WWI German Facial Dueling Scars – Mensur Scars and WWI Portraits


Apologies for not posting any interesting original material in the past few weeks, I’ve been busy dealing with the holidays and the celebrations that inevitably pop up at this time of year. Today’s blog post will be about a topic I’ve become fascinated with over the course of the past two years. Have you ever wondered why stereotypical WWI German media characters from WWI always seem to have a large scar on their face? Ever wonder why they always seem to be on the cheek and always are attributed with men of high status such as generals and higher ranking officers?

Well, recently I was able to purchase on eBay  an inexpensive photo ($4.99) on eBay that perfectly personifies the image of a young WWI German soldier with a prominent facial scar.

scarface005

Mensur Scar (New photo to collection)

Was this scar the result of a bad shaving accident? In fact, the answer is exactly the opposite; this left cheek scar is the result of a deliberate action.

scar

Ouch!

After a solid night of internet research, I was able to cobble together an answer regarding the odd number of facial scars associated with late 19th and early 20th century German and Austrian soldiers. The Dueling Scar!

Male (upper class) students who were members of fraternities of major German and Austrian universities during this time were often engaged in academic fencing which at times would, at times, become a duel between competing fraternities. These individualized duels between students eventually became a badge of honor among fraternity members – taking a blow to the face showed courage and was a lasting reminder of the fraternal bond. Since these boys were often from a higher class, it was no surprise that many eventually became officers during WWI. This act was well know during the time and eventually became banned around the time of the outbreak of the war. The ban was lifted when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. Many of the German officers of WWII had these scars given the fact that they were in university prior to WWI.

Skip ahead to 2:50 to see the duel in action!

 

ss-hauptsturmfuhrer otto skorzeny schmiss mensur scars

Otto Skorzeny with Mensur Scar

 

 

 

WWII USMC Marine Portrait Photo – Dominick Salvetti, 12th Anti-Aircraft Battalion, 1st Marine Division


salvetti134

1942-1944, I MEF/1st Marine Division
From Month/Year
January / 1942
To Month/Year
January / 1944
Unit
1st Marine Division Unit Page
Rank
Corporal
MOS
Not Specified
Location
Not Specified
Country/State
Not Specified
 Patch
 I MEF/1st Marine Division Details
I MEF/1st Marine Division
Type
Combat – Ground Unit
Existing/Disbanded
Existing
Parent Unit
I MEF
Strength
Division
Created/Owned By
Not Specified

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

HighSchoolYearBook

Harry in 1936

Harry in 1936

harry1936

Harry passed away in 1986

138890641_1416263456

Welcome to Portraits of War!


Welcome!

After years of collecting WWI and WWII photography, I’ve finally decided to share some of my favorite images with the world.  I’ve searched through flea markets, antique stores, and eBay auctions to obtain photos depicting American soldiers in various world conflicts.

Where to start?

Lets jump into the dissection and interpretation of one of my favorite WWI images and see how history was recorded through the lens of a photographers camera.

Aesthetics

The first thing I always look for when buying a good WWI photo is the general “eye appeal” of the image.  Is the subject well lit?  Did the photographer take time to seat and position the subject?  How good is the contrast and detail?  All these things are sometimes unable to be determined when making internet based purchases, but it never hurts to ask the seller for a better scan.  Condition is also a big factor when I make a “higher end” purchase in eBay.  I consider $50+ the threshold between medium range and higher end purchases.

In terms of aesthetics, this photo has it all going on.  The contrast and detail are perfect, the condition of the image is superb, and the price was right at $26.50.  Because the purchase was an eBay auction win, I wasn’t able to ascertain the historical details until I had the photo in-hand.

Historical Detail

The first and easiest way to identify the unit designation of a WWI soldier portrait is to inspect the shoulder sleeve insignia also known as an SSI, or in layman’s terms, a shoulder patch.  In this case, we see a YD on a diamond on the subjects arm.

My favorite WWI division has to be the 26th “Yankee Division” – made up of primarily New England soldiers who took the call to the National Guard units early on in America’s involvement in WWI.  These New England National Guard units were eventually combined together to form the 26th Division and were later bolstered by fresh recruits from replacement units while stationed in France.

 

How can we tell when this fellow joined the war?  Although the date of the photo is unknown, we can ascertain that he served at least 12 months overseas.  The two chevrons on his left arm mark him as having served for two 6 month periods.  The photo was likely taken right after his return to the states, which is denoted by the dark colored chevron below his SSI (patch – remember?).

This guy was wounded twice during the war.  The double chevrons on his right arm were earned for being wounded.  He has no obvious battle scars on his face or hands, and he appears to have both his legs, so I am assuming that his wounds didn’t force his discharge.

Most 26th Division doughboys (an endearing term used for WWI American soldiers) served at least 18 months – so this veteran likely came in as a replacement to help fill the slowly depleting ranks of the division.

 

The 104th Infantry Regiment

With my super-duper high resolution scanner I was able to grab a high quality crop of the collar disc insignia this veteran is wearing.  See that round button below his left cheek?  Under high magnification the button/disc reads – 104 with a US monogram above it.  This means that the wearer is a member of the 104th Infantry Regiment – one of the regiments that made up the 26th Division. The regiment originally started in Springfield Mass in the mid 1700s to help ward off attacks from the bands of King Phillip’s Native American warriors.  This regiment fought with valor in a number of key offensives during WWI.  I wish I had a copy of the unit history to use as a reference 😦