Peter Paul Ruplenas was born in “Southie”, also known as South Boston Massachusetts on October 5th 1918.
In 1941, he met Hazel Elena Rice on a blind date and married her six weeks later. Peter and Hazel remained married for almost 70 years, but Hazel passed away in 1986. Peter never remarried.
“Rupy” entered the U.S. Army in June 24, 1941 and kept signing re-enlistment papers every three years until 1970, before retiring from active service. During his amazing career, he would cover three wars; WW2, the Korean and Vietnam War.
After basic training, Peter followed a two-week course in the Photography School, Davis-Monthan Army Air Field, Arizona and was shipped off to England, where he served as a combat photographer with the 486th (Heavy) Bomb Squadron.
He was able to fly along during six bombing raids, carried out by the unit, with help of the pilots. His days flying in a B-17 bomber were cut short and that was a good thing as many of those planes did not make it back.
After WWII he went back to South Boston and made Razor blades at Gillette, before re-enlisting. He was shipped to Japan where a few years later his first son David was born in Sendai.
Two years later the Korean “conflict” broke out, where Peter suffered from frostbite and was blown 20 feet in the air from a tank that exploded 50 feet in front of him, losing part of his hearing from the constant shelling around him.
He worked covertly with “Rice’s Raiders” an anti-guerrilla team, belonging to the 7th Infantry Division (also known as the “Benedae Group”) that went behind enemy lines and decimated the enemy by destroying the weapons and incinerating any huts or houses that gave them shelter. He received a special medal for these actions.
When the 7th Infantry Division reached the Manchurian border, Peter reached the river as the third American, enabling him to shoot some great photos.
Peter recalls : “It went from 60 to 70 degrees when we first landed to 32 below. I worked day in and day out, hardly any days off because I loved my job.”
He was also shot in the hand and has permanent back damage from flying into a rock during a heavy battle.
After the Korean war, he spent 10 years in Japan and the Far East photographing many generals, dignitaries , and celebrities like Johnny Cash, Sugar Ray Robinson, Francis Albert Sinatra, Generals MacArthur, Bob Hope and many more.
When the Vietnam war came, he was shipped off to Hawaii, joining the Department of Army Special Photographers Organization. They spent time in Vietnam and then Hawaii.
He retired in 1970 as Sergeant First class but before that he shot many photos for White Sands Missile Range.
Peter “Rupy” spends his days with his son and granddaughter, thumbing through his personal photography collection.
And while he doesn’t photograph as much as he used to, “Rupy” insists, “without a camera, I’m nothing.”