Monday, January 14, 2013

A Fragment of WWII History

Every once in a while something comes into our studio that is so unique that even we are in awe. A few weeks ago a man walked in with a fragment of a map. The fragment was a corner of a European map that showed Iceland and the Atlantic Ocean. More important was what was on the map which was the handwritten records of 36 bombing missions through France, Holland and Germany as a WWII B-17 pilot.

The pilot was Robert Kohler, the client's father, who had kept this map tucked away for almost 70 years. Robert Kohler was a lieutenant in the 351st Bomber group in the US 8th Air Force that was based in Northamptonshire, England and was a pilot in the 511th squadron.


Looking at this map and the photos the client brought in reminded us of many of the propaganda posters that Poster Mountain has worked on over the years.

WWII was one of the most prolific periods for American propaganda posters. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the US entered the war, many of them were meant to build the public's confidence in the military. 

Others were meant to encourage the public to buy bonds and encourage industry to support supplies for the troops.

This small scrap of paper that our client brought in seems innocuous at first glance, but it is a window into the mind of one man who was part of one of the most bloody wars in modern history. The map was originally torn into four different parts, but the client wanted to preserve it. We took a very minimal approach. It was humidified to help the creases relax and then it was put into the heat press to flatten it out completely. Once it was flat, tissue was applied to the tears from the back to stabilize all of the sections and hold them together again.  

Number 9 on the list is Sept 17th, 1944 - Grosebeck, Holland which was a key day in WWII. Lieutenant Kohler's squadron was flying tactical support for Operation Market Garden. Market Garden was the code name given to a plan that was hoped would shorten the war by 6 months, by allowing the bogged down Allied troops to quickly break through the German lines at the Dutch/German border around Arnhem, Holland. To aid the forces already on the ground, thirty thousand British and American paratroopers were flown into the region. 

Through a combination of lack of intelligence, chaos and over confidence Market Garden failed to punch through the German lines. Hindsight now suggests that junior officers had tried to bring to attention German troop movements and the increase in armored vehicles  in the area, but the commanders decided to move ahead. Paratroopers were dropped in over two days. Many were killed in the air, defenseless against German guns. Those that reached the ground became bogged down trying to take the 8 bridges necessary for the success of the mission. Eventually a retreat was called. All told over 50% of the Allied forces were killed, wounded or captured during this mission. 

What comes down to one succinct line on this map, was in fact one of the most disastrous operations of the entire war for the Allied forces. By the end of 1944, America had been involved in WWII for 3 years and the toll it was taking was beginning to show. This was reflected in some of the most brutal poster images from this era. 

 When air strikes first began, the British and ultimately American air force, were aiming for industrial areas and predominately attacked on Sundays. This was in the hopes of sparing civilian lives, to simply create chaos for the Germans to deal with and to dampen German morale. As the war progressed the attacks from both sides became more and more brutal, with each side hoping to break the other. Not to minimize any of the missions flown, all of which carried a great amount of risk of death or capture for those on board, but another key mission was December 12, 1944 - Meresburg, Germany.


This mission was one of 22 flown by the 8th Air Force to the Germany Leuna Factory, one of Germany's biggest synthetic oil and chemical producers of the war. It was heavily defended by German troops and was one of the riskiest targets to bomb, in fact the British RAF deemed it too dangerous, so it was only American planes that attacked this site. There is a YouTube video about these missions called Anywhere But Meresburg:

Before 1944 most flying members of the air force's tour of duty was 25 missions. In 1944, this was pushed to 30 missions. Many crew-members who had been counting down to their last few missions now saw their tours extended. With this came an increase in the ever present possibility of death. Even in the B-17s, know as Flying Fortresses, the chance of surviving was only 1 in 4 of completing a tour. That makes this map and and the 36 missions Lieutenant Kohler flew even more inspirational. 

And when the war in Europe finally ended and our Lt. Kohler got to go home, we then went on to fight the Japanese in the Pacific theater. Perhaps some of the most bloody combat of the entire war. The posters from the Pacific theater are particularly graphic and often disturbing. 


Not really sure how to end this one, except to express our profound gratitude not only to Lt. Kohler, but all of our service men and women who have fought, killed and died for our way of life and to preserve our ideals. 

It should be noted that several crucial steps in our process have been omitted. If you have any questions please contact us via email at or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: and Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!

1 comment:

  1. life is an adventure. mountain adventure is one of them. liked your site.
    paul's outdoor adventures