Week 3 - Pulitzer 1944 - Homecoming - Earle Bunker
by, 10-16-2008 at 05:02 PM (4106 Views)
For week 3 we have another war related photograph. It was the early 1940's after all. It's not your usual front lines shot but one that was much closer to home for the Americans.
Earle Bunker - Homecoming
Camera 4 x 5 Speed Graphic
Mid World War II the town of Villisca, Iowa housed eleven hundred people. It's located fifty miles southeast of Omaha. A real small-town in the middle of America. In a town this small you're bound to know the majority of the population and certainly know of any war heroes returning home.
On 15 July 1943 Lt. Col. Robert Moore's train had arrived home. He and his fellow Iowans had faced off against a notoriously skillful field marshal known as Desert Fox, Field Marshal Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel. Here was a real hero, awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for heroic leadership coming home to his small town where everyone either knew him or of him.
Earle Bunker of the Omaha World-Herald was assigned to cover the story. It was his chance to make a picture somewhat different to the normal depictions of combat that usually graced the front pages. It was his chance to reveal the emotional side that played well with families throughout the country. He waited 24 hours for the train to arrive.
When the train finally screeched to a halt on the platform at Villisca station, a hero, a soldier away for sixteen months stepped off to be greeted by his town. He spotted his wife Dorothy and his seven-year-old daughter Nancy. He dropped his bags as Nancy ran into his arms while his wife wept freely in her cupped hands. Earle Bunker chose his moment carefully and gave us a scene so timeless and emotion filled that it won him the 1944 Pulitzer.
The image is so generic as to represent a whole nation. There is no face to identify the subjects. No flag to tug at your patriotism. No identifying mark other than family love. It could be - and it was - the return of many war heroes across the country and across the world.