70 years ago during WWII, an unknown soldier captured 31 rolls of film throughout his journey in the service. Thanks to Levi Bettweiser, a collector and restorer of old and historical film, this collection of photos has been discovered and restored. Giving us raw footage from World War II the world has never seen before.
Bettweiser works with the Rescued Film Project, an archive dedicated to preserving lost film from the past. Bettweiser uncovered the rolls of undeveloped film at an auction in Ohio. Bettweiser could see some of the rolls were damaged by rust and water, and so he remained skeptical about how the photos would actually turn out. He remembers thinking, “There is a large possibility that I might not recover a single image from any of these rolls of film.”
Watch Bettweiser’s story unfold, as the unknown soldier in the images tells his own journey, one that was almost lost forever.
While processing the images out of his kitchen, Bettweiser was overjoyed to see the past coming to life before his eyes. “When I pulled the film that I had just developed out of my film development tank and look at them, I’m the very first person that has ever seen that picture.”
In an interview with Bored Panda Levi reveals, “The rescued WWII film is truly unique from anything else we’ve rescued so far, which currently is over 5,500 images and counting… I think the fact that these images are documenting a large historical event that impacted so many people really creates a sense of intrigue with anyone viewing them.”
Idaho-based Levi Bettwieser also works as a photographer, focusing largely on Custom Portrait Photography, covering everything from fitness to fashion. When he’s not busy working on modern day projects he digs deep into photos of the past with the Rescued Film Project.
The Rescued Film Project is an online archive full of pictures snapped from the 1930’s to the late 1990’s. All of the images in their archives were rescued from different locations around the world, arriving as undeveloped rolls of film. Rescued Film Project has the tools to process film from any era, even film damaged by moisture, heat and age.
When Bettweiser originally encountered the 31 rolls of film they were enclosed in a plastic bag. He could see through the plastic that the rolls were hand labeled, which according to him is, “always a draw when it comes to old film.”
Here Are Some Of The Recovered Photographs:
While it still remains unclear who captured these photos, plenty of information has flooded in about the different locations seen in the footage. Bettweiser says, “It’s interesting to us that many of the images are taken outside of whatever respective scene being shot.”
The photographer doesn’t seem to interact with any of the subjects in his photographs. “Almost as if they’re some sort of journalist documenting significant moments. We’ve had some research suggesting that the images could be the documentation of the return home trip of several POW’s.”
The organization is actively seeking old film rolls, and they pressure anyone and everyone to rescue any film from the past. If you don’t, these potentially monumental moments are lost in history forever. The Rescued Film Project is always willing to take old film footage and process it for free.
Hear the story in Bettweiser’s own words:
Film is an organic material that naturally degrades with time. If you ever find undeveloped rolls of old film make sure to get them to the Rescued Film Project as soon as possible!