Bodies of three dead American soldiers in the sand on the shore of Buna Beach, New Guinea, after a Japanese ambush attack. 1943.
This picture, one of the most significant war photographs in American history, is routinely taken for granted.
The death this month of A. B. C. Whipple was a reminder of its enduring importance. After a 34-year career as an editor and writer at Time Inc., Mr. Whipple considered one of his proudest achievements to have been his role in challenging the Pentagon’s censorship of that photo in 1943.
But that’s usually where the story of George A. Strock’s photo begins and ends: with the effort by Life magazine to publish it. At the time, military censors routinely refused such requests, partly for fear that Americans would be demoralized if they had any graphic understanding of the human price being paid in the war. As the story goes, the issue of printing Mr. Strock’s photo went all the way to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who lifted the ban with the canny understanding that such graphic images might actually steel American resolve.
What is lost in this telling is that Mr. Strock was nearly killed at least twice during his assignment on New Guinea in late 1942 and early 1943, as he recorded a critically important and very hard-won Allied victory. “When I took pictures, I wanted to bring the viewer into the scene,” Mr. Strock told an interviewer, Charles Wood of Los Angeles, shortly before his death in 1977 at age 66. Read more.