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About this collection

Photographer Hanson A. Williams, Jr. was drafted into service for the Korean War in 1950, shortly after graduating from Pepperdine College in Los Angeles. This collection comprising nearly 2,400 of his photographs provides an intimate, rarely seen, and visually stunning vision of the Korean War. Images document basic training in California, the cramped journey by ship to Japan and Korea, and the full spectrum of the soldier’s experience during the protracted stalemate of 1952. Williams also took his camera into the villages of South Korea, documenting Korean culture and the resilience of a people devastated by war. Images are scanned from negatives, when available, and a number of images are represented by both the negative and a representative print to demonstrate Williams’ work in the darkroom. All images derive from the Hanson A. Williams, Jr. Collection of Photographs and Negatives, which was generously donated to Pepperdine University by his widow, Talma (Tommie) Williams. Material falls into the following seven categories in addition to the suggested browse topics below:

 

Basic Training at Fort Ord. Williams completed basic training at Fort Ord near Monterey, California between December 1950 and April 1951. His photographs chronicle life in basic training in great detail, and many were used in the fort’s newsletter.

 

Assignment to Fort MacArthur. Following Fort Ord, Williams was assigned to Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California during the latter part of 1951. Images here include the fort, but also surrounding areas, such as Los Angeles Harbor and Knott’s Berry Farm.

 

Shipping Out to Korea. This series documents Williams’ shipping out to Korea in January 1952. It includes the staging ground at Camp Stoneman (Pittsburg, CA), travel by ferry to San Francisco, the two-week journey to Japan on the U.S.S Meigs, and a brief equipping and assignment period in Japan (including Camp Drake in Osaka) before the final leg of the journey to Korea.

 

Military Life in Korea. These images capture military life and activities in Korea during the war between February and December of 1952. Williams was assigned to the 226th Signal Company of the Eighth U.S. Army Signal Corps. Many of these images were taken on official assignment, although the majority are his personal photographs.

 

Korean People and Culture. Williams took his personal camera with him on excursions all over South Korea, and became fascinated with the Korean people, chronicling their day-to-day lives and cultural traditions in a war-torn country.

 

Scenic Photography in Korea. Williams turned his photographer’s eye to the urban, rural, and natural landscapes of Korea. Images here range from bombed-out cityscapes to rustic hillside villages.

 

Non-Military Stateside. These images include Williams' work in the United States in the margins of his Korean War experience. They include domestic photos, some commercial work, and his visit to Washington DC for President Eisenhower's inauguration in 1953.

 
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