Bomber Boys: Portraits from the Front


Harbor History Museum is pleased to host “Bomber Boys: Portraits From the Front,” a new traveling exhibition developed by Bering Street Studio. Featuring a series of striking photographs reproduced from a secret stash of World War II images, ephemera, and a diary from 1945, the exhibit highlights the combat, captains, crew, and camp life of the 445th bomb squadron of the 12th Army Air Corps stationed mainly on Corsica and in Italy.

“This amazing collection was found when my sister and I were cleaning out the hayloft of our horse barn in Gig Harbor, Washington,” says Stephanie Lile, exhibit curator and longtime museum professional. “Dad never talked much about the war and never seemed to want to, so finding the box of dusty old photos and a diary was a huge surprise.” Lile and her four siblings felt the collection was too special not to share. In fact, she has spent the last 10 years researching and cataloging the collection, an adventure that took her both to Italy and to Arizona to fly in an historic B-25.

Lile used the collection as inspiration for a young adult novel THE TAIL GUNNER; after its publication, she and her family decided to expand access to the collection by creating a traveling exhibition. Lile is a lecturer for Museum Studies at University of Washington Tacoma, and she saw an opportunity to use the collection and exhibit to involve her students in a real-world project. “The students did much of the background research on specific topics and people that was then transformed into various interpretive elements,” explains Lile. “The stories that have surfaced are amazing. One student discovered that Lorton Wellnitz, one of the bomber boys pictured in the exhibit, was not only an enlisted man and statistician, but an all-star pitcher around base.”

The exhibit features portraits of the “boys” who flew B-25 bombers in the Mediterranean theater. Some of them are known, like Wellnitz and Keith B. Lile—the tail gunner whose collection these images came from, but most are not. One of the curator’s hopes in presenting this exhibit is that as the show travels, people will recognize some of the men depicted. A handful of the men in the portraits were identified by notes on the original prints, but many remain a mystery.

“Bomber Boys: Portraits from the Front” will be on view from July 27th to September 4th. Harbor History Museum will host a members-only reception on July 27th from 6:00-8:00pm, including a curator talk and complimentary appetizers and refreshments.

For more information about Bomber Boys: Portraits from the Front, visit www.harborhistorymuseum.org. Contact Alphild Dick, Marketing and Events Coordinator, at alphildd@harborhistorymuseum.org or 253-858-6722 ext. 5 with questions.