We here at Portraits of War have spent countless hours scanning and editing the photographic work of Alva, but have neglected to post a series of photos relating to what he looked like while stationed at Kennishall nearly 70 years ago. I hope you enjoy seeing the face of the man responsible for recording the everyday activities around Knettishall.
Today’s photo post is a real head-scratcher! I purchased the image thinking it was a nice studio portrait of a 32nd Division officer, which is evident from the SSI patch of the red arrow with a line through it. When the photo arrived I noticed instantly that the officer was wearing the collar insignia of the 103rd Infantry Regiment of the 26th Division. Causal readers of this blog will know that I actively seek out 26th Division photos due to my New Englander roots.
12 January 1919
Guy Swett (Hard to read writing)
Co. H 127th U.S Inf
“Army of Occupation”
Sent to a Miss Flora Murch
South Paris, ME USA
I am assuming the fellow was originally from the South Paris area in Maine, which would point towards a Yankee Division identification. The 32nd Division was made up of guys from the Michigan area. Looking at his other insignia also may point to his unit identity. Is that a DSC ribbon on his chest? It’s hard to tell, but it possibly may help in identifying the last name and original unit.
Any help from readers would be greatly appreciated!
Special thanks to our friends over at Soldier’s Mail for this wonderful interpretation! Don’t forget to check out their website for a super collection of WWII related information.
“After the end of hostilities with the signing of the Armistice, inducements were offered to encourage veteran combat troops to extend their enlistments and remain with the Army of Occupation in Europe rather than returning directly home on the Bridge of Ships. (Sam Avery speaks of these inducements in this letter: http://worldwar1letters.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/sarrey-france-1131919/)
After the Armistice, the 26th Division was in such bad shape from combat losses that it was assigned to the rear rather than the Army of Occupation. However, a number of its members chose to extend their deployments and were reassigned to different units in other Divisions stationed in Germany.
The officer in this photo clearly originated with the 103rd Infantry as indicated by the Regimental device on his collar. However, he is also apparently a newly-minted Captain in the 32nd Division as indicated by his sporting of the double 1st Lt bars on his shoulder along with the 32nd Division shoulder patch. I believe he was originally a 1st Lt in the 103rd Infantry, and then accepted a promotion in rank to extend his service in Army of Occupation with the 32nd Division.
Based on the writing on the reverse of this photo card, the 127th was one of the four infantry regiments in the 32nd. This man’s rank as Captain also indicates he would have been appointed the Company commander.”
Thanks again to Soldier’s Mail!
As I’ve mentioned before, one of my favorite areas of collecting is the mascot photo. Almost every unit had a mascot; commonly a dog or puppy, or sometimes a woebegone French or Belgian child. In this case, a young boy poses in a well-tailored uniform as the mascot for the 31st Engineer Regiment. What a stellar find!
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,. spurring 70 years of mystery and intrigue. His death is still an unknown, although many suggest that he was in fact a German spy. The second image shows the crowd during the concert – snapped by Alegre from the front of the stage.
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!
Sometimes a true gem will turn up among the pages of boring WWI eBay listings. In this case I was able to purchase a small lot of photos and letters for less than $10, and discovered an amazing field written poem by a battalion runner in the 103rd Infantry Regiment of the 26th “Yankee Division” (my favorite division BTW). Although the photos that came with the grouping are unrelated to the 103rd, I thought I would post the poem and transcription as a memorial to all those who died in the trenches of France. Memorial Day is only a few days away and I think it is a fitting tribute to the men and women who served during the First World War.
Please visit Soldier’s Mail for other photos and interpretations of further 103rd Infantry Regiment related material.
Written at Apremont France by Battalion Runner Blanchard of Company F of the 103rd Infantry Regiment of the 26th Division
Somewhere in France
A soldier boy lay dying,
On a road “somewhere in France;”
he had tried to get through a barrage
Tho he knew he stood no chance.
A pal knelt down beside him
While the tears ran down his cheek
For this soldier was his lifelong friend
And he longed to hear him speak.
When the dying soldier opened
Up his eyes, and look around
And saw his dear old pal
Kneeling side him on the grounf
He smiled and said “They got me Jim
Yes got me with a shell.”
“My orders were to take this note
Through water, fire and hell.”
“Take this message Jim and run it thru
Do not stop for me
It means two hundred lives and more
Its for our company
Fritz made a fake attack this morn
Just it break o’ day
If you can only get it rhu
We’ll make those dam Huns pay”
“And when you get around to it
Just write a line or two,
To my mother and my sweetheart Jim
Old pay so good and true;
Tell them I tried to make it
Thru gas, barrage, and shell
That my resting place is heaven
For I when there thru a hell.”
Then the dying soldier closed his eyes
His pal with tender care,
Gently laid him down
And smoothed his bloody ruffled hair,
And with a sob of anguish
He started down the road,
In his hand he held the message
That was written out in code.
Jim got the message there in time
To quell the Germans’ bluff,
He told the story to the boys
How the blood got on his cuff,
The dying words of Bill his pal
A runner dead and gone
And the company paid their last respects
To the brave but silent form.
~Wrote at Apremont by Batt. Runner Blanchard
At the conclusion of a dream – YD Co. F 103. Inf.
Earl Denzil Reese
I recently purchased a mystery grouping of WWII photos off my favorite internet auction site and stumbled across the wonderful story of Earl Reese and his wartime experiences while with the 99th “Checkerboard” Division during WWII. The full story starts out on a sad note, but I hope to honor Earl and his life achievements by publishing his story here on PortraitsofWar.
After purchasing a grouping of 50+ images from an eBay dealer back in April, I became interested in the details pertaining to the man who took the photos. He had a knack for writing blurbs on the back of photos, something not many soldiers did at the time. The content was first rate; the unknown soldier seemed to be in a front line unit that saw a good amount of action. I contacted the seller in hopes of finding some additional information to help me piece together the identity of the unknown GI. I’ve done this in the past with varying amounts of success. Most of the time the seller knows nothing about the photos, or maybe only a first name or general geographical area the fellow was from. In this case, the seller had a small treasure trove of information about the soldier.
After attending an estate sale in Santa Barbara the friendly eBay seller was rummaging around through some paper bins outside and found the life memoirs and photos of Mr.Reese. Some family member or estate executor threw away the entire life work and memories of Earl! He generously sent me the complete memoir manuscript and photo collection as a gift. I plan on digitizing the wartime section of the memoirs, which constitute three or four chapters of the 30+ volume.