WWII War Correspondent Ernie Pyle’s Oil Stained Pants – A Photographic Review

Amateur snapshots of WWII war correspondent Ernie Pyle are incredibly hard to find. Although a celebrity during the war, identified photos of him are hard to come across on the open market; obscurity and scarcity make these images unidentifiable to most eBay sellers.   This is mostly due to the fact that Ernie Pyle is mainly known only by WWII veterans and war buffs; his early passing in 1945 stunted his potential post-war career and relegated him to the annals of pre-boom(baby) literary figures.


I’ve been collecting amateur shots of Ernie Pyle for nearly ten years and have accrued a sizable collection of one-off snapshots of his wartime escapades.  One thing I’ve noticed during these years is that Ernie only had ONE pair of pants during the entirety of his European tour.  Grease and oil stained, these trousers appear in every photo of him during this period; I can only wonder where these pants are today…..


How did they become stained?


Ernie Drunk in Italy (From my collection)


Oil Stains on Right Knee


Drunk Ernie Showing Oil Stains on Zipper Fly (From my Collection)






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


Harry in 1936

Harry in 1936


Harry passed away in 1986


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




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!



WWII Photography in the PTO: The 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron

I’ve always noticed the vast difference in quality between the typical ETO snapshot and it’s Pacific counterpart.  The European snapshots typically are printed on better paper and of much higher quality.  In this case, I was able able to purchase a pair of Pacific theater photos taken by an artist with the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron.  The first photograph shows a US Jeep painted up with a cartoonesque rendition of the squadron name complete with shadow effects and 8 ball logo.   The same artist also designed the unit insignia seen below.

Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975

Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975

8th Photo Recon Squadron Jeep

8th Photo Recon Squadron Jeep

And I was also fortunate to win an Easter card designed by the same artist.  The card is folded in four sections and was made from a single cut sheet of photo paper printed with a special design created specifically for the 1945 Easter season.  A unique piece!  I wasn’t able to win anything else from the auction – many of the sales were in the triple digits and well out of my comfort zone for an obscure topic.

1945 Easter Card

1945 Easter Card

I hope to pick up a copy of a fantastic tome put out a few years back to help my future research in the unit.  http://www.adastron.com/lockheed/lightning/8prs.htm


For those interested in some great footage of the 8th Photo Recon Squadron, please check out the links below:





WWII Identified Photo – Lt. Peter Figler of the 45th Division in Northern France, 1944

Lt. Peter Figler

Lt. Peter Figler

eBay listings can be a treasure chest of great genealogical and WWII material.  My favorite photos are ones that can be linked to a direct individual in a combat unit serving overseas in WWII.  In this case, I was able to purchase a signal corps shot taken by the well-known combat photographer Irving Katz.  His last name is mentioned on the reverse side of the image.  Luckily, I’m familiar with Katz’s work from my familiarity with the Smithsonian article about the famous discovery of the Rothschild furniture in a German warehouse.  More on that in a later post.  Also, I’m friendly with a 196th Signal Corps photographer who lives locally. The 163rd and 196th served together in similar capacities in Italy and Southern France.

(August 25th, 2017 UPDATE)

I was just informed that this photo was taken by a different Katz that served in the same unit. Irving didn’t make it to the continent until January, 1945. Thanks to Barry S. for clearing this up!


45th Division Insignia

45th Division Insignia

Back to the identification portion of the blog post.  Lt. Peter Figler posed for his snapshot while holding a French fire helmet next to a fire engine in the Northeastern French town of Brouvelieures.  Figler was a Lieutenant with B Battery of the 160th Field Artillery of the 45th Division when they participated in the Vosges Mountain Campaign.  The photo is dated October 23rd, 1944 which places it in the early portion of the campaign.

The reverse caption identifies Lt. Figler as being from the Pennsylvania town of Larksville.  With a name and town I was able to easily identify him and track down some basic info on him from ancestry.com.  He was born on September 28th, 1919 and enlisted on June 16th, 1941, well before Pearl Harbor. That would likely account for his status as a Lieutenant in 1944.  Sadly, he passed away in 2006.  I’ve attached his obituary at the bottom of the post in hopes of connecting with his family.  I love to reconnect family members with images of their relatives and provide unwatermarked photos for them.

1940 Census Record

1940 Census Record

French Brass Fire Helmet

French Brass Fire Helmet


2006 Obituary

PETER FIGLER Peter Figler, 86, of Colonial Park, Harrisburg, formerly of Larksville, passed away Monday, June 26, 2006 at Community General Osteopathic Hospital in Harrisburg. He was preceded in death by his wife of 55 years, Eleanor (Sheridan) Figler, Jan. 11, 2002. Born Sept. 28, 1919, he was a son of the late Peter and Eva (Yasenchak) Figler. He graduated from Larksville High School. A veteran of the U.S. Army, he served his country in World War II. The Army took him to numerous countries including Germany, Italy, France, Africa and Austria. He received the Bronze Star Medal for Heroic Achievement in Action, in France, in September, 1944. He worked for the United States Postal Service, retiring after more than 30 years. His family says he will be remembered for his strong family values. Mr. Figler was an active, founding member of St. Anns Byzantine Catholic Church in Colonial Park, Harrisburg and the former president of the Holy Name Society. During the early part of his retirement, he enjoyed traveling with his wife to Florida, Canada and Cape May, NJ. He was a former member of the ABC North Senior Bowling League. Surviving are his two daughters, Margaret Wolfe and her husband, Robert, of Lansdale and Elaine Witmer and her husband, Jonathan, of Harrisburg; four grandchildren, Pamela, Michael and his wife, Kim, Robert and his wife, Janelle, and Karen and her husband, Pietro; six great-grandchildren, Devon, Camron, Brandon, Elizabeth, Adriana and Arden; a sister, Helen Zalora of Wilkes-Barre; a brother, Paul Figler of Shavertown; and numerous nephews and nieces. Friends will be received from 6 to 8 PM, Sunday, July 2 at Neill Funeral Home, 3501 Derry St., Harrisburg. Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at 11:30 AM, Monday, July 3 at St. Anns Byzantine Catholic Church, 5408 Locust Lane, Harrisburg, PA 17109, officiated by Father Michael Shear. Burial with military honors will be at Resurrection Cemetery, Harrisburg. Memorials in Peters memory may be made to St. Anns Byzantine Catholic Church, at the above address.

WWII Original June 6th, 1944 D-Day Snapshot off Omaha Beach – 62nd Armored Field Artillery


The 62nd Armored Field Artillery landed on Omaha Beach on June 6th, 1944 and earned a Presidential Unit Citation for it’s actions that day.  A recent eBay purchase provides us with a view the 62nd saw that day before the delayed landing at 1830.  This photo is a rare glimpse of the activity off the shore of Omaha Beach on that fateful day.  Note the puffs of smoke and landing craft zipping across the waves.  Although not unheard of, June 6th landing photos are a holy grail amongst collectors.  Enjoy!




11th Armored Division Soldiers Capture German Weapons and Uniforms – Panzerfausts, Rifles, Helmets++

One of my favorite wwii photo collecting topics has to be the captured German material photo.  US soldiers routinely posed with “liberated” German goodies to show friends and family back home.  More often than not, they sent these items home.  In this incredible photo, members of the 11th Armored Division pose with a plethora of German material. Two types of panzerfaust, grenades, a rare grenade launcher, helmets, hats, mausers, machine gun belts, pistols, and even an MP44 in the bottom right hand corner.  Phew!

Captured Bayonet and Helmet

Grenade Launcher


Broken Mauser

Potato Masher Grenade and Panzerfaust

WWII 9th Air Force Portrait Photo – Ervin G. Collins of Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Another great WWII interior studio portrait arrived in the mail yesterday. The subject of the photo is Ervin G. Collins of (wartime)  391 Liverpool Ave, Pawtucket, RI.  The photo was taken in France and shows Ervin posed with a studio prop – a French Louis XVI Style gilt rectangular center table. The photo was taken in St. Dizier by a photographer named Andre Dirler.  St. Dizier is roughly 120 miles east of paris; the 511th was stationed at Clastres (A-71) during the tail end of 1944.  He was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 112 pounds when he enlisted on July 3rd, 1942.  Before the war he was able to graduate high school and worked as a salesperson.


Mr. Collins was born on March 5th, 1921 and passed away on November 2nd, 2001.  He is buried in Notre Dame Cemetery in Pawtucket, RI.