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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Paul J. Madden World War II Photograph Collection

Identifier: 2023-08-10-A
The Paul J. Madden World War II Photograph Collection contains primarily visual materials and a small number of textual documents created or acquired by Madden during his time as a Navy photographer while aboard the USS Essex during World War II. The materials date from the 1930s to 1995, but the bulk of the collection consists of photographs taken by Madden while stationed in the Pacific Theater from 1943-1945. The original organization of materials was retained during processing of the collection.

While the majority of the images are taken during Madden’s service on the USS Essex, there are a few pictures of the Naval Air Station Norfolk Aviation Machinist School, which Madden attended after enlisting in the Navy in 1940. There are also a couple pictures of Madden traveling in Kodiak, Alaska in 1941, and Corpus Christi in 1943.

Once aboard the USS Essex, Madden was tasked to provide documentation of the war seen from the aircraft carrier and aerial reconnaissance. He captured details of the life and work of the crew, such as refueling and securing aircraft on deck, catapulting Grumman (F6F) Hellcats and Vaught (F4U) Corsairs from the ship, piloting aircraft, as well as returning on board. There are photographs of aircraft accidents as pilots were trying to land on deck.

In addition to depicting the duties of the ship’s crew there are also candid scenes of the men playing games, being jovial with one another, and relaxing on the island Mog Mog, part of the Ulithi Atoll in the South Pacific. There are many informal portraits and a few formal group photographs. Some individuals represented in the images are photographer Joe Rosenthal, pilots John Lynch and David McCampbell, as well as Captain Carlos Wilhelm Wieber. Also, the photographs include pictures of Madden in his uniform, posing with other photographers, joking with other crew members, and working in the photography lab.

The events that Madden captured aboard the ship, as well as in flight with a pilot are depictions of aircraft battles, aerial views of explosions on the Philippines and the devastation of Tokyo, Japan after the United States attack in August of 1945. There are scenes of U.S. ships under attack by Japanese forces and multiple images of flak in the sky from recent strikes. In addition, there are images of the USS Essex under attack and damaged by a Japanese aircraft.

In addition to the portrayal of activities and individuals aboard the USS Essex there are images of other ships stationed in the Pacific Theater, such as the USS Astoria, USS Gridley, USS Ticonderoga, and USS Shangri-La. While most of the images of the vessels are captured from a distance there is an image of the USS Lind with the ship's band playing for the crew as mail is transferred to the USS Essex. Included with the carrier vessels are pictures of anti-aircraft cruisers and refueling ships.

The visual materials within the collection include 556 black-and-white photographic prints that have been developed in 8x10” format, some of which have been mounted. Additionally, there are smaller candid snapshots. Many of the photographs have hand-written or typed inscriptions, most likely created by Madden, that give contextual information regarding the image. In addition to the prints there are 42 4x5” photographic negatives, many of which are copy negatives taken from prints. There are also a few copies of cartoons depicting Navy life and one that depicts the photography lab on the carrier.

Note: there are photographs that depict graphic scenes of war; folders that contain such images have been cited in the inventory.

In addition to the visual materials there are a small number of textual documents intermixed within the photographs. These include a Christmas card from the Photo Laboratory at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, Madden’s identification card, clippings, aircraft model diagrams, a photocopy of his discharge records, and portions of bulletins from the United States Navy.


  • 1930s-1950s, 1995
  • Majority of material found within 1943-1945


Conditions Governing Access

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


2.5 Cubic Feet (3 5-inch letter-size document boxes, 3 oversize boxes (16x20"), and 1 expandable file folder)

Biographical Note: Paul J. Madden

Paul J. Madden was a photographer for the United States Navy on the USS Essex during World War II.

Paul James Madden was born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 14, 1920, to John F. Madden and Catherine V. Burke. He graduated from Mechanical Arts High School in Boston. It was at this time he became interested in photography. After graduation he worked as a mechanic’s apprentice.

In July of 1940, Madden enlisted in the U.S. Navy. His first position was as a mechanic. With his interest in photography, he volunteered to be a photographer’s mate, providing documentation and aerial reconnaissance. Madden worked predominately aboard the USS Essex in the Pacific Theater. He rose to the rank of Photographer’s Mate, First Class and received numerous naval decorations, including the Purple Heart, prior to his honorable discharge on July 6, 1946.

After the war, Madden entered the plumbing trade and eventually became the business manager of the Plumber’s Union Local 12, Boston, a position he held for many years. He married Marie L. Desaulniers in 1956. They had eight children together. Madden passed away on February 20, 2004, in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Biographical note derived from donor information and records on

Processing Information

This collection has been fully processed.

There were two photograph albums that were compiled by Madden. To address preservation needs of the materials, the Processing Archivist dismantled the albums, though organization of the images has been retained and any captions were photocopied to maintain contextual documentation.
Guide to the Paul J. Madden World War II Photograph Collection
Completed - Level 3
Charise Dinges
January 2024
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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