- Posted October 24, 2012 by
Team iReport featured this story
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your World War II memorabilia
Stories From the War- Bringing Memories to Life
- sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer
Every day we capture our lives in images. These digital snapshots tell us a great deal about ourselves, the people who surround us, and our environment. They provide context to a series of fleeting moments. The technology of today provides us the ability to capture an astonishing amount of imagery that often lays hidden on our computers, camera chips, or DVD’s. As our personal visual collections grow each year, they are eventually stored away- hidden in the dark reaches of our closets or lost within stacks of CD’s piled high in the corner of the room. This article is about uncovering one of those personal stories, and bringing it to life.
Not long ago, I came across a CD labeled “Scans of WWII” which was intermixed with a group discs. It contained a series of scans I had made of photos my father took during WWII while stationed in England, Belgium, and Germany. My father, Bernard, was a Private First Class in the Army Corps of Engineers. In the photos, he had carefully documented his journey during the war through images of his GI buddies, the European countryside, and the people who lived there. These images provided incredible insight into what it must have been like to live through a war, thousands of miles from home. On the back of many of the photos, my father had written short personal descriptions to document what he saw and what he had been thinking. As I looked though the timeless images, I knew these “stories from the war” had to be shared with the world.
One of the photographs that caught my eye was an image of four U.S. service men in front of the Parliament in London- my father is the third person from the left. As I looked at the image, I had to wonder what was going through his mind as the camera shutter clicked, and a fleeting moment was captured in time. What were his buddies thinking as they framed the photo? What would become of their lives? As I stared at the image, I wondered what I would have said if I was the one taking the photo, back in 1943. Years later, I would have the opportunity of standing in the same exact location. It would leave a lasting impression upon me.
I searched through more of the images my father had captured. There was a series of photos from the heart of Piccadilly Circus in London. One photo of my father had the description, “Red Cross veranda, second floor (American).” The date on the back said, November, 5, 1943. I would be born almost exactly 13 years later.
There was a series of images of his GI buddies standing on the side of the road. In looking at the group, you could only imagine their individual personalities. My father wrote, “We stopped here after being separated from the rest of the convoy. Eating our famous ‘C’ rations. We were just 30 miles short of Salzburg (Germany.)”
My father’s job in WWII was building airfields throughout Europe. Through the Battle of the Bulge, the Normandy invasion, and to the eventual end of the war, he continued to photograph his journey. There he was, with thousands of U.S. soldiers and allies working together to bring the war to an end. One photo was shot with my father in front of a B-17, another in front of a Nazi plane. Each photo provided a sense of what he and many other were experiencing so many miles away, in a war that today we can only imagine.
Another fascinating photo was an image he shot during the liberation of Holland. The photograph shows a small crowd gathering in the town square. On the back of the photo he wrote, “This was taken at Neerbeek, Holland. I took the picture from our barracks. The people were celebrating their liberation. This is near Maastricht.” It was a fleeting image- a historic moment preserved for us to reflect on and perhaps consider what these people were thinking, and hoping for.
As I sat quietly looking at each photo, I thought how much I was like my father- telling stories carefully by documenting the scene, and preserving the memory for others to experience. It is a passion I still carry with me today. Back in 2005, I had the opportunity to travel to the exact location my father had been- right in front of the London Parliament with his GI buddies. On that day in April, some 62 years later I was standing and wondering what he must have been thinking. As the shutter clicked and my family captured my digital image, I realized I was following in my father’s footsteps. Perhaps he too was thinking that he had just captured a fleeting image that would be shared many years later. I had a deep feeling of warmth, appreciation, and pride.
Telling this story from the war allowed me to bring it to life, to share it and preserve it. In the far reaches of your closet, in your countless stacks of images, there too may be a story waiting to be told. What stories are waiting for you to share?