Can You Help Solve this Mystery? (Join over Twenty-Thousand Others Who Followed this Fascinating Story.)
Some stories need to be told. As the Photo Detective, my passion is solving photo mysteries, especially ones that seem unsolvable! By discovering and deciphering clues in pictures, I can tell their tale. But sometimes it takes the right person to add a key detail that puts all of the pieces together, to reveal the full story.
That person could be you.
This group of images from World War II sat in someone’s photo collection until they were discarded. They are what I consider “orphan photos.” Perhaps the owner died, and their descendants didn’t know what to do with these unidentified images? No matter what exactly happened, there’s something so sad about orphaned photos. Can you help solve this mystery? Join over twenty-thousand others who followed this fascinating story.
I’m willing to bet that these vintage photos documented an important period in these women’s lives. It’s likely that these old pictures are from one woman’s personal collection. Maybe she took these snapshots of her friends and her colleagues in uniform? Perhaps these images document one of the most important times in her life? On a mission to discover the story behind these priceless, orphaned photos, I posted them on Facebook and asked for help. What happens next surprised and motivated me to keep digging!
Thousands of people looked at them. And so did experts. Yet no one recognized these women. Yet.
It’s taken a lot of time and research to piece together the details about these photos. In spite of many clues, the specific identities of these women and their personal stories are still unknown. That’s why I’m sharing the photos here, with hope that someone will recognize these women, even just one of them. It seems like a shame to let their legacy of service go untold.
So here’s what we know so far. (I’m grateful to those who have helped us uncover these details– and thanks to all of you who are reading this and can offer even more clues and answers!)
Sense of Place, Season, Uniforms and Automobiles
The women were posing at Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery Alabama. This key information was shared by Dr. Robert Kane, Air University Director of History at Maxwell Air Force Base. He even sent me a photo of the same building! Here’s the building, which gives even more helpful context.
When helping gather clues about this photo, Dr. Kane added the following information,
“I suspect that these women were WACs (Women Army Corps) as the US Army Air Forces (AAF) didn’t have a separate “unit” or organization for women assigned to AAF installations during World War II. Since two women are near a vehicle, I suspect that they were drivers for senior officers on Maxwell Field. Finally, from the state of the deciduous (leaf-bearing) trees in the picture (that is, the leaves are gone), I believe the photo was taken in late December or early January, possibly over winter 1944-45.”
Another key piece of information came from Pete Docken at the San Diego Auto Museum. He identified the car in one of these photos as a 1938 or 1939 Ford. There was no new car manufacturing after 1942 for the duration of the war.
Who Are They?
All of this new information has helped narrow the search. We know for sure that these women served as drivers at Maxwell Air Force Base sometime during winter 1944-1945. But there must be more to the story!
The World War II generation is quickly leaving us; they are passing away and so are their stories. In senior centers, assisted living communities, and nursing homes around the United States, veterans thrive and share stories. We just have to ask them about their lives, before it’s too late! Surely, a surviving veteran could identify one of the beautiful faces in these photos. Just imagine, these women could have been mothers, grandmothers or great-grandmothers. Maybe one of them is related to you?
Here’s how you can help – share this story and these photos.
• With caregivers who work with elderly veterans.
• With local newspapers that might be interested in the story.
• On your social media accounts?
I’m hoping for a New Year’s photo miracle! Fingers and toes are crossed.
About the Author: Maureen Taylor, known as the Photo Detective, finds the family history in your picture mysteries. She’s been featured in top media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Today Show. Ready to discover some stories behind your favorite family photos? Find out how you can by visiting her website today!
Save Family Photos A Professional Genealogist's Tips for Uncovering Family History in Old Photos - Save Family Photos says:
July 20, 2017 at 9:54 am
[…] Photoshop) because sometimes it’s hard to see the tree for the forest. As Maureen Taylor, the Photo Detective, underscores the importance of […]