Combat Photographers

US Marine Corps photo, Guam

US Marine Corps photo, Guam (Who took this picture?)

When you watch the TV news, videos or newsreels and see the daring reporter enter a combat area – ask yourself – ‘who went in there first to record that moment?’  The unsung heroes of combat photographers have been supplying the public with information since their cameras were invented:

Adolph Hitler being installed as Chancellor of Germany and all of his subsequent conquests across Europe; Mussolini’s troops in Ethiopia; the Battle of Britain and the invasion of Russia were all captured and seen in newspapers and newsreels shown in 14,000 local U.S. neighborhood theaters.  When Japan invaded China, two American newsreel cameramen were there – Norman Alley of Universal and Eric Mayell of Fox Movietone.

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Norman Alley & Eric Mayell, USS Panay, 1937

Enlisted, drafted or civilian, the men often dropped their cameras to pick up a rifle and so few people realize the price often paid.  But during WWII, the home front was hungry for news of the war and their loved ones – and the cameras were rolling.

To name only a few ….

Ken Bell

Ken Bell

-Fred Baylis of Paramount, enroute from Germany’s invasion of France to Sicily was killed when his plane burned.
– Ken Bell, a Lt. in the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit, worked in the ETO.
– Margaret Bourke-White, the first female war correspondent and only foreign photographer in Moscow when Germany

Margaret Bourke-White

Margaret Bourke-White

invaded Russia, moved on to cover more of the ETO.

Robert Capa

Robert Capa

– Robert Capa, filmed the Spanish Civil War, Sino-Japan War, the ETO and while at the First Indochina War, stepped on a land mine and died with his camera in his hand.
– Dickey Chapelle, only female photographer on Iwo Jima, also covered Okinawa and continued to work in Vietnam.

Dickey Chapelle

Dickey Chapelle

-Earle Crotchett of Universal, caught in a Japanese air raid on New Guinea, broke his leg – but caught the attack on film.
– Harold Dunkley, one of Australia’s longest serving photographers, captured the CBI, the Philippines and returned for the Korean War.

Harold Dunkley

Harold Dunkley

– Lee Embree, a US Army SSgt., took the first air-to-air photographs of Japanese pilots bombing Pearl Harbor and then went out to cover the PTO.
– 2nd Lt. Donald Mittelstaedt, saw action in most every battle of the Pacific, including the 11th Airborne Division while they were in Battangas Province, south of Manila, P.I.

Donald Mittelstaedt w/ the 11th A/B near Manila

Donald Mittelstaedt w/ the 11th A/B near Manila

-Dave Oliver of Pathe News, skipped clear of a German shell while picturing the 5th Allied Army in Italy.

– Damien Parer of Paramount, traveled with the Marines from Pearl Harbor to Palau, where he was shot and killed by machine-gun fire in September 1944.

Rey Scott

Rey Scott

Rey Scott, wrote, produced and shot the documentary “Kukan, The Battle Cry of China” and traveled to Chongquing and filmed the Japanese bombings of the city from the rooftop of the US Embassy building.  He flew 9 missions for the taping of “Report From the Aleutians” and continued to film as both a civilian and soldier.

William Clothier

William Clothier

Major William Wyler, more widely known as a director, flew missions for the filming of “Memphis Belle” along with Captains Harold Tannenbaum and Bill Clothier.  Wyler was awarded the Air Medal for his 5 sorties, but came home deaf.  Tannenbaum was killed in action.  Clothier rose to LtColonel and flew 17 missions for the ‘Belle.’

Sadly, not all will be mentioned here, the US Navy had 11 combat-photography units and there was the US Army Pictorial Service.  Other countries sent there their units.  Sgt. Bert Balaban took Wake Island aerials; Sgt.’s Norman Hatch & Obie Newcomb were at Tarawa; Cpl. Arthur J. Kiely Jr. in Saipan and Lt. Dewey Wrigley was on Attu, Alaska and in Sicily & southern France.

Norm Hatch speaks with Herb Schlosberg.

Norm Hatch speaks with Herb Schlosberg.

USMC SSgt. Louis Lowery took the original [and to me, the most noteworthy] picture of raising the flag on Iwo Jima.  The second photo (and most famous) was orchestrated by Joe Rosenthal, but taken by Bob Campbell and Bill Genaust.  Genaust was killed in action nine days later.

Capt. Lou Lowrey

Capt. Lou Lowrey

These men and so many more deserve higher honors than they ever received for the perils they withstood to give the world the pictures we are all still privileged to see today.  They captured History.

Click images to enlarge.

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Military Humor – S.N.A.F.U.

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Farewell Salutes – 

Alexander Bonnyman Jr. – Knoxville, TN; USMC, WWII, Lt., PTO, Medal of Honor, KIA > Body returned home.

John DeMarco – Troy, NY; US Coast Guard, WWII, PTOTaps

Paul Gaeke – Hobe Sound, FL; US Army, Vietnam, artillery

Robert Lutes – Mountain Home, AR; US Air Force, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, pilot, Bronze Star, DFC

Francis J. Menchey – Gettysburg, PA; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Pharmacist Mate 3rd Class

Michael Metcalf – Boynton Beach, FL; US Army, Pvt. 1st Class, Afghanistan

Paul Piché – Nanalmo, CAN; RC Air Force, WWII, ETO, 443 Squadron

Donald Sirl – Cleveland, OH; US Army, Korea

Lilian Gladys Tompkins – Hamilton, NZ; WWII, nurse, Changi POW

Eldridge Williams – Miami, FL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Tuskegee airman,/ Korea

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I am having a difficult time with the new Reader program.  Should I happen to miss anyone’s latest post – please leave a comment so that I can get back to you – THANK YOU!!

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 13, 2015, in WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 98 Comments.

  1. Good morning: Thanks for your continuing reporting on the Pacific War. Would you send me the article re. combat photographers. I want to post it on the Navy’s Combat Camera’s web site. Thanks in advance for your help.

    Sylvester M. Shelton, Captain, USNR (ret.).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We definitely owe a lot to the photographers who were courageous enough to capture these images from the past. Images are powerful and pictures often tell a story much better than words alone.

    Like

    • That is exactly how I feel about them and why I usually try to put as many pictures in my posts as I do. They help to explain my amateurish writing. .

      Liked by 1 person

      • The writing is very good….and you know your subject! People need to know their history, their past. I’m not sure that they teach it in school anymore. Seems things are being left out. Robert did an excellent job on this article and I am thrilled you enjoyed it, Mary.

        Like

        • As far as I can tell, a lot is being left out. The one thing in our favor now is technology. Before a government could manipulate a school text book, but these days – the kids can just Google it!

          Like

  3. Robert Capa photographed D-Day. I have read that he was one of four photographers, but to be honest I haven’t seen any images of the other three, only his. Thank you for this post!

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  4. Great tribute to all those who recorded for prosperity, the wars and battles throughout the Pacific over many years. I particularly like the flag raising at Iwo Jima, more so now that I read the story and the song by Johnny Cash, The Ballad of Ira Hayes, one of the men who raised the flag.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    Private SNAFU never did get a clue.

    Like

  6. I am honored and hope Smitty will be pleased to hear from you…

    Like

  7. Thank you for sharing this GP Cox.

    Combat photographers definitely have an important and dangerous job that allows those of us who are not there to at least have a better idea of some of things that happen during war, I hope that one day there is no longer any war, but until then we will continue to need people there to hopefully unbiasedly record what happens.

    -John Jr

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, John. Unbiased is the key word there, I hope they realize [in today’s events] just how much power they hold when molding our minds to a situation. The media as a whole tends to show what they feel will “sell” an audience [much like Hollywood], when in reality we should only be getting the facts and all the facts. I’m glad you found the article interesting and will return for more.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome GP Cox. 🙂

        Yes, the media definitely has a lot of power in that area, to a scary degree where they can shape reality for most people; and that power is definitely being used a lot by various groups/people/governments/companies/militaries/intelligence agencies/police forces/religions/et cetera for various purposes for their own various interests instead of accurately reflecting reality unfortunately. (Which is nothing new, but they are probably getting better at it and have more options now-a-days)

        Thank you for replying.

        -John Jr

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Combat photographers are like the newsmen and cameramen who filmed the Iraq war. Do they enjoy “neutrality” like the Red Cross who can travel to and from opposing armies without fear of being shot? For today’s newsmen/cameramen, I think they are but do correct me if I’m wrong. For combat photographers in prior world wars, I believe they are treated like ordinary soldiers… I hope I am wrong.

    Like

    • To be honest with you, I am not “as up” on the current photojournalists as I should be. I spend most of my time on-line researching the past. By what I get from the news, no one, even the Red Cross, is safe out in the Middle East. The WWII cameramen were fair-game as far as the enemy was concerned, I doubt that the Taliban or ISIS feel any different.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Those reports and newsreels at the theaters kept Americans informed about our troops and our families in the war zone. There is more to a war than meets the eye.

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    • So many nooks and crannies that I’m sure I’ll glance over too – yet it is all one huge domino-effect. With each person being a link on a very large chain – without one – the whole operation suffers. Thanks for your loyal support here, Bev!!

      Like

  10. Wonderful tribute to the men and women who captured the grueling and tremendously frightening scenes unfolding before them. Without their efforts we would be short-sighted of our troops tremendous endeavors and the meritorious service from those who offered their all to protect our freedom.

    Beautiful tribute! Thanks for sharing.

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  11. It takes a very special courage to hold a camera when everyone round you has a lethal weapon they can use in self-defence.

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  12. GP Cox,

    This is a fascinating tribute. Thanks for sharing! I think photography would have been my preference for helping out in WW2. I’ve ran my own portrait photography business for several years, but my favorite work is simply being present and documenting. Such a pleasure to step back in time with you.

    Best,
    Emily Grace

    Like

    • Emily Grace – I totally respect the photographers, the people who see and document the things that most of us humans simply walk on past. I think with your attitude and experience, you would be an excellent photojournalist. Thank you for your support here.__ GP

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Excellent post as usual GP. Ironically I just featured a photojournalist who currently covers the middle east. Time may creep by…but war never changes.

    Like

    • I’m very glad to know that your photojournalist will be getting recognition – I just wish we could change war!! Thanks for stopping by and sitting awhile!!

      Like

  14. We watched Fail-safe last night. Good God. Terrifying!!

    Like

  15. What a great post, Everett! They are unsung heroes and were in unbelievable danger at times.

    Like

  16. That is an amazing picture–the soldiers with the flag. I see it referenced all over the internet. It seems to be public domain, but if the photographer is still alive, that wouldn’t be true. The sleuth in me wants to know more.

    Like

  17. It is interesting to note many military combat photographers used the bulky yet reliable 4×5 Speedgraphic cameras. They were bulky and setting exposure was merely a best guess. Capa was one who used 35mm; actually, his rolls taken on D-Day were ruined by the darkroom guy with only a few frames being useable. One was his famous photo of a blurred soldier taken on Omaha Beach.

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    • It seems, as I answer these comments, that Capa made a distinct impression on most. I’m very glad to see that these people will be remembered! Thank you, Koji.

      Like

  18. We should never forget these unbelievably brave men.The members of Bomber Command were continually amazed at photographers who flew missions over Germany when not required to. And a lot were killed, of course, including many gallant Americans, eager to portray the war to a neutral USA before the events of Pearl Harbor.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Great post subject. Where would we be without the photos and videos from them? Damien Parer took some excellent shots of the 3rd Bomb Group in their early days.
    And, as you mentioned, photographers in each unit were also as invaluable as the combat photographers.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Great post GP – Just to add that Capa gives a clear description of his experience landing with soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division at Omaha Beach in his book “Slightly Out of Focus” Of the 3 rolls of film he shot only 10 frames survived, but these provided the definitive image of the Normandy invasion

    Like

    • Upon reading the accounts, Normandy was a very difficult invasion to cover, I agree. In the Pacific it was the same, only on a smaller scale – every time they landed on a new island. Thank you for visiting, Gustav.

      Like

  21. Love the post, gp and I admire Margaret Bourke-White. I love her saying: ” Saturate yourself with your subject and the camera will all but take you by the hand and point the way” and she was so very professional and determined in her work…

    Like

  22. I like that you are remembering these people. I was a broadcaster with the Armed Forces Radio and Television network while in the Air Force in the 1980s. For a while I was assigned to an audiovisual squadron. They trained me in the use of a sidearm, so that in case of war I’d go off to document the battle action, armed with just a video camera and a revolver. Seemed pretty risky to me, and so I was glad our country remained at peace.

    I also enjoyed the cartoon.

    Like

  23. This was interesting. I’ve always thought about those pictures with just that question in mind, “who took the picture?”

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  24. Journalism and photography are both addictive “bugs”, when they combine together in a person, you often get results worthy of Pulitzer Prizes. These images prove that point.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. A detailed and fitting tribute to the men and women who put themselves at risk to keep the world informed. Capa’s fuzzy action photos of the D-Day landings are still chilling to behold, and give a real sense of what the landings must have been like for those involved.
    http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=29YL535ZXX00
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Like

    • Thank you for taking the time, not only to read and comment, but to contribute this link, Pete! I think it’s great that the friends I’ve made here have become friends with each other in the conversations and helping to add to the information. It is greatly appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Really enjoyed this one as it is right up my alley so to speak. I never knew there were any female war photographers. Thanks for showing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Robert Capa, of course, was a founder member of the iconic Magnum photographer group

    Like

  28. Both truly fascinating and informative!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. We don’t get this kind of war coverage anymore. All we see are pics of some guy shootings a gun at something in the distance over and over again on the news or some soldiers walking through a town.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very true, Carl, interesting point – I suppose even the news has become too high-tech?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think it’s more the rules of engagement have changed…tremendously. Our guys have to get legal clearance to shoot/bomb/shell. Somewhat similar to Iwo Jima, they are hidden. Our forces rarely see combat closeup because the enemy are cowards and use cell phones to kill our young military. Certainly, no hand-to-hand involving large numbers of combatants. I also feel the outlets only show enemy dead when it tries to disgrace our heoes… just my opinion.

        Like

  30. Pierre Lagacé

    Reblogged this on Lest We Forget and commented:
    Not to be forgotten…

    Liked by 1 person

  31. it’s so great that you honored this brave men and women. many thanks… a couple of days ago I watched a documentation about Ernie Pyle, it was touching and overwhelming to see war though his writing…

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Thank you for informing your readers about my site.

    Like

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