About the Collection
Holding library: DeGolyer Library
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Frank J. Davis’ frontline photographs and images portray life during World War II, including images from Washington, DC,
Italy, France, and Saipan.
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.
Holdings and Highlights
Some of the highlights of the Davis collection are:
About Davis and the Photographs
Davis served in the 6th Museum and Medical Arts Service (MAMAS) 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 MAMAS 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 MAMAS, 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 MAMAS 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.”
SMU has published two other digital collections of World War II materials:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.