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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Howard E. Smith World War II Photograph Collection

Identifier: 2020-02-25
The Howard E. Smith World War II Photograph Collection is comprised largely of photographic and audiovisual material, including 2,115 prints, 83 negatives, and 5 film reels. The images were taken or collected by Howard E. Smith, a United States Army Air Corps Public Relations Officer and base photographer, primarily while he was stationed at Smoky Hill Army Air Field (SHAAF) in Salina, Kansas. There is also a very small amount of textual documents. Most materials date from 1942-1943, with some later dates. The collection is organized into two series: I. Photographs and audiovisual materials and II. Textual materials.

Series I: Photographs and audiovisual materials makes up the bulk of the collection. Due to its size, it has been further divided into several subseries, some of which have been further refined. All series and subseries are arranged alphabetically by subject. The majority of the photographs were taken at Smoky Hill Army Air Field base. Prints are in black-and-white and sizes vary from 4x5 inches to 20x24 inches, but most are 8x10 inches. Many of the prints are publicity or posed shots, although casual shots are also included. Some prints include notations such as "31ems," which may be publishing notes. A small amount of the prints in the collection appear in various issues of Salvo: the Voice of Salina Air Base, which was the Smoky Hill Army Air Field newsletter. Most do not include captions with contextual information, such as dates, locations, or names. Duplicates occur.

The first subseries, Activities and events is further divided into Recreation and Training. Recreation includes 455 prints and one negative that depict military personnel engaging in or enjoying entertainment, such as plays and concerts. Note that in the entertainment folder several images include outdated and offensive racial depictions of Black people (blackface). Other recreational activities include parties and mixers, religious services and weddings, and sporting activities, including basketball, bowling, and hunting. This grouping also includes a small number of cartoons drawn by herb Mott and Milton Caniff, which may have appeared in Salvo. The grouping on Training holds 416 prints and one negative that feature military personnel engaging in base activities, such as maintenance and drills and trainings, including for bomb sight, fire safety, medical procedures, and photography and reconnaissance, among others. Military ceremonies, formations and parades are also included in this section.

The next subseries, Aircraft and related, includes 485 prints and 10 negatives that depict aircraft in flight, on the ground, and a few crashes. For identified aircraft, the Boeing B-17 and Boeing B-29 are the most well-represented with 237 prints between them. Douglas aircraft is the next largest with 53 prints; the remainder of represented aircraft generally have only a few prints. Additional images feature a flight suit test as well as parachutes, including packing and a fatal accident that depicts a dead body.

The Buildings and locations subseries is comprised of 331 prints and 41 negatives. The bulk of the prints depict SHAAF buildings and interiors, such as barracks, club spaces, the dining room and library. Note that some of the interior spaces include graphic images of pin-up art and outdated and offensive wall illustrations depicting Black people. There are twenty-two negatives without corresponding prints that feature "Batista" base, otherwise known as San Antonio de los Baños Airfield, Cuba. The remainder of material in this subseries depicts assorted non-military buildings and scenic views. There are also a small amount of weather-related images, including disasters such as flooding. Some of the weather shots may have been taken in Cuba when Smith was assigned there on weather reporting duty.

The People subseries has been further subdivided: Non-military personnel and Military personnel. Non-military personnel includes 113 prints and photographic reproductions of celebrities and entertainers who visited the base. Identified people include boxer Joe Louis, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, and actress Donna Reed. There are 39 prints of a cadre of unidentified showgirls who performed on base posing with aircraft and armaments. There are also 11 photographic reproductions of "Mona," an illustrated pin-up by Charles R. Flory which includes nudity. The Military personnel grouping holds 315 prints and 30 negatives, most of which appear to have corresponding prints, that are a mix of portraits and casual shots. Images depict air crewmen and pilots, officers and enlisted men, including the members of the Black-only 49th Aviation Squadron; women in service, such as nurses and members of the Women's Army Corps (WAC); and animal mascots and pets. Some people are identified, but most are not. Identified people include Howard E. Smith and Viscount Hugh M. Trenchard of the Royal Air Force (RAF).

In addition to the still images, there are also five 16mm films. Four of the films do not include any kind of description. One film is labeled as "Inspection of ranks, 376th base headquarters" and was recorded on May 3, 1943 by "Photographer Stinnett." None of the films are currently accessible, pending preservation measures.

Series II: Textual materials is quite small and include newspaper clippings, mostly post-war announcements related to the death of President Dwight D. Eisenhower; a small amount of ephemera, including event programs and weather charts; and military documents, such as a U.S. Navy organizational chart, equipment receipts, and an undated "Cuban bombing targets" chart, among others.


  • 1941-1949, 1969, undated


Language of Materials

All materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. The audiovisual materials are not accessible at this time, pending preservation measures. 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.


4 Cubic Feet (7 full-width letter size document boxes, 1 oversize flat box (23x3x31" inches), 5 film reels )

Biographical Note: Howard E. Smith

Howard Eugene Smith (1918-1999) was a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force from the 1940s through the 1970s.

Howard E. Smith was born on January 9, 1918 in Ottumwa, Iowa to Byrne Y. and Helen R. (Barnes) Smith. He had two younger siblings and attended high school in Ottumwa where he was a champion archer and rifleman. On March 19, 1942 he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps as he initially wanted to be a fighter pilot. It is unclear what happened, he ultimately did not become a pilot but had a number of different responsibilities. His first assignment was at Smoky Hill Army Airfield (now known as Schilling Air Force Base) in Salina, Kansas as the Public Relations Officer, and a base photographer. He was later stationed in Cuba on a weather reporting assignment. Smith also helped design a bombing apparatus as well as completed numerous military trainings.

Post-war, he remained in the service. From 1951-1964, he was in France and Spain as a procurement contract officer. Other assignments included time in Indiana, North Dakota, and Texas. In the late 1960s, he worked for a space agency in California. Smith retired from U.S. Air Force circa 1978-1979 as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Smith married Barbara Jean Warde (1923-2018) on March 10, 1942. The couple had two children. By 1950, the family lived in Seattle, Washington. Smith died in Kenmore, Washington on December 16, 1999.


Biography derived from donor information, collection materials and records on


After surveying the material, the Project Archivist determined that there was little overall original order to the collection. Thus, the collection was grouped into two main series based on format of materials: Photographs and audiovisual materials and Textual materials. Photographs and audiovisual materials was further refined into subseries, primarily by subject. Some subseries are subdivided further.

  • Series I: Photographs and audiovisual materials
    • Subseries A: Activities and events
      • Subseries i: Recreation
      • Subseries ii: Training
    • Subseries B: Aircraft and related
    • Subseries C: Buildings and locations
    • Subseries D: People
      • Subseries i. Non-military personnel
      • Subseries ii. Military personnel
    • Subseries E: Audiovisual materials
  • Series II: Textual materials


No further accruals are expected.

Related Materials at The Museum of Flight

The Harl V. Brackin Library at The Museum of Flight holds several issues of Salvo: the Voice of Salina Air Base, the Smoky Hill Army Air Field newsletter. Digital copies are available, please contact us for further details.

Separated Materials

The following materials were separated from the archival component and are kept in the Library:

  • Economic Mobilization Coursebook, 1949
  • Elementary Map and Aerial Photograph Reading, Student Manual, 1942
  • Fighting on Guadalcanal, 1943
  • Identification of Naval Vessels, Student Manual, 1942
  • National Security Factors in Industrial Location, July 22, 1948
  • War Department Field Service Regulations: Command and Employment of Air Power, July 21, 1943
  • Air Forces newsletter, July 1942
  • The Baby newsletter, October 10, 1942
  • Cinema magazine, December 25, 1944
  • Salvo: the voice of Salina Air Base, multiple issues, 1942-1943

There are also several small ship models that were separated from the archival component and are kept in Objects storage.

Processing Information

The collection arrived with no discernible order. The processing archivist identified major themes and grouped like materials together. Photographs were reviewed for possible identifications and housed in mylar sleeves. Rolled items were humidified, flattened, and placed in acid-free enclosures.
Howard E. Smith World War II Photograph Collection
Completed - Level 3
Jenn Parent
2023 August
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
1st Edition

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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