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MT National Guard apologizes: recruiting poster featured German WWII soldiers

German WWII soldiers mistakenly added in
Kelsey MT NG poster
Posted at 5:51 PM, Feb 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-17 12:11:59-05

BILLINGS — A Montana Army National Guard recruiting poster is being taken down statewide after an editing mistake was pointed out on social media.

The poster states: "It’s more than college money….It’s the spirit of tradition."

But in the background, images of German World War II soldiers are prominent, which sparked outrage online.

Several months ago, the poster was distributed across Montana.

The recruitment poster
The recruitment poster

Above is the poster that’s getting so much attention. Command Sgt. Major Keith DeBoo is pictured holding a photo of his veteran grandfather Louis DeBoo.

But German soldiers from WWII were mistakenly added in the background around DeBoo.

German WWII soldiers
German WWII soldiers

"I’m sure that somewhere, the (Public Affairs) office for the National Guard is squirming, to say the least,” said Randy Stiles, a district commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Billings, on Friday.

"I can see their idea about tradition through the decades. Well, never at any point has the National Guard supported the Nazi party, or Germany for that matter,” Stiles said. "More than likely, it was like, ‘Hey, the National Guard wants us to do this. We’re an ad agency.’ So they went over, they got some Adobe stock. ‘Oh that’s cool looking, I’ll put that down.’ Well, the person probably doing it was probably an assistant of an assistant of an assistant. And, well, really didn’t know our history."

Randy Stiles
Randy Stiles

MTN News contacted the Montana Army National Guard to inquire about the poster and was sent the following statement:

Montana National Guard leadership is aware of a Montana Army National Guard recruiting poster that appears to show members of the World War II German Army in the background. This poster does not represent our history or values and has been removed from further distribution. We sincerely apologize for this serious mistake.

The poster was created by the Montana Army National Guard. The intent of the poster was to show our tradition of multi-generation service. Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence DeBoo is shown holding a picture of his grandfather, veteran Louis DeBoo. In searching for a historical image for the background of the poster, the creator found an Adobe Stock photo. During the approval process, the Recruiting team did not recognize the German-style uniforms and equipment.

More than 800 Montanans were killed in action during World War II. The Montana National Guard’s 163rd Infantry Regiment fought in the Pacific Theater from 1942 through 1945 during the Southern Philippines, New Guinean and Papuan Campaigns. The service and sacrifice of Montana’s veterans such as Louis DeBoo and the 163rd is carried forward in everything the Montana National Guard does today. Again, we sincerely apologize for this mistake.

Stiles, a Marine and Army National Guard veteran of 25 years, knows DeBoo (the man featured on the poster) personally.

"Had he known that he was going to do that or be back there, he would have said something. He would never, ever, ever stand for something like that,” Stiles said.

Stiles looking at the poster
Stiles looking at the poster

Stiles believes the mistake was made by someone who wasn’t well-versed in history and outside of the Montana Army National Guard.

"They clearly were young and not in the know,” said Stiles. "I don’t think it really reflects the Guard at all. If the people that do think it reflects, clearly don’t know. And I’m sure the person that put that stock photo down had no idea either."

Veterans like Stiles hope in the future, the mistake serves as a reminder.

"I think, had this kid known his history, he would’ve realized that, those aren’t American soldiers," Stiles said. "Which is kind of sad."