A few years ago I attended a party for World War II veterans at a friend's home on the anniversary of D-Day. It was a relatively sedate affair: a few surprisingly short men from the Greatest Generation sitting around, trading stories about work and life—not much talk of war. Then one of the men, Tony, brought out a book of his photographs, black-and-white snaps he'd taken while he was with the 83rd Infantry.
The photographs were, by turns, fascinating and beautiful and horrible, as war photos tend to be. And then I encountered one that looked less like an image of battle than of a crime scene. Almost casually, Tony pointed to the photo, leaned over toward me, and started talking about it. None of the other veterans paid much attention, as if they'd heard the story already, and Tony was nonchalant, as though his story wouldn’t be any particular revelation. It was a part of his war, the “Good War,” and he'd been living with it for 65 years.
The image showed a beautiful woman in an elegant dress—“fine silks,” Tony said; “she must have been high society”—lying in blood, her legs twisted under her. It could have been one of Weegee's portraits of murder victims from the 1930s Lower East Side, except an anti-tank rocket, almost as long as she was, was lying beside her.