My Buddy: World War Two Laid Bare, ed by Dian Hanson, book review


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Every harrowing day for a serviceman during the Second World War was potentially his last. To help bolster troops against the horrors of combat, many commanders encouraged them to form tight “buddy” relationships for emotional support.

Many war buddies, depending on each other to survive, formed intimate friendships. When they weren’t fighting side by side, they relaxed together, discharging tension in boisterous – sometimes naked – play. The full extent of nude horseplay among men during the Second World War can’t be known, as cameras were rare and film hard to process, but some men did document this male bonding in small, anonymous photos mostly kept hidden away until their deaths.

Los Angeles photographer Michael Stokes has spent years searching out these photos and building an archive of more than 500 images. His collection includes soldiers and sailors cavorting on the sand in the South Pacific, shivering in the snow of Eastern Europe, posing solo in the barracks, and in great happy groups just about everywhere. (Of course, it contains full frontal nudity.)