Today I came across an interesting book that I had to purchase. The book entitled “Men of WW II: Fighting Men at Ease” was a collection of non-copyright WWII photos from navy photographers and journalists.
Evan Bachner, 47, the son of a WWII Navy sailor, a photo historian, and Columbia Business School graduate (cbs 84) was working at Merrill Lynch and came across an unusual picture of a naked gunner in the St. Georges Channel by Horace Bristol from WWII’s Pacific Theater of operations. That started him on a quest of collecting the picture’s of America’s greatest generation at ease on Pacific islands, atolls, and ships, as the prepared for gruesome battles with the Japanese. The pictures honor these very ordinary men and heroes in poses that are not the standard war photos of men in the midst of battle. These uncopyrighted photos were actually taken during World War II by the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit which was formed in 1942 by photographer Edward J. Steichen. (The over 400,000 photos are stored at the National Archives in Greenbelt MD). It had six photographers who traveled with the Navy and took pictures of military men training, in combat and in their free time.
The photographs appeared in newspapers and magazines during World War II, but most of those published were of men in battle. The 150 portraits and pictures in Bachner’s book are the more social ones that were never published in stateside newspapers. Photographers in the WWII unit included Wayne Miller, and Howard Liberman, as well as Victor Jorgensen, Steichen, Bristol, and Barrett Gallagher.
The reviews confirm that this book covers masculinity and commrodory in a raw environment that captures it all on film in an uninhibited way.