harrison forman

Tragedy On Deck of the USS Augusta: First American Military Casualty of World War II

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By Susan Dykes

On August 20, 1937, the crew of the USS Augusta which was docked in Shanghai, China were gathering for a morale-boosting movie on deck.  Their night of entertainment, however, turned into a devastating incident which would become a significant moment in World War II history.

In the midst of one of the fiercest battles between Japanese and Chinese forces, the USS Augusta reached Shanghai just days before the incident on ‘Bloody Saturday,’ August 14, 1937.  Though the United States had not officially entered the war at the time, the ship and crew were tasked to protect and help evacuate American and European citizens from the escalating danger in the international settlements of the Bund – the central business district of Shanghai.  Marines from the USS Augusta were joined by those from the USS Sacramento to also protect Shanghai’s power plant, an operation that put the sailors directly in the line of fire.

The USS Augusta was thought to be secure on the night of the on-deck movie, despite the ship being surrounded by fighting and the presence of Japanese ships anchored in the nearby Huangpu River.

As the sailors were preparing to watch the movie with screen and benches brought from below, an anti-aircraft shell landed on deck sending shrapnel into the crowd taking the life of 1st Class Seaman Freddie John Falgout and injuring eighteen other sailors.  Falgout, a native of Raceland, Louisiana, was about to celebrate his 21st birthday the next day.  News of the incident quickly reached the United States, appearing in major newspapers and on the cover of the New York Times.

American Geographical Society Library staff discovered rare images of the aftermath of the incident in the AGSL Photographic Collections.  The images, showing injured sailors and the deck where the shell hit, were taken by Harrison Forman and are available online in the UWM Digital Collections.

Shanghai (China), wounded sailor and others inspecting deck of U.S.S. Augusta
Shanghai (China), wounded sailor and others inspecting deck of U.S.S. Augusta

Link: http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agsphoto/id/12595


Shanghai (China), wounded sailor on deck of U.S.S. Augusta
Shanghai (China), wounded sailor on deck of U.S.S. Augusta

Link: http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agsphoto/id/12599


The Battle of Shanghai lasted months, eventually resulting in the Japanese occupation of Shanghai.  It was considered one of many military battles that led to World War II, thereby making Falgout the first American military casualty of the war.  In 1987, Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr (D) from Louisiana, honored Falgout as such, submitting an article about the incident from the Sacramento Union, which was printed in the Congressional Record.

View all images of the USS Augusta http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/search/searchterm/forman%20augusta/field/all/mode/all/conn/and/order/title/ad/asc/cosuppress/0



The Harrison Forman Photo Collection

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By Susan Dykes

I was recently asked what my favorite image is in the Harrison Forman Collection.  Having become intimately familiar with tens of thousands of images Harrison Forman took, it was an overwhelming and almost impossible request to say the least.  There are so many!  Harrison Forman, photojournalist and adventurer, travelled the world from the 1930s through the 1970s.  He was prolific, wielding his camera to capture major historical events, and the economies, infrastructures, politics, societies, educational systems, and cultures of the places he visited.

By far my favorite kinds of images Forman took are of the people living in many of these places, asking them to take a moment from their daily lives practicing their trades, spending time with their families, and simply enjoying life, to pose for a photo.  Of the thousands of portraits and group photos he took, I found those of the Berber people living in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco among the most striking and beautiful in the collection.

My favorite image, taken in the 1960s, shows a Berber woman in the foreground, eyes closed, wearing a delicate lace veil and coin jewelry, two Berber men behind her in traditional clothing wearing turbans, and another man in the background, photo bombing the shot.

Morocco, Berber people from Atlas Mountains http://collections.lib.uwm.edu/cdm/ref/collection/agsafrica/id/5286

There’s something very serene about the woman.  Perhaps she just blinked, but I choose to think she was soaking up the sun on her face and possibly the moment.  The two men, eager to be a part of the photograph, looking directly at the camera and the man in the back with a look of wonder, curious about the activity.

Forman’s enthusiasm about documenting people and cultures outside of the Western world is evident in this photograph.  He wanted to share the beauty of people in places unfamiliar to us at the time of his work, which in an historical context, makes a much richer scholarly endeavor today.

While this image is in black and white, as well as the other images of the Berbers in the UWM Libraries Digital Collections online, the Harrison Forman Collection includes over 50,000 color slides that have yet to be digitized, some of which Forman took of the Berber people.  It is our hope that we will be able to obtain the funding to digitize the slides in the near future and make them accessible online, in all their full color glory!

In the meantime, check out the rest of Forman’s images of the Berber people in Morocco:


And, explore images of the other people around the world Forman photographed:


If you have questions about the Harrison Forman Collection, or would like to know more about the color slides, please contact Susan Peschel at the American Geographical Society Library.