WWI Photo – Intense Research Yields an Identified US Pilot in Italy – One of “Fiorello’s Fogianni”

Generally my WWI photo identifications come with a name, unit, and typically a home state or region.  In this case, the only direct ID information to come with the photo was a first name – Harry- and the name of his brother.  The rest of the information was hidden in the nuanced details of the photo postcard.  See below for the main photo included in the eBay listing.

"Harry" in Italy

“Harry” in Italy

The eBay listing also made reference to the fact that the studio stamp was an Italian photographer. With this in mind, I bid to win.

After successfully winning the photo I began the laborious process of identifying the photo.  Here’s the info I was basing my research on:

1.  The photo depicted a US pilot who had served at least 6 months overseas at the time the photo was taken.

2.  The pilot was named Harry and had a brother named Robert.

3.  The pilot had a distinctive signature and handwriting style with large crossed H’s and a penchant for flourishes.

4.  The pilot was in Italy at some point during the war.

I first started my research with a general reference search to find out how many US pilots were in Italy during the war.  Lots of websites popped up and generally pointed towards the Fiorello’s Fogiannia, a group of US pilots who trained in Italy on Italian bombers.  We’ve all been stuck in LaGuardia airport at some point in our lives, so I instantly recognized the reference to Fiorello LaGuardia.  I had no idea he was in WWI!  Further research made it clear that only 500 or so US pilots were in Italy during the war.

Italian Photo Studio Stamp

Italian Photo Studio Stamp

I started by tracking down a copy of the roster of the pilots who trained with the “Fogianni” during the war.  A good friend, Chuck, was extremely gracious enough to take photos of all the pages and send them to me.  I finally had the whole roster to reference.  With this in hand, I identified all the Harold’s and Harry’s in the roster.  This helped narrow it down to less than 30 candidates!  From there I looked at the 1900 and 1910 roster for each of the men in hopes of finding a brother named Robert.  A small handful of candidates trickled through.

Perfect Match!

Perfect Match!

Harry's Signature

Harry’s Signature


My first cross reference for the Harry’s with brothers named Robert brought me to Harry S. Manchester from Canfield, Ohio.  The signature on his WWI draft card almost knocked me over!  A perfect match.  Note the intense cross on the H and the overly dramatic crosses on his T’s.  With further research I was able to find a TON of information on Harry.  He was indeed a pilot in Italy during the war and also served in France as  a test pilot, testing new US planes as they were unloaded in France.  His brother was Robert Manchester Jr.  I was able to find Robert’s son (Robert Manchester III)  and grandson (Robert Manchester IV) online, both prominent lawyers in the midwest.

Harry's War Record

Harry’s War Record

Ohio Newspaper Reference

Ohio Newspaper Reference

Harry Wearing Italian Wings

Harry Wearing Italian Wings

Harry Home from College 1916

Harry Home from Wooster College 1916

Harry in Italy

Harry in Italy

Harry as Test Pilot

Harry as Test Pilot

Harry's WWI Flight Helmet

Harry’s WWI Flight Helmet

Also, the National WWI Museum apparently received a donation of a series of photos from the Manchester Estate.  Check out these additional portrait shots of Harry from the collection! (Used without permission but with watermark)



WWI 37th Division Chaplain Portrait – William P. O’Connor, American Legion National Catholic Chaplain

Identified chaplain photos have become incredibly popular in the past few years given the ramp-up effort to prepare for the 100 year anniversary of WWI.  I’ve made an effort to scoop up as many interesting chaplain photos as possible to share here on PortraitsofWar to help spread the word about the U.S. involvement in the war.  A recent eBay duel landed me with a top-notch portrait of a 37th Division (primarily Ohio based division) chaplain posed with his WWI Victory Medal and uniform.  The inscription on the bottom ends with a crude signature.  I was able to do my typical google,  ancestry.com, Library of Congress and Fold3 search to come up with a 100% positive identification.

Lt. William O'Connor

Lt. William O’Connor

William Patrick O’ Connor was born in Dayton, Ohio on October 7th, 1889 to John and Elizabeth (Kenney) O’Connor.  He attended the University of Dayton for his B.A. and followed up with seminary school at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati.  He was ordained in 1913 and served as Curate at Urbana, Ohio, 1913-117; later paston, Church of the Assumption in Cincinnati(Source).    William O’Connor has the distinction of being the first Ohio priest to enter the army following the declaration of war in 1917.Father  O’Connor served as chaplain with Battery F, 136th Field Artillery as part of the 37th “Buckeye” Division during WWI.  At the time of the portrait, he was the chaplain of the 107th Cavalry of the Ohio National Guard.    I was lucky enough to track down a 1918 article with a direct quotation from Rev. O’Connor:

“…………… I take this occasion to thank the Knights of Columbus of Cincinnati for their exceeding kindness and consideration to the Chaplain, and to thank all the people of Ohio for their kindness to the soldier boys. 

With best wishes, in J.M.J. I am, sincerely yours,

William P. O’Connor,

First Lt. 136th Field Artillery Chaplain”


Father O’Connor was elected National Chaplain of the American Legion after the third ballot and was in a tight heat with Rev. Ezra Clemmons of Iowa and Rev. Roy Tucker of Baton Rouge, LA.  For more info check out the following site: http://arc.stparchive.com/Archive/ARC/ARC11041922p05.php

Newspaper Clipping of Father O'Connor, 1922

Newspaper Clipping of Father O’Connor, 1922


58 Ringgold St, Dayton Ohio

58 Ringgold St, Dayton Ohio

And where he lived in Dayton, Ohio