Orphaned mystery photos. There is something so sad about someone’s beloved pictures ending up in a pile someplace. Take these five pictures. I’m willing to bet that these images documented an important period in a woman’s life. She took these images of her friends and colleagues in uniform.
The questions add up pretty quickly.
- Who were they?
- What branch of the service do their uniforms represent?
- Where were they photographed?
- When were they taken?
I posted these images on Facebook and thousands of people looked at them. I’ve reached out to the World War 2 US Medical Research Centre and the U.S. Army Women’s Museum. I’m waiting to hear from the National World War 2 Museum in New Orleans.
Adding Up the Facts
Here’s what I know so far based on my research as well as input from Facebook followers and military history experts. Deborah Humphries of True Color Chrome.com suggested looking at Women of World War II. There are many photographs of World War II nurses on the site.
- Ronald Bingham of the U.S. Army Women’s Museum verified my conclusion that the uniforms (overalls and knit “jeep” hat) likely identify these women as Army nurses. Unfortunately the quality of the images is too fuzzy to see their collar insignia.
- He felt they were likely photographed stateside.
- Bingham also told me that the 1920s Spanish stucco style construction visible in the background was popular with military construction after WWII and in Army hospitals. This style of architecture was common before the war in certain parts of the country. Facebook followers Kristi Burns and Jana Wells suggested the photos were taken at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. Bingham thought the buildings looked like Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver/Aurora, Colorado area.
- Notice the trees. They are bare of foliage suggesting a temperate climate. The shrubs against the building are fully grown suggesting an earlier time period for that building.
- Additional research suggests that the car in one of images bears a resemblance to Plymouth vehicles favored by the Army in the 1940s. This one has a side vent.
I initially thought these women posed during World War II, but it’s possible they were taken after 1945 when the Army favored this Spanish stucco design. That provides a beginning time frame for the images of after 1945. But where were they taken?
According to Highlights in the History of the Army Nurse Corps, in 1946 there were still 8,500 Army nurses. As of April 16, 1947, the Army was going to keep a minimum of 2,558. On June 15, 1946, the Army offered courses in psychiatric nursing at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston and at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Washington, D.C.. On July 1, 1947, Army nurses attended additional clinical training at the following locations: Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston; Fitzsimon General Hospital, Denver, Colorado; Letterman General Hospital, San Francisco; and Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, D.C..
Jana Wells thought the buildings looked like Fort Sam Houston and she might be right. The buildings and the nurses are in the right time for training in that location. Google Image searches turn up similar buildings at Fort Sam Houston, but if the Army used this style of architecture other places, then these images could have been taken in another location.
Proving the Theory
Identifying even one of these women would confirm details about the pictures. The World War II generation is quickly leaving us. In senior centers, assisted living centers and nursing homes, may be someone who was one of the faces in these images, but I need your help.
Can you spread the word by sharing this story:
- With those who work with the elderly?
- Local newspapers that might be interested in the story?
- On your social media accounts?
Let’s not let these women in uniform go unidentified. It’s a big task, but with help we can solve this mystery.
The rest of the pictures are below.
This picture appears to be taken in a different place.