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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.

11 Comments

  1. Perhaps the freest form of nudity is among one’s fellows in arms– the buddies with whom you serve, a soldier has more intimate knowledge of his service pals than maybe their own families, fiancees, parents and siblings.
    In no time at all, my best buddy and I were comfortable showering with one another, posing nude for the black and white camera film shots (they were so tame and naive that they were developed by the PX with no question) and I can remember wrestling bouts on our barrack floor– we were both in the nude.

    There is a camaraderie (SP?) among naked service men much like puppies rolling over one another — perhaps that’s why women were barred from the military ranks for so long– men could not feel as comfortably naked around the females as they could amongst their own gender.
    Insofar as barring self-proclaimed homosexuals from the Armed Forces of the U. S. A., it’s most likely that the “brass” feels Drill Sergeants could never train any fighting men, nor win any wars, if their troops were in each others’ arms as well as bearing arms,

    but, it was pointed out to me that, the Spartans fought so fiercely because they not only fought for their own “skin” they were fighting for their best buddy’s well being — as was the case somewhat obscurated by the movie “300”, yet, felt as an undercurrent of brotherly love, nonetheless (I guess the Spartans truly were the “Original” “SKINS” team).

    As long as there are armies, there will be naked men in the tents, the barracks, and equipment (tanks, foxholes, beach head bunkers) — our ancient forebears fought naked, and Man is — as Desmond Morris pointed out in his book by the same title — the “Naked” Ape.

    We are the delightful combination of angel and human who enjoys feeling the sun and air on our bare bodies, and the warm waters caressing us — we were made to enjoy the planet, the earth and the Garden of Eden: Naked. I make no apolofgies for my love affair with “being in a comfortable” state of nudity as often as I can be — at home, at rest, and — when reasonable — during exercise, swimming and recreation (A gymnast friend and I used to train with freeweights in a garage, makeshift “gym” and felt quite as ease being — in the nude — one another’s work-out partner). I had never thought of this before, but maybe Nudity and Nakedness are God-given luxuries for we earthlings to feel completely set free from everything else that bridles us: work, commmitments, appointments, and “civilization’s” demands. Is there any good Irish drinking toast out there to Salute the status of being totally unclothed? Surely the Ancient Greek Philosophers had SOME poet’s toast for such an occasion: “Here’s to you, ALL of you, and to the ALL of us!” To your health! Thanks for the chance to “Air” my view.

  2. Are the pictures available on the web?

  3. Back then men weren’t afraid of being called an homosexual because they were naked or was physical with other men. The idea of it being so-called gay, was nonsense. Today, men need to be naked with other men, but are afraid because they might (most likely will) be marked as gay. This is sad. We need to change the way we think.

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  4. Male Skinny-dipping History in the USA.

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  5. I am a sixty one year old male who frequented the New Haven, CT YMCA in the early to mid sixties. At the time there was an innocence that basically expressed, “nudity DID NOT preclude any type of sex.” Other activities such as weight lifting were done in the nude without a second thought. At times there was cajoling about a guy’s physical appearance wether it was more or less than ample. It was something that was dealt with just as other social pressures are dealt with today. I must also state that it is my belief that the gene pool can be your greatest friend or your worse enemy. It dictates how one reacts to given scenarios… solitary or social, dominate or subordinate, confident or not.

  6. Let’s stop using the term “greatest generation”. Have we forgotten that those men sat down to dinner in segregated mess halls in Europe, eating with Nazi prisoners of war, while black US soldiers had to eat by themselves, as inferiors? Many would come home, after fighting with many non-white soldiers, and fight to maintain Jim Crow in the South, and oppose the Civil Rights movement beyond.

    They were simply born in a time that called them to deal with the messes their elders created, and they dealt with them. They did very little to ensure those messes wouldn’t recur, as the war had hardly ended than we were hysterical about International Communism and doing everything we could to tear up the Constitution at home, and act contrary to our Values abroad.

    They fought because they had to, or live under foreign domination, and for that we are eternally thankful, but they are not the Greatest Generation in any sense, they are people like you and me. The term originated with a book by Tom Brokaw who helped spin the news that kept much of post-war America in the dark and ignorant of the bad decisions our government was making in our name. That should be enough of a reason to dump the term.

  7. just another day in the military, seeing yoour buddies naked and having fun with each other. Being naked with your buddies,sons,and or other members of your family; is very much natural with other males. You haven’t anything they haven’t seen or have.

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