Digitized 10th Mountain Division Unit History: Mountaineers

I’m starting a new thread here on PortraitsofWar in which I plan to post scanned versions of popular divisional, regimental, and company histories.  I have access to 98% of all published WWI and WWII unit histories and can field most requests given adequate time.  I’m starting with one of my favorite WWII units, the 10th Mountain Division.  I personally own a copy of this history, but I’m posting a link to the Bangor (Maine) Digital Commons page with a PDF download of the book available.  Enjoy!


Here’s the details on the book (from the Bangor Library website listed below):



It was Washington, D.C., July 15, 1943. At the War Department it was noted that a new division was being ac­tivated as of that date – the 10th Light Division. Out in Colorado the usual afternoon cloudburst broke loose as the journal clerk recorded the fact that the division had been officially activated. A month later there was a formal oc­casion; Pando, Colorado witnessed the parade and cere­monies honoring the birth of the Tenth. Major General Lloyd E. Jones reviewed the troops.

 The cover art was done by Jacques Parker, a MG squad leader and artist in C Co., 86th Mountain Infantry Regiment.  To hear an audio recording of Mr. Parker recorded in Telluride, CO in 2009 check out this site: http://www.tellurideinside.com/2009/07/10th-mountain-veteran-jaques-parker-in-telluride.html
Jacques Parker Photo By: Clint Viebrock

Jacques Parker
Photo By: Clint Viebrock

Mountaineers Cover Art

Mountaineers Cover Art

To download a PDF copy of this unit history, please click here

Publication Date



United States Army Mountain Division 10th World War 1939-1945 Regimental histories United States 10th Division World War, 1939-1945 Campaigns Italy


Military History

WWII Photography in the PTO: The 8th Photo Reconnaissance Squadron

I’ve always noticed the vast difference in quality between the typical ETO snapshot and it’s Pacific counterpart.  The European snapshots typically are printed on better paper and of much higher quality.  In this case, I was able able to purchase a pair of Pacific theater photos taken by an artist with the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron.  The first photograph shows a US Jeep painted up with a cartoonesque rendition of the squadron name complete with shadow effects and 8 ball logo.   The same artist also designed the unit insignia seen below.

Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975

Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975

8th Photo Recon Squadron Jeep

8th Photo Recon Squadron Jeep

And I was also fortunate to win an Easter card designed by the same artist.  The card is folded in four sections and was made from a single cut sheet of photo paper printed with a special design created specifically for the 1945 Easter season.  A unique piece!  I wasn’t able to win anything else from the auction – many of the sales were in the triple digits and well out of my comfort zone for an obscure topic.

1945 Easter Card

1945 Easter Card

I hope to pick up a copy of a fantastic tome put out a few years back to help my future research in the unit.  http://www.adastron.com/lockheed/lightning/8prs.htm


For those interested in some great footage of the 8th Photo Recon Squadron, please check out the links below:





WWII Artist Profile of B.R. “Woody” Woodill WPA Artist – Rare WPA Color Kodachrome Slides Surface on eBay!

Blanchard Robert “Woody” Woodill was born in 1916 in Glendale, California to Arthur and Maude Woodill.  His father was a successful car dealer in Los Angeles at the time, and likely planted the seeds that would eventually help design one of the most popular post-war American sports cars.  During WWII, Woody became a professor of Aeronautical Engineering at the the University of Southern California.  In 1948 he bought his father’s Dodge dealership in Downey, California and started down the path that would take him from car salesman to car designer.  Using his engineering and artistic skills (more on this later) he was able begin design on the car that would make him famous.  He purchased two Glasspar fiberglass body kits from Bill Tritt in Santa Ana, CA and eventually found a chassis designer to sign on board.  The Woody Wildfire was born.  The original sale price on the factory built Woodill Wildfire was roughly $3,000.  They now sell at classic auto auctions for over $100,000.  Very cool!

Interested in American Fiberglass Cars?

Check out this site: http://www.forgottenfiberglass.com/?p=12232

What does a car designer have to do with PortraitsofWar?  I was recently able to pick up an interesting set of 35mm color Kodachrome slides on eBay for a decent price.  I knew the photos were taken with an artist’s eye given the subject matter, poses, and setting of the shots.  After researching the address listed on the Kodachrome box, I realized that the photographer was actually working for the Southern California WPA as a photographer of Southern California life.  This fits in nicely with his profession as a professor of aeronautics at USC and makes sense given the quality of the images he took in the Southern California Desert.   His capturing of the emerging role of women on the homefront highlights the social realism that plays an important role in the WPA art of the period.

Kodachrome Box and Address

Original eBay Listing

Model Climbs into Biplane

Flight over the Desert

More Airplane Fun

Clearing Rocks

Sidney Kotler: A WWII Artist in the China Burma India Theater – Ilustrator of the Stilwell Road Booklet

WWII Booklets are one of my favorite avenues of military ephemera collecting.  The small print runs, unique artwork, and theater-made feel make them a fun and easy collectible.  I picked up a copy of Stilwell Road: Story of the Ledo Lifeline this past week on eBay and was excited to leaf through the pages looking for possible research/blogpost material.  Immediately impressed by the artwork and layout, I decided to do a little sleuthing into the identity of the artist. Luckily, his name was printed in the back of the booklet.  Corporal Sidney Kotler obviously had an eye for illustration and technical art.  In my typical fashion, I plowed ahead with some research!

After searching around google and ancestry.com I was able to find that Mr. Kotler passed away in 1999.  This is sadly becoming the norm when researching viable identified WWII material.  Luckily, I was able to track down the daughter of Mr. Kotler and uncover a wealth of material about his life and war service.

The following is from Mr. Kotlers daughter:

Sidney Kotler was born in Berdichev, Ukraine in the winter of 1912 into dire poverty.  His brother Shlomo died of dysentery in bed next to him at the age of ten.  His uncle was abducted by the Czar’s army.  His family decided to take no chances in the politically embroiled Ukraine.  Every time a militia came into town, his mother  would hide the children under the floorboards of her house.  One of Sidney’s brothers, Dave, told the story about a Cossack who found the boys hiding.  He told them to keep quiet and put the floor boards back in place.  They were saved!
After several attempts, Sidney, his mother and 3 brother made it across the Polish border and managed to slip into England and eventually “over the pond” to the USA.  In 1927 the family came to St. Louis Missouri where his father Isaac had preceded them.  “Sid” attended art school at Washington University in the early 1930s and did some apprenticing on the side to help bolster his portfolio.  He found a job after his WU classes as a commercial artist working with the St. Louis Dispatch and Globe Democrat Newspapers, where he worked on advertising for newspapers, magazines, and other illustrative ventures.  After the war, he worked with the Ford Motor Company art department in the Dearborn, Michigan headquarters.

WWII, Sidney Kotler in the middle with a moustache

Sid was proud of his army service. It made him feel like the true American that he fought hard to become.  By pulling himself up from the bootstraps, he was able to attain the American Dream.   His service in the China/Burma/India theater was not easy; he was on the first convoy over the Burma Road with the 18th Battalion.  The construction of the road was an arduous job, and Sid played his part without an utterance of frustration.  Besides his field duty, he was the unit artist, sketching hundreds of illustrations for the unit publications as well as the Stars and Stripes CBI newsletter.  He kept in touch with his army buddies most of his life.   Sid’s children fondly remember visiting one family in particular:  the Buchanans.

WWII, Sidney Kotler and buddy

In 1946 Sid married Elsie Fleishman.  The had four children two girls and two boys.  In 1952 the moved to Detroit where Sid began working as a graphic artist for Ford Motor Company.  He inspired me to study painting. After his retirement from Ford he continued painting.  His incredible artwork festoons his family’s homes;  magnificent landscapes and portraits dot the walls of his daughter Shira’s walls.   Sidney’s descendants include 9 bright and beautiful grandchildren.  Sid lived his life like a true patriot; he served his country, raised a stellar family, and left a legacy that will live for generations to come.
A special thanks goes out to Shira Chai and Mark Kotler for sharing the preceding passages as well as all the wonderful photos and illustrations.  Your father was a wonderful artist, and helped play an important part in American history!

WWII, Sidney Kotler and art work

WWII, Sidney Kotler, Easter Card

WWII, Sidney Kotler, Christmas card

WWII, Sidney Kotler, pin up girl

First Convoy on the Ledo Road

First Convoy Illustration

WWII 388th Bomb Group Artist – MAJOR Biographical Update


My quest to discover the mysterious background of a WWII artist started nearly two years ago with the acquisition of a grouping of photographs and negatives from a seemingly nameless soldier.  I soon was able to deduce his name – Alva Alegre, and began the incredibly interesting voyage of tracking down his true identity.  His photography is hauntingly personal, unveiling the often unseen side of war; the everyday life of the 388th Bomb Group.  The journey has introduced me to dozens of people with connections of “Al”, from 94 year old bomber pilots who fondly remember seeing his artwork behind the Officers Bar in England, to military engineers who knew him later in life.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours (really!) scanning his photographs and dozens more hours researching his life.

After contacting the U.S. Army Arsenal where Al worked in the 1960s, I was able to find a museum curator who has access to works created by Al in the late 1960s.  He also was able to track down an article written for the employee newspaper that highlights his life story.  Finally!  Please read and check out some of my related posts.  Just search for 388th in the search menu.  His photographic skills cannot be understated.

“Artist’s Life”

The Arsenal Arsenalite

July-August 1970

By Bob Grybos

If your business should take you to the Benet R&E Labs, make it your business to visit the Reception Area and view the Ilustations of Watervliet – designed weapons of action.  You’ll find they combine meticulous craftsmanship with artistic perception to the degree that makes these paintings far more than straightforward representations, and that the Arsenal is fortunate indeed to have the talent that produced them at its service.

That talent belongs to Al Alegre who has been our technical illustrator since 1963 when he arrived at Watervliet following a varied and colorful career that began when he left his native Phillipines at age of 17.  He came first, via Canada, to Chicago where he abandoned his original intention to enter the electrical engineering field, deciding instead on a career in art.  So, then it was off to Northwestern University where he acquired a bachelor of philosophy, majoring in art, then thence to the Artt Institute of Chicago.

After a year back home in the Phillipines he wended his way to California in 1939 and for the next two years worked as a portrait sketch artist in the Phillipiines Pavillion at the San Francisco Worlds Fair.  Here he produced more than 4,000 charcoal portrait sketches and between seasons attended the Art Center School in Los Angeles – where he also studied photography.

With the closing of the Fair, “the fastest brush in the West” entered the U.S. Army Air Force and assigned as an armament staff sergeant with the 8th Air Force {388th Bomb Group} in England.  During off-duty hours he continued to perfect his skills, burning out portraits of his fellow soldiers – including no less a GI than General Ira Eaker, boss of the 8th.

After the war Al returned to the Windy City for graduate studies at the University of Chicago and then moved on to New York City where he received his masters degree in art from Columia University in 1947.

Following his completion of a course in color photography Al opened his own art and photography establishment “Studio 74” at that number on 57th Street, which happened to be located next door to the voice instruction school of famed composer Gian Carlo-Menotti which, Al says, provided not only a pleasant musical accompaniment but also a wealth of models for the Alegre activity.

Exposure to commercial art led to an interest in air brush techniques and consequently to Alegre’s present career as a technical illustration.  Since embarking in the field he has worked for Polaroid Electronics in Long Island, Fairchild Aircraft in Maryland, EDO COpr, Long Island, and the Missile and Space Division of GE in Philadelphia.

It was while working for GE(on space re-entry vehicles) that Al was contacted by representatives  of our Personnel Office and soon afterward joined us for a relationship that has proved mutually profitable ever since.

Al’s artistic outpost, has not been restricted to his arsenal assignments.  His work in many media employing many techniques is well known to many Arsenalites.  A former charter member of the Artist’s Equity of New YOrk, and professor of a listing in “Who’s Who in American Arts” he’s now a member of the Arsenal Art Guild exhibits.  Another regular extra-curricular activity is the painting of portraits of Aresenal C.O.s which he presents to them upon their leaving Watervliet.

Apresently Al maintains a studio apartment in Troy and also a studio in PHiladelphia where, along with producing a variety of paintings, he is also working on a book on technical illstration.

His ambition for the future is to instruct.  And, by the results achieved by his students in the Art Guild class he recently conducted, future students are in store for a very rewarding experience.

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.






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388th Bomb Group – Visions of Wartime London – Summer 1944


Alva Alegre took every opportunity to shoot in and around London while on pass.  His images capture wartime London as seen in 1944, at a time when the Luftwaffe was still a real threat to the civilian population.  Please enjoy the view through Alva’s lens as he travels throughout the city of London!



Alva and Muse











The Royal Arcade



Close Up View of Sign