Tanks, nurses and doctors tending to the wounded and items such as Baldwin locomotives being unloaded off ships are among seldom seen photos of every aspect of the American participation in World War I contained in a thick, ornately covered book at the Delaware County Historical Society.
“U.S. Official Pictures of the World War” is a 320-page book published by the Pictorial Bureau in Washington, D.C., in 1928.
The pictures are similar to the retouched images seen in Peter Jackson’s film, “They Shall Not Grow Old.” In it, the “Lord of the Rings” director colored images of the First World War stored by the Imperial War Museum in England to recreate vivid depictions of these soldiers’ environs and emotions in the war theatre.
Likewise, DCHS’ “U.S. Official Pictures of the World War” are pictures selected from the United States’ War Department.
As the book explains, they are “reproductions of official photographs, taken by soldier photographers belonging to the Photographic Section, Signal Corps, U.S. Army. Units of these military photographers were attached to all combat divisions and accompanied them into action at the front. Some gave their lives in battle and a number were wounded in securing the pictures shown in this volume.”
In one picture, nine men huddle around papers strewn over a slab of concrete. Although their backdrop is a bombed out building, this meeting at Chery-Chartreuve Farm constitutes the 58th Infantry field headquarters.
In another, a Baldwin locomotive is unloaded from a steamer to rails in 15 seconds.
One picture captures the USS Houston, a former North German ship, the SS Liebenfelds. Scuttled in the Charleston, S.C., harbor, it was raised and refitted before being put into duty for the United States.
During World War I, she traveled 42,225 miles and carried 47,000 tons of freight, including radio equipment, trucks, airplanes, some Baldwin locomotives and 225 passengers. She also rescued 14 castaways from the Norwegian steamer Tiro that had been torpedoed off Lizard Light in December 1917
Pictures of the USS Houston and others memoralized in “U.S. Official Pictures of the World War” are housed at the home of Delaware County Historical Society, located at 408 Avenue of the States in Chester. It is open to the public Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday from 1 to 6:30 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot.
For more information or for ways to get involved, call 610-359-0832.