OTHER PHOTO UNIT MEMBERS

The discovery of an original memo among my father’s photos lead me across the Internet to track the men it mentioned.  Two proved quite famous: General Spencer Akin, MacArthur’s Chief Signal Officer and Major Paul Wing, who resumed duties as the theater’s acting Photographic Officer after being freed from Cabanatuan prison camp. 

But the mists of history had claimed most.  Even the memo’s author, Captain Harold C. Herman, proved untraceable.  I accepted I might never know what happened to most of my father’s “rank and file” comrades, including his buddy Johnson

S/Sgt Charles Restifo

So I was stunned to find that two men associated with my father’s unit, Charles Restifo and Ovid Di Fiore, had written memoirs – and that Ovid may still be alive. 

Update, February 23, 2011:  Although I wrote to Mr. Di Fiore, I never received a reply, but out of the blue a few weeks ago I received a comment from Don Mittelstaedt, which I reproduce below. Don was part of another photo battalion that merged with my father’s in preparation for the mainland invasion of Japan. 

S/Sgt Charles R. Restifo

Staff Sargeant Charles Restifo’s Autobiography can be found in the Library of Congress, donated in 2003 by his widow Beatrice along with 25 of his photos.  Capt Herman mentions S/Sgt Restifo here: 

A second mobile lab unit, from the 161st Photographic Company, shipped from the South Pacific theater, reached San Miguel on February 3rd. S/Sgt C.R. Restifowas in charge, with T/4 J.P. Pace and Pfc H.A. Gildersleve completing the three man crew. 

The two units combined in Manila, when they set up permanent headquarters in the Sampuguita Pictures building.  S/Sgt Restifo took at least three of the pictures that appear on this site: 

Pfc Ovid di Fiore

 I suspect he also took this Hiroshima picture, since my father never mentioned being there. It’s clear that S/Sgt Restifo and my father shared darkroom facilities in Manila and Tokyo (though he never mentions my father) and probably exchanged other photos.  I’ve annotated pertinent ones with S/Sgt Restifo’s comments. 

Pfc Ovid Di Fiore

Pfc Ovid di Fiore wrote a memoir entitled From Melbourne to Manila.  I’ve ordered the book and eagerly await its delivery.  Capt Herman mentions Pfc di Fiore here: 

With 1st Lt. Harold C. Herman as the officer in charge, the crew consisted of the following: Sgt. Ralph Glanz, lab supervisor, Pfc Ovid Di Fiore, clerk… 

Pfc di Fiore was reassigned, and my father was one of his replacements.  They just missed each other. As late as 2008, Pfc di Fiore was active on the Internet through Peter Dunn of Oz At War.  I’ve contacted Mr. Dunn regarding Pfc di Fiore and hope to hear more soon. 

1st Lt Don Mittelstaedt

Don Mittelstaedt sent me the following information on February 7, 2011: 

I do not remember Pfc Glenn W. Eve, personally, but I am sure I rubbed elbows with him on Leyte, Luzon and Japan.  

I was OIC (Officer in charge) of Combat Photo Unit 10, 161st Signal Photo Company. Glenn was part of the 832 Signal Battalion, Photo, and based at Hollandia, New Guinea, when the Mobile Photo Lab was constructed. I bivouaced briefly with the 832nd before the invasion of Leyte. I also landed at White Beach near Tacloban, Leyte with the 1st Cavalry Division, shortly before the Mobile Lab came in. Since we were covering the action of this division, I did not know about the Mobil Lab setting up in Tacloban. My unit, Combat Photo Unit 10, was pretty much on our own thoughout the Solomon Island campaigns and New Britain Island (and many other small islands).  

In fact, we did not even see our 161st Signal Photo Company for more than a year. We acted entirely on our own, with blanket orders specifying no destination, giving us first available air, land or sea transportation to combat area. We covered the action of seven different divisions during WW2, including everywhere Glenn Eve went, but we didn’t know it. We were so much on our own that we didn’t get acquainted with other photo units until we all met in Manila.  

1st Lt Don Mittelstaedt is on the far right

 As a 1st Lt. I was father, mother, leader, counselor, censor, paymaster, friend and fellow occupant of the nearest slit trench to my enlisted photographers, and I was only 3 or 4 years older than they. 

Shortly before the war ended, the 161st Signal Photo Company and the 832nd Signal Battalion (Photo) merged and became the 4026 Signal Photo Battalion, in preparation for the invasion of the Japanese mainland on November 1, 1945. Thanks to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Glenn and I did not become part of the 200,ooo casualties expected on that operation. 

Don ended by saying he could be reached at dm3608 (at) gmail.com if anyone would like to contact him. He’s almost 92 years old! 

Photo credit for Don Mittelstaedt:  The Army Pictorial Center