Poignant farewells in 1940s wartime –
A moment in time captured by Life Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt ( best remembered for his iconic Vj day kiss in Times Square in 1945) at Pennsylvania Station, New York,in April 1943.Here is the original report.
The grey, insistent feeling of war has washed now into the lives of most Americans. In their home towns, people overhear the quiet weeping of a bereaved soldier’s or sailor’s family. On their world maps, they see the foreign continents and islands not as far-off romantic spots but as places of danger and foreboding.
Down at their railway depots, you see the commonplace, poignant spectacle of soldiers saying goodbye to their loved ones. Recently Alfred Eisenstaedt spent a few days in Pennsylvania Station in New York City, where most New York soldiers get their final goodbyes.
Neither Eisenstaedt nor his candid camera were noticed as they recorded these little dramas of women saying goodbye to the men they love.
In the steel and glass concourse, newly-inducted servicemen march off to war through passageways lined with mothers, wives and sweethearts. Out on the wide concrete floor, soldiers finishing their furloughs stand around repeating the well-used words of farewell.
The hurrying civilian crowds flow around the intent couples, leaving each pair a lonely little island unto themselves. Young brides of young lieutenants, saying goodbye for the first time, walk toward the train gates anxiously holding onto their husbands hands like uneasy children.
From time to time the train announcer’s voice blares through the loudspeaker. The voice echoes itself into confusion and nobody hears it. The big room muffles all its sounds. The last cried of goodbye, the last sobs, the last firmly cheerful shouts lost in a huge murmur.
The sunlight pouring in through the dusty windows is dispersed softly through the big room. The low sounds and the gentle light seem to give a kind of benediction to the small sharp sorrows which go into the brave and necessary business of fighting this war.
Images and Text ©Life Photo Collection