Both my father and father-in-law took pictures during WWII. My husband is a photographer.
|Two Views of World War II
Story by Carla Brooke
For just about as far back as I can remember the camera has always been an important element in any events occurring in my family. Whether it be my first steps or simply a beautiful panoramic view, my father recorded it for all the world to see and admire.
Before I came along dad had plenty of resources for his camera work, for he was stationed in New Delhi, India, as an Army radioman during World War II. He was considered quite a shutterbug around his base, always on the look out for that great photograph. While looking dad acquired a good deal of knowledge of the area and was assigned to drive high-ranking officials throughout the provinces. Many shots taken on these trips later became award-winning photographs in the years following the war.
I recently discovered that my father was not only a wonderfully talented photographer, but a skilled writer as well. The evidence of this is in the original copy of a story he wrote while on board a ship returning from World war II and illustrated with his own black and white pictures of the soldiers returning home after 33 days at sea.
Here is the original story by my father, Jack Gutstein.
THE PICTURE THAT GOT AWAY
I and about 700 other G.I.’s, were passing our thirty-third day at sea. Our ship, The General Bliss, was now steaming serenely through peaceful waters, heading for San Francisco. The Far East was now but an unpleasant memory. The dangerous passage through the mine-infested Makassar Straits had become a mere passing incident, as was our stop-over in Guam. Perhaps, there still lingered some impressions of the havoc wrought by war on Manila and Manila Bay; Corregidor, and Bataan, where the marauding Huks hunted, and were hunted, in those far-off green hills. Gone were those frustrating hours spent in seeking calmer waters so that an appendectomy might be performed upon one of us. Fragments of the resentment we felt for the poor chow and the bilge in the water lockers were fast melting in the warmth of the sun.
An air of expectancy, an electrical tension seemed to have charged the atmosphere around us. The hubbub of voices dwindled slowly into silence. It was a profound silence, but it spoke volumes as faces turned to look upward toward the crow’s nest. Feet shuffled, someone coughed, a bell sounded somewhere. Then the silence closed in again. Only the gentle lapping of the swells along the sides of the ship punctuated the silence.
Then, land ahead! The cry crackled and whipped throughout the ship. It was picked up, relayed and relayed again. Land ahead! It traveled from prow to stern and amidship faster than here I can possibly tell about it.
Seven hundred G.I.’s then tore away all restraint. As if ordered by some prearranged command, we started to climb. Up and over the forbidden top decks we went. Over the bridge and into the rigging climbed an eager brown horde. In minutes every high point of vantage held its’ quota of men. Again faces turned in unison, this time to peer intently toward the eastern horizon toward land, toward home.
Callously, I brought my camera to bear upon some of the faces around me. The first face I focused upon disturbed me. With the second, I found myself lowering the camera gently to my side. Guiltily I looked about me! I felt as though I were a trespasser. As though I were violating the innermost privacy of each of the men I chanced to scrutinize. On these faces were painted pictures of joy such as I have never before witnessed. All about me moistened eyes told the story. Here, campaign-hardened veterans, from the fetid, stinking jungles of Burma, the desert of India and other black holes of the orient, were standing unmasked for all to see.
Gingerly I changed position. Eagerly, I let my eyes strain forward, my being filled with an explosive mixture of emotions. Spontaneously, I joined in the wild cheering when we sighted the Golden Gate Bridge. We were home.
Photography isn’t just limited to my side of the family. My father-in-law, Anthony Brooke Sr., who caught the camera bug from his father, Arthur Brooke (a photographer in World War I), was born in Los Angeles, but grew to his mid-teens on a farm owned by his grandparents in England. His parents, British subjects, were separated. The farm is where young Tony became “fascinated by motion pictures and always wanted to be a cameraman,” he told me.
In 1938 my father-in-law rejoined his mother in New York and in 1943 married Marjorie Sugerman. By the time my husband Anthony Brooke Jr. was born the following year, Tony was in a foxhole in Normandy. He had been drafted in 1943, just when film director George Stevens began assembling the Special Coverage Unit of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. As part of “the Stevens Unit” or “the Hollywood Irregulars,” Tony became part of the small camera teams who moved from army to army covering the major events of the war. Tony’s unit was based in London and “assigned like any news team.” On D-Day he recalled, “the roar of thousands of planes overhead, bound for French targets.”
He started shooting the Canadian units at Gold Beach in Normandy, who met with little resistance, compared with the fierce fighting on Omaha Beach. From there he was on his way to Paris with Gen. George Patton. Once there he had incurred Patton’s wrath, when Tony replaced a carbine he carried with a pearl-handled pistol. Patton, a stickler for rules, spotted the pistol and glared at Tony.
On the way to Germany, Tony shot a documentary on the second battle of Dunkirk, where German troops had breached the sea wall, surrounding themselves with water. Czech troops fighting in the Allied cause surrounded the Germans and Tony filmed the siege until the Germans surrendered. For this Tony won the Czechoslovakian Medal of Merit. He went on to film the horror of the Nazi concentration camps and his final assignment was covering the Potsdam Conference, where President Truman, British Prime Minister Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin were deciding the shape of the post war world.
My father-in-law Tony Brooke won a Bronze Star for having “moved forward with advanced elements of United States troops in order to obtain more spectacular photographic coverage.” He also got a commendation from Gen. Eisenhower as a member of the Special Motion Picture Coverage Unit.
Back in the States Tony became a union member which won him work as a skilled cameraman. He worked for many years shooting television commercials and also helped to shoot several major motion pictures, before retiring to Las Cruces, New Mexico.
My husband Anthony Brooke Jr., who was stationed in Alaska during the Vietnam War, is a retired motion picture cameraman, who also shot many, many commercials and movies, now takes pleasure in digital still photography. Sandy’s photographs have found their way into many newspapers, magazines and several art shows. Photography continues to be a major focus in my family.