There were two awards in 1944, “Homecoming” by Earle L Bunker and “Tarawa” by Frank Filan.
Pulitzer Prize for Photography
Earle L Bunker of Omaha World Herald
In 1943 when WW2 was at the halfway mark for the US, having entered the war in 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbour, Lt Col Robert Moore came home after 16 months away. He had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for leading his battalion against Field Marsal Erwin Rommel’s Panzers in North Africa. Home was the town of Villisca in Iowa, a small town in middle America, n80 kilometres southeast of Omaha, with less than 1,100 people.
Earle “Buddy” Bunker was a photographer with the Omaha World Herald had been assigned to cover Colonel Moore’s return home. He waited 24 hours for the train to arrive and took his photograph as Col Moore, having stepped off the train and having dropped his bags when he saw his wife and daughter, embraced his 7 year old daughter Nancy. Col Moore’s wife Nancy stands nearby, sobbing into her hands.
According to one commentary on the photograph:
“The image is so generic as to represent a whole nation. There is no face to identify the subjects. No flag to tug at your patriotism. No identifying mark other than family love. It could be - and it was - the return of many war heroes across the country and across the world.”
The photograph was chosen by Kodak in 1956 as the best human interest photo from the last 25 years.
Bunker remained with the Omaha World Herald until his death in 1975, aged 63.
Award:Pulitzer Prize for Photography
Photographer:Frank Filan of Associated Press
Tarawa is an atoll in the central Pacific Ocean. During World War 11, Tarawa was occupied by the Japanese and, beginning on November 20, 1943, it was the scene of the bloody Battle of Tarawa. On that day United States Marines landed on Tarawa and suffered heavy losses from Japanese soldiers occupying entrenched positions on the atoll. The Marines secured the island after 76 hours of intense fighting. Of 3,000 Marines, only a few hundred survived the battle. Almost all of the 4,000 Japanese defenders were killed.
Frank Filan (1904-1952) had entered military service in 1929 and for three years covered the war in the pacific as an Associated Press photographer.
His Pulitzer prize winning photographs, “Tarawa Island”, shows the post-battle damage of one of the fiercest battles in the Pacific, leaving the entire island in utter destruction.
The jury which awarded the shared Pulitzer to Frank Filan commented:
“Mr Filan’s picture, taken under extremely difficult conditions, depicts the awful carnage of Tarawa in gruesome detail. It is not a picture for weak stomachs, but in its stark realism, it tells a true story of war at its ugliest. Mr Filan was with one of the first Marine assault waves to go ashore at Tarawa. He lost his cameras and he almost lost his life in the undertaking. Weighted down with his equipment in the surf, Filan went back to help a Marine who had been shot. Under heavy fire, he managed to assist the wounded man ashore and probably saved his life. In the process, he was submerged several times when he stepped into bomb craters beneath the surf, and his equipment was ruined. It was not until the third day on Tarawa that Filan was able to borrow a camera from a Coast Guard photographer and take his pictures.”