The material documented in this 17 April 1944 LIFE magazine article are the effects of dead soldiers. It was surprising to see this sort of coverage, given the place and the time: I do not think that we will see photographs like this for our currents wars. The title of this short photo essay—the shockingly stunted and bald “Dead Men’s Things”—should certainly have been something else with more dignity than a movie title for a schlock Hollywood B-production of the ‘50’s.The article is weirdly disjointed and heavy handed considering the great and respectful duty at hand. I’m not saying that the writer didn’t understand the enormity of the situation, as the article puts it quite well: “To the people who go there, it seems a more sacred place than a cemetery and the ordinary things it handles seem the best kind of memorials to men who will never return…” The clumsy manner in which the whole deal is presented was probably a series of unfortunate errors by a time-pressed editor.
The story of the belongings of the killed servicemen goes
like this: the effects were collected by the quartermaster corps in a small village
It sounds like an overwhelming job, helping in the attempt
to deliver the high honor of restoring the last objects carried by a dead son
into battle to his parents. The thing I
can’t get out of my mind is the continuous rising tide of bags and boxes coming
1. “The job of the Commanding Officer, who is the Effects Quartermaster (Continent), is to receive and safeguard thousands of' packages of irreplaceable personal property until they can be returned to the owner or forwarded to the Army Effects Bureau at Kansas City for disposition. Q-290 serves as a holding and reconsignment depot in transmitting the property of casualties from the unit in the field back to the owner, or in forwarding property of deceased to the U. S.”