The dawn of the new decade introduced Bill--as it did millions of others--to a world beyond comprehension, that of a nation at war. He enlisted in the Navy, where his talents were aptly placed: he was assigned as a photographer to the White House. In the ensuing years, Bill produced some of his most poignant and powerful work: stark images in black-and-white of presidents, prime ministers, dictators, statesmen, generals, royalty, soldiers, and citizens.

Elliot Roosevelt Ranch [FDR with family members during stop on his secret tour of U.S. bases and war industries]

Franklin Delano Roosevelt profoundly influenced Belknap. The president's composure and dedication, even when gripped with physical pain, commanded the respect and admiration of his entourage. Bill, like other photographers at the time, abided by the president's wish never to photograph him until he was fully prepared. During the handful of years that Belknap accompanied Roosevelt, he produced hundreds of images of FDR, including those captured on the "Prexy's" secret tour of military installations and war plants, meetings with Molotov and Churchill, and the last official family portrait of the Roosevelts taken before the death of the patriarch.

Wreckage of Berlin--Ruins Near the Tiergarten, July 22, 1945

As the war drew to a close, Bill accompanied President Harry S. Truman on the battleship USS Augusta on a trans-Atlantic voyage en route to the Allied Conference. Candid photographs taken on board show the president interacting with a clearly appreciative crew. Although his assignment was ostensibly to document the Potsdam Conference and the Allied presence, an unscheduled afternoon presented Belknap with the opportunity to create some of his finest work: images of a devastated Berlin overlain by the extraordinary ability of the human spirit to endure.

Fran and Buzz Belknap--Indian Lodge During a Two-Week Leave, August 1944

During the war years, several important changes took place in Bill's personal life. On December 23, 1941 he and Frances Spencer wed in a small family ceremony near Washington, D.C. Their two children, Buzz (William III) and Loie (Laura) were both born in the capitol city. Bill and Fran formed a remarkable team, supporting each other in their endeavors. Fran was definitely a full partner, and a most accomplished woman in her own right. A perfectionist, she told things as she saw them, and was devoted to her family. She introduced Bill to the Christian Science faith, which he ultimately adopted. A deeply spiritual couple, they viewed life as a continuum and one rich with possibility. As such, they chose not to limit themselves, their family, or their friends by age or perceived ability.

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