Monday, October 9

Read n' Reviewed: Forgotten Archives 2: The Lost Signal Corps Photos by Darren Neely

We were lucky enough to get a copy of the first edition of Forgotten Archives, The Lost Signal Corps Photos last year.  A large book full of previously unpublished photographs from the Signal Corps men of WWII. We liked the book very much – so when we heard a second book was released we put our hand up straight away. Now we have read it, see what we thought in our review...

Read n' Reviewed: Forgotten Archives 2: The Lost Signal Corps Photos
Author: Darren Neely
Artist: Felipe Rodna
240 Pages
252 Photos
Format: Hardcover,  Landscape - 270 x 210mm
ISBN: 978-1-908032-15-7
Price: USD $59.99/ GBP £34.99
Shipping: UK: Free Europe: £10.25 - Rest of World: £15.50 Oz: £16.85

Last year we saw a new publication from Panzerwrecks, Darren Neeley's new book that followed the lives of the US Signal Corpsmen of WWII called (funnily enough) “Forgotten Archives 1: The Lost Signal Corps Photos”. That book must have done good business because there is now a second in the series Volume II, which seems to offer a lot of the same, but promising all-new material, is the quality of images and the stories as good as what we saw in the first volume? We thought we would read it and tell you what we thought.
First of all, some of you out there might be new to these books, so we will take you through the book's synopsis, the physical form and then we will go chapter by chapter of what you will find inside the book.

The second instalment in the ‘Forgotten Archives’ exposes more of the work by the author Darren Neely to bring to light even more obscure, unpublished and unknown archives from the US Signal Corps photographs. Forgotten Archives 2 promises more input from the surviving Signal Corps photographers and their families who are left behind. These photos are shown in many instances for the first time since the Second World War.

OK now that's out of the way what does it look like, and what did we think of the book's feel and quality?

The glossy hardcover book is nearly an inch thick (2.3cm), with two hundred and forty landscape format pages of 270mm x 210mm in dimension. For the most part, each of the pages is filled with one large format pictures with two captions below it. The captions are both the text submitted with the pictures at the time in light grey, and the black text of the author and his additions next to it. the additions are well written and pertinent and often bring light to a certain circumstance that censorship or plain vagueness of the writer did not add.

The book is broken up into nine chapters, each of these is taken by the men in the corps who's pictures and words fill it. These are the men and stories featured in this book.

-Lt. Thomas Noble. 165th Signal Photo Company
-Through the lens of an Ordnance Officer Part 2
-Harold Roberts. 165th Signal Photo Company
-W.Bryan Allen. 165th Signal Photo Company
-Dwight Ellett. 165th Signal Photo Company
-Lt. Colonel Harry Hart
-J. Malan Heslop. 167th Signal Photo Company

The intro is a window into what is coming throughout the book, the author explains some of the breakdown of the difference in the original captions and the accompanying text what we have talked about, also some of the new discoveries of footage and the sources where it came from. This process of finding new and unseen material must be exhausting and pretty much full-time work for the author, and hat's off to him - he had a lot of work cut out for him in this large undertaking.

We go straight into the chapters now. the large format pictures and the captions and then the author's text next to it. The first chapter is from what I can see not attributed to one Corpsman in particular. There are several pictures almost on a theme of Shermans and other light US tanks with a few panzer IV and other German vehicles in various usually badly wrecked conditions. An interesting picture to me as this one below of the Medical US jeep with a driver and a Frenchman trying to rescue a soldier. Also, another few pictures you could say in a series of Shermans at a workshop being fitted with their hedge clearing cutters just in time for Operation "Cobra"

The first real chapter dedicated to a Signal Corpsman is this one following the snapshots of Lt. Thomas Noble. The commander of the 165th Signal Photo Company, Noble's son was the source of the pictures for this chapter.  Opening with a series of shots showing German Panthers and other vehicles with Luftwaffe POW's be ing used to remove their dead comrades from the vehicles. A grim reminder of the realities of war, and not for the first time in this book.

In this chapter, we see several more vehicle types, including more Panthers in Normandy, Tiger I's on railyards and a temporary bridge crossing by US tanks. We also see the first of eight illustrations that bring colour to a certain interesting photograph. Drawn and coloured by Felipe Rodna, these artworks are top quality, and they really do bring more life and hard to see detail out of the black and white photographs. It does help us relate to the vehicles in a different, and a more contemporary way, these artworks also add some colour to the book.

"Through the Lens of an ordinance officer Part II" features the work of corpsmen who's name is in brackets just after the date of the text in the captions. The vehicles featured in these fifty pages start in northern France around August - October1944. Again there are a lot of destroyed Panthers, Shermans, PZ IV's & Half-tracks, with some others in working order - in some detail and often showing just where the weak points of these tanks were targetted by the enemy. An interesting picture is shown of a scene of US soldiers counting the then US Presidential election votes and marking them up on the side of a Sherman

As the chapter rolls on, so does the time frame of the book, the trees in the photos get sparser and the roads get muddier as we examine several US  vehicles of many different types and interesting incarnations and adaptions. Extra armour, extra stowage, huge mine rollers and recovery vehicles in action on the roads as the advance closer to Germany is shown. The series of Ballistic tests against three panthers is an interesting sequence, and again we have the addition of a 75mm M8 with accompanying artwork, then a Raupenschlepper Ost in a photo and another coloured drawing. Both again are by Felipe Rodna, with more to come in the following pages of chapters spread through the book.

Harold Robert's work as a Signal Corps officer is next. We have already seen some of his work in Volume I of this series of the book. It is nice that the Author places a little about them, and sometimes their families that have donated the work when the soldiers have passed. I like to know a little about the men themselves and this is nice to add to the mix of photos.

We are getting into Germany now in this timeline. Several pictures of a series of large - roller mine clearing Sherman that got completely stuck in the mud and its retrieval are added to this section, as well as some in the same timeframe from other photographers (maybe in the same unit?). As we get into December, the trees are stripped of all leaves and the conditions are atrocious, the book shows us another series of shots of GIs using a very gaudy looking red cross German halftrack, there are plenty of pictures of all sorts of vehicles in this section of both German and US origin.

W. Barry Allen's son has given the authors his father's material from a snowy Belgium in December 1944 to Germany in mid-1945. Some of these pictures are interesting as they are shots of the men taking films and other interesting shots behind the line.  Amongst the M36 and other tank killers are a mix of machines - even the Higgins boats that were used in the crossings on the Rhine in 1945.

It looks like I am a sucker for mine rollers as I feature one of them again in my pictures of the book. Truth is they are great subjects, but the truth is there are plenty of other vehicles in this section and information to "whet" your motivational need, a Stryr and a pig, several US tanks including very fresh looking Sherman, an armoured Jeep and several guns, a Panther and a Weasel. Lots of variety in this chapter and great info to go with it.

We see a chapter from the pictures of Dwight Ellett from the 165th Signal Photo Company. His wife was the source of these pictures of his service during the war. The shots are still seeing us in a snow-covered country of Belgium 1944 onwards. I noticed the captions call "Panthers" "Tiger tanks" which is typical of the Infamy of all German types being identified with the Tiger. Again it looks like some other photographers are used in this section,  maybe they again were from Ellet's unit I am not sure as it does not say. Anyway, the Corpsmen's photos in this chapter show a lot of the US serviceman's life behind the lines. A few artistic shots, including a scene from a destroyed crack in a wall, some wide angle shots of an utterly destroyed M4 are of note. Of course, more artwork is supplied in a very nice drawing again by Felipe Rodna.

There is still the everpresent mud in each and every shot in this chapter it seems. February 1945 onwards sees these vehicles stuck in bogs, caked all over the sides, and vehicles on their sides after leaving a muddy road. The photographer captures a series of shots of "Ol blood and guts" General Patton inspecting an M26 Pershing, then a rare sight in Europe (the tank that is).

Joseph D. Karr's work is next featured in this book who's son submitted his archives for this publication. After a short intro to the man himself, we look at his pictures of his time from December 1944 onwards/ More snow, then mud is present on the vehicles he has captured in his photos. Then men also are seen wrapped against the cold in their usual duties. A lot of German vehicles are in this section, so it's obvious from his pictures that Joesph liked to be close to the action.

I noticed at this point that on the sides of each page is the chapter title and if that chapter's current pages were credited to the photographer featured. The ends of some of the chapters feature various photographers, so they are not featured up on the corners, but in the text provided! The rest of this chapter is a broad net thrown over a lot of different AFV's both German and US made. The holes in some tanks being investigated, and the cutting out of an assistant driver with an oxy torch while medics wait to take him away were fairly poignant for me. Felipe Rodna's work is also again featured in this chapter duplicating the colours of a black and white picture of another heavily stowed M4.

L. Col. / Major Harry Hart from the 702nd Tank Destroyer Batallion's work is next. His photos start "somewhere in Germany" and we start to see some really advanced machinery now in the form of Tiger II's and Panthers that were being investigated and used for training the G.I.'s.

You start to see a lot more German captured gear in this chapter along with the ever-present Shermans in every type of flavour one might think of including 'dozer and Caliope Shermans which I love almost as much as the mine rollers.😆  Another Tiger II is captured by the photographer and the artist of the book i a very nice side by side. All of these eight illustrations in the book bring detail that might not have been picked up by the reader right to them in full colour. They are a great addition and used just enough.

The last chapter of the book sees the work of J Malan Heslop from the 167th signal Photo Company. His photos come without the usual signal corps captions so we rely on the knowledge and the research of the author so thanks to his work here. Heslop's photos range onwards from mid-1945. The photos are very much seeing not so much contact with the enemy but many US vehicles and interesting places like the inside of a panzer workshop. Lots of different vehicles again for all tastes including an illustration of a very wet looking Panther in the rain.
"Cameramen in action" is the final chapter of this book, it features the men who took some of these photos in portraits, usually in the theatre close to the action and their subjects. I thought to myself that these guys must have had the coolest wartime snaps compared to other soldiers, but then again - this is the exact thing I had been looking at through this book. It is very good that the author included a short summary of circumstance at the start of each chapter devoted to a photographer.

A lazy reviewer might just look at this and say "it's a Panzerwrecks book but bigger" - and they would not be wrong. But there is a little more to these books than that. The photographs taken by these men is often nicely shot in a way that a photographer's trained eye captures a shot. there is a slight difference in some of these shots that capture quiet moments and the trails of wounded and dead men or scenes of devastated vehicles. They are often caught with an uncanny sensibility that not all people have when taking pictures.

This book is massive, at two hundred and forty pages, with its previous volume they are some of the best references and sources of inspiration of US & German WWII vehicles and scenes in Northwest Europe I have ever seen.

Great work and credit to the author and his team.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to the guys at Panzerwrecks for sending this to us to read and review – you can get it from the Panzerwrecks online shop for USD $59.99/ GBP £34.99
As an addendum, I thought I would supply the list of vehicles and AFV's shown in this book (taken from the Panzerwrecks site so it’s correct)

Allied (US)
M26 ‘Pershing’
M4 Medium Tank
M4A1 Medium Tank
M4A2 Medium Tank
M4A3 Medium Tank
M4A3E8 Medium Tank
Sherman III
M4 Tank Dozer
M4 w/T34 Rocket launcher
T1E1 Mine Exploder
T1E3 Mine Exploder
M24 Light Tank
M5A1 Light Tank
Churchill AVRE (British)
M8 Light Armored Car
M20 Utility Car
M3A1 Halftrack
M3 Halftrack
M2A1 Halftrack
M25 Tank Transporter
M29 Weasel

Tiger II
Tiger I
Panther Ausf.A
Panther Ausf.G
Jagdpanzer IV
Pz.Kpfw.III hull
Pz.Kpfw.III turret
Sturmgeschütz III
15cm Panzerwerfer 42
Sd.Kfz.251 (US use)
Steyr 1500A