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PORTFOLIO

02.05.2018

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Jack Cohen, a soldier during the Korean War, was given a Leica by his uncle to document his duty. From December 1951 to October 1952 he sent the undeveloped Kodak films home only to discover the pictures after his return.

LFI: Where did you get the camera from?
Jack Cohen: My uncle originally bought the Leica at a pawn shop in Liverpool, England. When he heard that I was drafted my other uncle Alex from New York gave me the camera telling me that he would pay for any development of the film as long as every roll had a picture of me in it.

Where did you get the films and where did you develop them? What kind were those films?
Again my uncle Alex provided the B&W film, and when I discovered that I could purchase an early Kodachrome film stock, I purchased a dozen at a camera store in Tokyo Japan. The Kodachrome was ASA 10, the B&W was also Kodak, probably Super-XX.

Did you need a photo permit from the military?
I did not have a photo permit and didn’t seem to need one, but as far as I remember I never asked! I was an amateur although I did professional darkroom work occasionally before I left for duty.

How long were you in the war and where exactly?
My tour was one year in Japan in Tokyo and Hokkaido before active duty, 9 months in Korea, 2 weeks in Japan for mid-duty. After duty I went to Japan for a few days before going back by ship to California, arriving in San Francisco. Altogether I was away from 1950 to 1952.

Is the camera still in use?
The Leica’s shutter was damaged when I fell into Imjin River while I was escaping the North Koreans. I air dried the camera later that day when I was safe and continued to use it, but some of the images had light leaks and some of the Kodachrome film images had damage as well. The camera continued to function throughout the rest of the year. I never got the shutter fixed, but the camera still works today.

Was there anything you did not want to take pictures of?
Actually, I never gave it any thought….I just took the pics and sent all the film to Uncle Alex to NYC undeveloped and then were developed by Kodak in New York. For two years I never saw a single image until I was home. Most of the people in my squadron did not come back from the battles.

All the photos Jack took can be seen here.
This picture was taken in Korea about 50 miles north of Seoul. It shows my unit at the first line of defense. You can see the trench running diagonally in the photo. The mountains in the background are in North Korea.
This was taken photo after I had escaped across the Imjin river: thus the streaks on the photo from the damaged focal plane shutter.
This is a plane named “The flying Box Car” during an test airdrop in Japan. The red parachutes are ammunition, the blue is water and the white is food.
This photo of women lugging packages was taken in Seoul. The men behind on the military truck are South Korean Soldiers.
This picture shows ’T-Bone’ Hill, this is looking out from my observation post. A friend of mine was killed in the bunker to the middle left sometime after this picture was taken after a mortar hit the bunker.
Patricia O’Neal gave a USA show at Bulldozer Bowl in 1952 for the the troops while I was there. I believe the blonde woman in this photo was  Frances Langford.
© Jack Cohen
This picture was taken by a friend while I was in the trench shaving during a quiet moment, as we were frequently exchanging shell fire with the North Koreans from here.
Jack Cohen

Jack Cohen

Jack Cohen was born in 1928 in NYC to British parents but grew up in Liverpool. Along with other children he was evacuated to North Wales for the duration of the war. He joined the British Merchant Marines to sail to New York City at the age of 18 after losing both parents within the same year. He worked in darkrooms and as an engineer until he was drafted to fight in the Korean War from 1952-1953. Before leaving for entering service, he received a used Leica from his uncle which he used throughout his tour of duty. After returning from war, he met and married in 1954 and became an optical mechanical and medical device engineer and inventor.
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