Albany photographer covered Tojo capture
ALBANY Albany native John J. Wilpers Jr. became part of history in 1945, when he and other U.S. counterintelligence officers took Hideki Tojo into custody.
George Burns — another Albany man — was also part of the story.
Burns served as a photographer during World War II and worked in the Pacific Theater for the Army’s Yank magazine. Among Burns’ most notable photographs were pictures of Tojo after he had attempted suicide on Sept. 11, 1945. “He was the first photographer on the scene, minutes after American officers kicked in the door and wrestled the would-be suicide weapon away from Tojo,” read Burns’ obituary in the Schenectady Gazette.
Burns also covered Iwo Jima, and along with photographer Joe Rosenthal, took pictures of the five U.S. Marines and Navy hospital corpsman who raised the American flag atop Mount Suribachi.
Burns began working as a copy boy in the Albany bureau of The Associated Press in 1936 and joined the Albany Times Union two years later as a news photographer. In 1939, Burns was hired to oversee a news bureau started by the General Electric Co. — the first news bureau in American industry.
After the war, Burns rejoined GE as the company’s chief news photographer. In 1946, he started his own business — Burns Photography Inc. His work appeared in major newspapers and magazines such as Life, Look and The Saturday Evening Post.
Retired Daily Gazette photographer Sid Brown occasionally would see Burns on jobs.
“He would work for different magazines, mostly commercial stuff,” Brown said. “I think he was very good. The things that he did, he had all kinds of equipment. He didn’t hesitate to have $200 worth of lights to take one picture. Guys like me were in with one light and out of there. He would set up all day and make sure everything was just right.”
Burns was 71 and a resident of Niskayuna when he died on May 7, 1988.