Shooting with a Camera above the Western Front

It’s been almost a century since the outbreak of World War I. Although it’s rightfully remembered for its frightful battlefield slaughter, the Great War also marked a huge leap forward in the use of modern technology in war. One of those technological developments was the use of aerial reconnaissance photography to map enemy terrain and extract intelligence information on troop movements, defenses, and strategy.

Shooting the Front: Allied Aerial Reconnaissance and Photographic Interpretation on the Western front – World War I, published by the National Defense Intelligence College, is not the kind of product normally associated with that estimable agency, which usually deals with more contemporary issues. That’s one of the things that intrigued me about this hefty, profusely illustrated volume. It’s got lots of photographs, of course – the image of Fort Douaumont after Verdun gives new meaning to the term “leveled to the ground” – but also lots of information about how aerial photography evolved in the course of the war. It’s analogous to the progression of aircraft armament from a pistol in the hand of a co-pilot in 1914 to synchronized machine guns in1918. Interestingly, it was the French who led the way in developing aerial recon photography into a real science, and their partnership with American personnel was much more significant than is usually assumed.

I also enjoyed the brief biographies of the pioneers of Allied aerial photography: Eugene Marie Edmond Pepin, the brilliant Sorbonne graduate; John Theodore Cuthbert (known as “J.T.C.” – my initials!) Moore-Brabzon, the quintessential English gentleman (“‘You will obey your superior officers,’ the No. 9 Squadron commander once remarked early on. Moore-Brabzon replied, ‘Superior officer? – senior, if you please, sir.’”); and Edward Jan Steichen, the great American photographic master, who once joked that anyone producing a fuzzy photograph would be court-martialed! Retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in the reserves in 1924, Steichen received a commission as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy reserves in 1941 at the age of 62, was on the carrier Lexington and in the Battle of Iwo Jima, and retired again as a Navy Captain in charge of all naval combat photography – talk about the engaged artist!

Shooting the Front is an excellent study of a neglected aspect of World War I and aviation history. At first I thought it might be too technical, but instead I found it absorbing to shift between the text and the photos, in a sense becoming a combat photograph interpreter myself. You can view the Table of Contents and Chapter I here, get a copy here, or find it in a library. For other Government publications touching on “the war to end all wars,” you can browse here.

10 Responses to Shooting with a Camera above the Western Front

  1. Mike says:

    Cameras are used world wide to capture the important moments that happen literally every second.

    Like

  2. Chloe K. Katz says:

    There are several reasons that you might want to try out point and shoot cameras. These can be great cameras for you to use while you are taking every day pictures, and they can be wonderful elements for you to have in order to take photos of you every day life. Point and shoot cameras are also easy to use, which make them very interesting for you, no matter what type of photo taking skills you might have.

    Like

    • Wilder Patric says:

      You said it all. I do agree. I have a cam, simple, and a like it, though I’d like to have a better one to post better photos on the net space.

      Hug

      Like

  3. jkar says:

    It’s very interesting to know how aerial photography helped the war campaign in WWI and I am very interested in seeing how they do it. I wish I can see a reliable source of photos.

    Like

  4. [...] advisor during and immediately after the war), in recent weeks I’ve blogged about World War I aerial reconnaissance, Army nurses, and Stars and Stripes, the doughboys’ newspaper. Maybe it’s because of the recent [...]

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  5. zannias vasilis says:

    I AGREE!”SHOOTING THE FRONT” IS AN EXCELLENT STUDY OF A NEGLECTED ASPECT OF WORLD WAR I , AND AVIATION HISTORY.IN MY OPINION , EVERY WAR , HAS IT’S OWN DEDICATED TECHNOLOGY!FOR EXAMPLE , DURING WORLD WAR I , THERE WERE AERIAL RECONNAISSANCE , MUSTARD GAS CHEMICAL , AND OTHER , DURING WORLD WAR II , TRERE WERE EQUIPMENT INTERCEPTION LIKE “ENIGMA” , TURBO JET LIKE GERMAN ME-262 , AND OF COURSE THE ATOMIC BOMB!TODAY WE HAVE SATELITES , MICROCHIPS , STEALTH SHIPS , WARPLANE AND OTHER!I BELIEVE THAT ONE OF THE MOST STRONGEST WEAPON IN THE WORLD , IS THE EQUIPMENT OF MIND-CONTROL!

    Like

  6. Helio HCF says:

    temos, lamentavelmente uma repercusão de uma terceira
    guerra mundial,e´indiscutivel; mas, podemos minimizar
    os conflitos mundiais,vejam em Helio HCF, como aliviar a alma e mente, escrevo sobre felicidade, amor e paz…

    Like

  7. armansyahardanis says:

    I agree with idiom “The war to end all wars”, so WW III cannot happen. About “Arab revolutions” aren’t WW III, but “The war to end all wars”. In the future, people of the world should be shake-hand and scream: “Peace!!”.

    Like

  8. armansyahardanis says:

    I am, too. Thank you for having me on your site.

    Like

  9. steve choinski says:

    thank you for having me on your site.

    Like

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