An established crime and sports photographer, George Strock (1911-1977) joined LIFE and went off to the war in the Pacific. Initially he cabled editors that he saw so little action he was ready to quit and open a peanut stand. Other photographers did leave, but Strock stayed on for the Battle of Buna, which cost more than 3,000 Allied lives.
On that New Guinea island, Strock scrambled alongside the soldiers. They couldn’t bathe because the water smelled of the dead. They couldn’t bury the dead because of the fighting. At the time, censors banned showing any dead American soldiers, but LIFE raised the point with the government, and FDR himself decided the public was growing complacent and should see some of the reality of the war, thus “Three Dead Americans” ran in LIFE.
—Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers