Photo Mystery Monday: November 9, 2015

This is one in a series of posts inviting our users to learn how to get the most information out of historic photos. We’ll post a new photo mystery every Monday, and then follow up with more information about the image on Friday. Get the conversation started by commenting on the blog and sharing it with your friends and family.

What people, objects and activities do you notice? What year do you think this is? Let us know in the comments! Don’t be afraid to state the obvious. Noticing details can lead to greater insight. What can these details tell you about life in Florida at the time the photo was taken?

Try an artist’s trick. Divide the photo into four quadrants and study each section. What new details do you see? Based on what you have observed, what can you infer from this photograph? What questions do you have?

Come back on Friday when we will update the post with more identifying information!


For Teachers: Photo interpretation is a great critical thinking activity for students. The Photo Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives lets you use any photo as an opportunity to analyze primary source documents.

UPDATE: Florida in WWII

As many have observed, this photograph is of African American soldiers, circa 1943, at Camp Gordon Johnston during World War II. These soldiers are shown outside of their barracks. As Kim Atkins noted in the comments below, this photograph shows the soldiers relaxing. Notice the smile on the central standing soldier’s face and the man coming through his legs with an even bigger smile on his face!

On the duck sign, the number “816” indicates the unit number. As an amphibious track company, Unit 816 would be training for beach arrival on an enemy shore. Beaches and marshes provided the perfect classroom for preparing soldiers to engage in amphibious warfare.

For more information on Florida in WWII, check out our new online exhibit here.


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7 thoughts on “Photo Mystery Monday: November 9, 2015

  1. They are on the beach & the man on left has military uniform on. I will say this WWII when the soldiers lived/trained on beach.

  2. My immediate guess would be the base in Carabelle, Florida – Fort Gordon Johnston or perhaps Fort Blanding – I know Blanding had both African American and white soldiers in segregated housing but I am not sure about Gordon Johnston.

  3. African American soldiers taking time to relax and socialize. The set up of buildings and tents looks temporary. The sand indicates they are set up on a beach. There is a message board with messages on it. The duck sign hanging up and the 816 painted on it probably refers to the platoon’s name and section. The duck could also refer to what kind on training is going on such as amphibious training.

  4. I am with Jay. This looks like Fort Gordon Johnston as they did have African-American troops who were segregated. Amphibious landings brings D-Day to mind. 1943? 1944? Nice choice of a picture for Veteran’s Day week.

  5. I made an inquiry to the military archives and received a history of the 816th amphibious truck company. I would love permission to use this photo, as I have only a poor, cropped copy. -Camp Gordon Johnston Museum

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