Attempting to track down new material for a fresh blog post is not an easy task…… Especially when my material has generally been languishing unseen in a shoe box since 1945. But occasionally I will come across a photo that I’ve neglected to bring to the light of the internet since it crossed my scanner’s bed. In today’s post, I will dissect a photo taken on Christmas of 1944 in the small town of Neuville en Condroz, Belgium. This is a small village near Liege, Wallone, Belgium and was occupied at the time by an anti-aircraft unit on the front lines of the Bulge. Interestingly, the hood of the Chaplain’s Jeep served as an alter.
Christmas Mass in Neuville-en-Condroz Belgium, 1944
To see the area today check out the link below:
My obsession with the 388th Bomb Group stems from a chance encounter with a collection of negatives and photographs taken by an artist attached to the 388th in Knettishall, England. Followers of PortraitsofWar already know the story, so I won’t go into great detail, but anyone interested should search for Alva Alegre in the search bar.
Anyway, I recently purchased a small group of photos that providentially yielded a handful of identified photos of members of the 388th BG. In my typical fashion, I’ve fleshed out historical details and hopefully will give Mr. Downs a proper place on the internet.
I found the following info penciled on the back of the photo: “Roland Downs, Cpl. Alabama”
ALABAMA Inked on Cap
Judging by the inked info on his upturned mechanics hat, I felt that this was a likely identification of Mr.Downs. With this info in hand I visited the 388th Bomb Group website: http://www.388bg.info/
Darn! They already had his photo, but at least I was able to learn that he was a radio mechanic, something obvious after inspecting what he’s doing in the photo. My next stop brought me to ancestry.com, where I do most of my genealogical research on mystery photos. From a little bit of searching I was able to discover that he was indeed born and raised in Alabama and born on July 8th, 1923 and passed away on April 19th, 1980. He served in the Airforce (USAAF) from 1942 until 1971.
1940 Census Record