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Defenders of Freedom

Carl McDaniel: He caught images of war-torn Berlin

Photos adorn the walls of the Loyalsock Township home of Carl McDaniel.

Shots of scarlet-colored covered bridges over creeks, craggy rocky coast lines and lighthouses from Maine and shots of airplanes of various vintages and models are testament to his photographic skills.

McDaniel, 94, has been shooting pictures all his life, including the many black and white photos from his time serving in the U.S. Army in Germany during World War II.

Many of them have appeared in books.

“Hey. I’m a guy who didn’t like the Army, except in Berlin when I was a photographer,” he said.

McDaniel took the photographs of the battle-torn city and some of the people he met there in 1945 at the end of the war.

He was trained by the Army as an x-ray technician in Tennessee and spent much of the war in hospitals taking images of the wounded.

“I was in the First Airborne Army,” he said.

McDaniel grew up in Loyalsock Township and was drafted in 1942.

After basic training, he was sent to various Army installations in Massachusetts, including Camp Myles Standish, an Army camp used as a departure area for about 1 million U.S. and Allied soldiers and a prisoner-of-war camp.

By 1943, he was in England where a hospital had been set up to take care of wounded soldiers.

“We operated that most of 1944,” he said.

Like many World War II soldiers, McDaniel lived an itinerant life, never staying in one place for very long.

Sometime in either 1944 or 1945, he found himself on a boat with other soldiers heading across the English Channel.

“We all had full field packs,” he recalled. “They loaded us on trucks and took us into France.”

McDaniel said he’s unsure if he was sent to Camp Chesterfield or Camp Lucky Strike.

“All the camps were named after cigarettes,” he said.

The French city of Le Havre was surrounded by camps serving as staging areas for the arrival of new troops prior to their entering combat.

The camps were reportedly named after cigarettes to ensure the enemy did not know of their precise location.

McDaniel recalled being later transported with troops to Germany in 1945.

“We headed towards Berlin on the Autobahn,” he said.

It was here where McDaniel got a dose of stark reality from the war.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of German soldiers, battle-worn and weary, were walking along the highway, returning to their homes.

The war in Europe, by this time, was all but over.

In Berlin, the U.S. took over a German hospital where McDaniel spent his time taking x-rays.

“We took care of Russians and the Germans and Americans and the French and anyone who came in,” he said.

When he wasn’t working at the hospital, McDaniel took his camera — a Kodak Retina — and captured images of the city around him.

Photography had been an interest of him since he was a boy.

“And you know how I got it (camera)? With two packs of cigarettes on the black market,” he said.

McDaniel recalled much of Berlin being “flattened.”

“The closer you got to downtown Berlin, the more bombing you saw,” he said.

He captured images of overturned vehicles, burned out buildings, rubble and many of the U.S. soldiers living temporarily in German homes.

“We were the occupiers,” he said.

During his time there, he got to know some of the German people.

“I dated a couple of German girls,” he added with a chuckle.

McDaniel headed home in 1946.

He took a job with Stroehmann Brothers, working first in the bakery and later as a maintenance man.

He married his wife, Bunny, whom he met shortly after returning home from the war.

The couple have been married 72 years and live in the same Loyalsock Township home they built in 1952.

He later worked at other companies as a foreman and a production manager.

McDaniel has spent much of his retirement honing his photography skills.

Many days he can be found at the Williamsport Regional Airport taking pictures of airplanes.

He’s especially proud of some of his photos of eagles.

“All my life I wanted to take a photo of an eagle. I was 91 before I saw my first eagle in the wild,” he said.

He looked back on his Army Days as an interesting, eye-opening time.

A day doesn’t go by, he said, when he doesn’t think about those days in Berlin.