Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
 

Rare Color Portraits of Photographers during World War II

Ian Smith
First man to obtain invasion day photographs is cameraman Captain Dale E. Bikinis, shown with his specially constructed camera.
First man to obtain invasion day photographs is cameraman Captain Dale E. Bikinis, shown with his specially constructed camera.

No conflict in recorded history transformed the globe as thoroughly as World War II. Cities were obliterated; national borders were altered; revolutionary and, in some cases, fearsome military, medical, communication and transportation technology were invented; and tens of millions were killed — the majority of them civilians. Simply put, the world of August 1945, when the war ended, bore little resemblance to that of September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland.

During those six long, uncertain years, LIFE covered the war with more tenacity and focus than any other magazine on earth. Twenty-one LIFE photographers logged 13,000 days outside the U.S.; half of that time was spent in combat zones.

When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, just one Army photographer, Geoffrey Keating, and one cameraman, Harry Rignold, accompanied the British Expeditionary Force to France.

On 24 October 1941, the Army agreed to form a corps of trained photographers and cameramen. The unit was called the Army Film and Photographic Unit (AFPU).

AFPU photographers and cameramen were recruited from the ranks of the Army. Many had been press photographers or cameramen in peacetime. All recruits had to undergo compulsory training in battle photography at Pinewood Film Studios. Badges and permits were issued after attempts to confiscate film by overzealous British soldiers.

The first AFPU section deployed to North Africa. More men were recruited and deployed to Syria, Palestine, Cyprus and Iraq. Desert Victory (1943), a film formed almost entirely from AFPU footage, won an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1943.

A WAC Sergeant makes a shot with a flash camera while in training.

A WAC Sergeant makes a shot with a flash camera while in training.

An Army Signal Corps photographer perches atop a pile of rubble to film the battle for Normandy in June 1944.

An Army Signal Corps photographer perches atop a pile of rubble to film the battle for Normandy in June 1944.

Army photographer.

Army photographer.

Combat cameraman has been in the ETO 27 months. He uses an old shattered German pillbox for protection while photographing the war action.

Combat cameraman has been in the ETO 27 months. He uses an old shattered German pillbox for protection while photographing the war action.

First man to obtain invasion day photographs is cameraman Captain Dale E. Bikinis, shown with his specially constructed camera.

First man to obtain invasion day photographs is cameraman Captain Dale E. Bikinis, shown with his specially constructed camera.

General view of Type A-2 photo trailer.

General view of Type A-2 photo trailer.

Photographers in the World War II (4)

Photographers in the World War II (4)

Serial photographer poses for ground photographer before boarding plane for mission.

Serial photographer poses for ground photographer before boarding plane for mission.

Sgt. handing oblique camera to serial photographer for mission on a North American C-47A.

Sgt. handing oblique camera to serial photographer for mission 

Sgt. installs a K-25 camera in a Bell P-39.

Sgt. installs a K-25 camera in a Bell P-39.

U.S. Marine Corps original combat cameraman