Today is Veterans Day, so let’s look at a group portrait that includes Hugh Morton (right) sometime after he was a promoted to rank of Technician, 4th grade (“4T”) as indicated by the insignia of three chevrons above a “T.” If the calendar on the wall was current at the time, the photograph dates from October 1944.
Up to now, the description for this photograph in the online collection suggested that the image might have been made in New York state, based upon the wall calendar with advertising for the Columbian Rope Company headquartered in Auburn, New York; smaller type farther down the calendar, however, reads “C. J. Hendry Co. / San Francisco San Pedro San Diego” so I have removed that part of the description to eliminate the New York suggestion.
But where was the photograph made? I don’t know (though I have a hunch from the clues below), but maybe some detective work by our readers might help solve that question. Here’s a few clues to follow:
- By my timeline (more on that in a future post!) Morton was overseas in October 1944, so Noumea, New Caledonia might be a likely possibility. Bob Hope was performing there during 1944, and Morton photographed some of his performances. Could the woman be a performer?
- If the place is Noumea, the date would probably be early in October. At some point the U. S. Army 161st Signal Corp assigned Morton to cover the 25th Infantry, a part of the Sixth Army. The 25th Infantry had been stationed on New Caledonia since early Febrary 1944 to prepare for the invasion of the Philippines. The Battle of Leyte began on October 17th and “A-day”—when the Sixth Army forces landed—was October 20th. If Morton was assigned to Charles Restifo’s unit (and I think he may have been), then Restifo’s autobiography says that he was aboard a ship on October 1st headed to Leyte. The land battle at Leyte launched the Allies’ Philippines Campaign; the Battle of Leyte Gulf, begun on October 23rd, was the largest naval operation of the war and possibly of all time. It’s unlikely Morton would have been lingering in Noumea through the middle of October.
- What is the rank of the officer in the center? I couldn’t find information on the rank for the five bands on each of his shoulders, as I did for the insignia on Morton’s sleeve. If we can determine the rank, we might find who held that rank at Noumea and locate other portraits of him, or if the rank was high enough, search for people in the Army of that rank in the Pacific.
Enjoy the detective work if you choose to explore today’s photograph, but even if you do not, please raise a toast to our veterans!