The Mystery of the World War II Photos - November 2015

Why do we preserve history? We all have memories that we keep near to our hearts. We all have memories that are etched in our brains because the moment made such an impact we can't forget......sometimes no matter how hard we try. But we hold on to those memories. When we actually find a piece of history we always do our best to preserve it. We preserve it as a memorial to those that created it and to allow future generations the opportunity to enjoy it and learn from it. So we preserve history in different ways.

This writing is about rediscovering a piece of history and preserving it. But as often as I write about our local history no matter how far back we go and no matter how much history we uncover there's always more to the story. History never stops! So not only is this writing about preserving history but it's about another local historical mystery that needs to be uncovered. So this is the first part of an ongoing search.

In late 1941, the war had come home to Hancock County, Indiana. As Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and America enter WWII hundreds of men and women joined the war effort, and a quiet effort to record those who were serving was happening behind the scenes.

Photos of those in service were provided to be displayed, publicly, for all to see. The photos were mounted into glass framed panels and displayed, we are told, on the courthouse lawn.

No pictures of the courthouse lawn with the framed panels exists, that we are aware of, but the panels themselves survived. There are nearly one thousand photos; nearly one thousand names, and without a doubt more than one thousand memories.

Unknown, hidden, lying patiently in the basement of the Hancock County Memorial Building, fourteen panels have been rediscovered and their treasures are being conserved in an effort led by Jim McWhinney. The panels are being carefully opened and the photos removed and secured in archival storage. As the photos are removed, they are carefully cataloged and scanned with the intent that one day; they would once again be displayed in a place of honor.

These frames hung on the lower level walls of the Memorial Building until 2015, assuming that they were most likely mounted there in late 1941 or early 1942. That means they've been hanging for approximately 73 years!

This story has received a lot of publicity all ready. The Daily Reporter ran a story on the effort and Fox 59 News also stopped by for a story that ran on their evening news. From that publicity there has been several people come forward to volunteer their time and talents to help catalog and research this collection.

A picture says a thousand words. The pictures are random with various backdrops. Some are smiling, some are not. Each picture has a name and some others have some brief information on the back.

One night a week the group meets to work on the collection. Each picture is carefully removed. Those removing the pictures wear white gloves and slowly and carefully remove the staples that were used to attach the photos to the frame. Then the picture is scanned and added to the web site that has been created. Each picture is then placed in preservation envelopes and stored in the exact same order as they appeared in the frames.

The eventual goal is to preserve the photos electronically and have them shared on the web site so everyone has access to the photos at any time. Additional information about the individuals is also added and as more information comes forward it will be added as well. Each story will be captured and preserved.

But there still too many questions unanswered for this story to be complete. What individual or group began collecting the pictures? Who built the frames? Were they actually on display outside for some time? So as the search for answers to these questions unfolds; and as the work to preserve the collections moves forward the history of this story will continue.

Here is an example of the photos.

103C2-F icon 103F5-F icon 103G5-F icon
Wilson Wilbur N
USN
1943-07-01
Bade Darrell Eugene
USA
1944-10-31
Lunsford Madelyn
WAC

Follow this story by visiting the web site which can be found at Hancock County Heroes at http://hancockcountyheroes.org or by going to the home page of the City of Greenfield web site, www.greenfieldin.org. On the right hand side you will see a box entitled Hancock County Heroes.

If you have any information about this collection or have documentation of one of the veterans that could be added to the site please contact Jim McWhinney or Dave Goodrich at the City of Greenfield.

Greg Roland

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