The names: 1. Zwinge, 2. Shedd, 3. Day, 4. Burnham, 5. Kimball, 6. Seale, 7. Priebe
In an album of vintage photos I have collected through the years one of my favorites is the photograph I found at a yard sale featuring eight WWI soldiers. Two of the men are holding what appears to be grapes in their hats. Two others are holding small boxes. I've tried very hard to read what is written on the boxes, but the writing is too blurry. A previous owner of the photo taped a list of the men's names to the back. He numbered each man and by the corresponding number wrote his name. The top of the list is dated, "France, Oct. 1917."
I've always assumed the men are Americans. They look American, their names seem to be American, and the uniforms based on other photos seem to be American. America first went into France to aid in the war in June 1917. This is four months before the date of the photo. These men don't look as if they've seen much battle. They are possibly newly arrived at the front. They are clean. Their uniforms are not torn and they seem so cheerful, so unaware of the fate that awaits them. I think it is the grapes that move me the most. I can imagine the men, relatively untraveled, marveling at being in France, seeing the grape vines and then like children picking some.
There's no way to know their ultimate fate short of studying war records based on the last names here. Possibly it was not good. WWI has been called one of the deadliest conflicts in history. Ten million people, civilian and military, were killed as a result of the war. Most died in combat, but disease, mainly influenza killed many. The USA alone lost 116,708 soldiers. Russia lost over one million.
Now these men are frozen in time in a moment of relaxation and even happiness. I don't think I want to know what came next.
(See more WWI photos)