Skip to main content

The War In Color

June 2024
1min read

G.I. Victory The U.S. Army in World War II Color

by Jeffrey L. Ethell and David C. Isby, Stackpole Books, 160 pages .

A few years ago, when we started our fiftieth-anniversary coverage of Work War II, we tried to assemble a portfolio of war scenes photographed in color. We scratched together a half-dozen or so examples and gave up, so forced and artificially posed were the subjects, so random the coverage, and so scarce the images. This book gets a different result indeed. And it didn’t happen by chance. Jeffrey Ethell, one of the two authors, describes a twenty-year collecting process supported by hundreds of
sources—official U.S. Army photographers, historians, curators, and GI practitioners. The more than 150 photos reflect many facets of wartime life in vivid, sharply focused vignettes. It is true that thanks to the limitations of early Kodachrome, the sun is
always shining on these sometimes desperate endeavors, and as with most official photographs (the large majority of these come from the National Archives), the subjects were usually made to pose for the camera. Nevertheless the merciless light renders detail with such precision that the pictures can catch the viewer on the cusp of a moment in time. We almost hear the clatter of a truck rumbling over a rudimentary U.S. Army bridge thrown across the Serchio River, and sense the tenderness of a flight nurse caring for her wounded charge, his stretcher lying on a dirt airstrip, under the wing of the C-47 that will bring him to the safety of a hospital in Naples.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.