There’s More Than One Way to Shoot in a War

The camera-toting soldier

Shooting with cameras rather than guns.  Signal Corps photographers were the “eyes” of the military.  Whether taking motion pictures or still photographs, often in the thick of the action, military photographers captured and produced scores of images for the purpose of strategy and intelligence, map-making and simply to document historic moments.  Photographers in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and other ‘conflicts’ captured some of the most iconic images of their eras.

In addition to its primary role in military transmissions, the Signal Corps, also played a key role in producing training film for army and civilian personnel and documenting combat missions.  During WWII, noted Hollywood producers, directors, and photographers all served in the Signal Corps.  They all brought their talents in the motion picture studio to the field of battle, while dozens of others provided instruction to the personnel.

Signal Corps photo, 4 June ’44, Normandy

In the European Theater (ETO), Signal Corps photographers took part in the landings of North Africa, Italy and later, Normandy.  Amazing footage of D-Day showed members of the unit hitting the Utah and Omaha Beaches, forwarding the first film of the amphibious assaults to England via carrier pigeons.

The Signal Corps subsequently documented every major military campaign around the world, producing millions of feet of combat film and hundreds of thousands of developed still images.  From these sources, the Army supplied the news media in the U.S. and elsewhere with imagery of the war, using 24-hour air delivery service and later sophisticated telephoto electronic transmission equipment.

The 165th

In the course of photographing WWII, the Signal Corps also played a crucial role in documenting evidence of Nazi atrocities and the Holocaust.  Many of the early still and moving pictures of newly liberated Nazi concentration camps were taken by Army photographers and many were later transmitted to news agencies in America and other countries, where they helped to inform the world about the horrors of Nazism and the plight of concentration camp prisoners.  The US Army and other Allied governments eventually used these to confront German POWs as evidence of war crimes.

Lieutenant from the 165th Signal Photo Company dries negatives.

Photography and film taken by the Corps had a variety of uses.  Training films were effective for teaching and indoctrinating the masses of inductees.  Studies showed that these films reduced training time by 30%.  Many of these film were re-scored into foreign languages for the non-English speaking Allies.

In the field, the Corps distributed entertainment films for the soldiers’ morale and feeling for home.  While on the home front, the news reels marked the progress of the struggle, bringing the war home to the millions of Americans before the days of television.

Signal Corps footage comprised 30 to 50% of each newsreel; while the still pictures illustrated the nation’s books, newspapers and magazines.  The government did put some restrictions on what could be shown, but the public received a more realistic look at the warfare than ever before.

Signal Corps photo, 11th A/B Div. jump on Aparri, Luzon

 

 

This article was first published in “The Voice of the Angels” newspaper of the 11th Airborne Division Association.

 

 

 

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE!

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Military Humor –

 

 

Signal Corps

 

 

 

 

 

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Quarantine humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Franklin Beach – Washington, D.C. ; US Navy, WWII, Corpsman

James Byrd – Marion, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, pilot / Air Force Reserves, Lt. Col. (Ret.)

Otho “Jim” Craddock – Malden, MO; US Navy, WWII, USS Bagley

Mary (Mory) Eldridge (100) – Appleton, WI; US Navy WAVES, WWII

Robert Hull – Oshtemo, MI; US Army, WWII & Korea, Major (Ret.)

George R. Reeser – Washington, IL; USMC, PTO, Pvt., I Co./3/6th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

Mary Scott – Ebensburg, PA; Civilian, Dept. of Defense & Agriculture, WWII

Jack R. Stambaugh – Wichita Falls, TX; USMC, WWII, PTO, Co. B/1/6th Marines, KIA (Tarawa)

Charles Vonderau – Brooklyn, NY; US Navy, Yeoman 2nd Class, USS Bangust

Ferrald Walker Sr. (105) – Rockwood, TN; US Army, WWII, ETO, 1512th Battalion Detachment, Sgt.

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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 April 27, 2020, in Korean War, Uncategorized, Vietnam, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 110 Comments.

  1. Nice report, gpcox. Nice job finding these photos!

    I realize this is primarily about the Signal Corps, a US Army unit, and the ETO. On the home front, they also shot some “PR” B&W’s of the WWII concentration camps sanctioned by FDR, a Democrat, incarcerating about 110,000 folks that had Japanese blood. These photos were “setups” meaning they photographed making things much better than it actually was. As an interesting tidbit, you can find quite a few taken in Manzanar of the Miyatake family. You see, the elder Miyatake was a relatively well known photographer in Downtown LA before being whisked off to concentration camp. With Miyatake being acquaintances with Ansel Adams, they were sure to use the Miyatake family for many of their “family shots of Nisei living under good conditions”. 🙂 His grandson Alan took all THREE of my weddings – well, two of mine and one for my eldest daughter.

    On a side note, the US Marine Corps’ cameramen shot combat movie film in color. The ONLY movie of the second, more famous Iwo Jima flag raising by pure chance was shot in color. The cameraman, Sgt. William Genaust, USMC never lived to see his footage. His remains are still on Iwo Jima being KIA a few days later as a rifleman.

    I still watch these B&W newsreels on the internet, the footage courtesy of the Signal Corps as you report. Many folks don’t realize that SOME footage was staged… like when MacArthur did three retakes of him wading ashore on Leyte. On the other hand, many Signal Corps cameramen were KIA. I will think of them especially during this Memorial Day weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They government felt the Marines made more of ‘splash’ than the Army and since color film cost more…… You get the drift.
      Funny you should mention Mac’s walks ashore. The famous one is actually the first one taken. Here’s a clip from my post of that day…
      MacArthur became impatient and ordered a landing craft to carry him and President Osmeña to Red Beach for a dramatically staged arrival back to the Philippines. But the boatload of VIP’s and press were caught in a traffic jam of vessels making an effort to the same makeshift pier. The harassed beachmaster directed the VIP’s away and said, “Let ’em walk!” This more and likely is the reason for his surly expression in the famous photograph, despite him trying later to create a better one______ taken from this post….
      https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2017/03/10/october-1944-5/

      Like

  2. I always enjoy all posts concerning military photographers, they are all heroes in their own right, many lost their lives photographing to the end, but their photographs provide a visual legacy, cheers and great post gp.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I meant to add that one of my prized photos is a couple from Dad when he was serving during ww2 in Iceland.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember watching a documentary about some of the risks taken in capturing the iconic war photos. Truly astonishing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Shooting with camera is more powerful than with guns. Better for long term goals and objectives.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Lulu: “Our Dada said something about comparing the cameraman there with Ginger Rogers doing everything Fred Astaire did …”
    Charlee: “… only backwards …”
    Chaplin: “… and in high heels!”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Brave souls, those photographers. Thanks to them, history comes alive and will not easily be forgotten.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Ah, shoot! No matter how many times I visit your blog, I know there always will be something more to learn! That’s a good thing, of course, and this was particularly interesting. I think we’re generally more aware of photographers from the last fifty years, just because their work is shared more broadly today, but the work done to document earlier wars is becoming even more important, as the actual survivors begin to leave us, one by one.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. WOW! You know how much I love photography, and what a great show of preserving history! I especially love the photo of the soldier drying the negatives. Every time I find an old WWII photo site, I can sit there looking for hours and it just gives me chills. Thanks for sharing! ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I enjoyed learning that the Hollywood industry professional used their talents to document WWII! I also enjoyed the quarantine jokes. Thank you for lifting my spirits today.
    Best Wishes, Charlotte

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’ve always enjoyed the story of Joe Galloway and his involvement at the Battle of the Ia Drang.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hats off to the photographers. They have preserved far more than just the images of war for future generations.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. That’s my kind of shooting. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Great work of them. For motivatioin of the country too. Thank you for sharing, GP! Stay save and well. Btw: “Germany fought the virus, Bavaria fought much more better!” This the last airing of our Bavarian States radion station. Sometimes i think we are in the middle of the Cold War, or in a Cold Information War. Lol Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Very interesting post about documenting war. I have wondered when viewing stills and film of combat at what point the photographers should no longer put themselves in harm’s way to get the shots.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. They were such an important part of getting the message back home as well as recording history. They had to be brave to only have cameras for shooting.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Filmmaker John Ford took some great footage

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hurray for photographers!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Super post, GP. My. Uncle was a P38 pilot in Europe during WWII and was strictly photo recon. He always joked about wanting to down a Messerschmitt with his .45 sidearm. (never happened)

    Liked by 1 person

  20. whoa so glad I came across this.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. The photos from the D-Day have made an indelible impression on me

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Heck of a way to be in combat. Instead of an M1, you had a Browning camera in your hand and a useless ’45 greasegun strapped around your shoulder.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. The images taken are priceless, GP. Signal Corps was another aspect of the military not covered in school.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I wonder how many of these films are still languishing in basements and official archives never having seen the light of day since the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I have always been amazed at the footage the military captures from battles. It tells such a story. I didn’t know this was from Signal Corps. My son’s in that group, for satellites not movie making. I’ll have to ask him about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. The photos from past wars were authentic and gave us the real thing. Nowadays, we don’t know what is real and what is not. Great article and funnies!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. I enjoyed this post, of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Great post. I’ve been watching Apocalypse Second World War on the Smithsonian Channel. No doubt that some of the footage came from the archives stocked by these same heroes who documented the war. This French production tried to colorize many of the videos with a wide degree of success… mostly on the failure side. In any case, it features some footage I’d never seen before.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. If we all we were just shooting with cameras, there would be any wars. I live in an area where people like to hunt and fish. I have no objections to this form of sport, but I prefer capturing the beauty of nature all around us with my camera. Greetings from Canada, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. So many iconic images from different conflicts have put a spotlight on times, places and conditions. Quite amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Great post! I always enjoyed seeing and reading first-hand accounts, actual photos, and the humorous side of things. Especially liked Ernie Pyle and Bill Maudlin.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is always the best part of hearing about a war – one of the reasons I will be rehashing over Smitty’s letters home – he rarely ever talked about the dangerous part of war.

      Liked by 1 person

  32. Australia’s most famous WWll photographer was a Melbourne bloke called Damien Parer. When the Americans came into the war he was used by then and he worked during the Battle of Guam and was awarded a Headliner Award from the American Journalists’ Association. He was killed on 17 September 1944 while filming a United States Marine advance in Palau on the island of Peleliu.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. I love that last cartoon.

    This is a great post. I knew about these guys but I had no idea of the extent of the operations. I had to laugh a little at the notion of sending film back to England by carrier pigeon. Probably faster than my internet connection on some days.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. These photogs were/are amazing

    Liked by 1 person

  35. It is so important that the events of a war are put on the visual record. A lot of people were so horrified by the camps that they couldn’t really believe what they were seeing in front of their own eyes. At least if we have the film to prove it, somebody thousands of miles away in the United States will be able to believe what the Nazis actually got up to.

    Liked by 3 people

  36. Ciao my friend I am back again

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Thanks to their bravery and dedication, we have been left with a tremendous legacy and historical resource. (Good jokes too!)
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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