WWII Portraits – Headshots of the 739th Field Artillery Battalion


I’m trying something new with this post…… I recently purchased a large lot of headshots of unnamed members of the 739th Field Artillery Battalion.  All the photos were taken in a single sitting in a German studio by a photographer named Lothar Schilling.  I’m currently in the process of identifying each of the men using a unit history with group shots of each particular battery….. more to come on that…….

The image below was created by taking a cropped view of each photo and adding them together in quick succession.  Each face is rendered as an individual frame to create a soundless film of the entirety of the group.  I thought it was interesting to see the vast differences in each facial expression of the 90+ man group.  Complete photo lots like this are hard to come by, especially with such high image quality.

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WWII Photo Identification: John Szlyk of Worcester, MA Interviews Downed Airman in Luxembourg


From time to time, I like to go through my collection of historic, identified photography in hopes of making a connection between ID’ed WWII/WWI veterans and their families.  In this case, I zeroed in upon a photo taken on January 29th, 1945 in the Luxembourg town of Boevange.

John Szlyk, 6th AD in Luxembourg

John Szlyk, 6th AD in Luxembourg

The photograph was luckily identified by the 167th Signal Corps photographer, PFC Joseph Lapine.  The typed transcription of his notes can be seen below:

Joseph Lapine Caption

Joseph Lapine Caption

Where does the research start?  First, I carefully inspected the image for identifying marks related to the plane in the background; every US plane during WWII would be profusely marked with serial numbers (S/N) related to it’s production.  In this case, the photo includes two visible locations with reference numbers to aide in the ID of the plane.

S/N Locations

S/N Locations

S/N Location 1

S/N Location 1

Partial S/N Visible

Partial S/N Visible

The information included in Location 1 indicates that the crashed plane is a U.S. Army Model P-47 D-20 RE with an Army Air Forces (AAF) Serial of 42-29176.  Location 2 confirms the last five digits of the S/N.    Strangely, the serial isn’t searchable on the internet, and I’ve come up with nothing………. this is atypical when researching WWII aircraft…….

Plan B

Where do I go from here?

head_scratch

Typically, if I can’t extrapolate research worthy clues from the visual details of the image, I turn to the metadata, or associated information related to the photo.  In this case, I know the photo was taken by a US Signal Corps photographer named Joseph (Joe) Lapine of the 167th (or 166th?) Signal Photographic Company.  More on this later……

Photographers during WWII would typically travel with specific units during times of combat movement and frame shots, take notes, and capture the feel of the war for posterity and the general public back at the homefront.  In this image, Lapine noted the names of the two men in the photo; Lt. John Szlyk of Boston, MA is identified as the pilot, and the helmeted soldiers is ID’ed as Charles A. Klein of Cambed, NJ.

My specialty is identifying specific details of WWII images, researching them, and coming to conclusions based on my  best-guess interpretations.  My background is in anthropology, material culture, history, literature and historic research…..here’s my gut feeling about the photo:

The men in the photo were misidentified by the photographer; the pilot and the 6th armored division names were crossed during the post-photo interview, and Lapine published the image without another thought. My justification is that I cannot, for the life of me, find a Lt. John D. Szlyk of Boston, MA, or a Cpl. Charles A. Klein of Camden, NJ.  They never existed as defined…..

I was, however, able to find a John Szlyk of Worcester, MA (my hometown area!) who was a combat-hardened veteran who served with the 6th Armored Division, having received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters (wounded three times) as well as multiple foreign awards.  Quite the veteran!  His touching obituary can be found here.

Could the photographer have possibly mixed up the names?  I can’t find a Lt. Charles Klein who was a P-47 pilot during the war, but I’m also unable to track down P-47 # 42-29176……

The details from the obituary match up well with the misidentified image…. the 6th AD tanker at right is wearing the exact dust goggles commonly worn by tank commanders during the war.

WWII US Tanker Goggles

WWII US Tanker Goggles

John Szlyk Jr. in WWII?

John Szlyk Jr. in WWII?

One side note from this research piece: I’ve recently discovered that many internet trolls are unhappy with the goggles worn by Brad Pitt in Fury.  They’re clearly of Soviet make and WWII vintage, but cares?  Maybe his character picked them off a dead German soldier?  The opening scene of the film shows Pitt’s character looting a dead German officer.  The interior of the Sherman is littered with German war loot.  My own grandfather (a tank gunner/assistant driver) used a German holster for his M1911 during the war.  Enjoy the film and chill out!

Russian Goggles?

Russian Goggles?

My ultimate goal for this post is to contact living sons of Szlyk….. I know you’re out there!  Check your facebook messages…….

WWII Artist – Pinup Calendar Guru Lou Varro – Pinup Art Photography


I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to acquire a few photographs from the estate of the venerated Lou Varro, the best known WWII pinup calendar artist in the MTO during WWII.  Lou is well known for his small-print monthly pinup calendars that would be posted in B-24 and B-17 bombers during missions in Italy.  I’ve seen a handful of his calendars during my time collecting WWII photography and am happy to have acquired a few photos of the artist.  I also snagged an original Varro December 1944 “topless” calendar page.

Lou Varro

Lou Varro

Lou’s most popular subject was attractive women from his hometown.  Although the subject of the portrait is currently unknown, we do know that this photo made the news in Lou’s hometown of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1944.  I would love to track down the article, it apparently featured Lou and his exploits during his service with a B-24 bomb group during WWII.  See below for the photo that “made the article.”

Lou Varro in 1944

Lou Varro in 1944

Reverse Side

Reverse Side

The woman featured in the above sketch can clearly be seen in a shot of Lou’s bunk taken shortly thereafter.  His calendar obsession can be seen in the image……. what a great glimpse into the everyday life of a bomb group EM.

Lou's Room January 1945 - Italy

Lou’s Room January 1945 – Italy

Lou passed away a few years ago, but had a lot to say about his wartime art career:

“Soon after, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and served in World War II as a non-commissioned officer. While stationed in southern Italy, he worked as a processor for films that came off bomber planes after they were sent for an attack. Here, he found another opportunity to work as an artist.”

I dabbled in photography, but my specialty then was calendars,” Varro said.

(from the above linked article) Varro would use his spare time in the photography lab — an old barn that had been converted for military use — to make calendars for his fellow servicemen.

“I would find a picture of a pretty girl, make a couple of them and give them away for the guys to put in their planes or their huts,” he said. “A lot of guys knew and liked me for that.”

This is a continual post and will be updated as more material and information is added to the PortraitsofWar collection.

One of Varro’s famous WWII pinup calendars.  Most of his models were taken from previously exiting “nudie magazines” and retrofitted into calendars.  Please enjoy Miss December, 1944!

Miss December 1944

Miss December 1944

Women of the YMCA in WWI: Kittie Kunz’s Service in YMCA Hut 16


 

Material related to wartime (and postwar) activities of the YMCA can be easily researched through the help of internet databases, digitized books, collectors forums and various other digital avenues.  What is lacking, however, is information directly related to the individuals who volunteered their time and money to travel to a foreign county to serve donuts to war-weary doughboys waiting to return to their families in the US.

I was lucky enough to track down a large grouping of ephemera collected during the war by a YMCA canteen entertainer, a Miss Kittie Kunz.  Included in the grouping is a selection of rare YMCA “unit history” paperwork which gives names and identities to many of the women and men who served alongside Kittie.  I researched each of the names in hopes of tracking down passport application portraits.  I was overwhelmingly successful and found nearly 75% of the names in the US Passport database that matched perfectly.  Each was listed as being a member of the YMCA or Red Cross, and each matches the date range for the YMCA hut. A neat find!  Please read on to see the faces of the women who served alongside Kittie.  You will also find a smattering of hard-to-find ephemera related to the YMCA.  It’s amazing that Kittie saved some of these items.  Not all the paperwork is contained in this post, but the scanned material gives a quick glimpse into the typical material a YMCA canteen worker would deal with.

Kittie Kunz's YMCA ID

Kittie Kunz’s YMCA ID

 

Kittie's YMCA Paris Travel Permit

Kittie’s YMCA Paris Travel Permit

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Kittie’s YMCA Paris Travel Permit Reverse

Kittie's Permit to Travel to Reims

Kittie’s Permit to Travel to Reims

YMCA War Service Pin Card

YMCA War Service Pin Card

YMCA War Service Pin Card Interior

YMCA War Service Pin Card Interior

Tea Service Notice for the 28th Division

Tea Service Notice for the 28th Division

 

Here is where my favorite piece of researching WWI material came handy….. I was able to research the names of the women listed in the distribution section and track down their WWI era passport applications.  Here are my results:

YMCA Women

Miss Gertrude Garden - YMCA

Miss Gertrude Garden – YMCA

 

Miss Dorothy Berry - YMCA

Miss Dorothy Berry – YMCA

Harriet McKenzie - YMCA

Harriet McKenzie – YMCA

Margaret Robinson - YMCA

Margaret Robinson – YMCA

Katherine Parks - YMCA

Katherine Parks – YMCA

 

Janet Kunz - YMCA (sister to Kittie Kunz)

Janet Kunz – YMCA (sister to Kittie Kunz)

Kittie Kunz - YMCA

Kittie Kunz – YMCA

Pauline Brown - YMCA

Pauline Brown – YMCA

 

Mary Waden - YMCA

Mary Waden – YMCA

Dora Lewis - YMCA

Dora Lewis – YMCA

Katherine Beakes - YMCA

Katherine Beakes – YMCA

Cora A. Kennedy - YMCA

Cora A. Kennedy – YMCA

 

RED CROSS WOMEN

Lois Loyhed - Red Cross

Lois Loyhed – Red Cross

Harriet Maxon - Red Cross

Harriet Maxon – Red Cross

Dorothy Peters - Red Cross

Dorothy Peters – Red Cross

Alice McCoy - Red Cross

Alice McCoy – Red Cross

Esther Edmondson - Red Cross

Esther Edmondson – Red Cross

Mary Jones - Red Cross

Mary Jones – Red Cross

Eleanor Little - Red Cross

Eleanor Little – Red Cross

Mary Healy - Red Cross

Mary Healy – Red Cross

Harry C. Kolacinski of Milwaukee, WI: WWII Identified Studio Portrait


eBay has been a consistent source of fantastic portraiture for PortraitsofWar for over five years.  The material that pops up on the web is easy to acquire and makes for a fun and interesting research project.  In this case, I was able to track down an identified photo of a US airman wearing a brim-up cap and sporting a light beard.   The photo is identified on the reverse as a Harry Kolacinski.

Harry Kolacinski in WWII

Harry Kolacinski in WWII

 

Harry was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI.   His major biographical information can be found below:

 

Army Record

Army Record

 

Harry’s 1936 Yearbook

HighSchoolYearBook

Harry in 1936

Harry in 1936

harry1936

Harry passed away in 1986

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WWII Snapshot – Four Pilots of Blackburn’s Jolly Rogers, VF-17 Identified F4U Corsair Pilots


Windy Hill, Merl William Davenport, John Orrin Ellsworth and William Lee Landreth in Bougainville

Windy Hill, Merle William Davenport, John Orrin Ellsworth and William Lee Landreth in Bougainville

VF-17062VF-17063

 

Reverse

Reverse

 

 

Merle William Davenport

 “Butch” Merl is the only true fighter ace pictured in the snapshot.  He was credited with 6 confirmed aerial victories during his time in the PTO. Merl passed away in 1989.

John Orrin Ellsworth

John's Stateside Grave Marker

John’s Stateside Grave Marker

William Lee Landreth- The last Living Original Pilot from VF-17

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processed by IntelliTune 4.5 on 14062012   111148 with script EDIT RGB to Gray

 

From Country’s 2012 obituary:

“He grew up to pilot the powerful F4U Corsair with fighter squadron VF-17, the Jolly Rogers, and was eventually its last surviving original pilot. “Country”, as his squadron mates dubbed him, was credited with 3 kills and 1 assist while his squadron destroyed 154 planes in 76 days of combat in the South Pacific. No bomber escorted by VF-17 was lost to enemy aircraft, no ship ever hit by a bomb or aerial torpedo. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/venturacountystar/obituary.aspx?pid=158047970#sthash.OJ6tGm6u.dpuf
Mr. Landreth eventually passed away due to complication from a WWII injury sustained during his stint with the VF-17.  My heart goes out to his family. I hope they find this page and this snapshot of him with his comrades.

WWII Photo – Lancaster, PA WWII Veteran Portrait Photos on Display, 1944


Straight from the dusty PortraitsofWar archives comes an incredibly unique 8×10 photo of a window display in Lancaster, Pennsylvania during World War Two.   I typically shy away from purchasing and posting “press photos” taken during the war, but this shot has so much potential research  that I felt it deserved to be digitized.

Lancaster, PA WWII Portrait Photo Display

Lancaster, PA WWII Portrait Photo Display

 

I purchased this photo while visiting a friend in the Philadelphia area.  The reverse side of the photo identifies the photo as the F.W. Woolworth building in Lancaster, PA.  The store identity is confirmed in the image; the tiled entrance and gilded placard identify the establishment as such.  The date of the photo wasn’t noted, but the presence of the 4th Liberty Loan Bond dates the image to 1944.

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4th War Loan Drive Poster, ca. 1944

My guess is that the store asked for portrait photos of local veterans to post in the storefront.  A rough estimate puts the number at 100 portraits visible in the window.  The shots runt he gamut of WWII service branches, including the Marine leathernecks, Army Air Force pilots, female WAC and Waves, Navy Sailors as well as regular Army soldiers.

 

4th Loan Poster

4th Loan Poster

I plan on contacting a number of Lancaster, PA historical societies, veteran groups and newspapers in hopes of identifying a few of the veterans posed in the Woolworth’s window.

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Moving WWII Candid Snapshot – The FFI Free French and Captured Female German Collaborators


This incredibly moving snapshot from my WWII collection captures a wide range of emotions.  The only identification I have for the photo is that it was taken in a town/village/city named Poules during the tail end of the war. A US GI followed a joyous parade of French citizens and Free French (FFI) underground soldiers as they proudly walk down the streets of their newly liberated city. It’s a photo that speaks volumes.

German Collaborator Parade

German Collaborator Parade

After nearly four years of German occupation, a contingent of the French population were eager to fight back against the oppressive rule of their German visitors. In this post’s main photo we see a young, attractive female underground soldier causally smoking a cigarette, toting German “potato masher” stick grenades while holding a captured German rifle and briefcase.  To her left we see a group of young French women who have been publicly shamed.  Their shaved heads were shaped to show a swastika.  A joyous moment for the FFI, yet a horrible moment for the women who were caught up in the frenzy of the German occupation.  This photo has never been digitized for display on the web. You’re the first to see it!

Collaborator Parade

Collaborator Parade

FFI Female Underground Soldier

FFI Female Underground Fighter

US Signal Corps Footage of Collaborator Hair Cuts

Similar Photos From the Web

Another hero of the French Resistance during World War II and decorated for saving the lives of U.S. soldiers shot down behind enemy lines was Micheline Blum-Picard. Only eighteen-years-old when she first became involved in the Resistance, Blum-Picard started by carrying messages taped to her back and then progressed to photographing inside factories damaged by bombing raids By D-Day, however, she was carrying a rifle, a pistol, and a hand grenade wherever she went.

Another hero of the French Resistance during World War II and decorated for saving the lives of U.S. soldiers shot down behind enemy lines was Micheline Blum-Picard. Only eighteen-years-old when she first became involved in the Resistance, Blum-Picard started by carrying messages taped to her back and then progressed to photographing inside factories damaged by bombing raids By D-Day, however, she was carrying a rifle, a pistol, and a hand grenade wherever she went. inyourfacewomen.blogspot.com

Female French Resistance

Female French Resistance

World War II resistant woman fighter - Paris,1940s photograph the New York Public Library Picture Collection

World War II resistant woman fighter – Paris,1940s photograph the New York Public Library Picture Collection

Member of the French resistance with German tunic and thompson machine gun by Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, via Flickr

Member of the French resistance with German tunic and thompson machine gun by Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, via Flickr

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 2

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 4

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 5

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 6

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944

My 200,000th Viewer Post! – Remembering My Grandfather, Ambrose R. Canty, 777th Tank Battalion, 69th Division


Today I quietly celebrated my 200,000th blog view from my desk at work.  I knew the number was coming, and with nearly 300 views a day I was able to predict that the 200k plateau would be reached this week.  What should I write about on this momentous day?  I thought back to all my favorite posts…….

Ambrose R. Canty ca. 1944

Ambrose R. Canty ca. 1944

 

 

With all those topics in mind I kept coming back to the one man who “brought me into the fold” of researching WWII history.  My grandfather.  Ambrose R. Canty taught me from a young age that you should respect your elders, listen to their stories, as well as how to play poker, pitch, bridge, rummy and pocketknife baseball.   He also told me stories of his experiences during the second world war.  Stories that would be gradually elaborated on as I grew older.  Having spent the majority of my youth with him, I was able to learn a lot about the 69th Infantry Regiment and specifically the 777th Tank Battalion.

Ambrose on Furlough, 1944

Ambrose on Furlough, 1944

My interest in WWII history started with my grandfather, and I feel that on my 200,000th view that I should post a rememberance post to him.  Although he passed away nearly five years ago, I still feel a connection with him.  My early interaction with him live on through this website, and I hope I’m able to help pass on the passion Amby imbued in me at a young age.

Amby (second from right) Holds a Captured German Flag in Leipzig

Amby (second from right) Holds a Captured German Flag in Leipzig

Grampy, thanks for everything.

 

Ambrose Washing in His Helmet, Germany 1945

Ambrose Washing his Mess Kit, Germany 1945

777th Reproduction WWII Patch

777th Reproduction WWII Patch

 

And his 2009 Obituary:

telegram.com

Ambrose “Amby” Richard Canty

Published Tuesday September 1, 2009 at 12:01 am

Ambrose �Amby� Richard Canty of 26 Roosevelt Dr. in Southbridge, died Sunday, August 30th, 2009, at home in the company of his family.

He leaves his wife of 55 years, Mary J. (Damian) Canty; 7 children: Ambrose �Amby� R. Canty Jr. and his wife Sandra of Davenport, IA, Anne P. Canty of Port Orange, FL, Jane E. Gauthier and her husband Richard of Southbridge, Joan R. Murphy and her husband Donald of Worcester, MaryLynne Deshaies and her husband Gerald of Sturbridge, John D. Canty and his wife Kimberly of Webster, and Kathryn M. Canty of Redondo Beach, CA; 12 grandchildren: Adam, Matthew, David, and Tom Canty of Davenport IA, Christhanha Canty of Port Orange FL, Brennan and Connor Gauthier of Southbridge, Maria and Anna Murphy of Worcester, Cailyn, Ryan and Kelsey Canty of Webster, MA; and many nieces, nephews and great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his 6 brothers and 7 sisters.

He was born in Webster, one of fourteen children of Patrick and Anne (McCauley) Canty. He lived in Webster and Southbridge all his life. He graduated from Saint Louis High School in Webster, was a graduate of Holy Cross College in Worcester, and received a Masters Degree in Social Work Administration from Boston College. He was an accomplished athlete lettering in 3 varsity sports at St. Louis High School: Basketball, Baseball and Track. He also played semi-pro football for the Webster Colonials, and refereed and coached basketball teams at various levels for many years, including a championship basketball team with 5 of his daughters and several nieces.

He proudly served in World War II as a member of the United States Army�s 69th Infantry Division from 1944 to 1946. The division rescued a sub-camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp in Leipzig, Germany and is recognized as a �Liberating Unit� by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. He was a member of the Webster-Dudley American Legion Post # 184.

Ambrose served as the Webster Public Welfare Director for 16 years and the Massachusetts Director of Public Welfare in Worcester for 20 years before retiring. He was a member of St. Mary�s Parish in Southbridge and a member of the Webster-Dudley Knights of Columbus. He also served on the Massachusetts Mental Retardation Board, and as a member of the Tri-Area Fresh Air Program.

The funeral, with full military honors, will be held on Friday, September 4th with a Mass at 12:00 PM at St. Mary�s Church, 263 Hamilton St., Southbridge. The burial will be at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Southbridge. The Webster-Dudley Veterans Council will perform military honors. There will be no calling hours. Following the burial, the family will receive friends and relatives at the �12 Crane St.� banquet facility in Southbridge. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Daniel T. Morrill Funeral Home in Southbridge.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the St. Mary�s Parish Ministry Center Completion Campaign, 263 Hamilton St. Southbridge, MA 01550.

morrillfuneralhome.com

http://www.telegram.com/article/20090901/OBIT/909010312

WWII 3rd Armored Division Snapshot – Tanker John F. Housman of Braceville, IL in France


WWII Snapshots are easy to come across.  They appear in bundles at flea markets and yard sales.  It’s very uncommon to be able to positively identify a US soldier in a snapshot – let alone one that has relatives actively seeking information on ancestry.com.  Please see below for a step-by-step breakdown of my research on this photo.

Step 1: Purchase of Photo

A $12 eBay Purchase

A $12 eBay Purchase

 

With the purchase made, I had to wait a week for the photo to arrive without any research potential on the photo.  All I knew was that the shot was of a tanker with sand/dust goggles standing in front of a Sherman tank in France.  An interesting shot, albeit sleightly out of focus…..

 

John Housman Jr.

John Housman Jr.

 

Step 2: Research Photo

 

Researching photos can be a daunting task without a proper research database at hand.  Luckily, I subscribe to ancestry.com as well as a number of other databases. In this case, I was able to make the proper ID with the US census record combined with the WWII draft record. What do we know from the photo?  It turns out that the photo arrived with an ID on the reverse:  Johnny Housman-Tanker  of Braceville, Illinois.  It’s a great starting place and provided the key to the unlocking of the positive ID of the photo.

John Housman Jr. WWII from Braceville, IL

John Housman Jr. WWII from Braceville, IL

 

With the info at hand I was able to make an easy identification using the tools at hand.   A quick search yielded the following info:

John F. Housman Social Security Number 358-05-2949  Born 10/11/1918 Died 9/17/1992

John F. Housman Social Security Number 358-05-2949
Born 10/11/1918
Died 9/17/1992

 

And his enlistment which appears to be off be off by a year:

 

WWI Draft Registry

WWI Draft Registry

 

I’m sure the family of John Housman Jr. will find this site and I hope they will share some info on their father/relative.  I’m more than happy to send the original to an identified member of the family.  I know you’re out there !