Monthly Archives: February 2015

Joe Rosenthal and the Cameramen of the Signal Corp

Cover from the May 1945, U.S. Camera Magazine

Cover from the May 1945, U.S. Camera Magazine, volume 9, Number 4. (Dr. Blansett’s private collection)

The following link includes a digital copy of the U.S. Camera 1945 article

U.S. Camera first began publishing in 1938 and throughout the war covered how this technology revolutionized the war. Throughout the war, many Americans had a front row seat at their local movie house to watch newsreels before the feature film or to thumb through their subscription or 15 cent purchase of U.S. Camera. The most iconic image of the war was captured by Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, who on February 23, 1945 at the Battle of Iwo Jima captured an image of the flag-raising atop of Mount Suribachi. An image so powerful that it became immortalized in a bronze sculpture for the Marine Corp Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. The photo and ultimately the image itself became a symbol commemorating the sacrifice and patriotism of thousands of Marines who served their country in a time of crisis. While the photo created a lasting symbol and won Rosenthal a coveted Pulitzer Prize, controversy and debate still surrounds the iconic photograph, as the following article from Matthew Hansen’s November 23, 2014 column in the Omaha World Herald illustrates:

The 1945 U.S. Camera article also contains an interview with Joe Rosenthal on page 57 in which he stated, “I followed up this shot with another of a group of cheering Marines and then I tried to find four men I heard were the actual instigators of the grand adventure. But they had scattered to their units and I finally gave it up and descended the mountain.” In particular three of the original flag-raisers were Ira Hayes (Akimel O’odham), Rene Gagnon, and John Bradley, each of whom became instant celebrities as they were recruited by the military to sponsor a war bond campaign and tour across the United States. Hansen’s article highlights the research local Omaha resident Eric Krelle, who challenges whether or not Bradley is actually portrayed in the famed photo.

U.S. Camera Magazine (August 1944) page 29

U.S. Camera Magazine (August 1944) page 29 from Dr. Blansett’s private Collection


On the left is a scanned image from a U.S. Camera (August 1944) magazine article entitled, “Training Combat Cameramen: Final Phases of Signal Corps Photo School Course: U.S. Camera Magazine (August 1944). This article details both the specific training and dangers that soldiers within the U.S. Army Signal Corp faced in documenting the war. Often without a weapon, these brave soldiers attacked the enemy with their lens, capturing and documenting the military history of the American war effort. While many of their photos were shared exclusively with the military, many of their photographs were also shared with the larger American public, who remained eager to learn of any news about their loved ones. Aside from the major obstacle of dodging bullets & shrapnel, these cameramen faced unrelenting challenges of extreme temperatures & weather, confined & makeshift lab conditions, risk of equipment failure, life threatening physical wounds, psychological effects, and possible death. Many of the photographic images taken during the D-Day invasion were lost forever due to overexposure of the original film negatives. If cameramen were unable to develop their photos in the field, often their film had to be sent to distant labs for development. While we often remember the heroism and articles from journalists like Ernie Pyle, we often forget to recognize the service of those who helped capture and win the war on film. Many of these images, like Rosenthal’s famed photograph transformed the war effort in immeasurable ways. In many aspects, these military cameramen also transformed how the American public and the world interacted with modern war and the battlefield. By 2000, the YouTube video below, the documentary entitled Shooting War was released by a group of producers which included famed director Steven Spielberg and narrated by actor Tom Hanks. The documentary explores the original footage of the war and those credited with having captured these infamous images.





Divide and Conquer, 1942

Cover from Divide and Conquer Pamphlet

Cover from Divide and Conquer Pamphlet

Divide and Conquer, 1942, GPO

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, FDR and the American military had to convince the general public of a “Europe First” strategy. This task became monumental considering popular opinion and animosity swayed toward a Pacific First strategy. The military as well as FDR feared fighting a two front war, needed time for mobilizing/training for war, and had to protect our European allies for a joint venture against Japan. This debate emerged as a key issue in formulating an American military strategy. Who do we attack first? Do we fight a two front war? Which enemy is more of a threat and how can this be measured?  Following the loss of France, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Netherlands, and Britain’s continual struggle to remain above ground under the constant threat of Nazi air raids, one and only one strategy appeared plausible as America prepared for war.

In 1942, Divide and Conquer alongside with The Unconquered People were both published by the Office of Facts and Figures which had been established by  Executive Order 8922 only two months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Ultimately, the Office of Facts and Figures joined together with other key government departments/agencies and reorganized as the Office of War Information. This sixteen page pamphlet features a cover illustration of Adolph Hitler hoovering  ominously in the background of John Q. Public. Hitler appears to be whispering rumors to John Q. Public shrouded in a fog of darkness, as Nazi rumors were meant to illicit shock in the average citizen. This cover illustration acknowledges a secret conversation, both hidden and unknown to the larger public and revealed to a select few. Adolph Hitler is also portrayed with a swastika arm band (image of Nazi fascism and the official state symbol of the Third Reich) offset or rather balanced by a hangman’s noose clinched in Hitler’s opposite hand.  The first inscription appears inside the front cover. It is a direct quote from Adolph Hitler’s book entitled Mein Kampf  (1925) of which the first line of the selective stanza reads, “At the bottom of their hearts the great masses of the people are more likely to be poisoned…” On the subsequent page is an illustration of an unknown Nazi soldier carrying his shouldered rifle affixed with a bayonet, his back is turned as he marches away, faceless and unemotional from a recent lynching. Daniel Fitzpatrick’s illustration only displays the lynched bodies from the knee down, the victims feet having been tied together–lacking the ability to struggle against their perpetrator. One victim is wearing shoes while the other is without, implying a violence that moves beyond class. Below their lifeless bodies is a Nazi sign pasted to a building that simply reads “Verboten” (forbidden). The wall opposite features bullet marks and blood stains, a hint of further massacres. The first article featured just below this provocative illustration is entitled “The Story of Nazi Terror…” A simple word map on the entire document reveals consistent phrasings or associations…”Nazi lies…Hitler is wrong…Hitler attacks…Hitler’s war…Hitler’s terror…Hitler cannot lose…Hitler invades…Hitler hopes to destroy…Hitler’s strategy…Hitler, who acts like a terror…” The final page of the document contains over 40 endnotes, with sources ranging from Life magazine to Reader’s Digest and the New York Herald.

The illustrator, Daniel Robert Fitzpatrick was a popular political cartoonist who worked for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Fitzpatrick, a celebrated and talented artist,  received the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1926 and 1955 for his editorial cartoons. After the war, he donated a majority of his drawings to the State Historical Society of Missouri. Take a closer look at the link above which will take you to a pdf copy of the publication Divide and Conquer and provide a brief comment about this important historical document. The following images are pulled from the original copy as scanned from Dr. Kent Blansett’s private collection:

Divide and Conquer page 3

Daniel R. Fitzpatrick, Divide and Conquer illustration from page 3

Divide and Conquer page 6

Daniel Fitzpatrick Illustration from Divide and Conquer page 6

Divide and Conquer pages 8-9

Daniel Fitzpatrick illustration from Divide and Conquer pages 8-9

Divide and Conquer, page 13

Daniel Fitzpatrick illustration from Divide and Conquer page 13

Divide and Conquer, page 15

Daniel Fitzpatrick illustration from Divide and Conquer page 15