By Noa Gutow-Ellis, Collections and Exhibitions Assistant
The tender photograph above features a young couple on their wedding day in May 1942. Julian Lowitt is wearing his army uniform alongside his bride, Bertha, as she smiles wearing a suit gifted to her by the women she worked with at Bausch + Lomb in Rochester, New York.
Prior to marrying Bertha, Julian Lowitt enlisted in the U.S. Army in December 1941. Early in his marriage, he was deployed to Europe as a Captain in the Air Corps, 32nd Photo Reconnaissance Squadron, 5th Reconnaissance Group, Mediterranean Theater. While stationed as an intelligence officer in Bari, Italy between 1943 and 1945, Captain Lowitt typed poems, all in rhyme, to mail his wife.
His poems shed light on the work he did while serving in Italy and the ways in which he loved and missed Bertha. Sent following a Christmas holiday, the following poem illuminates a young soldier aching to return home.
The basic mission of Captain Lowitt’s squadron was to obtain photographic intelligence essential to military objectives of the Allied forces. Captain Lowitt planned missions and briefed pilots individually, monitoring intelligence from the air and ensuring, among many tasks, that war maps were up-to-date. The photograph below, taken in Bari, Italy in December 1945, shows Captain Lowitt briefing a pilot.
His poetry offered a glimpse into the day to day life of serving overseas in a global war. Each poem’s tone varied depending on what Captain Lowitt experienced around the time it was written. The following poem touches on his choice to write each poem in rhyme.
Something especially wonderful about Captain Lowitt’s poetry is the handwritten additions, the minor corrections; the details mattered to him. In his more personal poetry, he offers thoughts on marriage and his love for Bertha.
In addition to donating these poems and photographs to the Museum, Bertha Lowitt was a member of the inaugural Gallery Educator Class of 1997 and a longstanding Museum Member. The Museum and its volunteer community celebrated Mrs. Lowitt’s 100th birthday at the 2017 Volunteer Recognition Dinner.
It is through Captain Lowitt’s poetry that we can better understand the toll World War II took on young couples, particularly newly-married men sent to fight in Europe. Poetry can provide words to illuminate and express otherwise unspeakable experiences. For more stories of poetry at the Museum, check out this video from the former Museum exhibition Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles.