Signal Corps

Hugo Wilmar trained as a war photographer with the Signal Corps in 1945. The Signal Corps is a branch of the U.S. Marines.

USS Wakefield

After arriving in London, Hugo Wilmar joins the Naval Information Service. He will complete his training in America with the US Marines. He will be given an American uniform and a Tommy-Gun. The War Volunteer embarked aboard the USS Wakefield on 20 December 1944. During the crossing to America, he has to guard German prisoners of war. After all the hardships Hugo endured during his escape from occupied, he is annoyed by how well the Americans treat the German prisoners.

On 30 December, the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline loom on the horizon. New York is just a stopover on the way to Camp Lejeune In North Carolina. This is where Hugo begins his officer training, under the auspices of the American Marines.

Camp Lejeune

It takes only a few days, before all spectacle wearers from training are assigned other duties. To his anger, he is demoted to kitchen duty. Bolstered by the experience during his escape from Europe to take matters into his own hands, Hugo manages, as the first Dutchman in history, to secure a place at the war photographer training course with the prestigious Signal Corps.

While waiting for his training, Hugo works on Dutch translations of US training films in February 1945, acting in small roles and voicing voice-overs. During his leave, Hugo travels, across America. Hugo discovers the unlimited opportunities America has to offer.

(…) Jan, America is in a word swell, so bloody swell, I will go back later and I have often thought about why you never joined me.

Meanwhile, the war in Europe is nearing its end. During the bombing of Bezuidenhout on 3 March 1944, Wilmar’s parental home was hit. In this, Hugo’s family remains miraculously unharmed.

Signal Corps

n May 1945, the naturalist and amateur photographer returns to New York. Now that the Netherlands has been liberated, he can finally write down his journey in colours in a long letter to his parents. In New York, his training begins at the Signal Corps Photographic Center, the renowned institute of the US army

Hugo learns to photograph people with a Leica camera. Hugo prefers to photograph landscapes and sunsets, but his superiors are not interested in that. Instead, he has to make reports of returning war heroes, and take undetected photos of unsuspecting passers-by. If these people look into the lens, his mission has failed. During his training, he captures iconic events on big screen – the tickertape parade of General Wainwright, the hero of Bataan. Hugo’s photographs, together with the film accounts of these events, form a stunning portrait of the era.

During his training, Hugo stayed at the “Sutton Hotel”. At the time, Sutton Hotel was a simple lodging, with – probably – shared rooms. It is now a high-end hotel in Midtown East

After Japan’s surrender, Sukarno proclaimed the Dutch East Indies as the Republic of Indonesia on 17 August 1945. This ended the freedom Hugo Wilmar had found in America. Hugo Wilmar is sent to the Dutch East Indies with the first 2,000 Dutch marines on 17 November 1945.

The photo locations in New York

Click on the markers for more information.

(…) as free as a Petrel on the Atlantic Ocean”

– Letter to Jan van Eyk, 29 januari 1946

Hugh Wilmar’s photos, taken during his time at the Signal Corps


USS Wakefield
USS Wakefield

Hugo Wilmar scheept met de eerste 23 oorlogsvrijwilligers in aan boord van de USS Wakefield. Met een Tommy-gun in de handen is hij verantwoordelijk voor de bewaking van Duitse krijgsgevangenen.

Camp Lejeune
Mariniersopleiding Camp Lejeune

De mariniersopleiding van Hugo Wilmar begint in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Kort na aanvang wordt Hugo, samen met alle brildragers, gedegradeerd van ARO Class 1 naar "Mess Hall Duties"; keukendienst. Hugo neemt hier geen genoegen mee. Foto: Collectie Nederlands Instituut voor Militaire Historie

Chicago Film Labs
Chicago Film Labs

Hugo Wilmar werkt bij de Chicago Film Labs. In afwachting van zijn opleiding tot oorlogsfotograaf vertaalt hij Amerikaanse instructiefilms naar het Nederlands. Hij spreekt de voiceovers van enkele films in. Ook figureert soms hij als Japanse soldaat. Beeld: Still uit film 111-adc-3233 via

Hugo reist met de US Airforce tijdens zijn verlof naar Florida.

Hugo Wilmar reist met de US Airforce tijdens zijn verlof naar Florida.

Signal Corps
Signal Corps

Hugo Wilmar begint met zijn opleiding tot oorlogsfotgraaf bij het Signal Corps in New York.  (US Army Signal Corps Photograpic Center in Long Island, New York) Hij is de enige (en eerste) Nederlander die de opleiding volgt.

Ticker Tape Parade
Ticker tape parade General Jonathan Wainwright, 13 September 1945

Hugo Wilmar fotografeert de ticker-tape parade in New York ter ere van Generaal Jonathan Wainwright.

La Guardia
Tijdens zijn opleiding fotografeert Hugo Wilmar La Guardia, de burgermeester van New York.

Tijdens zijn opleiding fotografeert Hugo Wilmar La Guardia, de burgermeester van New York.

Op weg naar Nederlands-Indië

Hugo Wilmar scheept zich samen met de eerste 2000 Mariniers in aan boord van de Noordam. Hij vertrekt vanuit Camp Davis (NC) richting Indië

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