In a follow up to the popularity of my last post (see here), I’ve decided to begin scanning my collection of large format 12×12 inch aerial photos taken during the Battle of the Bulge. In this first post, we see a German motorized transport convoy in ruins following a strafing attack by P-47’s of the XAX Tactical Air Command (TAC) on January 23rd, 1945. I acquired a large set of these original 12×12 inch prints (complete with pencil notes on the back) on eBay a few years ago directly from the estate of a 9th Air Force photo tech who apparently saved hundreds of original flyovers like this. He saved duplicates as well! This is one of those duplicates.
I’ve taken the time to crop the shot for close up views below. With some luck, followers of this page may be able to track down the exact location of this image! Good luck guys!
Many of my followers know that I actively collect WWII color slides, predominantly those developed by the Eastman Kodak Company. These Kodachrome slides are typically regarded in the field of vintage color photo collecting as the crème de la crème of vintage color. Taken at a time of incredible social and political upheaval, these images capture an era that will never be seen in the same light or colors again. With the small percentage of the world populace that used color photography, an even smaller percentage of the slides have been passed down or purchased by people with the ability to scan and post them to the internet.
In this rare case, I was able to purchase a large set of Kodachrome slides taken by a US serviceman before he shipped off to war. One box of the Kodak-developed slides were unopened. I took a photo of the seal, opened the box and immediately scanned them! Please enjoy the following 12 slides that are only seeing the light of day 70+ years later….
Taken in Fort Benning, GA, these slides were shipped home in January of 1945 to only be opened in 2016! Enjoy.
Captured on medium format film by US Army Photographer Cpl. Edward Belfer, this image comes from my extensive collection of US WWII photography and depicts a group of US medics pushing a metal pontoon boat along the snowy streets of Bettendorf, Luxembourg on January 19th, 1945. The boat, loaded with medical supplies, is headed towards the Sure River. An oddball detail in this shot include a theater-made snow camouflage helmet covers with the fronts cut out to reveal the medical cross beneath.
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.
To see the area today check out the link below:
A female US service member rocks a summer dress and snaps a shot of the photographer; what more can you ask for from a blog dedicated to obscure vernacular snapshots taken during wartime? Originally digitally cropped down from a slightly larger print, this shot exudes the youthful demeanor of downtime during WWII. The taut, braced legs also hint to a slightly posed sexualized snapshot….
Many incredible WWII US Signal Corps photos were taken during the war, printed, examined and never widely published or circulated. In tonight’s post, I’m bringing one of these “lost” Signal Corps shots to the world wide web. Jack was a paratrooper assigned as a light machine gunner to Company G of the 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 17th Airborne Division. Jack was captured on his 20th birthday during the Battle of the Bulge on January 7th, 1945 in a small village twelve miles outside Bastogne; known as Dead Man’s Ridge, the battle was the first for the green 17th Division. Suffering catastrophic casualties, the 17th was eventually successful in countering the German troops it encountered. Spending nearly a month in captivity (being wounded during this time) Jack escaped and was picked up by elements of the 4th Division. The photo below perfectly captures how Jack must’ve felt during the hell of the Bulge and his time imprisoned with the Germans. Note the dirt and grime on his face and clothes, the stubble and long hair associated with being constantly on the move without access to a razor or washcloth. He’s also sporting a captured German officers cap with the eagle removed. I’m hoping Jack took that hat home as a momento of his time in captivity!
Jack’s National Archives and Records Administration file:
Jack was born in January 7, 1925 and spent his youth in Lucerne, PA. He was volunteer for the Army in January 7, 1943 and was inducted on February 20, 1943 at Altoona, PA. He received ASN 33573517 and was sent to the 44th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, WA. He was volunteer for the Airborne troops and was transferred to Parachute School at Fort Benning in March 1944 where he was finally assigned to Company G / 513th PIR as light machine gunner after having successfully completed his paratrooper course.
On January 7, 1945, on his 20th birthday, he was captured at Flamierge during the terrible battle of “Dead Man’s Ridge”. He was sent to Clervaux, then to Prüm. He was wounded at Garolstein, Germany and escaped the Germans on February 7 with Ed SUMMERS. They reached Prüm on February 9 and went into hiding until the town was taken by the men of the 4th Infantry Division on February 13.
He spent two weeks in hospital to recovering from malnutrition and was unable to return in his unit because of Prisoner of War status. He was finally shipped back to States in March 1945 and completed military as automatic weapons instructor at Fort Benning. He was discharged in November 1945 as S/Sgt.
From time to time, a certain photo in my collection will call to me from beneath a dusty pile of books and other ephemera; pulling me away from other nocturnal pursuits, I will spend hours slipping down the rabbit hole of internet research. In tonight’s post I dissect an image I picked up in a large photo grouping from an unidentified Pacific Theater of Operations U.S Army soldier whose estate was broken up on eBay.
This photo has taken me months to research, with new avenues of potential insight popping up at every twist and turn. “My” version of the photo includes the portions of the negative’s border which, once deciphered, indicate the photographic unit responsible for the image. These borders are typically not present on post-war copies of the photo, so this points towards a wartime first-generation version of the photo likely printed overseas. Additionally, later prints of the photo include inclusions and negative abrasions not present in earlier versions.
What does the negative bar tell us? For one, it gives us the number of the photographic unit responsible for the image. The first number corresponds to the ID # for the 161st Signal Photographic Company. The 161st, as anticipated, shot still and moving images in the Pacific in WWII, working in tough weather conditions not conducive to normal photographic processing. Through my exhaustive research, I’ve uncovered additional information about the photo not commonly known on the internet.
Commonly ascribed to Guadalcanal, New Guinea and other remote locations, the photo was actually taken in April (hence the 4-44 label on the negative) of 1944 on Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea during the Bougainville Campaign. Again, commonly ascribed to a Marine unit, the soldiers in the photo are actually of the Company F, 129th Infantry Regiment of the 37th Infantry Division.
The details of the photo are crisp, clear and perfectly printed with little great use of light, shadows and other atmospheric conditions in the heat of battle. Bayonets affixed, the solders are scrambling for cover, firing and advancing behind a Sherman tank of the 754th Tank Battalion as it progresses forward through the dense jungle. The tank at the forefront of the shot is “Lucky Legs II”, clearly a later iteration of a previously destroyed or abandoned armored vehicle. Tank and plane names were commonly derived from hometown sweethearts, pinup magazine, popular songs and movies, or unique creations.
What isn’t immediately clear is the reason why the star is only partially visible on the turret. Using the power of the internet, I was able to track down a military forum with some information to help……
Apparently, the tanks were covered in oiled tar to protect from rust during overseas transport. This includes the stars, which, in this case, was still partially covered in goop during the first counterattack after receiving the M4 mediums in March of 1944. The above forum post provides a delicious detail, one that would be almost impossible to posit, without the help of a guy who “was there.”
According to research, tanks of this new delivery were equipped with armor plate protecting the driver from shots off the starboard and port sides of the tank. This raised area was used by tankers of the 754th to paint the tank moniker. Another example from the same group includes the “Wild Boar.”
Further distinguising insignia found on the tank include the 3 within a triangle, denoting that the tank was the Platoon Sergeant’s tank; the II adjacent to the triangle in the photo likely indicate that the tank is of the Second Platoon.
So, we have a tank commanded by the Platoon Sergeant of the 2nd Platoon of a an unknown company of the 754th Tank Battalion. I can narrow this down only a bit more, but future research and reader commentary should elucidate some of the murky details.
Back to the previous image of the internet post regarding an angry response by a tanker who fought in Lucky Legs II:
“I said just from the inside of that turret. That’s my tank, and probably my steel helmet hanging on the back. Because Tony Benardo, and Gus, had theirs inside with them.. I think.”
The same forum post refers to a US Signal Corps film that depicts the tank in question….. I think I found it…..
And if that wasn’t enough… I found more shots from the same photographic series
Remember having your second grade yearbook photo? Yeah, I don’t either….. The same is true for WWII veterans who had their snapshots taken in front of numbered placards and blinding flashbulbs. Generally, these type of shots were taken of Army Air Corps and Marine Corps officers, but I’ve seen a few Navy portraits pop up on eBay on occasion. In the case of tonight’s post, I’m specifically presenting US Air Corps officer ID photo which were compiled by an enterprising veteran(sadly unnamed) who collected shots of his friends and colleagues who trained with him as pilots in the early years of WWII.
Each photo is unique and captures the airman with his guard down; a true snapshot portrait, these men and women had no idea that these photographs would be preserved for posterity. Each one of these photographs has a story behind it…and each is worthy of an individual blog post. Sadly, I don’t have the time or capacity to identify them all, and I look to the general public to track down shots of their ancestors. I will do my best to post the surnames of the officers in this post, but I need help…
Many followers of PortraitofWar.com know that I have a strange passion for WWII amateur color photography. In this case, I luckily remembered that anniversary of the Battle of Tarawa is upon us and decided to post some of of the material I’ve acquired over the years that directly relate to the Battle of Tarawa. When the Marines landed on the Tarawa (Gilbert Islands, Micronesia) on November 20th, 1943, a pilot who launched from the USS CHENANGO (CVE-28) snapped a series of 35mm color photos while flying overhead providing fighter support.
And an actual aerial color snapshot taken during the opening hours of the November 20th, 1943 invasion. The pilot had his 35mm camera with him and snapped dozens of shots during the initial invasion; the following shots are the only known aerial color photos of the Battle of Tarawa!