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Current exhibit: Online Exhibit: G.I. with a Camera: Wartime Photographic Memoirs of Clarence M. McClymonds
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G.I. with a Camera:  Wartime Photographic Memoirs of Clarence M. McClymonds

In early 1945, about seven months after the D-Day invasion, Clarence McClymonds, a 19-year-old son of a mid-western Presbyterian minister, landed in Normandy, France.

Assigned as a radio technician to the 1255th Engineer (Combat) Battalion, the young McClymonds, a camera buff since high school, quickly befriended other photographers in the company. Between them, using Army-issued and “liberated” cameras and darkroom equipment, McClymonds and his friends documented their wartime experiences in England, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium.

The 1255th saw action in the last three campaigns of World War II in Europe, namely the Battle of the Ardennes Forest (“Battle of the Bulge”), the Battle of the Rhineland, and the Battle of Central Germany.

Within months after his return to the States, Staff Sergeant McClymonds, corresponding with his messmates—especially his close friend Tom Irvine, who had been the official battalion photographer during much of the tour of duty—he assembled a photographic memoir of his European tour in two albums.  These two albums contain over 300 images in chronological order, with captions, as well as hand-drawn maps.

The subjects of McClymonds’s photography include everyday barracks life; the battalion’s work re-building bridges and hospitals; local refugees, prisoners of war and displaced persons; war-torn countrysides and cityscapes; and other horrors of war.

Now a retired engineer, McClymonds and his family have been part of the Charlottesville community since the 1980s. As a long-time member of the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, McClymonds was one of the first of scores of local veterans to volunteer to be interviewed for the Society’s Veterans History Project, part of a national effort being coordinated by the Library of Congress. Working with Society staff, interns and volunteers, McClymonds has given hours of oral history interviews about his wartime life.

The online exhibit includes the original pages as they were laid out and captioned by Mr. McClymonds, as well as the individual images, maps, chronology, and patches and insignia.

On the pages, the original handwritten captions appear.  With the individual images, if any caption appears from the albums as well as excerpts from recent oral history interviews conducted by Historical Society staff, volunteers and interns.  The individual photographs are presented in the same, essentially chronological, order in which they appeared in the books.  Note: in the albums are a number of recent photographs in color and black and white, taken on return visits within the last 20 years.

Included in Mr. McClymonds’s books were several of his own maps that documented the course of the 1255th Engr. (C.) Bn. through England, France, Luxembourg and Germany.  Mr. McClymonds also created a highly detailed chronology of the unit’s actions in Europe during 1945.

Several examples of army patches and unit insignia accompanied Mr. McClymonds work, and are included in this online exhibit.

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