WWII Artist Alva Alegre Update: New Alegre Painting Emerges From the Woodwork

The elusive artist and photographer, Alva V. Alegre, is still making waves here at PortraitsofWar.   Two recent visitors to the site have been able to shed some light on his work. I’m posting the first here for followers of Alva’s work to see before I set into the newly acquired info regarding his background.

The following shot was sent to me by an art collector on the East Coast who luckily had the painting conserved and removed from a foam core backing after finding the work in a Virginia antique shop. The style is quintessential Alegre and incorporates the scantily clad and thin wasted figure so often depicted in his WWII work.


Newly Discovered Alegre Artwork

Newly Discovered Alegre Artwork


Alva Alegre at Work in England, 1944

Alva Alegre at Work in England, 1944



Alegre’s work has fascinated me for nearly six years, and I’ve spend countless hours searching for other examples of his work, as well as for tidbits that may lead to information related to his life.   For those of you who haven’t seen my posts on Alva, please check out the links below:











If you have an Alegre painting in your collection, please come forward with a photograph.  His work has been coming out of the woodwork in the past six years, and the story of his life is quickly unraveling.  A special thanks to Scott for his generous photograph of his prized Alegre work of art.



World War II Veterans Gather at Mighty 8th Air Force Museum in Pooler – 2012 388th Bomb Group Reunion


World War II veterans gather at Mighty 8th Air Force Museum in Pooler

Posted: August 30, 2012 – 11:33pm  |  Updated: August 31, 2012 – 9:19am

<p node="media-caption">James Zographos, 93, left, who was a bombardier on a B-17 with the 388th Bomb Group during World War II, talks with Alvin Lewis, 88, who was a tailgunner on the B-17 Jamaica Ginger, on Thursday during a visit to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum.</p>  Savannah Morning News

James Zographos, 93, left, who was a bombardier on a B-17 with the 388th Bomb Group during World War II, talks with Alvin Lewis, 88, who was a tailgunner on the B-17 Jamaica Ginger, on Thursday during a visit to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum.

Inside the combat gallery at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, Alvin Lewis and James Zographos sat and admired the exhibit’s

centerpiece — a massive, almost fully restored World War II-era bomber.

Memories nearly 7 decades old flew through their minds Thursday afternoon as the 88-year-old Lewis and 93-year-old Zographos shared some of their experiences flying missions over Germany and France in B-17 Flying Fortresses nearly identical to the museum’s plane.

With 28 other World War II veterans who served with the 388th Bombardment Group — part of the 8th Air Force — the men gathered in Savannah this week as part of the unit’s 63rd annual reunion.

“It’s always the best,” said Zographos, who lives in Westborough, Mass. “It’s great to get together and see these guys and their friends and family every year.”

This year, the group chose Savannah for the reunion specifically to see the Mighty 8th’s B-17, dubbed the City of Savannah in honor of the 5,000th plane to be processed through what is now Hunter Army Airfield during World War II, said Henry Curvat, the 388th Bombardment Group Association’s president.

“For us to be able to come here and see this, it’s a great honor,” Curvat said. “For so many of the original members to see this B-17 and for this museum to honor them by placing the high bar H (the 388th’s unit symbol) on the plane is wonderful.”

The original City of Savannah, like Zographos and Lewis, was assigned to the 388th Bomb Group and flew missions out of Station 136 in Knettishall, England, during the war.

Zographos, who is the oldest remaining member of the group, flew more than 50 missions as a bombardier between March 1944 and March 1945.

After flying his first 30 missions, Zographos was sent home. About 30 days later he was back at Station 136.

“I went home then I volunteered and went back and did 20 more (missions),” he said. “I can’t explain that. I can’t explain a lot of things. People ask why I went back, they ask, ‘Were you ever afraid?’ I can’t answer that.”

Like Zographos, Lewis, of Dayton, Ohio, doesn’t articulate what led him to the war.

The day after he turned 18 in 1942, Lewis enlisted into the U.S. Army Air Forces, the next year he began flying in B-17s and by February 1945 he’d been sent to Knettishall with the 388th to serve as a waistgunner during missions in Germany.

By the end of that year Lewis had flown 13 missions and been discharged from the military.

“I was 20 years old when they sent me home,” he said. “I got home on July 4 and I turned 21 on the 21st. They discharged me in October and that was it.”

Although they didn’t fly any missions together 67 years ago, they’ve become easy friends as they’ve aged.

“He and I, like any of us, we can just sit here and talk and talk,” Zographos said.

The 30 remaining members of the 388th share a similar bond only those who fought with them can understand, Zographos said.

It may not always be easy to share their experiences, he added, but it’s important.

“We talk about the things that happened because once our group is gone — not only the 388th but all the World War II survivors — it’s going to be past history. There’s going to be nothing in the history books directly from our generation.”

Preserving and sharing the history of the members of the 388th, Curvat said, is what encouraged him to become so involved with the group.

“Through my adopted father — a close family friend, really — who flew with the 388th in World War II, I became part of this group,” Curvat said. “I’ve found spending time with these men to be infectious.

“It’s just incredible to look at what these people have done and what they went through; it’s important that we record and share that with people as less and less of these (World War II veterans) are around.”

WWII 388th Bomb Group Portrait Artist – Alva V. Alegre – ORIGINAL Portrait Surfaces on eBay!

Ever since I first laid eyes upon the WWII portrait art of Alva V. Alegre, I knew that I had to track down an original piece of his work.  I tracked down his original photographic prints, his negatives, and even have spoken with people knew him.  I’ve followed him from his first arrival in the US in the 1930s, through England during WWII, to NYC in the 1950s and eventually to Troy, NY in the 1960s.  After years of waiting, I providentially stumbled across one of his portraits on eBay.  It’s all coming together…….
With the help of a group of dedicated historians with the 388th Bomb Group, we’ve (possibly) identified the Major as Frank Hess.

For more photos and images of Alva’s work, please search for “Alva” in my search bar.

Frank Hess











How do we know this is a piece of Alva’s work?  For disbelievers, check out this comparison of signatures from my negative collection and the signature on the recently acquired painting.  100%!


WWII 388th Bomb Group Artist Alva Alegre – Random Snapshots Continued……

Isn’t it hard to imagine that these images were taken in 1944?  They were, and casual followers of the blog will remember that this is only a sneak peek of a larger collection of prints and negatives that I acquired from a series of two eBay auction in 2010 and 2011.  The photographer, Alva V. Alegre was a professionally trained artist who served with the 388th Bomb Group during WWII.  His treasure trove of images haunt me; my quest to figure out his life story has brought me many new leads and a number of new friends and acquaintances.






<script type=”text/javascript”>


  var _gaq = _gaq || [];
  _gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-28546765-1’]);


  (function() {
    var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
    ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl&#8217; : ‘http://www&#8217;) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
    var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);