The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

November Object: American POW in WWI

Our November Object of the Month is up: it's an October 1918 photograph of a group of American prisoners of war taken at the German prison camp Landshut. Atlantic Monthly correspondent (and fighter pilot) James Norman Hall, one of those prisoners, sent the photo along with a note to Atlantic editor Ellery Sedgwick.

See the photograph, and read background on Hall, Segwick and others here. And remember to check out our current exhibition: "Atlantic Harvest: Ellery Sedgwick and The Atlantic Monthly, 1909-1938."

permalink | Published: Thursday, 12 November, 2009, 5:33 PM


Nov 30, 2009, 6:35 pm


The pilots--most if not all are pilots--in the photograph are not all Americans, but rather a true cross section of the Allies (those that I can identify from their "wings"--flying badges--in a large-scale digital scan of the photograph). The character of WWI aviation history being what it is--experts "decipher" the color schemes of aircraft by examining shades of gray in black-and-white photographs--it is my hope that it may be possible to identify James Norman Hall's fellow prisoners by drawing upon the vast literature of this field.

Hall's personal papers are at Grinnell College where a former library assistant now is a student, and they also may shed light on this question.

I also refer to the units that Hall served in after he was commissioned in the United States Army as "pursuit" squadrons--an anachronism during the Great War when they still were titled "aero" squadrons, but there always is something to fix or improve.

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