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A Tribute to the Photographer

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James V Walsh

James V. Walsh

These photos of the famed B24 "Liberator" were taken by Mr. James V. Walsh while he served as ground crew with the 13th Army Air Force, 307th Bombardment Group while stationed in the Pacific theatre during World War II. He set up a "darkroom" in a tent where he developed photographs taken of the planes, pilots and their crews with an Ansco Shur Shot standard "box" camera. The darkroom equipment consisted of a handmade wooden box with a light bulb built into it that would be turned on for a short time to expose the film.

Because the B-24’s were routinely flying photo-reconnaissance missions, film, which came on large rolls, was readily available from the "photo shack". Mr. Walsh would cut the film to fit his camera’s small rolls. The pilots, while on R&R in Australia, would obtain the necessary chemicals to process the negatives. What started out as a personal interest in taking and developing photographs, soon turned into a small enterprise, with the pilots and crew members posing for and buying "sets" of photos for "a buck apiece". While photographing the planes and flight crews, he also photographed the unique and interesting "Nose Art".

Photography runs in the Walsh family. James V. Walsh is my father, and I inherited my love of photography from him, as did my sister, Betty Dismukes. *Today, Mr. Walsh and his wife, Rose live in Fannett, Texas, just west of Beaumont on 10 acres of land, where he cares for his menagerie of livestock.  He travels annually to the 307th bomb group reunions, and he still has the old box camera with which he took these photos.  Considering the simplicity of the camera and the crudeness of his "lab",  I think these photos are remarkable.

*Mr. Walsh passed away at the age of 95 in June 2015.

Pauline Walsh Jacobson

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From Jim McCabe, Historian, 307th BG Assoc.:

Dear Jim (Walsh) and family,

My deepest condolences on the loss of your father.  I think our January 2015 tribute to your father bears reprinting:

"For those of you who might not know, Jim Walsh's Dad was a 307th BG Ground Crew Refueler.  Regardless of the squadron in which your father flew, I could all but promise you that James V. Walsh refueled your father's aircraft.  While our father's served overseas for extended periods of months, James V. Walsh served overseas for the entirety of the war, 1942-1945.   The many bases to which he was deployed include:

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands

Wadke, Admiralty Islands

Noemfoor, New Guinea

Morotai, Halmaheras

James V. Walsh lived, "up the slot", we read, Up the Slot.  He had served over two years before the group earned it's "Long Rangers" nickname.  Early and throughout his service, he survived nightly bombings, a major flood which completely washed the camp away, ten typhoons, tropical diseases, and scores of B-24's exploding upon takeoffs and landings or being bombed by the Japanese on our airfields.  There were over three hundred 307th BG, B-24's, over one thousand 307th BG, Combat Crew, and several hundred 307th BG Ground Crew personnel, lost during his service to the 307th BG.  He would have assisted with extricating the hundreds of KIA and thousands of wounded personnel from their battle damaged and burned-out  bombers.  He would have walked combat crew airmen overwhelmed with battle fatigue to the field hospital.  On 441003, like so many other times, he would have stood proud on our base at Noemfoor to see two dozen of our B-24's depart for their mission to the Japanese oil refinery at Balikpapan.   He would have stood there in angst when only one of our B-24's returned to base.  My father, and many of yours, were replacement crew members for the sixty-two 307th air crew members who were KIA and the dozens wounded that dreadful day.  God bless him and the 307th BG Ground Crew personnel with whom he served.  It has been my pleasure to know him."

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My father, like most of yours, had the experience of running out of fuel upon returning to a 307th BG airbase on at least one occasion, usually following one of their 17-18 hour combat missions to Balikpapan or Tarakan, Borneo.  They got back because of James V. Walsh and men like him who performed their jobs professionally and knew that every quart mattered.  The bottom line is that countless 307th BG combat crews and their descendants owe their lives to James V. Walsh and the men he trained during his three year deployment to the SW Pacific.

In recent years with his declining health, James' short-term memory declined but his long-term memory was intact.  Some of you may remember that after my presentation at our 307th BG Assoc. Reunion in Baltimore, Mr. Walsh approached me, excitedly, and asked, "Were you talking about the 307th Bomb Group?".  When I answered, "Yes Sir!", he exclaimed, "Well I was in the 307th Bomb Group!", emphasizing the word, "in".  He then proceeded to tell me about it.  As he spoke to me of his memories, I thought of how many times I have felt sad for the elderly folks in our lives who are experiencing dementia and Alzheimer's but how I wasn't sad with Mr. Walsh.  I know now that it was the sheer pride and joy in his face and in his voice as he spoke to me.   It was beautiful and perfect.  Mr. Walsh was the embodiment of the utter satisfaction and honor he felt to be a veteran of the 307th Bombardment Group(H).  That my father, your father's and our 307th BG veterans served with him pleases me to no end.  May he rest in peace." 

 

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