John Belli was born in Italy in 1895 and traveled to the United States during a big wave of Italian immigration in the early 1900s. I was lucky enough to purchase a superlative WWI German-shot studio portrait of a helmeted US soldier wearing his gas mask with patches attached to his jacket. To sweeten the deal, the photo came identified to a John Belli. A few John Belli’s appeared on ancestry.com, but only one was associated with a veterinarian unit as evidenced by the veterinarian corps collar disc visible in the photo. A great shot with an interesting back story!
Straight from the bowels of a poorly listed eBay auction comes this tantalizing pair of WWI photographs. At first glance the images seem to contain little information to help aide in their historical dissection, but upon further sleuthing I found some clues to their identification. After scanning the first image on my super-duper Epson V700 scanner (awesome BTW), I zoomed in on the wagon using Photoshop. The name VET HOSP 12 can be faintly seen between the wagon wheels. A quick google search yielded a website dedicated to the 12th Veterinarian Hospital, which dealt with the care of horses during the Occupation period. I looks like the hospital was started in late December of 1918, and continued to service 3rd Army horses for the bulk of the Occupation.
The obverse of the second RPPC shows a date and location of January 1st 1919 in Treves Germany made out to a Mr.Arthur Fessler (hard to make out the last letter) in Philadelphia, PA. The card is a German postcard paper, and the style of chair is one I see almost exclusively used in German portrait studios of the period. The young doughboy is not wearing a shoulder sleeve insignia (aka Patch) but I assume he soon received one, as the first photo shows the patch in wear.
Interested in learning more about the 12th Veterinarian Hospital? Check out this site:
Or check out the U.S. Army Veterinarian Corps Historical Preservation Group Facebook page: