We asked reference librarian Jon Eaker, who has spent many years exploring our holdings of military images, to select a couple of favorites to feature in honor of Veterans Day. It’s a tall order to pick out just two, given the thousands of images we hold of members of the armed forces depicted in peacetime and war. Nevertheless, Jon came through with two thought-provoking images relating to the final months of World War II, when those in active-duty service could anticipate one day becoming veterans.
Jon’s first selection provides an interesting perspective in more ways than one.
Jon notes: “This print of V-J Day by Edward Sallenbach marks the end of the war from the military serviceman’s perspective. Unlike the photos of cheering crowds in Times Square, this shows more solemn and reserved soldiers and sailors watching a parade of military vehicles go by. The relaxed poses of the men in the foreground portray a sense of relief that the fighting is over.”
Jon also selected this photo:Jon’s comment: “A few months before the Nazis surrendered, a Tuskegee airman watches three fighter planes fly by. The Tuskegee Airmen was a unit of African American pilots, trained in Tuskegee, Alabama, that flew missions in Europe during World War II. Theirs was the first unit of African American aviators in the Army Air Corps. Photographer Toni Frissell took pictures of the airmen (the 332nd Fighter Group) while they were based in southern Italy. I imagine that this airman is hoping they all make it back safely, but you also wonder, this close to victory over Germany, if he is thinking about what he’ll do after the war and what type of country he will return to.”
- Explore more of the images photographer Toni Frissell made of the Tuskegee Airmen in Italy.
- You can learn more about the Tuskegee unit in this Teaching with the Library of Congress blog post, “Celebrating the Tuskegee Airmen” and by touring virtually this section of the African American Odyssey exhibit. The Library was also honored to host a reunion of the airmen in 2004 — seen in this video “WWII Reunion: Tuskegee Airmen.”
- Sample some of our previous Picture This blog posts that feature images and experiences of veterans, as well as some Veterans Day activities the Library sponsored.
- Take a look at the Liljenquist Family Collection and the Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs, both of which include many photographs of members of the armed forces during and after their period of service.