September - December 2017
World War II Photographs from the Albert Chance Collection in the Majestic Art Gallery
Albert (No Middle Name) Chance reported for active duty with the United States Army on September 24, 1942 at Fort Dix, New Jersey. At the time of his induction Albert was 39 years old, single, and employed in purchasing for the Central Penn National Bank in Philadelphia, PA. He was meticulous – to a fault, some would say – but this characteristic probably accounts for the fascinating collection of his wartime experience which is preserved today.
Albert was a very talented amateur photographer. He took 51 rolls of film from May 1944 to August 1945 when he returned to the US. Over 400 prints present a picture of the European theater from the perspective of a common soldier. The photos depict Sherman tanks, camp life and bomb devastation. Village children at the water tap and such tourist sites as the Leaning Tower at Pisa are captured with his photographer's eye for interest and composition. Each is labeled with date, location and subject.
In a small spiral bound notebook Albert recorded his tenure overseas. He began with the boarding of the Kungsholm on March 2, 1943 and concluded, 60 pages later, with his Honorable Discharge at Fort Dix, NJ on September 15, 1945. In February 1944 he wrote in Naples: “Staging area located just above Naples within sight of the sea at the College of Costanzo Ciano. It is a beautiful group of possibly 25 buildings built by the Bank of Naples and given to the city as a gift on the 500th anniversary of the Bank. The college was taken over by the German army upon its completion in 1940 and occupied by them till the city was evacuated by the Germans. Signs, painting on the walls still here...” Much of the diary illuminates the aforementioned photographs.
More than one hundred letters to family chronicle Albert's experience, beginning with boot camp at Fort Stewart Georgia in the fall of 1942 and continuing through his tours in North Africa and Italy. Albert was an excellent typist, and the majority of his letters are typed. Those hand written exhibit his exemplary penmanship, making the entire collection very readable. In June of 1943 he wrote from North Africa, “ I manage to go swimming in the Mediterranean about every other day. The beach is level and sandy and the water feels grand, particularly last week when the temperature must have been up in the 90s. It also helps to solve the bathing problem. The Army sets up outside showers for the men wherever it is necessary, but down here the water is salt and usually cold”.
Over fifty miscellaneous items complete the collection. Memorabilia such as Albert's dog tags, medals, patches and campaign ribbons have been well preserved. Documents include his 1942 draft board registration card, many Army brochures and memos, personal equipment inventories, copies of orders and promotions as well as his Honorable Discharge and C-1 draft classification card.
Albert Chance died on December 21, 1990 at the age of 87.
Biography written by Barbara Chance Hall, grand-niece of Albert Chance.
The reproductions on display here are a small selection from the photographs in the Albert Chance Collection. The full collection is available in Special Collections and College Archives, Musselman Library, Gettysburg College.
The collection is also accessible digitally at http://www.gettysburg.edu/library/gettdigital/.
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