Monday, April 29, 2013

Keeping up with world affairs

A self-portrait of my father, Carl Erik Elg, from 1941. I guessed that he was reading Life Magazine, and by comparing this image to the online version of Life at Google Books, I was able to determine that this is indeed their May 19, 1941 issue. The article on the right hand page is about the technology of incendiary bombs, published under the “Science” heading.
There are a number of things which are remarkable about this picture. Having a color slide from 1941 is interesting in itself. But this photo is also taken in Sweden, during some of the darkest days of the second world war. In May 1941, Britain stood alone in fighting the Nazi regime. The European continent was under German occupation. It is still half a year until Pearl Harbor, and Russia is still allied to Germany through the Molotov – Ribbentrop agreement. Sweden is neutral, but to the west and south Norway and Denmark have been occupied by the Germans for more than a year, and to our east, the Finns are trying to recover from the 1939-1940 “winter war” against Russia. International trade is very limited by the war.
My father was very interested in international affairs, and a subscriber to Life until it ceased publishing. But how did Life magazine make its way to Sweden at this time? One story I seem to recall is that printing plates were flown to Sweden and the magazine printed locally, as part of the “information war” for hearts and minds, but this is half a year before the US joined the war? And in that case, would they have bothered making full color prints of advertising directed to the American market (they did later print a special version which was distributed to US forces overseas, but this did not include advertising)?