wing with it’s S-3 squadrons.
In 2001, the Jax Air News, along with The Mirror (Mayport) and The Periscope (Kings Bay), joined a partnership with The Florida Times-Union to publish the weekly military papers.
Staff personnel covered numerous top stories including the return of Capt. Michael Scott Speicher (the first casualty of Desert Storm) and several other local fallen heroes; the opening of Hangar 511, the Navy’s largest aircraft hangar; and the arrival of the first P-8A Poseidon in 2012.
For decades, Jax Air News writers and photographers have provided historical documentation aboard the station.
Unfortunately, the legacy of the Jax Air News will no longer continue, as this is the last issue to be published. The Periscope (Kings Bay) was last published in 2017 and The Mirror’s last edition was Jan. 24. For me personally, this is truly a sad time, as I’ve been part of the staff for all three of these papers and the NAS Cecil Field Airwinger.
There have been so many people over the years who have spent countless hours taking and editing photos; conducting interviews; writing captions, headlines and stories; proofing copy, designing pages, overseeing production, selling advertisements, and delivering the paper to our readers. There’s always the stress of the deadline, but when the final product hits the streets and you see someone pick up a copy, it makes it all worthwhile.
To our Military Publisher Ellen Rykert, Graphic Designer George Atchley, Editor Reggie Jarrett and Advertising Representative Tondra Hill - thank you for all your hard work and dedication and for being part of the Jax Air News team.
And while we deeply regret this decision, we will continue to showcase the accomplishments of our station personnel and upcoming events through the command Facebook/Instagram/Twitter pages. For those looking for copies of previous Jax Air News editions, many can be found in the University of Florida’s Digital Collections at http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00028307/02273/allvolumes.