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.


What is 337?

If we were playing Jeopardy!, that would be the question to the answer, “The number of photographs in the online collection of photographs by Hugh Morton with descriptions containing the word “unidentified” (as of May 20th 2011).”  Of course, that answer was initially my question!

This roundabout foolery was prompted by an email I received last week from a person who sent me a message after viewing the above photograph.  He wrote:

In the picture titled MacArthur at Binalonan, Luzon. The “Other man” does indeed look like General Mullins. I have pictures from my recently deceased uncle’s collection of pictures of General Mullins. My uncle was a Lt in the medical services attached to the 161st during the campaign that included Balete Pass Binalonan and San Manuel and was present at some of the meetings between Generals MacArthur and Mullins. I also have pictures taken by Hugh Morton of the signal corp and many others of that campaign.

I am currently researching the period of Morton’s photography prior to 1952 when he inherited Grandfather Mountain.  During the past few weeks I’ve been going through issues of The State magazine, looking for a variety of things including Hugh Morton photographs.  Also, during the last few weeks of the semester, two work-study students, (thank you Emily and Stephanie!) culled various UNC student publications issued during Morton’s years at UNC.  We found many published images and have updated their records when for the images that appear in the online collection.  The “unidentified” question above popped into my head after replacing that word several times while updating those records.  To find the answer, I simply typed “unidentified” into the search box on the main page of the online collection of Hugh Morton’s photographs.

In most cases, it’s not that 337 images are totally unidentified. More likely, we know something about a photograph but it still contains some unknown element—person, place, plant, etc.  There are indeed some photographs about which we know very little or nothing—and it could be you that knows “one more thing” that provides new information to those who use the Morton collection.  If you see something unidentified in a photograph that you can identify, please let me know using the online feedback form on the front page of the online collection.  Give it a try!!!

Who Are We?—Military Brass

It dawned on me the other day that we haven’t had a recent “Who Am I?” post that I could remember.  Turns out that we haven’t had one for six months!  A brief excursion through the online collection of Morton photographs led me to an image that, with a little (OK, maybe a bit more) digging might be able to piece together better identifications—or to butcher an often butchered ad slogan, “Better IDing through group sourcing.”

Military personnel standing next to airplane

In this case, “Who am I?” becomes “Who are we?” The image above portrays enough military brass—two of the men have four stripes on their shoulders and decorated hat brims—that we should be able to get a couple names for those unidentified faces.  Bonus points for figuring out the event.

To get started, click on the photograph to see the image with its most current catalog information.  Use the zoom tool just above the image to see details. Once you are looking at the image in the online collection (i.e., not within this blog post), use the slider to zoom in and out.  Once you have zoomed in, you can reposition the detail area within the image either by moving the little red box within the thumbnail, or by clicking on the image and dragging your cursor.

I’ve done a little investigation to set your off in the right (I hope!) direction. The hat badges and shoulder marks or shoulder boards worn by several men appear to those used of the United States Army Transportation Corps, as described in two blog posts at “Hawse Pipe.” The first post focuses on the hat badge; the second post describes the hat badge without manufacturer hallmark, and includes other insignia including shoulder marks.

Happy IDing!

Battle of Manila

Today, February 23rd 2011, is the 66th anniversary of Joseph Rosenthal’s famous Pulitzer Prize winning photograph depicting Marines raising of the United States flag on Iwo Jima in 1945. That same day—1,500 miles to the southwest—also marked the last day of a major artillery barrage of the Intramuros, the 16th century walled fortress of the city of Manila.

Fought between 3 February and 3 March 1945, the Battle of Manila ended three years of Japanese occupation. After February 23rd, United States forces engaged the Japanese in their remaining strongholds near the Intramuros, including the towering City Hall and the massively constructed Legislative Building. Hugh Morton, as a member of the 161st Signal Photographic Company, photographed both buildings sometime after the Japanese defeat.

The scenes above were not identified by Morton as being in Manila, but a bit of Googling and digging in other resources uncovered their location. It is likely that the images below are also from Manila, as the architecture is fitting with the descriptions of the buildings in that area of the city.  Also, the frame numbers on the edge of the film—8 and 12—serve as possible bookends to frame number 9 on the image below. (Of course, they could be from separate rolls of film, so the numbers are not conclusive in and of themselves).

The image below (frame 1) shows Morton descending stairs in front heavily damaged columns.

The location of the scene below of a soldier standing guard behind a colonnade (frame 4) is also unknown.

There’s several more photographs from Morton’s tour of duty in the Pacific islands; some remain unidentified, while others may be misidentified—such as a photograph of the “Pick-Up Cafe” building at 1437 Rizal Avenue that Morton had in an envelope labeled “Noumea, New Caledonia.” As far as Google Maps can tell me, there is no Rizal Avenue in Noumea, but there is a major street by that name in Manila.

There are enough clues in the image that someone with some time and access to research tools such Manila city directories or census data (if not destroyed in the war!) might help resolve. So give them all a look . . . and if you try your hand at sleuthing and have some success, please share your findings with us in the comment section!

Flag Day in Canada

Today is National Flag Day for our neighbors to the north (no, not Virginia). On 15 February 1965, Canada unfurled its new Maple Leaf flag, replacing the unofficially official Canadian Red Ensign. Sometime during wartime in the 1940s, Hugh Morton made his way to the Canada–United States border and (surprise!) stopped to make a photograph or two. In the picture above, an unidentified fellow stands in front of the border crossing. Above the building is a distinctive “Welcome to Canada in Wartime” sign displaying the British Empire’s Royal Union Flag (also known as the Union Jack), which was Canada’s official flag until 1946.  The Royal Union Flag served as the canton (upper left corner) of all the variations of Canada’s Red Ensign flags.

The license plate on the car to the left is unfortunately out of focus just enough to prevent reading any details that might yield what year Morton made the photograph, but it likely predates 1946.

All nine series now available!

It’s been a while since I announced an update to the finding aid for the Hugh Morton collection . . . but that’s because I’ve been saving up until I could reveal ALL of the remaining series at once. (Not intentionally, actually — it just kind of worked out that way). So yes, this means that almost all* of the Morton collection is now open and available for research!

Of greatest interest to many will be the Sports Series (series 6), which contains the absolute gold mine that is Hugh Morton’s UNC basketball photography. Morton took an amazing 30,000 photographs of UNC basketball, dating from the beginning of his time as a UNC undergrad in 1939 through the early 2000s (see left). We worked hard and very carefully to process this portion of the collection, knowing how popular these would be. Along the way, we digitized about 1300 of them, which (in case you need a reminder) are available online in the Hugh Morton digital collection. (Big props to our volunteer Jack Hilliard, who did the vast majority of the description/identification for these — talk about a “citizen archivist“!).

But let’s not overlook the other sports (football, golf, and hang gliding, to name a few), or series 7 through 9 — World War II (7);  Places, Non-North Carolina and Unidentified (8); and Documents & Objects (9). Go to the newly updated finding aid for detailed descriptions of these materials.

*Yes, unfortunately, we’re not quite done yet. There’s still a good deal of cleaning up left to do, inserting stray items into series, adding the film, video, and audio materials, the oversize prints, etc. Not at all helpful is the fact that as I was doing a “victory lap” around the stacks the other day, I came upon a previously overlooked (and quite large) box of negatives — a tangled mess of hundreds of rolls of film, representing lots of different subjects and time periods. SIGH. Wish me luck.

An infamous day…campus prepares for war

Note from Elizabeth: We hope you enjoy another post from JACK HILLIARD, in honor of Sunday’s 68th anniversary of the commissioning of the U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School at UNC-Chapel Hill on May 23, 1942. (For more information on this topic, see Janis Holder’s Worth 1,000 Words essay).

Regarding photos of the Pre-Flight School, please see the NCC Photo Archives Pre-Flight School Collection (a few photos from which appear in this post). You’ll note that photographer(s) for this collection are not known. Could one of them have been Hugh Morton? It seems possible, as Pre-Flight School photos in the Morton Collection are scarce, and at least some Pre-Flight photos have been credited to him (e.g., in this pamphlet).

December 7, 1941: many readers across central North Carolina turned directly to the sports pages when their Sunday edition of the Greensboro Daily News arrived on that cold morning. The lead story was the annual high school all-state football team, and leading the team was a 17-year-old junior from Asheville’s Lee Edwards High named Charlie Justice. High school football was huge in North Carolina, but professional football wasn’t, yet. Even so, on the back page of the sports section was a mention of the Washington Redskins playing the Philadelphia Eagles in the final game of the NFL season, and Redskins owner George Preston Marshall would once again stage a spectacular halftime Christmas show.

This Christmas game always filled old Griffith Stadium with families, politicians, and military personnel from the District and northern Virginia. Seated high up in the press box were Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich and Associated Press reporter Pat O’Brien. Shortly before the 2 PM kickoff, O’Brien received a puzzling-three-word telegram from his editor downtown — it said, simply, “Keep It Short.” About that same time, the public address announcer began a series of announcements: “Admiral W.H.P. Bland is asked to report to his office at once.” “Captain R.X. Fenn of the United States Army is asked to report to his office.” The announcements continued . . . Joseph Umglumph of the FBI,  Joaquim Eilzalde, resident commissioner of the Philippines . . . Secretary Stimson and Secretary Knox call the White House. A second telegram arrived at O’Brien’s desk. This one solved the puzzle: “The Japanese have kicked off. War Now!” At 2:26 PM, the Mutual Broadcasting System interrupted the radio broadcast of the game with a bulletin telling of a Pearl Harbor attack. The world would never be the same.

Back in Chapel Hill, UNC Sophomore Hugh Morton, who had recently won the “Carolina Intercampus Council” award, stood ready to document a campus preparing for war (however, his formal education would be interrupted a year later when he joined the Army).

Even before the Pearl Harbor attack, UNC President Frank Porter Graham had offered the University’s help in the event of war. In 1940 Graham said the University would offer “all its resources to the nation for the defense of the freedom and democracy it was founded to serve.”

Graham’s first priority was to lobby for a Navy Pre-Flight Training School on the Chapel Hill campus. It would be one of four such schools nationwide that prepared future pilots for aerial combat. With the help of alumnus, newspaper editor, and former Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, UNC became one of the four. The Navy announcement came in February, 1942 and on May 23, 1942 the official commissioning was held in Kenan Stadium with Daniels delivering the keynote address — 68 years ago this Sunday.

The University renovated ten dorms, expanded Woollen Gym, and built a new infirmary, recreation center and athletic field. Alexander Hall became administrative headquarters. The Pre-Flight School had its own weekly newspaper called “The Cloud Buster,” and Orville Campbell was the associate editor.

On May 28th, the first group of 242 cadets arrived on campus. Every two weeks, 300 more would arrive until a quota of 1,875 was reached. The cadets ranged in age from 18 to 27 and each cadet received $75 per month. The training day was from 5:30 AM until 6:15 PM 6 days a week, and consisted of two hours of strenuous physical activity, two hours of classroom work in Caldwell Hall, and athletic training in swimming, basketball, football and boxing.

There was some free time, and entertainers like Ronald Reagan, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra with Helen O’Connell, and Kate Smith came to the campus to entertain.

The athletic talent at the Pre-Flight School was outstanding. The baseball team featured the legendary Ted Williams, and defeated Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees in July 1943.

Kenan Stadium became home to the Pre-Flight Cloudbusters football team. In April 1942, there was a young Ensign physical fitness instructor named Gerald R. Ford. Thirty two years later he would become the 38th President of the United States. Another future President came through the program as well. His name: George H.W Bush.

On November 5, 1944 The Cloudbusters hosted The Commodores from Bainbridge (Maryland) Naval Training Station. Coaching on the sideline that day for the Cloudbusters was a young Lieutenant named Paul W. Bryant. He would lead the University of Alabama to six national titles during the 1960s and 1970s, and would be known as “Bear” Bryant. Leading the Cloudbusters at quarterback was Otto Graham who would lead the Cleveland Browns to 7 pro championships in the 1940s and 1950s, and leading the Commodores was a 20-year-old from Asheville, NC. Two years later he would return to Kenan and during the years 1946 to 1949 would rewrite the UNC record books. His name: Charlie Justice.

When the War ended, the campus returned to normal. The US Navy Pre-Flight School at Chapel Hill was decommissioned on October 15, 1945. Some of those Pre-Flight buildings still stand and remind passersby that the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill adapted to serve the country during its “most critical crisis.”

–Jack Hilliard

New series available, plus a semi-fun photo-related activity

Imagine my excitement when I went to the homepage a few weeks ago and saw an article entitled “Connecting the past to the present tougher than it looks.” This is a story from CNN’s iReport feature, where they “outsource” their reporting to regular folks — CNN assigned their iReporters to try their hand at a neat, low-tech photography technique that involves lining up historic photos with the same current-day scene. (There’s a great Flickr group devoted to this practice, called “Looking Into the Past” — however, some of these people are obviously cheating with Photoshop).

Let me back up for a minute to make two BIG behind-the-scenes announcements: 1) the Grandfather Mountain and UNC-Chapel Hill series (Series 4 and 5) of the Morton collection are now available online and open for research; and 2) the digital collection has reached (and rocketed past) 5,000 items.

In honor of these developments (particularly the availability of the UNC-CH photos), Sam and I decided to try our hand at the “lining-up” trick, right here on campus: we printed out a few of Hugh Morton’s photos from when he was a student here (1939-1942), and went out with the digital camera. As you can see from the results below, it is indeed “tougher than it looks”! (Especially when it’s windy outside).

Here we are attempting to situate a Morton photo of a group of unidentified gentlemen (UNC faculty?) standing on the front steps of Wilson Library (view the original here). Close, but no cigar. . . finding the exact right spot and angle to successfully line up the print with the real world is quite difficult, and you also look and feel ridiculous as you fumble around for that perfect perspective.

Equally poorly-aligned is this portrait of a wild group of hooligans posing on the steps of South Building. If anyone knows what’s going on here, please fill us in… the original can be viewed in much greater detail here. (I assume this gathering is World War II-related, because one of said hooligans is holding a button that reads “To Hell with Hitler”).

We did a little better, but not much, with this Morton portrait of 1941-1942 UNC senior Frances Bonkemeyer, publicity chair for the YWCA and member of the UNC Coed Senate (see the original here).

So to sum up, let me first reiterate that Series 4 (Grandfather Mountain) and Series 5 (UNC-Chapel Hill) are now included in the online finding aid and available for research! And, the Hugh Morton digital collection contains more than 5,400 items!

We hope our little exercise inspires you to try “linking the past with the present” using historic photos. Send us your results if you do.

New essay, new look

eleanor_thumbFirst and foremost, we’re thrilled to announce the availability of the second essay in our Worth 1,000 Words series: it’s by former University Archivist Janis Holder and is entitled Covering the Beat: The University in the WWII Era. Please read, enjoy, share, and comment!

Secondly, you may have noticed that “A View to Hugh” has gotten a bit of a makeover! We’ve upgraded to a new “theme” in WordPress, but tried to maintain much of the original look, feel and functionality. The most pressing reason for this upgrade was to better accommodate our essays, which you will see now occupy their own section of the V2H website. The essays are now posted as their own pages, rather than as traditional posts.

For those of you who might be missing the old V2H look, you should also know that our original WordPress theme was “orphaned” and had become out-of-date and cumbersome to use. Our new theme is sleeker, much more functional, and allows for larger images and neat widgets like the new Digital Collection RSS feed in the right sidebar, which allows you to peruse recent additions to the ever-expanding Hugh Morton Digital Collection. It was time for a change, and we hope you find it one for the better.