I was born in Los Angeles, California July 14, 1920 and
became a professional photographer working in the motion picture industry
at Columbia Pictures, Hollywood, California.
I enlisted in the Army shortly after Pearl Harbor through
the industry which was providing professionals to the Army, Navy, and
I initially was assigned to the Army Reserves and
activated in mid July 1942 reporting to Fort McArthur at San Pedro,
California before shipping to Camp Crowder, Missouri for basic training.
There was no photo equipment to work with so I went through basic training
I was transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Third Army, at San
Antonio, Texas for some more basic training routines such as rifle range
qualification firing the Enfield rifle, the Springfield M1 rifle, Thompson
submachine gun, hand grenades, Bazooka, gas mask drill with gas, and long
I participated in manoevres in Louisiana where I used some
newly acquired photo equipment.
I underwent my physical examination in preparation for
shipment overseas before moving to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey via rail and
then overseas on the troop ship Louis Pasteur in December 1942. The
English had captured this ship during the battle of Oran, North
Africa. The ocean voyage was rough and the food was lousy.
On landing in England I was taken to a small city named
Chipping Sudbury, about 20 miles from Bristol. Here there was more basic
training and hikes through the countryside.
Finally, we received our photo equipment and were broken up
into many small units for attachment to various Army infantry regiments
and divisions, but we were never attached to Army Air Force units.
We were sent to the Canadian 1st Signals to do a
training film on a special type of bridge. We were billeted with the
Canadians and worked at the famous racetrack, Epson Downs.
Next I went to the 82nd Airborne Division to photograph
large parachute training drops both from the ground and the air and took
lots of photos of individual troopers.
I then volunteered for parachute training with 82nd
Airborne instructors who taught us the basic techniques of parachute
jumping and parachute packing.
After completing six jumps I was sent to the 508th
Parachute Infantry Regiment and attached to Regimental Headquarters
Company under Captain Bob Abraham at Nottingham, England just prior to the
Normandy invasion. I did not get to see much of Nottingham.
I shot a lot of still photos as requested and got to know
Leon Mason (Israel).
Around the end of May 1944 we loaded buses at our base camp
at Wollaton Park in Nottingham and were dropped off at the Saltby Air Base
to make final preparations for the invasion of Normandy.
We lived in a large airplane hangar, ate our meals there,
and slept on folding canvas cots. The hangar was sealed with armed guards
and barbed wire around the perimeter to provide security for the
When we walked from the hangar to the C-47 troop carrier
planes waiting near the runways, I was carrying all the normal equipment
for a trooper, such as a gas mask, grenades, steel helmet, musette bag
with rations for three days, toilet articles, first aid kit, main
parachute, reserve parachute, etcetera, and I was armed with a Colt 45
automatic pistol although I had no training with this weapon, plus two
well-padded bags for my photo equipment which consisted of about 12-15
rolls of 35mm black and white film for a Leica 35mm still camera and one
Leica still camera, one Bell & Howell “EYEMO” motion picture camera which
took a 100 foot roll of film.
I also carried about 15-20 100-foot rolls of black and
white film for the “EYEMO,” which had one normal lens but could
accommodate three lenses--a wide-angle lens, a normal lens, and a
All the photo equipment went into the two bags which
measured about 12 inches square and were attached to my legs about an inch
or two above the knees.
With all this equipment I had trouble climbing the few
steps to get up into the C-47 jump plane.
It was about 2:15 am, June 6, 1944, as we approached the
drop zones, about 10 miles west of the beaches where the Allied ground
troops would be coming ashore at dawn, there were heavy, loud explosions
all around the jump planes from the German antiaircraft fire, and I could
see a heavy volume of tracer ammunition from the German automatic weapons
lighting up the sky as I floated to the ground in my parachute. Because of
the darkness I could take no pictures.
I landed in a large cow pasture and my chute was draped
over one of the many pointed wood poles the Germans had erected in the
fields to damage the gliders that would follow us into Normandy. I was
lying on my stomach and could not turn over to get up because of the two
camera bags attached to my legs.
It was extremely dark below the tree line but I could see
the German antiaircraft shells exploding in the sky all around the C-47
There was a heavy machine gun firing at the C-47’s from the
end of our field. I could not get my chute harness off because it had
become so tight due to the opening shock. I did not have any quick release
device on the harness and I had lost a large pocket-knife when my pocket
ripped open on the opening shock, and could not reach my trench knife
strapped to my boot.
As I lay there helplessly I could see some figures running
along the side of the field but did not know if they were friend or foe.
Fortunately for me, my friend Leon, who jumped right behind
me, saw me and cut me out of my chute, otherwise, I probably would still
be there, six feet under.
I shot mostly motion pictures. All the film we shot was
sent for processing to London and later to Paris after it was liberated.
There were four of us [photographers] who jumped with the
82nd on D-Day. I was attached to the 508th and was
the only one who got pictures of the airborne operation.
Jimmy Bates was with the 507th and he landed in a flooded
area and lost all his equipment.
Joe Legault was injured on the jump, lost his equipment
also, and was captured, but later freed when we took Cherbourg.
Lieutenant Witscher, who was in charge of the
photographers, got into a fire fight and did not get any photos.
We were each of us with different regiments. As far as I
know there were no photographers attached to the 101st Airborne Division
during the Normandy invasion.
Our duties as combat photographers were to get pictures of
any action we encountered. When the units we were with pulled out of the
line, we were reattached to whatever units replaced them.
I was at the Merderet River crossing with the 325th Glider
Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division.
When the 508th went back to England after 33 days of
fighting in Normandy, I was sent to Cherbourg with the 4th Infantry
Division. I did not see the 82nd again
until the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.
I was in battle at St. Lo with a tank destroyer unit, then
in the Falaise Gap battle.
From there I was with the 2nd French Armoured for the
liberation of Paris, then I was in Belgium with the 5th Armoured Division
when the 82nd took off for Market Garden. I did not know about Market
Garden until later.
I understand that a combat photographer flew into Holland
with a glider unit to cover Market Garden but I don’t know who it was
since he came from a unit based in London
I was assigned to the 165th Signal Photo Company which was
a combat photo company and spent all of my Army service as a member of
this company while attached for duty to other units.
The 165th was scheduled to go to the Pacific for the
invasion of Japan but those plans were cancelled when the Japanese
I was recommended for a battlefield commission from Staff
Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant.
Awards and decorations
include two Bronze Star Medals, Parachute Wings with one (bronze) star,
Combat Infantry Badge, African-European Campaign Medal with four bronze
battle stars and one bronze invasion arrowhead, American Campaign Medal,
National Defense Medal, WWII Victory Medal, WWII Occupation Medal, Good
Conduct Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation, and the French Fourragere With
Palm for service with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Also the French Croix de Guerre With Palm for service with
the Second French Armored Division for the push into Paris and the battle or
liberation of Paris.
After the war I returned to Columbia Pictures and worked
there for a couple of years before going into business with my dad. I decided to leave Columbia because union activity there
created difficult working conditions.
My wife and I were married in 1946 and we had three
children --- one boy who became a doctor, and twin daughters--one a
beautician and the other a paralegal.
We have three grandchildren --- one boy who is an attorney,
another boy who is studying engineering, and one granddaughter.