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KULCHUR - Vol. 2 No. 5 - Spring 1962

[Archive of 1100+ Original Photographs of a WWII Soldier's Life in the Pacific Theater]

BETZ, Peter R. (Photographer)

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[Various]: (1927-46). First Edition. Archive of more than 1,100 vernacular photographs from the service of a single soldier before, during, and immediately after World War II. Contained in five albums: (1) Oblong string-tied commercial album measuring approximately 13î x 10.5î. Imitation leather titled ìPhotographsî with small portrait photo, cut to the shape of a key-hole, fixed to front cover. 163 photographs of various snapshot sizes, corner-mounted to leaves recto and verso, most with holograph captions and several small doodles. Approximately half are colorized. Photographs depict family vacations, bicycle racing, aviation, scouting, and other subjects, dated from 1927 to 1935. Five photographs and a bicycle race program laid-in. Four hand-made title pages dividing album into sections. Album is generally in good condition, with some rubbing and wear and a tear at the front cover to which tape has been applied. ìAviation Sectionî of nine leaves is lacking most photographs. First painted title page adhered to the cover opposing it. Most photos about fine. (2) Oblong commercial photo album measuring 13.75î x 10.75î approx. Lacquer cover with surfing scene and ìAloha Hawaiiî at rear; lacking front cover. 226 B&W photographs, most with captions, corner mounted to 25 leaves recto and verso. Photos primarily military scenes in Hawaii and Panama from 1937-1938 with several family photographs. Album in poor condition: lacking the front cover, rear cover and leaves edge-worn and many photographs loose from their mounts. Still most photographs about fine. (3) Oblong string-tied commercial album titled ìPhotographs,î 15î x 11.5î approx. Hand-lettered title page ìG.I./ Memories/Feb. 6 1942-Nov. 17 1945î (above right) with domestic and Pacific theatre place names listed. 202 photographs, various sizes, most 4î x 2.75î approx. Photos primarily from Hawaii and New Guinea. Laid in at rear is a promotional calendar for 1944, upon which a rendering of a B-2 has been drawn. Album generally good. Front cover detached but present. Covers edge-worn. Leaves suffer some chipping to edges. Some photographs have come loose from their mounts, but most in fine condition. (4) Oblong string-tied album, 13.25î x 10.25î approx. Brown imitation leather with ìPhotographsî printed at front cover. 252 photographs of various snapshot sizes, a handful larger, mounted recto and verso to 36 leaves plus leaf of photo-strips with a total of 50 images. Most photos with holograph captions from Oahu, New Guinea, and various locations throughout the Philippines. Dated 1945. Album suffers some edge-wear, front joint starting. Several pages disbound. Some photographs dismounted, most generally fine. (5) Oblong string-tied commercial album measuring 13.25î x 10î approx. Imitation leather embossed with a horse bust design and ìPhotographsî at front cover. Hand-lettered title page ìNanking China/Nov. 9th 1945/ to/ Feb. 12th 1946î. One photo measuring 2.75î x 4î approx. and 290 B&W photographs measuring 2.25î x 1.75î approx. corner-mounted to 14 leaves recto and verso, most with hand-written captions. Photographs depict scenes from an airfield, the city of Nanking (Nanjing,) Shanghai, aboard the transport ship USS General Scott, arrival in Seattle, train journey, domestic family scenes and a welcoming parade in Buffalo, NY. Laid in are four photographs of various sizes from 2.5î x 2.5î approx. to 8î x 10î approx. Album lightly edge-worn. Some pages disbound but present. Generally very good. (Item ID: 15999)

Peter R. Betz (identified by his name and postwar address in the rear of two of the albums) served with the U.S. Army in the Pacific, and his photographs document that theater and the Philippines Campaign in detail. Nearly every photograph features Betzís neat, holograph captions, and the albums in general are highly organized, making for an incredibly thorough photographic biography of a soldier. The earliest photographs are dated 1927 and feature images of a Boy Scout troop and camping trip. Two of the albums also contain several images of the Betzís family, including parents, siblings, and cousins. Many of these family portraits are hand tinted. Betzís documentation of his Army career begins in 1937 and ë38, with his service in Hawaii and Panama. The photographs regarding this time are casual and candid: soldiers relaxing in barracks and off-base in Honolulu and Waikiki beach, hiking trips in the mountains of Hawaii, native Hawaiians in traditional dress, a visit from President Roosevelt, as well as (separately) from Gracie Allen and George Burns. And photographs of the Panama Canal lock system in action reveal a keen interest in mechanics and engineering. Wartime photographs are contained primarily in two albums. The first, titled ìG.I. Memories, Feb. 6, 1942 - Nov. 17, 1945î (above) features over 200 images. These include stateside images of Camp Croft and Sand Hill, SC. A second deployment to Hawaii also features heavily, including many of the same kinds of images as appeared earlier. The album contains a notable series of 28 photographs taken in New Guinea, identified by Betz as ìNative dance...started Friday thru Sunday night.î 47 photos from December 1944 to January 1945 in Leyte, Philippines show US Army barracks and soldiers, native Filipinos (mostly children), countryside, numerous aircraft and ships, and the aftermath of one or more unidentified battles (as left). The second album focuses almost entirely on operations in the Philippines. These include eighteen photographs, with aerial shots, labeled ìAir Drop,î eleven photographs ìtaken fromî and of Japanese soldiers, and six showing a Japanese surrender on an unidentified airfield. Most importantly, however, over 60 photos that trace the U.S. effort to retake islands from the Japanese, including the January 29, 1945 beach landing at San Narciso, which marked the beginning of the Battle of Bataan. Also noteworthy: Mariveles and the aftermath of fighting in Zig Zag Pass, preparing for the detonation of Fort Drum in Manila Bay on April 12, 1945, followed by images of a beach landing on and aerial shots of Carabao Island on April 16. Additionally: 100 photos, dated January-October 1946, of Luzon after the liberation of the island. The photographs show soldiers and native Filipinos, including Negrito resistance fighters armed with bow and arrow, as well as villages and buildings, many showing the effects of the war. A final album documents, in over 200 images, Betzís experience immediately after the end of hostilities, where he served out his enlistment in Nanking and Shanghai, China. Dated Now. 9, 1945 - Feb. 12, 1946, these photographs show various aspects of the city, soldiers, and people, as well as US and Japanese planes, ships, and like. The album concludes with photographs taken from the deck of the USS General Scott during Betzís return voyage to the United States. Betz was a serious student of photography, and his images demonstrate a keen eye for framing and documentary. As comprehensive an archive of a soldierís WWII service as weíve encountered. While vernacular albums from this era do turn up, we arenít aware of any as large, or as comprehensively-captioned, that focuses on a single person as this one. Indeed, both circumstances of life in the Pacific theater, as well as formal censorship policies and security restrictions made assembling such a large collection extraordinarily difficult. A rare, compelling, and significant collection.


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