Lens of an Infantryman: A World War II Memoir with Photographs from a Hidden Camera
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After he arrived in Europe with the 35th Infantry Division, Murray Leff traded his cigarette ration for a 35mm camera. By hiding that camera under his field jacket, Leff was able to carry it into battle to record some of the war's most heated fighting. Photographs snapped while he crouched in a water-filled ditch show Leff's rifle squad burying their heads in mud as enemy shells come in. Images show a supporting tank on its arrival and later, smoldering from a direct hit by German fire. These and many more photographs are part of this memoir, which records Leff's World War II experiences from Gremercey Forest through the Battle of the Bulge, the Ruhr Pocket and the fall of Germany.

Customer Reviews:

  • Going to War with an M-1 and a Camera!
    Murray Leff saw ETO combat with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 137th Regiment, 35th Infantry Division from September 1944 to VE-Day. Atypically, Murray went to war armed with a Garand rifle AND a Welti folding bellows camera he had acquired in a swap for cigarettes. Line infantrymen were forbidden from carrying cameras into combat yet Leff kept - and used - his camera throughout his time in Europe. Fifty-seven years later he combined those long-ago photos with a narrative he had written just at war's end to produce this rare illustrated guide to one G.I.'s wartime experiences.

    Leff's book chiefly consists of a 77-page narrative of his ETO experiences up to February 1945, a second - largely photographic - 62-page section that covers his ETO time from March to May 1945 and a 45-page appendix that reproduces the daily Company E combat reports sent to Division HQ, therein supplementing Leff's foxhole-level observations with the 'big picture.' (The narrative only runs to February 1945 because he was discharged before he could complete the manuscript).

    Leff's war wasn't one of endless heart-pounding advances and set-piece battles but rather of long periods of inactivity holding the line, breaks for behind-the-lines R&R followed by more marches, new positions, late-night patrols, etc. Casualties were mercifully few and often were victims of random shellfire, a chance encounter with a German MG position, etc. As with most dogfaces, much of Leff's time was spent digging in, trying to keep warm and so on. In that respect LENS OF AN INFANTRYMAN offers a valuable insight into the life of a typical line doggie in World War II.

    The over 90 wartime photographs featured in the book reflect Leff's 'long periods of tedium pierced by moments of stark terror' existence. There are a number of shots of Company E personnel in action and behind the lines; American tanks, trucks and other equipment; civilians welcoming the Americans, GIs examining a dead German soldier, etc. Several sequences are quite striking - one showing a Sherman taking up a firing position only to be hit by a 88mm gun; Leff's squad seeking cover in a water-filled ditch as an MG opens up on them; etc.

    Since the narrative was written just months after the events happened, LENS OF AN INFANTRYMAN has a rare freshness and emphasis on daily life missing from other accounts of G.I.s at war. The photos though elevate the book to a higher level, offering a rare perspective on the life of a combat infantryman. Murray Leff's book comes highly recommended....more info