Mystery WWII Concentration Camp Liberation – Research Help Needed!


Hey PortraitofWar followers! I recently acquired an incredible grouping of photographs taken by a US soldier during the liberation of a concentration camp/labor camp during the tail end of WWII. There’s not much to go by in terms of identifiable visuals, but there are images of German military officers marching in line to view the bodies, as well as a liberated person in front of a T28E1 US tracked anti-aircraft gun. Additional photographs show an American officer speaking to a line of US soldiers passing before a group of bodies.

 

Any thoughts or ideas? I hope to pass these on to an organization that can present and appreciate them, but I want to identify the material before doing so.

wat018

A liberated prisoner tries on shoes for the first time in years

Image409

The American T28E1

wat019

A German collaborator? Commandant?

wat020

German officers pass through the line

wat031

US officers speak

wat030wat029wat028wat027

wat026

US officers speak

wat025wat024wat023wat022

 

 

Norwich, Vermont Veteran Clinton Gardner’s D-Day Experience


The following post was originally written (not by me) and posted to the Dartmouth Library blog. I’m including the entirety of the post in hopes of spreading the good word about Mr. Gardner and his work during WWII.


On June 6, 1944, Clinton Gardner, Class of 1944, found himself digging a foxhole on Omaha Beach as part of the D-Day invasion of German occupied Europe. The landing area was already strewn with bodies and the Germans were raking the incoming allied forces with artillery and machine gun fire. Gardner, a Lieutenant in the artillery, was not about to move any further inland until the infantry made a hole in the German defenses, and that did not seem to be about to happen.

ClintGardner-helmet

Clint’s Battle Damaged M-1 Helmet w/ Hawley Liner

An incoming round suddenly exploded in front of him. His head snapped back and then a curtain of blood blinded him. In his memoir, D-Day and Beyond, Gardner recounts how he stood up and staggered toward two of his fellow officers wiping blood from his eyes. The two officers stared at him in horror. Then he reached up and felt his helmet. There was a gaping hole, large enough that he could get two hands into it. Gingerly he felt around and found that he could feel a soft, mushy surface that he assumed must be his brain. Sick and disoriented though he was, he managed to get his first aid kit out and pour sulfa powder into the hole and then stuff it full of gauze.

ClintGardner-letter_home_june-13-1944

A Letter Home

Unable to walk or speak properly, Gardner watched as his unit packed up and began to move inland, following the infantry who had suddenly begun to advance. The other officers told him that they would send medics back for him. He was soon alone on the beach with a handful of wounded and dying soldiers, all of whom would have been killed by German mortar fire had not a group of British troops happened along. The British moved the wounded Americans up the beach to a sheltered area among some rocks.

ClintGardner-newspaper-clipping-Rutland-Herald-VT-June-27-1944

Rutland Herald Article

After 23 hours wounded on the beach, a group of medics finally arrived and moved Gardner and the others to a field hospital in Vierville. There Gardner made the happy discovery that what he had felt through the gash in his helmet was not his brain, but badly lacerated scalp tissue. Though his skull was scarred, it was not broken. Getting the helmet off was another matter: it took three doctors and a fair amount of pulling and twisting as the edges had curled in and were imbedded in his scalp. Eventually Gardner was sent back to England to recover, but that was not the end of the war for him. Later he would find himself being bombed by friendly fire during Battle of the Bulge and still later he would serve as the American Commandant at Buchenwald following its liberation.

Gardner’s helmet remains, to this day, the most damaged helmet whose wearer survived his wounds.

To see Clint Gardner’s helmet or to read his letter home ask for MS-1109. A guide to the collection is available. To read his book, D-Day and Beyond, ask for Alumni G1728.

 

Rare Aerial Photo of Gliders Taken After Operation Varsity, March 1945


Taken on March 25th, 1945, this image was snapped by a low-flying P-38 or P-51 of the 363rd Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron.  I acquired a large set of these original 12×12 inch prints (complete with pencil notes on the back) on eBay a few years ago directly from the estate of a 9th Air Force photo tech who apparently saved hundreds of original flyovers like this.  He saved duplicates as well!  This is one of those duplicates.

This large format photo, taken a day after the strategic landing of two airborne divisions on the eastern bank of the Rhine River near the village of Hamminkeln and the Town of Wesel, Germany.  Know as Operation Varsity, the landing is regarded by many historians as the most successful airborne landing carried out during WWII.  Although I tend to argue such facts, the point is that the landing led to the quickening of the end of the war.

This series of photos provides an incredibly detailed view of the aftermath of the glider landings and a general layout of trenches, hedgerows and landscape features that may be obfuscated today.  These images can be found in many books and through government archives but may be of lesser quality due to multiple reproductions.  Enjoy!

 

panorama1small

Large Format Aerial Photo Showing Airborne Gliders, March 25th, 1945

panorama1apanorama1abpanorama1abc

 

WWII Amateur Photo Discovery – Concentration Camp Family Photo Captured by US Soldier


Photo Background

From time to time new information comes along to help identify photographs from my collection.  In this case, I stumbled across an image during research into the liberation of Nordhausen (Mittelbau-Dora) concentration camp.  The image in my collection (seen below) was originally misidentified as having been taken at Dachau, but I just recently learned that it was actually taken at Nordhausen (Mittelbau-Dora) and captures a moment that US Signal Corps photographs also snapped at different angles.  According to information I’ve picked up in the past few days, the young boy was named Michael Kallaur and the father is Walter; both men buried the boy’s grandmother (Walter’s mother) after finding her body in the unfortunate lineup at Nordhausen.  Elizabeth Kallaur was killed at the camp only a few days before the liberation.

According to information at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Kallaur family was sent to Nordhausen as punishment for helping Jews in the Pinsk region.  The coat seen covering Mrs. Kallaur was given to Michael by John Florea, the Signal Corps photographer. Walter and Michael would not allow German citizens to touch the body of Elizabeth, and she was the first to be buried (at a deeper level) in the first burial trench.

KZ154

A Moment of Sorrow at Nordhausen (photo purchased from eBay that launched this post)

KZ154bcd

Walter holding Elizabeth’s legs

 

KZ154b

Michael watches on (note wounded hands)

 

Extensive Research

After hours of internet research, I came across the following Signal Corps photo and instantly recognized the boy….

michaelwalter

Walter and Michael looking over Elizabeth (Walter’s mother)

nord01as

A lesser quality image

This is the info attached to the image: (Click link for source)

Figure 1.–Here a Polish boy weeps over his grandfather’s body at Nordhausen after it was liberated by the Americans. It was dated April 21, 1945. That may have been when the photographed was released rather than taken. The press caption read, “Weep for the dead: A Polish boy weeps bitterly after he and a man at left buried (the) youngster’s grandmother who had died while a political prisoner of the Nazis in concentration camp at Nordhausen. Germans in the town were ordered to dig graves and bury the 2,500 dead, unburied prisoners found there by occupying American forces. The Polish boy refused to let the Germans touch his grandmother and insisted he bury her himself. Yanks look on in quiet sympathy.” We doubt if his grandmother was a political prisoner, but like the boy a slave laborer at Dora. He probably searched for her after the camps were liberated. Notice the German civilians at the right.

LIFe

Walter and Michael by John Florea, 1945

grave

An open burial spot (note the depth of Elizabeth’s burial)

And another series of Signal Corps photos showing the burial:

A Polish boy and his father bury the body of the boy's grandmother, who died in the Nordhausen c

A Polish man, Walter Kallaur and his son, Michael, bury the boy's grandmother

Walter and Michael Kallaur

A Polish boy, Michael Kallaur, weeps while helping his father bury the body of his grandmother

life_183

florea_john_1396_2005_crop_450558_displaysize

Walter buries his mother – note the shallow nature of the other bodies vs. the above image for Elizabeth

German civilians from the town of Nordhausen bury the bodies of former prisoners

A view past Elizabeth’s burial spot

burial

Walter continues to fill the grave

American soldiers walk along an open, mass grave prepared by the German residents of the town of

Walter and Michael at a distance

The boy, Michael,  traveled to the United States after the war ended.  Using the information in the image as a jumping off point, I was able to find some immigration travel information:

Michael Kallaur Arrival

1949 Border Crossing

The information on the card all matches up.  As seen in the previous images, he had a visibly wounded left hand; the card confirms this and the fact that his place of birth was Pinsk, Poland.  At the time of his arrival in the US at Niagara Falls, he was 18, putting his birth year at 1931.  The Signal Corps photographer noted his age in 1945 at 14, which matches up with the immigration card.  A website dedicated to the Kallaur family tree referenced a Walter Kallaur arriving in the Niagara region after the war; this jives with both the Signal Corps caption and the fact that Walter is referenced in the above 1949 border crossing documents.  He arrived in Quebec in April of 1948 on board the MV Beaverbrae (listed as the SS Beaven Bren in the document, a ship that eventually transported over 30,000 European refugees to Canada between 1947 and 1954.

Sadly, it appears that Michael passed away in Decemeber of 2000, so my hopes of reuniting this photo with him has been dashed.  His SSN confirms that he lived in Pennsylvania and was issued his card in 1955, six years after his entry into the US.

death

Social Security Death Index (he lied about his DOB)

 

Living Family Identified

My internet sleuthing tends to be obsessive at times, and I’m fairly certain with the following deduction.   I will leave out the details of the research in respect for the Kallaur family; some things are best left unsaid.

From what I can deduce, Michael married Eileen Gallagher at some point in the 1960s. Eileen was born in 1944, and was only five years old when Michael came to the US in 1949.  Ancestry.com doesn’t provide marriage records for the couple, but I’m basing my marriage dates in accordance with the birth of their forthcoming children.

My hopes are that a family member will google themselves, or possibly have a Google Alert set…….. All are originally from the Philadelphia, PA area.

 

Michael Kaullaur – 1931-2000

Eileen C. Kallaur – 1944 – LIVING

John Kallaur

Robert Kallaur

Christopher Kallaur

Walter Kallaur

 

 

 

 

Image Details:  Nordhausen Outdoor Generator

The major defining landscape feature of my eBay image is the presence of an outdoor generator.  This can be seen here:

genny

Generator? Most photos were taken on the opposite side

 

generator

Generator? from the other direction

HOT ON THE TRAIL OF THE FAMILY

APRIL 27th, 2013 POST BELOW

Casual followers of this blog will know that I never post photos of death or destruction.  My main goal is to present historic photography in a way to help educate internet followers about the world of war.  In this case I will post a photo that may be hard for some viewers to see.  I have hundreds of photos of concentration camps in my collection, yet have never been moved to post any of the photos to the web.

This image called to me.  The composition, the subject, the setting.  It’s all there.  A soldier snaps a shot at Dachau of a man holding the feet of his dead wife while his injured son watches on.  A procession of 3rd Armor Division soldiers file by as this tragic event unfolds; the event captured through the lens of an unknown soldier of an unknown family.  This scene was likely replicated tens of thousands of times at the tail end of the war.

KZ154a

KZ154b

KZ154bcKZ154bcd

KZ154

My 200,000th Viewer Post! – Remembering My Grandfather, Ambrose R. Canty, 777th Tank Battalion, 69th Division


Today I quietly celebrated my 200,000th blog view from my desk at work.  I knew the number was coming, and with nearly 300 views a day I was able to predict that the 200k plateau would be reached this week.  What should I write about on this momentous day?  I thought back to all my favorite posts…….

Ambrose R. Canty ca. 1944

Ambrose R. Canty ca. 1944

 

 

With all those topics in mind I kept coming back to the one man who “brought me into the fold” of researching WWII history.  My grandfather.  Ambrose R. Canty taught me from a young age that you should respect your elders, listen to their stories, as well as how to play poker, pitch, bridge, rummy and pocketknife baseball.   He also told me stories of his experiences during the second world war.  Stories that would be gradually elaborated on as I grew older.  Having spent the majority of my youth with him, I was able to learn a lot about the 69th Infantry Regiment and specifically the 777th Tank Battalion.

Ambrose on Furlough, 1944

Ambrose on Furlough, 1944

My interest in WWII history started with my grandfather, and I feel that on my 200,000th view that I should post a rememberance post to him.  Although he passed away nearly five years ago, I still feel a connection with him.  My early interaction with him live on through this website, and I hope I’m able to help pass on the passion Amby imbued in me at a young age.

Amby (second from right) Holds a Captured German Flag in Leipzig

Amby (second from right) Holds a Captured German Flag in Leipzig

Grampy, thanks for everything.

 

Ambrose Washing in His Helmet, Germany 1945

Ambrose Washing in His Helmet, Germany 1945

777th Reproduction WWII Patch

777th Reproduction WWII Patch

WWII 388th Bomb Group – Alva Alegre Snaps Glenn Miller in Knettishall, England 1944


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, launching a 70 year search for his wreckage.  His death is still an unknown, although many suggest that he was in fact a German spy or was possibly shot down by friendly fire. Check here for some possible leads:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/2014/07/07/glenn-miller-plane-mystery-history-detectives-norseman/12268729/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/dna/place-lancashire/plain/A2654822

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4406

 

Glenn Miller Poses with 388th Bomb Group Officials in Knettishall, Sussex, England

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!

 

Glenn Miller

Another 388th Big Wig (unnamed)

 

Alva Snaps a Photo of the Glenn Miller Band Crowd

WWII 3rd Armored Division Snapshot – Tanker John F. Housman of Braceville, IL in France


WWII Snapshots are easy to come across.  They appear in bundles at flea markets and yard sales.  It’s very uncommon to be able to positively identify a US soldier in a snapshot – let alone one that has relatives actively seeking information on ancestry.com.  Please see below for a step-by-step breakdown of my research on this photo.

Step 1: Purchase of Photo

A $12 eBay Purchase

A $12 eBay Purchase

 

With the purchase made, I had to wait a week for the photo to arrive without any research potential on the photo.  All I knew was that the shot was of a tanker with sand/dust goggles standing in front of a Sherman tank in France.  An interesting shot, albeit sleightly out of focus…..

 

John Housman Jr.

John Housman Jr.

 

Step 2: Research Photo

 

Researching photos can be a daunting task without a proper research database at hand.  Luckily, I subscribe to ancestry.com as well as a number of other databases. In this case, I was able to make the proper ID with the US census record combined with the WWII draft record. What do we know from the photo?  It turns out that the photo arrived with an ID on the reverse:  Johnny Housman-Tanker  of Braceville, Illinois.  It’s a great starting place and provided the key to the unlocking of the positive ID of the photo.

John Housman Jr. WWII from Braceville, IL

John Housman Jr. WWII from Braceville, IL

 

With the info at hand I was able to make an easy identification using the tools at hand.   A quick search yielded the following info:

John F. Housman Social Security Number 358-05-2949  Born 10/11/1918 Died 9/17/1992

John F. Housman Social Security Number 358-05-2949
Born 10/11/1918
Died 9/17/1992

 

And his enlistment which appears to be off be off by a year:

 

WWI Draft Registry

WWI Draft Registry

 

I’m sure the family of John Housman Jr. will find this site and I hope they will share some info on their father/relative.  I’m more than happy to send the original to an identified member of the family.  I know you’re out there !

WWII War Orphans Pose in Germany – Barefooted German Children in Crisp B/W


Digging through backlogged collections is fun.  I always seen to unearth a photo, negative or slide that eluded my initial passover.  In this case, I found a poignant negative from 1945-1947 showing two barefoot children who survived the war somewhere near Munich.  The photographer (unknown) had quite the eye for detail as evidenced in his 400+ negatives in my collection.

 

Bare Feet on Cobble

Bare Feet on Cobble

WWII American Nurse Corps Overseas Cap Identified – Lt. Frances M. Gleason of Washington


This cap comes my way via eBay; it isn’t in the best condition, but it was inexpensive and came with the possibility of a solid research piece.  I bid knowing the item was identified with a short, atypical name with a military rank (Lt.) to reference.  Only $21.00, this US Army Nurse’s cap is a solid buy considering the amount of information I was able to tease out of a simple name written inside a cap.
2013-06-19 19.37.50
2013-06-19 19.38.00
The nurse’s name was both stamped as well as inscribed on the interior silk lined interior.  I was able to determine that it belonged to a Frances Kain in 1944-1945.  The cap is an overseas cap, so the veteran clearly served overseas.  Nurses were required to be at least 25 years – this gave me a general birth year to search for.  A quick ancestry.com search for a Frances Kain turned up a Frances Kain born in Pennsylvania in 1919.  The birthyear and the name matched perfectly.  A school directory subsearch on ancestry yielded PortraitsofWar gold with a solid hit for a Harrisburg, PA nurses training school.
Frances M. Kain

Frances M. Kain

From there I did a search for marriage records to figure out her name later in life and found that she married David H. Gleason in April of 1951.
Kain Gleason Marriage

Kain Gleason Marriage

From here I was able to confirm my hunch that she was the owner of the cap.  Her obituary and grave record show that she was a WWII veteran who served in the ETO as a Lt. in the Army Nurse Corps.

On FindaGrave.com I was also able to find a wartime photo of Frances:
XZYrbBPrfhmdAbcQTHznJCc4nugZbw_wXcjxsyrDK809x27S5fqExcXIr4VCWtvy
And a copy of her 2009 obituary:
Frances M. Gleason

Frances M. Gleason, age 90, passed away August 14, 2009 in Mount Vernon, WA.

She is survived by daughter, Beverly (Dr. Marshall) Anderson of Camano Island; and grandson Kristopher Anderson of Arlington.

She was a World War II Veteran of the Army Nurse Corp. serving in the U.S and European Theater. She worked as a nursing instructor for the Practical Nursing Program at Columbia Basin Community College in Pasco for 21 years.

At her request no public services will be held.

Arrangements are under the care of Hawthorne Funeral Home, Mount Vernon.