Soldier in Dutch New Guinea, 1945

Click here to view it larger.

What it is:

Photo measuring approx. 2.75 x 4.5 inches.

What I know about it:

Click here for a scan of the back, and see comments below.


What I find interesting about this, besides, obviously, the image, is the information stamped on the back.  This photo passed inspection!  I suppose we aren’t looking at anything top secret that couldn’t be sent home.  According to a military history buff message board (the internet never ceases to amaze me), Army Base 2446 was at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, which is now known as Jayapura, Indonesia.  It was an important Japanese military base until the U.S. seized it on May 22, 1944.  The numbers “8” and “45” are also stamped on the back, and I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that’s the date, August 1945.  (Even if it isn’t, that would be in the ballpark, anyway.)  Armistice with Japan (V-J day) was August 14, and the formal Japanese surrender was September 2.  So if this is August 1945, it would have been within days or weeks of the end of the war.  I can only imagine the heightened times this man was experiencing right then and there.  By the way, can anyone explain his arms to me?  It looks like they change colors at about his elbows, and not in the natural way of a tan line.  Yet his forearms match his face and chest.  Is that some sort of camouflage?

14 comments on “Soldier in Dutch New Guinea, 1945”

  1. Matt, as someone who is overcome with unbridled respect for all those who served during WW ll, this photo talks to me. With the end so near, I see some relief on this hero’s face, although we don’t know the horror he already experienced. And at that time it was generally believed that we would have to invade mainland Japan, which would have kept me awake at night if I was a soldier in that area. Bless all those gallant souls who saved the world. Great post.

  2. Is it perhaps scar tissue?

  3. Its like a picture I’d see from a good war movie 🙂 Very interesting one Matt 🙂

    • Thanks, Charlie! Yeah, it’s funny how often I look at a picture, or even a real-life event, and I think “Just like in a movie”. And then I remember that I’m looking at reality, and that it’s the movie that got it right, not vice versa. 🙂

  4. Great Picture! I am working with my fathers WWII collection. I am also in touch with family members of some he served with. I have come to believe that they had a company photographer that took staged pictures. I have over 200 pictures from his time overseas and have come to learn that others have the same pictures.

    • Thank you! I glanced at your blog, and will take a closer look later. How wonderful to have so many photos when they have a personal connection to you. It’s especially interesting, as you say, to start seeing patterns and to be able to piece together what life was like when you have multiple photos to compare.

  5. Great picture and comments. Mike pretty much summed up my thoughts on it. There were so many aspects of the Pacific Theater engagements that were kept quiet during the war and for many years after. Ken Burns really brought this to light when he did his series The War. The war in the Pacific was a brutal war, more so than the war in Europe where, when the enemy was defenseless they would surrender. It was rare to capture a Japanese soldier, too dishonorable. They would rather die trying…and they did. Most American men were only trained for 2-3 weeks and had no clue what it was like to face an enemy that would fight to the death. They even kept fighting, even after the first A-bomb hit which is one of the reason we dropped the second one. These survivors are a type of “special breed” that faced unimaginable things fighting for our country. It would be nice to think that this picture was taken at the end of the war.

    • Thank you, I’m glad you found this post engaging. I feel fortunate that I can only imagine the horrors of such an experience. I’m sure the Army inspectors whose stamps are on the backs of these photos were, in part, preventing such horrors from reaching the home front too easily. But as someone who looks at old photos for clues about what life what life was like in different times and different places, I am grateful to have this one to at least partially add to my understanding.

  6. he might also have a skin condition that changed the pigment of his epidermis.

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