Thursday, March 19, 2020

Nishan Toor | Phony tree trunk as observation post

Nishan Toor with tree-like observation post
Recently we ran across a curious news article, accompanied by a poor quality World War I photograph from the battlefield in France. The article was published in the San Francisco Examiner on February 16, 1919. Only a few days earlier, as described in an earlier post, a group of California artists, who had served in France as camoufleurs with the Fortieth Engineers, arrived home from the war. We published a list of the artists, but, in this particular article, four of them are mentioned by name: Stanley Long, Frank W. Swaim, Sam Macloud, and Nishan Tooroonjian (who changed his name to Nishan Toor).

Published beside the article is a photograph (shown above) of Armenian-born artist Nishan Toor standing beside an observation lookout post, made to be a look-alike for an actual rotted tree trunk that it was a replacement for. This is described in the article thus—

A San Francisco sculptor, N, Tooroonjian, made a complete tree with a regular trap door for purposes of sniping and observation.

"There was a real tree on our front that the Germans had been used to looking at for some time. This was in an exposed position and was used for locating artillery ranges," said the sculptor.

"I studied this tree and made a duplicate from artificial material. We sneaked out one night, tumbled over the real tree and placed my imitation about fifty feet from where the old one had been. We spent a couple of days digging a tunnel which led to the make-believe tree and our boys were able to have a good view of the German lines for some time.

"Also the Hun shells were landing just fifty feet away from where they were supposed to hit."