Panoramic Photograph of WWI Doughboys at Camp Kearny, San Diego
An impressive "banquet" format panoramic group portrait of approximately 100 uniformed U.S. Army soldiers, members of Company M, of the 158th Infantry, stationed at Camp Kearny, in San Diego, California. Camp Kearny was in operation from 1917 to 1946 - the site is presently Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
Camp Kearny, named for the noted military commander Stephen Watts Kearny of Mexican War fame, began operations in January 1917. The base was primarily used to train infantrymen on their way to the battlefields of Europe. While a proper airstrip was never built on the property during WWI, U.S. Army and Navy aircraft from Naval Air Station North Island did land on the parade deck. Following the Armistice, Camp Kearny was used to demobilize returning servicemen and was closed on October 20, 1920.
The 158th Infantry had its origins in the Arizona National Guard, when the 1st Arizona Infantry was drafted into service on August 5, 1917 and re-designated. The regiment was sent overseas in August 1918, and acted as the honor guard for President Wilson during his visit to France in 1918. The regimental band marched and performed in the Allied Victory Parade attended by the president. The 158th was demobilized on May 3, 1919 at Camp Kearny.
The young men in the present group portrait are all wearing their Doughboy uniforms - several appear to be Latino, possibly Mexican American - most of the soldiers are attempting to maintain a serious countenance - all have their arms crossed - but one outlier holds a German shepherd puppy on his lap.
The left-hand part of the photograph includes a legend (in the negative) with standard wording that often appeared in Camp Kearny Studio photographs:
I'd like to be with you a while and hear about the folks.
I'd like to sit and see you smile, at the same old jokes.
But since you are so far away, I cannot hope to go.
I'll send along this little token, just to say hello!
Evidently, the Camp Kearny Studio was located on-site and specialized in making real photo postcards and large panoramas of soldiers using a banquet-style camera.
Large-scale original panoramic photographs of WWI-era West Coast Army soldiers are rare in the market. Such prints were issued in relatively small numbers, for officers and men directly connected to the particular unit.