Veterans: The Faces of World War II

Ichiro Sudan trained to be a kamikaze…

Roscoe Brown was a commander in the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators.

Charin Singh, a farmer from Delhi, spent seven years as a Japanese prisoner of war and was not sent home until four years after the war ended.

Uli John lost an arm serving in the German army but ultimately befriended former enemy soldiers as part of a network of veterans-people who fought in the war and know what war really means.

These are some of the faces and stories in the remarkable Veterans, the outcome of a worldwide project by Sasha Maslov to interview and photograph the last surviving combatants from World War II.

Soldiers, support staff and resistance fighters candidly discuss wartime experiences and their lifelong effects in this unforgettable, intimate record of the end of a cataclysmic chapter in world history and tribute to the members of an indomitable generation.Veterans is also a meditation on memory, human struggle and the passage of time.

The following is an extract from Veterans: Faces of World War II.


Ken Smith

Portsmouth, England

Veteran Ken Smith

My name is Ken Smith. I was born on April 12, 1922, in Portsmouth. My parents were very religious. I was in the dockyard choir. I left school at thirteen. I worked on houses. I used to make flights of stairs until the war, when timber became so scarce the government commandeered all of it.

I remember the day the war broke out. I was in church that day. At eleven, Chamberlain was going to make an announcement. I ran home. I remember him saying, “We are at a state of war.” We were told to be ready for air raids. The first thing I did, I went down to the bottom of the garden and dug a big trench about eight feet long. I was there the whole day, expecting an air raid that night. But during the night, it rained heavily. I couldn’t stay there. The next morning it was filled up with water.

I loved football, and a friend of mine said, “Join the Royal Marines; you’ll get plenty of football.” I joined when I was eighteen. I did six months of training near Dover, where we expected the invasion to begin. Every night we used to stand on the beaches. When the invasion didn’t happen, I was moved to Plymouth. I passed two naval gunnery courses and was sent up on a ship in Newcastle, HMS Manchester.


Haku Kikuchi

Tsukuba-Shi, Japan

Veteran Hakushu Kikuchi

I was born in the Ibaraki Prefecture on June 10, 1929. I was born into a family of farmers; I didn’t find much difficulty in getting food. Generally, the quality of life was low in Japan. It must have been hard for others. My father was a fisherman before he was married. He sailed on a big ship, traveling all over the world, to America and Great Britain. He married a woman from the next town over. I was the fourth of six children and the only boy. We mostly farmed when we were young. The other men in the area went on to be soldiers. I began training in 1941, in Kashima city, at twelve years old. I was young. I wanted to help out Japan. I had no fear of death. We had been taught that we should be honoured to die for the country. Everyone was brainwashed. We all thought it was noble to die for Japan. So I applied to become a child pilot when I turned fourteen.


Read more from these incredible stories, plus stories from 48 more veterans, in Sasha Maslov’s Veterans: Faces of World War II. 

Veterans

#OfficeWornStories – Francesca

Today we are continuing our celebration of Emily Spivack’s Worn Stories with a tale of over priced merchandise and underage festivalling from our publicity intern Francessca.

My Worn Story –  A t-shirt from an under-age festival in 2008

What can I say? I was 14, my hair braided so tightly to my scalp that I had lost most of the sensation in my temples and I was going to my first ever festival. Too young for the sex and drugs, I decided it would have to be the rock-and-roll that would see my friend and I through, and I think I may have been right.

I bought this shirt after a lot of umming and ahhing about the price, wondering what my Mum would say when she found out I’d spent £15 (the equivalent of 4 whole magazines and a bottle of diet coke) on a T-shirt, that, she would later claim, “never really fitted anyway”. After scrambling through the crowd, crumpled notes in my hand, I grabbed the nearest one that looked like it might fit, and promptly ducked to avoid the vast array of hands reaching towards the counter. It wasn’t really until later that I actually got to look at it properly.

Every band of the festival was there, splayed across in bright colours and I remember the feeling of wanting to tick everyone off like a list. And I’ll be honest, I nearly did. Florence & The Machine (when they were still doing covers because they hadn’t written enough songs), Glasvegas (who have indeed always looked that hungover), The Gallows (I maintain that no one’s skinny jeans should be quite that skinny, and a thousand names I didn’t get the chance to see. It was an experience made flesh, or cloth rather, and I wore like a badge of pride. It beats the bruises that I seem to wear from other gigs I’ve been to since.

Now it seems to only be brought out as pyjamas or when I have done washing in a while, but it still holds the feeling of standing in a field, surrounded by people, music blaring so hard I could taste my heartbeat, and feeling like the coolest person in the entire world.

– Francesca

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Worn Stories by Emily Spivack -PAPress – OUT NOW!

#OfficeWornStories – Maddy

We are celebrating the release of Emily Spivack’s Worn Stories with some of our own tales!

Read on for a story of how one pair of shoes travelled the world!

Madeleine Hall – A&CB’s Digital Whiz & on pair of, I swear they used to be white, Converse.

It all started when I was studying for my A-levels; a burning desire to travel the world settled itself in my brain. Partly as a chance to prove that despite being small in size, at a towering 5ft and ½ an inch, I was independent, brave & at least a little bit interesting. With some reluctance from my father, despite my mother’s willingness to send me out the door with a kiss on the head & a ten pound note for luck, I decided to travel, on my own, around Australasia before heading off to University.

I worked all the hours I could at my local supermarket, to save for my trip & with my final pay cheque I invested in a pair of shoes to take with me. The sensible purchase would have been a sturdy pair of walking shoes, at a push some well fitted running trainers. But limited space & my fashion conscious, by then 18 year old, brain, meant I chose a pair of white Converse high-tops.

Oh but the places those white converse would take me!

I remember the way they squeaked as I walked away from my parents, wondering if this really was the smartest idea, through Heathrow security. I remember running up some stairs at LAX where I had left my book with my passport stuffed in it in the toilet. I remember jumping off the world’s second highest bungee jump with them on. I remember straddling two Australian states at the point they met. I remember horse riding through New Zealand wearing them, humming tunes from Lord of the Rings. I remember the day they turned peach as I trekked through a jungle in Fiji…I remember arriving home with the same shoes on my feet as I had left in, and how they carried me out the door a few weeks later to the sunny Brighton coast for university.

Those Converse, bought out of vanity, became my most trusted pair of shoes, I never travelled without them. Including the trip I christened them; the soles of that ill-advised purchase have trod on the soil of 10 countries and 4 continents. They have literally taken my feet on an adventure. It was a heartbreaking day when those well travelled shoes finally gave up the give. RIP white Converse, may your replacements take me as far as you did.

Worn Stories by Emily Spivack -PAPRESS – OUT NOW!

Worn Stories – Piper Kerman

You know they say a picture is worth a 1000 words, well Emily Spivack has proven that an old item of clothing is worth even more.

In her book Worn Stories, Emily has collected tales from cultural figures & talented storytellers. These narratives, or more accurately mini memoirs, are inspiring & a beautiful account of everyday life. By turns poignietn, tragic and funny Worn Stories is a little tapestry of the everyday, sewn together by old items of well worn clothing.

Keep reading for Piper Kerman‘s (author of the memoir Orange is the New Black) contribution!

Piper Kerman:

I have loved vintage clothing since I was in high school, thrifting the racks or raiding my grandparents’ attics and closets. I attended a lot of morning college classes clad in old men’s pajamas. Skinny-lapeled men’s suit jackets over miniskirts were a favorite in my twenties. I’ve worn crepe dresses from the thirties and forties to friends’ weddings, and when I was getting married I found my fiancé the white silk suit of a dead Chinese diplomat to wear on the big day (I got one of the diplomat’s wife’s cheongsams for me).


In my professional life I’m less inclined to wear vintage. When I was caught in a criminal case in federal court in Chicago in my late twenties I wore my most sober gray and brown pantsuits to court arraignments and plea negotiations, because when you’re appearing on the docket, believe me, you wish you could disappear into the woodwork of the courtroom.

However, when I went to Chicago for what I thought was my final court appearance, my sentencing, camouflage was not an option. I had taken a plea deal—95 percent of criminal defendants do. As your case wends through the system, you barely speak in court; the prosecutor and defense attorney do most of the talking. Unlike 80 percent of criminal defendants, I could afford to hire a lawyer, and I was lucky that he was a very good and experienced one. He had advocated long and hard with the prosecutor on my behalf, and then the day came where his work and my case would be decided by the judge, a Reagan appointee to the federal bench.


Most criminal defendants wear whatever they are given by their attorney or family to their sentencing; a lot of people are too poor to afford bail, and so they have been wearing jailhouse orange for many months before ever getting their day in court. I was much more fortunate; when I flew to Chicago to be sentenced to prison, I had three choices of court attire in my suitcase. A cadet-blue pantsuit, a very severe navy coatdress, and a wild card I had packed at the last minute: a vintage fifties pencil-skirt suit I had bought on eBay, in a coffee and cream tweed with a subtle sky blue check. It looked like something a Hitchcock heroine would have worn.

“That’s the one,” said my lawyer, pointing to the skirt suit. “We want the judge to be reminded of his own daughter or niece or neighbor when he looks at you.” For someone standing for judgment, the importance of being seen as a complete human being, someone who is more than just the contents of the file folders that rest on the bench in front of His or Her Honor, cannot be overstated. To enter the courtroom ready for whatever would happen, I wanted to be dressed to represent me, which was much more than a few months of my life ten years past. The eBay suit worked as a counterbalance to my decade-old neck tattoo (which would serve me so well months later in prison), two visual signals on the opposite sides of the scales of justice on that day.

Piper Kerman is the author of the memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, which was adapted into an original television series for Netflix-Official.

Photo ©Ally Lindsay
Extract from Worn Stories by Emily Spivack, pp79, published by papress, September 2014.