Category Archives: WWI photo

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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Filed under B/W Photo, Collecting, history, photography, Uncategorized, world war, WWI, WWI photo, WWII, wwii photo

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 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


Filed under B/W Photo, Collecting, history, photography, Uncategorized, world war, WWI, WWI photo, WWII, wwii photo

WWI 29th Division 115th Infantry Regiment Panoramic Yardlong Photo – Amazing Details!

WARNING Large File Size

One of the hardest parts of collecting WWI panoramic photography is presenting it in a manner that allows for many people to view it. Each of my scanned examples takes at least an hour to scan in sections, and then digitally splice together. Here is a particularly good example from H Company of the 115th Infantry Regiment of the 29th Division. Note the Native American soldier as well as two soldiers wearing the ribbon for the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC). Sorry about the large file size.

Click HERE for the H Company, 115th Roster!

I actually was able to do some research on Company H of the 115th and found some info on a few members that I was able to identify in the photo.

Robert S. Landstreet

Robert S. Landstreet

Place of Birth: Maryland, Baltimore
Home of record: Baltimore Maryland

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to First Lieutenant (Infantry) Robert S. Landstreet, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, A.E.F., near Bois-de-Consenvoye and Bois-de-la Grande Montague, France, October 8 – 16, 1918. On October 8 First Lieutenant Landstreet led his platoon through machine-gun and rifle fire in an advance which resulted in the capture of 300 prisoners and 12 machine-guns. On the morning of October 16 lie volunteered, with one sergeant, and straightened out the line of an adjacent unit. His movements were under constant machine-gun fire, and so close to the enemy that he, with his sergeant, captured two prisoners while accomplishing their mission.

Hugh McGainey

Hugh P. McGainey

Place of Birth: Maryland, Baltimore
Home of record: Baltimore Maryland


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Sergeant Hugh P. McGainey (ASN: 1285511), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division, A.E.F., near Verdun, France, October 8 – 15, 1918. In the Bois-de-Consenvoye, east of the Meuse, Sergeant McGainey, in command of his platoon, led his men, under heavy machine-gun fire, and captured approximately 500 prisoners, three fieldpieces, and many machine-guns. On October 15 he voluntarily exposed himself to warn his men against gas, and was wounded by shrapnel. He refused to go to the hospital until ordered to do so by the medical officer.

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 3 (1919)

Action Date: October 8 – 15, 1918

Pietro De Berardinis

Pietro De Berardinis

Pietro De Bernardinis

Company H, 115th Infantry.  For extraordinary heroism in action near Verdun, France, October 17th, 1918. In the Bose de Consenvoye, east of the Meuse, Pvt. De Berdaninis, acting in the capacity of a runner, carried three successive messages through heavy barrage of both own own and the enemy’s artillery, traversing a patch where two men had previously been killed by the same barrage.

Home address: Louis Brino, 3921 Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD.


Filed under 29th Division, history, panoramic, photography, world war, WWI, WWI photo

WWI Photo: Research Uncovers 33rd Division Veteran’s Identification! 130th Infantry Regiment Wounded!

Sometimes it takes a good bit of time to lock down the identity of the sitter in a photograph. I wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of dozens of research friends and an equal number of archive websites.  With that said, I was able to purchase, research and identify and post a positive identification of a recent eBay purchase!  It’s not an easy endeavor, but it’s something that will be worthwhile at some point in the future.

Russell Studio Portrait

Russell Studio Portrait


Backside of the RPPC

Backside of the RPPC

What are we working with for an identification?  The soldier has a definite first name of Russell and is cousins with a male named Forrest Martin of Watson, Illionois in 1919.  Given the intro and body wording, he’s likely to be close to the recipient.


I started by researching the recipient, Forrest Martin, and found his 1900 census entry:

1910 Census Forrest Martin

1910 Census Forrest Martin

From here I decided to research his mother and father in search of a series of siblings to track down as aunts and uncles to Russell.  An aunt or uncle would produce a cousin which should provide me with the proper identification for the 33rd Division soldier!

After over an hour of searching (tiring for sure) I was able to identify his mother’s sister as a Laura A. Humes. Laura had a son named Russell in 1897!  When I clicked on his military burial record it all came together. Please keep in mind that this took hours of research!

Forrest's Aunt Laura

Forrest’s Aunt Laura


Russell Humes' Burial Card

Russell Humes’ Burial Card

Russell Humes, first cousin of Forrest Humes (recipient of the postcard), was in Company G of the 130th Infantry Regiment of the 33rd Division in WWI.  He achieved the rank of Corporal and was wounded in action at some point during his service.  His portrait photo was taken in 1919 long after his wounding. He passed away on 11-5-1957 at the age of 61.


Filed under B/W Photo, Collecting, history, photography, world war, WWI, WWI photo

Maine in the First World War: The Maine National Guard and the 54th Artillery Regiment Coastal Artillery Corps in WWI

Everyone knows that I love Vermont WWI material, but I also enjoy collecting photos from other New England states as well.  I have a handful from every state but only one from Maine.  Now I have another!

This fantastic interior studio RPPC has a ton of great qualities that drove me to make the purchase.  The crossed flags at center, the helmet and pistol props, the uniform details, and the identification on the reverse all make it a great shot to add to the collection.  This particular group is comprised of men from Portland and Bath.

Battery D of the 54th Artillery Regiment, C.A.C.

Battery D of the 54th Artillery Regiment, C.A.C.

Identified to a Corporal Carl L. Pearson who I believe is positioned directly right of the flag, this shot shows a group of 19 soldiers posed in a French studio.  This may be a record for my collection!   I have a few with 6-8, but none with more than 10.

Pearson was from West Falmouth, Maine and was born in January of 1893.  He enlisted with the National Guard in Portland in March of 1917 and reported for Federal service in June of that year.  He was overseas from March of 1918 to March of 1919.  This photo was taken in either late March, or April or May of 1918.  He was promoted in early June of 1918.  Since this photo shows him as a Corporal at the time of the photo, we know it was taken before his promotion.  Also, his lack of OS chevron and the abundance of spats likely points towards an early photo taken in France.


A little info on the 54th CAC


WORLD WAR I — 1917 – 1919The Coast Artillery Corps a Maine National Guard were mobilized on 25 July, 1917, and all companies, band, field officers, and non-commissioner staff officers reported on 27 July. 14 staff officers reported at Portland Coast Defenses and were assigned to duty in the Coast Defenses. The several companies were re-designated at once. This designation was changed again on 23 August 1917, and on 25 December 1917, nine of the thirteen C.A.C. Maine National Guard companies were made a part of the 54th Artillery, C.A.C., the supply company and Batteries B, D, E, and F, of the new 54th Artillery, C.A.C. 6 inch guns (Motor drawn), were entirely constituted from the nine companies Maine National Guard.

The 54th Artillery, C.A.C., was organized with a Headquarters Company, a supply company, and three battalions of two batteries each. Of the 6 batteries, four were taken from the Maine National Guard and from 25 December 1917, the further World War history of the C.A.C. Maine National Guard is properly that of the 54th Artillery since over 62 percent of its units were entirely Maine National Guard. In addition, only 30 percent of the units of the Maine National Guard were not included in the organization of the 54th Artillery C.A.C.

The 54th Artillery, CAC, (6-Inch Guns, Motor)

This regiment was organized in Portland Harbor Forts on 25 December 1917, five of its units being formed from National Guard units and three from Regular Army units.

The batteries of the 54th Artillery were organized as follows:

Headquarters Company, and Batteries A and C from the Regular Army.

Supply Company, from 20th Company, Lewiston.

Battery B, from 4th Company, Portland, and 7th Company, Biddeford.

Battery D, from 2nd Company, Portland, and 4th Company, Bath.

Battery E, from 3rd Company, Auburn, and 3rd Company, Kennebunk.

Battery F, from 9th Company, Lewiston and 11th Company, Portland.

Headquarters Company, Batteries C, D, E, and F, sailed from Portland, Maine, on the CANADA, 22 March 1918 and arrived Glasgow, Scotland 2 April, Winchester, England 3 April, and LeHarve, France, 6 April 1918.

The Supply Company, Batteries A and B, left Portland 14 March, sailed from Hoboken 16 March, 1918 on BALTIC arrived LeHarve, France, 6 April 1918.

The 54th Artillery C.A.C. was sent to rest camp at Mailly-le-camp (Aube) and on 2 May 1918, transferred to Haussimont (Marne), as replacement regimen to Railway Artillery Reserve and Tractor Artillery Regiments. On 20 September 1918, the 54th Artillery was reorganized into three battalion stations as follows:

1st Battalion, Training Battalion (A and B Battery) Angers (Marne-et-Loire).

2nd Battalion, Tractor replacement(E and F Battery), Haussimont (Marne) Angers (Marne-et-Loire.)

3rd Battalion, Unknown.

After the Armistice the 54th Artillery was assigned to Brest, and part of the Regiment sailed 23 February 1919 on the Vedic arriving in Boston 7 March 1919. It was completely demobilized at Camp Devons by 13 March 1919.

The four companies (1st, 6th, 10th and 12th) that were not formed into the 54th Artillery, C.A.C. were demobilized in January 1919 at Harbor Defenses of Portland however, but few of the original members of the companies remained in them late in 1918. Two large transfers of enlisted men from these batteries were made. The first was made on 23 August 1917, to the 26th Division Artillery and Engineers. One hundred-sixty-nine men were taken from these four companies in the transfer. On May 31 1918, the other large transfer was made to the 72d Artillery, C.A.C. From the 1st Company, 147 men were taken, and from the other three companies large numbers. However, the transfers were made as individuals no units being reformed or discontinued.

In July 1922, the regiment was reorganized and designated as the First Coast Defense Command, C.A.C., Maine National Guard. The regiment was formed into Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment, Band, Medical Detachment and 1st Fort Command.

1st Fort Command

301st Company, Portland, org. 1803 – later Btry A

306th Company, Sanford, org. 1903 – later Btry B

307th Company, Brunswick, org. 1884 – later Btry C

311th Company, Portland, org. 1807 – later Btry D

2nd Fort Command

303d Company, Camden, org. 1920 – later Btry E

304th Company, Thomaston, org. 1921 – later Btry F

305th Company, Rockland, org. 1921 – later Btry G

302d Company, Vinalhaven, org. 1921 – later Btry H

On 17 September 1923, the 1st C.D.C. was re-designated as the 240th Artillery, C.A.C., and individual batteries as shown above. The designation was again changed to 240th Coast Artillery, Harbor Defense, on 16 April 1924.

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WWI 1st Division Chaplain 26th Infantry Regiment – Chaplain Roberts Williams, Silver Star Recipient

Chaplain Roberts Williams in Germany

Chaplain Roberts Williams in Germany



Obverse Side

Another incredible WWI portrait photo has come across my desk via my dedicated searching regime on eBay.  I bought this shot with the knowledge that the sitter was a chaplain.  Chaplain shots are far and few between, and to have an ink identified example is very uncommon. In this case I was able to ply the internet and dig up some wonderful information on our sitter. Chaplain(Protestant) Roberts Williams originally enlisted as a private in the 17th Engineers but was eventually hooked up with the 26th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Division.   He was awarded the Silver Star and was recommended for the Distinguished Service Crossed.  He was gassed and the wound chevron can be seen on his right sleeve in the above image.


Here’s a quick transcription of his war service courtesy of a post-war Princeton Alumni newsletter.  Interestingly, he graduated the same year as Teddy Roosevelt Jr.

“Chaplain Robert Williams, chaplain of the 26th Infantry of the First Division, has returned home, 55 Park Ave., Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to enjoy a brief leave of absence after twenty-one months’ service in France.  Mr. Williams enlisted as a private in the 17th Engineers and served ten months at St. Nazaire.  This regiment was among those composed of railroad men, to be reviewed by King George in London.  During May, 1918, Private Williams was commissioned a chaplain.  Immediately thereafter he was sent to the trenches where with the First Division he spent fifty-four days in the fighting of the Picardy front, culminating in the capture of Cantigny, the first planned American offensive.  Withdrawn for a rest, his unit was unexpectedly sent into the fray again at the pivot of Marchal Foch’s counter attack northeast towards Soissons to cut the Soissons Chateau-Thierry railroad, which supplied the Germans in the Marne Salient.  During this battle Chaplain Williams was gassed and here it was that his commander cited him for bravery and recommended that the DSC be conferred upon him. Chaplain Williams also spent three months in Germany, his unit being engaged in outpost duty twenty miles from the Rhine within Hunland.  He says the Germans are very hard up for raw materials and that soap is worth more than money.”



I was also able to find a transcription of a letter Chaplain Williams penned to the family of a soldier killed in action:

“His battalion had gone over the top that morning, across a great
National Highway, the Paris-Soissons Road. The German machine-gun fire
was extremely severe, and we suffered heavily.

“A detail of four soldiers was given me by Major Legge to bury Captain
Richards and Lieutenant Boone. We buried your husband where he fell
and marked the grave with a cross upon which his identification tag was
placed. His personal effects, as I found them, were removed, and later
placed in his bedding-roll. We endeavored to remove his ring, but found it
impossible to do so, so we buried it with him. Records of the location of
the grave were sent to the Adjunct General, American Expeditionary Forces,
and to the Graves Registration Service; so his grave can be readily found after the war is over.

“It was remarkable what a peaceful and spiritual expression was upon
the face of Captain Richards. It did not seem as if he had suffered greatly,
and we could fancy that he seemed well pleased to pay the supreme sacrifice
upon the field of battle.

“I have heard among the enlisted men and officers who knew your
husband many, many remarks as to Captain Richard’s ouiet thoughtfulness.
his constant care for those under his command, his unfailing cheer, and his
courage, and efficiency as a soldier and leader of men. His memory lives
with us, and inspires us to emulate his devoted service to his Country.

“We ask that you will accept our sincere sympathy for the burden of
grief you bear; but we trust that your pride and joy in your husband’s
noble life and glorious death will enable you to bear his loss with courage.

“May God strengthen and help you, and may the promise of our
Saviour comfort you with the thought of meeting your husband in a better

Sincerely yours,

Robert Williams,
Chaplain (Protestant), 26th Infantry.”

Williams' Silver Star Citation

Williams’ Silver Star Citation



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Filed under B/W Photo, history, photography, world war, WWI, WWI photo

WWI Identified RPPC – 90th Division Veteran Victor H. Horner Poses in Germany 1919

Nothing spectacular jumped out at me when I first purchased this image on eBay last week.  I knew it was likely identified, but I wasn’t sure the name would be searchable. I was pleasantly surprised when the photo arrived and I was able to read the name and successfully search for his name on  He was born in 1895 and passed away in 1978 in Springfield, CO. This photo was likely taken in 1919 after the Armistice.  Note the use of French numeric pins on his overseas cap.

Victor H. Horner

Victor H. Horner photo photo


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Filed under Collecting, world war, WWI, WWI photo

WWI Vermonter Identified Photo – John D. Hamilton of Middlebury, VT – 301st Engineer Supply Train

As my followers will know, I’m a huge WWI Vermont collector who loves to uncover identified photos of First World War Vermont veterans.  In this case I was able to trade a series of photos to a fellow collector/friend who knew I search for identified Vermonters.  The photo itself has good composition and details with a visible pistol and holster as well as OS chevron and signet rings.  Mr. John D. Hamilton lived in Addison, VT and enlisted and inducted at Middlebury on April 29th, 1918.  He was set up with the 301st Engineers and was listed as a wagoneer.  He served overseas from July 10th, 1918 to June 13th, 1919.  Given that he is wearing a six month chevron on his left arm, this photo had to have been taken sometime between December 10th, 1918 and June 10th, 1919.  He has no visible insignia that give his rank, but he is wearing a brass whistle which indicates that he is likely an NCO.  All in all a great shot!


Filed under history, photography, world war, WWI, WWI photo

October 1969 WWI Veteran Reunion Remembered – 36th Division, 132nd Machine Gun Battalion Veteran Photos Digitized


A group of WWI veterans gathered almost exactly 43 years ago to recall their days of battle and camaraderie in the trenches of France in 1918.  Members of the 36th Division, 132nd Machine Gun Battalion met in Texas to tell stories, jokes, catch up with friends, and share their incredible journey with their family members.  Veteran reunions for WWII soldiers still are held, but the annual flock of WWI veterans to conference centers and hotels has ceased to exist.  Many of my favorite memories of the past decade have been from my attendance at WWII veteran reunions, and I suggest that anyone interested in a family members service try to attend a veteran get together.
This grouping of photos and ephemera comes from a recent eBay auction I was fortunate enough to win.  I was mainly bidding for the interior studio portrait photo but was pleased with the associated photos as well.  These men were with the 132nd Machine Gun Battalion of the 36th Division and pose with their 30 caliber machine gun in a wonderful outdoor casual snapshot.


Following the history of the first photo is quite interesting.  It was sent from the front lines of France to a girlfriend back home.  I’m assuming it was pinned up by her given the rust stained pin holes at the top of the photo.  It was later glued into a scrapbook which was sadly broken into pieces and eventually sold on eBay to me, who will hopefully do it due justice with a internet post.  Maybe someone will recognize a relative in the photo?  We know that an O.B. Horton is located somewhere in the photo, and that the group is from Texas.







Filed under B/W Photo, Collecting, history, photography, WWI, WWI photo

WWI Photo Identification – Charles H. Maasberg of Milwaukee, WI Poses in France 1918

Charles H. Maasberg was born on July 2nd, 1894 in Wisconsin and enlisted for the draft on June 5th, 1917.  Although I can’t be sure when he was sent overseas, I can deduce that he was assigned to an ordnance handling unit.  He rose to the rank of Sergeant by 1919, and returned home to the US soon thereafter.  This wonderful outdoor posed shot was taken in France in 1918, and shows Charles posing in a hand-knit sweater complete with tie.  I can only imagine that it was taken in the backyard of a rural French home given the broken flower pots and creeping vines on the wall.  The lack of foliage may help us date the photo to the fall or winter months.  This would date the photo to the September-November of 1918 period.

1917 Draft Card


Filed under B/W Photo, Collecting, history, journalism, photography, world war, WWI, WWI photo