REMAINS of WORLD WAR TWO in ICELAND
What remains of WW II in Iceland? Well, quite a lot it turns out.
While living in Iceland in the early 1990’s, I took it upon myself to document what I found remaining of the various camps and structures built by the American and British forces stationed in Iceland during World War II. A distant relative of mine, Bill Stevens, my Father’s cousin, was one of some 60,000 Allied Soldiers sent to Iceland early on in the war. He was a machine gunner in the 5th Infantry Division and was there from January 1942 to April 1943. He passed away many years ago, so I never got a chance to talk to him about what it was like to be stationed in such a far off and out of the way place. I imagine it was rather difficult and from what his wife Mary Ann related to me in a nice letter, he didn’t get to see much of the country, being required to spend a lot of time in camp, eating a lot of mutton, which turned his stomach. I don’t know which camp he was stationed at exactly, but I am certain I stood on what is left of the doorway and foundation of his barracks. You never know.
Most of the locations I found were by accident, stumbling across the various parts and pieces of WW II while traveling generally around the Reykjanes Peninsula taking photos. Some locations however were discovered with the kind help of my then father-in-law, Sigurthor. Because of Sigurthor’s expert directions and much needed contacts with certain leads, I was able to document the site of the B-24 crash on Fagradalsfjall, find a German plane crash site near Keiler and find an unidentified World War II plane crash site at Kleifarvatn. I was also fortunate enough to have Sigurthor as a trusty hiking companion to most of these sites. The coffee and chocolate he brought along were most welcome, as I usually didn’t have room to carry much, as I had my camera gear to lug around.
At its heart this is simply a landscape project, although I do feel there is some historical and archeological value here as well. My camera of choice for most of the images, primarily out of financial necessity, was an old Pentax Spotmatic F with a Super Takumar 35 mm f/3.5 lens. Occasionally I used a Mamiya C330 twin lens camera with an 80 mm lens and a Russian Zenit 12XP. These pretty simple tools are a far cry from what I use today, but I have fond memories of working with those cameras. Black and White film was used at the time as I could process and print the results myself in a small dark room, my then brother-in-law, Hogni was nice enough to let me borrow. In the days before affordable film scanners and computers, color film was out of the question as it was too difficult and costly to make prints on your own. Black and White Illford or Arista film was cheap and I could get chemicals from East Germany, in Iceland. Special thanks to FreeStyle Photo for supplying me with what I needed. I waited in great anticipation for each new shipment of film and paper from them. Simple pleasures in a far off place.
Just a brief note on presentation. I broke up the collection of images into 6 smaller groups, and have, located the sites with the help of Google Maps. Presented in each of these 6 collections are digital scans made recently from the original negatives, I have been carting around with me for 23 years. In 2010 I was able to return to Iceland and briefly had time to go back to some of the sites originally documented in the early 90’s, in particular to Álftanes, Hafnarfjörður and Hvalfjörður. These more recent color images are included in the collection.
For those curious few who want to learn more about what happened in Iceland during World War II I have included a reference page with links to some of the sites I have found while doing research on the subject. You will notice that I have liberally lifted images from some of these pages to include in my presentation, albeit without permission.
QUICK LINKS TO IMAGES IN THE SERIES: