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?
Reader Responses (Thanks guys!)
“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).
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.
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.
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.
PortraitsofWar followers will know that this site focuses on photographs and vignettes of WWI and WWI soldiers whose stories have never been told. In tonight’s post, we will focus on the story of a young puppy and an equally young soldier who had their photo taken by a U.S. Signal Corps photographer in 1943 somewhere near Fort Eustis, VA. Often times the photos taken by Signal Corps photographers only circulate within very specific regional circles if at all. For example: a photograph of a Burlington, VT soldier is snapped in France while posing with a German tank; if the photo was otherwise unspectacular, prints of the photo may only be sent along to HQ and possibly to a local Vermont newspaper. Also, the photographer, after printing, had the option of requesting a copy of the photo for personal uses. A large percentage of WWII photographs were never printed due to lack of local interest, quality and context.
In this case, we have an incredible endearing photo of Private Carl Harris, a Battery Cook from New York City receiving a well deserved kiss from the unit mascot, Sergeant Hangover, a puppy that was adopted by his unit. Photos like these are what PortraitsofWar is all about!
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.
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….
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
1942-1944, I MEF/1st Marine Division
I MEF/1st Marine Division Details
Combat – Ground Unit
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.
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.
The photograph was luckily identified by the 167th Signal Corps photographer, PFC Joseph Lapine. The typed transcription of his notes can be seen below:
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.
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…….
Where do I go from here?
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.
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!
My ultimate goal for this post is to contact living sons of Szlyk….. I know you’re out there! Check your facebook messages…….