Rodger Hamilton was born in Columbus, Ohio, on December 7, 1921, and was celebrating his 20th birthday when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Hamilton enlisted and served in the Army Signal Corps, where he became a gifted photographer. He later became the Photo Chief for The Columbus Dispatch, adding to an already impressive body of work, before he died much too young at the age of 49.

The photos on this Web site were initially delivered to WOSU in a large cardboard box bearing a Columbus Dispatch photo. They had been sitting the darkness of James Hamilton’s basement, one of the sons of the photographer, for years, waiting to be appreciated once more. These photos range from approximately 1942 through 1945, and were taken exclusively for Army use. (He likely took thousands more during his military career, most of which are likely in the National Archives.)

Rodger kept a rough log of his photos, typewritten on yellow legal pads, allowing us an idea of where he took what. The problem with his list: he numbered his photos on paper, but not on the actual photos themselves, making any attempt to marry image with description a guess, at best. He made numerous copies from his originals to send to the AP and UPI, making it likely that some newspapers at the time printed his photos.

Copies of these photos are probably in the National Archives in Virginia (and at least one was featured in Ken Burns' "The War"), but their collection is very large on not online. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the official repository of all Army photos taken during World War II. They can find records of photos by item number (which aren’t listed on Hamilton's photos), but not by photographer. If anyone has time and resources, they may check out their collection in person, but it’s difficult-to-impossible to do online.

Most of the photos have on the back a stamp that says something similar to: “Passed for personal use only, 5 May, 1944. Not for publication. Theatre Censor. E.T.O.U.S.A.” A stamp bearing Rodger Hamilton’s name, along with his serial number, is also on most, but not all.

By midyear, 1942, the widening scope of responsibilities for Signal Corps photography created a new service: the Army Pictorial Service, which was established on June 17, 1942. This date gives us an approximation of this portfolio; photos with the Signal Corps logo were before it, and those with the Army Pictorial Service logo were after it.

One letter he sent home noted that he was a member of the 8th Signal Mobile Photo Lab Unit, which would have been part of the 8th Army.

The known locations of the photos, in no particular order:

  • Cherbourg
  • St. Lo
  • Normandy
  • Marigny, France
  • Coutance, France
  • Paris
  • Louvre
  • Avaraches

Hamilton also kept about 100 images from concentration camps, which have even fewer marking on them than the rest of his collection. It is possible that he took some of them, but the Army was particularly sensitive about what photographers took these grisly images. At the very least, Rodger kept some images so that a record would be around. Because I can’t verify that he took them, these images are not on this web site.

No attempt has been made to “fix” scratches, dust, or other blemishes on the photos. Only one image received some repair work to remedy a 2” tear. OSU Libraries restoration expert Harry Campbell did this work.

When possible, the photos were scanned in one pass at 300 DPI, 8-bit color. The size of many photos (16” x 20”) made such scanning on a flat-bed scanner difficult. Larger format scanners were not easily available. When they were available, the cost of digitization was prohibitive. As a result, many images were scanned in two sections, and then “stitched” together in Photoshop. Sharp-eyed viewers may notice an occasional seam in the finished photos where the two images were layered into one.

Thanks to: Amy McCrory, Digital Imaging Specialist, OSU libraries, for her expertise and time; Rai Goerler, Assistant Director for Special Collections and Ohio State University Archivist; Professor Joe Guilmartin, OSU; the Hamilton family, including James and Rodger Jr. for providing the images; Jon Schwantes and the archives team at The Columbus Dispatch.

Web Design: Richard Moore.