WWII 388th Bomb Group – Alva Alegre Snaps Glenn Miller in Knettishall, England 1944

August 25th, 1944,

Glenn Miller poses with some members of the 388th Bomb Group.  Only a few months later Miller went missing during a flight over the English Channel, launching a 70 year search for his wreckage.  His death is still an unknown, although many suggest that he was in fact a German spy or was possibly shot down by friendly fire. Check here for some possible leads:





Glenn Miller Poses with 388th Bomb Group Officials in Knettishall, Sussex, England

Some of Glenn’s best known hits are Moonlight Serenade, Chattanooga Choo Choo, A String of Pearls, Little Brown Jug and Tuxedo Junction.   Many of these songs are likely lost on my generation, but will be familiar to many of the readers of this blog.  Please check out the links listed below for some vintage Glenn Miller footage!


Glenn Miller

Another 388th Big Wig (unnamed)


Alva Snaps a Photo of the Glenn Miller Band Crowd

WWII Artist Alva Alegre Update: New Alegre Painting Emerges From the Woodwork

The elusive artist and photographer, Alva V. Alegre, is still making waves here at PortraitsofWar.   Two recent visitors to the site have been able to shed some light on his work. I’m posting the first here for followers of Alva’s work to see before I set into the newly acquired info regarding his background.

The following shot was sent to me by an art collector on the East Coast who luckily had the painting conserved and removed from a foam core backing after finding the work in a Virginia antique shop. The style is quintessential Alegre and incorporates the scantily clad and thin wasted figure so often depicted in his WWII work.


Newly Discovered Alegre Artwork

Newly Discovered Alegre Artwork


Alva Alegre at Work in England, 1944

Alva Alegre at Work in England, 1944



Alegre’s work has fascinated me for nearly six years, and I’ve spend countless hours searching for other examples of his work, as well as for tidbits that may lead to information related to his life.   For those of you who haven’t seen my posts on Alva, please check out the links below:











If you have an Alegre painting in your collection, please come forward with a photograph.  His work has been coming out of the woodwork in the past six years, and the story of his life is quickly unraveling.  A special thanks to Scott for his generous photograph of his prized Alegre work of art.



WWII 388th Bomb Group Artist – MAJOR Biographical Update


My quest to discover the mysterious background of a WWII artist started nearly two years ago with the acquisition of a grouping of photographs and negatives from a seemingly nameless soldier.  I soon was able to deduce his name – Alva Alegre, and began the incredibly interesting voyage of tracking down his true identity.  His photography is hauntingly personal, unveiling the often unseen side of war; the everyday life of the 388th Bomb Group.  The journey has introduced me to dozens of people with connections of “Al”, from 94 year old bomber pilots who fondly remember seeing his artwork behind the Officers Bar in England, to military engineers who knew him later in life.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours (really!) scanning his photographs and dozens more hours researching his life.

After contacting the U.S. Army Arsenal where Al worked in the 1960s, I was able to find a museum curator who has access to works created by Al in the late 1960s.  He also was able to track down an article written for the employee newspaper that highlights his life story.  Finally!  Please read and check out some of my related posts.  Just search for 388th in the search menu.  His photographic skills cannot be understated.

“Artist’s Life”

The Arsenal Arsenalite

July-August 1970

By Bob Grybos

If your business should take you to the Benet R&E Labs, make it your business to visit the Reception Area and view the Ilustations of Watervliet – designed weapons of action.  You’ll find they combine meticulous craftsmanship with artistic perception to the degree that makes these paintings far more than straightforward representations, and that the Arsenal is fortunate indeed to have the talent that produced them at its service.

That talent belongs to Al Alegre who has been our technical illustrator since 1963 when he arrived at Watervliet following a varied and colorful career that began when he left his native Phillipines at age of 17.  He came first, via Canada, to Chicago where he abandoned his original intention to enter the electrical engineering field, deciding instead on a career in art.  So, then it was off to Northwestern University where he acquired a bachelor of philosophy, majoring in art, then thence to the Artt Institute of Chicago.

After a year back home in the Phillipines he wended his way to California in 1939 and for the next two years worked as a portrait sketch artist in the Phillipiines Pavillion at the San Francisco Worlds Fair.  Here he produced more than 4,000 charcoal portrait sketches and between seasons attended the Art Center School in Los Angeles – where he also studied photography.

With the closing of the Fair, “the fastest brush in the West” entered the U.S. Army Air Force and assigned as an armament staff sergeant with the 8th Air Force {388th Bomb Group} in England.  During off-duty hours he continued to perfect his skills, burning out portraits of his fellow soldiers – including no less a GI than General Ira Eaker, boss of the 8th.

After the war Al returned to the Windy City for graduate studies at the University of Chicago and then moved on to New York City where he received his masters degree in art from Columia University in 1947.

Following his completion of a course in color photography Al opened his own art and photography establishment “Studio 74” at that number on 57th Street, which happened to be located next door to the voice instruction school of famed composer Gian Carlo-Menotti which, Al says, provided not only a pleasant musical accompaniment but also a wealth of models for the Alegre activity.

Exposure to commercial art led to an interest in air brush techniques and consequently to Alegre’s present career as a technical illustration.  Since embarking in the field he has worked for Polaroid Electronics in Long Island, Fairchild Aircraft in Maryland, EDO COpr, Long Island, and the Missile and Space Division of GE in Philadelphia.

It was while working for GE(on space re-entry vehicles) that Al was contacted by representatives  of our Personnel Office and soon afterward joined us for a relationship that has proved mutually profitable ever since.

Al’s artistic outpost, has not been restricted to his arsenal assignments.  His work in many media employing many techniques is well known to many Arsenalites.  A former charter member of the Artist’s Equity of New YOrk, and professor of a listing in “Who’s Who in American Arts” he’s now a member of the Arsenal Art Guild exhibits.  Another regular extra-curricular activity is the painting of portraits of Aresenal C.O.s which he presents to them upon their leaving Watervliet.

Apresently Al maintains a studio apartment in Troy and also a studio in PHiladelphia where, along with producing a variety of paintings, he is also working on a book on technical illstration.

His ambition for the future is to instruct.  And, by the results achieved by his students in the Art Guild class he recently conducted, future students are in store for a very rewarding experience.

WWII 388th Bomb Group Artist Alva Alegre – Random Snapshots Continued……

Isn’t it hard to imagine that these images were taken in 1944?  They were, and casual followers of the blog will remember that this is only a sneak peek of a larger collection of prints and negatives that I acquired from a series of two eBay auction in 2010 and 2011.  The photographer, Alva V. Alegre was a professionally trained artist who served with the 388th Bomb Group during WWII.  His treasure trove of images haunt me; my quest to figure out his life story has brought me many new leads and a number of new friends and acquaintances.






<script type=”text/javascript”>


  var _gaq = _gaq || [];
  _gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-28546765-1’]);


  (function() {
    var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
    ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl&#8217; : ‘http://www&#8217;) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
    var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);




388th Bomb Group – Visions of Wartime London – Summer 1944


Alva Alegre took every opportunity to shoot in and around London while on pass.  His images capture wartime London as seen in 1944, at a time when the Luftwaffe was still a real threat to the civilian population.  Please enjoy the view through Alva’s lens as he travels throughout the city of London!



Alva and Muse











The Royal Arcade



Close Up View of Sign