Posted 4 years ago
Here’s a panoramic photograph, a favorite souvenir for soldiers in both world wars. This particular 1918 dated panoramic photo is interesting because of the location as well as the unit.
It was taken at the Gettysburg battleground. That’s General George Mead’s statue behind the soldiers, as well as the old observation tower that was built on Culp’s Hill in 1895 and torn down in 1968. I haven’t identified the first monument you notice to the left, but the one beyond it that’s half in the picture is the 14th Connecticut Infantry Monument, so the Union line that held off picket’s charge would be just beyond the road. To the right in the picture is a tall flag pole that I believe marks the Gettysburg Cemetery.
During WWI, The first heavy tank battalion was raised at Camp Meade, Maryland. The Captain that oversaw that task did so well as an administrator that they refused to let him go overseas with the unit, and instead sent him to set up the first tank school in the US at Gettysburg. The poor captain believed that without combat experience, and stuck in the states for the war, his career would be ruined. His name was Dwight D. Eisenhower. The School was located at a new camp named Camp Colt, set up on Gettysburg Park Land. Although Camp Colt was stateside, it was not without casualties. In 1918 and 1919 one hundred and fifty soldiers died here as a result of the Spanish Flu pandemic. Ike ended his command at Camp Colt in November 1918, but he would develop a lifelong connection to Gettysburg, owning a home and farm adjacent to the park.
The soldier in the small photo attached at the upper left, who I believe is a captain, is wearing a mackinaw, which was a shorter coat issued to some troops instead of the long overcoat. This would make sense for someone in the tank corps.
Panoramic Photos themselves are interesting. They were done with a special camera with a lens that rotated as the photo was taken. The problem was that since the subject was closer in the middle and father away at either end, the picture would look distorted (you can see this in panoramic photos of ships of this period). The way the photographer got around it was to draw a curve on the ground and have the soldiers pose along the curve, resulting in a photo that looks as if they are in a straight line.