Remembering the end of a world war

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Deck scene, Sept. 2, 1945, when Japanese signed surrender documents aboard USS Missouri (BB-63). Courtesy of the Daily Press.
Deck scene, Sept. 2, 1945, when Japanese signed surrender documents aboard USS Missouri (BB-63). Courtesy of the Daily Press.

Today I am thinking a great deal about the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. My father and millions of other men and women fought in this conflict that re-shaped the psyche of the entire nation. To me, the photograph below, formalizing world peace, is the most inspiring photograph of that war.

I am grateful that we have been able to move on in international relations, embracing both Japan and Germany as strong allies who have turned their backs on war-making against their neighbors. I am also glad that President Truman learned the lessons from the end of World War I and chose to help rebuild Japan and Germany.

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Putting the pieces together

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5888SamuelLivermoreStack
P0003/-02#B-5888, Samuel Livermore Stack.

When we started this project, we had photographs with minimal information, and no way to fill in the gaps. This left us with images like this one, whose inscription was only “Close view of stack with three swastikas”. They looked like tallies, and given that they lacked the plane painted over them that the Louisa May Alcott had, we could not even be certain they were from shooting down planes. That’s all we had, until the 8 x 10 inventory, which provided a new source of information.

Given the size differences between a 4 x 5 print and an 8 x 10, you expect more details on the larger prints, but we didn’t know to expect as much as we got — not just the name of the ship (Samuel Livermore) but the casualties (Three German JU-88s), the location (the Mediterranean) and the men who did the shooting — Ennis Quinn of Milledgeville, GA, William C. Watson of Detroit, Marshall Sells of Landis, NC, and Glenn Pringle of Oskaloosa, IA. That’s a pretty decent haul for one extra source!

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Shipwreck Survivors

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SS Norman Prince

It is no surprise that many ships were torpedoed during WWII and that many soldiers passed away as the ships went down. Today, however, I came across a few photographs of groups of men who managed to survive. Thankfully, the notes on the back of the prints are detailed and told their stories:

These dapper seaman were on the English ship SS Norman Prince which was torpedoed on May 28, 1942 off St. Lucia. They were rescued by the French ship SS Angouleme, but kept as prisoners in Martinique for over four months. They were finally released in an exchange of prisoners and came aboard this ship, the SS Goethals. Uboats.net adds that all but one survivor drifted on the lifeboat for 26 hours, 40 miles before they were able to get the attention of the SS Angouleme.

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Taking northern Italy on skis

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_Line
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gothic_Line

When the 10th Mountain Division staged in Hampton Roads they were preparing to embark for northern Italy. This mountainous region posed challenges in terms of the terrain. The task would be formidable. The Germans very well fortified with machine gun nests and bunkers across the so-called “Gothic Line.” How best to mount an offensive in this punishing landscape? As it happened, some foreign-born world champion skiers had been drafted into the U.S. Army and they would lend their expertise in training the troops to navigate the Apennine Mountains.

According to Fort Drum (home of the modern 10th Mountain Division), the inspiration for a unit specializing in mountain and winter warfare came from then President of the National Ski Patrol Charles M. Dole who was inspired by the Soviet Union’s costly invasion of Finland. In fact many of the unit’s infantry were recruited directly by the National Ski Patrol and perhaps some of those were the men who are subject of today’s post: world champion skiers like Friedl Pfiefer, Walter Prager, and Sigi Engl. Readers interested in learning more about the 10th Mountain Division’s heroics during the assault on northern Italy are encouraged to read the Fort Drum page.

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The "white glove treatment", and a major prize.

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One box of 8 x 10s, with one folder open. Time separated the caption from the back of its print, and you can see how much more fits on a photo of this size than on a 4 x 5.
One box of 8 x 10s, with one folder open. Time separated the caption from the back of its print, and you can see how much more fits on a photo of this size than on a 4 x 5.

There’s been precious little cataloging this week, as we’ve been working on an inventory of the 8 x 10 prints in the HRPE collection. The 8 x 10s from HRPE have been in cold storage since the 90s, when the cold storage room was installed, and have barely been touched by anyone since then. They lived in folders in drawers until about two weeks ago, when we began moving the folders into boxes and the boxes into cool storage to begin thawing out before being moved over to the library for a complete inventory. Many of the 8 x 10s have more information on the backs than the 4 x 5s do, which will allow us to better describe the images as we catalog them, going forward.

These prints have, like the rest of the collection, never been cataloged or inventoried to any degree beyond sleeving them and putting them into numerical order, but the end of last week found us in boxes of unsleeved materials. These photos are getting the “white glove treatment”, as the oils in bare hands can stain the surface. Sleeves mean that white gloves won’t be necessary in future and also makes them easier to handle — while gloves protect the photos, glossy surfaces and cotton gloves are, predictably, slippery together. In the process, we are also removing stray paperclips, and inserting detached cations into the sleeves with their photos, preventing future damage. We are also supplying the library with enough paperclips to last the next decade.

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