World War II Pictures That Didn’t Make It Into Schools

Published on 06/28/2018
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The years of 1939-1945, during which World War II took place, are some of history’s darkest. Conflict spanning the entire continent of Europe and much of the Pacific claimed millions of lives and left a wake of death and destruction, the effects of which linger to this day. It also produced massive archives of photographs, many of which were not made publicly available. Some were even censored from textbooks, but now is your opportunity to see them for the first time.

Worthless Money

After capitulating at the end of World War I, Germany was forced by the victors to pay massive reparations, which plunged the country into a great depression. Hyperinflation ravaged the economy and banknotes lost nearly all their value. This financial tragedy supplied fuel for the flames of Hitler’s propaganda, which blamed Jews and other minorities for Germany’s hardships. Here, children play with stacks of devalued currency.

Worthless Money

Worthless Money

Hermann Goering’s Collection

As Germany sought to expand their borders, they invaded neighboring countries with a flash-attack tactic known as the “Blitzkrieg.” As they rolled across Europe, Nazis plundered art galleries and museums, keeping the best pieces for themselves. Here, an Allied soldier admires a piece from Hermann Goering’s collection of pilfered art.

Hermann Goerings Collection

Hermann Goerings Collection

Seeing The Truth

After their defeat, many German soldiers pleaded ignorance as to the horror perpetuated by their government during the way. Allied forces, to ensure the truth of the death camps became public knowledge, forced prisoners of war to watch footage from within the camps. From their faces, it’s evident how traumatic these reels must have been.

Seeing The Truth

Seeing The Truth

Young Soldiers

As Soviet and American forces surrounded Berlin, Hitler urged the population to take up arms and fight till the bitter end (all while hiding in a basement bunker himself). The elderly, women, and even children took up the call to defend their city from capture. Hand-Georg Henke, only 16, weeps at the news that Berlin has finally fallen.

Young Soldiers

Young Soldiers

Saving Civilians

Honor holds a special place within Japanese culture, which excludes surrender as an option. Government propaganda also painted American soldiers as rapists and murderers, further fanning the flames of fear among the populace. Pictured is a U.S. soldier offering a hand to a woman and her child as they come out from hiding.

Saving Civilians

Saving Civilians

Reversing The Roles

Despite efforts to hide the truth of what they’d done, the Nazis were unable to keep the Allied forces from discovering the concentration camps. With the writing on the wall, many Nazi officers attempted to flee. After the camps were liberated, Nazis found themselves on the other end of the rifles, like in this picture of a Holocaust survivor here keeping watch over a prisoner of war.

Reversing The Roles

Reversing The Roles

Hungarian Mini Tanks

When most people hear the word “tank,” they probably don’t picture this. The Hungarian army created these miniature “mini tanks”. Their purpose was for swift and stealthy maneuvers. Unfortunately, the costly project ultimately failed.

Hungarian Mini Tanks

Hungarian Mini Tanks

The Japanese Surrender

When the United States dropped two atomic bombs—nicknamed “Big Boy” and “Fa Boy”—on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they ended the war. The official surrender took place abroad the USS Missouri on September 2nd, 1945, though the aftershocks of the war would reverberate for generations.

The Japanese Surrender

The Japanese Surrender

Hitler’s Retreat

Located atop the Berchtesgaden Hills, “Eagle’s Nest” was one of Hitler’s most prized residencies. Kept secret, even fewer people knew that Hitler had an irrational fear of using the elevator, fearing that he would be struck by lightning while inside. Perhaps he should have been more worried about the coordinated attacks by the Allies as the war ended.

Hitlers Retreat

Hitlers Retreat

Female Tank Commander

Did you know even women served during World War II? Aleksandra Samusenko, the only female tank commander, served in the 1st Guards Tank Army. She was awarded the Order of the Red Star for her bravery and heroism during the Battle of Kursk, one of the bloodiest of the war. Unfortunately, Samusenko was killed in battle shortly before the war ended.

Female Tank Commander

Female Tank Commander

Close Kamikaze Call

Even with a success rate of only 19%, Kamikaze pilots struck fear into the hearts of sailors aboard Navy vessels. Here, a Kamikaze pilot narrowly misses his target, thanks to the sharp shooting of the sailors on board.

Close Kamikaze Call

Close Kamikaze Call

Strange Tactics

A number of myths circulate around the popular image of the polar bear costume in Germany. Adopted as a public mascot, it promoted calm in the face of the war. However, some believe that the disguise was used by German solider to scout out the enemy.

Strange Tactics

Strange Tactics

Can’t Destroy His Spirit

Georges Blind, pictured here, smiled in the face of the firing squad. Executed for his participation in the French Resistance, he remained true to the end, embodying their ideals up until the end.

Cant Destroy His Spirit

Cant Destroy His Spirit

Burning The Belsen Concentration Camp

The British soldiers that liberated the camp at Bergen-Belsen found the commanding officer and approximately fifty guards who had not fled. They informed the British that a typhus outbreak was ravaging the camp, causing daily fatalities even post-liberation. The British soldiers, at gunpoint, forced the Germans to bury the bodies in a mass grave, denying them protective clothing. The bodies buried and the survivors deloused, they burned the camp.

Burning The Belsen Concentration Camp

Burning The Belsen Concentration Camp

A Moment’s Silence

War affords little time for rest and relaxation. Still, these marines found time to cool off, but the reality of the front was never far from their minds.

A Moments Silence

A Moments Silence

An Odd Lighter

War, like necessity, is the mother of invention. These two German soldiers, bereft of a lighter, use a flamethrower to help light their cigarettes.

An Odd Lighter

An Odd Lighter

Belgian Beer

The Allies fought tooth and nail to free Belgium from Nazi occupation. Beginning on September 2nd, 1944, the fighting lasted till February 4th, 1945. Here, Canadian soldiers enjoy a well-deserved glass of local beer.

Belgian Beer

Belgian Beer

Burying The Dead

Even in war, moments of humanity shine through, such as when these American soldiers happened upon a fallen comrade who the enemy had buried. Their “wreath” served as their contribution to his memorial.

Burying The Dead

Burying The Dead

D-Day Scenes

D-Day, part of Operation Overlord, required over one million Allied troops to storm the beaches at Normandy. More than 200,000 German soldiers were killed; the Allies suffered major losses as well. German soldiers, having surrendered, can be seen being led away by American forces.

D Day Scenes

D Day Scenes

Feeding Polar Bears

Whereas Germans used the chill of European winters to weaken POWs during forced marches, the Russians found themselves at home in sub-zero temperatures. Here, Soviet soldiers take a break to feed polar bears from their tanks.

Feeding Polar Bears

Feeding Polar Bears

Finding The Humor

Hitler believed that the Aryan race, inherently superior, would rule the world. Possessing neither the trademark blond hair or blue eyes, Hitler was a poor example of his “master race.” This discrepancy caused more than a few chuckles, as from this American imitating the Nazi leader’s iconic hairstyle and “mustache.”

Finding The Humor

Finding The Humor

Flight Photographers

Often shot in grayscale, photographs from World War II might appear removed from reality. But color photography was used, and many black and white photos were later colored. Here, photographers pose for a picture before another aerial shoot.

Flight Photographers

Flight Photographers

German POWs

Though “all’s fair in love and war,” nations generally agree on a standard of treatment for prisoners of war, as laid down in the Geneva Convention and later Protocols. However, during World War II, this was not the case. Depending on where and by whom you were captured, you could expect wildly different treatment. The Germans and Japanese especially were known for their cruelty. Here, German POWs huddle together in Nonant-le-Pin, France, in August of 1944.

German POWs

German POWs

Germany’s Railway Gun

No, this isn’t something out of a sci-fi movie. The Schwerer Gustav railway artillery gun, designed to obliterate France’s forts along the Maginot Line, weighted a massive 1,350 tons and could fire at targets over 29 miles away. Reloading, however, took up to thirty minutes.

Germanys Railway Gun

Germanys Railway Gun

The Railway Gun Captured

American soldiers celebrate atop a captured German railway gun following the D-Day landings. Though employed in the past, railway guns would take a central position in the conflict of World War II.

The Railway Gun Captured

The Railway Gun Captured

Getting Fit

As war blazed across the European continent, America hoped to keep out of the fighting, only offering support through the sale of weapons and munitions to Allied forces. However, Washington knew that the day might come when they were dragged into the conflict, and thus passed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. Men between the ages of 18-45 were registered for the draft, something that had never happened before during peacetime.

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Having Fun

Late to the war, Americans came with a positive spirit of optimism. These Navy sailors relax as they draw ever nearer to their first sight of the war.

Having Fun

Having Fun

Hitler In Paris

Overjoyed at Paris’ capture, Hitler organized a grant parade and tour of the city for himself and other top military officials, which lasted three hours. Visiting the Eiffel Tower, among other famous landmarks, Hitler remarked that Paris was one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but that Berlin could and would surpass it.

Hitler In Paris

Hitler In Paris

Napping Kitten

In the middle of a war, these servicemen found a little time for something other than fighting. The kitten was probably more grateful for the distraction than they were!

Napping Kitten

Napping Kitten

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor, an American military base off of Hawaii, received a surprise bombing by Japanese pilots on December 7th, 1941, killing 2,335 Americans and bringing the United States into the war.

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Remote Controlled Tanks

Germany invested in numerous inventions to give themselves an edge, such as remote-controlled miniature tanks. These were designed to drive up to, or even under, enemy tanks, and explode. However, they proved to be slow and expensive to manufacture.

Remote Controlled Tanks

Remote Controlled Tanks

Rescued

Up until the bitter end, Nazis sent men and women to their deaths in concentration camps. Here, Jewish mothers and their children are liberated from a cargo train by Allied soldiers.

Rescued

Rescued

Safe Children

The German Luftwaffe undertook nightly bombing raids on British cities, stirring the populace into a panic. The fear that they would release poison gas bombs led the government to distribute gas masks to every man, woman, and child. Specially designed masks for animals were also handed out.

Safe Children

Safe Children

The Australians

As part of the Commonwealth, Australia sent over one million men and women to help support the war effort against the Axis powers. They were mainly stationed in North Africa. Here is an example of the unique Aussie humor on the El Alamein road.

The Australians

The Australians

The Colonel

This might be hard to believe, but Colonel Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, a specialist in hand-to-hand combat, was tasked with training soldiers during World War I and World War II. Legend goes that he told his marines, armed with bayonets, to attack him, and that he was able to disarm each and every one before any of them could stick him. Good thing he was on our side!

The Colonel

The Colonel

Time To Nap

In response to Luftwaffe bombing, the British RAF conducted raids of their own. This resulted in the destruction of entire towns and reduced numerous cities to rubble. An RAF pilot catches some much needed shut eye between sorties.

Time To Nap

Time To Nap

Unlikely Allies

Though originally allies, the truce between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany ended on June 22nd, 1941. Now, Germany faced a war on two fronts as the United States and the Soviet Union become reluctant partners in the war effort.

Unlikely Allies

Unlikely Allies

War Umbrellas

Weather doesn’t stop, even for war. Here, soldiers use umbrellas to keep dry as they drive their tanks through a village.

War Umbrellas

War Umbrellas

Airborne

Pictured here, the 295th Squadron of the Royal Air Force was created on August 3rd, 1942. They were tasked with dropping Allied propaganda into France. This picture is from sometime in October 1942.

Airborne

Airborne

After Effects

Though the Holocaust might have ended in 1945, the scars it left lasted years. After surviving the camps, this young girl was brought to a home for disturbed youths. Her drawing depicts her own version of “home.” This photograph was taken in 1948.

After Effects

After Effects

Another Comic

After capturing Berlin, American troops couldn’t help but mock the dictator that had plunged the world into war. It’s important to remember, however, that Americans weren’t the only soldiers responsible for winning the war.

Another Comic

Another Comic

Approaching Omaha Beach

Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword Beach became the chosen landing zones for the D-Day Operation. Though generals suspected that causalities would be high (and they were, immensely so), they believed the sacrifice was necessary to overcome the enemy.

Approaching Omaha Beach

Approaching Omaha Beach

Arming The Planes

Though it had only been active for two years, the Women’s Royal Navy Service was disbanded at the end of the First World War. It was reinstated in 1939, as Britain scrambled for every ounce of (wo)man power they would muster. Women load a plane before a dangerous mission over the skies of mainland Europe.

Arming The Planes

Arming The Planes

Avid Readers

Months of nightly raids become commonplace for British citizens. While rescue workers searched for survivors among the rubble, everyday folk checked out their next read from the local library.

Avid Readers

Avid Readers

Battle Of Iwo Jima

One of the most well-known and iconic shots from the war, this pictures shows American soldiers raising the flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. One of the fiercest battles of the war, the Japanese had holed up in the side of the mountain and fought the Americans to the last man.

Battle Of Iwo Jima

Battle Of Iwo Jima

Celebrating In Moscow

The collapse of the Third Reich called for worldwide celebration. In Moscow’s Red Square, music, dancing, and even fireworks could be seen.

Celebrating In Moscow

Celebrating In Moscow

Dodging The Sniper

Known for their specialized training and deadly accuracy, German snipers were a constant thorn in American soldiers’ sides. Running from fire, American soldiers take cover from sniper fire behind a Sherman tank.

Dodging The Sniper

Dodging The Sniper

Exhausted

During war, days can go by without respite. These American soldiers take a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee after days without food or rest.

Exhausted

Exhausted

Flying Over Egypt

Known for its ancient history and pyramids, Egypt and North Africa were also battlegrounds for some of the war’s most frightful skirmishes. German and Italian soldiers fight against a Commonwealth coalition force.

Flying Over Egypt

Flying Over Egypt

Hitler’s Death

With defeat imminent, Hitler, along with his recently married bride, Eva Braun, took their lives on April 30th, 1945. The German embassy in Sweden, as a sign of respect, lowers their flag at the news of their leader’s death.

Hitlers Death

Hitlers Death

Haircuts In The Desert

Fighting in North Africa, led by the Commonwealth coalition, took place on land, at sea, and in the air, and soldiers had to make do with what they had at hand. Here, a Canadian pilot gets a haircut in the middle of the Tunisian desert.

Haircuts In The Desert

Haircuts In The Desert

Iconic Leader

Only Russian was able to withstand—and even repulse—the Nazis “Blitzkrieg.” This lieutenant leads Russian soldiers into a battle which would cost both sides dearly.

Iconic Leader

Iconic Leader

Inflatable Tanks

As the war raged on, both Allies and Axis scrambled to keep their edge. This led to quite a few bizarre innovations, such as this American unit of inflatable tanks, trucks blasting the sounds of tanks through giant speakers, even fake uniforms. This subterfuge proved worthwhile, since it tricked the Germans into thinking the Allies were attacking from an entirely different position, leaving them open to an Allied offensive.

Inflatable Tanks

Inflatable Tanks

Left Behind

In addition to robbing millions of Jews and other minorities of their lives, Nazis also plundered their personal possessions, such as thousands of wedding rings taken from Jewish corpses.

Left Behind

Left Behind

NYC Celebrations

Though initially proponents of isolationism, when America eventually entered the war after the Pearl Harbor attacks of 1941, they went all in. With the war’s conclusion, celebrations broke out across the country, perhaps none so jubilant as the one in New York City.

NYC Celebrations

NYC Celebrations

Queen Elizabeth

Even the British royal family lent a hand to the war effort. The young Queen Elizabeth served as a mechanic and truck driver. She certainly knew how to lead by example!

Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth

“Rip” The Rescue Dog

Even animals felt the patriotic call to duty. “Rip,” a rescue and recovery dog, helped find survivors among the rubble following air raids on London.

Rip The Rescue Dog

Rip The Rescue Dog

Star Struck

Artillery, with the ability to strike targets miles away, slashed through enemy defenses. Here, American soldiers recover after a particularly brutal bombardment.

Star Struck

Star Struck

Sweethearts

Though they had hoped to avoid the war, the Netherlands had no choice in the matter when Germany invaded on May 10th, 1940. Pictures are young Dutch girls accompanying Allied soldiers to a dance.

Sweethearts

Sweethearts

Taking Cover

The Dutch were paralyzed by the brutal violence inflicted by their Nazi invaders. Citizens in Amsterdam take cover as German bullets fly overhead.

Taking Cover

Taking Cover

The Eagle’s Nest

Tucked away in southern Germany, the “Eagle’s Nest,” was Hitler’s favorite estate, where he entertained high-ranking officers (and his mistress). It seems these American soldiers are also enjoying themselves.

The Eagles Nest

The Eagles Nest

The Protector

As part of the Nazi’s discriminatory laws, Jews had to wear a yellow Star of David on their clothes whenever in public. Here, a Muslim woman protects a Jewish woman by hiding the star.

The Protector

The Protector

Young Scout

War demanded more than just bodies on the front lines. This soldier, only fifteen years old, was tasked with scouting for the Red Army, a job just as dangerous as any other, if not more so.

Young Scout

Young Scout

Post D-Day

Though D-Day cost massive casualties to the Allied forces, the operation succeeded, and the Allies were able to liberate France from German forces. However, the trauma of that day would stay with the survivors long after the guns fell silent.

Post D Day

Post D Day

Disbelief

America’s isolationism went up in flames following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. No longer content to just send weapons and supplies, the United States joined the fighting. American sailors stare in horror as the USS Shaw burns.

Disbelief

Disbelief

Hell On Earth

The D-Day landings, which took place on June 6th, 1944, were originally scheduled for the day before, but officials postponed the attack due to inclement weather. This photograph shows conditions on June 5th.

Hell On Earth

Hell On Earth

Conforming Under Pressure

The Nazis’ swift invasion of Europe caught everyone by surprise. This Czechoslovakian woman, weeping in despair at her own helplessness, gives a reluctant heil.

Conforming Under Pressure

Conforming Under Pressure

Fighting The Flames

Carpet bombing, a tactic used by both the German and British, wrought massive devastation. Firefighters strive barely to put out the flames following a Luftwaffe attack.

Fighting The Flames

Fighting The Flames

Messages To The Enemies

Forced into an uncomfortable alliance, American and Soviet soldiers worked together to end the war. They even sent “gifts” to Hitler.

Messages To The Enemies

Messages To The Enemies

Crash Landing

Landing a jet is no laughing matter, even less so when you have to do it on a moving aircraft carrier. Ensign Byron M. Johnson, after crash landing on the USS Enterprise on November 2nd, 1943, scrambles from his plane.

Crash Landing

Crash Landing

World War Gifts For Hitler

Though far from the festive spirit, soldiers at the front made do. American soldiers invoke the joy of Easter during World War II.

Gifts For Hitler

Gifts For Hitler

Overcome With Anguish

While the Nazis celebrated the capture of Paris, Parisians mourned the loss of their city. Here, a man weeps at the display of Nazi triumph.

Overcome With Anguish

Overcome With Anguish

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