Memories of World War II: Photographs from the Archives of the Associated Press

May 3, 2012 - Jun 24, 2012

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941
The forward ammunition magazine of the destroyer USS Shaw explodes about a half-hour after three bombs hit the ship in the second wave of the surprise attack. The Shaw was rebuilt and finished out the war, to be decommissioned in October 1945 and sold for scrap the next year. U.S. Navy/AP Archives
 

Arriving at The Haggin Museum on May 3, Memories of World War II, Photographs from the archives of The Associated Press is a spectrum of 113 photographic reproductions from all theaters of the war and the home front, ranging from photographer Joe Rosenthal’s classic Iwo Jima flag raising in 1945 to scores of pictures not seen in decades.

In the exhibit, familiar scenes of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, along with British and American troops hitting Normandy beaches on D-Day and marching through newly liberated Paris, are juxtaposed with hidden surprises sure to evoke strong memories among older Americans. There are photographs of Hitler and Mussolini at the peak of fascist power, Winston Churchill in unmistakable silhouette, actor James Stewart being inducted into the military, Nazi SS troops herding defiant Jews after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943, and Russian women laying flowers at the feet of four dead GIs who helped liberate them from a slave labor camp.

Despite censorship that delayed the release of pictures and restricted caption information, the wartime cameras recorded dramatic close-ups of power and pathos, the leaders and the lost.

 

Paris, August 29, 1944
American troops march along the Champs-Elysées four days after the Liberation of Paris. Photograph by Peter J. Carroll, AP Staff/AP Archives

“As far as we know, all of the pictures were transmitted at some time on AP wires, but some probably have not been touched since the war,” said Charles Zoeller, curator of the exhibit and an accompanying book, and chief of AP’s vast photo library. Founded in 1848, the AP is the world’s oldest and largest news gathering organization.

 

In the foreword to the book, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole says the pictures have greater impact for being in black and white. “The causes and objectives of the United States and our Allies in World War II were just that, black and white, good against evil,” writes Dole, who was severely wounded in Italy in 1945. The photos are “personal history relived” for those who fought the war and millions more for whom it was “part of their lives,” Dole writes. “For many millions more, the postwar generations, who know the war only as distant history, these images will serve as the record of a shared and shaping era in our nation’s history.”

Many photos credit AP staff photographers by name; others came from anonymous Army or Navy photographers. Some were killed in combat; others went on to postwar prominence in their craft. “You had the same fears as the GIs, but you had to think about the picture,” says retired AP photojournalist Max Desfor, who covered the battle of Okinawa and Japan’s surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri, and later won a Pulitzer Prize in Korea. “My camera was my shield, and I didn’t even think about the idea that a bullet might hit me.”

The showing here in Stockton is scheduled to run through June 24, 2012, and is part of a national tour that was developed and managed by Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, an exhibition tour development company in Kansas City, Missouri.

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