FADING MEMORIES -   The book is presented in a full color  'Standard Landscape 10x8 in, 25x20 cm format,  202 pages.

 We're a spoiled generation when it comes to beautiful pictorial publications full of magnificent photographic images of WWII. They're the result of efforts by huge capital investments, highly paid researchers sifting through multiple archives each containing hundreds of thousands of images, editors of education and erudition, layout experts with years of expertise and an army of Photoshop experts. Their publishers are connected with, or own straight-out, distribution channels which ensure that even your local bookstore will have a copy. They go to lunch with folk from Amazon.com. The price we pay for this is that books about one of a kind photo collections from soldiers' footlockers and family albums tend to get the bum's rush.

These photos in this publication are unique. They're not from LIFE magazine. They are not a part of a government funded project of documenting the Army of the United States. They are not an attempt to affirm democratic ideals or cultural values. They were not created to challenge political or social policies or to question the nation's values. Nor are they the product of War Correspondents or Signal Corps professionals. They are not the product of any official arrangements to manage, or restrict the distribution of all their content. They weren't intended to raise civilian morale, well, morale beyond that of "Mom and Pop, brother and sis, and maybe Aunt Bea."

Enough about what they weren't. What they are, are historic personal documents and as such, they present a far different dynamic to the books of WWII photographs we have become accustomed to.

These images are snapshots taken by two or three of the paratroopers of the Second Battalion of the 503d Parachute Regimental Combat Team who managed to carry cameras with them through their time in the SWPA. They weren't assigned to tell photographic stories, and their photos were not intended to do anything other than to provide them with images of what they had seen and done, lest there be no other means to record their actions, or for their families to know. They had another job to do, which was to follow orders and to fight a war. Thus many of the images are an afterthought, or are of what happened in their off hours. Some images have them holding a bottle of beer. Let me assure you, the thieves in the distribution chain ensured that such an instance was so rare, it practically required photographic evidence.

The names I have given to the various collections of images which the 503d PRCT has acquires are somewhat arbitrary. In some respects, the collections get named after the paratrooper who most recently accumulated them, irrespective of whether he ever was the photographer. For instance, though I have entitled the book after B. B. Morton, it's clear to me that there was no possible way he was the man with the camera all the time. For instance, the collection includes thirty images which Mike "Big Mike" Parendo sent to Sherman L. "Bull" Durham's mother late in 1945, so that Bull would have copies of them when he got home. We know this because Bull's daughter, Cindy, kept the letter. When"Bull" died, and his daughter, Cindy, acquired his collection too. This is the classic example, for me, of the reason why there needs to be a 503d PRCT Heritage group to continue the role of the 503d PRCT Association of WWII. For who is to share the images not just with the sons and daughters of the men themselves, but with America's sons and daughters? Who is to keep them from eBay?

I regret that age and indifferent physical storage got to the images long before Cindy and I did, and that I am no bloody good with Photoshop. In the decade I have been collecting images, I have seen almost every photographic defect known to God and Kodak. Images marked with an asterisk are from several short strips of almost unreadable contact prints and thus lack fine detail, even when pushed to high magnification and resolution. In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, so I have included the inadequate images rather than lose the information they contain.

This is part of the "Bless 'em All" Project for which my thanks go to my leader, Bill Calhoun, for sharing his knowledge, vision and experience. And of course, my gratitude and thanks go to Cindy Durham Crawford, without whom the chain of possession would have been broken, and without whose dedication and patience this publication never would have been contemplated.

 

     
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