Sunday, October 29, 2017

Breaking The Fourth Wall in World War II

Hitler Goebbels Breaking the Fourth Wall
Joseph Goebbels photobombs Hitler.

There is an art to shooting good propaganda shots. The whole objective is to create the appearance of reality. Of course, what is being shot usually is reality, and not completely constructed - but that's not enough. You need the appearance of reality, too.

Below is an example, SS soldiers look straight ahead, at attention, the camera capturing a simple parade formation. This is a textbook shot, capturing a moment.

1st Latvian SS Division Breaking the Fourth Wall
15th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Latvian) at attention.

And below, another typical photo.

British Free Corps Legion of St. George Breaking the Fourth Wall
The British Free Corps, or Legion of St. George, at attention. The British Free Corps was a unit of the Wehrmacht and consisted of British and Commonwealth soldiers who fought for Hitler.

So far, so good. While everyone knows the cameraman is there, they maintain discipline and ignore him. That's what makes the shots work, reflecting the reality that would be taking place in the absence of the cameraman.

However, sometimes the subjects of the photograph notice the photographer (or are posed by him) and commit the cardinal sin of looking directly into the camera when they shouldn't. Below is an example.

Operation Herbstnebel Breaking the Fourth Wall
Wehrmacht soldiers on the second day of Operation Herbstnebel, known familiarly in the West as the Battle of the Bulge.

In the photo above, some Wehrmacht troops self-consciously smoke captured American cigarettes in front of an American armoured car. It's an interesting photograph for a number of reasons, not least because it is an obvious propaganda photo intended to show the Wehrmacht's success. However, it stands out because the soldier on the left is looking directly into the camera, while the one on the right is doing everything he can not to look over. If you're trying to capture reality, it's a good idea not to influence it by your presence. The shot screams "phony" because the soldiers couldn't resist the camera. By looking at the camera, the soldier ruins the shot.

Below is another example, this time capturing a typical German column marching through town. Not only the soldier closest to the camera, but also several others, are looking over at the cameraman or woman.

Belgium 1940 Breaking the Fourth Wall
Wehrmacht soldiers in Belgium, 1940.

In filmmaking, they call this "breaking the fourth wall," which means an actor recognizing that he is in the process of being filmed. Generally, this is considered a cardinal sin of filmmaking, though it is used to great effect in certain situations. One such example was at the beginning of the James Bond film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969), when new Bond George Lazenby turns directly to the camera after a fight and says, "They never made the other guy [meaning Sean Connery] do that."

Anyway, when you are trying to portray a war, the idea is to have the subject not notice the camera - though obviously they know it's there. That creates the visual that shows how things would be if the cameraman weren't there at all - which is what the cameraman really is trying to capture.

London Blitz Breaking the Fourth Wall
This poor lady just survived a bombing during the Blitz and barely survived - but apparently she notices the camera and gives us her "good side."

 One of the most famous photos of the war, the "crying Frenchman" shot,

Crying Frenchman Breaking the Fourth Wall
The famous "crying Frenchman" picture.

Now, the "crying Frenchman" picture is one of the most misunderstood pictures of all time, because it is common to call him a Parisian weeping at the fall of Paris, neither of which is true (it was actually part of newsreel footage taken in the south of France months after the fall of Paris). However, what interests us now is the fact that everyone in the frame is looking directly at the camera. In fact, some are craning their necks to make sure they get in the shot. It works because they all all get to share in his emotional outburst, and ratify it. This just goes to show that breaking the fourth wall sometimes works even in war photography.

Female camp guards Breaking the Fourth Wall
Female camp guards lined up to be taken to prison.

In the picture above, what stands out, at least to me, is the fact that the female guard at the right is looking over at the camera even as the other guards stare sullenly ahead. For some reason, this shot works, too, though it isn't nearly as famous as the "crying Frenchman" shot. Probably it works because everyone is looking ahead, maintaining verisimilitude, except for the one rough-looking woman.

Sometimes, the effect can be more subtle, but revealing.

Heinrich Himmler SS Breaking the Fourth Wall
SS soldiers on parade.

Above, a picture intended to glorify Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler has one of the guys in back giving a suppressed smirk at the camera. Ideally, he would look ahead, but the other guys in the back seat are smirking, too. It's an interesting insight into the attitude of the SS at the time, creating an appearance of overlords with not a care in the world.

Below is a picture of Hitler inspecting coastal guns along the English Channel on 23 December 1940.

Hitler Calais 1940 Breaking the Fourth Wall
Hitler at Calais, 1940.

This shot of Hitler in France is obviously posed for the photographer, who had all the top brass bunch up and come up the stairway together. It's an effective shot, but if you look closely, you can see that Hitler is smiling at how silly the whole thing is. If it were a little more obvious it would ruin the shot, but it's so subtle that it doesn't destroy the verisimilitude.

Below, another shot of Hitler from some years earlier.

Hitler pistol Breaking the Fourth Wall
Hitler and friends.

This shot of Hitler obviously is posed and everybody intends to look at the camera - or at least in its general direction, because they actually seem to be looking off at a tangent. The striking thing about this shot is that everyone looks extremely self-conscious, almost uncertain. Hitler in particular looks a little uneasy, and it may have something to do with whatever he has in his trouser pocket, which may well be a pistol that legally he shouldn't have.

These shots often create an air of unease.

General Jodl Breaking the Fourth Wall
General Jodl.

Above, General Jodl gives a withering stare at the cameraman. This was part of a group shot that include Hitler, Jodl, General Guderian, Field Marshal Keitel and several others. This doesn't seem posed - Jodl just decides to look over and see what the cameraman is up to. It's actually a good shot, precisely because it doesn't appear posed but rather spontaneous.

Operation Citadel Kursk Breaking the Fourth Wall
Wehrmacht soldiers preparing to jump off at Kursk, 1943.

Above, soldiers are ready to jump off at Kursk in the summer of 1943. They're about to get shot at, but they see the cameraman and that takes them out of the moment. It's an interesting example of the power of the camera, which is able to distract guys even as they're about to run out quite possibly to their deaths.

Iwo Jima Breaking the Fourth Wall
The first female nurse on Iwo Jima, 1945.

Above, the first female nurse on Iwo Jima makes some new friends. What are the guys on the right more interested in? The camera! Basically, they ruin the shot, stealing attention away from the pretty nurse. In essence, they come off as a couple of delinquents - now is not the time and place, guys. In this instance, if you want to create a good impact - don't look at the camera.

Rommel von Rundstedt Blaskowitz Breaking the Fourth Wall
Field Marshal Rommel and others in May 1944 (Jesse, Federal Archive).

Above, Field Marshal Rommel gives the cameraman a direct glance. Rommel himself was an amateur photographer. By looking at the camera here, he dominates the shot and basically shuts out his two companions, Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz and Gerd von General Field Marshal Rundstedt.

If you're going to look at the camera, though, you have to do it the right way.

Soviet partisan Breaking the Fourth Wall

Above, a Russian partisan boy looks over at the camera while his elder looks straight ahead, but he probably conveys some things he probably would just as soon not have. He's a touch too wide-eyed, creating a creepy sensation. It does create a striking effect, but probably not in the way intended. It comes off as kind of creepy.

Let's descend one more level of creepiness.

Stalingrad beaking the Fourth Wall
Stalingrad, 1943.

In the photo above, the soldiers in the foreground are very conscious of the cameraman, and one even is looking at him. However, once you notice them, it is the dimly lit men in the background that steal the shot. They are looking dead on at the camera, and appear terrified. Well they should be - this is after the surrender, and they know that they are all dead men. The cameraman is a Soviet soldier, and there is no escape.

Wehrmacht soldiers Breaking the Fourth Wall

Anyway, sometimes breaking the fourth wall works, and sometimes it doesn't. It's probably not what the photographer was intending, however. The key takeaway is that a basic determinant of how well a shot will work is whether the subjects take notice of the cameraman, how they notice, and who in the shot notices.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Bomber Jackets in World War II

Bomber jackets
An RAF pilot wearing his sheepskin Irvin Jacket.
Here, we have a collection of flight jackets, bomber jackets and other leather coats worn during World War II. As far as I can ascertain, these are photographs taken during the war and not "recreations" done later (unless otherwise noted). So, the fashions are authentic to the World War II period and not some modern designer's "improvement" on the originals.

Bomber jackets
General George S. Patton, Jr.
As far as I'm concerned, it's next to impossible to look bad in a properly cut leather jacket.

Bomber jackets
An American bomber jacket in the 401st Bomb Group (US Air Force).
Both sides used leather extensively. Though the Allies by and large reserved leather for flight operations, the Axis powers used it in normal foul-weather situations as well.

Bomber jackets
Luftwaffe ace Hermann-Friedrich “Jupp” Joppien.
While the Luftwaffe supplied its pilots with adequate leather gear, there was a general feeling among the pilots that Allied leather bomber jackets were better than standard-issue Luftwaffe gear.

Bomber jackets
Tow pilot Susie Winston Bain in WASP leather jacket with Fifinella patch, scarf, and goggles, in 1944.
Thus, Allied bomber jackets became treasured by many Luftwaffe pilots. Female pilots on the Allied side also wore leather.

Bomber jackets
Luftwaffe ground-attack pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel.
While leather was not considered formal attire on the Allied side, German portraits often feature leather, indicating that it was held in high regard.

Bomber jackets
Waist gunners of the B-17 bomber Memphis Belle. Left, waist gunner Bill Wichell and right, waist gunner Casmir Nastral, November 1942-June 1943.
.Sheepskin had many advantages for bomber and fighter crews. In unheated bombers, it was vital to stay warm, and leather helped a great deal.

Bomber jackets
Beppo Schmidt, Luftwaffe intelligence boss during the Battle of Britain.
Of all the fashion statements made during World War II, leather jackets undoubtedly have had the most lasting influence.

Bomber jackets
A B-17 Pilot and Crew, England 1943.
An authentic World War II bomber jacket is worth something these days.

Bomber jackets
Luftwaffe ace Adolf Galland and his dog (colorized).
However, not all authentic bomber jackets are the same. US Army Air Forces B-17 bomber pilots and aircrewmen early in World War II were issued the classic B-3 sheepskin leather flight jacket to protect against frigid temperatures at high altitudes. It served its purpose well.

Bomber jackets
Preparing for the 27 January 1943 US 8th Air Force’s first raid on Germany.
While the B-3 was extremely popular (on both sides), its lacquer finish was prone to freezing. This led to a redesign.

Rudolf Busch flight jackets
Oblt. Rudolf Busch of I./JG51 Russia, Summer 1941. He had 40 Victories when he was killed 17 January 1943 in a mid-air collision. Busch in his 190A-3 collided with his Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander) Karl-Gottfried Nordmann of JG 51, who was flying an FW 190A-2. Busch was awarded the Knight's Cross posthumously in 1944, while Nordmann was grounded.
This problem led to the eventual introduction of alpaca lined cotton flight clothing.

Bomber jackets
Luftwaffe ace Erich "Bubi" Hartmann.
Original USAAF World War II B-3 flight jackets are quite rare today.

Bomber jackets
The crew from B-17 "Man o' War" stand in front of their plane. Standing Left to Right: James M. Stewart (P), Thomas McMillan (R/O), William Dickey (CP), Charles Meriwether (FE), Raymond Schnoyer (BTG), Jack Wheeler (TG), Hugh Langan (WG), John Creamer (B). The entire crew was lost on 9 November 1942 during a mission to Saint-Nazaire. Image courtesy of the American Air Museum website (IWM: UPL 20955).
There also was a tanker jacket that was developed as winter combat clothing for the American Armored Corps (tank corps) during World War II.

Bomber jackets
Waffen-SS officer Gerhard Bremer in March 1944.
Owing to a lack of cold-weather gear on the European front, the tanker's jacket was also used by fighter pilots as a flight jacket.

Bomber jackets
An Eighth Air Force pilot standing in front of his B-17.
The tanker jacket had two models. The first model was used in 1941 only. It features a patch-style pocket. The second version was in use from 1942 onwards. The major modification was a change to to a slash pocket. The first model was perfectly adequate, and  many officers retained theirs throughout the war and thereafter.

Bomber jackets
Hitler in a pre-war photo.
The RAF Irvin sheepskin bomber jacket, first produced by Leslie Irvin in 1926, has become a symbol of the Battle of Britain.

Flight Lieutenant Maurice Hewlett Mounsdon Bomber jackets
RAF Flight Lieutenant Maurice Hewlett Mounsdon. He survived the war and lived well into the 21st Century. In fact, he apparently remains alive as of this writing.
RAF pilots, like Flight Lieutenant Maurice Hewlett Mounsdon, above, became the rock stars of the era. There were only about 3000 pilots defending Great Britain during the Battle of Britain.

Bomber jackets
An Italian Macchi C 200 "Saetta" pilot gets ready for action. 
Other powers, such as Italy and  Japan, also had leather jackets, particularly for aviators.

Bomber jackets
Luftwaffe ace Hans-Joachim Marseille.
Other services, such as the German U-boat fleet, also used leather jackets.

Bomber jackets
A RAF pilot in his Irvin Jacket looks at his damaged Spitfire, Italy circa 1944.
Some current bomber jackets are named after famous World War II pilots. For instance, the Heinz Bär jacket is named after the top Luftwaffe ace (252 victories) who flew with JG 51.

Bomber jackets
Hitler inspecting coastal fortifications, 23 December 1940.
There also is a current bomber jacket named after famed Luftwaffe ace Erich Hartmann.

Erich Hartmann Bomber jackets
Another picture of Erich Hartmann in his flight jacket.
Of course, calling an Erich Hartmann jacket a bomber jacket is a bit of a misnomer, since he wasn't a bomber pilot. I know, Hartmann wore a flight jacket - we'll get to that below.

Bomber jackets
Mary, a Spitfire pilot of the Air Transport Auxiliary, c. 1944.
Women wore bomber jackets during World War II, too. There were many women involved in ferrying and towing planes from the earliest days of the war. They had to protect themselves from the cold, too.

Bomber jackets
Luftwaffe ace Major Heinrich "Pritzl" Bär. Heinz Bär was one of the top jet fighter pilots of all time, with an astonishing 16 victories while flying one of the first jet fighters, the Me 262.
Bomber jackets have become iconic. Many film roles are distinguished by the star's use of bomber jackets, and the character would be virtually unrecognizable without them.

Bomber jackets
USAAF P-51 pilot William Whisner, who notched six victories on 21 November 1944. That was the highest score ever (Chuck Yeager got 5 on two separate occasions). Note the whistle clipped to his collar.
Some examples of film stars known as much for their leather bomber jackets in certain roles as for anything else:
  • John Wayne - "The Longest Day"
  • Gary Cooper – “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
  • Marlon Brando – “The Wild One”
  • Henry Winkler – “Happy Days”
  • Tom Cruise – “Top Gun”
  • Harrison Ford – “Indiana Jones”
John Wayne Bomber jackets
John Wayne in "The Longest Day" (1962) (courtesy 20th Century Fox).
I couldn't resist, so there is a shot of John Wayne in "The Longest Day." No, that is not a World War II shot. Wayne, who died in 1979, was brought back via movie magic in some commercials wearing his leather jacket for I believe a soft drink decades after his death to interact with Lee Ermey (who wasn't dead). It was an iconic use of leather and a true homage to the bomber jacket fashion.

Bomber jackets
Another shot of Adolf Galland (colorized).
The proper term for some jackets that many call bomber jackets, by the way, is "flight jackets." It's a bit confusing, though, because there were actual bomber jackets in use during the war, not just flight jackets. So, you can drill down and separate flight jackets from bomber jackets if you want. Few today really care about such distinctions in the world of fashion. In essence, flight jackets are often known generically as bomber jackets. So, if you are offended by my casual interchanging use of the terms (and I know some purists will be), I understand and extend my apologies. That's just common usage.

Bomber jackets
A bomber pilot in England, 1945.
American flight jackets were the A-2 jacket and the G-1. In addition, there was the B-3 "bomber jacket", to the M-445, the U.S. Navy’s shearling jacket

Bomber jackets
Hermann Goering on an inspection tour at Adolf Galland's JG 26 in September/October 1940 (Federal Archive).
Even during World War II, synthetic flight jackets were in use, so they weren't all leather.

Bomber jackets
Captain Robert G. Reeder, a bomber pilot in the 8th Air Force.
Flight jackets remain in use in the US armed forces today, but they are not the same as original flight jackets. Made by Nomex, the military currently uses the CWU-45P (for colder weather) and the CWU-36P (for warmer weather).

Bomber jackets
Hitler, Heinz Guderian (left) and Wilhelm Keitel (rear) posing as if to model their leather trenchcoats.