WWII War Orphans Pose in Germany – Barefooted German Children in Crisp B/W


Digging through backlogged collections is fun.  I always seen to unearth a photo, negative or slide that eluded my initial passover.  In this case, I found a poignant negative from 1945-1947 showing two barefoot children who survived the war somewhere near Munich.  The photographer (unknown) had quite the eye for detail as evidenced in his 400+ negatives in my collection.

 

Bare Feet on Cobble

Bare Feet on Cobble

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Winooski, VT WWI Veteran Photo Identification – eBay Photo Yields Vermont History Golden Research!


 

 

This story starts with a 23 year old Earl F. Lavalle scribbling his name on the back of a photo to pass along to a friend during WWI and ends with a full identification of Mr. Lavallee’s life experience.  The main goal of PortraitsofWar is to research and seek out every possible lead to identify an early 20th century photograph; recent digitization efforts have enhanced our ability to complete genealogical research from the confines of a remote desktop.

Earl in 1918

Earl in 1918

Our first accounts of Earl show him being born on November 29th 1894 to Fred Lavallee of Canada and Emma Pollinger of (my current hometown!) Colchester.  Earl worked his entire life as a laborer in the American Woolen Co.  in Winooski, VT, located along the Winooski/Onion River near Burlington,VT.  He lived at various locations during his tenure at the woolen mill including 36 Hood Street, Winooski, 102 Mallets Bay Ave, 22 Park Street and many more.

Earl Lavallee Reverse

Earl Lavallee Reverse

Earl enlisted on February 11th, 1918 at Camp Green, North Carolina.  He served with Company G, 58th Infantry Regiment, 4th Division until August 21st, 1918 when he was transferred to Supply Co, same regiment.  He was overseas from May 7th, 1918 to August 1st, 1919.

Earl was wounded in action on September 30th, 1918.  This photograph depicts Earl after his wounding evidenced by his right-hand wound stripe.  Earl was discharged on August 7th, 1919.

Earl Lavallee Draft Card WWI

Earl Lavallee Draft Card WWI

 

Earl Lavallee WWII Draft Card

Earl Lavallee WWII Draft Card

Lavallee Signature

Lavallee Signature

Lavallee Family Story

The 1900 US Census from Colchester, VT shows the Lavallee family as a solid unit with five family members comprised of Earl’s dad Fred Lavallee, his mother Emma, brother Charles,  sister Florence and himself (Earl).

1900 Census, Colchester, Vt

1900 Census, Colchester, Vt

 

 

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WWII Photo Identification – US Nurse and Navy Husband from Plymouth, Pennsylvania


Family heirlooms come in many forms, shapes and sizes.  It always amazes me what types of material appears on eBay as part of estate liquidation sales.  Family scrapbooks, bibles, photo albums and personal diaries.  In this case, I was able to purchase a small group of photos and a War Department Identification card from a nurse who served in WWII.  Included were a few photos of her in wartime garb, shots of her husband (pre-marriage) and her wartime ID card.  As I always say, it’s about the research….

Helen (Boretski) Bronesky's WWII ID Card

Helen (Boretski) Bronesky’s WWII ID Card

Reverse of Card Showing Fingerprints

Reverse of Card Showing Fingerprints

It’s sad to thing that a family would sell off relics of their family’s past, but it’s not for me to judge.  I’m here to interpret the material at hand and figure out as much as possible with scant information.

I always start off with a quick ancestry.com search to help figure out the background story.  We have a name – Helen Boretski and a birthdate of March 31st, 1924.  Helen was 5’6″ when the photo was taken and a healthy 142 pounds.  Her hair and eyes are listed as brown.  Her thumb and right index finger are both present on the back of the ID.

A quick ancestry and google search helped me discover that Helen was dating and eventually married to a Navy man named Paul Bronesky in 1946.  A few photos included in the purchase we indeed identified to a Paul, so this helps confirm the identification.  In fact, further research into Paul’s WWII service shows that he was a radio man on a Navy aircraft.  This is further confirmed through the photo included in the group.  He is wearing a rare set of Navy air crew wings with a radioman rate patch on his sleeve.

Paul Bronesky in WWII

Paul Bronesky in WWII

Hubba Hubba

Hubba Hubba

Helen Wearing "Sweetheart" Navy Wings

Helen Wearing “Sweetheart” Navy Wings

What makes this grouping of photos interesting is the fact that both the husband and wife (dating in wartime) were both service members.  Helen was a nurse and Paul was a Navy radioman.  Helen strikes a chord with me.  There’s just something about her gaze and smile that make me want to reach out and talk to her.  Sadly she passed away in 2008.  Please see below for an obituary record from Plymouth, PA:

“Helen (Boretski) Bronesky, 83, formerly of Plymouth, died March 24, 2008, in Mequon, Wis., of a cerebral aneurysm. Mrs. Bronesky was born March 31, 1924, in Plymouth and raised in Lyndwood. She graduated from area schools and RN school and was a veteran of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in World War II. She was preceded in death by her husband, Paul; parents, Michael and Susan Boretski; her brother, Michael Boretski. She is survived by son, Paul; daughter, Susan; granddaughters, Michelle, Erica and Leslie; sisters, Mary Koliga, Anne Kochevar, Margaret Cowan and Dorothy Bedosky; numerous nieces, nephews and friends.

Interment will be Saturday, July 26, 2008, at 11 a.m. in S.S. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Plymouth Township. Arrangements are by the S.J. Grontkowski Funeral Home, 530 W. Main St., Plymouth.

Helen as a Nurse in WWII

Helen as a Nurse in WWII

Helen and Paul Marriage day 1946

Helen and Paul Marriage day 1946

Helen's Kiss

Helen’s Kiss

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WWI Photo – Silver Lake, MN Pvt. Edward Prochaska Killed in Action, 118th Infantry, 29th Division


Each of the 116, 516 US soldiers, Marines and sailors killed during WWI   deserve a narrative on the world wide web.  In this case, a photo of Edward Prochaska of Silver Lake, MN recently arrived in the mail from an eBay seller in the Midwest.  I purchased the photo after doing some brief research on the photo, finding that Prochaska was killed in action while serving with the 118th Infantry, 29th Division.

Ed Prochaska ca. 1918  France

Ed Prochaska ca. 1918
France

Incredibly, Prochaska is referenced heavily in a postwar book following the exploits of Private Oscar Dahlgren during WWI.  The full text version of the book can be found here: http://bit.ly/1bSx4h9

Some excerpts from the book are incredibly detailed and give us a unique view into the experiences of a doughboy on the frontlines.

Page 59

“In the evening of this day (August 4th, 1918), we started for the front line trenches carrying with us rations.  Myself and Prochaska toted a bag of coffee together changing off with other when tired.  Getting on the road just east of Valencies, we got caught in a shelling that Jerry put over on the roads every day at Valencies toward evening. The big shells dropped so close that we expected to be blown to pieces for every shell.  We threw ourselves flat, favoring the fall.  Luckily, my platoon got through the shelling without any casualties, except for a bag scare.  I could tell how bad when I noted how extremely pale they all got. It struck me so funny that I wanted to laugh.  Ed Prochaska noticed it too, and felt kind of ashamed saying he could laugh at death grinning us in the face.”

Page 105

“Again between August 26th and 27th Prochaska was with me when another heavy shelling took place.  The trench here was shot up bad so there was little protection.  A heavy shell tore into the bank behind our backs.  We both flopped down with pan.  I said it felt like my fingers had been shot off, but I found all my fingers there.”

Page 117

“It was dark and rainy as we walked up the line we had to step over German dead who were lying thick around there (sic) holes they had made in the ground.  When we halted we took into those holes which weren’t very deep.  The hole I got wasn’t more than a foot deep.  Schellenburger got to be my partner.  4 or 5 dead Germans lay dead by my hole.  Prochaska was close by digging in together with R.L. Ross, we not set to work and dug our hole 4 feet deep and wide enough to stretch out.”

Page 65

“Someone caught sight of one coming towards us from Company Headquarters.  He was already half ways and now there was some hollering for him to get down, especially by the sergeant.  It turned out to be Prochaska.  Poor boy – they had him pretty nervous before he came up.  He did not know we weren’t allowed to cross now……… They asked him what he meant by coming over…… He told them he had been at the canteen having bought some cakes, cookies and a can of salmon saying I wanted to bring Dahlgren some! ……. It touched my heart that he had so much friendship and love for me – he thought so much of me.”

And the sad details leading up to Edwards death:

Page 135/6

“I stopped to talk to Prochaska who had dug in deep by himself and was carrying straw to bed down with.  I and he had always dug in together before, but now as I was a runner, we were parted.  Well, he did not get used to his foxhole as he was put on guard at Company Headquarters where I was.  There in the hedges he slept when off guard, that being the last time I talked with him.  That night, though I had a warm bed, I was not able to sleep as the cooties and German fleas started going over the top and giving me no peace……

After getting through the hedge and the wire fence which separated us from the field, we noticed an observation balloon.  We had a funny feeling something terrible was in store for us. My heart made a few quick beats and I felt pale.  All of us runners said to the Captain that it would be suicide to cross the field……. I noticed dozens of Americans lying on the railroad bank killed and the rails lay twisted up…….. We now got to talk to some men of the 128th Regiment who said the same thing happened to them at Brancourt…… The first I got across, one of the boys called me and said, “Prochaska, Dahlgren is killed.”  He had out names mixed up.  The boys were lying close to Prochaska told me his head and shoulder were knocked off by a shell.  He had been my best friend for a long time……”

Prochaska

Prochaska

WWI Draft Card

WWI Draft Card

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WWI Photo – Intense Research Yields an Identified US Pilot in Italy – One of “Fiorello’s Fogianni”


Generally my WWI photo identifications come with a name, unit, and typically a home state or region.  In this case, the only direct ID information to come with the photo was a first name – Harry- and the name of his brother.  The rest of the information was hidden in the nuanced details of the photo postcard.  See below for the main photo included in the eBay listing.

"Harry" in Italy

“Harry” in Italy

The eBay listing also made reference to the fact that the studio stamp was an Italian photographer. With this in mind, I bid to win.

After successfully winning the photo I began the laborious process of identifying the photo.  Here’s the info I was basing my research on:

1.  The photo depicted a US pilot who had served at least 6 months overseas at the time the photo was taken.

2.  The pilot was named Harry and had a brother named Robert.

3.  The pilot had a distinctive signature and handwriting style with large crossed H’s and a penchant for flourishes.

4.  The pilot was in Italy at some point during the war.

I first started my research with a general reference search to find out how many US pilots were in Italy during the war.  Lots of websites popped up and generally pointed towards the Fiorello’s Fogiannia, a group of US pilots who trained in Italy on Italian bombers.  We’ve all been stuck in LaGuardia airport at some point in our lives, so I instantly recognized the reference to Fiorello LaGuardia.  I had no idea he was in WWI!  Further research made it clear that only 500 or so US pilots were in Italy during the war.

Italian Photo Studio Stamp

Italian Photo Studio Stamp

I started by tracking down a copy of the roster of the pilots who trained with the “Fogianni” during the war.  A good friend, Chuck, was extremely gracious enough to take photos of all the pages and send them to me.  I finally had the whole roster to reference.  With this in hand, I identified all the Harold’s and Harry’s in the roster.  This helped narrow it down to less than 30 candidates!  From there I looked at the 1900 and 1910 roster for each of the men in hopes of finding a brother named Robert.  A small handful of candidates trickled through.

Perfect Match!

Perfect Match!

Harry's Signature

Harry’s Signature

 

My first cross reference for the Harry’s with brothers named Robert brought me to Harry S. Manchester from Canfield, Ohio.  The signature on his WWI draft card almost knocked me over!  A perfect match.  Note the intense cross on the H and the overly dramatic crosses on his T’s.  With further research I was able to find a TON of information on Harry.  He was indeed a pilot in Italy during the war and also served in France as  a test pilot, testing new US planes as they were unloaded in France.  His brother was Robert Manchester Jr.  I was able to find Robert’s son (Robert Manchester III)  and grandson (Robert Manchester IV) online, both prominent lawyers in the midwest.

Harry's War Record

Harry’s War Record

Ohio Newspaper Reference

Ohio Newspaper Reference

Harry Wearing Italian Wings

Harry Wearing Italian Wings

Harry Home from College 1916

Harry Home from Wooster College 1916

Harry in Italy

Harry in Italy

Harry as Test Pilot

Harry as Test Pilot

Harry's WWI Flight Helmet

Harry’s WWI Flight Helmet

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WWI Red Cross Nurse Photo Identification – Miss Ella Kettels/Voged Describes Wartime Hospitals


 

World War One studio photography is dominated by shots of male soldiers posing in European studios in hopes of documenting their wartime experiences for hometown family and friends to enjoy.  Little did they know that historians in 2014 would be researching their names, hometowns, photos and military rosters to help paint a picture of the American experience during WWI.  One of my favorite research topics is the wartime culture of US nurses while stationed overseas in 1918 and 1919. In this case, I’ve done an extensive series of searches in hopes of tracking down the WWI nurse posed in the photo. I hope you enjoy the research!

 

Ella (Kettels) Vodel in 1918

Ella (Kettels) Vodel in 1918

 

 

Ella Kettels of Clinton, Iowa

Ella Kettels of Clinton, Iowa

Miss Ella Kettels (mispelled on the photo) eventually went on to marry at the age of 35 to a man named Theodore Voged.  He is listed as a janitor in the 1929 city directory for Clinton, Iowa.  The couple lived at 576 1st Ave. in Clinton, IA.  I’ve identified the house they lived in and have posted it below:

576 1st Ave. in Clinton, IA.

576 1st Ave. in Clinton, IA.

 

Her wartime experience is included in her1965 obituary:

“Mrs, Ella Voged, 80, of Clinton, saw the grim side of World War I. She went to France as a Red Cross nurse but soon found herself enrolled as an Army nurse. She had been graduated from nursing school at a Clinton hospital in 1910. Mrs. Voged served as a nurse in a hospital near Paris to which American wounded came in a steady stream from the big front-line battles of that war. . “Sometimes we thought this boy would be all right and they would be gone in the morning,” she recalled. “This was long before the day of antibiotics. They would develop infections in their wounds.”

Although we may never know the full extent of Ella’s wartime hardships, we do know that she will be immortalized on the world wide web as a subject of potential research in the future.

 

 

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WWI Photo Identification – Base Hostpial #10 Doctor and 103rd Field Artillery Officer Fritz Draper Hurd


Fritz Draper Hurd in 1918

Fritz Draper Hurd in 1918

After owning this photo for over a year, I decided to reexamine the image in hopes of properly identifying the sitter.  The front is inscribed ” Oh for Some Ice Cream!” with a partial ID of F Draper Hu….. with the surname clipped away.  The reverse proved juicy for wartime information, giving some additional information placing the Lt. as being present during the Yankee Division’s experiences at Chateau Thierry,  St. Mihiel and Verdun.  His name was partially obscured by remnant scrapbook paper.  After steaming the affected section with heated and distilled water, the glue separated the paper from the photo and revealed his full name.

F Draper Hurd

FritzHurd287a

FritzHurd288resize

Fritz Draper Hurd was born in Williamsport, Maryland in 1894 and attended Pennsylvania College as a member of the class of 1916 but sadly was expelled the night before graduation after a graduation party involving drinking and furniture breaking.  A dejected Hurd left home and went to Philadelphia seeking work, eventually landing a job with the Eddystone Remington Arms Company turning out components for the lend-lease British Enfield rifle. After hearing of the US declaration of war on Germany, Hurd signed up with a Philly based Red Cross ambulance unit and went overseas in May of 1917 eventually landing in England.  After a quick training he was sent to France to serve as a nurse with Base Hospital #10 – a British hospital for badly wounded soldiers.  The initial wave of Pennsylvania men and women was comprised of 23 doctors and 64 nurses – the first Philadelphia body of organized soldiers to leave Philly.

FritzHurd287abresizedHe next attended Field Artillery School and commissioned a Lt. with the 103rd Field Artillery Regiment, a unit of the 26th “Yankee Division”.  The photo shown above depicts Hurd wearing a uniform with insignia related to this period of his wartime career.  During his time as an artillery liason between the 103rd and the front line infantry units, Hurd was responsible for lugging a wire spool and calling in artillery fire.  He also spent some time in an observation balloon and is credited for calling in a barrage that took out three German machine gun nests.  He also is documented as being a participant of the last artillery shot of the war- firing only minutes before the official end of the war.

He was able to attend Oxford after the war and later became a distinguished medical profession back in the US.  He lived well into his 80s and recorded a memoir which can be found in the Special Collections department of Gettysburg College along with his wartime diary, knuckle duster trench knife, musette bag, scrapbook and assorted ephemera.

FWHurd FWHurd2

Based on the article posted above, we know he had a brother named Mason who also served during the war in a similar set of campaigns as Fritz.  Mason Hurd’s record can be found here:

Name: Mason Montreville Hurd
Race: white
Address: Williamsport, Washington Co.
Birth Place: Clearspring, Md.
Birth Date: 07 Jul 1896
Comment: ORC 11/27/17 2 lt FA, (Ft Oglethorpe Ga.); Btry D 77 FA; Btry E 13 FA 5/10/18; Btry A 13 FA 7/-/18; Hq 1 Army Corps 8/13/18; Casual Officers Dep Blois 8/14/18; Hq SOS 8/-/18; 302 Stev Regt 8/29/18; Btry E 13 FA 11/8/18, Hon disch 10/27/19, Overseas 5/22/18 to 7/31/19, Aisne-Marne; Vesle Sector; Meuse-Argonne

Special thanks go out to Sarah M. Johnson for her extraordinary research on the wartime experiences of Fritz D. Hurd.  She generously provided me with much of the information included in this blog post.  Her official article citation can be found in the footer of this post.   Her poster abstract can be found here: http://bit.ly/K4tWaE

Wartime Summary

Wartime Summary

Johnson, Sarah M. Growing up in the Trenches: Fritz Draper and the Great War. Diss. Gettysburg College, 2013. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

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