WWII Snapshot – Female Photographer Pauses for the Camera


 

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….

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Freshly Liberated 17th Airborne Paratrooper POW – Battle of the Bulge Portrait Photo


 

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!

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Jack’s National Archives and Records Administration file:

(courtesy of the 17th Airborne tribute site)

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.

 

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WWII Service Record

WWII Pilot ID Portrait Photos – Boring? or Riveting?


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.

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General scan of type of photos in the collection: Scan 1

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…

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Scan 2

Pilot113

Scan 3

Pilot093

Scan 4

Pilot123

Scan 5

 

 

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GIF of 40 US Army Air Corps Pilot Photos Identification Photos

Birth of the American Graphic T-Shirt: The Las Vegas Gunnery School Official WWII Shirt


Corporal Alexander Le Gerda in his 1942 LIFE Appearance

Corporal Alexander Le Gerda in his 1942 LIFE Appearance

Corporal Alexander Le Gerda is the first person in history to be included in a popular magazine  wearing a  graphic t-shirt.  His photo made the July 13th, 1942 cover of LIFE Magazine cradling a .30 cal. machine gun and sporting a tight fitting athletic tee made by the American Athletic Co. in Los Angeles, CA.  An original version of this shirt recently sold (August, 2015) for over $1,000 USD.   The shirt depicts a winged horned toad shooting a .30 calibur machine gun perched upon a cloud.  The shirt is commonly reprinted but with incorrect colors for the mascot.  The true color is a yellow ocher, when some sites print the shirts with a light blue.   Screengrabs from the completed auction can be found here:

This original 1942 Las Vegas Gunnery School T-Shirt sold for $1,009 on August 23rd, 2015

This original 1942 Las Vegas Gunnery School T-Shirt sold for $1,009 on August 23rd, 2015

Original Laundry Instructions

Original Laundry Instructions

Closeup of Text Applique

Closeup of Text Applique

Winged Armadillo

Winged Horned Toad

American Athletic Co. Tag

American Athletic Co. Tag

Although spelled Le Gerda in the original 1942  LIFE article, Alexander’s surname is correctly spelled as Legerda in official government documents.  Among the multitude of internet sites dedicated to the poster child of the American graphic T-shirt, none delve into the life of Mr. Legerda.  Here at Portraitsofwar, we strive to dig out the details hidden in plain sight.

I first started with a social security death index search for Alexander Le Gerda.  The article mentions that Alexander was 23 at the time of the article, and I based my birth year search at 1919 to be safe.  No hits on ancestry for an Alexander Le Gerda…… but a solid hit for a LeGerda of the same first name.  Eventually rising to the rank of Sgt. with the 94th Bomb Group during WWII, LeGerda was born and raised in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania.  Lehigh Valley is generally located north of Philadelphia and west of New York City, and encompasses a handful of towns along the NY/PA border.

Alexander was born on April 24th, 1919 and passed away on August 3rd, 1998 at Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown, where he worked as a maintenance man for 1601 Realty.   His 1998 obit can be found below:

Alexander LeGerda; 79; Allentown; died Monday, Aug. 3, Sacred Heart Hospital; husband of Elizabeth “Shay” (Albert) LeGerda; married 52 years in June; maintenance man, 1601 Realty, Allentown, 14 years, retiring 1992; 1942, became first Lehigh Valley resident to have picture on cover of Life magazine, subject of a feature story about work in Army gunnery school in Las Vegas; born Topton; son of the late Elias and Mary (Krauss) LeGerda; member, St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, Allentown; Army Air Corps veteran, World War II; sergeant, 94th Bomber Group. Survivors: wife; daughter, Donna Shay LeGerda, wife of Aaron Kotzin, Soldotna, Alaska; sisters, Mary Shahda, New Orleans; Anna Noble, Quakertown; Helen Springer, Rosewood, Calif.; granddaughter. Weber Funeral Home, 502 Ridge Ave., Allentown.
[obituary, The Morning Call, Allentown, PA, Wednesday, August 5 1998, page A-11]

In the coming weeks, I hope to reach out to family members to see if any stories passed down from Alexander in regards to his time as a cover model for the Air Force Gunnery School.  I wonder if he was aware of his singular fame as the first person to wear a custom printed t-shirt in mass media?  These shirts were common during the war, and I have dozens of examples of uniquely printed unit-based and camp-based printed tees during the war, but this is the singular example of a popularization image of the soon-to-be popular graphic t-shirt.

The photos were taken by famed documentary photographer Eliot Elisofon and are available for viewing in the LIFE magazine archives.

Another View of Legerda

Another View of Legerda

Full Frontal

Full Frontal

WWII Photo – Lancaster, PA WWII Veteran Portrait Photos on Display, 1944


Straight from the dusty PortraitsofWar archives comes an incredibly unique 8×10 photo of a window display in Lancaster, Pennsylvania during World War Two.   I typically shy away from purchasing and posting “press photos” taken during the war, but this shot has so much potential research  that I felt it deserved to be digitized.

Lancaster, PA WWII Portrait Photo Display

Lancaster, PA WWII Portrait Photo Display

 

I purchased this photo while visiting a friend in the Philadelphia area.  The reverse side of the photo identifies the photo as the F.W. Woolworth building in Lancaster, PA.  The store identity is confirmed in the image; the tiled entrance and gilded placard identify the establishment as such.  The date of the photo wasn’t noted, but the presence of the 4th Liberty Loan Bond dates the image to 1944.

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4th War Loan Drive Poster, ca. 1944

My guess is that the store asked for portrait photos of local veterans to post in the storefront.  A rough estimate puts the number at 100 portraits visible in the window.  The shots runt he gamut of WWII service branches, including the Marine leathernecks, Army Air Force pilots, female WAC and Waves, Navy Sailors as well as regular Army soldiers.

 

4th Loan Poster

4th Loan Poster

I plan on contacting a number of Lancaster, PA historical societies, veteran groups and newspapers in hopes of identifying a few of the veterans posed in the Woolworth’s window.

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Moving WWII Candid Snapshot – The FFI Free French and Captured Female German Collaborators


This incredibly moving snapshot from my WWII collection captures a wide range of emotions.  The only identification I have for the photo is that it was taken in a town/village/city named Poules during the tail end of the war. A US GI followed a joyous parade of French citizens and Free French (FFI) underground soldiers as they proudly walk down the streets of their newly liberated city. It’s a photo that speaks volumes.

German Collaborator Parade

German Collaborator Parade

After nearly four years of German occupation, a contingent of the French population were eager to fight back against the oppressive rule of their German visitors. In this post’s main photo we see a young, attractive female underground soldier causally smoking a cigarette, toting German “potato masher” stick grenades while holding a captured German rifle and briefcase.  To her left we see a group of young French women who have been publicly shamed.  Their shaved heads were shaped to show a swastika.  A joyous moment for the FFI, yet a horrible moment for the women who were caught up in the frenzy of the German occupation.  This photo has never been digitized for display on the web. You’re the first to see it!

Collaborator Parade

Collaborator Parade

FFI Female Underground Soldier

FFI Female Underground Fighter

US Signal Corps Footage of Collaborator Hair Cuts

Similar Photos From the Web

Another hero of the French Resistance during World War II and decorated for saving the lives of U.S. soldiers shot down behind enemy lines was Micheline Blum-Picard. Only eighteen-years-old when she first became involved in the Resistance, Blum-Picard started by carrying messages taped to her back and then progressed to photographing inside factories damaged by bombing raids By D-Day, however, she was carrying a rifle, a pistol, and a hand grenade wherever she went.

Another hero of the French Resistance during World War II and decorated for saving the lives of U.S. soldiers shot down behind enemy lines was Micheline Blum-Picard. Only eighteen-years-old when she first became involved in the Resistance, Blum-Picard started by carrying messages taped to her back and then progressed to photographing inside factories damaged by bombing raids By D-Day, however, she was carrying a rifle, a pistol, and a hand grenade wherever she went. inyourfacewomen.blogspot.com

Female French Resistance

Female French Resistance

World War II resistant woman fighter - Paris,1940s photograph the New York Public Library Picture Collection

World War II resistant woman fighter – Paris,1940s photograph the New York Public Library Picture Collection

Member of the French resistance with German tunic and thompson machine gun by Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, via Flickr

Member of the French resistance with German tunic and thompson machine gun by Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, via Flickr

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 2

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 4

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 5

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944 6

A French woman has her head shaved by civilians as a penalty for having consorted with German troops, 1944

My 200,000th Viewer Post! – Remembering My Grandfather, Ambrose R. Canty, 777th Tank Battalion, 69th Division


Today I quietly celebrated my 200,000th blog view from my desk at work.  I knew the number was coming, and with nearly 300 views a day I was able to predict that the 200k plateau would be reached this week.  What should I write about on this momentous day?  I thought back to all my favorite posts…….

Ambrose R. Canty ca. 1944

Ambrose R. Canty ca. 1944

 

 

With all those topics in mind I kept coming back to the one man who “brought me into the fold” of researching WWII history.  My grandfather.  Ambrose R. Canty taught me from a young age that you should respect your elders, listen to their stories, as well as how to play poker, pitch, bridge, rummy and pocketknife baseball.   He also told me stories of his experiences during the second world war.  Stories that would be gradually elaborated on as I grew older.  Having spent the majority of my youth with him, I was able to learn a lot about the 69th Infantry Regiment and specifically the 777th Tank Battalion.

Ambrose on Furlough, 1944

Ambrose on Furlough, 1944

My interest in WWII history started with my grandfather, and I feel that on my 200,000th view that I should post a rememberance post to him.  Although he passed away nearly five years ago, I still feel a connection with him.  My early interaction with him live on through this website, and I hope I’m able to help pass on the passion Amby imbued in me at a young age.

Amby (second from right) Holds a Captured German Flag in Leipzig

Amby (second from right) Holds a Captured German Flag in Leipzig

Grampy, thanks for everything.

 

Ambrose Washing in His Helmet, Germany 1945

Ambrose Washing in His Helmet, Germany 1945

777th Reproduction WWII Patch

777th Reproduction WWII Patch

WWII War Orphans Pose in Germany – Barefooted German Children in Crisp B/W


Digging through backlogged collections is fun.  I always seen to unearth a photo, negative or slide that eluded my initial passover.  In this case, I found a poignant negative from 1945-1947 showing two barefoot children who survived the war somewhere near Munich.  The photographer (unknown) had quite the eye for detail as evidenced in his 400+ negatives in my collection.

 

Bare Feet on Cobble

Bare Feet on Cobble

WWII in Color: U.S. Navy Seabee in the Pacific Theater of Operations in 1945


 

The lush greens and vibrant reds of the jungles of the Philippines are represented in typical WWII photography as dull grays, whites and blacks.  In this case, a WWII U.S. Navy seabee shot 35mm Kodachrome in an attempt to document his surrounding environment for posterity.  Although the non-martial content of the slides may be boring to some, it is an incredibly rare glimpse into the everyday life of the seabee during WWII.

PTO390 copy

PTO391 copy

PTO392 copy

PTO393 copy

PTO394 copy

PTO395 copy

PTO396 copy

PTO397 copy

PTO398 copy

PTO399 copy

PTO400 copy

PTO401 copy

PTO402 copy

PTO403 copy

 

 

 

 

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%!