Fort Meade, Maryland, –
Previously in this series, we discussed how training and meticulous recordkeeping for U.S. military photography goes back 100 years to World War I.
In this final installment, we discover how bravery and sacrifice also goes back to those earliest days of military combat photography.
The Defense Information School (DINFOS) Hall of Heroes holds 129 engraved memorial placards. Each placard bears the name of a member of the U.S. military who died in combat or other operation while serving in a public affairs or visual information specialty.
The earliest plaques date to the Korean War, not because that’s when the first communication specialist was killed in action, but because that’s when casualties were first listed according to their occupation. But after research done for this series, two more names will be added to the Hall of Heroes, 100 years after they made the ultimate sacrifice.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Montigo White, the command sergeant major of DINFOS, said, “The military members names inscribed there are part of our history. We want to do whatever we can to honor their service and sacrifice.”
As described in a Stars and Stripes article published Nov. 28, 1918, U.S. Army Signal Corps photographer 1st Lt. Ralph E. Estep was killed in action by a German high-explosive shell Nov. 7, less than a week before the war ended. Estep’s camera recorded his final moments in life.
Before the war, Estep was a photographer for the illustrated newspaper Leslie’s Weekly. At the time of his death, he was on patrol with the 42nd Infantry ‘Rainbow’ Division near the German front lines in Sedan, France.
U.S. Army aerial photographer 2nd Lt. Francis B. Lowry was killed in action when a shell exploded directly underneath his plane while over German battle lines Sept. 26, 1918.
Lowry was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant by General John J. Pershing, the commander-in-chief of American Expeditionary Forces. The Denver native was later memorialized by the establishment of Lowry Field on Feb. 7, 1938.
The Army Signal Corps photography school was relocated to Lowry Field later that year. In 1995, the Defense Visual Information School at Lowry Air Force Base was merged into the new Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland.
When the historic facts surrounding the combat deaths of Lowry and Estep were shared with the DINFOS command group, Command Sgt. Maj. White responded that 1st Lt. Ralph E. Estep and 1st Lt. Francis Lowry would be inducted into the DINFOS Hall of Heroes.
The ceremony is planned sometime in November to mark the 100th anniversary of the first documented combat deaths of military communication specialists.
Command Sgt. Maj. White said DINFOS will publish a book with student-written biographies of each Hall of Heroes honoree. A copy of the book will be placed in the hall.
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