So, tucked away in my Grandmother’s house a few years ago was a large, ratted envelope. Inside this envelope were a stack of old photographs and a letter containing two pages. These photographs were a series of pictures taken during World War II and ordered by my grandfather, who served during that time.
My grandfather served in the Navy during the war on the USS Blanco (LST 344) and the USS LST-291, both tank landing ships. These ships were designed to carry out amphibious operations by carrying vehicles, cargo and troops directly onto the shore. The USS Blanco participated in the Invasion of Italy (1943-44) and Invasion of France (1943-45).
I won’t go too much into the activities of these two ships just yet, I thought I would save that for another time. I think I will split this posting into two pieces. This post I will share the letter and a few of my favorite pictures from the stack and next week I can share more photographs. There are a lot and I have been sorting through them and trying to match them with the key that was sent with the packet.
The photographs were taken by a man by the name of Stanley Barish. He was attached to LST 325. I am not sure if all of these photographs were taken from that particular landing ship, and my grandfather just ordered them. But these photographs belonged to my grandfather and now are in my possession after his passing some years ago. In no way do I take credit for any photographs shared. I just want to show the world what an excellent piece of history was stashed away in my grandmother’s closet for over 65 years.
Below I will share the letter that was written to my grandfather from Stanley Barish himself, and a few of the photographs I found the most interesting.
“Dear Mr. Ferguson, June 7, 1946
You should get your pictures within a few days. Sorry to be so late. Couldn’t be helped though. When I first wrote you I xx was in St. Albans Naval Hospital, N.Y.. At that time I thought I’d be out of there within a week or so. As it turned out I was there for 4 mos. and a week, not leaving tre until April 20. I was in the hospital with abdominal pains and a stomach burning. They rmoved my appendix which relieved my abdominal pains. The stomach burning was found to be a case of strong hyperacidity. Am feeling pretty well now-just taking it east during my terminal leave. Once I left the hospital I really got my discharge fast, going through the separation center the next day. Since coming home on April 21 I have spent 3 – 4 hrs most everyday working on the pictures. I had also spent considerable time on the pictures when I was home on two convalescent leaves. So you see I’ve been getting them ready as fast as possible. It really turned out to be quite a lot more of a job than I figured on. But at last I am finished-thank goodness- for they were beginning to haunt me. I’ll really be glad to see them go.
On the back of each pic you will find a group of letters and nos.. They will give you certain information about the pix-in conjunction with the enclosed sheets. Don’t pay any attention to any nos. or letters on the back of the pictures except the group of three lines. The first line contains the date such as: 7-8-44 which means July 8, 1944. Sometimes the center no., the day of the month, is missing. On the 2nd line you’ll find a letter or letters which indicate the location and a description of the scene. If the letters on the 2nd line are for instance, BGS, look on the enclosed sheets for a letter group consisting of BGS. If there is no group like that look for the individual letters and put the meaning together. The third 3rd line of the main group is just my file no.. It would be a good idea if you’d write on the back of each pic just what the symbols mean- just in case you lose the identification sheets.
You may notice two other things about the pictures. One is that there isn’t quite as many pix as you ordered. The reason for that is the second thing you may have realized – that you are getting 3 ½’ x 5” enlargements rather than 4 5/8” x 2 ¼” contact prints that you ordered. For in spite of the special price I got because of the large size of the order it still wasn’t enough to get enlargements made. And you wouldn’t have been able to see much of the small pix, so I had a few less mpix made for everyone and got the enlargements instead of the small ones.
Look closely at each picture for on many of them the most interesting stuff is in the background.
Best of luck
I only wish that I had known what the letter said that my grandfather, Norman Ferguson, wrote to Mr. Barish. I feel as though he may have been wondering what was taking so long for the pictures to be sent and may have given him a small piece of his mind. But this, I can side with Mr. Barish, for the pictures amount to many and the quality of the photographs for the era are stunning.
The next posting, you should find the key that was included with the letter and more pictures from the tattered envelope that we discovered. It was really great to see that moment in time captured on film. Something different from all the videos and pictures of the war that I had never seen before; a real human connection to it. Not just something on television or a text-book. I am so proud of my ancestors and their military careers and of all the brave men and women who have served in the past and present. Maybe that is why I married one myself.
Thanks for reading!