Chicago: 28 May 1945. Near Fine.
53 photographic prints, with accompanying contents list and introductory letter. Black and white reproductions of original photographs taken by Corporal Will J. Mills, Jr., of the 556th Engineers, Heavy Ponton Battalion. The photos show the Pacific Theater of WWII and were primarily taken in the city and surrounding areas of Tokyo, Japan, although a few were also taken in the Philippines. Near fine, a few photos with tape shadows to versos, some creasing and minor tears to the contents list. A bright set. The photographs in this collection were taken by the 556th Engineers' "Shutter Snapper" photographer Corporal Will J. Mills and reproduced in this form as a gift from members of the battalion to send to their loved ones at home. The images, which depict various foreign scenes and routine military activities, are purposefully general in nature so as to be representative of the entire battalion's overseas experience. For example, No. 54 shows one of the 556 Engineers about to fire his weapon and is titled "Portrait of any of us before discharge." Despite their generality, however, this set of photographs are much more personalized and colloquial than standard military-produced keepsakes. As evidenced by the thoughtful introductory note from the photographer's wife and the black humor that flavors the contents list, it becomes obvious that these photos were intended only for audiences with strong personal connections to 556th Engineers. Indeed, image No. 23 shows a ruined temple and is accompanied by the caption "a shrine that had an argument with a bomb." The 556th Engineers, Heavy Ponton Battalion, was a division of combat engineers in the United States Army during WWII. As Karl C. Dod explains in The Corps of Engineers: The War Against Japan (1987), combat engineers were "both a combat arm and a supply service" that would be "called up on remove mines, cut through barbed wire entanglements, reduce fortifications, and build and repair roads to enable the infantry to advance," among other duties. In the last years of the Philippines campaign, the battalions helped repair infrastructure that had been destroyed by Japanese troops, which in turn played a major role in helping secure victory for the United States. The photographs in this set were taken at the tail end of the 556th Engineers' tour in the Philippines and show their subsequent visit to Tokyo and its surrounding regions.