CUL Digital Collections
Frank J. Davis World War II Photographs
About the Collection
You may learn more about Frank J. Davis in his autobiography.
The photographs in this web site are from Southern Methodist University’s Frank J. Davis collection of approximately 600 images. The images are held by the DeGolyer Library.
DeGolyer Library digital collections are part of CUL Digital Collections, which contain thousands of digitized photographs, manuscripts, imprints, and works of art held by SMU's Central University Libraries special collections.
Holdings and Highlights
Some of the highlights of the Davis collection are:
- shots of Medical Museum and Arts Service (MMAS) training procedures in Washington
- images of a "captured" German military hospital
- photographs and color slides of the aftermath of Italian battle of Cassino
- photographs of the Enola Gay
- photos of the surrender of the famous "hold-out" Japanese forces under the command of Captain Oba in December 1945
- a variety cartoons, cards, road signs, and U.S.O. shows
About Davis and the Photographs
Davis served in the 6th MMAS [Medical Museum and Arts Service] unit during the Second World War. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology/Army Medical Museum in Washington organized units of six personnel plus a commanding officer to furnish medical illustration services to the medical corps in various overseas operations. Starting in 1942 -- and gathering personnel with previous experience -- the units were assembled and given basic medical training plus workshops in medical photography and medical art before deployment. Altogether six such Medical Museum and Arts Service (MMAS) units were deployed, first to India to serve the India/Burma campaigns then to North Africa, England and the South Pacific.
The most significant work of these units was to illustrate the various Army training manuals regarding the use of the new drugs sulfanilimide and penicillin.
While in the MMAS, Davis worked with Melvin C. Shaffer, whose photographs are available in the Melvin C. Shaffer Collection.
Almost immediately after arriving in Naples, Davis was assigned to go to France and photograph medical activities northwest of Dijon, which at the time was near the front line. He spent his time at battalion aid stations, German field hospitals and similar facilities, taking picture after picture that would be used to show the history of Army medical activities in the war and to provide training materials for future generations of soldiers. He worked on his personal photography, as well.
The European war ended while Davis was in the Po Valley area of Italy. He returned to Naples and the 6th MMAS was sent to a staging area near Marseilles, France. He joined 10,000 men on a large vessel and sailed off for the Pacific, where the war with Japan raged on.
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers were scheduled for redeployment to the Pacific after victory in Europe, and Davis’ unit was part of this vast migration. They crossed the Atlantic, passed through the Panama Canal and then, just a day or so away from Pearl Harbor, they learned about the dropping of the atomic bombs. They docked in Hawaii and that evening the Japanese surrender was announced.
But several days later, Davis and his comrades debarked at Saipan in the Mariana Islands -- climbing down rope ladders off the huge ship and into landing crafts that took them to shore. There were still hostile Japanese troops in the hills, and they were warned not to stray up there. Davis’ unit was dissolved and he found himself back in the photographic section of the Signal Corps. But, he reminisces, “There wasn't much to do except swim in the beautiful, crystal-clear water, take scenic photo views, and photograph white grave markers whenever the Red Cross passed on a request from relatives of those who died in the 1944 battle for the island.”
Related World War II Collections
SMU has published two other digital collections of World War II materials: Historic Government Publications from World War II, and Melvin C. Shaffer World War II Photographs.
The Historic Government Publications collection contains reports, propaganda, and other materials distributed by the U.S. Government Printing Office during the Second World War.
Melvin C. Shaffer's images depict life in North Africa, Italy, Southern France, and Germany from 1943 to 1945.
Digital Collections Guidelines and Procedures
Items in Central University Library Digital Collections are digitized following the SMU Central University Libraries Digitization Guidelines and Procedures. Digital collections are created under the guidelines of the CUL Digital Collections: Filenaming, Workflow, and Metadata Guidelines, or through specialized metadata profiles tailored for the collection.
Copyright usage terms vary throughout the collection. Each item contains information about usage terms. If SMU does not have the right to publish the item on the Internet, only the item's metadata will be available and the digitized object will be available on a restricted access basis. Such items may only be viewed on campus. When items are available for use, please cite DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University. A high-quality version of these files may be obtained for a fee by contacting email@example.com.
For more information about the collection, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.