The Second World War forever enshrined those who lived through it as "the greatest generation." Though veteran-writers like Norman Mailer and James Jones portrayed their comrades as hard-boiled, red-blooded pillars of machismo, My Buddy (Taschen) reveals soldiers and sailors at their most unguarded. Encouraged to form strong homosocial bonds to mitigate the stress of combat, troops would frolic with their "buddies" away from the frontline.
"Between battles they were able to bathe in makeshift showers and in rivers, lakes, and streams; to swim; catch a few rays and just mess around like the kids they recently were," writes the book's editor, Dian Hanson. These jaunts often took place in the buff. As former WWII Marine and memoirist Scotty Bowers puts it in My Buddy's intro, "There 2013 aren't many of those shy types in the Marines." Here, an exclusive first peek.
There was a certain amount of what they call grab-ass in the service, which is what you see in these pictures.
"Playing grab-ass," but only when you're not in combat. You know, it's just like a bunch of kids together. These guys were all young in the Marine Corps, 18, 19, 20, and they might play grab-ass when they're swimming in the ocean or swimming in a river. And someone could possibly take a picture.
There are guys who are more likely to do it [take a picture]. There is the shy type of guy, and there is the aggressive type, and the aggressive type is the grab-ass type. If the guys are buddies, the guy might throw his arm around you, you know, and then the next time it's a little kiss on the cheek. And the next time it's a peter squeeze.
You're just very close buddies, like a father, or an uncle. It's not like you got a kiss and a suck. It's just fucking around. It happened all the time because, you see, there aren't many of those shy types in the Marines.
-- Scotty Bowers
ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF TASCHEN. THE MICHAEL STOKES COLLECTION (SUN BATHERS). THE JIM HEIMANN COLLECTION (SHOWER). THE DIAN HANSON COLLECTION (CLIFF DIVE)