My biggest project currently is my World War 2 Veterans Portrait Series. In fact, the project has grown so much it currently has its own web site at https://www.veteransportrait.com/
Corporal Seki "Don" served in the US Army with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, L company, a segregated unit comprised of Japanese American service members. While Don served with the 442nd they served in the European theater of Italy and France with the 100th Battalion. The 442nd made landfall in Italy at Civitavecchia, north of Rome. They fought with the 100th battalion all the way to Florence Italy. Don remembers taking a break from combat at a farmhouse in Arno. Tired of Army rations they made fresh chicken soup from foraging. While resting at the farmhouse they all missed fish, and having no poll, they used grenades and made the best fish soup he can remember. Moving North they advanced from Marseille France to the Vosges Mountains. Arriving in the cold rain and slush of October his unit was assigned to take the town of Bruyères, France. The Germans had the high ground and surrounded the 36th division from Texas. They took heavy casualties fighting uphill but got the 36th out. 4 days later in Bifffontain France, Don lost his arm during a heavy machine-gun attack. He was taken to a field hospital where they save his life but his arm was too far gone. He recuperated stateside at Brigham Young hospital, un Salt Lake city, for 9 months learning to use his new prosthesis.
James was born 21 Nov 1920, served as a Fire Controlman during WW2. James enlisted in 1939 and served for 30 years. He is a survivor of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp CV-7 sinking. James served from her commissioning day to the day she was sunk in 1942 by 3 torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-19, at the battle of Guadalcanal. James an FC1 at the time remembered the Captain declaring abandon ship over the 1MC "Public Address system" about 30 min after the strikes. He donned his Kapok life vest and jumped into the water on the port side. Separated while swimming away from the sinking ship, until late in the night. James recounted, during the night, while praying and making his peace with God, he saw the light of a motor whaleboat. He caused a lot of noise splashing and yelling until the coxswain saw him. The small boat was already full of survivors but James grabbed the trail line with three other men and was towed back to the USS Farenholt DD-491, which saved 143 Wasp Sailors. James returned to San Diego for survivors leave and still gets emotional about the day he pulled back into San Diego realizing he was going to be ok. James served on the USS Lexington CV-16 surviving another torpedo attack that only damaged her rudder. James made Chief and was transferred to the BB-48 USS West Virginia. He got out of the Navy after WW2 in 46 but quickly came back and was commissioned as a Weapons Officer retiring a Commander.
Ralph was born on Jan 12, 1927, and served in the US Navy, from Dec 1944 to July 1946 as a Radarman and rose to the rank of Petty Officer 3rd class or RDM3. Ralph was enlisted for the duration of the war plus 6 months but was released in 1946 at the end of the war. Ralph served with the US Merchant Marines as a member of the Navy gun crew with the Armed Guard Service, stationed on US merchant ships as support crew for the USMMC. The Navy contingency was made up of Officers, gunners, marines, and his radarmen. His first ship was the SS Enos A. Mills a cargo ship part of a 3 ship group out of Seattle, that was tasked to take Navy construction battalion "Seabees" up to Alaska. They had the new SO8 radar units installed on the ships and were assigned to test out this new technology to help protect these under defended ships. The war was over during the ships' return to Seattle. Petty Officer Griffey was then assigned back to San Francisco, Treasure Island, Home of the Armed Guard Pacific Fleet, where he was reassigned to the SS Lurline, an ocean liner reassigned during the war, to the Merchant Marines as a troop transport. Onboard, his new ship they were assigned to transit occupation troops to Japan and return Wartime service members home. After only one of these trips, they were reassigned to the task of transiting US war brides back to America from both New Zealand and Australia. They brought hundreds of service members, brides, back on this 2-month trip, and even had a birth during transit with a service-members newest dependent.
Born Feb 27th, 1923, Constance served in the U.S. Navy Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) Corps, from 1st Oct 1944 - 5th Apr 1946. Constance attended Navy WAVES boot camp in San Diego at one of the colleges that were sharing space to train WAVES in basic military procedures before moving on to advanced training. Constance was a Seaman 2nd Class (S2c) as an office clerk in transportation at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego Ca. She worked at the air tower and assisted with transportation efforts for the Navy moving people around the United States. Constance remembers when NAS North Island was still an island and you had to transit to it via ferry boats. There was a large staff at the air station and they shared the duties in 3 shifts keeping the air station operating 24 hours a day. Constance originally looked into joining with the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots but the war drawdown ended the program.
Navy Chief Photographers Mate, Joe Renteria turned 102 years old in July and is still photographing the world today. Joe was a Navy PHC and retired after 20 years. Joe began his service in 1936 in the US Army for 3 years with a heavy machine gun unit. He talks about taking care of the mule that helped draw the cart of equipment and ammunition. He was not happy with the Army so at the end of service he walked down the hall and joined the Navy. Joe served in Aviation at Pearl Harbor flying with a PBY unit watching for the Japanize ships before transferring to Pensacola for Photographers A school to become a Photographers Mate. Joe served as Fleet Admiral William Halsey Jr.'s photographer throughout WW2. They hopped from island to island where Joe, because of his flight skins, flew aerial photo missions with his favorite KS 20 Navy aerial camera documenting the atomic bomb tests. Joe still lives in his San Diego home he and his son Michael built by hand as they acquired supplies. Joe continues to travel all over the US with the help of his daughter-in-law Susan. After the Navy Joe was the Department Head of the Photo department at San Diego State University for another 33 years. The Chief is still actively involved with quality of life and education for Indian affairs.
is my biggest project currently inside the Veterans Portrait Series. In fact, the project has grown so much it currently has its own web site at https://www.veteransportrait.com/
The project began small with 16 WW2 Veterans in a senior living facility in my neighborhood. We had a little print show for the community on Veterans Day. The fun of the shoot, the stories, and the new friends made donating a little time getting to know them and listening to they tell their story life-changing. It's hard to believe that it's only been my work for 4 years.
I have photographed WW2 Veterans at 3 of the California Veterans homes (Chula Vista / West Los Angeles & Ventura) and have three permanent collections on display honoring these heroes. I have also been back for 3 years to the original facility and photographed many Veterans including 3 additional WW2 Vets.
I interview each Veteran collecting and writing their stories to remember these amazing historic figures for generations to come. Each story gets a small write up to go with the print on display.
On Veterans Day 2019 was invited to Hang all 86 veterans images as 24x30" prints in the Museum at the Photo Centre of Palm Beach Florida celebrating Veterans day. A few days after the opening Google came in and ran a 360 gallery view of the museum with the show featured. The collection was an incredible experience to see it in that size and featured in such an amazing space.
I have collected to date images and stories from 96 warriors who at one point singed the dotted line when our country needed their sacrifice of service most. I am currently exploring a book for the project and most important continues to collect images and stories of WW2 Vets. Contact me for coverage of your WW2 Vet.
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