The $5,000.00 Photograph

Irvin S. Copper

The young guy in the helmet, goggles, and white scarf, was me as a Cadet in January, 1944. It was a photograph taken by the Navy just before we received our wings as U.S. Naval Aviators. The photograph was made for the Navy files, in the event I became a war hero or killed in battle. They made ten copies, postcard size, and gave nine of them to each Cadet to trade with classmates, or send home to family and friends.

I gave my first copy to my friend AI Nadler, a skilled and eager pilot who was hoping for carrier duty in the Pacific. As things turned out, I ended up in the Pacific and AI spent the War years as a flight instructor.

When I returned home at the end of the War, AI was one of the first of my buddies I met. We were both wearing our working green uniforms with gold wings on our breast pocket, and our lt.(jg) one and one half gold stripes on our sleeves. He was envious of my combat ribbons pinned under my wings. We hugged each other happily and tried to catch up on our experiences since we had last seen each other. We recalled memories, friends, and the nostalgia of the programs we went through together. We laughed, and then AI gave me another hug and tugged at his tight Navy tunic. In his breast pocket, just behind his gold wings, he gleefully removed my Cadet photo to show me how he had carried it all the time I was overseas. The edges were worn from handling and I was baffled why he would have carried my picture so long. AI boasted to me that my photograph was worth $5,000.00. Before I could ask for an explanation, he had already started to give it to me.

“Every night after flight school,” he began, “I would go into town and head for a local bar. I would sit down on a stool and take your picture out. I would lean it up against a bar glass and then look at your photo. Usually, someone came in alongside and would sit next to me, and curiously ask, “Who’s that?”

“I would shrug my shoulders,” and Al performed the ritual for me, and say, “That’s my pal Cooper. He just got shot down fighting the War in the Pacific. Without hesitation, the guy would put his hand on my shoulder and say, “Let me buy you a drink.”

Al looked at me with pride in his eyes. “Let me tell you,” he said, “that picture of yours bought me at least $5,000.00 worth of drinks.”

More articles are found in the Spring 2011 MMA Newsletter.

Pensacola Reunion Information
Pensacola Holiday Inn Information
OFFICIAL RECORD: Second VP-40 / Michael D. Roberts
Interview: PBM Mariner Combat Crewman / Jon Guttman, Aviation History, 2004,
“Dead” Men’s Diary / Owen McCarty, The Saturday Evening ,1947
The $5,000.00 Photograph / Irvin S. Copper,

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