The stunning scene introducing you to the Briefing Room was taken in December 1944, not 1997, with the finest film ever made, early Kodachrome with an ASA of 8...yes, eight. The Lockheed P-38J Lightning of 95th Squadron, 82nd Fighter Group, commander Maj. Warner F. Gardner, "Able Golf," heads home to Vincenzo, Italy across the Alps. Both drop tanks are gone, having been jettisoned over enemy territory. There are seven German kill flags on the nose representing the claims Gardner made the previous June and July. Harley E. Barnhart took the shot from his own Lightning, doing history a great service.

Since the beginning of Jeff Ethell's aviation history career 30 years ago, in the process writing 60 books, his most enduring single-minded crusade was to locate and preserve as much World War II Kodachrome as possible. Though experts have said 50+ year-old color was extremely rare, the opposite is actually true, since it was available on most drug store shelves from the late 1930s. Jeff told the story of his rewarding research in many of the 16 books he wrote and illustrated using only wartime Kodachrome.  He said it was more thrilling to him as a historian than the most involved archeological adventure. As a result, Jeff's collection hovers at around 30,000 35mm vintage slides and 4x5 transparencies, a figure even he thought impossible a few years ago.

With the plethora of World War II web sites, illustrated by either vintage black and white or currently flying restored warbirds, we thought we'd share some of the images from Jeff's astounding collection. These images have not been doctored in any way...this is the way they actually look, thanks to five emulsion Kodachrome, which Kodak no longer manufactures. Feel free to download these photos as personal wallpaper but they may not be reproduced for publication or public distribution without the collection's permission.
 Back to color WWII photos