WWII's 16th Photo Tech: A Project. By Theresa Everline.

November 6, 2009

National Archives: No 16th PTU Records. Nothin’.

Filed under: The squadron — Theresa Everline @ 11:11 am

Yesterday I received an email response to an inquiry I made to the National Archives and Records Administration. I asked if they had anything on the 16th Photo Tech Unit and noted that the unit was attached to the 67th Tactical Recon Group. This is what they said:

“We have searched our available finding aids for the records of the 16th Photographic Technical Unit without success. There are some reports from the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Group among our Records of the Army Air Forces (Record Group 18), WW II Mission Reports. Attached is a folder list.”

The document they attached lists 15 folders pertaining to the 67th Tactical Recon Group, most of them monthly “Operations Reports” for the period between June 1944 and May 1945. There are also two folders of “Field Orders.” I can see the records if I go to their research room in College Park, Md.

Looks like it’s road trip time!

October 5, 2009

About this project

Filed under: Military reconnaissance, The squadron — Theresa Everline @ 2:41 pm

See the man circled in the photo below? I want to learn about him. In World War II he toiled away alongside 84 other soldiers performing a lowly but utterly vital task. As the members of the 16th Photographic Technical Unit, they developed aerial reconnaissance photographs using mobile processing labs in the battlefield, thus contributing to one of the primary sources of intelligence for winning the war. An army was nearly helpless without photos and maps of enemy territory, but we often don’t think of how those aids are created.

This man pictured here is part of a unit whose history has been forgotten. He was also my father.

I remember from my childhood seeing the unofficial commemorative book my father Robert received from the 16th Photo Tech. Titled “Blue Train in Europe,” the book tells the history of and facts about the unit, such as how many photos they developed: a total of nearly 4.5 million between July 1944 and April 1945.

With my father’s passing on Jan. 20, 2009, I now have “Blue Train,” and it has set me on a journey to learn more. I want to see what I can discover about the 16th Photo Tech Unit and what it tells me about (1) an overlooked aspect of WWII (what it took to develop photos in the battlefield), (2) the interplay between technology and warfare, and (3) my dad’s relationship to all this.

A list of the members of the 16th Photo Tech is here. If you knew any of these men, please contact me.

On this page I’m trying to piece together the unit’s 1944-45 journey, as they moved all their equipment through war-torn Western Europe as part of the invasion force.

Some highlights of my research about military reconnaissance are here. Cool stuff.

You can learn about more aspects of this project by clicking on the other pages listed at the top right.

Pictured in the “Blue Train” book are men my father possibly considered friends when he was in his early 20s. Possibly. He was a remote and uncommunicative man, and spent most of the time I knew him (I was born in 1966, when he was 45) talking to as few people as he could generally manage. How did this man with an anxious temperament, who sharply clung to routine and never traveled anywhere once my sisters and I left home, deal with being in a war in several European countries? And how did he raise a daughter (me) who once said to an airline agent, “I’d like a one-way ticket to Jordan”?

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