Research Tips: The “Griffin Group” Photos in the National Archives

A special shout-out is due to Marc Romanych of Digital History Archive who introduced the Webmaster to the Griffin Group photos!!!  As a result, the Webmaster spent the last two days in the National Archives “walking” the Western Front shortly after war’s end.


National Archives record group 120-G is a collection of 2,262 photographs of the American battlefields of the Western Front taken in early 1919 under the direction of Major T. H. Griffin of G-2.  His team of photographers was tasked with taking photographs in the areas occupied by the American troops during the war.  They show general terrain, towns, roads, railroads, bridges, headquarters, building, dugouts, etc.


The collection is largely, but not totally, organized by divisions to which they relate.  For example, the photo of Madeleine Farm (below) is in the 80th Division folder, although one could argue it could belong in other divisional folders.  Also, the photo of Varennes (below) is in the 78th Division folder, although the 28th or 35th Division seems more appropriate.  Several divisions don’t have files, although much of the terrain is covered in the other files.


The most important part of this collection is the EACH PHOTO has a caption indicating the subject, the location, the map coordinates and the date.  Within the division, they are broken down into regions:  Argonne Meuse (AM), Chateau Thierry (CT), Champagne (CH), St. Mihiel (SM), Belgium (BM) and Alsace (AM.)  This makes it invaluable for researchers and battlefield tourists alike.


Two examples from the collection are shown below.  The caption details are clearly visible on the bottom of the photograph:


Griffin Madeleine Ferme 80th Resized


Griffin Varennes 78th Div Resized


Members who have the time should definitely try to view these documents in the National Archives in College Park Maryland.  The Webmaster spent a day and a half viewing and scanning many of the photographs; and he really felt like he walked the battlefield shortly after the end of the war.


Now the bad news:  With just two weeks to go before leaving for France, the Webmaster does NOT currently have the time to handle search requests.  Perhaps in the not-too-distant future…