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Home Town New York City
Last Address Edward Steichen died, at his farm "Umpawaug", in West Redding, CT, two days short of his 94th birthday. His ashes were buried near a huge outcrop of boulders on his estate, exactly as he had requested.
Date of Passing Mar 25, 1973
Last Known Activity:
Captain Edward J. Steichen, USN Ret.
Army & Navy Combat Photographer WWI & WWII Received the French Legion of Honor,
Distinguished Service Medal,
the Presidential Medal of Freedom,
and Commander of the Order of Merit (Germany)
Edward Steichen (born Eduard Jean Steichen, 27 March 1879 in Bivange, Luxembourg) was one of the premier photographers of his generation. Aside from being one of the first to go into color photography, he also helped usher in the era of fashion photography.
During WWI he joined the Army Photographic Corps at the age of 38. He joined the Navy in January 1942 at the age of 63.
Steichen had retired in 1938, and closed his studio to devote his time to plant breeding. Soon afterwards he would find himself trying to reenlist in the military at the age of 61 as America faced the prospect of World War II. After his third attempt to reenlist he was commissioned a Lieutenant Commander in 1942, and headed the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, which documented aircraft carriers in action. His first assignment was to complete an exhibition he had started for The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1941, on national defense. He organized the extremely popular exhibition "Road to Victory" that had 150 images and opened in May 1942, at MoMA. The show then traveled to many American cities and to London, Australia, and South America.
He directed the creation of the war documentary "The Fighting Lady," chronicling the battles of the crew of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown, which won the 1944 Academy Award for Best Documentary.
In 1945, his second joint Navy and MoMA exhibition, "Power in the Pacific," went on display. He was officially discharged in 1945, at the age of 67, and received the Distinguished Service Medal. Steichen left the Navy with the rank of Captain, as Director of the WWII Naval Photographic Institute.
Steichen was the recipient of many awards, some of which include his status as Chevalier of France's Légion d'Honneur, awarded in 1919, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1963), and the Commander of Order of Merit, Germany (1966).
In 1963, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy, however Kennedy was assassinated before he could present it. President Lyndon B. Johnson presented it to him in December 1963.
Edward Steichen died in West Redding Connecticut on March 25, 1973, at the age of 94.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with the comparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States.
"Aircraft of Carrier Air Group 16 return to the USS Lexington
(CV-16) during the Gilberts operation, November 1943."
Photographed by Commander Edward Steichen, USNR.
Naval Aviation Photographic Unit
The Naval Aviation Photographic Unit was a group of military photographers in the United States Navy during the Second World War, under the command of Edward Steichen.
The Navy had established this special group in early 1942, shortly after the US entry into the war, to document and publicize its aviation activities and allowed Steichen to recruit the most talented photographers he could find. Steichen and his unit initially reported to Capt Arthur W. Radford, and were made part of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics.
Because Steichen wanted an unusual amount of control over the unit, outside the purview of the Navy's pre-existing photographic community, and because Radford agreed with him, it was decided the unit would operate out of the Bureau of Aeronautics' Training Literature Division, which was under Radford's direct command. This is why the unit's official name was "Training Literature Field Unit No. 1." However, informally it was referred to as the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, and is generally referred to that way in the literature about it.
The main purpose Radford had for the unit was to promote the recruitment of pilots specifically for the Navy. Radford believed there was competition for a limited talent pool between the Navy and the Army Air Corps, and that attractive, top-rate photography in the press, posters, and leaflets would help the Navy reach its quota of 30,000 new pilots each year.
Wayne Miller, one of the unit's photographers, remembers Steichen's instructions this way: " 'I don't care what you do, Wayne, but bring back something that will please the brass a little bit, an aircraft carrier or somebody with all the braid; spend the rest of your time photographing the man.' It was Steichen's prime concern—don't photograph the war; photograph the man, the little guy; the struggle, the heartaches, plus the dreams of this guy. Photograph the sailor."
Radford was given command of Carrier Division 11 in July, 1943. Rear Admiral John S. McCain, Sr. was made head of the Bureau of Aeronautics, and thus Steichen's commander. McCain was pleased by the results Steichen and his photographers were getting, and supported them fully, including seeing Steichen promoted to full Commander. McCain also had Steichen do portraits of senior Navy officers, in the Vanity Fair style for which Steichen was known, to smooth relations for the unit among differing commands.
Steichen's responsibility increased to the point where, in early 1945, he was made director of a newly formed Naval Photographic Institute, and given formal control over all Navy combat photography.
The unit was largely demobilized after the end of the war in August, 1945. As those servicemen with the most time overseas received priority in demobilization, almost all of the unit were home by Thanksgiving.
The group of photographers Steichen originally chose for the unit were:
Lieut. Wayne Miller
Lieut. Dwight Long (who specialized in movies, not photography as such)
Lieut. Charles E. Kerlee
Lieut. Charles Fenno Jacobs
LCdr. Horace Bristol
Ensign Victor Jorgensen
Ensign Alfonso ("Fons") Iannelli
Steichen wanted Ansel Adams to be part of the unit, to build and direct a state-of-the-art darkroom and laboratory in Washington, D.C. In approximately February, 1942, Steichen asked Adams to join. Adams agreed, with two conditions: He wanted to be commissioned as an officer, and he also told Steichen he would not be available until July 1. Steichen, who wanted the team assembled as quickly as possible, passed Adams by, and had his other photographers ready to go by early April. Among the photographers whom Steichen later added in early 1945 was Morley Baer who remained with the Unit until the end of the War.
World War I
April / 1917
November / 1918
Description The United States of America declared war on the German Empire on April 6, 1917. The U.S. was an independent power and did not officially join the Allies. It closely cooperated with them militarily but acted alone in diplomacy. The U.S. made its major contributions in terms of supplies, raw material and money, starting in 1917. American soldiers under General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), arrived in large numbers on the Western Front in the summer of 1918. They played a major role until victory was achieved on November 11, 1918. Before entering the war, the U.S had remained neutral, though it had been an important supplier to Great Britain and the other Allied powers. During the war, the U.S mobilized over 4 million military personnel and suffered 110,000 deaths, including 43,000 due to the influenza pandemic. The war saw a dramatic expansion of the United States government in an effort to harness the war effort and a significant increase in the size of the U.S. military. After a slow start in mobilising the economy and labour force, by spring 1918 the nation was poised to play a role in the conflict. Under the leadership of President Woodrow Wilson, the war represented the climax of the Progressive Era as it sought to bring reform and democracy to the world, although there was substantial public opposition to United States entry into the war.
Although the United States declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, it did not initially declare war on the other Central Powers, a state of affairs that Woodrow Wilson described as an "embarrassing obstacle" in his State of the Union speech. Congress declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on December 17, 1917, but never made declarations of war against the other Central Powers, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire or the various Co-belligerents allied with the central powers, thus the United States remained uninvolved in the military campaigns in central, eastern and southern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific.
The United States as late as 1917 maintained only a small army, smaller than thirteen of the nations and empires already active in the war. After the passage of the Selective Service Act in 1917, it drafted 2.8 million men into military service. By the summer of 1918 about a million U.S. soldiers had arrived in France, about half of whom eventually saw front-line service; by the Armistice of November 11 approximately 10,000 fresh soldiers were arriving in France daily. In 1917 Congress gave U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans when they were drafted to participate in World War I, as part of the Jones Act. In the end Germany miscalculated the United States' influence on the outcome of the conflict, believing it would be many more months before U.S. troops would arrive and overestimating the effectiveness of U-boats in slowing the American buildup.
The United States Navy sent a battleship group to Scapa Flow to join with the British Grand Fleet, destroyers to Queenstown, Ireland and submarines to help guard convoys. Several regiments of Marines were also dispatched to France. The British and French wanted U.S. units used to reinforce their troops already on the battle lines and not to waste scarce shipping on bringing over supplies. The U.S. rejected the first proposition and accepted the second. General John J. Pershing, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) commander, refused to break up U.S. units to serve as mere reinforcements for British Empire and French units. As an exception, he did allow African-American combat regiments to fight in French divisions. The Harlem Hellfighters fought as part of the French 16th Division, earning a unit Croix de Guerre for their actions at Château-Thierry, Belleau Wood, and Séchault.
Impact of US forces on the war
On the battlefields of France in spring 1918, the war-weary Allied armies enthusiastically welcomed the fresh American troops. They arrived at the rate of 10,000 a day, at a time when the Germans were unable to replace their losses. After British Empire, French and Portuguese forces had defeated and turned back the powerful final German offensive (Spring Offensive of March to July, 1918), the Americans played a role in the Allied final offensive (Hundred Days Offensive of August to November). However, many American commanders used the same flawed tactics which the British, French, Germans and others had abandoned early in the war, and so many American offensives were not particularly effective. Pershing continued to commit troops to these full- frontal attacks, resulting in high casualties against experienced veteran German and Austrian-Hungarian units. Nevertheless, the infusion of new and fresh U.S. troops greatly strengthened the Allies' strategic position and boosted morale. The Allies achieved victory over Germany on November 11, 1918 after German morale had collapsed both at home and on the battlefield.
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
April / 1917
November / 1918
Last Updated: Mar 16, 2020
Memories During WWI he joined the Army Photographic Corps at the age of 38. He joined the Navy in January 1942 at the age of 63.