Rare Aerial Photo of Gliders Taken After Operation Varsity, March 1945


Taken on March 25th, 1945, this image was snapped by a low-flying P-38 or P-51 of the 363rd Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron.  I acquired a large set of these original 12×12 inch prints (complete with pencil notes on the back) on eBay a few years ago directly from the estate of a 9th Air Force photo tech who apparently saved hundreds of original flyovers like this.  He saved duplicates as well!  This is one of those duplicates.

This large format photo, taken a day after the strategic landing of two airborne divisions on the eastern bank of the Rhine River near the village of Hamminkeln and the Town of Wesel, Germany.  Know as Operation Varsity, the landing is regarded by many historians as the most successful airborne landing carried out during WWII.  Although I tend to argue such facts, the point is that the landing led to the quickening of the end of the war.

This series of photos provides an incredibly detailed view of the aftermath of the glider landings and a general layout of trenches, hedgerows and landscape features that may be obfuscated today.  These images can be found in many books and through government archives but may be of lesser quality due to multiple reproductions.  Enjoy!

 

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Large Format Aerial Photo Showing Airborne Gliders, March 25th, 1945

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Thanksgiving in the First World War: U.S.Base Hospital #6 Holiday Menu Card


I’ve been lucky in the past few years to pick up some fun WWI shots of US female nurses and auxiliary service members photographed while serving overseas in 1918 and 1919.  US women in France were vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts, and to be able to positively identify a nurse is a fun way to learn about female service roles during the war.  In this case, I was able to purchase a small group of photos and a Thanksgiving menu from a woman in Base Hospital #6 stationed in Bordeaux, France during the war.  The standing studio portrait was identified on the reverse as H.K. Judd of Base Hospital 6.  On a whim I searched for Helen K. Judd (thinking that Helen was a likely candidate for H) and came up with a positive hit on a woman named Helen K. Judd from Southhampton, Mass.  I cross referenced with the digitized passport records from 1917 and 1918 and had a positive match.  Luckily the passport applications come with little snapshots of the applicants.   The amount of material available to identify WWI photos is incredible.

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Base Hospital #6 Thanksgiving Menu

So what was served up on Thanksgiving, 1918? 

Given the recent cessation of hostilities on November 11th, the nurses and ailing soldiers of the AEF had a lot to be thankful for in 1918.  How did they celebrate?

US Dietician Ellen W. Wells was someone who likely put together the well-rounded meal seen in the above menu.  With appetizers of celery and olives, the nurses, doctors and assorted hospital staff and wounded next moved to a main course of roast stuffed turkey, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, green peas and creamed onions.  For desert they gorged on mince pie and an oddity in Europe, pumpkin pie.  After dinner snacks included fruit, nuts, raisins, bon-bons and coffee.  And to top it all off, the men and women were provided with cigars.  What a meal!

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Helen K. Judd in France, 1918

WWII Color Photo Post: An Unopened Box of Developed WWII Kodak Color Slides!


Many of my followers know that I actively collect WWII color slides, predominantly those developed by the Eastman Kodak Company.  These Kodachrome slides are typically regarded in the field of vintage color photo collecting as the crème de la crème of vintage color.  Taken at a time of incredible social and political upheaval, these images capture an era that will never be seen in the same light or colors again. With the small percentage of the world populace that used color photography, an even smaller percentage of the slides have been passed down or purchased by people with the ability to scan and post them to the internet.

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In this rare case, I was able to purchase a large set of Kodachrome slides taken by a US serviceman before he shipped off to war.  One box of the Kodak-developed slides were unopened.  I took a photo of the seal, opened the box and immediately scanned them!  Please enjoy the following 12 slides that are only seeing the light of day 70+ years later….

Taken in Fort Benning, GA, these slides were shipped home in January of 1945 to only be opened in 2016! Enjoy.

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WWII Photo: American Medics in the Battle of the Bulge – 4th Infantry Division


Captured on medium format film by US Army Photographer Cpl. Edward Belfer, this image comes from my extensive collection of US WWII photography and depicts a group of US medics pushing a metal pontoon boat along the snowy streets of Bettendorf, Luxembourg on January 19th, 1945.  The boat, loaded with medical supplies, is headed towards the Sure River.  An oddball detail in this shot include a theater-made snow camouflage helmet covers with the fronts cut out to reveal the medical cross beneath.

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A Scottish Terrier Goes to War: 744th Light Tank Battalion’s Mascot Dog BLACKOUT


Followers of PortraitofWar will likely remember that I have a penchant for stories related to unit and individual mascots during wartime. I have a soft spot for small dogs and particularly enjoy tracking down photos of dogs acting as needed companions during the boredom and contrasting hellish days of war.  Cats are cool too……. I guess….

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Tonight’s post was submitted by a WWII buff I tracked down online who was generous enough to share the incredibly endearing story of his father’s WWII mascot who eventually made it stateside to live an additional thirteen years as the family pet until passing away in 1958.  The incredible story of Blackout takes us from a small town in England, to the shores of Normandy and across continental Europe as the German war machine is beaten into submission.  The following post was submitted by Rick Hunter:

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My father, Bill Hunter volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1940.  After training which included participation in the Louisiana maneuvers, he was assigned to the 744th Light Tank Battalion as initial cadre when it was formed at Camp Bowie, TX.  By January, 1944 he was a Master Sergeant in the service company of the 744th Light Tank Battalion, and the unit was in England training in preparation for D-Day.  Dad’s job was to supervise the maintenance of the Battalion’s vehicles and the recovery and repair of battle-damaged vehicles.  Light tank battalions were “separate battalions” that were typically attached to infantry units on an “as-needed” basis and as such they moved around a lot.  The service company was usually located somewhat to the rear of the front lines and Dad’s position gave him a bit of flexibility and was not as dangerous as those of many soldiers.  Perhaps for these reasons and his love of dogs, Dad bought a young female Scottie from a lady in nearby Manchester.  He named the dog Blackout.

Although against regulations, Blackout was apparently a hit within the unit and the leadership turned a blind-eye towards her.  She even received a coat crafted from an army blanket complete with sergeant’s stripes and the unit patch.  Blackout and my Dad went ashore with the Battalion at Utah Beach about 3 weeks after D-Day and the unit fought through France and Belgium and into the Netherlands.  They were camped near Geleen in the Netherlands for several weeks in October, 1944.

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Blackout in Geleen, Netherlands

The Dutch had been starved by the Germans and were in a desperate plight.  Attracted to Blackout, a 13 year-old boy and his 5 year-old sister from the town would make daily visits to see the dog.  My Dad began to give the children food and candy and made them some small wooden toys.  In 2008, my brother vacationed in the Netherlands and met those two children.  The girl, then in her 70’s, showed my brother those toys which she still treasured.

The tank battalion crossed into Germany in January, 1945.  They fought into Germany and participated in the post-war occupation of the town of Olpe before catching a crowded troop ship back to the U.S.  Dad was not about to leave Blackout behind and he smuggled her onto the troop ship.  Because there were many different units on the ship, it is difficult to imagine how he could have avoided detection, and in fact he did not.  Upon arrival in the U.S., the soldiers were subjected to a muster to verify all were present.  The officer in charge (not from my Dad’s unit) announced to the formation “Will the individual with the dog step forward?”  My Dad did not move.  The officer then said “Will the master sergeant with the dog step forward?”  My Dad did not move.  Finally the officer said “Do we have to call you by name?”  My Dad stepped forward.  The officer then announced “We just wanted you to know that we were aware of it all the time.”  Nothing more was said or done and over the next few weeks Dad and Blackout processed out of the Army and returned to civilian life in Tulsa.

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Blackout’s jacket patch

My Dad had 4 brothers and all 5 boys served during World War II and returned safely.  Their mother was proud of her sons and displayed a Blue Star Mother banner with 5 stars in her front window.  The Tulsa World published an article about the family in late 1945 that included the attached picture of the boys with their mother and Blackout shortly after their return.

In the picture and starting from the right, the boy in civilian clothing served on a ship in the Pacific and refused to wear his Navy uniform after discharge.  Next is my Dad and the boy next to him was a navigator.  I believe he stayed in the States as an instructor.  Left of him is the youngest boy who had completed a pilot training program but I have little additional information.  The boy on the far left was in Iran and is wearing a Persian Gulf Command shoulder patch.

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Hunter boys with Blackout, 1945

WWII USMC Marine Portrait Photo – Dominick Salvetti, 12th Anti-Aircraft Battalion, 1st Marine Division


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1942-1944, I MEF/1st Marine Division
From Month/Year
January / 1942
To Month/Year
January / 1944
Unit
1st Marine Division Unit Page
Rank
Corporal
MOS
Not Specified
Location
Not Specified
Country/State
Not Specified
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 I MEF/1st Marine Division Details
I MEF/1st Marine Division
Type
Combat – Ground Unit
Existing/Disbanded
Existing
Parent Unit
I MEF
Strength
Division
Created/Owned By
Not Specified

Christmas Mass During the Battle of the Bulge – Liege, Belgium 1944


Attempting to track down new material for a fresh blog post is not an easy task…… Especially when my material has generally been languishing unseen in a shoe box since 1945.  But occasionally I will come across a photo that I’ve neglected to bring to the light of the internet since it crossed my scanner’s bed.  In today’s post, I will dissect a photo taken on Christmas  of 1944 in the small town of Neuville en Condroz, Belgium. This is a small village near Liege, Wallone, Belgium and was occupied at the time by an anti-aircraft unit on the front lines of the Bulge. Interestingly, the hood of the Chaplain’s Jeep served as an alter.

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Christmas Mass in Neuville-en-Condroz Belgium, 1944

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To see the area today check out the link below:

Neuville-en-Condroz Map

 

WWII Snapshot – Female Photographer Pauses for the Camera


 

A female US service member rocks a summer dress and snaps a shot of the photographer; what more can you ask for from a blog dedicated to obscure vernacular snapshots taken during wartime?   Originally digitally cropped down from a slightly larger print, this shot exudes the youthful demeanor of downtime during WWII. The taut, braced legs also hint to a slightly posed sexualized snapshot….

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Kent, CT High School’s First Baseball Team – A Waterbury, VT Flea Market Find


I apologize to Portrait of War’s dedicated followers for this brief divergence from the military-related post norm.  A recent flea market find has been screaming to me from my pile of “to research” photos and I can’t resist any longer; this photo has a lot going for it.  Crisp details, a fully identified roster, and a historically significant moment in Kent, CT’s town history have been captured in this 1931 photograph of the seminal baseball team of Kent High School.

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1931 Kent High School Baseball Team

Being a CT prep school alumni myself, I instantly recalled battles on the pitch against Kent School, the private college prep school located in Kent, Litchfield County, CT.  Although I don’t have access to the school records, I’m guessing their baseball team started significantly earlier than the 1931 date inscribed on the photo.  With that in mind, I came to the conclusion that the image likely depicts the public Kent High School.   This makes the research process much easier.  Prep schools of the time were typically filled with students from around the country, often from larger American cities and/or England/Canada.  In summary, my next avenue of research involves searching keying in every name inscribed on the reverse using on ancestry.com.  Doing some quick math (not my strong suit) I searched in the 1910-1920 range based on average high school ages from the time period. It turns out that most of the boys in the photo were born between 1915 and 1918.

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Cropped Version

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“First Baseball Team in Kent High”

With all the information listed above, I took some time after work this week to research each and every one of the legible names in hopes of finding a living ’31 Kent player…. to no avail.  Below are my results.  This post was made in order to link future family researchers with crisp photos of their “starting nine” relations.

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John E. Austin – Captain

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1920 Kent Census Listing

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Charles F. Taylor

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Charles F. Taylor’s 1940 Census Record

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George C. Page in 1931

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George Charles Page’s 1920 Census Record

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George Charles Page’s 1998 Death Record

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Charles W. Stone in 1931

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Charles Stone’s 1940 Census Record

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Charles W. Stone’s 1997 Death Record

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Charles W. Stones WWII Record Information

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Paul M. Richards in 1931

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Paul M. Richards’ Census Record

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Paul M. Richard’s 1998 Death Record

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Walter Pacocha in 1931

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Walter Pacocha 1930 Census Record

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Walter Pacocha’s 1981 Death Record

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Carlos Jennings in 1931

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Carlos Jennings’ 1930 Census Record

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Carlos Jennings’ 2000 Death Record

 

The Photographic Archive of Wells C. Klein – Father of the Modern American Immigration and Refugee Field


It was a cool, drizzly afternoon in the waning summer of 2015 when I first discovered a piece of my photo collection that, to this day, sits underappreciated in a back corner of a dusty closet in my house.  Walking the squishy aisles of the Waterbury Flea Market, I quickly became disenchanted with the dealer turnout.  One tarp called to me from across the field; a dealer was selling everything from a recent Stowe, VT estate buy out and wanted to move material quickly and hit the road before the heavy rain set in.  Late summer rains in Vermont can blow in quickly over Lake Champlain, and being caught in a storm can spell disaster to an antique/junk seller.  As I approached, I noticed a small blue bag with PAA Pan American World Airlines emblazoned across the front.  I instantly recognized it as a vintage 1950s Pan Am carry on flight bag.  I had recently watched a few episodes of Pan Am and was familiar with the color and general shape of the carry on bags seen on the show.

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Wells’ 1960s Pan Am Bag

To my surprise, the bag was stuffed to the gills with photos, documents and 35mm negative envelopes.  Given the ominous weather and progressively moistening socks, I asked the dealer what he was looking to get for the bag.  “Give my five”, he hacked in the most perfect version of a northern Vermont accent I can imagine.  “Does that include the stuff inside?” I returned.  “Ayup.”

Five minutes later and five bucks shorter, I sat under the protective roof of my car and pawed through the photos.  The bag included a handful of foreign drivers licenses, a WWII Navy ID card, a handwritten letter from Yugoslavia, hundred and hundreds of loose photos taken in Vietnam, Yugoslavia, and stateside….. and a substantial pack of 35mm negatives.

Based on my knowledge of the changing variations of printed photography in the 20th century, it became quickly evident that the bag and contents belonged to a fellow named Wells C. Klein (the ID cards gave this away) who worked in some capacity overseas in the 1950s and 1960s; the distinctive borders and print stock of the photos were correct for this period.  A few items included dates, so that really helps narrow it down……..

With the help of the internet and some sleuthing by friends, I’ve been able to figure out the Hardy Boys-esque Mystery of the Pan Am Bag.

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Wells’ Foreign ID

Much of Wells’ bio comes from a series of New York Times, LA Times and other news outlet obituaries that circled the US in the days after his death in April of 2001.  Wells Campbell Klein was born on October 10th, 1926 in New York City  and raised in New Haven, CT by a family of well-educated, academically and socially influential parents. Similarly, his younger brother Malcolm W. Klein is a seminal expert on criminal street gang activity in the the decades prior to 2000.  Wells’ WWII Draft Registration card confirms that he sported hazel eyes, was of medium complexion, and weighed in at a solid 165 lbs at 5′ 10 1/2″.

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Wells’ WWII Ship – U.S.S. Duncan (DD-874)

Wells served (from July 1st, 1944-June 23rd, 1946) during and after the war as a Quartermaster in the US Navy and spent time in China and Japan. His familiarity with Asia would come in handy in the years to come, where he used his Anthropology degree from Cornell to use in his service to the immigration and refugee resettlement field from ca. 1950-2000. His 2001 LA Times death notice reads:

Wells C. Klein, an advocate for refugees and immigrants who played a central role in resettling thousands of Southeast Asians in the United States at the end of the Vietnam War and helped shape American policy toward refugees from other trouble spots, died of lung cancer April 5 at his home in Stowe Hollow, Vt. He was 74.

“He was a pioneer . . . a giant in creating the modern-day refugee and immigration field,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a Washington-based advocacy and policy group.

Born in New Haven, Conn., he was raised in a family engrossed by social issues and causes. His father, Philip, was an eminent professor of social work at Columbia University. His mother, Alice Campbell Klein, was involved in social welfare agencies.

After serving in the Navy during World War II and studying at Sarah Lawrence College and Cornell University, where he majored in anthropology, Klein began his international work. He became a mission director for the humanitarian organization CARE in Yugoslavia and by the mid-1950s had become chief of the CARE mission in Saigon, where he spent much of the period of the American troop buildup.

In the late 1960s he became director of International Social Service, a worldwide, nonprofit family agency. It was the first in a series of organizations that Klein resuscitated. Expanding it into an international social work agency, he developed a special focus on finding homes for Vietnamese orphans and other displaced Vietnamese children, especially those fathered by Americans.

In 1975, he took over the American Council for Nationalities Service, a nonprofit group that at the turn of the 20th century had helped Eastern European immigrants adjust to American life. Moribund for decades because of immigration bans, it became, under Klein’s leadership, a major resettlement agency that helped more than 130,000 Southeast Asians adjust to life in the United States after Saigon’s collapse. The agency is now called Immigration and Refugee Services of America.

Klein played a central role in arranging federal and state aid to address the Southeast Asian refugees’ needs for counseling, language instruction and vocational training. He lobbied for the Indochinese Refugee Assistance Program, passed by Congress in 1975, which made Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits available to them.

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In 1981 Klein resuscitated another long-dormant organization: the U.S. Committee for Refugees. It has become “the definitive voice on refugees, human rights and refugee crises,” said Lavinia Limon, who directed the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement for the Clinton White House. The committee publishes the annual World Refugee Survey, an authoritative summary of refugee conditions in more than 100 countries.

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Action Shot

Wells clearly lived an incredible life with years of selfless service to a cause he was raised to become an advocate for.  His name is intertwined with every major US refugee resettlement and advocacy program. NGO and governmental groups such as American Council for Nationalities Services, International Social Service, Immigration and Refugee Services of America, U.S. Committee for Refugees and many others were directly impacted by Wells’ hand.

Another Los Angeles Times article tells of his work in the 1980s:

In 1980 Klein led the resettlement community in welcoming and assisting the 125,000 immigrants Fidel Castro sent in a chaotic sea migration to the U.S. from Cuban prisons and mental hospitals. Rejected by their countrymen in South Florida, where they landed, the Mariel boat lift refugees “tested the bedrock values of the refugee program,” said Limon, who at the time worked for Klein at the American Council for Nationalities Service.

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His photographic style hints to his study of Anthropology in college; his role as a participant observer in regions such as Yugoslavia and Vietnam clearly reflect his early training and academic encounters.  Sadly, his bag of photography seems to end with his trip to Vietnam.  Photos with friends and peers are unidentified, and capture the fun-loving reveries of a 30-something in the prime of his life. Please see below for a small selection of scans from “the bag”.

Vietnam ca. 1955

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Vietnamese CARE Package Label

 

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Signed Photo of Wells and the Vietnamese Refugee Minister

 

 

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Crops from Contact Sheets

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Larger Format Photos from Vietnam

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Yugoslavia ca. 1953

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Letter from the Yugoslavian People to President Eisenhower

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Stateside Fun w/ Friends

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Formal Portrait Photo

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post.  To think…. this little bag of photos was very likely close to being tossed away in a soggy dumpster….. I’m glad I trecked out to Waterbury last year!