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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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

 

UPDATE! (5/1/2017)

As has become the norm here at PortraitsofWar, a family member of a WWII veteran has reached out with an additional photo related to the above post. Special thanks to Gail Becnel Boyd for contacting me to share this shot of Blackout that she found in her father’s WWII photo album. Thanks Gail!

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Blackout as a puppy in England – On the back it says “Mascot of Service Co “Blackout“, England 1944”.

 

 

A Canadian in Holland During WWII: Photographic Journal of Captain William J. Klyn – 1945


For those interested in views of Holland during WWII I present the following set of unwatermarked images.  Please enjoy, and if you plan on using these for publication, please contact me first.  I assume most were taken in Amsterdam, but some may have been snapped in other places in the Netherlands and possibly Germany.


Want more?  I have over 200 images taken in Holland during WWII.  Add a comment asking for specific topics and I should be able to help you out!