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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
Location of Interment Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates Not Specified
Military Service Number Not Specified
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 II killed more people, involved more nations, and cost more money than any other war in history. Altogether, 70 million people served in the armed forces during the war, and 17 million combatants died. Civilian deaths were ever greater. At least 19 million Soviet civilians, 10 million Chinese, and 6 million European Jews lost their lives during the war.
World War II was truly a global war. Some 70 nations took part in the conflict, and fighting took place on the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe, as well as on the high seas. Entire societies participated as soldiers or as war workers, while others were persecuted as victims of occupation and mass murder.
World War II cost the United States a million causalities and nearly 400,000 deaths. In both domestic and foreign affairs, its consequences were far-reaching. It ended the Depression, brought millions of married women into the workforce, initiated sweeping changes in the lives of the nation's minority groups, and dramatically expanded government's presence in American life.
The War at Home & Abroad
On September 1, 1939, World War II started when Germany invaded Poland. By November 1942, the Axis powers controlled territory from Norway to North Africa and from France to the Soviet Union. After defeating the Axis in North Africa in May 1941, the United States and its Allies invaded Sicily in July 1943 and forced Italy to surrender in September. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, the Allies landed in Northern France. In December, a German counteroffensive (the Battle of the Bulge) failed. Germany surrendered in May 1945.
The United States entered the war following a surprise attack by Japan on the U.S. Pacific fleet in Hawaii. The United States and its Allies halted Japanese expansion at the Battle of Midway in June 1942 and in other campaigns in the South Pacific. From 1943 to August 1945, the Allies hopped from island to island across the Central Pacific and also battled the Japanese in China, Burma, and India. Japan agreed to surrender on August 14, 1945 after the United States dropped the first atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
1. The war ended Depression unemployment and dramatically expanded government's presence in American life. It led the federal government to create a War Production Board to oversee conversion to a wartime economy and the Office of Price Administration to set prices on many items and to supervise a rationing system.
2. During the war, African Americans, women, and Mexican Americans founded new opportunities in industry. But Japanese Americans living on the Pacific coast were relocated from their homes and placed in internment camps.
The Dawn of the Atomic Age
In 1939, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt, warning him that the Nazis might be able to build an atomic bomb. On December 2, 1942, Enrico Fermi, an Italian refugee, produced the first self-sustained, controlled nuclear chain reaction in Chicago.
To ensure that the United States developed a bomb before Nazi Germany did, the federal government started the secret $2 billion Manhattan Project. On July 16, 1945, in the New Mexico desert near Alamogordo, the Manhattan Project's scientists exploded the first atomic bomb.
It was during the Potsdam negotiations that President Harry Truman learned that American scientists had tested the first atomic bomb. On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay, a B-29 Superfortress, released an atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Japan. Between 80,000 and 140,000 people were killed or fatally wounded. Three days later, a second bomb fell on Nagasaki. About 35,000 people were killed. The following day Japan sued for peace.
President Truman's defenders argued that the bombs ended the war quickly, avoiding the necessity of a costly invasion and the probable loss of tens of thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of Japanese lives. His critics argued that the war might have ended even without the atomic bombings. They maintained that the Japanese economy would have been strangled by a continued naval blockade, and that Japan could have been forced to surrender by conventional firebombing or by a demonstration of the atomic bomb's power.
The unleashing of nuclear power during World War II generated hope of a cheap and abundant source of energy, but it also produced anxiety among large numbers of people in the United States and around the world.
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
January / 1942
September / 1945
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.
During the Second World War, Edward Steichen was the director of the photographic unit of the Naval Aviation. He also created the 1945 Academy Award winning documentary, The Fighting Lady, which was named as the Best Documentary.