The Lasting Impact of Service

by Jen Allen

May 8, 2015 marked 70 years since the end of World War II.  The link between contemporary crafts and the US military is a compelling measure of the power that the arts and crafts have to heal and to communicate.  As a granddaughter of two WWII veterans, I felt it was an appropriate time to revisit Craft in America’s brilliant focus on Service (see link to video below).

While preparing for a recent artist presentation, I sifted through old photos that my grandfather, Bryan Allen, took during WWII. As an official WWII combat photographer, my grandfather saw things that I can't even begin to wrap my head around.  Though he captured a lot of gut-wrenching images of war, he also took a handful of photos of fellow serviceman as they unwrapped care packages/read letters from their loved ones back home.  I find these suspended moments of joy particularly powerful.

Dec 1944.  GI from Long Island, NY reads cable announcing the birth of his son in November.

Dec 1944.  GI from Long Island, NY reads cable announcing the birth of his son in November.

Bryan's sketch in a letter to his wife (one of 613 letters he and my grandmother exchanged during WWII) illustrating the dilemma of a tent with no front flap

Bryan's sketch in a letter to his wife (one of 613 letters he and my grandmother exchanged during WWII) illustrating the dilemma of a tent with no front flap

Dec 1944.  GI from Chicago opens a holiday package from home.

Dec 1944.  GI from Chicago opens a holiday package from home.

 March 1945. Civilians stand in a milk line near Manheim, Germany.

 March 1945. Civilians stand in a milk line near Manheim, Germany.

March 1945.  The heavily damaged Dom Cathedral in Cologne, Germany.

March 1945.  The heavily damaged Dom Cathedral in Cologne, Germany.

March 1945.  The rubble-strewn interior of the Dom Cathedral in Cologne, Germany.

March 1945.  The rubble-strewn interior of the Dom Cathedral in Cologne, Germany.

Bryan Allen, official WWII combat photographer and member of the 165th Signal Photo Company. 

Bryan Allen, official WWII combat photographer and member of the 165th Signal Photo Company. 

When my grandfather returned home from the war, he pursued a career as a studio artist where he primarily focused on nature photography.  This lovely little image of a chickadee was one that has hung in my bedroom since I was a child.  I am so grateful for his service and to the beauty he shared through his camera lens.  Most of all, I am honored to call him family.

Chickadee.

Chickadee.

Follow this link to view Craft in America episode XIII: Service 

http://www.pbs.org/veterans/stories-of-service/stream-tv/a-to-z/craft-in-america-service/