Signal Corps

Hugo Wilmar is trained as a war photographer with the Signal Corps in 1945. The Signal Corps is part of the United States Marines.

USS Wakefield

After arriving in London, Hugo Wilmar joins the Navy information service. He will be educated in America with the United States Marines. He is given an American uniform and a Tommy-Gun. The War volunteer embarked on December 20, 1944 aboard the USS Wakefield. During the crossing to America he has to guard German prisoners of war. After all the hardships that Hugo had to endure during his escape from occupation, he is annoyed at how well the Americans treat German prisoners.

On December 30, the Statue of Liberty and New York skyline looming on the horizon. New York is just one stop on the way to Camp Lejeune In North Carolina. Here Hugo starts his officer training, under the auspices of the Americans.

Camp Lejeune

It only takes a few days before all spectacle wearers from the program are assigned other tasks. To his anger, he is demoted to kitchen service. Strengthened by the experience during his escape from Europe to take matters into his own hands, Hugo, as the first Dutchman in history, manages to secure a place in the training of war photographer at the prestigious Signal Corps.

In February 1945, while awaiting his education, Hugo works on the Dutch translations of American training films, acting in small roles and recording voice-overs. During his leave, Hugo travels through America. Hugo discovers the limitless possibilities that America has to offer.

(…) Jan, America is, in one word awesome -so bloody awesome- that I'll go back later and I've often thought about why you never came. ”

Meanwhile, the war in Europe is drawing to a close. During the  bombing of Bezuidenhout on March 3, 1945, Wilmar's parental home is hit. Hugo's family's miracle remains unharmed.

Signal Corps

In May 1945, the nature lover and amateur photographer returns to New York. Now that the Netherlands is liberated, he can finally write down his journey in scents and colors in a long letter to his parents. In New York, his training begins at the Signal Corps Photographic Center, the renowned institute of the United States Army

Hugo learns to photograph people with a Leica camera. Hugo prefers to photograph landscapes and sunsets, but his superiors are not interested in that. Instead, he has to make reports of returning war heroes, and take unnoticed photos of unsuspecting passers-by. When these people look into the lens, his mission has failed. During his training he captures iconic events on big screen - the tickertape parade of General Wainwright, the hero of Bataan. Hugo's photos, together with the film reports of these events, form a beautiful picture of the time.

During his education Hugo stays in the “Sutton Hotel“. Sutton Hotel was a simple accommodation at the time, with – probably – shared rooms. It is now a high end hotel in Midtown East

After the capitulation of Japan, Soekarno proclaimed the Dutch East Indies on 17 August 1945 as the Republic of Indonesia. This brings to an end the freedom that Hugo Wilmar had found in America. Hugo Wilmar is sent on November 17, 1945 with the first 2000 Dutch marines to the Dutch East Indies.

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(…) as free as the storm petrels in the Atlantic”

– Letter to Jan van Eyk, January 29, 1946

Hugo Wilmar's photos at the Signal Corps


USS Wakefield
USS Wakefield

Hugo Wilmar embarks on board the USS Wakefield with the first 23 war volunteers. With a Tommy gun in his hands, he is responsible for guarding German prisoners of war.

Camp Lejeune
Marine training Camp Lejeune

Hugo Wilmar's Marine training begins at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Shortly after starting, Hugo, along with all glasses wearers, is demoted from ARO Class 1 to "Mess Hall Duties"; kitchen service. Hugo is not satisfied with this. Photo: Collection of the Netherlands Institute for Military History

Chicago Film Labs
Chicago Film Labs

Hugo Wilmar works at the Chicago Film Labs. Pending his training as a war photographer, he translates American instructional films into Dutch. He records the voiceovers of several films. He also sometimes figures as a Japanese soldier. Image: Still from movie 111-adc-3233 via

Leave of absence
Hugo travels with the US Airforce during his leave to Florida.

Hugo Wilmar travels with the US Airforce on his leave to Florida.

Signal Corps
Signal Corps

Hugo Wilmar begins his training as a war grave at the Signal Corps in New York. (US Army Signal Corps Photograpic Center in Long Island, New York) He is the only (and first) Dutchman to follow the course.

Ticker Tape Parade
Ticker tape parade General Jonathan Wainwright, September 13, 1945

Hugo Wilmar photographs the ticker-tape parade in New York in honor of General Jonathan Wainwright.

The guard
During his education Hugo Wilmar photographs La Guardia, the mayor of New York.

During his education Hugo Wilmar photographs La Guardia, the mayor of New York.

On the way to the Dutch East Indies

Hugo Wilmar embarks on board the Noordam together with the first 2000 Marines. He departs from Camp Davis (NC) towards India

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