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

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Harry in 1936

Harry in 1936

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Harry passed away in 1986

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WWII Identified Portrait Photo – Roxbury, MA and Rockland, TX Veteran Ernest Chekoulias 295th Engineer Battalion


 

Ernest "Chick" Chekoulias

Ernest “Chick” Chekoulias

A recent eBay purchase has landed me with a fantastic group of WWII portrait photos all identified to members of Company A of the 295th Engineer Battalion, a unit that landed on the Normandy beaches only two weeks after the infamous June 6th, 1944 D-Day landings.  Here’s an excerpt from the unit history that described that fateful day:

The Big Moment did come at last; actually there were lots of big moments.  The battalion was divided up into three serials, and each serial was on two or more boats.  The first wave started from Hindon a little after midnight on 13 June.  There was battalion headquarters, parts of each line company, and the medical detachment. They all reached the marshaling area in Winchester at 0830 that morning.  Before dawn two days later, half of them were awakened a few hours later and they too reached another set of docks at that port.  They all sweated out a day and a night, sleeping on the quayside, before they got on the boats.  The first half, after burstmoving into the Channel, had to return to port because their ship’s anti-mine apparatus was not working.  The second half joined their convoy, stayed the night off the Isle of Wight, and then started off for France.  They saw the coast at about noon on 18 June.  They surveyed the coast defenses, and the wreckage, and the boats sunk near the shore.  It all looked very grim.  That night the skyline glowed with glare  of fires and bursting shells, and they were still on the boats in the Channel………”

 

 

The photo I’ve selected for this post was initially partially identified as an Ernest Chek…… of 9 Mt. Pleasant Ave, Roxbury, Massachusetts.  I eventually tracked down a unit roster for the 295th Engineers that lists a Sgt. Ernest Chekoulias, serial number 31301800 from Roxbury, MA.  It’s clearly a hit and a cross reference with his obituary confirms that this is indeed the same soldier.  Sgt. Chekoulias is listed in the unit history as having been awarded the Bronze Star for Heroic Achievement.  His obituary page confirms this.

 

Unit History Bronze Star Info

Unit History Bronze Star Info

 

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Ernest Chekoulias was born in Boston, MA on  January 21st, 1923 and passed away in Rockland, TX on December 17th, 2008 at the age of 85.   His obituary reads:

Amphib084 copy

Mr. Ernest Chekoulias 85, of Rockland, died Wednesday, December 17, 2008 in his home, after an illness of several months. He was born in Boston on January 21, 1923, the son of the late Theodore and Pauline Zerolis Chekoulias. He was raised and educated in Boston Schools, and has lived in Rockland for 55 years. He was the Founder and President of Star Litho, Inc. in Weymouth. Mr. Chekoulias served in the Army during WWII, and saw service in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and Central Europe. He was the recipient of the Bronze Star. Husband of the late Dorothy T. McEnrue Chekoulias, he is survived by 1 son, E. Scott Chekoulias of Hanover, 4 daughters, Judith Chekoulias of Rockland, Jane S. Leonard of Hubbardston, Cynthia M. Chekoulias of Pembroke and Anita L. Drapeau of Kingston, 5 grandchildren, Daniel Leonard, David Leonard, Alissa Leonard, Kathryn Drapeau and Michael Drapeau, 2 sisters, Vera Marziarz of Southington, CT and Katherine Atherton of Bernardston, and sister-in-law, Mary M. Manley of Rockland. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 9 AM in Holy Family Church, 403 Union Street, in Rockland. Interment will be in Holy Family Cemetery in Rockland. Visiting hours in the Sullivan Funeral Home, 45 East Water Street in ROCKLAND on Monday from 4-7 PM.

 

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the late Ernest “Chick” Chekoulis for his service with the 295th Engineers during WWII.  This post is for you!

 

 

The First US Fighter Ace of the European Theater of Operation: Charles P. London of Long Beach, California


Military historians constantly refer to “Aces” as being military aviators credited with shooting down five or more enemy planes during aerial combat.  Most of these historians don’t actually know the name of the first ETO fighter ace.  I was only made aware of his story while researching a recent photograph acquisition through an internet source who acquired the wartime collection of the Baltimore Sun newspaper.   All priced at US $15.00, the shots made available for resale were mostly unnamed or impossible to research.  When I saw that this shot was well identified, dated, cross referenced and well taken, I was “quick to click” and make the purchase.

 

Captain Charles P. London

Captain Charles P. London

Captain London is identified standing in front of his plane with his Crew Chief Sgt. Percy M. Scott cut off from the photo, yet identified in the caption.  The photo was acquired by the Baltimore Sun from the USAAF(sic in caption).  The photo is a typical standard size shot typical of the USAAF during the war. The shot is crisp, clear and was printed directly from the original negative in 1943.   This isn’t a shot produced in later years for a book, publication, or film.

Photo Caption

Photo Caption

 

The reverse side of the photo contains an interesting chain of custody record for the image.  The first thing likely applied to the photo is the light penciling correctly identifying the pilot as LONDON in cursive in the left top center of the reverse.  This shot was then stamped by the Baltimore Sun apparently while a correspondent in the London office compiled shots for publication.  Here it was identified, described and prepared for shipment back home.   The next application is the ETO Censor stamp from December of 1943.  All photos sent home during the war (with some exception) were censor examined before being sent back to the US.   The bar code stamp on the top right was placed on the shot by the photography dealer I purchased the shot from.  It’s incredible how much information can be extrapolated from a few stamps on the back of a piece of paper……

Reverse of Image

Reverse of Image

Compared to other high-profile US fighter aces of WWII, relatively little can be found about Captain Charles London.  He was a Captain with the 78th Fighter Group, 83rd Fighter Squadron in 1943.   We also know he is considered the first US fighter ace in the ETO.  A description of him in the Stars and Stripes (March 9th, 1944) describes him as follows:

First fighter pilot in the ETO to become an ace.  Capt. Charlie London, of Long Beach, Cal., has returned to the States to teach some of the tricks he learned in more than 100 mission, sweeps, and sorties in the ETO.  One of the first A4F fighters to score a double victory’s over here last June, he started flying P-36’s in 1941, then P-40’s, next the obsolete P-66 and finally P3Ss before he took over a Thunderbolt.  He has destroyed five enemy aircraft. 

He awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his work in June and July of 1943,

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(Citation Needed) – SYNOPSIS: Captain (Air Corps) Charles P. London (ASN: 0-421260), United States Army Air Forces, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a P-47 Fighter Airplane in the 83d Fighter Squadron, 78th Fighter Group, EIGHTH Air Force, in aerial combat against enemy forces from 22 June 1943 through 30 July 1943. On 22 June while engaged in aerial combat, Captain London shot down an enemy airplane. On 29 June Captain London shot down two enemy aircraft in a single engagement. When, on 30 July 1943, Captain London again shot down two enemy aircraft in a single engagement, bringing his total to five victories for the period, he became the first American ACE in the European Theater of Operations. Captain London’s unquestionable valor in aerial combat is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the 8th Air Force, and the United States Army Air Forces.

General Orders: Headquarters, European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, General Orders No. 82 (1943)

Action Date: June 22 & 29 & July 14 & 30, 1943

Service: Army Air Forces

Rank: Captain

Company: 83d Fighter Squadron

Regiment: 78th Fighter Group

Division: 8th Air Force

Plus, an article with his photo: http://www.cybermodeler.com/history/354fg/images/63aces.pdf

London