Goofy vintage photos of World War One soldiers posing with fake military props, 1914-1930

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“Flight from the sand desert [i.e., military camp] Neuhammer.” Nuehammer Military Camp, Germany. Unidentified photographer.

These military portraits collected by Christopher B. Steiner, a professor of art history and anthropology at Connecticut College, capture moments of soldiers being goofy while posing with fake military props.

Some images appear to be staged to accentuate silliness; while others are posed with almost comical self-seriousness. Removed, momentarily, from the brutality and absurdity of war, these souvenir portraits capture moments of camaraderie and humanity.

The majority of the pictured soldiers are Germans, the rest from France, the United States, Belgium and they range in time from the beginning of World War I to the end of World War II.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Flight from Döberitz.” Berlin, Germany. Photographer: Paul Höfer. 1914.

Since the late 19th century, photo studios used fake airplanes, tanks, automobiles, trains, and other scrapped military props for their photoshoots. These photographs were meant to be souvenirs for servicemen to send home to friends and families.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was about 40 million: estimates range from around 15 to 22 million deaths and about 23 million wounded military personnel, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.

The total number of deaths includes from 9 to 11 million military personnel. The civilian death toll was about 6 to 13 million. The Triple Entente (also known as the Allies) lost about 6 million military personnel while the Central Powers lost about 4 million.

At least 2 million died from diseases and 6 million went missing, presumed dead. About two-thirds of military deaths in World War I were in battle, unlike the conflicts that took place in the 19th century when the majority of deaths were due to disease.

Nevertheless, disease, including the 1918 flu pandemic and deaths while held as prisoners of war, still caused about one-third of total military deaths for all belligerents.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“With thunder, hail and lightning God created Desert Döberitz”; “Flight from Desert Döberitz.” Döberitz Military Training Camp (aka “Desert Döberitz”). Photographer: Alfons Weghuber.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Hooray. [This] unit has 22 days left.” Unidentified location, Germany. 1915.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Flight from Bitsch at 636 meters altitude.” Soldiers with mascot on a painted studio prop of the Viktoria Luise Zeppelin, Bezirk Lothringen, German Lorraine. Unidentified photographer. 1915.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

Truppenübungsplatz (military training ground), Elsenborn, Germany. Photographer: Alexander Herld. 1915.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Reserved Flight Home from Bitsch.” Straßburg, Austria. Photographer: J. Jungmann. 1912.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

Military training ground, Neuhammer am Queis, Germany. Photographer: Paul Riediger. 1914.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Flight from the Military Training Camp at Darmstadt.” Ideal Studio, Darmstadt, Germany. Photographer: Fritz Sengers. 1913.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

Lockstedter Military Camp, near Hülsings, Germany. Wahrmann Studio. 1914.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“The trip to Hannover is here.” Dörnitz Military Camp (Altengrabow), Germany. Photographer: Max Schütze. 1930s.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Flight from Altengrabow.” Dörnitz Military Camp (Altengrabow), Germany. Photographer: Max Schütze. 1930s.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Those who remained faithful to their mother can be seen flying from here.” Munster, Germany. Unidentified photographer. 1928.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Flight from Jüterbog.” Teltow-Fläming district, Germany. Photographer: Ernst Löhn. 1925-1930.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Happy New Year 1918.” Unidentified German studio. 1918.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Escape from Munster.” Munster Military Camp, Germany. 1916.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Escape from sand desert [military camp] Neuhammer.” Neuhammer, Germany. Photographer: Paul Riediger. 1913.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

Figure 25 Munster Military Camp, Germany. Unidentified photographer. The “§ 11” symbol on the two beer barrels denotes a paragraph from the German “Beer Code,” which reads “Es wird fortgesoffen” or “Keep on drinking.” 1925.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

German soldiers on faux Easter egg prop. Unidentified location, Germany. 1930s.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“Sightseeing Flight – Faßberg Air Base – Munster – Hamburg, 1938.” Munster, Germany. Photographer: Richard Schubert. 1938.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

Camp de Bitche, Département de la Moselle, France. Photographer: Charles Montag. 1925.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

French military aviators in painted biplane studio prop, with Eiffel Tower and the Trocadéro Palace in background. Paris, France. Unidentified photographer. 1928.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

Coney Island Amusement Park, New York. Unidentified photographer. 1930s.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

German soldiers on wooden cutout stork. Munster, Germany. Unidentified photographer. 1930.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

Soldier posing with fake horse in front of painted backdrop, Republic of Estonia. Unidentified photographer. 1920.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

American soldier pointing his revolver at German infantry studio prop. Unidentified location, USA. 1917.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

American soldiers riding a wooden cutout donkey while resting their feet on a box inscribed “To hell with Hitler.” Unidentified photographer, USA. 1940s.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

Nazi officers in photomontage single-propeller plane. Unidentified location, Germany. 1930-1940.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

French soldiers in studio tank prop. Unidentified location, France. 1944-1945.

goofy vintage soldiers fake military props

“If this thing bursts we are done for.” Munich, Germany. Photographer: Richard Schubert. 1933.

(Photo credit: Collection of Christopher B. Steiner / Mashable.com).