WWII Veteran Photographic Series - Private Ralph Davis
Before I begin to share my experience with Mr. Davis, I’d like to share my inspiration for doing this portrait series. I have long been interested in military history, particularly Vietnam and World War II. As I’ve watched current events unfolding before our eyes, I feel that it is imperative that we chronicle and preserve the history of those in “The Greatest Generation” because we are losing a lot as a country and forgetting what has made us great. If we let these heroes that fought for our freedom pass on without learning the lessons that they can teach us, who knows if we will ever find our way back as a country. That is my ultimate goal with this series.
I had ultimately planned to begin this project when I returned home from Oregon but upon arriving I found out that my mother-in-law knew two local World War II Veterans living here in the area. I got to meet Mr. Davis, no relation to me, on Wednesday evening. When I was first told about Ralph, I was told that he doesn’t remember very much about the war because he is suffering from dementia a little bit. Upon getting to sit down and visit with him I was honored to talk about life, and a little more about the war than he had spoken about in the last thirty years.
Ralph enlisted in the Army soon after Pearl Harbor. He was assigned to infantry and was an artilleryman in Germany. I asked him when he arrived in Germany but he didn’t remember. He mentioned that he was in a few battles but not that many. He said ” I was scared. You didn’t know what was going to happen. But times are worse now than they were before. There’s no telling what’s going to happen.”
One thing that was really important to Ralph, was that even in the height of the war, with the Army giving out cigarettes to all the soldiers, he never smoked or drank. He said ” I didn’t even drink coffee. It was way too bitter.”
When I asked Ralph about where he was at when the war ended, he said he was in Otterberg, Germany. He told me that memories of the war were hard, that there was so many things that happened that he just wanted to forget. From talking to family members, they said he never really talked about the war that much.
In conclusion with this this first blog in my World War II series, I really think I learned a lot with this first session and interview. In a lot of the books that I’ve read, and the documentaries that I’ve seen, and even letters I have received, most of the servicemen have wanted their stories known. But there are different faces, different stories, and different viewpoints, even among those that lived through those times. Some came home and dealt with their experiences by sharing, and some dealt with their experiences by trying to forget. Everybody is different and there’s no telling how we would react in those circumstances. One thing that is absolutely certain, when freedom was on the line, and our Country called, these men answered the bell. Thank you for reading, and thank you to the veterans that have helped to make our country what it was, what it is, and what it will become.
I wanted to say a couple of more words. Originally I posted this blog on Wordpress site while I was still on vacation in Oregon. I photographed Ralph using both my Canon 6D and also I shot some expired Kodak T-Max film. Since I posted the original blog while on vacation, my film wasn't back yet, so I added some film shots of Ralph here, mixed in with the digital photos. Each one is marked. I really hope you enjoy his story, and the photos. Stay tuned for more in this series to come.