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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Revolutionary Dreams: Can New England Raise the Spitfire?


As many followers will realize, I only deal with WWI and WWII situations with very limited deviation. In tonight’s case I was bombarded with questions from friends, colleagues and familiars in regards to the raising of the Revolutionary War ship, the Spitfire.

After chatting with the men and women involved in the cultural resource management team,

A gunship that sank during battle more than two centuries ago might finally be resurfaced from the depths of Lake Champlain and put on display.

On Oct. 11, 1776, the British and the United States fought what is considered the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War  — the Battle of Valcour Island.

The U.S. was led by Benedict Arnold, and even though the U.S. lost the actual battle, it ended up being strategic in the long run because the U.S. fleet stalled British plans to advance.

Most of the 16 U.S. ships in the battle sank. About 20 years ago, one of the gunboats in that battle, the Spitfire, was discovered intact on the bottom of Lake Champlain.

VPR spoke to Art Cohn, co-founder of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and principal investigator of the Spitfire since its discovery, about the plan to raise the ship and why people should care about old sunken boats.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. Listen to the full interview above.

VPR: Tell us about the Spitfire. How big was this boat and what shape was it in when you discovered it?

Cohn: “The Spitfire was one of eight ‘Philadelphia-class,’ we call it, gunboats: 54 feet long, three heavy cannon, eight swivel guns [and] a complement of 45 men. It was a classic battleship, small in scale for its times.

“And so it and the other American vessels fought the British at Valcour Island for five and a half hours, and the only reason they stopped was because it got too dark to see each other.

“And so as the British pulled back and blockaded, Benedict Arnold realized he could not sustain the engagement. And so he hatched a plan, very bold: He was going to row his fleet single file, with muffled oars and a shrouded light in the stern of each vessel, and so they could try to sneak past that British blockade that was set up specifically to stop them. And they pulled it off.

“But in the middle of the night, as they rowed south toward the protection of Fort Ticonderoga and Mount Independence and their guns, it was discovered that two of the gunboats were so badly damaged from the battle that they could not be kept afloat.

“And one of those boats, we now know, was the gunboat Spitfire. It was abandoned by its crew in the middle of the night, went to the bottom perfectly on its bottom with its mast still standing and its bow cannons still in place – which is the way we found it 20 years ago last Tuesday.”

Is there any danger to raising the boat? What are some of the pitfalls?

“I frequently say, ‘Finding the boats is the easiest thing we get to do; managing the boats is complicated.’

“And so as part of that due diligence management plan – so we found this boat, it’s intact on the bottom of Lake Champlain, it’s in a relatively stable environment. Is it OK there? Is that the best place for this boat? If the boat could speak would it say ‘Look, just take a deep breath and let me relax here for another hundred years’ or is there something else going on?

“We know that this boat, even at its great depth, will soon be completely encrusted by quagga mussels. That will ultimately increase the destabilization and degradation of the iron fastenings that hold this boat together.” – Art Cohn, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum co-founder

“And unfortunately we have determined through a separate study, done with the University of Vermont School of Natural Resources, that the mussels that will encrust this boat – it’s not encrusted yet, but looking over to the Great Lakes, which is our little window or crystal ball into the future – we know that this boat, even at its great depth, will soon be completely encrusted by quagga mussels.

“That will ultimately increase the destabilization and degradation of the iron fastenings that hold this boat together. That’s been one of our findings. And not so far into the future, this boat is going to be a pile of lumber on the bottom, not the fabulous archeological time capsule it is for us now.”

What do you propose doing if you’re able to bring up the Spitfire successfully?

“We’re proposing building a ship conservation facility in Burlington, Vermont. That would be where the boat, if it was recovered, would go for its conservation.

“It would stay in that facility for the next 12 to 15 years undergoing this conservation treatment. The public would be invited in to see this; we would have programs and exhibits.

“And we’re also proposing that when the boat was completed, we would transfer the boat to an exhibit facility to be placed on the New York side of the lake for exhibition and interpretation of the Battle of Valcour Island in perpetuity.”

“This boat is a direct and tangible connection to 1776 and the formative moments of this country and this society evolving into the United States of America that it is today.”

How much is it going to cost to recover the Spitfire?

“We estimate over 25 years and with the things that I’ve just mentioned – the two facilities, the staff and everything that would go into this – we are estimating a high budget of $45 million.

“We have done a preliminary economic analysis study to suggest if we spent the money over time in this way, might there be some benefits, economic benefits, to the community. And right now, the strong indication is that if we invested this money in this way, we would not only save this shipwreck – we would create an economic engine for the region.”

Why should put all this time, effort and money into recovering a ship that’s over 200 years old?

“To me, the answer is ‘It’s priceless.’ This boat is a direct and tangible connection to 1776 and the formative moments of this country and this society evolving into the United States of America that it is today.

“How do we understand those principles? How do we get at those things? And I’ve been an advocate for a long time – you know, go back to the source, go back to the time period, read the letters, read the journals, read the reports. And I think it gets us a much better view of the country that has evolved and how we keep those principles alive.”