WWI – 57th Field Artillery Brigade Soldiers Pose in French Studio


A recent purchase just arrived in my mailbox and I’ve been researching the details in hopes of identifying something interesting to write about. Well, this photo has a few good details that will hopefully help future collectors with identifying their WWI photographs!

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57th Field Artillery Brigade

The first details that pop out are the accessories that these doughboys decided to wear into the studio. These small nuances of WWI photos really help researchers, reenactors and collectors understand that uniform and insignia regulations in 1918 were at time blurry, and interesting one-off uniform presentations did exist. In this case we see a handful of elements that are not typically found in photos of the period.

Leg Covering

One soldier (far left) is wearing M1910 canvas gaiters, while the other two are sporting wool puttees.

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Cap Insignia

All three doughboys are wearing French lettering on their caps denoting their specific unit affiliation. In this case, they are wearing the number 57 with a letter A. In any other scenario I would assume that this would place them within the 57th Infantry Regiment, Company A, or possibly 57th Pioneer Regiment, Company A. In this case, the next detail down drives the unit ID home. These letters and numbers are often seen on French collars.

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French Cap Numbering

 

Officer’s Field Artillery Insignia

The soldier at the far right is wearing an officer collar insignia for a Field Artillery Regiment. An odd thing on an enlisted man, and especially odd at the center of the chest. Who knows?

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Watches

All three are wearing watches! The first on the left has a pocket watch with fob and chain clipped to his shirt. The other two are wearing “trench watches” with kitchener straps. Interestingly, they both do not currently have crystal guards AKA “shrapnel guards” on the watch face to protect from wartime damage. These were popular amongst watch-wearing soldiers of WWI.

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Field Artillery Ring

One detail that I always look for is the presence of a ring on WWI soldiers. The soldier at the far left is wearing a sterling silver Field Artillery ring – another clue that supports the 57th Field Artillery ID for this photo.

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Oval Sterling Field Artillery Ring

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In summary, the tiny details of a photo can actually make an unidentified WWI photo incredibly interesting and fun to dissect. These little nuances of wartime accessory can, at time make the difference between a $5.00 photo and a $50.00 photo to the discerning collector. It also helps expand knowledge into unknown areas of military material culture collecting. Pull out your magnifying glass and look through your collection!

 

Sharpshooters and Snipers in WWI: The Story of a US Marine


The nature of the prolonged war that was WWI and the stalemate and boredom of life in the trenches left a lot of soldiers with time on their hands. Additionally, some soldiers were raised hunting deer, boar and other game in the forests of Europe and North America in the early 1900s. A rifle in the hands of these men could become a weapon that could do immense damage from one concealed trench to another. Today’s post will highlight a United States Marine who was shot through both eyes by a German sniper in October of 1918. But first, please check out this video on snipers during WWI by The Great War, a youtube channel with daily videos about events during WWI.

 

PFC. Andrew H. Knebel, 18th Company/5th Marine Regiment

PFC Andrew H. Knebel, 18th Co./5th Marines – Lost both eyes during WWI

The story behind the above photograph of PFC Andrew H. Knebel of the United States Marine Corps is one that pulls at the heartstrings of the American populace during the war. I was lucky enough to acquire the photo from a fellow collector/friend of mine who I had helped aid in the identification several years previous. A faintly scribbled name on the reverse of the image took several weeks to properly identify, but we were eventually able to track down the story of the blinded Marine in the photo. Taken in a Paris studio in 1918, PFC Knebel is posed with a French nurse who has taken the time to wheel him (note the wet wheelchair marks) into the studio from a nearby hospital.

Details of Knebel’s wartime epic were tracked down in a Detroit Free Press article from 1919:

ANDREW KNEBEL (1897-1968), of the United States Marine Corps, had been fighting the Germans for ten months before a sniper’s bullet, on October 4, 1918, entered bis left eye, passed through the right. The last, thing he saw on earth was light. The last sight he saw on earth was a clump of wet trees glistening in the morning sunshine in the Champagne sector. But it took a better marksman than the German sniper in one or those trees to pond a shaft through Andrew’s heart. Dan Cupid did that job, which has counteracted the calamity to such an extent that the twenty-two-year-old marine is ready to tell anyone that the law of compensation Is the surest thing in the world. Andrew Knebel, on July 11, married bis nurse. Miss Anna D. Kelley who took care of him at the Baltimore Institute for the Blind. “If I hadn’t been blinded I wouldn’t have met Anna” he philosophized. “And I wouldn’t give her up for the sight, of my eyes not on your life. She’s the dearest, gentlest girl in the world. I guess one reason why I always liked her was because the treated me as if I wasn’t blind at all. She never pitied me. She’s a wonderful gal.

“Are you there, mother, old dear?”

He called, peering with empty eye sockets towards the kitchen, from which came a delectable aroma of baking apple pie. “May I have a light, mother?” “Destiny is a funny old bird,” the bride remarked, while Andrew’s rosy-cheeked mother was lighting his cigarette. “I didn’t want to go to the Baltimore institute to nurse blind boys. I did everything I could to avoid going. I was nursing at the Army Hospital at Camp Wadsworth when the chief superintendent asked for volunteers to go to Baltimore. I shied away from that chief superintendent for a week. But it was no use. She sent four or us.

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“The Institute for the Blind at Baltimore is a beautiful place on a 100-acre estate which was. loaned to the government by Mrs. T. Harrison Garrett. When I’d see those boys feeling their way along the paths in that wonderful Elizabethan garden it took all the grit I had to keep from crying all the time and me an army nurse! Everything there is so beautiful that it hurt me to think they couldn’t see their own place.”

Institute for the Blind in Baltimore

“Then I got acquainted with Andy. I had often heard him singing, but hadn’t paid much attention to him. We nurses were pretty busy and we hadn’t much time for anything but work. He has a splendid voice sang second tenor with the battalion quartet, and he just couldn’t quit singing. They call him ‘the songbird of the Marines.”

“We were supposed to be cheerful to the patients, but Andy turned the tables and jollied the nurses. I’m afraid he jollied me a good deal. I got into tho habit of forgetting his handicap. Somehow I never can think of him as being blind. He finds his own collar buttons and adjusts his own neckties, and it’s almost uncanny the way he knows whether his clothes are pressed and bis shoes shiny. When he puts on his dark glasses and goes walking with me I don’t think a stranger would know he is blind. And you just ought to see him dance!”

“I’m being introduced to all sorts of new interests. For example, I never used to read the sporting page In the newspaper. Now, of course, it’s the first page I open, because Andrew is always in a hurry to learn the baseball and boxing news. I’m getting to be quite a fan myself.”

We were sitting in the dining room of the Knebel homestead at Irvington, N. J., where the young couple spent their honeymoon with tho bridegroom’s parents. Whatever life has in store for this youth who lost his eyes in the country’s service, anyone could see that there was a good deal of compensation in his convalescence, while two were engaged in a sympathetic rivalry which could do the most for him.

“Anna understands him so much better than I do,” his mother admitted. “I am so glad to have my boy back that to be doing things for him all the time. I keep reminding him that he’s blind, but his wife seems never to think of that. It’s wonderful to think that she’s going to care for him his whole life.”

Post-Identification

After identifying the photo and posting it to PortraitsofWar, I decided to do a little more digging and was eventually able to link up, via eMail, a few of the family members. I offered the photo to them, but apparently they had an exact copy (in much better condition). Out of gratitude, they sent me a few scans of other photos of Andrew as well as some honey from the apiary at the Monticello!

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Andrew Knebel in the 1930s

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Andrew in the 1950s enjoying a cigarette

 

 

 

WWI German Facial Dueling Scars – Mensur Scars and WWI Portraits


Apologies for not posting any interesting original material in the past few weeks, I’ve been busy dealing with the holidays and the celebrations that inevitably pop up at this time of year. Today’s blog post will be about a topic I’ve become fascinated with over the course of the past two years. Have you ever wondered why stereotypical WWI German media characters from WWI always seem to have a large scar on their face? Ever wonder why they always seem to be on the cheek and always are attributed with men of high status such as generals and higher ranking officers?

Well, recently I was able to purchase on eBay  an inexpensive photo ($4.99) on eBay that perfectly personifies the image of a young WWI German soldier with a prominent facial scar.

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Mensur Scar (New photo to collection)

Was this scar the result of a bad shaving accident? In fact, the answer is exactly the opposite; this left cheek scar is the result of a deliberate action.

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Ouch!

After a solid night of internet research, I was able to cobble together an answer regarding the odd number of facial scars associated with late 19th and early 20th century German and Austrian soldiers. The Dueling Scar!

Male (upper class) students who were members of fraternities of major German and Austrian universities during this time were often engaged in academic fencing which at times would, at times, become a duel between competing fraternities. These individualized duels between students eventually became a badge of honor among fraternity members – taking a blow to the face showed courage and was a lasting reminder of the fraternal bond. Since these boys were often from a higher class, it was no surprise that many eventually became officers during WWI. This act was well know during the time and eventually became banned around the time of the outbreak of the war. The ban was lifted when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Many of the German officers of WWII had these scars given the fact that they were in university prior to WWI.

Skip ahead to 2:50 to see the duel in action!

 

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Otto Skorzeny with Mensur Scar

 

 

 

WWII Photo Grouping – A PTO Mystery! Who Are These Guys?


Greetings to my dedicated readers of PortraitsofWar. I recently purchased a large grouping of 1000+ photos that was comprised of may different smaller collections. I was able to weasel out an interesting group of Pacific Theater of Operation (PTO) tactical recon group photos and do a bit of basic research. After some time on the web I’ve concluded that the following shots were taken by a unit photographer for the 110th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. Many of the photos are signed by the pilots who flew the planes depicted in the photographs. My guess is that the fellow who originally owned these photos was a plane mechanic who knew the pilots whose planes flew for the unit.

 

But who are these men?

UPDATES

Reader Responses (Thanks guys!)

From Tim:

“We Three” was a P-51K 44-12833 flown by the Maj George Noland, CO of the 110th TRS/71st TRG. Maj Noland might have scored the last P-51 kills of the war on 14 August 1945. More details are available in: “Mustang and Thunderbolt Aces of the Pacific and CBI” by John Stanaway. (Stanaway has this as a P-51K-10 while Joe Baugher’s list has it as a P-51K-15-NT).

B.N. Heyman is likely the late Bertam N. Heyman of Youngstown, Ohio.
“Bert’s education at Miami University was interrupted by World War II, where he proudly served as a fighter pilot in the Pacific Theatre. He was a decorated veteran who flew 57 combat missions during his service in the Air Force.”
From his obituary:

Side by side comparison (Obituary photo/Portrait from collection)

 

He was listed on the MACR (#15538) for A-20G 43-9625, likely as a witness as all aboard were killed. (https://www.pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/a-20/43-9625.html).
And another post:
Thanks for posting these; they’re handsome and worthwhile.
The photo of Major Archuleta (and presumably his crew chief S/Sgt Raver) show Rubel Archuleta, of New Mexico, who was C/O of the 110th TRS from the fall of 1944 into the spring of 1945. He was a schoolteacher before the war (New Mexico State grad, I believe) and under him the 110th seems to have taken on a new personality. They had been a longtime Air National Guard outfit from St. Louis, whose insignia had featured a Missouri mule with telescopes or machine-guns; they were now called The Flying Musketeers.
The photos of Lt. Wells I believe to show Lt. Robert Wells, who had formerly been with the 82nd TRSS on Biak. Wells was hit in the head by shrapnel and managed to fly back with a hole in his skull. Surprisingly, he recovered (although it appears that he was transferred from the 82nd TRS to the 110th.) Note that he’s in a P-40, which the 71st’s two fighter squadrons were flying in the last months of 1944, before upgrading to F-6’s and P-51’s. (Much of what I know about Wells I know through the courtesy and shared photos of Michael Moffitt, whose father, a pilot with the 82nd TRS, took many photos during the war.)
The other pilots I do not recognize off the top of my head. (Harry Johnson may have been my father’s tent mate in the last months of the war. I will check.)
The photo of the 71st TRS HQ looks very similar to photos of the HQ’s for the 82nd and 110th TRS’s at Binmaley, outside Lingayen, in mid-1945. (Taken by Fred Hill of the 17th TRS, these photos can be seen online in the small collection section of the USAF Academy Library. My father, Roscoe A. “Rocky” Boyer, was communications officer for the 71st Group and the 91st Photo Reconnaissance Wing from 1942 on, and then transferred to the 110th in December 1944. Some of the officers may be recognizable from photos.
Fuller information about Archuleta, Wells, and other officers can be found by scrolling through two Facebook Pages that I run, on the 71st TRG and “Rocky Boyer’s War,” a book that I wrote around my father’s wartime diary and that the Naval Institute Press published this year.
I would be glad to post some or all of these photos the 71st TRG page. You may also wish to contact the Facebook administrator for “Lindbergh’s Own” page, an on-line site for the 110th in its current form.

 

 

An American in the Czechoslovak Legion in WWI


Today’s post comes after a bit of head scratching and internet searching that eventually lead to an interesting discovery (for me) of a WWI story that has somehow remained unknown to me until this blog post. It involves the Czech Legions of WWI…

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Emil Stedronsky in WWI

The above photo, and the postcard below, were sent to a Mike Stendronsky of Cleveland, Ohio in the waning months of 1918 from his brother who had just arrived in France to fight as part of the Czech Legion. Check out the video at the bottom of this post to learn a little about the Czech Legion in WWI…

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American and Czech Flags

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Emil Stendronsky in France, 1918

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Emil’s WWI Draft Card

Gene Keessen: A Vietnam War Dentist in 35mm Kodachrome


I recently purchased a series of inexpensive (less than a dollar) 35mm Kodachrome color slides on eBay in hopes of identifying the men and women portrayed in the images. The slides were part of an estate sell out of an unnamed veteran who served with the 219th Medical Detachment during the Vietnam War. All the slides appear to be related to non-critical medical care “in country”.

My favorite slide from the purchase has to be a head-on shot taken of a dentist with the unit identified as Gene Keessen. He’s sporting an incredible blonde English pyramidal mustache (see guide below).

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Guide to basic mustache styles

And here he is in his full glory – I’m guessing this photo was taken ca. 1969.

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I’ve tracked Mr. Keessen down and am making my best attempt to send him/his family these slides. I hope they get a kick out of the mustache!

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Gene with a patient

Mystery WWII Concentration Camp Liberation – Research Help Needed!


Hey PortraitofWar followers! I recently acquired an incredible grouping of photographs taken by a US soldier during the liberation of a concentration camp/labor camp during the tail end of WWII. There’s not much to go by in terms of identifiable visuals, but there are images of German military officers marching in line to view the bodies, as well as a liberated person in front of a T28E1 US tracked anti-aircraft gun. Additional photographs show an American officer speaking to a line of US soldiers passing before a group of bodies.

 

Any thoughts or ideas? I hope to pass these on to an organization that can present and appreciate them, but I want to identify the material before doing so.

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A liberated prisoner tries on shoes for the first time in years

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The American T28E1

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A German collaborator? Commandant?

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German officers pass through the line

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US officers speak

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US officers speak

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