World War II shook the world so deeply that even today we can’t help but be fascinated by it. The records left behind of both atrocities committed and selfless heroism inspire video games, movies, and countless other forms of modern media. But would you believe that people are still finding never-before-seen records (things like photographs and letters) detailing WWII?
In 2014 an exciting bit of news spread across the Internet- the belongings of WWII Technician 5th Grade Louis Archambeau had been discovered in a foxhole by two men searching for artifacts from the Battle of the Bulge. Even better news- there was a camera among the items that still had viable film inside.
WWII was recorded by thousands of photographers who took millions of photos for posterity, so images from the era aren’t exceedingly rare. However, the world’s curiosity was sparked by the thought of seeing photos taken not by a professional photographer showing military movements, but instead by a soldier unknowingly documenting his final days in the trenches. The images were shared by thousands across various platforms and hailed as an amazing addition to the public records regarding WWII.
Unfortunately, this same curiosity and excitement was soon snuffed out by a message posted online by Archambeau’s great-nephew: “I have removed the photos that were originally posted. Unfortunately, embarrassingly, and dishearteningly, at least two of the photos have been found in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and were not from Louis’s camera. Thus, I have removed the entire set.”
2015 brings new found excitement though, this time over a special endeavor created by photographer Levi Bettwieser: The Rescued Film Project. Bettwieser spends his spare time salvaging undeveloped film from between the 1930’s and late 1990’s that is donated to him or that he purchases. Bettwieser is passionate about “rescuing” film, stating “Every image in The Rescued Film Project at some point, was special for someone. Each frame captured, reflects a moment that was intended to be remembered. The picture was taken, the roll was finished, wound up, and for reasons we can only speculate, was never developed. These moments never made it into photo albums, or framed neatly on walls. We believe that these images deserve to be seen, so that the photographer’s personal experiences can be shared. Forever marking their existence in history.”
Bettwieser recently found 31 rolls of unprocessed film from an unknown World War II soldier, labeled with names like Lucky Strike Beach, start of train trip, and roll of French funeral, at an auction in Ohio. There were several issues that are common with old film that could have stopped Bettwieser’s work including water damage and rust, but luck was on his side and he was able to work with most of the rolls enough to recover dozens of images that had never been seen before.
Advanced Background Checks tips our hat to Levi Bettwieser for his hard work in preserving the people records left behind, thereby preserving history. You can see the process used by Mr. Bettwieser in the video below. You can also view a slideshow of the recovered photos on The Rescued Film Project’s website– who knows; maybe you’ll find people that you recognize!