The Mystery of the German POW of WWI: A Photographic Study


It’s been a long month for us here at PortraitsofWar, and we apologize for a lack of posting since the last photo on April 3rd.  In today’s post we will be looking at a different side of the war than normally highlighted on this blog.  Normally focused on American portraits, photos, and slides, we will be dissecting the story behind a German prisoner of war being held in Marseilles, France in 1918.

Unteroffizier Grießbach as a POW in France

Unteroffizier Grießbach as a POW in France

Before delving into the biographical information hand inscribed on the reverse side of the image, we will inspect and identify the visual imagery captured on the obverse.  The first thing of note is the format of the image.  The photo was printed as a real photo postcard (RPPC) and was likely obtained in a pack of 6 or 12.  It’s not uncommon to see identical copies of WWI RPPC’s pop up on the market from time to time.  The consistent size, quality and subject matter of these images make them a highly collectable form of WWI militaria.

The three major identifying features present on the front of the RPPC will need some research using easily-accessible internet resources.

  • Buttons
  • Collar Insignia
  • Cap/Headgear

Buttons

Upon quick glance it’s clear to see that the buttons running down the center are a rimmed (see the raised edge along the outside of the button) with a crown in the center.   This type of button is widely known as the standard button of a WWI German soldier and were made to be removable to allow for the cleaning of the uniform. This was a common standard of many nations during WWI.

Rimmed Crown Button

Rimmed Crown Button

Collar Insignia

The next identifiable feature of the tunic is the visible decoration of the collar. Here at PortraitsofWar, we’re use to identifying WWI doughboy collar insignia, but had to rely upon outside sources to help with this particular post.  The first thing to call attention to the neck region is the disc on the left side of the sitter’s uniform.

Collar Details

Collar Details

The disc on the left hand side of the photo is known as an Non Commissioned Officer collar disc (sometimes as disk) and can infrequently be seen in period studio photographs.  A lengthy internet-based search only turned up a small handful of images, the best of which can be seen below.

NCO Discs

NCO Discs

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NCO Discs

Headgear/Cap

The third and final identifying feature of the obverse side of the photo is the headgear worn by the sitter.  It appear to be an easily bendable version of the Prussian feldmutz field cap.  This style of cap was popular with NCO’s and were easily folded or packed for transport.  WWII versions were popularly known as “crushers.”

Prussian Feldmutze

Prussian Feldmutze

Cap Cockades (Kokarden)

The circular insignia seen on the cap above are known as cockades, or kokarden in German.  Sadly, the photo we’re working with is in black and white, but typically each cockade color helps identify the unit type, region and era of creation.

Visual Observations

So what do we know just by viewing the front of the image?  We certainly know the soldier is an NCO in the German Army during WWI.  He’s sporting all the fittings associated with a non commissioned officer of the period, but doesn’t have all the extra tidbits normally associated with a WWI period phograph. Where are his ribbons, medals and weaponry?

Hand Written Reverse Side

In the world of identifying WWI photos, the really important research material is always included on the backside (reverse) of the image.  In this case, the German soldier oddly wrote in French to an unmarried friend or relative of his who was living in Dresden during the time. It’s very likely that he was writing to a girlfriend or close female friend, as the wording is very proper.  Please see below for a low resolution scan of the backside.

Photo Backside

Photo Backside

What does the backside tell us? 

Firstly, it’s clearly a real photo postcard created to be sent to recipients.  The CARTE POSTALE header is a clear indicator of it’s origin: France.  The sender of the postcard notes Marseille as his current location, and Dresden, Germany is the destination.  How do we interpret a real photo postcard without knowing anything else about the people included?  Isn’t it strange that the postcard doesn’t include a message?  This infers a close connection between the writer and recipient.  Perhaps she already knows about his wartime status.

Writer Section

This section is typically reserved for messages but, in this case, relays the status of the photographed soldier’s military situation.   His handwriting is careful and is strangely written in French without the normal stylistic handwriting nuances of Germanic writing of the period, it becomes easy to make out the passage.

“Uzfdir. Griessbach

pris. de guerre

6283, depit de Marseille,

detacbhment coulou

(Ceceille) france”

The surname of the sitter is uncertain at this point.  Is is Greissbach, Greissback, Greissbarf or possibly Greiss back?  The prefix Uxfdir. is short for Unteroffizier and can be easily related to a rank between corporal and sergeant most worldwide military rankings. It’s odd that an Unteroffizier would wear an NCO collar disc, but that is an issue best left to the armchair historians who browse this blog.

Who was it sent to?

“Frau Gerfrun Griecfsbahn

Dresden-U

Weinbergstraße 1/73 I”

Was this woman living in Dresden at the time?  Does Weinbergstraße 1/73 I correspond with an apartment number in the city?

If so, this is the location of the house the postcard was meant to be delivered to:

Weinbergstraße 73, Dresden

Weinbergstraße 73, Dresden

And is this the house that the card was meant to be sent?  I recognize the Audi in the carport! I used to have the same model.

Weinbergstraße 73

Weinbergstraße 73

I need the help of German speaking friends to help decipher the last names of the sitter and the recipient. Hopefully we can narrow down the search using the power of the internet.  If you have a clue that may help, please don’t hesitate to comment on this post!

Women of the YMCA in WWI: Kittie Kunz’s Service in YMCA Hut 16


 

Material related to wartime (and postwar) activities of the YMCA can be easily researched through the help of internet databases, digitized books, collectors forums and various other digital avenues.  What is lacking, however, is information directly related to the individuals who volunteered their time and money to travel to a foreign county to serve donuts to war-weary doughboys waiting to return to their families in the US.

I was lucky enough to track down a large grouping of ephemera collected during the war by a YMCA canteen entertainer, a Miss Kittie Kunz.  Included in the grouping is a selection of rare YMCA “unit history” paperwork which gives names and identities to many of the women and men who served alongside Kittie.  I researched each of the names in hopes of tracking down passport application portraits.  I was overwhelmingly successful and found nearly 75% of the names in the US Passport database that matched perfectly.  Each was listed as being a member of the YMCA or Red Cross, and each matches the date range for the YMCA hut. A neat find!  Please read on to see the faces of the women who served alongside Kittie.  You will also find a smattering of hard-to-find ephemera related to the YMCA.  It’s amazing that Kittie saved some of these items.  Not all the paperwork is contained in this post, but the scanned material gives a quick glimpse into the typical material a YMCA canteen worker would deal with.

Kittie Kunz's YMCA ID

Kittie Kunz’s YMCA ID

 

Kittie's YMCA Paris Travel Permit

Kittie’s YMCA Paris Travel Permit

WWITruck077

Kittie’s YMCA Paris Travel Permit Reverse

Kittie's Permit to Travel to Reims

Kittie’s Permit to Travel to Reims

YMCA War Service Pin Card

YMCA War Service Pin Card

YMCA War Service Pin Card Interior

YMCA War Service Pin Card Interior

Tea Service Notice for the 28th Division

Tea Service Notice for the 28th Division

 

Here is where my favorite piece of researching WWI material came handy….. I was able to research the names of the women listed in the distribution section and track down their WWI era passport applications.  Here are my results:

YMCA Women

Miss Gertrude Garden - YMCA

Miss Gertrude Garden – YMCA

 

Miss Dorothy Berry - YMCA

Miss Dorothy Berry – YMCA

Harriet McKenzie - YMCA

Harriet McKenzie – YMCA

Margaret Robinson - YMCA

Margaret Robinson – YMCA

Katherine Parks - YMCA

Katherine Parks – YMCA

 

Janet Kunz - YMCA (sister to Kittie Kunz)

Janet Kunz – YMCA (sister to Kittie Kunz)

Kittie Kunz - YMCA

Kittie Kunz – YMCA

Pauline Brown - YMCA

Pauline Brown – YMCA

 

Mary Waden - YMCA

Mary Waden – YMCA

Dora Lewis - YMCA

Dora Lewis – YMCA

Katherine Beakes - YMCA

Katherine Beakes – YMCA

Cora A. Kennedy - YMCA

Cora A. Kennedy – YMCA

 

RED CROSS WOMEN

Lois Loyhed - Red Cross

Lois Loyhed – Red Cross

Harriet Maxon - Red Cross

Harriet Maxon – Red Cross

Dorothy Peters - Red Cross

Dorothy Peters – Red Cross

Alice McCoy - Red Cross

Alice McCoy – Red Cross

Esther Edmondson - Red Cross

Esther Edmondson – Red Cross

Mary Jones - Red Cross

Mary Jones – Red Cross

Eleanor Little - Red Cross

Eleanor Little – Red Cross

Mary Healy - Red Cross

Mary Healy – Red Cross

A Mormon Missionary in WWI: Battling Influenza in American Samoa


Byron Miller in World War One

Byron Miller in World War One

When searching for new portraiture to add to PortraitsofWar I generally tend to look for material with identifiable soldiers, uniforms, medals and other researchable information to help shed light on life during wartime.   In this post, I will be researching a photograph of a US Navy sailor who caught my eye during a recent eBay search.

Reverse Side of Postcard

Reverse Side of Postcard

The information written on the back of the postcard shows an identification of the sitter as a B.G. Miller.  He is identified as being a Pharmacist’s Mate 1st Class from Salt Lake City, Utah who was on duty at one point at a hospital in Samoa on August 1st, 1918.  Additional info added to the photo includes an anecdote about his position as a Mormon missionary in Germany during the breakout of the war between Germany and France.

With a little luck and a lot of research I was able to track down our mysterious B.G. Miller.  Byron Gardener Miller was found listed in the Utah World War 1 Military Service Questionnaire on ancestry.com.  Please see his card below:

Byron G. Miller in WWI

Byron G. Miller in WWI

It looks like Byron attended the University of Utah for a year before being shipped off for his overseas missionary work. This is likely the reason for his service as a Pharmacist’s Mate with the US NAVY as can be seen in the details of his uniform.

Navy Pharmacist's Rate Patch

Navy Pharmacist’s Mate Rate Patch

The reference to his missionary service in Germany during the outbreak of war in July of 1914 is partially confirmed through my discovery of his listing aboard a ship ledger arriving in Montreal, PQ in September of 1914.

1914

His service in Samoa has also been confirmed through the same series of records.

sssonomoa

Sadly, his arrival back in the US in 1919 wasn’t likely a time of joy for the Miller family; a Utah death certificate shows that he died of influenza only a few months later on February 7th, 1920.  Interestingly enough, my research into the US Hospital in Samoa shows that a MASSIVE flu outbreak in the Samoan Islands lead to the deaths of nearly 25% of the population.  The US Navy set up an epidemic commission to deal with the issue.  The results of the intervention in American Samoa were incredible.  Apparently the method of using maritime quarantine lowered mortality rates to nearly 1%.  It’s strange that Byron would die of influenza only a few months later while in the United States……

For the 1919 report please CLICK HERE

1920 Death Certificate

1920 Death Certificate

One of the main goals of this website is to help share photos and pertinent military service information with the families of the men and women depicted in the images I collect. In this case, I’m hoping a Miller family representative will discover a rare image of their ancestor who witnessed a formative time in history.

WWI Burlington, VT Portrait Photo – William W. Putnam 310th Cav. Fort Ethan Allen


William W. Putnam of Thomaston, Maine came to Vermont as part of the Machine Gun Troop of the 310th Cav in 1918.  He posed for a photo in a Burlington, VT photo studio while training at Fort Ethan Allen.  He had his photo taken in Burlington after his promotion to sgt (1/1918) at the studio of H. Raymond Paige of 22 Church Street.

 

Maine service record:
Name: William W. Putnam
Serial Number: 371805
Birth Place: Brewer, Maine
Birth Date: 03 Sep 1897
Residence: Thomaston
Comment: Enl: Ft. Slocum, N. Y., May 10/18. Pvt; Sgt Aug. 1/18. Org: MG Tr 310 Cav to disch. Overseas service: None. Hon disch on demob: Dec. 20, 1918.

 

William Putnam441

 

 

William Putnam442

Henry  Raymond Paige Studio Logo, Burlington, VT

 

January 1918 Article About the Return of Raymond Paige

January 1918 Article About the Return of Raymond Paige

 

Raymond Paige in 1920

Raymond Paige in 1920

 

Veterans Days 1921 – Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Original Ceremony Service Attendant


As of September 1920, the US Quartermaster Graves Registration Service had successfully identified over 90% of the bodies of US servicemen who died overseas during WWI.  The nation was still in mourning from the losses of the war, and the government looked to other countries for a suitable ceremony to honor those whose bodies were never identified.  In the fall of 1920, the caskets of four unidentified U.S. soldiers were chosen for reburial in Washington D.C.  One pallbearer, SGT Edward Younger, chose one body to be the Unknown Soldier of WWI.

The remains were transported aboard the USS Olympia, the flagship of Vermont’s Own Admiral Dewey, and arrived home on November 9th, 1921.  The body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda for two days, where over 90,000 people quietly filtered through.  This Unknown Soldier was buried with full services on November 11th, 1921.

As I pawed through my large collection of WWI and WWII photography looking for a suitable candidate for a Veteran’s Day post, I came across one photo that stood out as a perfect blogpost.

This veteran is wearing an Indian Wars medal on his chest, and looks distinguished in his black cap and jacket.  This photo was taken only moments after he was a member of the first Tomb of the Unknown Soldier ceremony on November 11th, 1921.  He inscribed a quick note to a loved one on the reverse.  I can’t find a list of the members of that first delegation anywhere, but I’m sure he is one of the visible veterans standing around the casket in this photo:

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Although his identity is a mystery to me, maybe his name will come to the surface after this post hits the web.  What a fitting photo post for Veterans Day!

Special thanks to David R. Berry for the following message:

May I submit to you that the identity of the distinguished gentleman is Mr. Isaac B. Millner. US Navy, Civil War veteran –a seaman aboard the USS HARTFORD, flagship of Adm Farragut at the Battle of Mobile Bay 5 Aug 1864. Millner had a life-long interest in Adm Farragut, attending several commemorations of Farraguts life and career.

He was affiliated with the Dept. of Anthropology at the National Museum; holder of several patents; a specialist in Native American and Micronisian Indian cultures; a modeler for the Smithsonian working in the medium of paper’ machete and a member of the US Geological Survey. Author of the book: The Last Cruise (1917)

You will find many notations for him in Google under his full name as well as his initials I B Millner. He is mistakenly noted in the 1920 Census as Isaac B Mi-(one L) ner. What his relationship with Mrs. Clara A Wright Of Wincasset, Maine, might be is unclear, but one might note that the description and the address texts on the back of the portrait were written in two distinctly different hands. It could be that Mrs. Wright was a friend of his wife Mrs. Mary Millner.

A 1929 photo of IB Millner appears here:

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3c31287/

WWI Doughboy Letter – Barre, VT Boy Compares Streets of France to the Granite Streets of Barre


A letter was delivered to Mr. Elmer Clark of 76 Maple Avenue, Barre, VT. in February of 1918.  I’ve included a snapshot of 76 Maple in the photo below:

76maple

76 Maple Avenue, Barre, VT

The letter provides the Vermont World War One historian with a wonderful snapshot of life in France in the early days of American involvement.  Sgt. Edward Clark was a truck driver who delivered supplies to front line troops but had the security of rear echelon  protection to write his letters.  Please enjoy this transcription and try to put yourself in Ed’s shoes:

Edward Clark  Letter Cover

Edward Clark Letter Cover

(Page One)

Dear Sis,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am well and feeling fine.  We are stationed about 100 miles from the front and have to go up there every other day with supplies.  To get back to when we first landed in France we received out trucks at a certain place and then drove them over land to General Headquarters.  On reaching that place we were attached to that troop and have been with them ever since. The trip overland was about 400 miles so we had a good chance to see that part of the country.  [Sgt. Clark appears to have refreshed his ink supply] From what I heard about France before I came over I thought that I would see greater things than we have in the States.  But now if you should ask me I would say that France was 600 years behind the U.S.A.  All there is to see is stone (Page Two)buildings two and tree stories high and the streets of Barre would make these streets look like a dump. When they talk about sunny France they will have to talk about it to someone else besides me.

Barre011a

I have received six or seven letters from Gin but none from you.  What is the trouble, have you forgot that I am living?  What is Elmer doing?  From what I hear it must be a hard winter on him. We are in luck for one thing and that is we can go around part of the day in our shirt sleeves but in the morning and night we need our coats on.  Not that it is so cold but it is damp and it goes right through you.

(Page Three) Is Royal staying with you yet? Gee it must seem good to him to get off the farm.  How is Steve and all the rest of the folks?  Well sis from the way things look over here we will be here for some time to come.  Gee if I could only get back in the gold old U.S.A. They would never get me to come over here again.  Well it is time for lights out so I will have to bring this to a close.  Love to all.  Write soon and often.

Brother,

Ed

Sgt. Edward Clark

Motor Truck Co. 304

General Headquarters

A.E.F

Want to read the letter in the original script?

Page 3 of Letter

Page 3 of Letter

Page 2 of Letter

Page 2 of Letter

Page 1 of Letter

Page 1 of Letter

WWI Cows and War – Brattleboro, Vermont Holstein-Friesian Dairy Farmers Rally for War Bond Support ca.1918


 

 

Brattleboro Holstein Breeders ca. 1918

Brattleboro Holstein Breeders ca. 1918

 

Cows and WWI?

 

War Loan bond rallies came in all forms in WWI and this is a very, very Vermont specific version.  The Holstein-Friesian (note spelling difference) is an active group from Brattleboro, VT interested in the breeding, milking and raising of Holstein cattle in the United States.  Originally imported from the Netherlands in the second half of the 19th century, the Holstein breed is one of the most popular milking breeds today.  Especially in Vermont, the breed is popularly depicted as the the “classic cow” being prominently white with black spots.  One of the most famous expressions of Vermont’s love of the Holstein can be seen on the ice cream container of the famous Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, a classic Vermont-based company that started in Burlington, VT.  Vermont artist Woody Jackson designed the internationally recognizable logo that can be scooped in over 30 countries worldwide.

Woody Jackson Design (Used without Consent)

Woody Jackson Design (Used without Consent)

Anyway, back to the photo!  The shot captures the Holstein-Fresian (spelled differently in 1918?) rallying for war bond support on the Brattleboro, VT common green in 1917 or 1918. I’ve tracked down a web photo of the gazebo today but plan to snap a shot later this summer.  Please see below and refer to this site for the source.

 

Brattleboro Gazebo ca.1918

Brattleboro Gazebo ca.1918

Brattleboro Gazebo Today

Brattleboro Gazebo Today

 

Details regarding this event are hard to track down, but I’m hot on the trail.  Please check back for further details.  I’m including some close up crops of the initial image to show some of the details.  Note the posters, Uncle Sam riding a donkey, US Navy donation bucket, Civil War veteran, plus much more great period detail.

Victory First Then Peace

Victory First Then Peace

 

Save Wheat Buy Bonds

Save Wheat Buy Bonds

Bond Posters

Bond Posters

Brattleboro Civil War Veteran

Brattleboro Civil War Veteran

Holstein-Friesian Banner

Holstein-Friesian Banner

WWI Photo – Female YMCA Worker in Germany w/ Good Uniform Details and Rare Beret Cap


YMCA Ladies were sent overseas to help bring a glimmer of American home life into the trenches in France and Germany.  YMCA workers were attached to specific divisions and were tasked with putting on events, providing comforts of home, and entertaining the US soldiers with music and reading material.  Interestingly enough, female YMCA workers were only selected from a pool of women ranging in age from 25-45 with a few older exceptions.  No women whose parents were born in an enemy country could serve and women who were British or Canadian could not be sent to France.  The YMCA was often criticized for price gouging US soldiers when charging fees for cigarettes, shaving material and everyday odds and ends.

baretcrop

Through a collecting friend and author I was able to obtain a nice side profile shot of a YMCA woman associated with the 9th Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Division.  The uniforms for the female YMCA workers was designed by Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and was a gray-green in color with a French horizon-blue collar.  The pair of US triangles on the upper collar lapel were embroidered in silk and sported red-edged details.  This particular woman is wearing an incredibly rare beret stye hat with a felt YMCA patch attached.

 

WWI YMCA Worker

WWI YMCA Worker

Winooski, VT WWI Veteran Photo Identification – eBay Photo Yields Vermont History Golden Research!


 

 

This story starts with a 23 year old Earl F. Lavalle scribbling his name on the back of a photo to pass along to a friend during WWI and ends with a full identification of Mr. Lavallee’s life experience.  The main goal of PortraitsofWar is to research and seek out every possible lead to identify an early 20th century photograph; recent digitization efforts have enhanced our ability to complete genealogical research from the confines of a remote desktop.

Earl in 1918

Earl in 1918

Our first accounts of Earl show him being born on November 29th 1894 to Fred Lavallee of Canada and Emma Pollinger of (my current hometown!) Colchester.  Earl worked his entire life as a laborer in the American Woolen Co.  in Winooski, VT, located along the Winooski/Onion River near Burlington,VT.  He lived at various locations during his tenure at the woolen mill including 36 Hood Street, Winooski, 102 Mallets Bay Ave, 22 Park Street and many more.

Earl Lavallee Reverse

Earl Lavallee Reverse

Earl enlisted on February 11th, 1918 at Camp Green, North Carolina.  He served with Company G, 58th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division until August 21st, 1918 when he was transferred to Supply Co, same regiment.  He was overseas from May 7th, 1918 to August 1st, 1919.

Earl was wounded in action on September 30th, 1918.  This photograph depicts Earl after his wounding evidenced by his right-hand wound stripe.  Earl was discharged on August 7th, 1919.

Earl Lavallee Draft Card WWI

Earl Lavallee Draft Card WWI

 

Earl Lavallee WWII Draft Card

Earl Lavallee WWII Draft Card

Lavallee Signature

Lavallee Signature

Lavallee Family Story

The 1900 US Census from Colchester, VT shows the Lavallee family as a solid unit with five family members comprised of Earl’s dad Fred Lavallee, his mother Emma, brother Charles,  sister Florence and himself (Earl).

1900 Census, Colchester, Vt

1900 Census, Colchester, Vt

 

 

WWI Red Cross Nurse Photo Identification – Miss Ella Kettels/Voged Describes Wartime Hospitals


 

World War One studio photography is dominated by shots of male soldiers posing in European studios in hopes of documenting their wartime experiences for hometown family and friends to enjoy.  Little did they know that historians in 2014 would be researching their names, hometowns, photos and military rosters to help paint a picture of the American experience during WWI.  One of my favorite research topics is the wartime culture of US nurses while stationed overseas in 1918 and 1919. In this case, I’ve done an extensive series of searches in hopes of tracking down the WWI nurse posed in the photo. I hope you enjoy the research!

 

Ella (Kettels) Vodel in 1918

Ella (Kettels) Vodel in 1918

 

 

Ella Kettels of Clinton, Iowa

Ella Kettels of Clinton, Iowa

Miss Ella Kettels (mispelled on the photo) eventually went on to marry at the age of 35 to a man named Theodore Voged.  He is listed as a janitor in the 1929 city directory for Clinton, Iowa.  The couple lived at 576 1st Ave. in Clinton, IA.  I’ve identified the house they lived in and have posted it below:

576 1st Ave. in Clinton, IA.

576 1st Ave. in Clinton, IA.

 

Her wartime experience is included in her1965 obituary:

“Mrs, Ella Voged, 80, of Clinton, saw the grim side of World War I. She went to France as a Red Cross nurse but soon found herself enrolled as an Army nurse. She had been graduated from nursing school at a Clinton hospital in 1910. Mrs. Voged served as a nurse in a hospital near Paris to which American wounded came in a steady stream from the big front-line battles of that war. . “Sometimes we thought this boy would be all right and they would be gone in the morning,” she recalled. “This was long before the day of antibiotics. They would develop infections in their wounds.”

Although we may never know the full extent of Ella’s wartime hardships, we do know that she will be immortalized on the world wide web as a subject of potential research in the future.