Archive for the ‘War’ Category
To recap: Lee Miller was covering WWII for Vogue, and working alongside David E. Scherman, a Life staffer. Scherman took the above photo of Miller in the bathtub of Adolf Hitler’s house in Munich — the house where Mr. Chamberlain signed away Czechoslovakia six long years earlier. The photo was taken on the night after the duo visited Dachau, on April 30, 1945 — earlier in the day, Hitler had committed suicide in Berlin.
As far as contact sheets are concerned, there isn’t any. There is also a missing shot from this series, which allegedly shows Miller undressing/getting into the tub, and which was burnt in the darkroom. [Anthony Spencer has tried to recreate it in “It cries itself to sleep” (1973)]. Scherman slept in Hitler’s bed; Miller had her picture taken at the Führer’s desk. It is believed that there was also a similar photograph with the roles reversed: Scherman as the subject, and Miller as the photographer.
Now there is a new better Lee Miller online archive. These new unpublished shots at Hitler’s house do not clear any of the mysteries above, but some of these archival images were never before seen. Termed NSBs (Never Seen Befores) on the website, they are all very interesting though. Go and check them out.
When the North Vietnamese tank No. 843 broke down the gates of the presidential palace in Saigon on April 30 1975 — just hours after the last American helicopters had left — it signaled the end of an era, and that of a long and bitter war. Most Western journalists had been evacuated from South Vietnam at this point, but that defining moment was captured on video and on camera film by two who stayed behind.
The first was made by Neil Davis, an unflappable Australian who waltzed back into his Saigon tailor’s to collect a Safari suit he had ordered before as the North Vietnamese were bearing down on the city. His video of the tank breaking through the gates was first broadcast on an NBC News Special Report: Communist Saigon, only nearly a month later on 26 May 1975. Davis died covering a coup in Thailand, his still-running camera recording his own death.
The photographic record of the moment was made by an equally intrepid figure – Francoise Demulder, who would later become the first woman to win the World Press Photo Award. A student of philosophy (and a model), Ms. Demulder travelled to South Vietnam with her boyfriend in the early 1970s. To cover their travelling expenses, the couple quickly became embedded with the U.S. military, she who had no formal training in photography taking war photos and her boyfriend driving her around, covering the fighting, and dropping off their photos at the AP office. She stayed behind to take the now-famous photo above.
Thus ended the two-decade long conflict in Vietnam; five million tonnes of bombs and 1.7 million tonnes of Agent Orange were dropped over both Vietnams. Alas, peace did not return to the region. Two weeks later, the Khmer Rouge took control in the neighboring Cambodia; by November, Laos too was in the hands of the communists. As for the long suffering Vietnamese (three million of whom perished during the war), there was little respite as their government would soon be involved in two other fratricidal conflicts with China and Cambodia.
Scene. The devastated street of an Arab capital. Children and residents flee barefoot as their slumtown is burnt down by the government militia. At the first glance, the photo looks no different from a thousand others we have seen before and since, in color and in black-and-white.
But dear reader, would it surprise you if the elderly woman begging for her life was a Palestinian, while her masked attacker with a World War II rifle was a Christian Phalangist? When Francoise Demulder — one of the pioneering female French photographers — took the photo on the morning of January 18th 1976, the Phalangists in the Lebanese capital of Beirut had just massacred 1,000 Palestinians, set alight the Muslim homes in the unfortunately named suburb of La Quarantine, and forever shattered the myths of plucky Maronites defending their homelands in the Levant.
Demulder had couriered her film by a taxi to Damascus where it was loaded to a Paris-bound flight and delivered to Gamma, her photo agency. They remained unpublished until Ms. Demulder returned to France. Their publication was a watershed moment; according to Demulder, ”from then on it was no longer good Christians and wicked Palestinians, and the Phalangists never forgave me”. The photo, now titled “Distress in Lebanon”, would eventually won the World Press Photo award, Demulder becoming the first woman to do so. She later recounted in a TV interview that only the young girl and her child seen the background survived, the militiaman having killed himself in a game of Russian roulette.
For the next three decades, Lebanon too was embroiled what it would seem to many of its denizens a protracted game of Russian roulette. La Quarantine — itself a reprisal for the murder of four Phalangists — was repaid in kind by the PLO with an attack on the Christian community at Damour. Syrian, Israeli, and eventually multinational troops intervened and then interfered, each with differing level of success; Lebanon lurched from crisis to crisis to this very day.
[There will be more on Demulder in my very next post. To be continued.]
In 1978, as violence and revolution gripped Nicaragua, Susan Meiselas traveled there to document the fall of the stifling Somoza regime there. She took many powerful images of the Sandinistas revolt, including the photo later came to be known as ‘The Molotov Man’. Unlike her other photos from Nicaragua, the photo above was not published anywhere at the time, but only reproduced in her book, emphatically named, “Nicaragua: June, 1978-July, 1979″, which is considered to be one of the best photojournalistic works.
The photo was taken on July 16, 1979, the day before Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the last of the Somozas who had ruled Nicaragua since 1936; a Sandinistas rebel — later revealed to be a man named Pablo Arauz) was throwing a bomb at a Somoza national guard garrison — an image made all the more ironic by the pepsi-cola bottle he had appropriated to hurl at the nepotist regime long-supported by the United States. In the end, the Somoza-Sandinistas conflict left 40,000 people dead (1.5 percent of the population); 40,000 children orphaned; and over 200,000 families (one fifth of the population) homeless. Another hauntingly beautiful Meiselas photo show the smoke rising from the city of Esteli as a Somaza bomber departs the scene like some silhouetted cormorant.
As for The Molotov Man, it would later play a crucial role in a copyrights debate. In 2004, Joy Garnett, an appropriation artist based one of her paintings on the photo. Meiselas issued a cease and desist letter and demanded rights to the painting. Viral internet outrage followed; and two years later, two artists reached a compromise, appearing jointly at a fair-use symposium and penning together an article on the whole controversy in Harper’s (pdf).
When the very first photos from Belsen Bergen and Buchenwald concentration camps were released in the late April 1945, the general public was incredulous. Yes, they had read the newspapers and heard the rumors, but they didn’t necessarily believe them, dismissing them as typical wartime propaganda by exiled governments. There were precedents, too: during World War I, it had been widely rumored that the Germans on the Western Front were melting down human bodies for fat (these rumors later turned out to be false).
Radio reporter Richard Dimbleby, a man of unimpeachable integrity, had had great difficulty persuading a dubious BBC to broadcast his fast eye-witness report from Belsen. A London cinema showing the first film from the camps was picketed by an angry crowd, protesting government ‘lies’. Their anger was shared by millions of Germans, who while aware of the camps, were convinced that the atrocities had been grossly exaggerated by Allied propaganda.
Photos helped turned this around. By the end of April 1945, eighty-one percent of the British population believed the Holocaust stories, up from thirty seven percent only six months earlier. On May 1, 1945, the Daily Express organized an exhibition called ‘Seeing is Believing’ in London, where people queued in thousands to see the pictures from Buchenwald. Later, a film from Belsen was shown in the cinemas: skeletons bulldozed into burial pits, and German civilians standing beside the SS at the graveside, all of it filmed in one take, so that there could be no accusations of trick photography.
The photo above and below showed Dr. Fritz Klein, a German doctor at Bergen-Belsen, at Mass Grave 3. It was photographed by a soldier from The British Fifth Army Film & Photographic Unit shortly after the camp’s liberation on 15th April 1945. Unrepentant Klein, who began his work at Auschwitz-Birkenau, was eventually hanged in December 1945.
– some text incorporated from Nicholas Best’s Five Days That Shocked the World
Japan officially surrendered on September 2nd, 1945. What happened next was an equally interesting story.
General Douglas MacArthur had landed at Atsugi airbase two days before; since the VJ day, he had been asked by President Truman to oversee the occupation of Japan. It was a daunting task. On his drive to Yokohama from Atsugi, tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers greeted him with their bayonets out in one final act of symbolic defiance. Seventy percent of Americans thought Emperor Hirohito should be persecuted; there were protests outside MacArthur’s headquarters by American servicemen and calls in Australian and Russian press to that effect.
However, MacArthur understood that for the transition to be smooth, the imperial rule must persist. Yet, he didn’t make the customary call to the palace; instead, he waited for the emperor to make the first contact. On 27th September, Hirohito finally crossed the palace moat to reach MacArthur’s headquarters at the Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Company – requisitioned for its relative intactness and its proximity to both the palace and the American embassy. In The Man Who Saved Kabuki, Shin Okamoto wrote:
MacArthur greeted the emperor at the entrance to the reception room, shaking his hand and saying, ‘You are very, very welcome sir.’ The emperor kept bowing lower and lower until MacArthur found himself shaking hands with him over the emperor’s head. Only the emperor, MacArthur and Okamura, the interpreter went into the reception room. Then the door to the reception room was opened and Lt. Gaetano Faillace, of the military camera corps, took a now famous photograph of the emperor and MacArthur from outside the room.”
Faillace was given one shot, but he spoke up and asked for three. Faillace also adviced MacArthur against a seated picture on a soft couch. First two photos were less than ideal — their eyes were closed in one, and the Emperor’s mouth was gaping open in the other. But even the perfect, final shot posed its own problems: at this juncture, Hirohito was still akitsumikami or manifest deity (he would not renounce his divinity before the coming New Year’s Day), and everyone was supposed to avert eyes from the veiled imperial portraits in government buildings.
Thus, printing the photo was deemed sacrilegious, not least because of the general’s extremely casual attire and his even more pointed body language. MacArthur’s office itself had to intervene to Japanese censors to have it printed. It ran on 29th September. He had to intervene again when the photo appeared in the New York Times alongside an unprecedented interview with the Emperor — where he criticized his government on failing to declare war on US before Pearl Harbour — and police tried to confiscate the papers.
Outside Japan, too, the general’s informal appearance shocked many. Even Life clutched its pearls and wrote, “MacArthur did not trouble to put on a tie for the occasion”. As for the contents of their 40-minute tete-a-tete, nothing was made public; the two men would meet 10 more times during MacArthur’s sojourn as the American Proconsul. The general never paid a return call to the palace.
For this photo, no further caption is needed, and no more ink (pixels?) will be wasted. Instead, I will leave you with Alfred Eisenstaedt’s two slightly different remembrances of that iconic day. In Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt (1985):
In Times Square on V.J. Day I saw a sailor running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn’t make a difference. I was running ahead of him with my Leica looking back over my shoulder but none of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then suddenly, in a flash, I saw something white being grabbed. I turned around and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse. If she had been dressed in a dark dress I would never have taken the picture. If the sailor had worn a white uniform, the same. I took exactly four pictures. It was done within a few seconds.
Only one is right, on account of the balance. In the others the emphasis is wrong — the sailor on the left side is either too small or too tall. People tell me that when I am in heaven they will remember this picture.
In The Eye of Eisenstaedt (1969), he recalled differently:
I was walking through the crowds on V-J Day, looking for pictures. I noticed a sailor coming my way. He was grabbing every female he could find and kissing them all — young girls and old ladies alike. Then I noticed the nurse, standing in that enormous crowd. I focused on her, and just as I’d hoped, the sailor came along, grabbed the nurse, and bent down to kiss her. Now if this girl hadn’t been a nurse, if she’d been dressed dark clothes, I wouldn’t have had a picture. The contrast between her white dress and the sailor’s dark uniform gives the photograph its extra impact.
This blog has covered the Atom Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski before. Here, Iconic Photos looks back yet again.
The very first pictures taken in Hiroshima was by Yoshito Matsushige who was just outside the blastzone; he looked out of his window into a large mushroom cloud, and took the only photographs taken of Hiroshima on that calamitous day. Of his 24 possible exposures, only seven came out right.
Two Asahi Shimbun travelled to Hiroshima. Hajime Miyatake arrived on August 9; Eiichi Matsumoto on August 18. Today, there are 121 of Miyatake’s and 157 of Matsumoto’s photos. Miyatake and Matsumoto’s photos are exceeded in number only by those taken by Shunkichi Kikuchi and Shigeo Hayashi. The latter duo was sent by Japan’s Special Committee for the Investigation of A-bomb Damages. They documented Hiroshima between 30 September to 22 October 1945. (Kikuchi’s photo above).
In Nagaski, a military photographer Yosuke Yamahata took over a hundred photographs in twelve hours in the afternoon of August 10th, the very next day after the bombing. These photos were the first to be seen by the Japanese. In between Japan’s surrender and arrival of the American Occupation Forces, they were printed in 21 August issue of Mainichi Shimbun.
After the Americans arrived, however, tight censorships began. Miyatake and Matsumoto were forced to surrender their prints and ordered to burn their negatives. Both hid them instead, Miyatake under his porch and Matsumoto inside his locker at the company. After the Occupation ended in 1952, the Asahi Graph published a special edition on August 6th 1952, titled First Exposé of A-bomb Damage. It proved to be extremely popular, and the Asahi Shimbun had to run four additional printings with a black and white cover replacing the original color cover. The total circulation was 700,000.
In the U.S., Life magazine followed suit on 29th September 1952, featuring Yamahata’s famous photo of a breastfeeding Japanese woman, which had Madonna overtones. In accompanying editorial, Life wrote, “Dead men have indeed died in vain if live men refuse to look at them. Peace and the way to attain it, which paradoxically may mean that we have to prepared for war, has been a world issue…. the love of peace has no meaning or no stamina unless it is based on a knowledge of war’s terrors.” A 2012 website version of Life, however, takes a more wtf approach; it nonchalantly notes: “The reasons most of these and many more pictures by LIFE photographers on the ground in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were never published have largely been lost or simply forgotten over the intervening seven decades.”
Seriously. I think Life needs to hire a better intern.
Jean Gaumy began his career as a writer and photographer. His exposes on French healthcare and prison systems (he was the first photojournalist to be allowed inside a French prison) led to reforms. Today, he is better known for his photo of Iran’s chandored female militia practicing firing.
Gaumy visited Iran six or seven times over a four-year period. As he recalled:
“For me it was an opportunity to discover the true meaning of what Iran was, to be in a hot news place and really find out about it. I had listened to friends and colleagues at home, all of whom had an opinion on Iran, so my head was buzzing with received information, but when I got out there, I knew I would have to find out the real story for myself. Abbas told me not to believe anything I read in the newspapers about Iran and he was perfectly right. I found it very exciting, discovering an entirely new and different way of life.”
On his first visit, he became the first western photographer to be granted access to the Iranian training camp for female Basij militia on the outskirts of Tehran. It was in 1986, at the height of Iran-Iraq War, and the photos were ayatollahs’ way of saying even our women were prepared to fight and die for us. The war was not going swimmingly for the Islamic Republic; after the initial decisive victories in 1981-82, Iran had united the United States and the Soviet Union against itself. Alarmed by the prospects of a victorious Iran fomenting Islamic Revolution across Middle East and Central Asia, the Soviet Union, the Gulf States and the NATO began openly arming the Iraqis. The war would drag on for another six years.
Basij militia — whose voluntary members are promised with martyrdom — still survives. During the war, they were sent before the army as a human wave to clear minefields and shield the army from the enemy’s fire. These days, it serves at a de facto religious police of the Islamic Republic, enforcing hijab laws and sex segregation.
These are the events and photos too graphic even for those who deal with them daily. The Times will not publish more photos from the massacre; neither will CNN. Iconic Photos will not either (at this particular time), but I will link them here. (WARNING: extremely distressing, gory, and haunting. Viewer discretion advised).
It will need thousands of words to describe, acknowledge, and condemn this atrocity, but pictures being so traumatic, we will have to make do with descriptive words (from The Times):
One photograph shows a cherubic baby girl, no older than 2, with a tiny gold ear-stud. She is wrapped in a white shroud. Half her skull has been hacked or blown away. A saucer of bone juts from a bloody gash in what remains of her head.
Another shows what appears to be a boy of perhaps 6 or 7. The blanket in which he is wrapped has fallen away to expose a bare white shoulder. He looks as if he is sleeping, but the back of his head has been lopped off like the top of a boiled egg. His brain lies on the blanket behind him.
A third shows a pretty young girl staring upwards, her mouth slightly open as if smiling. Above her right eye there is a large, bloody bullet hole surrounded by a mess of flesh and bone.
The pictures go on, some mercifully out of focus, most far too shocking to print in The Times though our failure to do so spares the Assad regime.
There is a baby wearing nothing but a nappy, seemingly untouched except that it lacks an arm. Another young girl wearing a blood-soaked T-shirt with the word “Baby” or “Dolly” written on it has had her jaw shot away. A man carries the body of a child with only half a head remaining.
The photos are from the Damascus-based Shaam News Network, a citizen reporting collective.
Jean Leslie, MI5 secretary whose photograph may or may not have changed the outcome of the Second World War, has died, aged 88.
It was a plan devised by two, approved by twenty: to mislead the Axis powers that instead of attacking Sicily, the Allies intended to invade Greece, then Sardinia, and then southern France. Live agents were risky — they could be tortured or turned, so the ideal plan was to create an agent who was not only fictitious but also dead.
Inside Section 17M, a unit of the British intelligence service so secret that only a handful of people knew of its existence, two officers with impeccably British names of Montagu and Cholmondeley created this imaginary agent, his likes and dislikes, his habits and hobbies, his talents and weaknesses. They gave him a middle name, a religion, a nicotine habit and a place of birth. They gave him a hometown, rank, regiment, bank manager, solicitor and cufflinks. Most importantly, they gave him a supportive family, money, friends, and a fiancée named Pam.
To create a believable fiancée, Cholmondeley wanted a photograph of Pam, so he asked the most attractive girls from the Secret Service to provide the kind of photo which a red-blooded young Marines officer would be likely to carry about his person. It was an open invitation, but Montagu in fact already had a strong candidate in mind — Jean Leslie. Montagu indicated to her that she might be a favoured candidate were she to be interested, and Miss Leslie provided the photo taken the previous summer; she had been swimming in the River Thames near Little Wittenham in Oxfordshire, with a Grenadier Guardsman on leave called Tony and he had taken the above photograph.
With that photograph, Major William “Bill” Martin of the Royal Marines, ID 148228, was complete. Among his possessions, placed with fictitious invasion plans, were an angry letter from Lloyd’s about an overdraft, a bill for shirts, a used bus ticket, a stern letter from his father, and a couple of love letters from affectionate but dim Pam — composed by Leslie’s own spinster superior. A drowned body was taken from a morgue in London and dispatched to the Spanish coast, where pro-Nazi officials passed the misleading documents to the Germans.
The deception was indeed effective. Hitler became convinced that any attack on Sicily would only be a decoy for the main assault in Greece and Sardinia, and for two weeks after the Sicily landings on the island on July 9, 1943, no attempt was made to rush reinforcements to meet them.
– see Ben McIntyre’s Operation Mincemeat for more details.
Here at IP, I am devoted to providing accurate and informative backstories about iconic photos, but sometimes, I simply get things wrong. Here is one of such stories: @aalholmes
In 1977, J. Ross Baughman was documenting the bloody guerrilla war that broke out in Rhodesia as the minority white rule slowly disintegrates there; the attacks on anti-government guerillas were especially fierce and Baughman rode with a cavalry unit, Grey’s Scouts, and captured them torturing prisoners. Baughman remembers:
They force them to line up in push-up stance. They’re holding that position for 45 minutes in the sun, many of them starting to shake violently. Eventually, the first guy fell. They took him around the back of the building, knocked him out and fired a shot into the air. They continued bring men to the back of the building. The poor guy on the end started crying and going crazy and he finally broke and started talking. As it turns out, what he was saying wasn’t true, but the scouts were willing to use it as a lead. It had all the feeling of an eventual massacre. I was afraid that I might see entire villages murdered.
In my original post (June 2010), I posited that journalists don’t usually carry guns, since that meant forfeiture of a journalist’s status as a neutral noncombatant under international law. I also erroneously claimed that J. Ross Baughman was the first photographer to tote a gun. In his correspondence to me, Mr. Baughman points out: