Business is Booming in Italy, Members of a Negro Mortar Company of the 92nd Division Praise the Lord [lines from captioned press photo].
Black soldiers in the 92nd Infantry Division Buffalo Soldiers heave rounds of mortar
Combat press photograph of African-American troops in Italy during World War II. The action photo shows members of a mortar company of the African-American 92nd Infantry Division Buffalo Soldiers firing upon German troops.
Attached to the press photo is a two-page caption sheet dated November 28, 1944 indicating that the image, entitled “Business is Booming in Italy,” was to accompany “...William B. King’s AP [Associated Press] News features story on 92nd Division combat troops in Italy” which was to be published or released for publication on December 5 of that year.
The caption sheet bears a brief pencil annotation, U. S. A.—likely for United States Army. The caption begins: “Members of a Negro mortar company of the 92nd Division praise the Lord, pass the ammunition and heave it over at the Germans in an almost endless stream near Massa, Italy.”
The word Negro has been underlined in pencil and above it has been handwritten “U. S. A.” Was this to clarify that the photographed 92nd Infantry Division Buffalo Soldiers were part of the United States Army? Or was the photo caption attempting to de-emphasize their blackness by substituting the word “U. S. A.” for the word “Negro” so as to focus more on the fact that they were Americans fighting for common cause?
Interestingly, another caption has been found issued with this identical photograph, less racist and stereotypical in language:
Members of a Negro mortar company of the 92nd Division pass the ammunition and heave it over at the Germans in an almost endless stream near Massa, Italy. This company is credited with liquidating several machine gun nests…
The caption further notes that the mortar company was commanded by Lieutenant Harry L. Cox of San Mateo, California and that the 92nd Division was “...fighting in a sector which combines the swankiest of prewar beach resorts with some of the toughest mountain terrain in Italy.” Compelling World War II combat action photograph depicting African-American troops at the front.
Description: Business is Booming in Italy, Members of a Negro Mortar Company of the 92nd Division Praise the Lord [lines from captioned press photo].
[Likely New York: Printed for the Office of War Information. November 28, 1944]. Original Photograph, 7 x 9 inches. Printed pp. photo caption sheet, 8 x 6 inches, to verso. Black and white photo stamped on verso in black “Notice…Wide World Photo” and in red “Received DEC 4 – 1944.” Caption sheet annotated in pencil. Corner creases, toning; caption sheet separated at fold line; about very good.