Soldiers don't die

"A man dies only when he is forgotten"

Friday, November 30, 2012

1941 at Fort Jackson, SC

Scans of Mel's photos from basic training at Fort Jackson, SC continued These are from a souvenir photo album he sent home to his parents. They are the only pictures that have captions and are positively dated. These are from 1941 but were developed and printed in 1942.

These are his friends, Pfcs. Otto Kiefer and Ray Westcott. They are the only other men positively identified in his early photos.

"Bayonet Practice"
Pfc. Mel is wearing a steel doughboy helmet issued early in the war, maybe World War I surplus. He is training with a bolt-action 1903 Springfield. The bayonet is much longer on the old rifles, they were ground down to about half size for use with the M1 Garand to make them also usable as a combat knife.

Mel wearing his brown class 'A' service coat with leather belt. He's standing in front of the barracks.

A small group of men posing for a photograph before loading into trucks for a field exercise. My grandfather is second from the left in the top row. This was a monochrome print that he hand colored.

Monday, November 26, 2012

1941 at Fort Jackson, SC

SHThe following photographs are copies of the ones mounted in the photo album, with descriptions taken from his own handwriting.

"My bunk"

We can see his foot locker open with tray out for inspection. There's a wooden clothes rack in front of the cot with his uniforms hanging there. He's a Private First Class judging from the sleeve chevrons.

"This is our street, our tents are on the left"

The tents are really large and clearly have electricity, as shown by the power lines strung between them.

"How do you like the haircut?"

Mel sporting his new military crew cut. I'm surprised at how skinny he was. There's also a strong resemblance.

"You know who this is. I have a submachine gun"

There are several pictures of his friends playing with guns. One of them is pointing right at the camera.

Will post more in a little while.  There was a lot more to camp life than sleeping in tents and playing with guns, as I will show you with more pictures. Some of these are an insight into army boot camp life that few have documented.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

1941 Photo Album: Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina

We have in our family collection a souvenir photo album that Mel bought in basic training, to fill with his own personal photographs of the experience and send home to his family.  The cover is leather bound and in excellent condition. Quite fancy.  The pages are just black paper on which are mounted the original 1941-'42 prints, and facing pages with captions in his own handwriting. The subsequent posts will be some scans or photographs of this album.  It may be easier to photograph it, I don't want to damage the binding.  Not every soldier had a visual record of his Army experience, even while just in training.  Film was expensive and had to be mailed back home to Eastman Kodak's headquarters in New York to get developed, and if pictures were taken during the war, they would likely have rattled around in a soldier's duffel bag for a few years until it was all over.
Even more stunning is that many of his photographs are in color. Kodachrome was brand new in the 1940's and not cheap. Color film processing was a new science and was expensive, it also took longer to develop and ship through the mail.

I am very lucky to have these, and in such good shape as they are. Since so little of my grandfather's story is written, the photographs he took will have to speak for themselves. I will try to describe as best I can what is going on in the pictures.