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Former IU professor publishes book of photos from his time as World War II Army photographer

June 1, 2016

“I would like to dedicate this book to all veterans of World War II, most of whose stories are left untold but are no less worthy.”

If you ask Malcolm “Mac” Fleming about his World War II experience, he will tell you it was neither normal nor meritorious. Simply put, it is his, and it's just as important has anybody else’s. This is evident in the wording of the book’s dedication.

After World War II ended, people like Fleming knew the fighting was the only thing that had really stopped. Post-war, tens of thousands of people’s lives were uprooted, in shambles and still needing to be pieced back together.

Enter to win

Current faculty and staff using a valid IU email address can enter to win a copy of "From War to Peace in 1945 Germany," a $45 value, published by IU Press. The contest opens June 1 and closes 4 p.m. Monday, June 6, 2016.

Fleming was an official Army photographer during World War II. In 1945, he was enlisted to capture motion pictures for the Army.

In April, IU Press published “From War to Peace in 1945 Germany,” a collection of Fleming’s personal, uncensored photographs. Fleming said this book was years in the making.

“You could say I wrote it in 1945, really,” he said.

After enlisting in the Army in Seattle, Fleming was transferred to Long Island. He had been interested in photography since he was a teenager, so when given the opportunity to be an Army photographer, he took it.

Fleming spent six months in Long Island for photography training before he was sent to Germany. There, he began to document the places and events that made up his war experience.

Along with filming for the Army, Fleming said he was documenting the war for himself as well.

“I wanted a record of it from my perspective,” he said.

Fleming carried a personal camera in the pouch that was meant to hold a first-aid kit so he always had it ready when he finished filming.

Today, 97-year-old Fleming still remembers photos of dead German soldiers and devastation caused by the U.S. Air Force in Germany.

“They seemed so real,” said James Madison, the Thomas and Kathryn Miller Professor of History Emeritus in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences. “They’re not posed. They’re not faked.”

Madison, who wrote the book’s forward, said that between censors and sanitized images of the war, finding a collection as raw and natural as Fleming’s is special.

Though Fleming said he missed most of the bloodiest part of the war, the fact that the United States was slow to bring soldiers home allowed him time to travel through Germany and watch as people tried to piece their lives together after the war.

Madison said those photos still show the truth of the most horrendous war in human history. He said he especially appreciates that the collection expands into post-war lives.

“We had an opportunity to see the other side of Germany,” Fleming said.

This experience caused Fleming to experience a certain amount of empathy for German civilians.

Very soon there will be no more living memories of the war, Madison said. Collections like this with such personal connections are becoming even more important.

In fact, Madison has a connection of his own. He said his father was overseas in Germany at the same time Fleming was and that he likes to believe Fleming may have snapped a photo of his father at some point.

For years, Fleming said he had the book practically ready. Dozens of postcard-sized prints of his photos along with personally written captions were already stored in booklet form in Fleming’s home.

“Ten to 15 years ago I thought maybe there was a book there,” Fleming said.

Though the book didn’t take the first time he attempted to publish it, this time he said he is very happy with what IU Press was able to do for his work. Fleming said the process took about a year.

Fleming said they were able to clean up photos that were scratched while he carried them through Germany.

“I had a unique opportunity to document my personal experiences,” he said.

Fleming said his book is not meant to be a textbook written by a historian distant from the war. Instead, he wants it to be a very typical first-person account from a G.I.

After the war, Fleming taught students about audio/visual technology and techniques at Indiana University for several years. He is now retired after 80 years of professional photography.

“Anyway, life goes on and I’m having fun exploring new options,” he said.

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