The topic of World War II continues to be a source of films and books and television series as though that war was the last war that suggested the romance of men away from home, fighting for their country's honor, for patriotism etc. Now the multiple wars in which we continue to invest are quite the opposite but the feeling among soldiers isolated from the world remains the same. Yes, there have been some changes in the rules and regs about sexual conduct, but return to the `halcyon days ` of WW II and see how fighting men worked with each other in those moments when not under fire.
Evan Bachner, well known for this book `At Ease' that showed the men of the Navy at play with each other, has created another book dealing with the land forces of WW II. Bachner, 52, the son of a WWII Navy sailor, a photo historian, and Columbia Business School graduate was working at Merrill Lynch and `came across an unusual picture of a naked gunner in the St. Georges Channel by Horace Bristol from WW II's Pacific Theater of operations. That started him on a quest of collecting the picture's of America's greatest generation at ease on Pacific islands, atolls, and ships, as the prepared for gruesome battles with the Japanese. The pictures honor these very ordinary men and heroes in poses that are not the standard war photos of men in the midst of battle. These uncopyrighted photos were actually taken during World War II by the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit that was formed in 1942 by photographer Edward J. Steichen. (The over 400,000 photos are stored at the National Archives in Greenbelt MD). It had six photographers who traveled with the Navy and took pictures of military men training, in combat and in their free time. The photographs appeared in newspapers and magazines during World War II, but most of those published were of men in battle. The 150 portraits and pictures in Bachner's book are the more social ones that were never published in stateside newspapers. Photographers in the WWII unit included Wayne Miller, and Howard Liberman, as well as Victor Jorgensen, Edward Steichen, Horace Bristol, and Barrett Gallagher. The reviews confirm that this book covers masculinity and camaraderie in a raw environment that captures it all on film in an uninhibited way.
There is an obvious physical relationship that is transmitted in the gentlest ways, further proof that men together find the emotional and physical support so needed in the time of isolation from the world. It is to Evan Bachner's credit that he shares this truly sensitive body of work with the public at a time when we all need to understand not only the plight of the men away at war today, but of the common threads of pansexuality that have never been a threat but only a solace in a world infected with prejudice. Grady Harp, November 12