Edward Steichen (1879–1973) may have been America’s most celebrated and highly paid photographer when, in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, he started lobbying the U.S. Navy to let him form a commissioned unit that would travel around the world documenting its activities. During World War I he had helped establish the first U.S. aerial reconnaissance operation, and for years afterward he listed himself in the New York telephone directory as “Steichen, Col. Edward J.” Now, at age 62, he aimed to wangle his way back into active military duty. After obtaining a special medical waiver from the navy, Steichen (left) recruited some of the world’s best photographers—Horace Bristol, Fenno Jacobs, Charles Kerlee, and Victor Jorgensen among them—to join his unit, and together they captured some of the most iconic images of World War II, including those in these pages. “Above all, concentrate on the men,” Steichen told them. “The ships and planes will become obsolete, but the men will always be there.”
This article appears in the Autumn 2019 issue (Vol. 32, No. 1) of MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History with the headline: Steichen’s War
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