In the years following World War II, images of comradeship, particularly of men being physically close, largely disappeared from the public record. But, as these stunning photographs attest, ordinary American men in the extraordinary circumstances of World War II were affectionate, winsome, and playful - disarmingly innocent in a time of cataclysmic peril. Led by photography giant Captain Edward J. Steichen, the U.S. Naval Aviation Photographic Unit was organized during the war to record the daily experiences of Navy men all over the world and to provide newspapers and magazines with images to promote the American cause. The unit's photographers, which included Wayne Miller, Horace Bristol, Victor Jorgensen, and Barrett Gallagher, took thousands of pictures of soldiers as they relaxed, trained, prepared for the next battle, and waited. This book brings together more than 150 of those photographs culled from the National Archives, including many that have never before been published. Whereas World War II imagery tends to be dominated by combat photography and monumental depictions of weaponry, these photographs offer a rare, intimate look at the Navy men themselves.
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Longtime collector of photographs and amateur photographic historian, Evan B. Bachner has a BA in History from SUNY-Binghamton (specializing in post-war American history), as well as an MBA from Columbia University Graduate School of Business, where he was a Harriman Scholar. He currently works as a Vice President of Technology Development at Goldman Sachs & Co, and lives in New York City with his life partner.From Publishers Weekly:
Books such as The Greatest Generation have eloquently argued that the men and women who survived World War II played a crucial role in determining America’s national culture; to some extent, Bachner agrees with this thesis. "Our current image of American masculinity was formed at that particular moment in time," he writes in the introduction to this moving book of duotone photos. But the image that was passed down most often suggested that Real Men were loners, rugged individuals who relied on no one. According to Bachner, however, the photographic record "flatly contradicts that notion." During his six years of research in the Still Pictures Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration, he unearthed a trove of Navy photos that "display a tender regard and closeness among men largely alien to our contemporary culture." Most of these images were taken by the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, which was commanded by the famous photographer Edward J. Steichen for most of WWII. Many have never been published. Why were these servicemen able to form such affectionate friendships? In answer, Bachner quotes John D’Emilio: "Living in close quarters, not knowing whether they would make it through the war, and depending on one another for survival, men of whatever sexual persuasion formed intense emotional attachments." Whatever the reason, these gorgeously composed, evocative images suggest that men then, as now, could let down the John Wayne stance to share a cigarette, laugh over a joke and do a little roughhousing.
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