Title: The view from above
Author: Rebecca Sewald
Publication: Cecil Whig
Brig. Gen. Kennard Wiggins Jr. served in the Delaware Air National Guard for 37 years, but sometimes, he said, it feels like it’s been a lifetime.
“The Delaware Air National Guard got its start in September 1946, right after World War II, and my father was one of the founding members of it. I was born in November of 1946, so I kind of feel like I was born right into the unit,” Wiggins said.
The 61-year-old Elkton resident retired in 2004, but has continued to stay connected to the organization. His latest contribution is the book “Delaware Air National Guard,” part of the Images of America series distributed by Arcadia Publishing. "It's the history of the Delaware Air National Guard... of the first several decades of the organization,” the author said.
The 127-page book includes more than 200 vintage photographs, with a supportive narrative provided by Wiggins.
Wiggins began work on the book last year, though most of his research was completed prior to pitching his book idea to publishers. His first-hand experience in the Guard made the research process relatively simple.
“Because I had been in the Guard, I already knew a lot of the story,” he said.
Through his work at the Delaware Military Heritage and Education Foundation, where much of the Delaware Air National Guard’s historical memorabilia and documentation is stored, Wiggins had access to an abundance of information useful for the book.
One of the best parts of the research process, he said, was browsing through old photos with fellow Delaware Air National Guard veterans. If he could not identify one of the men in a picture, there was always someone else there who could.
“That was one of the fun parts of the research,” Wiggins said. “I looked at so many photos I began to be able to identify the men on sight.”
Wiggins’s favorite image in book shows a gathering of the founding fathers of the Delaware Air National Guard. The 1946 snapshot, which appears on pages 10 and 11, features one of the first organizational meetings held at the Wilmington Armory.
“It’s from March of 1946 and the war was just over,” Wiggins said. “You can see that the men are dressed in all kinds of different uniforms. They’re all veterans of World War II, and they’re listening to a presentation (about the Delaware Air National Guard), trying to decide whether or not they want to be a part of it. It’s a favorite picture of mine.”
The Delaware Air National Guard has gone through many changes since its founding. As the book explains, in the early years, the organization not only served as a U.S. defense unit, but also as a social network for fellow war veterans.
“It started out as a social club – a gentlemen’s flying club. … They worked hard, but they also played hard,” Wiggins said. “The biggest change over the decades is that it’s still fun, but now it’s very serious business. The training standards are much higher and the professionalism is much higher. … It is now an operational reserve. The Air Force uses us all the time.”
Today, the Delaware Air National Guard has around 1,000 members, with roughly 10 percent of them from Cecil County. The Guard is based out of New Castle Airport in New Castle, Del., and includes eight C-130 Transport airplanes. Members serve on a rotational basis at locations throughout the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I hope this gives people a sense of the foundation that was laid for the Delaware Air National Guard,” Wiggins said. “… (The book) has been a labor of love, and I’ve really enjoyed working on it.”
“Delaware Air National Guard” is available for $21.99 at local retailers, online bookstores and at www.arcadiapublishing.com or 888-313-2665. A portion of profits from book sales will be donated to the Delaware Military Heritage and Education Foundation, where Wiggins serves as Executive Director, in support of the Delaware Military Museum.