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.
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
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
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.
And a copy of her 2009 obituary:
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.
WWII USO “letter on record”
I have to admit that this is a first for me. 99% of my posts have been dedicated to photos mixed with the occasional letter and/or youtube video. This is the first time I’ve digitized a WWII record! The process was incredibly laborious and the results were scratchy and hard to listen to. Given the condition of the record as well as the limited audio digitization available, I think I did a decent job.
Here’s the story – I purchased a set of WWII “Letter on Record” wax and paper records produced by the USO in WWII. They were put out by the USO in affiliation with organizations such as the National Catholic Community Service. According to my research, over 350 recording booths were available during the war with a total production of 350,000 +/-. They were printed on wax and paper records using a recording booth where the sitter would talk while the machine “cut” their voice into the record. They were then sent home to be listened to by loved ones. I can’t imagine they were made to survive 70 years, but these two copies remain in decent condition. I purchased them for $1.50 each at a local flea market.
The discs were recorded by a Eugene “Gene” Daly who was stationed at an Army Air Corps base in Charleston, SC during the war. He was a member of Crew 620 of Sub Unit E. I’m not entirely sure what this group did but it may have to do with sub patrol on the East Coast. It was sent to Bunny Echenique of 122 Bedford Ave, Grant City, Staten Island, NY in February of 1945.
I played the disc on my record player at 33 speed and held my iPhone up to the speaker and recorded what played. I could hear a slowed down version of human speech so I knew that the process was working. From there I sent the audio file to my computer where I fiddled with Audacity to tweak the speed. I was able to speed up the voice by 1.6X. A voice from 70 years ago played on my speakers. From there I created a video with the actual record as the visual and posted it to youtube. Listen for yourself! I still have a few additional sides to record, but this one gives you the general feeling of Gene Daly’s “letter on a record”.
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 armored 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.
The lush greens and vibrant reds of the jungles of the Philippines are represented in typical WWII photography as dull grays, whites and blacks. In this case, a WWII U.S. Navy seabee shot 35mm Kodachrome in an attempt to document his surrounding environment for posterity. Although the non-martial content of the slides may be boring to some, it is an incredibly rare glimpse into the everyday life of the seabee during WWII.
I recently started researching my collection of 100+ images from a Marine SBD Dive Bomber unit and came across an awesome database that helped clear up a lot of questions regarding identification of some of the pilots who posed for the camera. Luckily, the men were wearing leather name tags which allowed for a partial identification. Recently I discovered the Marine Corps Muster Role section of ancestry.com. This allowed for a full identification of all the men that served with Lt. Walter Huff, the original owner of the collection. With this in hand I was able to track down the names of a few pilots who served with Walter.
Lt. Francis Allen Watrous
I always knew that the last name of the man in the slide was Watrous, but had nothing else to work from. Having discovered the muster role of the 332nd, I easily scrolled to the last section of the Lieutenants and found Mr. Francis A. Watrous listed.
Marine Muster Role – National Archives
From there I did a quick google search and found an obituary with a reference to Mr. Watrous. The obituary was for his wife, who passed away in 2010, but referred to her first husband:
“……….. was predeceased by two husbands, Francis Allen Watrous, who was a U.S. Marine dive bomber pilot in World War II and was killed in a plane crash in 1947″
After a search through 1947 newspapers I was able to come up with an article explaining the sad death of Mr. Watrous.
Francis and his brother Arthur worked for Fleetwing Air Cargo Co. as deliverymen of baby chicks. The brothers crashed on an overcast morning in July of 1947 while delivering 7,000 baby chicks from Wallingford, CT to Newmarket, VA.
And a recent addition to the post from the relative of Mr. Watrous (Thanks to Chris S.):
Francis Poses for the Camera
Fran and Lareine Pose in a Photobooth
Francis and his Dive Bomber
VMSB 332 on Midway
All in all, a pretty well rounded collection. The unnamed photographer made sure to captured shots of German equipment, a few Panther tanks, U.S. aircraft, lots of vehicles and trucks, destroyed buildings, local people and some great painted signs. Essentially this collection contains everything that makes a good wartime ETO photographic grouping.
226th Signal Corps – From what I can tell they were in charge of transmitting info from the front back to London. They operated specially fitted trailers with radio and signal equipment. I found the address of the 226th historian and will write him a letter.
D-Day Southern France
German Panther Tank
These two blurry but historically significant photos recently arrived from a friend in Pennsylvania. I instantly recognized the USSR red star on the fuselage along with the bundled up WASP standing proudly beside the plane. The fighter is a Bell P-63 Kingcobra, a variant of the P-39 Airacobra. The serial number on the tail appears to be 42-704XX. Although the last two numbers are obscured by the tilt of the rudder, a quick google search turned up a hit for one plane with the 42-704XX serial. 42-70468 was ferried from Nome, Alaska to the USSR by a female WASP pilot. I even found a hand colored shot of the same plane! Enjoy.
UPDATE: I just found the POSSIBLE name of the WASP pilot in the photo. I found an aircraft accident report for this plane on November 12th, 1944. Gayle Ewing (Now Ewing-Reed) had a small accident in Niagra, NY. Sadly, she rolled her ankle and wasn’t able to fly again during the war. I even found an interview with her talking about THIS P-63 rolling over and breaking her ankle after she parked it in NY. Maybe another WASP took over after she broke her ankle?
From the negative grouping of Edward Majchrowicz
From time to time I will cull through my backlogged collections and pull out interesting images for posting here to PortraitsofWar. My collection of 42nd Division negatives from a member of the 222nd Anti-Tank Company is comprised of nearly 600 B/W negatives and an additional 200 prints. The collection is one of the best I own, and is ripe with juicy frontline photos. I’m even friends with a veteran from the company, who can tell me the stories behind the images. Here’s a nice shot of a group of dejected German POW’s. Apparently, the line consisted of nearly 1,200 soldiers who surrendered somewhere outside Schweinfurt, Germany.
Amateur combat snapshots are nearly impossible to find. I only have a handful in my personal collection, and have only seen them for sale on rare occasions. In this photo, a veteran named Earl Reese snaps a photo while his squad is attacking through a forest on April 13th, 1945 while in the “Ruhr Pocket”. I have a collection of Reese’s photos and personal memoirs that were saved from the trash bin at an estate sale in California. Imagine images like these rotting away in a landfill?
Is that a ricochet dent on the M1 helmet?
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.
Please enjoy the colors of WWII as they were meant to be seen!