The WWII 300th Combat Engineers

Engineers construct a heavy ponton bridge at Fort Belvoir
Engineers construct a heavy ponton bridge at Fort Belvoir

Image Gallery

How men of the 300th managed to photograph the war in Europe and bring the photos home

Some of the men of the 300th became unofficial photographers of the war in Europe with innovative means of getting the camera and film, developing the film and later getting it home to the U.S. Since personal photography was prohibited during combat, these men, thankfully, did not completely play by the rules. The following is an account by Willie Hein of Company A as written down by his wife describing how he managed to retain a wonderful collection of personal photos seen in one of these photo galleries here publically for the first time:

Girl that sent the film overseas
The girl that sent the film overseas
Developing Willie Hein photos, Henery T. Uhr and Claud R. Chastain
Developing Willie Hein photos, Henery T. Uhr (left) and Claud R. Chastain

The film was sent to Willie in metal syrup buckets surrounded by candy. The film was sent by two girls from Medford, Oregon. They were from a family that befriended the men from Camp White during the 300th training there. The family would have some of the men over on weekends to help them overcome being so far from home. When the photos were shot they were then developed in the field by two men of Company A, Henry Uhr and Claude Chastein with Uhr being in the same squad as Willie. Willie kept the photos in a metal box and carried them in his duffel bag throughout Europe and then bringing them home after the war. Willie was able to later identify many of the photos, the men, activity and location, making the photos of even greater historic value.

Note: It is interesting to note that Nettie Palmer, wife of 300th member Harold Palmer brought the collection of her husband’s personal photos to a reunion in a small metal box. Did he somehow get them developed while in combat and carried them home in that box as did Willie Hein? Some of the men borrowed cameras from local citizens, took photos themselves and the locals would get them developed for them.

We are grateful the men of the 300th and their families have been willing to share their photo collections for this site by bringing them to a reunion to be scanned. The official photos were taken, developed and printed by members of the Signal Corps, official photographers of a battalion or approved photojournalists. The photos were then censored by the military so as to not assist the enemy. These photos tell one important story of the war but the personal photographs record a somewhat different uncensored story since each of the hundreds of images in these collections has its own story, many of which have been related here by the men of the 300th. Many other stories about the personal photos of the war have been lost as we lose the men themselves.

Please contact us if you have information or caption corrections for this photo gallery.

- Brad Peters and Jan Ross