Veterans Day 2014

On this Veterans Day, let’s look at two pieces of Hugh Morton’s early military career: registration and enlistment through records from the National Archives located through a genealogical website.  Morton registered for the draft in Wilmington, N. C. at local board No. 2 on February 16, 1942:

Hugh MacRae Morton Draft registration card

Hugh MacRae Morton Draft registration card

Morton’s “Enlistment Date” in the United States Army is October 5, 1942. That information is captured in a database record without a digitized file card as above.  According to the database, Morton’s “Enlistment City” was Washington, and “Enlistment State” was District of Columbia. Though technically in his senior year at UNC, he listed his civil occupation as a photographer.

“Morton, Yackety Yack Head, Leaves Post for US Army” read a front-page Daily Tar Heel headline on September 23, 1942—the first issue for the school year.  The article notes that “Morton’s inability to return to the University is the first case of a student entering the army forces to hit Carolina publications.”  News of his decision had arrived on campus a few days before students started arriving for the new school year.  The article also noted that “Morton’s last batch of photographs, taken of the football team several weeks ago, arrived from Wilmington at the University News Bureau several days ago.”

On September 27th, another front-page headline: “Morton Back for Weekend; Photographs Game for DTH.”  This article stated Morton “was drafted by the Daily Tar Heel to take pictures of yesterday’s game.”  A “Photo by Hugh Morton” action shot from the Wake Forest vs. UNC contest, won by the Tar Heels 6-0, accompanied Sunday’s headline news story.  Come Tuesday, September 29th, Morton would be off to the army as a technical sergeant in the photography division.

Hugh Morton was in the Army now.

War times

But how soon will we free Americans forsake the healthy 1914 status for a return to the rapid mobilization of 1917?

—editorial column, The Daily Tar Heel, 15 September 1939

"North Carolina Rifle Team, Camp Perry, Ohio." Hugh Morton (rear, left, with Camp Yonahnoka patch) and other young men posing with rifles.

“North Carolina Rifle Team, Camp Perry, Ohio.” Hugh Morton (rear, left, with Camp Yonahnoka patch) and other young men posing with rifles. The date of this photograph is uncertain, but thought to be circa 1939-1940.

From the standpoint of military remembrances, we are living today within a curious historical alignment: we are amid the final year of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, which ended in April 1865; we look back 100 years on the start of “The Great War,” which began in the last days of July 1914; and we mark 75 years since the beginning of World War II in September 1939.  It is that final conflict that falls within the sphere of Hugh Morton, who 75 years ago today began his first day of classes as a freshman at the University of North Carolina.

Frosh Morton likely would have read the school year’s first issue of The Daily Tar Heel, in which the student newspaper’s editors reprinted one of its articles from 1918 about the first world war and now called for neutrality in the second.  In an editorial titled, “The War: Stay Sane; Stay Out of Europe” they wrote,

. . . may the University student body of 1939—well augmented as it is this morning by a heavy influx of new blood, the Men of ’43—steep itself in the attitude of the 1914 group: a general interest in keeping America neutral and uninvolved!

The “Men of ’43,” however, included women.  The Daily Tar Heel noted elsewhere that coed registrations had already surpassed 300 women, with the total anticipated to reach 500—a number dwarfed by total registrations expected to reach 3,600.

There are few photographs in the collection from these early days at Chapel Hill, either of or by Hugh Morton, because his camera was stolen soon after he arrived on campus.  The group portrait above is one of the few in the collection that depict Morton during this time period.  It is not related to the war, but it is interesting to note that Hugh Morton was a sharpshooter with a rifle.  Perhaps this posting will lead to some additional identifications and a more precise date.  The only clues we have about the above photograph stem from comments made on a post a few years ago about a photograph made around the same time on the Canadian border.

Much like developments between 1914 and 1917, American neutrality ended at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Hugh Morton enlisted in the Army in 1942, and his military service relied on his eye as sharpshooter—not as rifleman, but as a combat movie cameraman.

Photographer Hugh Morton at military encampment, holding movie camera. Taken during Morton's World War II service with the 161st Signal Photography Corps.

Photographer Hugh Morton at military encampment, holding movie camera. Taken during Morton’s World War II service with the 161st Signal Photography Corps.

Film of John F. Kennedy in the Morton collection

Battleship USS North Carolina Commission visit to the White House, 1961.

John F. Kennedy during a White House visit by a contingent of North Carolina politicians, 27 April 1961.  Left to right are Hargrove Bowles, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Terry Sanford (front row) and B. Everett Jordan, Luther Hodges, and Sam Ervin, Jr.  Photograph by Hugh Morton.

On this fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, A View to Hugh would be remiss without a post about Kennedy.  But what to write?  JFK has been mentioned or featured several times here, including “A Spark of Greatness,” a four-part series (the link is for part one) related to the presidential and North Carolina gubernatorial race for 1960, and “Memorial for JFK, May 1964” that tells of the ceremony at Kenan Memorial Stadium on 17 May 1964 and Hugh Morton’s chairing the statewide effort to raise funds for North Carolina’s contribution to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

An underutilized portion of the Morton collection is the moving image holdings, which are quite extensive.  A View to Hugh, however, has yet to include a post that draws on any of the footage . . . until today.  The link below leads to about a minute of film (without sound) shot by Hugh Morton:

P081_MI_010001 Kennedy Sanford DC Med Res

On 27 April 1961 Morton, as chairman of the Battleship USS North Carolina Commission, made this motion picture footage while visiting President John F. Kennedy at the White House Rose Garden.  Morton was part of a delegation that included several North Carolinians: Hargrove “Skipper” Bowles, Jr., director of the state’s Conservation and Development Board; Governor Terry Sanford; United States Secretary of Commerce Luther H. Hodges (the state’s governor prior to Sanford) and United States senators B. Everett Jordan and Sam Ervin, Jr.  The footage shows Sanford presenting Kennedy with the first “admiral” certificate in the “North Carolina Navy” as part the fundraising effort to bring the mothballed WWII-era battleship USS North Carolina from New Jersey to Wilmington, N. C.  Admirals would be those who donated $100 or more to the effort.

In reality, it was a different framed item altogether.  The certificate wasn’t back from the printer in time, so a framed item from the office of White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger served as a surrogate.  Oddly enough, the stand-in certificate was for Salinger’s admiralty in a Flagship Fleet.  Kennedy burst into laughter when he caught the substitution.

"Kennedy, Sanford, Give Boost to Trade Event," News and Observer, 28 April 1961, page 1.

“Kennedy, Sanford, Give Boost to Trade Event,” News and Observer, 28 April 1961, page 1.

The larger mission at hand was planning for North Carolina’s Autumn International Trade Fair, then thought likely to be held in Charlotte in October later that year.  According to Roy Parker, Jr.’s article the following day in Raleigh’s News and Observer, Kennedy “took time from a fast-paced schedule to promote the fair.” After leaving a top-level National Security Council meeting, Kennedy met briefly with the group inside his office before they stepped outside to the Rose Garden.  Kennedy said a few non-committal words of endorsement for the exposition (you can listen to a brief recording from the Kennedy Library website) after Sanford invited Kennedy to attend, because Kennedy would be speaking at UNC Chapel Hill during its University Day celebration on October 12th.

It would seem the battleship commission presentation took place moments after the trade fair promotion.  The News and Observer also published a photograph of that presentation, which appeared on page 38.

Kennedy Named N. C. Admiral

“Kennedy Named N. C. Admiral,” (Associated Press article), News and Observer, 28 April 1961, page 38.

The Kennedy Library website also has two photographs of the noontime occasion: Presentation of a certificate to President Kennedy from Governor Terry Sanford and Senators Sam Ervin, Jr. and B. Everett Jordan of North Carolina, 12:12PM.  In the photograph with Morton on the right, he is turned inward to the group so you cannot see his face.  Another photograph of the group, without Morton, can be seen at East Carolina University’s Joyner Library, part of its Daily Reflector negative collection.


Eleanor Roosevelt visits Chapel Hill, 31 January 1942

Eleanor Roosevelt at Memorial Hall, UNC

This photograph appeared in The Daily Tar Heel on February 1, 1942, captioned, "FIRST LADY OF THE LAND, Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt, sits with University president Frank P. Graham, and Josephus Daniels, Ex-Ambassador to Mexico, at Dean Harriett Elliot's speech to delegates of the post-war planning conference yesterday afternoon." The photograph is shown here as published; a scan of the entire negative is shown below.

On January 31st, 1942 Eleanor Roosevelt visited North Carolina, primarily to attend sessions and speak at Memorial Hall on the second of a two-day, jointly sponsored Carolina Political Union–International Student Service Post-War Planning Conference held at the University of North Carolina.  As Mrs. Roosevelt wrote in her syndicated column, “My Day“:

We had a delightful luncheon at Chapel Hill with President and Mrs. Frank Graham and their guests, heard Miss Harriet Elliott, Dean of the Woman’s College at Greensboro, make an excellent talk before the delegates of the 32 colleges, who had gathered at Chapel Hill under the auspices of the Carolina Political Union and the International Student Service for a two day conference. It was nice to find that both Miss Louise Morley, Conference Secretary of the I.S.S., and Miss Jane Seaver of OCD, had made real friends among so many students from various colleges, who spoke to me about them with real appreciation.

Jane Seaver and I attended one of the forum discussion groups in the afternoon. I saw an excellent civilian defense information service setup in the college library, a very good local defense council control center in the town, had tea at the Presbyterian Church parlor with a number of the delegates, dined in the college cafeteria and spoke and answered questions in the auditorium in the evening, at a meeting which Governor and Mrs. Broughton also attended.

Two uncredited photographs of Mrs. Roosevelt appeared in The Daily Tar Heel the following day, plus a photograph of a speaker from the previous day.  There are eighteen negatives in the Morton collection related to Mrs. Roosevelt’s visit to UNC, including both of the images published in the DTH (which are are not currently in the online collection), so they are represented here in “A View to Hugh.” The lead photograph above is presented as published by the DTH.  Here is the full view:

Eleanor Roosevelt in Memorial Hall (uncropped)

Below is the second Morton photograph of Mrs. Roosevelt published in the DTH, followed by the full negative:

Ridley Whitaker introduces out-of-town delegate to Eleanor Roosevelt

Hugh Morton photograph, shown as cropped in the 1 February 1942 issue of The Daily Tar Heel with the caption, "INTRODUCTION—An out-of-town delegate to the CPU-ISS conference is introduced to Mrs. Roosevelt by Ridley Whitaker, chairman of the CPU yesterday afternoon."

Ridley Whitaker introduces an out-of-town delegate to Eleanor Roosevelt (uncropped).Notice how the cropping almost entirely eliminates the woman walking behind Whitaker?

Information Center for Civilian Morale

Today’s post picks up the storyline—begun on 7 December 2011 with the post, Date of Infamy—about the days on the University of North Carolina campus that followed the bombing of Pearl Harbor, as seen through the lens of then student photographer Hugh Morton.

Information Center on Civilian Morale, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina, January 1942

Information Center on Civilian Morale in the lobby of the University of North Carolina library (now Wilson Library), January 1942. As captioned in the Daily Tar Heel,"Persons instrumental in the opening of the Information Center are: left to right, Mrs. Robert P. Weed, assistant reference librarian and supervisor of the Information Center; Russell Grumman, director of the University extension division and coordinator of the University Center; Charles E. Rush, librarian and director of the Center; Dean Francis F. Bradshaw, chairman of the faculty committee on defense; and Mrs. N. B. Adams, assistant in library extension and assistant supervisor of the Center."

On Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941 the major news story of the day—the outbreak of war on America—was still unfolding and unprinted.  War, however, was not absent from American students’ minds.  From the first day of classes in late September, currents of war wove through the pages of UNC’s student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel (DTH).  In its first issue for the school year, the editors, led by Orville Campbell, wrote in their editorial column, “Today the oceans that surround us are no longer barriers, but highways of invasion.  Today we have been aroused to a wartime pitch by propaganda that is as skillful as it is deadly and effective.”  A week prior to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the International Relations Club announced that it would be conducting five Gallop intercollegiate polls on campus during the remainder of 1941 and 1942.  In the announcement the DTH noted that initial findings from the first poll showed that “the nation’s undergraduates were still isolationists, but ‘no longer can they be considered as balking idealists trying to hold against the tide of events.'”  By day’s end on December 7th, the tidal wave of war struck at Oahu.

One of the top headlines in the December 7th DTH announced that Louis Harris was named student coordinator for the campus morale drive, which had been in development since mid November shortly after the United States government formed the School and College Civilian Morale Service within the Office of Education that same month.  By month’s end, news about its impact on UNC and the state had reached the pages of the DTH.  Often characterized in DTH articles as “Harris, campus leader,” Louis Harris was a logical choice to lead the campus morale program.  He was vice-chairman of the Carolina Political Union, and had represented UNC at the International Student Service’s first Summer Student Leadership Institute, held during five weeks at Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelts’ Canadian summer home in Campobello, New Brunswick.  On September 24th the DTH printed in its first issue of the school year an article on Harris’ participation at the institute.  Along with the article was a photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt, who spent two weeks with the attendees, asking Harris to join her for in a swim in the pool, or so said Harris in the caption.

A coordinated statewide effort led to the information center’s establishment at UNC.  With the outbreak of war on American soil, the December 9th DTH quoted Harris, “This agency was founded to disperse impartial, non-partisan information to all interested students and persons.  This goal will be in no way changed or modified by the present crisis.”  Information centers would soon spring up across the county.  On January 25th, the DTH published Morton’s photograph of the information center, “still in its infancy,” and its creators assembled in the lobby of the university library (now Wilson Library).  The photograph accompanied an article, headlined “Local Morale Information Center Among First in Nation,” which stated that the information center was the first in the state and had “met intensified interest from the campus.”  North Carolinians wanting to learn more about a specific war-related topic need only send their request on a post card addressed to “Information Center Chapel Hill,” and in return they would receive a packet “free of charge, save mailing costs.”

Morton’s photograph (cropped above as published; click on the image to see the uncropped version) is only the second to appear in the DTH that depicted a campus scene reflecting activity related to World War II, the first having been published on January 11th—a similar version of which can bee seen in the Date of Infamy post.

NOTA BENE: In the 1950s Lou Harris would become a notable and innovative public opinion pollster, whose polling data is archived at UNC’s Louis Harris Data Center. Also, Harris’ papers are in the Southern Historical Collection.  For more on Lou Harris, you can watch a C-Span interview of Prof. David W. Moore, author of the book Superpollsters.

Date of Infamy

Frank Porter Graham with students Hobbs and Caldwell

University of North Carolina president Frank Porter Graham with Student Body president Truman Hobbs and Woman's Association President Mary Caldwell. The photograph appears in a collage entitled "University Enlists" in the January 1942 issue of THE ALUMNI REVIEW.

On Sunday morning, December 7th, 1941, Hugh Morton and fellow students at the University of North Carolina likely scanned the headlines on the front page of The Daily Tar Heel (DTH).  Many students had been to the Carolina Youth Administration fundraiser Saturday night: a midnight showing of the film Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife. If they were reading the DTH that morning, they also would have seen the front-page article, “Round Table Talk to Treat Phases of Japanese War,” which began,

“Must We Fight Japan?” will be the topic discussed on the  “University Round Table” this afternoon from 3 until 3:30 o’clock over stations WRAL, WAIR, and WBBB.

Ironically, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor had begun at 6:00 HST (11:00 EST) that very morning, with the first bomber appearing in the Hawaiian skies at 7:55 HST.

As these events were unfolding, Hugh Morton was the DTH staff photographer.  Surprisingly, there are no campus news photographs reflecting student life after December 7 in the six remaining issues of the newspaper before winter break (December 9 through 13 inclusive, and December 18).  Following the holidays, the DTH resumed publication on January 6, 1942.  It was not until another six issues had passed, however, on January 11 that the DTH published Morton’s first campus news photographs related to America’s entry into WWII—two images, including one very similar to the scene below of the first drill of the Carolina Volunteer Training Corp (CVTC) on snow-covered Fetzer Field.

Carolina Volunteer Training Corp, 1942

The first drill of the Carolina Volunteer Training Corp (CVTC) on snow-covered Fetzer Field on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. The image was taken on January 8, 1942.

The Alumni Review for January 1942 published a few Morton photographs, including the first photograph above, which was not previously scanned as part of the online highlights from the Morton collection.  The group portrait is part of a collage entitled “University Enlists” made using seven photographs that “illustrate some of the ways in which the University is cooperating with the war-effort.”  The Alumni Review caption for Morton’s uncredited photograph identifies the group as student body president Truman Hobbs, UNC President Frank Porter Graham, and Woman’s Association president Mary Caldwell “as they confer informally on the steps of South Building.”  On a different page, the magazine published another Morton photograph (below) with an extended caption entitled “Graham and the War” that described the portrait as a “new picture” of Graham at his South Building office desk “in serious telephone communication with officials in Washington.”  The photograph’s credit reads, “The picture was taken by Student Hugh Morton for the Institute of Government.”

Frank Porter Graham on telephone to WashingtonIn future posts, I’ll highlight more of Morton’s World War II-era photographs that he made while he was a student at UNC before he enlisted in the fall of 1942.  On this seventieth anniversary of America’s date of infamy, reading Janis Holder’s essay “Covering the Beat: The University in the WWII Era” would give you a good sense of what was facing Hugh Morton and his fellow classmates that fateful Sunday morning.

And what happened with the University Round Table radio program?  As the discussion participants—history professors J. L. Godfrey and Georgre Mowry; retired Navy Admiral P. W. Foote; and Roger Mann, president of the International Relations Club—arrived in the studio, “news came in over the radio that Japan had attacked the United States.”  They had ten minutes to come up with a topic and, at 2:55 agreed upon a new title for the program: “Why Has Japan Attack Us?”  The DTH reported afterward that, “At three o’clock, the program went on the air.  These gentlemen rose to the occasion, using information hardly off the news wires.”

Pacific discoveries

The handwritten label — “Original Leyte” — on the negative envelope immediately caught my eye.  It was the second envelope in the box, just after the envelope labeled “Fort Benning.”  Leyte, an island in the Philippines, might possibly have a connection to Hugh Morton, who served as a photographer and film cameraman in the United States Army’s 161st Signal Photographic Company.  Morton’s tour of duty ended in the Philippines after being injured by an explosion near Balete Pass on the island of Luzon.

Marking its place, I pulled the “Leyte” envelope from the box, peered inside, and saw five negatives.  I pulled one negative out of its protective Kraft paper enclosure.  I couldn’t believe it—the very first item that I examined in the collection and I immediately recognized Hugh Morton’s face in the image: a copy negative of a photograph of Morton leaning over fellow signal corps photographer Conway Spanton!

Why was this so exciting?  Because I was not looking at an envelope in the Hugh Morton collection.  I was nearly 400 miles away from Chapel Hill.

Hugh Morton and Conway Spanton

Photograph of Hugh Morton (wearing sling) and Conway Spanton held by the United States Army Military History Institute in the Thomas L. Wood Photograph Collection. This photograph is the exact same pose as that in the Hugh Morton Collection. The negative in the Morton collection appears to be the original, but it has been trimmed along the left side and the bottom edge.

Early Tuesday morning of Thanksgiving week, I set off for Carlisle, Pennsylvania (about 190 miles east of my final destination of Pittsburgh), taking a busman’s holiday to conduct some research at the United States Army Military History Institute, which is part of the United States Army Heritage and Education Center.  Exploring its website and catalog the previous week, I discovered that the institute held several items on Camp Davis—where Morton was stationed before heading to the Pacific theater—and 1,982 photographs made by another 161st Signal Photographic Company photographer, Thomas L. Wood, who also served in the Pacific.  Given the dozens of photographers who traversed the Pacific islands, I considered the Wood photographs to be a long-shot, and held more hope of finding useful material on Camp Davis.

When I arrived Tuesday afternoon, I first looked at the Camp Davis items, which turned out to be either too generic or too specific for my purposes.  Next on my research cart was a document case containing envelopes and boxes of prints and negatives from the Thomas L. Wood photograph collection.  The Wood collection comprised two photograph albums and a box; because of their large size and storage location, however, the albums could not be brought out to the research room without approval.  While awaiting permission to use the albums, an institute staff member had pulled the box—the document case that held the negative envelope labeled “Original Leyte.”

“But wait,” you may be saying: a copy negative isn’t an original negative.  What was the original?  After the excitement of my initial discovery subsided, I removed the remaining four negatives.  One was a second copy negative of the Morton/Spanton portrait; the scene depicted in the remaining negatives (one original, two copies) I also immediately recognized from the Morton collection: a group of men, including Morton, seated around Spanton as he lies on a cot or a stretcher.

From the research room, I was able to check Wood’s negative against the group portrait in the online Morton collection.  Unlike the Spanton/Morton portrait, the group portrait was not the same image as the one in the Morton collection (below).

Conway Spanton group portrait from Morton collection.

Negative in envelope labeled "HMorton wounded with Photo Tean" (sic) from the Hugh Morton collection. The Spanton/Morton portrait was found in the same envelope when the collection was being processed. Hugh Morton is on the far right wearing a sling as a result of injury sustained on March 18, 1945 near the Balete Pass.

I wasn’t able to get too far into the collection before the research room closed, so I stayed overnight and returned Wednesday morning.  I methodically launched into the box of photographic material—starting on the opposite end from the Leyte negative with the photographic prints stored in Wood’s numbered and labeled original envelopes.  After reviewing all the material in the document case, I did get to see the photograph albums.  Lo and behold, in the second album . . .

Conway Spanton and group

Group portrait with Conway "Connie" Spanton from a photograph album in the Thomas L. Wood Photograph Collection, United States Army Military History Institute.

. . . a print of the group shot with an identifying caption.  Well, now there’s a problem . . . “Luzon” (in the caption) and “Leyte” (on the negative envelope) are two separate islands!  Two mysteries solved (Wood being the likely photographer and when he made the photographs), but a new mystery added (location).  Luzon makes more sense to me at this point, but more research will be needed to confirm that.

Some other place names on the envelopes and captions in the albums overlapped with places where Morton had ventured, but many more did not.  I was able to identify a previously unidentified Morton landscape photograph made in the Pacific from a different image in the Wood collection: Mount Bagana on Bougainville Island on what is now part of Papua New Guinea.  Using Google Earth, I was able to come pretty close to the spot where Morton likely made the photograph, and I recorded the latitude and longitude in the descriptive metadata.  Morton was not portrayed in any of Wood’s Bougainville photographs that were dated from December 12, 1943 going forward, including a New Year’s Eve party at the close of 1943.

The location common to both Wood and Morton that proved to be the most rewarding was Noumea, New Caledonia.  One print of Noumea with Mount Dore in the background labeled “Our camp upon hill” was taken from practically the same vantage point as a Morton negative featured in a previous blog post.  Wood’s photograph identifies the central portion of the photograph as the headquarters of the 161st Signal Photographic Company.

Thomas Wood's envelope #42: "Tent 14 - Noumea - N.C- " (New Caledonia)

A print of the Spanton/Morton portrait was in Wood’s envelope #42 (both shown above).  Envelope #43 — “Tent 14 – Miss/N.C.” — contained a group portrait of Wood, Spanton, and two others.  From the images in these envelopes, it seems that Wood and “Connie” were good friends and tent mates.

Thomas Wood (left) and Conway Spanton (to Wood's left) at Noumea, New Caledonia.

Thomas Wood (left) and Conway Spanton (to Wood's left) at Noumea, New Caledonia. Thomas L. Wood Photograph Collection, United States Army Military History Institute.

Another photograph in the envelope, labeled “New Caledonia/June 44″ on the verso, shows Thomas Wood (easily recognizable by that point in my research) and two other men.  I knew a completely unidentified print of that photograph was in Morton collection (below).

Thomas L. Wood and two others at 161st HQ Noumea

Thomas L. Wood (left) and two other soldiers pose in front of the 161st Signal Photographic Company headquarters at Noumea, New Caledonia.

In the second photograph album, however, there was an even more interesting group portrait . . .

161st Signal Photographic Company, New Caledonia, probably Noumea in June 1944

Group portrait of members of the 161st Signal Photographic Company in New Caledonia, probably Noumea in June 1944. Hugh Morton is second from the right first row; Thomas Wood is third from the right, middle row. United States Army Military History Institute, Thomas L. Wood Photograph Collection.

This group portrait, presumably members of the 161st Signal Photographic Company, places Morton and Wood in Noumea at the same time.  There appear to be differences in the foreground landscaping, so the date may not be the same as the portrait of Wood posing with two others.

After finishing with the Wood collection, I had very little time left to look at photographs in the institute’s Signal Corps Photograph Collection.  The views of Camp Davis predated Morton’s assignment there, so I moved on to a group of images arranged by location.  I had asked the staff to pull images from a handful of locations, but the clock was poised at less than five minutes until closing time on the day before a holiday.  I chose the folder labeled “Balete Pass.”

Inside was the biggest find of the trip.

Hugh Morton photographing near Balete Pass

Hugh Morton, on right, making a photograph just moments before he was injured by an explosion. Notice the Signal Corp number in the lower right corner of the 8x10-inch print that is part of the United States Signal Corps Photograph Collection, United States Army Military History Institute. That number is NOT on the much smaller print in the Hugh Morton collection.

In the Hugh Morton collection, there is a photograph with the following caption:

A US Army Signal Corps Photographer is shown photographing infantrymen of the 25th Infantry Division as they are in process of knocking out a Jap pillbox position near Balete Pass, Luzon. The enemy is fiercely defending Balete pass because it is a key route to Baguio. The Japs set off an explosion which wounded both Infantry men and Cameraman shortly after this picture was taken. Photographer: Allen”

That caption does not name the photographer in the scene; the descriptive metadata we had for this image online did not include that caption.  Both of these shortfalls have now been corrected.  Who is the photographer in the scene?  The faded but legible caption on the back of the print at the United States Army Military History Institute states: “Hugh Morton.”

A previous View to Hugh post, Saved by his camera, tells a bit more about that day.

A special note: Leyte is where General Douglas MacArthur famously proclaimed, “I have returned.”  Many thanks to the staff at the Army Military History Institute for their assistance during my visit.  I shall return.

Veterans Day 2011

Hugh Morton and others, October 1944

Hugh Morton, in military uniform, shaking hands with an unidentified woman in an office while two unidentified military men look on, October 1944.

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!

Hugh Morton and soldiers at leisure

Six soldiers sitting around a table, toasting with drinks. Left to right: Eddie Seliady, Frank Ilc (?), "Lt. Shepherd, " Steve Leakos, Henry van Baalen, and Hugh Morton.


Saved by his camera

"Morton Wounded with Photo Team," circa March 1945

Hugh Morton, on right wearing sling, with Conway “Rosebud” Spanton (on cot), and other soldiers in a field hospital in the Philippines during World War II.

On the fifth anniversary of Hugh Morton’s passing (June 1st, 2006, funeral June 9th), today’s post is a remembrance of March 18th, 1945—the day Morton’s camera probably saved his life.  On that day, Morton peered through the Speed Graphic 4×5 camera that he held up to his face, about to photograph American soldiers attacking a Japanese “pillbox” bunker with flamethrowers,  Suddenly the mountainside before him exploded with a horrific force that propelled Morton down a slope, wounding him in twenty places, the camera ruined.

Morton later received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, the citation for which read, in part, that Morton’s wartime photography placed him almost

exclusively with elements in contact with the enemy, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire on many occasions in order to make exceptionally fine close-up pictures. [His] superior professional skill and utter disregard for his personal safety enabled him to depict the heroism of the front line soldier . . . [and] that his courage contributed greatly to the morale of nearby troops.”

Thankfully the loss of one camera allowed Morton to hold many more during a long lifetime, cameras that exposed more than 200,000 future photographs from the eye and soul of Hugh Morton.

Islands of the Pacific revisited

Hugh Morton in Manila Chinese Cemetery

Hugh Morton with camera, Manila Chinese Cemetery, Philppines, circa March 1945.

During the Memorial Day weekend, I looked online through the numerous photographs made by Hugh Morton during his tour of duty in the South Pacific during World War II as a photographer (still and moving image) with the United States Army 161st Signal Photographic Company.  The idea was to have a military post related to the holiday.  I must confess that the exercise consumed the greater portion of my holiday weekend, but it was enjoyable and educational!  It also was rewarding because my journey through the collection, using the geographical subject heading “Islands of the Pacific,” led to several corrections with some interesting new identifications.  Unfortunately it has taken some time to update the catalog records, plus some of the master scans were “M. I. A.” so I needed to rescan those negatives.  That extra work meant that this post got pushed into June—and there’s enough material to merit more than one post.

The delay turns out not to be a such bad thing, however, because significant events in the war in the South Pacific took place during the month of June 1945—particularly on Luzon that lead to the liberation of the Philippines, declared on July 5th.  Ironically it was through that country’s two national heroes from the Spanish-American War—Andrés Bonifacio, and José Rizal—that I was able to identify the actual locations depicted several photographs.

Our first stop on this virtual expedition, however, is 4,000 miles southeast of Manila: Nouméa, New Caledonia.

Noumea, New Caledonia

Nouméa with Mount Dore in the distance, New Caledonia, circa late 1943–1944.

Many of the “misidentified” images are from a batch of negatives that Morton originally labeled “Noumea, New Caledonia.”  Nouméa is the capitol of New Caledonia, a country formed from a group of islands that are more than 900 miles east of Australia.  Nouméa is located on the southwestern coast near the southern tip of a long slender island called Grande Terre and situated on a protected harbor with a small island, Ile Nou, just offshore.  In 1942 the Allies needed to relocate the center of their Pacific operations from Auckland, New Zealand to a place closer to the “front.”  New Caledonia had been a French colony since the mid 19th century, and Nouméa was significantly closer to the action.  During the summer and autumn of 1942, the United States Navy and Army constructed extensive facilities at Nouméa, and on 8 November 1942 Nouméa became the official headquarters of the Allied Commander of the South Pacific.  New Caledonia also became home to many USO performances by Bob Hope and others, which Morton photographed in 1944.

When the army shipped members of the 161st Army Signal Corp to the Pacific, including Hugh Morton sometime in late 1943 or early 1944, they likely landed first in Nouméa.  Above is a scenic photograph by Morton of Nouméa with Mount Dore in the distance, scanned from the original negative with a U.S. Army Signal Corp identification number 22-16 along the left-hand edge.  Another scan in the online collection is from a cropped print.  The snapshot photograph below, with Saint Joseph’s Cathedral in the background, is the only other positively identified view made Nouméa. The original 2.5 x 3.5-inch negative is in the Morton collection, but it has not been scanned.

Street scene, Noumea, New Caledonia

So far, these are the only two images positively identified as Nouméa.  When Elizabeth Hull processed World War II material in the Morton collection, she made a note in the finding aid alerting users that many of the images in that the batch of negatives may not be of Nouméa.  Many of those negatives can now be assigned their proper place on the map: the Philippines, where Morton’s military service concluded in the spring of 1945.  The next post (or posts) on this trip back to the South Pacific will be a reflection of Morton’s tour of duty: “island hopping” our way to the Philippines.