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Archives at The Museum of Flight

William Orthman World War II Collection

Identifier: 1991-07-17-A
The William Orthman World War II Collection is comprised of 340 black-and-white photographs and a small amount of textual materials documenting the World War II China-Burma-India Theater from 1945-1946. The materials were likely collected by William Orthman during his service as Public Relations Officer, especially as many of the photographs are stamped for press release or publication.

Series I, Photographs, forms the bulk of the collection. It is comprised of 340 black-and-white photographs primarily documenting the China-Burma-India Theater at the tail end of World War II. The photographs range in size, from 2x3" to 8x10", and are a mix of casual snapshots and more professional, posed images. Many photographs include captions and/or stamps. Most of the stamps are from the United States Army Air Forces. Duplication occurs.

The images broadly depict military personnel, including officers; activities, such as military bands and sports teams; buildings and equipment, including military jeeps and an image of a "RAWIN" [radar wind targets] device; and aircraft, including Douglas C-54 Skymaster, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, Stinson L-5 Sentinel, and North American P-51 Mustang. Aircraft are shown in flight and on the ground and many images have obscured views of the various planes. Some units and individuals are identified, such as the 681st Army Air Force Band, the 884th Signal Company, General Chiang Kai-Shek and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, Lt. Col. Nimmo G. Thyson, and members of the Women's Army Corps (WAC). Several images depict liberated prisoners-of-war from Mukden, also known as Camp Hoten, Manchuria and Shamshupio Camp, Kowloon, China. There is one image of an Allied cemetery at Mukden. Supply drops, war-damaged buildings and roads, and military training activities, especially related to mechanical and engineering training of Chinese troops, are also featured. Additionally, various locations featuring civilians and city scenes in China, including Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Kiangwan, in addition to Calcutta, India, and Casablanca, Morocco are depicted.

Series II, Textual materials, includes a 1946 officer roster and a small amount of correspondence from Orthman to his wife detailing life in Shanghai, China at the end of the war, some of which have been censored. Some of the letters appear to be partial only and do not include dates. There is also a folder, originally labeled as "Home Front Cartoons," that includes two small booklets, Three Cheers Shanghai, printed in Shanghai and featuring cartoon characters of the GI experience, and Ding How, which includes rhymes and songs about WWII interspersed with cartoon drawings. Additionally, a couple of assorted clippings about the war and a map are present.


  • 1945-1946


Language of Materials

Some photographs include captions in both Chinese and English. All other materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


0.63 Cubic Feet (1 full-width letter size document box, 1 half-width letter size document box, and 1 oversize folder)


William Orthman (1911-1990) was drafted into the United States Army in 1942. He served in the China-Burma-India Theater as Public Relations Officer. The collection is comprised of 340 photographs and a small amount of textual materials from his 1945-1946 service.

Biographical Note: William G. Orthman

William George Orthman was born August 17, 1911 in Denver, Colorado. Orthman graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois in 1939 and in 1942, he was drafted into the United States Army. After serving at a number of U.S. bases, Orthman was assigned to the China Theater and went there by way of India, arriving in 1945.

Orthman served in various units, including as Public Relations Officer at the Headquarters of the Army Air Force. As troops were being sent home at this time, Orthman was sent where needed at any given time and traveled the China-Burma-India Theater extensively. Orthman was discharged in 1946 and continued in the Air Force Reserves, where he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel prior to his August 17, 1971 retirement.

After his service, Orthman taught at University of Puget Sound until he retired in 1976. Orthman died on November 27, 1990 in Seattle, Washington.


Biography derived from collection materials and donor information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated by Mrs. William Orthman in 1991.


No further accruals are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Materials from this collection have been digitized and are available at The Museum of Flight Digital Collections.

Separated Materials

The following items were separated from the archival component and are kept in Objects storage:

  • Air Force uniform and accessories
  • Military pins

For more information contact us.

Processing Information

Original processing by K. Williams in 2008; further processing by J. Parent in 2018 and 2019.

The bulk of the photographs arrived in no discernible order, except for the photographs in Box Two, Folders 4-6. These were grouped in envelopes with brief descriptions, which are used as folder titles and denoted by quotation marks. The processing archivist kept these items together while arranging the remainder of the loose photographs into subjects.
Guide to the William Orthman World War II Collection
Completed - Level 3
K. Williams, J. Parent
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
3rd Edition

Revision Statements

  • 2018 : This finding aid has been revised to reflect updated DACS and Museum of Flight Standards
  • November : Finding aid migrated to ArchivesSpace.
  • 2019 December: Additional processing was done on the photographic prints to better organize them by subject.

Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
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