Thayer Soule

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Thayer Soule couldn't believe his orders. As a junior officer with no military training or indoctrination and less than ten weeks of active duty behind him, he had been assigned to be photographic officer for the First Marine Division. The Corps had never had a photographic division before, much less a field photographic unit. But Soule accepted the challenge, created the unit from scratch, established policies for photography, and led his men into combat.

Soule and his unit produced films and photos of training, combat action pictures, and later, terrain studies and photographs for intelligence purposes. Though he had never heard of a photo-litho set, he was in charge of using it for map production, which would prove vital to the division. Shooting the Pacific War is based on Soule's detailed wartime journals. Soule was in the unique position to interact with men at all levels of the military, and he provides intriguing closeups of generals, admirals, sergeants, and privates -everyone he met and worked with along the way. Though he witnessed the horror of war firsthand, he also writes of the vitality and intense comradeship that he and his fellow Marines experienced.

Soule recounts the heat of battle as well as the intense training before and rebuilding after each campaign. He saw New Zealand in the desperate days of 1942. His division was rebuilt in Australia following Guadalcanal. After a stint back in Quantico training more combat photographers, he went to Guam and then to the crucible of Iwo Jima. At war's end he was serving as Photographic Officer, Fleet Marine Force Pacific, at Pearl Harbor.

Thayer Soule was a Marine Corps Photographic Officer on Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, where he won the Bronze Star. After the war he continued his career in travel photography. In 1988 he was honored with the National Geographic Society's Centennial Award for the "41 years in which he has taken the Society's members to every corner of the globe."

"A book all lovers of World War II history will enjoy."—(Sun City, AZ) Independent

"A welcome addition."—Associated Press

"An interesting look at the Marine Corps at the apex of its storied history."—Bowling Green Daily News

"Breaks new ground regarding the important role of photography in wartime intelligence, maps, morale, recruitment, and documentation."—Frank F. Mathias

"Filled with good anecdotal material on the trials and tribulations of a small but very important segment of Marine combat operations."—Leatherneck

"A fascinating account of Marine combat photography and its contribution to winning battles."—Marine Corps Gazette

"A lively and unusual account of a gifted photographer’s experiences in World War II."—World War II Chronicles

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






World War II, War photographers, Thayer Soule, World War II photography


Military History

Shooting the Pacific War: Marine Corps Combat Photography in WWII
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