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Caption: Dieppe, 20 August 1942

On a flinty beach bordered by low cliffs, a young Naskapi man in the uniform of the Canadian infantry stands in front of a metal crate twice as tall as he is. He looks to his right, as though listening to someone who is not in the frame, and to his left lies twisted machine wreckage, lapped by the water. Across the grainy darkness of the metal crate, white block letters are clearly visible: WENDIGO. 

Caption: Davy and Me, Iwo Jima

Two men of Navajo descent crouch next to a SCR-299 mobile communications set in a large tent, one with a headset and the other with pen and paper. Both young men, dressed in the uniform of the US Marines, are smiling widely at the camera. The man with the headset was identified as Private First Class David Begay. The mustachioed man on the right, whose shadow seems to sport two pricked ears and a bushy tail, has yet to be identified.

Caption: April 1943

A young man wearing the insignia of the Jewish Combat Organization sits slouched against the feet of an enormous statue. He looks wearily at the camera, his eyes empty but defiant as he gazes at us across the century. The statue's knuckleless, blocky hands are stained dark. This picture is believed to be taken by a Soviet journalist after the liberation of the Warsaw ghetto in 1943.

Caption: Al Fayoum, 1940

A dark-skinned man, bald and bare-chested, stands in hip deep water, watching the camera with a calm expression. All around him are gorged Nile crocodiles and the remnants of an Italian battalion. This photo is believed to have been taken just days after Egypt declared its sovereignty from Western powers, entering four decades of neutrality.

Caption: Việt Nam độc lập!

Two Vietnamese women dressed in archaic leather armor sit easily atop elephants decked in red silk and gold tassels. The elephants, long-limbed and surprisingly delicate, are of the extinct Chinese species, vanished from the planet more than 700 years ago. By their clothing and the faint transparency of their features, the women died at least 300 years before that, during the Triệu dynasty. They smile in obvious pleasure at the two flags burning on posts before them, one Japanese and the other French.

Caption: Goodbye, Goodbye

A crowd of fourteen warmly-dressed children are lined up in a wooded area, thought to be somewhere near the Kent Downs in England. Each child clutches a cloth bag. A figure dressed in a wool greatcoat proceeds down the line, inspecting the children for any trace of iron. These children are identified as being among the Lost Ten Thousand, who entered Operation Pied Piper but then were never returned.

Caption: Every Girl Doing Her Part!

In a factory in the Finnish city of Vantaa, a pallid young woman pulls back from a sewing machine, stretching to get the kink out of her back. She is sewing a winter camouflage jacket, bound for the eastern front of the Winter War. Directly opposite her is her mirror image, seated at an identical machine. Her double is slightly transparent, and does not look up from her own work.

Caption:  588th Night Bomber Regiment, Lt. Marina Alexandrovna Petrovich and ███████████

Two women link arms in front of a Polikarpov Po-2, the wood-and-canvas crop duster used by the all-woman 588th on their nocturnal bombing missions. The woman on the left has been positively identified as Lt. Petrovich. The identity of the woman on the right, her name and rank blocked out carefully by Soviet censors, remains a mystery. The background of the pictures shows trees bent nearly double in a high wind, the women stand easily, their hair and flight straps hanging loose.

Caption: Tadefi, près de Sened, 1941

A pair of women dressed in striped wool robes, silver glinting at their brows, sit companionably on the dusty ground at midday. One woman gestures with an arm covered in blood, a lump of meat in her hand, as the other woman laughs. There is a body lying between them, a smudge of black against the brightness. They are shaded by the erect wing of a downed Messerschmitt-Bf 109. After the failure of Operation Torch, the ghuls of Tunisia roamed freely until armistice.

Caption: None

A small woman dressed in the severe uniform of the Kuomintang sorceresses stands as straight as a spear on the wooden docks of Hangzhou Bay. Before her raised fist, the waters are being thrashed to foam. In the distance, an unmistakably crocodilian head rises out of the water, enormous even from so far away. This is one of the very few photographs of Superior Field General Yang Guiying taken before China barricaded itself off from east and west alike in 1936. It is the only known photograph of a dragon.

Caption: No. 3 Staging Post, Masirah

An older Omani man wearing a bright white dishdasha and a heavily embroidered pillbox hat gazes with fond amusement at a de Havilland Mosquito, the Wooden Wonder of the Royal Air Force. He reaches up to touch a propeller with one hand while behind him a trio of British officers look on with expressions of anxiety and concern. In the shadows, it is difficult but not impossible to see that the Omani man's feet are goat hooves.

Caption: Liberation, Manzanar, California

A car sits on a snowy road, misty mountain peaks in the hazy background. A Japanese man in a fedora and thick coat loads suitcases into the car's trunk as he is approached by a woman carrying a little girl carrying a teapot. The teapot sports a long striped tail and neat black paws, the little girl's expression is serious. She is less than three years old, and has never before traveled beyond the barbed wire of Manzanar. The woman is smiling, and in a moment, the man will turn to them.

Nghi Vo lives by an inland sea. Her current interests include old gods, new gods, candymaking, alchemy, puppet theater, and the Ottoman Empire. She can be contacted at
Current Issue
27 Mar 2023

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