Last Minute Idea for Xmas – At Ease

Posted: December 18, 2011 in book, Picture of the Day, USMC
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This classic, vintage WW II photo is by Horace Bristol, titled “Blister Gunner.” The gunner had stripped off his clothes to jump into the water to rescue a downed airman in Papua New Guinea. Immediately after the rescue, the plane took off, since it was taking flak at the time. The rescuer returned to his gunner station naked, having no time to put on his uniform. This famous photo was subsequently published (2004) in “At Ease – Navy Men of World War II” by Evan Bachner. Most of the photographs are of young soldiers at the peak of their physical prime, often showing innocent physical affection for each other.

In the years following World War II, images of comradeship, particularly of men being physically close, largely disappeared from the public record. But, as these stunning photographs attest, ordinary American men in the extraordinary circumstances of World War II were affectionate, winsome, and playful – disarmingly innocent in a time of cataclysmic peril. Led by photography giant Captain Edward J. Steichen, the U.S. Naval Aviation Photographic Unit was organized during the war to record the daily experiences of Navy men all over the world and to provide newspapers and magazines with images to promote the American cause.

  1. Mark says:

    That looks like a wonderful book! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    I recall my dad showing me and my brother all his WWII photos, including a number that would’ve fit well in that book. He was based in central-northern Australia with a B-24 squadron, so most of the photos are of him and his plane’s crew relaxing in the brush/bushes near their airstrip … and quite a few of them were of fully or almost-naked colleagues. One of the only times I ever saw my father cry was at recalling his close friendship with one of his crewmates, an attractive and buff young stud, who got badly shot up during a mission and died in my dad’s arms. Quite beyond that, I guessed from the specific pix my dad kept of him (and of the both of them) that they certainly had a physically affectionate friendship and quite likely had sex (e.g. mutual masturbation) a few times.

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