Small Town, Big Honors

2022-10-31 20:55:50

Sometimes the smallest towns hold the greatest treasures. That’s especially true if you are a history or military buff. Nearly every museum in the region features an exhibit dedicated to veterans. Montana is, per capita, in the top three states for military veterans, along with Wyoming and Alaska. On Veteran’s Day—and every day—you can learn more of their stories using our Salute to Military map and visiting these military sites.

Courtesy of John Schwarz Collection

Many of our servicemen and women originate in small, rural communities like Terry. The recently unveiled John E. Schwarz Gallery, housed in American Legion Post 32, features the original works of Schwarz, a World War II combat photographer who spent his post-war years farming the Eastern Montana plains in Prairie County.

Schwarz was a member of the 100th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, which was known as the “Bloody One Hundred” for its heavy losses. Schwarz served as commander of the photo lab and flew many missions as an aerial combat photographer. When the war ended, the Eighth Air Force, which included about 40 bases in England, suffered more casualties (26,000) in World War II than the U.S. Marine Corps, which is often the first to battle the enemy forces.

Courtesy of John Schwarz Collection

A lifetime later, another Terry native and photographer of national acclaim, Jeff Scheid, curated Schwarz’ wartime work because he knows how a strong image—and a collection of images—can tell a cohesive and timeless story, and he didn’t want it to be lost.

“Being a photojournalist, I am fascinated in what it was like to be a World War II photographer compared to the ease of today’s digital cameras and smartphones,” Scheid said. “I also wanted to contribute to a gallery the community of Terry would be proud of—that will bring more folks to Terry.”

The recent dedication event included a video summary, condensed by Michael Quine, of Schwarz’ 16mm film from the war along with a brief history of the 100th Bomb Group.

Courtesy of John Schwarz Collection

After the war, NBC purchased all of Schwarz’ footage of bomber raids into Germany and Nazi-held territory. Schwarz’ son, Dave, shared that his dad continued to use his cameras at all of Terry’s home football games. Schwarz died August 15, 2009, at the Eastern Montana Veterans Home at age 93.

The images of World War II photographers like Schwarz are cutting-edge for their time, technically accurate and quite raw while giving the viewer enough to imagine the life of a serviceman or woman in the 1940s.

You can view the John E. Schwarz Gallery, which includes bomber nose art, at the Terry American Legion Post 32 at 112 Logan Avenue in Terry.

Stories like this, and more, abound across the region and our country. They are yours to discover out here.