Melvin C. Shaffer World War II Photographs housed at the DeGolyer Library depict local populations and conditions of North Africa, Italy, Southern France, and Germany from the years 1943 to 1945. Included are images of war-torn Europe with shattered buildings, wounded soldiers, army hospitals and bases, and even Mount Vesuvius’s eruption in 1944.
Melvin Shaffer With Cine Special Motion Picture Camera, 8th Evacuation Hospital, Italy, 1943.
Melvin Shaffer was born May 9, 1924 in Shinnston, West Virginia, a rural town with an economy based on mining and oil fields. After high school, he attended college in Phillipi, West Virginia. While there, he worked as a medical photographer at a local hospital.
World War II interrupted Shaffer’s college experience, and he enlisted in the army in 1943 at the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C. He received training as a medical corpsman and further training as a medical photographer. In August 1943, Shaffer was transferred to Northern Africa. During the course of the next two years, he traveled extensively to such places as Casablanca, Sicily, Salerno, Naples, Anzio, Rome, Florence, Poltava, Southern France, Dachau, Munich, Berlin, Nuremburg and Paris.
Shaffer explained his wartime duties, “Beginning in Italy, these assignments expanded beyond the development of instructional materials to encompass the documentation of the medical history of the war. This ultimately involved making motion pictures of every major campaign in Italy, the invasion of southern France, and the final push across southern Europe to Dachau and ultimately to Berlin — the emphasis always being on filming medical care, from the battlefield to the final disposition of a case.”
Berlin, Late May, 1945.
To access the Shaffer online WWII collection at the DeGolyer, see: https://www.smu.edu/libraries/digitalcollections/mcs/
Melvin Shaffer has written an autobiography published by the DeGolyer Library. To order, see: https://secure.touchnet.net/C21403_ustores/web/product_detail.jsp?PRODUCTID=1946&SINGLESTORE=true
By Anne Peterson, Curator of Photographs, DeGolyer Library, SMU