Wounded WWI AEF Chaplain Poses in French Studio – Can We Identify Him?


It is never easy to identify someone from a photograph taken nearly 100 years ago, but it’s even more difficult solely based on obscure details from his/her clothing. In today’s blog post I will focus on a photograph purchased on eBay from a fantastic seller named Colleen ( eBay name: cacdivi) who recently sold me a superb French real photo postcard of an American chaplain posed in a studio during World World I (WWI). Here’s the shot:

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Wounded American Chaplain in WWI

The scene is fairly typical of what was common of the time period: WWI soldiers/sailors/marine/nurses posed in photo studios in far off places in order to document their experiences to send to relatives and friends. In this case, a currently-unidentified US chaplain (see the crucifix on his shoulder and cap?) strikes a chin-up pose for a French photographer. How do we know that the photo was taken in France?

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French Postcard Paper

French postcard paper during WWI almost always contains a central vertical dividing mark with CARTE POSTALE emblazoned across the top. I’ve noted a fair number of varieties likely due to differences in production, but the main bulk of French postcard paper of the period look very similar to the above scan.

 

Dissection of Photographic Context

What are we looking at? I’ve already mentioned that the man posed in the photo is a US chaplain in a French studio during the war. But what details have I been pondering while waiting for the photo to arrive in my mailbox? (Thanks to Colleen – you rock!)

  1. The chaplain has served at least six months in Europe

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    His Left Sleeve (6th Months Overseas Service) Right Sleeve (Wound Chevron)

  2. He was wounded or gassed at least once during his service

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    His Right Sleeve: Wound Chevron

  3. The photo was likely taken during wartime (before the armistice)
  4. He is oddly sporting a mustache and goatee

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    Rarely Seen Facial Hair in WWI

  5. He is wearing an identification bracelet made in France

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    WWI Bracelet Made in France

Why is a photograph of a wounded chaplain posed in a wartime studio worthy of devoting hours of research to? According to a website devoted to military chaplains, the number of wartime chaplains during WWI was incredibly low:

In 1918, Congress passed an act that called for one chaplain for every 1200 officers and enlisted men. Bishop Hayes, in a letter to Cardinal Farley, informs Farley of the current number of chaplains overseas. As of June 1918 there were 301 chaplains in the Army, 30 in the Navy, 7 with the Red Cross, 2 interpreters, and 95 volunteer or Knights of Columbus chaplains.

This photo most likely represents an Army chaplain included in the above June 1918 census: any US chaplain who served at least six months service would’ve been present in France in June of 1918. And to have been wounded or gassed, our unidentified chaplain was likely present during the earlier battles of the US involvement of the war.

Our Chaplain?

Okay, so we know our chaplain was wounded, was photographed at some point in the  spring or summer of 1918 and likely served in an Army division that arrived early (for the Americans). His identity, based on date, is narrowed down to 1 in 301 – a pretty good number when it comes to identifying a photo taken 100 years ago. Also, based on rules, he has to be less than 45 years of age.

But what was required to be a US chaplain in WWI? Before researching this photo I had no idea of the low number of volunteers or the actual requirements for acceptance. My personal photo collection contains a half dozen photos of chaplains, which is a surprisingly high number based on the scarcity of the subject matter. I was lucky to track down a copy of the rules and regs of chaplainhood here: http://archnyarchives.org/2015/11/10/military-chaplains-in-world-war-i/

Official Chaplain Requirements

Requirements for Commissioned Army Chaplaincies

  1. The law provides that no person shall be appointed chaplain in the Army who on the date of appointment is more than forty-five years of age.
  2. Applicants must be a citizen of the United States either by birth or naturalization. Must produce at examination proof of naturalization and must not have been born in enemy alien territory.
  3. Health and eyesight must be in excellent condition; if glasses are worn sight must be at least 12:20 in each eye without glass.
  4. Weight must be proportionate.
  5. Must produce an examination certificate of graduation from an approved College or Seminary which includes collegiate course. If not a graduate candidate must be prepared to stand mental test in general subjects: history, geography, arithmetic. etc.
  6. It is most desirable that each applicant write a letter addressed to the Secretary of War setting forth fully his qualifications such as experience with societies, clubs, dramatic circles, and knowledge of foreign languages. This letter must be be enclosed with application and sent to the Chaplain Bishop.
  7. Formal application must be made on regular blanks made by the War Department. These Blanks should be applied for to the Ordinariate, 142 East 29th Street, New York City.
  8. Must enclose to the Chaplain Bishop a formal letter of permission from his Ordinary.
  9. Must send a small photographic print of himself.
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1918 Chaplain Application Form

 

For now I have a good bit of information to extend my research with. Until then, stay tuned!

 

WWI 26th Division Chaplain Photo – Bloomfield, VT Native Arthur LeVeer in France, 1918


It’s always fun to sift through assorted boxes from my collection in search of new material to post here to PortraitofWar. In tonight’s case, I stumbled across a portrait shot of a WWI Catholic chaplain from my adopted home of Vermont!  With only 16,000 soldiers, marines and sailors during WWI, Vermont is a hard state to collect.

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102nd Infantry Regiment Chaplain Arthur J. LeVeer in 1918

Chaplain Arthur Joseph LaVeer was born along the Connecticut River in the Northeast Kingdom (a regional name) town of Bloomfield, Vermont on February 3rd, 1886. Commissioned as a 1st Lt. on August 22nd, 1918, LeVeer was quickly sent overseas to serve as a chaplain with the 102nd Infantry Regiment of the 26th “Yankee Division.”

Identified chaplain photos are incredibly hard to find on the open market, and to find an example taken overseas showing a unit patch and chaplain insignia makes this an exciting acquisition. Father LeVeer served at St. Norbert’s Church in Hardwick for the remainder of his life; this is a spot that I’ve passed hundreds of times during my life without giving a second thought to the WWI history of the area.

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Arthur’s WWI Record

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Arthur’s WWII Draft Card

Rev. Arthur LeVeer is buried in the Mount Cavalry Cemetery in Saint Albans, Franklin County, Vermont.

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LeVeer in the 1960s

The WWII Nose Art of Hal Olsen – U.S. Navy Mechanic on Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateers


 

I recently had the esteemed pleasure of acquiring two nose art photos of PB4Y-2 airplanes.  Using the power of the internet, I was able to look up the two planes, the Green Cherries, and the Lady Luck II.  With a bit of luck I tracked down the name of the original artist.  Hal Olsen painted over 100 nose art pin-up ladies on various planes in the PTO.  He charged $50 per painting and eventually used the money to enter formal art school and travel with his wife.  Having tracked him down, I wrote him a nice letter asking for his autograph and promising that I would send along some copies of my photos.  They go out in the mail tomorrow!  For now, check out the shots and the nice card he sent me.

Thanks Hal!

 

Lady Luck II

Green Cherries

 

 

 

Hal's Autograph

388th Bomb Group Artist in England 1944 – Alva Villamor Alegre


From the depths of my collection comes a series of amazing negatives taken by a member of the 388th Bomb Group stationed at Knettishall England in 1944.  I have over 300 images from this collection and will slowly be posting them over the next few months.  Keep checking back for updates.  The medium-sized negatives are in immaculate condition and came to me rather inexpensively from an eBay auction. Enjoy!

Alegre was a Phillipino born artist who passed away in the early 1950s at the early age of 40.  I one day hope to find a piece of his art!