Sharpshooters and Snipers in WWI: The Story of a US Marine


The nature of the prolonged war that was WWI and the stalemate and boredom of life in the trenches left a lot of soldiers with time on their hands. Additionally, some soldiers were raised hunting deer, boar and other game in the forests of Europe and North America in the early 1900s. A rifle in the hands of these men could become a weapon that could do immense damage from one concealed trench to another. Today’s post will highlight a United States Marine who was shot through both eyes by a German sniper in October of 1918. But first, please check out this video on snipers during WWI by The Great War, a youtube channel with daily videos about events during WWI.

 

PFC. Andrew H. Knebel, 18th Company/5th Marine Regiment

PFC Andrew H. Knebel, 18th Co./5th Marines – Lost both eyes during WWI

The story behind the above photograph of PFC Andrew H. Knebel of the United States Marine Corps is one that pulls at the heartstrings of the American populace during the war. I was lucky enough to acquire the photo from a fellow collector/friend of mine who I had helped aid in the identification several years previous. A faintly scribbled name on the reverse of the image took several weeks to properly identify, but we were eventually able to track down the story of the blinded Marine in the photo. Taken in a Paris studio in 1918, PFC Knebel is posed with a French nurse who has taken the time to wheel him (note the wet wheelchair marks) into the studio from a nearby hospital.

Details of Knebel’s wartime epic were tracked down in a Detroit Free Press article from 1919:

ANDREW KNEBEL (1897-1968), of the United States Marine Corps, had been fighting the Germans for ten months before a sniper’s bullet, on October 4, 1918, entered bis left eye, passed through the right. The last, thing he saw on earth was light. The last sight he saw on earth was a clump of wet trees glistening in the morning sunshine in the Champagne sector. But it took a better marksman than the German sniper in one or those trees to pond a shaft through Andrew’s heart. Dan Cupid did that job, which has counteracted the calamity to such an extent that the twenty-two-year-old marine is ready to tell anyone that the law of compensation Is the surest thing in the world. Andrew Knebel, on July 11, married bis nurse. Miss Anna D. Kelley who took care of him at the Baltimore Institute for the Blind. “If I hadn’t been blinded I wouldn’t have met Anna” he philosophized. “And I wouldn’t give her up for the sight, of my eyes not on your life. She’s the dearest, gentlest girl in the world. I guess one reason why I always liked her was because the treated me as if I wasn’t blind at all. She never pitied me. She’s a wonderful gal.

“Are you there, mother, old dear?”

He called, peering with empty eye sockets towards the kitchen, from which came a delectable aroma of baking apple pie. “May I have a light, mother?” “Destiny is a funny old bird,” the bride remarked, while Andrew’s rosy-cheeked mother was lighting his cigarette. “I didn’t want to go to the Baltimore institute to nurse blind boys. I did everything I could to avoid going. I was nursing at the Army Hospital at Camp Wadsworth when the chief superintendent asked for volunteers to go to Baltimore. I shied away from that chief superintendent for a week. But it was no use. She sent four or us.

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“The Institute for the Blind at Baltimore is a beautiful place on a 100-acre estate which was. loaned to the government by Mrs. T. Harrison Garrett. When I’d see those boys feeling their way along the paths in that wonderful Elizabethan garden it took all the grit I had to keep from crying all the time and me an army nurse! Everything there is so beautiful that it hurt me to think they couldn’t see their own place.”

Institute for the Blind in Baltimore

“Then I got acquainted with Andy. I had often heard him singing, but hadn’t paid much attention to him. We nurses were pretty busy and we hadn’t much time for anything but work. He has a splendid voice sang second tenor with the battalion quartet, and he just couldn’t quit singing. They call him ‘the songbird of the Marines.”

“We were supposed to be cheerful to the patients, but Andy turned the tables and jollied the nurses. I’m afraid he jollied me a good deal. I got into tho habit of forgetting his handicap. Somehow I never can think of him as being blind. He finds his own collar buttons and adjusts his own neckties, and it’s almost uncanny the way he knows whether his clothes are pressed and bis shoes shiny. When he puts on his dark glasses and goes walking with me I don’t think a stranger would know he is blind. And you just ought to see him dance!”

“I’m being introduced to all sorts of new interests. For example, I never used to read the sporting page In the newspaper. Now, of course, it’s the first page I open, because Andrew is always in a hurry to learn the baseball and boxing news. I’m getting to be quite a fan myself.”

We were sitting in the dining room of the Knebel homestead at Irvington, N. J., where the young couple spent their honeymoon with tho bridegroom’s parents. Whatever life has in store for this youth who lost his eyes in the country’s service, anyone could see that there was a good deal of compensation in his convalescence, while two were engaged in a sympathetic rivalry which could do the most for him.

“Anna understands him so much better than I do,” his mother admitted. “I am so glad to have my boy back that to be doing things for him all the time. I keep reminding him that he’s blind, but his wife seems never to think of that. It’s wonderful to think that she’s going to care for him his whole life.”

Post-Identification

After identifying the photo and posting it to PortraitsofWar, I decided to do a little more digging and was eventually able to link up, via eMail, a few of the family members. I offered the photo to them, but apparently they had an exact copy (in much better condition). Out of gratitude, they sent me a few scans of other photos of Andrew as well as some honey from the apiary at the Monticello!

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Andrew Knebel in the 1930s

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Andrew in the 1950s enjoying a cigarette

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


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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

WWII in Color – 1944 SBD Dauntless Marine Dive Bombers VMSB-332 w/ WWII Marine Pilot Commentary


The color of WWII is something lost on our generation; WWII has been a war fought in black and white for everyone but actual WWII veterans who witnessed it firsthand.  One of my goals here at PortraitsofWar is to collect color slides from WWII and make them accessible to those who don’t know it exists.  Yes, color film was shot in 35mm(and sometimes larger format) and was used on a somewhat regular basis by shutterbug soldiers during WWII. My collection is roughly 500:1, black and white : color.    To find a complete collection of color slides is like hitting the WWII photography jackpot.  In this case, I was able to pick up a small selection of color slides from a Marine dive bomber.  Although I was only able to snag 7 from a grouping of nearly 200, I am still happy to pass along the images to interested parties.

From the collection of Walter Huff.

Recent Update: Captions Added – WWII Marine Corps Veteran Pilot Adds Commentary – Thanks Paul! 

Please enjoy the colors of WWII as they were meant to be seen! 

047: Standard permanent issue leather jacket with fur collar. Name plate design same as mine: Wings, name, and service (in this case USMCR).

049: I’ll bet the farm this photo was taken at Bogue Field, N.C. Dec 10 +/-, 1943. Not much snow in Eastern N.C. I was on a trip to Buffalo, NY to ferry a R5C (C-46) from the factory to Cherry Point. Got back to find the engine block in the auto had frozen and cracked.

051: Nice shot. I do believe the engine is running. Hmmmm. I wonder why? Should have been a no-no with no one in cockpit!

053: I do not remember pilots wearing side arm stateside. With the pistol (issued to all Marine officers) I’m guessing 1943-44. Later pilots were issued revolvers but priority was to unit in combat area (Pac). I had a .45 pistol until 1948 (China and Eva, Hawaii). Got my first .38 revolver in Korea 1950.

054: This ain’t NC!!! Must be CA hills. Not combat area. Check out those pristine parachutes! The gauntlets (flight gloves) were of softest lamb skin and covered lower half (more or less) of forearm.

044: Not Marine Corps shirts, but Navy. Marine officer shirts were hard to come by. I know because I wore Navy shirts, too. Pocket flap designs are different. Marines never wear field scarfs (i.e. ties) tucked into shirt. After WWII a clasp was designed.

Wartime Photo of Lee Marvin – American Actor and Grade A Badass


Lee Marvin is hands down one of the greatest action movie stars of the post-WWII generation.  Starring in such films as Attack, The Killers, The Professionals, The Dirty Dozen, Hell in the Pacific, The Professionals, The Iceman Cometh, and The Delta Force, Lee Marvin was a true action star.

The attached photograph was purchased directly from the son of a 4th Marine veteran who served with Marvin during WWII.  Lee was a combat sniper with I Company, 24th Marines, 4th Marine Division and was wounded in action on Saipan.  He received the Purple Heart for his wounds.  References say that he was one of only 9 survivors of a Japanese attack on his unit http://www.jodavidsmeyer.com/combat/military/lee_marvin.htm.  Outside of personal photographs, this is one of less than a handful (literally 3) wartime photographs of Marvin available for view on the internet.

I hope you enjoy.  This is one of my favorite WWII film actors, and now a part of my collection! 

A nice close up of Marvin – check google images for other shots of him…………..Keep in mind he was only 17 or 18 when this photo was taken.

A few formal portraits I found on the web:

Lee Marvin Formal Portrait Photo

Source: http://www.bongoludo.com/war-stories/

Lee Marvin’s War Record Mug Shot