NSFW: Every day during World War II was potentially the last for any given serviceman, so to help bolster troops morale, many commanders encouraged them to form tight “buddy” relationships for emotional support. Many formed intimate friendships. When they weren’t fighting side by side, they relaxed together, releasing tension in boisterous (sometimes naked) play. The full extent of this nude horseplay can’t be known, as cameras were rare and film hard to process, but some men did document their male bonding in anonymous photos, mostly kept hidden away until after their deaths. LA photographer Michael Stokes has spent years searching out these pics and building an archive of over 500 images. His collection includes soldiers and sailors from Australia, England, France, Italy, Poland, Russia, and the USA, cavorting on the sand in the South Pacific, shivering in the snow of Eastern Europe, posing solo in the barracks, and in great happy groups just about everywhere. These images show men barely out of boyhood, at their physical peak (HELLO?!) responding to the reality of battle by living each day to the fullest—a side of the war never before made public. The intro is by Scotty Bowers, the 89-year-old ex-Marine and author of Full Service, the best-selling memoir of his (gay) sexual exploits in Hollywood, and how the war forever altered his attitudes about sexuality, just as these photos will alter our attitudes about World War II and war buddies. Produced by Taschen, the book is out this month and available to pre-order here. The last innuendo – the price is 69 dollars.
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