[Philippines, New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, New Zealand, Hawaii. ca. 1942-1945]. 213 photographs from 2 3/4 x 2 1/4 to 6 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches, corner-mounted; plus twenty-two pieces of ephemera mounted or laid in, including two mimeographed pamphlets. Oblong quarto album. Red silk boards, blue silk ties, with stylized Japanese figure on center of front board. Some fraying to edges and corners, some loss to silk on rear board, minor soiling. Photographs in excellent condition overall. Very good. Item #WRCAM55773
A dramatic photograph album from Harvey D. Burgstresser's (1912-83) service in the U.S. Army artillery during World War II. Although most photos are not labeled individually, they are labeled by group, and track Burgstresser's travels through various combat stations during the war in the Pacific. The first photo, labeled "Fayetteville NC" shows Burgstresser (on left) in uniform with another solider walking along a city street. The first section follows and is labeled "Hawaii 5/7/42-11/1/42" and consists mostly of photographs of soldiers at-ease, playing with radio equipment, and goofing around likely as they wait for deployment to the front. The next section, "Guadalcanal 11/15/42-12/1/43" is short but more somber, including photo prints of indigenous people of the island, the corpse of a soldier, and a photo of a sign posted on a roadside reading: "Kill the Bastards! Down this road marched one of the regiments of the United States Army, Knights Serving the Queen of Battles, Twenty of their wounded in litters were bayoneted, shot and clubbed by the yellow bellies. Kill the Bastards!"
Next is a section entitled "Auckland, New Zealand 12/1/43-3/1/44," a small and peaceful section featuring photos of couples, a few female friends, and shots of Burgstresser's battery and company in formation (90th Field Artillery Battalion, 25th Infantry Division). From there, he was off to "New Caledonia 3/1/44-12/15/44" with a joint force of ANZAC soldiers. Most of these shots are also at- ease and around camp, several featuring a truck marked "NZ Mail." From here, he moves to "Luzon, P.I. 1/9(?)/45 to 10/2/45," the final section and the place where things get a bit more serious; this is also the largest section in the album. Several images show soldiers setting up artillery stations, laying wire, and organizing ammunition. One image in this section is labeled "V-J Day," and this is the only mention Burgstresser makes about the progress of the war. There are scenes of buildings damaged from war, along with a few scenes of combat and more of the aftermath of combat, including downed planes and destroyed tanks, and several quite explicit images of corpses. In the midst of this are images of Filipino women and men in traditional attire (and likely some from New Caledonia and Guadalcanal as well), including several shots of topless Filipino women likely not taken by Burgstresser.
Various pieces of ephemera are in the album, including a twenty-eight-page mimeographed pamphlet entitled WELCOME 25th. INF. DIV., with sections corresponding closely to Burgstresser's arrangement of this album; and a six-page mimeographed pamphlet entitled THE SEA BREEZE ("Souvenir Edition," October 23, 1945), issued to those aboard the troop ship USAT "Cape Meares." Also included is Burgstresser's military "Motor Vehicle Operator's Permit" authorizing him to drive automobiles, large trucks, and a "Vehicle, wheeled, combat;" an invitation to ceremonies honoring General Douglas MacArthur's return to the U.S.; Burgstresser's "Good Conduct Pass" for Auckland; a few newspaper clippings; and pieces of Japanese currency, including two pieces of Japanese government- issued "fiat pesos," which the Japanese issued during their occupation of the Philippines.
According to his obituary (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, April 25, 1983), Burgstresser had graduated from Bucknell University; after the war, he went into the insulation business and was eventually president of the Philadelphia Asbestos Corporation. His album ably captures both the camaraderie and the horror of the war in the Pacific.