SIGNAL Nazi Germany’s Life Magazine

Nazis seized Seize Greece then Endeavor to Look Helpful

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1 August 1943. A helpful German soldier showing a copy of Signal in Greek to an Orthodox resident of the ancient monastic state of Mount Athos. (photo courtesy of Andrew Zoller).

Many organizations in the Third Reich produced publications of every sort. Through late 1944 the Kriegsmarine produced its own highly sophisticated five color magazine. But the best known was the Life Magazine knockoff, Signal which was produced by the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment.  This ministry was run by the evil, criminal, and despicable toad, Joseph Goebbels.

Union General U.S. Grant on the cover of a Signal Magazine in Dutch, 1944

 

All propaganda publications in the Third Reich were written by professional journalists and illustrated by professional artists and photographers. Signal was quite a sophisticated publication and presented German soldiers as being tough against their military opponents but gentle and fun with civilians. Lots of photos show German soldiers playing with children who are usually blonde. This type of propaganda tried to counter the reality of the bloody, evil, and murderous nature of the Third Reich.

The famous US publication Life Magazine, whose format was copied by Signal,  was printed on glossy paper. The Germans didn’t have the capacity to produce large amounts of glossy paper for magazines so  Signal was printed on newsprint paper. I have about a dozen different copies I bought over the years mainly as curiosities. However, a number of people collect them and some have amassed every single issue published.

Signal was published from April 1940 through May of 1945. This was a major propaganda effort by the Nazis and the scope of it is revealed in these statistics from the website of Signal researcher and scholar, Andrew Zoller.

Signal was published monthly in 30 languages at its peak, including English.

During the barbarous reign of the Nazi empire, approximately 32,000 news vendors in 20,000 towns and cities and sold Signal.

Peak circulation of 2,426,000 copies came in May 1943.

160,000,000 copies were printed during the years of the magazine’s existence (estimated).

 

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Signal Magazine in French 1940 showing German soldiers walking on the beaches of Dunkirk from which the British Expeditionary Force was rescued and taken off at significant loss by the Royal Navy. (Heroic small boats played a role as well but 80% of the troop lift was done by the RN)
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a cover which depicts the takeover of all Europe by the Soviet Union, a fear the Germans constantly reminded Europeans about.
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Signal Magazine in Russian. I presume this cover shows a Russian soldier in the service of the German Armed forces. Estimates vary of the number of Soviet citizens who fought for the Germans. The low estimate is approximately one million with other estimates going as high as three million. The Ukraine was an especially fertile recruiting ground for the German Army and the SS.

 

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Signal Magazine in French
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Those ever friendly U-Boat Men–except when attacking Allied shipping— on cover Signal Magazine from 1943. (collection of author Charles McCain)

Margaret Bourke-White’s Photos of US Bombers

This collection of images come from a Life Magazine retrospective about Margaret Bourke-White’s photography and includes the following note:

“To photograph Bomber Command, Life sent photographer Margaret Bourke-White to the headquarters of Brigadier general Ira. C. Eaker, commander in chief of Bomber Command, and to one of the secret airfields from which the Flying Fortresses operate… Miss Bourke-White’s pictures arrived in the US just when the Bomber Command was making its biggest sorties. Flying Fortresses roared out over the Channel and attacked German industries in the Lille region. Another group of six Fortresses a few days before dropped 600lb. bombs directly on the German airfield at St. Omer, France. On the way home they were attached by 35 crack Nazi pursuits. When the brief fight was over, at least 13 Germans were plunging earthward and the six Fortresses were sailing on. Another time a Fortress came back to England with one motor shot away, one disabled, a third missing badly, and with 12 cannon holes and 2,000 machine-gun holes in the fuselage. Still other squadrons of Fortresses scored better than 70 percent hits in their first two weeks of bombing operations over Europe. “Fantastic accuracy,” said the British.

Bomber Command was ready. It was confident that although still small, it would grow and grow, and as it grew, the intensity and terribleness of the attack on Germany would grow with it, until he skies of Europe would be blacked and its earth furrowed with American bombs.”

Bourke-White, one of Life magazine’s original four staff photographers, was America’s first accredited woman photographer during WWII, and the first authorized to fly on a combat mission. For decades she covered conflicts, civil wars, humanitarian crises, and natural disasters. She documented segregation in the American South, was the last person to interview Gandhi before he was assassinated, was one of the first photographers to document the liberation of Nazi death camps and survived a torpedo attack while traveling by ship to North Africa in 1943 and was briefly married to the American writer Erskine Caldwell (God’s Little Acre, Tobacco Road). Widely recognized as one of the greatest photojournalists of the 20th century, she died in 1971. She was 67 years old.

I encourage you to explore more of her work.

Photographer Margaret Bourke-White with the US Bomber Command in England, 1942.

World War II in Color: American Bombers and Their Crews, 1942

Working on a bomber’s ball-turret during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber crew member with stuffed good-luck charm during World War II, England, 1942.

Working on an American bomber, England, 1942.

American bomber crew member during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber and crew during World War II, England, 1942.

Loading bombs on an American bomber during World War II, England, 1942.

American bomber during World War II, England, 1942.

[Source and Images: Life Magazine.]

The Breakout Of The 1st Marines From The Chosin Reservoir: An American Epic Of Courage – Part 30

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An upset young Marine is comforted after the jeep he was driving hit a landmine around the Naktong River in August 1950.

I ran this photograph in a previous post about the extraordinary war photography of David Douglas Duncan. The other day, while reading more about him, I came across this gut-wrenching story later told by the photographer in a long interview in Life Magazine.

Finally, there’s one brief story Duncan tells about these pictures — or rather, about one particular picture — that illustrates the bleak wastefulness of combat more perfectly than countless volumes about warfare ever have, or ever will. Weeks after taking his now-famous picture (the fifth image in this gallery) [the one above] of a weeping Corp. Leonard Hayworth, Duncan handed Hayworth a copy of the September 18, 1950, issue of Life magazine. There, taking up almost all of page 41, was that very photograph of Hayworth himself, crying.

“Hayworth looked at that huge picture of himself, in the biggest photo magazine in the world,” Duncan says. “He didn’t say anything. He just smiled. He looked like Errol Flynn, about six-foot-three, a tall, handsome Marine. And no one’s saying anything, none of his buddies are saying a word, looking at this picture of him with tears running down his cheeks, and after a while an old sergeant behind him says, ‘We all cry sometimes.’”

The next day, on September 25th — the three-month anniversary of the start of the Korean War — a North Korean sniper shot Corporal Leonard Hayworth dead.

[Source: Life Magazine. Image courtesy of Time Magazine.]

The Breakout Of The 1st Marines From The Chosin Reservoir: An American Epic Of Courage – Part 27

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The photography of David Douglas Duncan

David Douglas Duncan in 1950

Marine Capt. Francis Ike Fenton looking grim after learning his first sergeant was killed and his unit is out of ammunition during a heavy North Korean counterattack along the Naktong River in August 1950.

LIFE photographers Carl Mydans (L) and David Douglas Duncan (R) relaxing during a lull in the Korean war.

As I wrote in my previous post about the US Marines at the Chosin Reservoir: One of the most important advantages the Marines possessed over the Chinese was an intangible moral strength common to elite units.

Combat photographer David Douglas Duncan seems to have captured this essence in many of his photographs of Marines at war. There is an authenticity to his photographs which comes from the natural bond of trust he had with Marines, having been a Marine himself.

A weary, exhausted Marine wrapping himself in a sleeping bag against the cold and clutching a can of food during a retreat from fierce fighting around the Changjin Reservoir in December 1950.

[Images courtesy of Life Magazine and Time Magazine.]