About the U.S. Army Signal Corps Photograph Collection

Related Resources | Search Tips

The Hampton Roads port facility, located in Newport News, Virginia, was deployed as a Port of Embarkation during World War II to ship soldiers overseas. So many soldiers had to be transported abroad that for some ships, Hampton Roads served as home port. In addition to embarkations, the port received those returning from the war.

The Library of Virginia's U.S. Army Signal Corps Photograph Collection (SCC) includes more than 3,500 photographs from the Hampton Roads Embarkation Series, 1942-1946. These photographs show the preparation and loading of war materials, the activities of the U.S. Quartermaster Corps, U.S. military personnel arriving and departing through the ports of Hampton Roads, civilian employees, Red Cross workers, wounded personnel, entertainers, animals, and German and Italian prisoners of war who came through these ports during World War II.

The arrival and departure of more than 1.5 million people in Hampton Roads was documented by the army's Transportation Corps, which maintained a port historian's office and assigned Signal Corps photographers to record as many comings and goings as practicable.

In most cases, the individuals in the photographs are identified. The army photographers interviewed the people appearing in the photographs, and recorded this text for posterity.

The database of the collection provides keyword search access to the descriptive text associated with each photograph. Personal names, ship names, geographical locations, and many other terms may be searched and the descriptive texts retrieved.

The SCC database also links the digitized images of the photographs to the entries retrieved upon searching.

Related Resources

The history of the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation during World War II is documented in The Road to Victory (2 volumes). Edited by William R. Wheeler (Newport News, Va., 1946). Also of interest is Roster of Officers of the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation. Edited by John M. Hetherington (Newport News, Va., 1946).

Search Tips

The vast majority of the photographs were taken at the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation in Newport News, Virginia. A few photographs were taken in Baltimore and Chicago. To find these photographs, include the terms "baltimore" or "chicago" in a Basic (keyword) search , using Words Anywhere.

There are various identifying numbers included with the caption information for each photograph. If these numbers are known, a keyword search may be used to retrieve these photographs.


Title Search

The title of each photograph is the first line of the caption which accompanies the photograph. Enter as much of the exact title as may be known in a Browse search using the Title index.


Image Number 

The image number is composed of a number representing the collection (C1:2), the number of the volume in which the photograph is bound, and the page number of the photograph.  The image number is only visible in the MARC display, and is keyword-searchable.  The photographs were bound in chronological order, so the image number indicates the order in which they were taken.


"The Odyssey of an American Soldier"

Volume 35 of the Signal Corps Collection comprises a special group of photographs with the collective title "The Odyssey of an American Soldier." These photographs trace the journey of one soldier, Private First Class Woodrow Arnold Powers, from the troop train arriving in Virginia from Texas, through his stay at Hampton Roads, to his voyage on a transport ship and eventual debarkation at an overseas port close to the combat zone. The photographs can be retrieved as a group by doing a Basic (keyword) search on the word "odyssey."


Click on the URL at the top of the full record display to view the digitized image.

For more detailed help with searching, click on the "Help" link on the main search screen and scroll down to "Search Functions" and "Search Tips."

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