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Posted on: May 7, 2021

See WWII ‘Through the Lens of a Cookeville Soldier’ at Cookeville History Museum

A picture of Gaskell Warren at Cookeville History Museum

COOKEVILLE – Gaskell Warren always had a camera with him – even at war.

The World War II soldier traveled all over Europe in the mid-1940s as a member of the military police, taking pictures of most everything he saw. Years later, his grandson Curt Warren inherited the collection.

“I knew him very well,” said Warren, who was 18 when his grandfather died in 1988. “He told me all kinds of stories.”

Now Warren is sharing his grandfather’s pictures with the Cookeville History Museum. Visitors can see them in a new exhibit, “Through the Lens of a Cookeville Soldier,” May 8-July 2 at 40 E. Broad St. Admission is free.

Pam Philpot, museum exhibit specialist, said the collection is special to Cookeville since it came from one of its own soldiers. 

“His interest in photography led to the documentation of a soldier’s journey all over Europe during a monumental time in world history,” she said. “To see these photos through his eyes is so interesting.”

Around 50 photos were selected from hundreds in the collection for the exhibit. 

“There are photos of the atrocities of war that one would expect to see, but there are also photos of the local people, beautiful landscapes and even Bob Hope!” Philpot said.

Most all of Gaskell’s photos have handwritten details on the back.

“He wrote what he was seeing, experiencing or sometimes just thinking about on the photo,” Philpot said.

Warren added, “He was a photographer. He took pictures of everything.”

Another of Gaskell’s passions was singing. While in the service, he sang bass in a gospel quartet called The Melody Boys, whose voices were broadcast on American Forces Network radio on Sundays. Gaskell’s photo collection even includes a picture of the group posed behind a microphone in Munich, Germany, in 1945.

Another member of that quartet was a tenor singer from Kentucky named Marshall Jones – better known as Grandpa Jones. According to Warren, Jones would call Gaskell years later to tell him about a new show called Hee Haw that was going to be on TV. He wanted Gaskell to sing with him on the show.

“And my grandpa turned him down,” Warren said.

Show business just wasn’t for him, Gaskell had told his grandson. However, he remained an active figure in the gospel singing and songwriting community for many years.

And that’s another thing Gaskell passed on to his grandson.

“He got me into singing,” Warren said. “I sing in a gospel quartet and have traveled all over the United States. It’s because of him.” 

What are Warren’s hopes for the photo exhibit?

That people will see the reality of World War II – that it really happened. 

“I’ve got pictures and documentation from my grandfather who told me about some of the things he saw,” he said. “There are so many people that are trying to erase our history, and I am a big proponent of history. That’s who we are. That’s what made us the country we are today. If it wasn’t for people like him and these soldiers that went to war to fight for our freedoms, we wouldn’t be sitting here having this conversation.”

Cookeville History Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. For more information, call 931-520-5455.

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