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The U.S. Signal Corps caption for this image, taken on Nov. 3, 1944, reads, “Cold, wet, and completely exhausted after his first night in combat, Corp. Frank Johnson, Brooklyn artificer, rests somewhere in France on a heap of bed rolls before making his return trip to the nearby fighting, with more blankets and ammunition.”

In 1944 Johnson was a 20-year-old corporal in Company L (Love Company), 399th Infantry Regiment, 100th Infantry Division. The photograph was taken near La Salle, France, and the look on Johnson’s face says something about the mental toll of combat. (As an “artificer,” Johnson would have been someone who worked with electronics and other devices.)

When the New York Times Magazine printed the photo on its cover in 1995, the soldier’s nephew recognized his uncle and notified the paper, which tracked Johnson down. “We were in the Vosges Mountains moving forward and we got up into a place where we were pinned down by German fire,” Johnson told the Times. “The company commander — Captain Downey — sent me back for some more ammunition and bedrolls; we were going to be pinned down a while, so we might as well sleep.” Later, in Alsace-Lorraine, Johnson received a leg wound from some shrapnel. 

“After the war Johnson returned home to Brooklyn and got a job at Woolworth’s,” the Times reported in 1995. “Later he serviced oil furnaces and started a trucking business with his brother. Retired since 1986, he lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Lillian.” 

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