50 Rare WWII Photos That Were Kept Out of History Books
In school, we learn a little about many different subjects in history class, which is especially true when it comes to World War 2. The pictures and text we see aren’t enough to grasp a drop of what it was like. Seeing 50 rare WWII Photos that were kept out of the history books still might be a drop in the ocean, but it is a drop in information you have not yet seen or heard. Check out these 50 rare WWII photos that were kept out of the history books!
The USS Lexington is hit by a torpedo and sunk at the Battle of the Coral Sea
By April 1942, the Japanese forces planned to continue their expansion South and take control of the Coral Sea as part of their plan to capture all of New Guinea. The U.S. in response established Task Force 17. Task Force 17 was composed of two carriers, the USS Yorktown and the USS Lexington. The Japanese force was divided into three divisions aimed at capturing Port Moresby on New Guinea to control the straits between New Guinea and Australia.
On May 8th, 1942 the main action of the Battle at Coral Sea took place. The Japanese had the advantage due to the weather, which made it near impossible for American planes to locate the Japanese carriers. The Americans did manage to damage one enough to put it out of action. The Japanese attack was more successful though, they struck the Yorktown with a bomb hit, and managed to sink the Lexington with multiple hits.
George Gay (pictured on the right) would be the only survivor of his Squadron of 30 during the battle of Midway
George H. Gay, Jr. of Waco, Texas was a pilot of a Devastator torpedo bomber in the VT-8. During the battle of Midway, his plane got hit. While going down, he momentarily considered crashing his plane into the nearest carrier. But he ended up splashing into the water, where the chances of survival weren’t good in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Gay floated there bobbing in the water, in the middle of the Japanese fleet. He tried to hide under his cushion seat, thinking if he was spotted, his life was over. As he floated there trying to stay unnoticed, he saw a sight that was unique to anyone. Another squadron of Dauntless bombers hurtled down out of the sky, pulling out of their dives at the last second to release devastation down onto the crowded decks of the Japanese carriers. He witnessed the Navy win the pacific, and was later rescued after dark by the Navy consolidated PBY Catalina after spending 30 hours in the water.
M3 Lee near Tunisia
U.S. Forces had been badly defeated in their first battle with the German-Italian forces in Tunisia in a series of battles that became known as the battle of Kasserine Pass in February of 1943. The American commands reacted to their loss against the German forces with a prompt and sweeping series of changes in command, discipline, and tactics. One of the major changes was flexible artillery communications allowing all batteries to be fired with only one call for fire.
On March 6th, 1943, George Patton took command of the U.S. II Corps and his first move was to organize the Corps for an offensive back toward the Eastern Dorsal chain of the Atlas mountains. If successful, this would threaten the right rear of the Axis forces defending the Mareth Line. The M3 brought much-needed firepower to the forces in the North African desert campaign. These tanks surprised the German forces with their 75mm gun that could engage beyond the effective range of their own 5cm Pak 38.
Maschinengewehr 34 crew in a trench on the Eastern front with a pair of knocked-out KV-1s in the background
The Maschinengewehr 34, aka MG 34, was a machine gun designed by the Germans in the 1930s. The design was based on previous weapon constructs by a man named Louis Stange. The first variation was finished in 1935, with about 300 being manufactured at first. Once it was accepted by the Third Reich, the MG 34 ended up replacing the old MG 08/15 and MG 13 machine guns.
Coined the buzz saw by the Allied forces, this machine gun proved to be a deadly addition to the German arsenal. Capable of firing 1,000 rounds a minute, the machine gun would become hot. Barrell changes could be done in about 10 to 15 seconds with this design, making the barrels last about 5,000 to 6,000 shots when done correctly. The MG 34 could also be used in an Air-defense role with special anti-air sight and a lightweight tripod.
A soviet crewman next to his KV-2 Heavy tank in Raiseinia
June 22nd, 1941, the Axis powers commenced Operation Barbarossa. This invasion of the Soviet Union along a 2,900 km front was to be attacked with a force of around four million. This battle was a costly disaster for the Russians, losing countless lives and equipment. In the few days of anarchy, there is one story of a crew in a lone KV-2 heavy tank that stands out.
A Russian KV-2 tank had held back the Kampfqruppe Raus of the 6th Panther Division for a whole day. It was an outstanding show of defiance against the German army. The Germans Panzer didn’t have the firepower to penetrate the thick armor of these Russian tanks, nor did it's 37mm anti-tank guns. Even when the KV-2 would run out of ammo, they would sometimes push forward and run over the German anti-tank guns.
American soldiers meeting kids in the aftermath of taking Normandy
In the aftermath of the attack on the Normandy beaches on June 6th, 1944, the Germans were pushed back into the towns of Normandy. This foothold in Northern France gave the Allied forces the opportunity to bring in more troops and supplies. As the Allies pushed farther inland against the German forces, families were forced to hide in their homes or anywhere they could find shelter.
These battles left innocent families broken and their towns in ruins. The French did not want the German occupiers in their land, the presence of the allied forces gave them hope of being liberated from the German army. In the aftermath of pushing the Germans out, town by town, the French people were grateful that the allies had come to fight this enemy. They would gather around to meet them and thank them. Taking pictures with their rescuers and often giving them some food or making banners to show their gratitude.
Luftwaffe pilot Franz von Werra and his Lion cub Simba
Franz von Werra was the only German prisoner of war to successfully escape British captivity and make it back to Germany during World War 2. He was shot down on the 5th of September over Kent in 1940. He was captured by an unarmed cook who dashed out of the kitchen to the searchlight battery near where von Werra’s plane went down.
He was shipped out to Canada in January 1941 to serve the rest of his time as a POW. He ended up escaping through a window of the prison train in Ontario and made the perilous crossing to the then-neutral U.S. by walking across the frozen St Lawrence River. Upon his return to Germany, Hitler awarded him the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross. Franz returned to duty but his plane went missing over the ocean on October 245h, 1941.
Marines climbing down the nets into landing craft during the Battle of Peleliu, September-November 1944
Nets were used off the side of the carriers to let troops climb down them onto the landing crafts that they would take into battle. On September 15th, 1944, U.S. Marines made their way down on these nets to their crafts to take off for the Island. Over the next several weeks, Japanese forces inflicted heavy resistance against the U.S. troops before the Americans were finally able to secure the Island.
It took 20,000 Marines, one of the largest forces used in the pacific operations up to that time to get the job done. Besides the forces that would stay behind to keep the Island secure, most of the Marines would hop back on their landing crafts back to the ships. They would climb back up the cargo nets and set off for the next battle. The next objective was the Palau Islands in the Western Carolines 500 miles east of the Philippines.
A scared fifteen-year-old was drafted into the Luftwaffe to serve as an AA Gunner
The Hitler Youth was created by Adolf Hitler in 1933 and its goal was to educate and train boys ages 10 to 18 in Nazi principles. His thought behind this was to secure the longevity of the Reich for future generations, which was vital to Hitler's utopian vision of a thriving fatherland.
By 1935 almost 60% of German boys had joined the Hitler Youth and in 1936 it became a state agency that all young Aryans were expected to join. The group became so important to Hitler that all other youth groups were disbanded or absorbed into the movement. On March 25th it became mandatory for all eligible German boys to join or face criminal prosecution. By 1945, sectors of the German army were using children as young as 12 to fight in the war.
Richard Davis Dick Winters - U.S. Army officer & decorated war veteran
You might know this name from the hit HBO series Band of Brothers, but many don’t know the real face of this hero pictured below. Richard D. Winters was born on January 21st, 1918, and lived until January 2nd, 2011. He commanded Easy Company “E”, 2nd battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and the 101st Airborne division during World War 2.
Richard parachuted into Normandy in the early hours of D-Day and made his way fighting across France, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany. After the war, he returned home, only to be called back to duty as a regimental planning and training officer during the Korean War. After he was discharged from the U.S. Army, he returned to civilian life in New Jersey.
Panther tank dug into the street of Berlin and fighting to the bitter end
The Panther tank is a German medium tank from World War 2 that was used on the Eastern and Western Fronts from mid-1943 to 1945. The Panther was intended to counter Soviet T-34 tanks and replace the Panther III and IV. It is viewed as one of the best tanks of World War 2 for its mobility, protection, and firepower.
The Panther was rushed into combat before all of its teething problems had been resolved. Reliability was improved over time and the Panther proved to be a very effective tank. They were crewed by a team of 5 members: the driver, radio operator/bow machine gunner, gunner, loader, and commander. In the final defense for Berlin, as the Allies were approaching, some tanks were hulled down into the street, only leaving their main gun and turret exposed. It was buried to the point where they still had control over the movement of the turret.
Soviet T-26 Model 1939 shattered after an encounter in Belarus in 1941
Early morning on June 22nd, 1941, German troops crossed the Soviet border. The hardened German army advanced and within just four days it had fought its way through Minsk against the Red Army. On June 29th, 1941, the general mobilization of the Red Army began, and over 500,000 Belarusians were conscripted into national service.
After the occupation of the White Russian Territory, the occupying forces introduced their new regime. But in 1943 a strategic advance of the Red Army from the front lines of Belarus was relocated. The tank pictured above is one of the casualties of this fight. Belarus was liberated on the 23rd of September 1943. It was one of the largest military operations in the Great Patriotic war.
An American GI buries his fellow soldier in the Hurtgen Forest
War is a devastating task, especially for those soldiers on the front lines fighting. Spending so much time with your fellow soldiers, you end up building a brotherly bond that is unlike any other bond that can be experienced. This American GI had to bury his brother after a harrowing battle in the Hurtgen Forest, a memory that will haunt him until his last breath.
The battle in Hurtgen forest was some of the most brutal fighting of WW2, a battle in which thousands of American and German soldiers lost their lives. This often-forgotten battle was so deadly that the soldiers called it the death factory. This battle took place from September 1944 to February 1945 when the American and Germans fought for this area of wooded hills on the border between Belgium and Germany.
The “Alligators” Amphibian tractors heading towards Peleliu
This 95-horsepower Mercury engine amphibious tractor was modified for the war to use as a ship-to-shore transport for people and supplies during World War 2. Originally designed as an oil exploration vehicle, it came to the attention of the U.S. Marine corps when searching for a vehicle that could cross the coral reefs encircling much of the Pacific Islands.
The new paddle-tread propulsion system made it the first amphibian all-tracked landing vehicle that helped greatly with the Pacific campaign. The alligators allowed for a much more reliable way for the U.S. to get their troops and supplies from the carriers to the shore without the risk to the larger transport ships. Because of these designs, it changed the way the U.S. was able to deploy amphibious vehicles and it was the start to a lineage of vehicles that could traverse the waters onto land.
The reaction of captured German troops upon seeing footage of industrialized mass murder
The Holocaust was the first time any ruling force made the killing of their “enemy” an industrialized venture. The task of concentration camps and the horrors that followed was hidden in secret, even from the German people and soldiers. The ones involved were those that were part of Hitler's inner circle and the SS troops. The regular German army and people knew that something was happening with all the captured Jews and others, but they never expected it to be what it was.
When German POWs were captured by the Americans, the Americans had them watch a film on the concentration camps that were discovered. This forced viewing brought the Germans face to face with the horrors committed by the Third Reich. Their reaction, as can be seen in the photo, were of regret and disgust. This forced viewing of the film was part of the Allied policy of postwar denazification, meant to rid the remnants of Nazi rule and rebuild its society.
U.S. Navy Heavy Cruiser USS Salt Lake City 1942 fired her 8/55 guns while bombarding Japanese-held Islands
On February 1st, 1942, the bombardment of Wotje commenced near the Marshall Islands. Though these raids had little long-term strategic significance, they did help lift the morale of the U.S. Navy and the American public. They needed this, as this was right after the devastating blow of the Pearl Harbor attacks. These raids proved valuable experience in carrier air operations, which helped to harden the U.S. carrier groups for future combat against the Japanese.
The Japanese did not realize that their concept of perimeter defense using dispersed garrisons was too far apart to be helpful in supporting to prevent penetration by enemy carrier forces. The Japanese underestimated the Americans' will to fight, which led them to undermine their abilities at the start of the war. These first raids and counterattacks by the Americans convinced the Japanese fleet commander that he needed to draw the American carriers into battle as soon as possible to destroy them. This plan led to the Battle of Midway.
German Soldiers' Winter Uniforms on the Eastern Front
The German soldiers faced a cold that was unlike anything they had experienced while in the campaign on the Eastern Front. With temperatures down to -35 below freezing, it was devastating for their first winter out in this unforgiving cold. They only had standard uniforms at this time and were compelled to stuff newspapers under their uniforms and straw in their boots to keep warm.
This compelled the Germans to design uniforms for their second winter in Russia, both in rapid development and mass production. With its special underwear, and weather-resistant features, this uniform became the first modern combat suit. Today, this has become a standard worldwide. The only disadvantage was the weight but it was worth it as it protected the soldiers from the harsh winter ahead.
Hungarian Anti-Air Battery
In the spring of 1942, the Germans' need for more manpower on the Eastern front demanded maximum effort. The Hungarians dispatched the 2nd Hungarian Army with 200,000 men, which was made up of nine light infantry divisions and the 1st armored division. Though the cadre was made up of regular personnel, the rest of the troops had only undergone 8 weeks of training.
In June of 1942, the 2nd Army had reached the front at Kursk and advanced to hold the line along the Don, south of Voronezh. It held the sector against Russian raids across the river and held down air support using the Anti-Air Battery pictured above. But, by the end of 1942, Hungarian morale and efficiency had deteriorated in the extreme winter conditions.
8.8cm Flak 36 Anti-tank Weapon
First designed as one of the most successful artillery pieces of all time, the flak was re-designed in 1937 as the Flak 36 Anti-tank weapon. The Flak was first used with Germany’s Condor Legion in Spain, it was again improved by adding ground sights and fitted to use high explosive armor piercing shells for field use. It was used in WW2 first in the North African campaign in 1941 through 1942.
As the war waged, it became a vital weapon for German tank armament to compete against the heavy guns and armor of the new Soviet tanks on the Eastern front. To transport these massive weapons, they would load them onto a trailer to be hulled or loaded onto such transports as the Messerschmitt ME 323. This heavy military transport was the largest land-based transport aircraft during WW2, with a total of 213 being constructed for the war.
The result of Japan's first, but not last, bombing raid on Chongqing
On June 5th, 1941, Japan commenced bombing in China’s former capital, sending thousands of residents fleeing to a bomb shelter. The shelter did not do any good, as the residents ended up suffocating in there. The start of this conflict began second Sino-Japanese War in 1938. This became a 5-year campaign, one of the many in World War 2.
Chongqing had grown four times its pre-war size after being established as China’s new capital in 1938. But after the bombing began, nearly 1 million citizens were forced to hide as the only refuge from the continuous Japanese bombardment. The photographer of this photo found a medic afterward to help, and the baby miraculously survived the war.
Members of 1st MarDiv in the battle of Peleliu
On the 15h of September 1944, the 1st Marine Division planned to land on the western beaches of Peleliu with 3 regiments. They were to assault the beaches on the left and push through the enemy toward the northwestern peninsula of the Island. In the center, the 5th Marines were to land on the Orange beaches and drive across the Island's Eastern shore securing the Islands airfield.
As the U.S. troops came ashore, they faced continuous gunfire from the bunkers and from Japanese troops on the high ground above the beaches. The first night ashore was tough, infiltration parties hit the Marine lines repeatedly. The Marines fought throughout the night from their well-dug foxholes. Temperatures on the Island rose to as high as 115 degrees and drinking water was scarce during the start of the conflict.
P-51D Mustang escorting a B-17 bomber from England to Germany in 1944 in raids against Germany
As the Americans flew farther into Europe to reach Germany, the missions became increasingly deadlier. One of the worst days of the war for the B-17s was the second raid on a German Ball Bearing plant in Schweinfurt, Germany on October 14th, 1943. Losses were so high, that the mission became known as Black Thursday. The B-17 was unable to fly safely against swarms of German fighter aircraft and their defense systems.
Something had to be done, so the Americans decided to use the P-51 Mustang to escort the B-17. The B-17 now had a fighter that could escort them in and out of Germany and they began to overwhelm German defenses and industry. With a new team of aircraft, the Allies had achieved air supremacy needed over Normandy for the D-Day landings in June of 1944.
Japanese bombers are greeted with a hail of America AA fire in Yonatan airfield, Okinawa
Towards the end of World War 2, the Allies defeated Germany and Adolf Hitler was dead. Italy had capitulated and Mussolini was executed by partisans. Japan was the only Axis power left and the US was tightening the noose around the homeland of Japan. A bloody campaign of island hopping had put the Americans on the doorstep of the homeland. Airstrikes from B-29s would no longer have to fly long distances as they now had airfields on Iwo Jima And Okinawa.
The Japanese were desperate to deliver strikes to the U.S. airbases where the B-29 bombers and other aircraft were stationed. Their plan was to deliver suicide commandos by air to destroy their aircraft and damage the U.S. bases and fuel depots. The 3rd Dokuritsu Chutai air forces were sent in by the Japanese to see this plan out and were met with a hail of Artillery fire that was successful in shooting down many of the Japanese aircraft.
Gun commander screams over his 40mm gun aboard the USS Hornet as Japanese Kamikazes approach
The Japanese were fierce foes that seemed to have no fear of death in battle. This was shown most when it came to the Japanese Kamikazes that would use themselves and their aircraft as missiles to strike into the Allied ships while at sea. The Americans were astonished when they first witnessed this, expecting just machine gun fire and bombings, they instead got planes purposefully crashing into their carriers.
If the Allied aircraft could not shoot down these planes in the air, then it was up to the 40mm anti-aircraft guns aboard the carriers to take them out. This brought a different type of fear into the crew, as they themselves could not fathom making an attack in such a way. The commander in this picture can be seen shouting to his artillery gunners to shoot down these aircraft before they could Kamikaze into the ship, either severely damaging it, or sinking it.
4th Armored Division on the way to Bastogne
Right before sunset on the day after Christmas 1944, part of General S. Patton's 4th armored Division made contact with the surrounded Americans at Bastogne. They came attacking from the South, aiding the 101st Airborne Division that had been occupying the critical vital Belgian town for several days.
The armored division made the difference the American forces needed and broke through the siege of Bastogne. It was one of the great turning points in the Battle of the Bulge. The armored division took five days of fighting to break the ring of German units encircling the 101st and six days for them to link up with the airborne forces that were holding the position.
U.S. M4 Lee Crewmen at Fort Knox
As the war waged on, the American military recognized the need to develop a strong armored force. The German industrial machine tanks were a force to be reckoned with and part of the main tool used in their Blitzkrieg war tactics. In 1940, the 7th Cavalry Brigade was reorganized into the first Armored Division. One of the first steps in the U.S. making headway was to try and compete with the Germans.
For the next two years, engineers and factories in the U.S. rushed to design and manufacture new tanks. The training ground for these new tanks and their crew would be in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Thousands of recruits were trained in brand-new tactics and doctrines for a modern type of warfare. The recruits would train in hulking tanks, half-tracks, and armored vehicles.
B-24 bombers fly over the Romanian oil fields
An armada of 178 B-24 bombers arrives in Romania after a 1,200-mile journey from Benghazi, Libya. Coined Operation Tidal Wave, the mission combined five bomber groups from the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. This mission broke the established U.S. Army Air Forces policy and instead of high-altitude precision bombing, they would drop bombs from 200 to 800 feet.
The Germans knew this attack was coming as they deciphered an American code. The Luftwaffe commander set up a trap for the B-24 bombers. Placing artillery and balloons with steel cable near the most valued installations that could rip off the wings of the bombers. The attack resulted in 52 aircraft being shot down, 310 American airmen dead, 130 wounded and over 100 captured.
Tech. Sergeant Lawrence Gettings from the 320th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, seen resting in his foxhole heating up a ration
Sgt. Lawrence Gettings from Ottumwa, Iowa heats a can of rations while taking time for rest during the fighting. This was a much-needed rest after the infamous Battle of the Bulge, which lasted from January 3rd to January 5th. Times like these, in between battles were a time for the troops to rest, eat, sleep and gather themselves. His battalion got relief that day in the early morning, headquarters stated that upon the completion of the relief of the 320 infantry, the C.T. would cease.
On the 17th of April, 1945, Lawrence's company set up outpost positions in the vicinity of Trabitz, Germany. The German forces attacked the positions which his squad was occupying and he was hit and instantly killed as a result of a barrage of small arms and mortar fire. He is remembered by memories like the one pictured above. It reminds us that even in the most devastating of times, we can take some time to be grateful for the little things, like a can of food.
A smoke Generator in operation along the Rhine at Ludwigshafen with the Mannheim ruins in the background
Battle after battle the Allied forces made their way through Europe, from France now to Germany. From June 1941 to the early months of 1945 they tirelessly pushed forward to finally make it into Germany. After the liberation of Paris in August of 1944, the Allies paused to re-group and organize before continuing their advance to the Rhine River.
This pause allowed the Germans to solidify their lines, something they were not granted to do west of Paris. With gathered forces now ready, General D. Eisenhower decided the best course of action would be to choose a broad front strategy, which would allow the Allies to gain ground from the beaten Germans in all sectors. This would allow for Allied forces to support each other. While in the Rhine, they used smoke generators to protect their military traffic from observing enemy eyes.
Bombed house of a Nazi elite
In the spring of 1945, the German forces were suffering from a series of defeats on both the Western and Eastern fronts. On March 7th, the American 9th Armored division captured the Ludendorff Bridge at the Remagen and secured a bridgehead over the Rhine River. This was the largest remaining obstacle confronting American forces in their drive into Germany.
This allowed the Allied forces to launch bigger and more destructive air raids on German cities. Between February 13th and 15th, American and British bombers destroyed the virtually undefended city of Dresden, Germany, killing more than 25,000 civilians. Some of these bombings made their intended mark on Nazi housing, which showed that the Allied forces were closing in to end the war.
One of the officers of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Bennington inscribes a bomb For Gael! in memory of a departed shipmate, prior to strikes on Japanese targets
After a costly war, the U.S. and Allies had finally defeated all the Axis powers but one, Japan. As the U.S. pushed closer and closer to Japan, they finally reached the Island, setting up bases in Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The troops at this point were exhausted from years of fighting and with all the other Axis powers being defeated, they just wanted to be done with this war so they could return home.
The final stretch of the war was still a fight, as the Japanese proved to be a stubborn enemy that wanted to fight until the end. The troops would write notes on the bombs that were to be dropped in the bombing campaign against Japan. As shown above, a soldier writes an inscription to a departed friend on one of the bombs. Even with the U.S. being at the doorstep, gaining ground, and bombing them, the Japanese still did not quit. It was not until the 2nd of the two atomic bombs dropped on them that they finally surrendered, putting an end to World War 2.
Battle of Dubno-Brody
German soldiers were entrenched while in the middle of the largest armored battle in history. These soldiers of the 6th army advanced along the edge of the Pripyat Swamp and just South of them, the 17th Army would push the Southern Arch backward towards Lviv. They were up against a prepared Soviet line of defense, defending the border called the Molotov Line.
On June 22nd, at dawn, the Army Group South’s infantry began to break through the Molotov Line while the Soviet troops tried to hold the line. The Soviets were prepared and made it one of the tougher fights along the front that morning. The Germans sent in the 11th armored division to attack at depth. This ended up in a clash of 4,000 German and Soviet tanks with the Luftwaffe being called in to take control of the air.
Acres of SS troopers gather before the outbreak of the War
The SS were founded in 1925 and is short for Schutzstaffel, meaning protective echelon in German. They initially served as Adolf Hitler's personal bodyguards and later became one of the most feared and powerful organizations in all of Nazi Germany. Heinrich Himmler became the head of the SS in 1929 and expanded their role and size.
These recruits had to prove that none of their ancestors were Jewish and taught that they were the elite to not only the Nazi party, but to all of mankind. By the start of the war, the SS had become a force of 250,000 members that were engaged in the roles of gathering intelligence to the operation of Nazi concentration camps.
A bulldozer constructing a road along the shore of Iwo Jima
From February 19th through March 1945, the United States began a conflict with the Empire of Japan on the Island of Iwo Jima. This small Island only covered about 8 square miles and spanned about 5 miles in length. An amphibious invasion was mounted as part of the Pacific campaign which was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps.
After the initial attack, the U.S. was able to clear the beaches and push the Japanese inland. This gave them the opportunity to bring in heavy equipment that they would use to construct roads, fortifications, and water points across the island. They would use bulldozers to create roads in order to make the rough terrain traversable for their vehicles.
U.S. soldiers with guard dogs walk patrol on a beach in Los Angeles, CA, in order to spot possible Japanese attackers - 1943
The early months of World War 2 had the U.S. on high alert after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They were not sure if the Japanese would try to strike the mainland so the U.S. spent several million dollars to fortify the West Coast against a possible attack, going to great lengths to set up a giant submarine net across the Juan de Fuca Strait. They also covered the entire Boeing plant in Seattle with camouflage netting to make it look like a residential suburb.
Patrols were set up along the coast where soldiers with their guard dogs walked in order to try and spot possible Japanese attackers. With all these numerous fears and preparations, the Japanese attack never happened. The only thing that the Japanese did do regarding the West Coast was send a couple of thousand bomb-filled balloons across the Pacific, which all fell on sparsely inhabited areas.
Soldiers awaiting to be sent from England to Europe
England was the staging ground for the start of the Allied invasion of Europe. The arrival of hundreds of thousands of Americans and Canadians left many British people feeling as though their own country had been occupied. The largest group was Americans who committed 130,000 men on D-Day and a million more over the three months that followed.
The 2 million soldiers that waited to be shipped off to the war were usually busy doing training or exercises. But in the early days, before the lockdown to prepare for war, many would take leave or be granted a brief pass to go beyond the training area. Some men would go to see the country while most went to local pubs. Once the lockdown came, it was harder to get out. The men lived in tents and to pass time would gamble, play darts, read paperback books, and chat in their barracks.
In the attack on ‘Battleship Row’ on 7th December, two elderly battleships, the Arizona and Oklahoma, were damaged beyond repair by bombs or torpedo hits
The attack launched by the Japanese on December 7th,1941 was not only devastating to the U.S. military but also was one that was not expected. The attack on Battleship row left two of the U.S. elderly battleships damaged beyond repair. Of the 2,026 American sailors and Marines killed in the attack, 1,606 had been aboard these two battleships.
Six more ships were also attacked, resulting in 3 being sunk upright in the shallow water of the harbor, and 3 more suffering only minor damage. The 3 that were sunk upright in the harbor were salvaged, with 2 of them not returning to service until 1944. This was partly because they underwent comprehensive modernization.
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) preparing parachutes for use by British airborne forces during the invasion of Europe - May 1944
On the 28th of June, 1939, King George VI established the Women's Auxiliary Air Force for duty with the Royal Air force in times of war. The WAAF wasn’t an independent organization, but rather it was interlinked for the purpose of substituting for RAF personnel. Within a year, tens of thousands of women had volunteered to serve.
By 1941, the ranks swelled further and by June 1943, a peak strength of 182,000 had been reached. By 1945, a quarter of a million women had served in the WAAF in over 110 different trades, supporting operations around the world. The majority of them were between the ages of 18 and 40. Before D-Day, the WAAF helped with the preparations of packing parachutes for the British airborne.
An SBD-2 Dauntless dive bomber on the USS Enterprise Prepares for takeoff for the Marshall Islands Raid
The Marshall Islands were seized by Japan two days after Pearl Harbor, as well as the Ellice Islands. These Islands were close enough for the Japanese to straddle the shipping lanes between the U.S. and Australia. Reacting to this, Vice Admiral William S. Pye made a plan to send three carriers that were stationed in the Pacific to head to these islands to launch a counterattack.
On January 9th, the carrier Enterprise and task force 8 would escort the carrier Yorktown group to Samoa. The sister ships would then make their way over to raid bases in the Gilberts and Marshall Islands. The carrier Lexington would then strike the Wake Islands. The USS Enterprise launched an air attack with SBD-2 Dauntless dive bombers from their deck in search of any sign of the Japanese.
General Eisenhower examines the charred corpses in a concentration camp
The horrors the Nazi regime committed did not just end with their conquering of countries and their need to spread their ideology around the world. The worst of it came out of the mindset that they were the master race and that they viewed some races to be inferior to the point where they wanted to exterminate them from the Earth.
The discovery of what the Germans were up to lead to a backlash from the world when word got back to the masses. When the leaders of America’s military saw the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps they were mortified. General Eisenhower said the atrocities were “beyond the American mind to comprehend.” He insisted that a visual record and written account be kept for history so that no one could ever deny or disregard this moment of cruelty.
Simone Segouin, The French teen who hunted Nazis during WW2
Simone Segouin was born on October 3rd, 1925, and was only 14 years old when Nazi Germany invaded her homeland of France. In 1943, Segouin met Lieutenant Roland Boursie, an ex-engineer recruiting youths to join the French resistance. She joined the FTP, a communist resistance group dedicated to fighting against Fascism.
Her first task was to steal a German administrator’s bicycle, which she ended up doing successfully. This allowed her to travel freely, as the Nazis had confiscated all cars and shut down most public transportation. Camped out in a ditch on the side of the road on July 14th, 1944, she and her two comrades opened fire on two Nazi soldiers approaching on bicycles. She then confiscated the Nazis’ papers and weapons and secured them in her home.
Army soldiers are engaged in combat with German forces near the Cathedral in Cologne - April 1945
On March 6h, 1945, the American forces entered the city of Cologne, Germany. One of the only buildings left standing from the Allied bombardment was the Cologne Cathedral. The U.S. 3rd Armored Division’s Shermans and Perishings faced off with German Panthers. This Cathedral became the backdrop of the most famous tank battle between the American and German divisions while soldiers engaged in urban warfare amongst the ruins of the city.
The Western part of the city was in U.S. control by the afternoon, as the German forces retreated to set up a stronghold on the eastern side of the Rhine. The Cathedral ended up surviving the battle after years of Allied bombardment. The Cologne Cathedral was a masterpiece of architecture that took 600 years to build. It endured 14 bomb hits and was heavily damaged, but survived.
Tinian was seized by the US in 1944 and the 13,000 Japanese civilians living on the island were held in internment camps until 1946
July 24th, 1944, around 15,600 men of the 2nd and 4th Marine divisions landed on the Island of Tinian. Tinian is the third largest Island of the Mariana Islands and is mostly flat, unlike the other islands in the Pacific campaign. This strike of the Island called for shore-to-shore operations using the same forces as the Saipan invasion. They started off the assault with bombardment from three battleships, five cruisers, and sixteen destroyers that commenced on July 16th.
Three Marine battalions were ashore in just 20 minutes, followed by bulldozers and tanks. The remainder of the Island was quickly overrun. The Ushi Point airfield was seized by July 26th and the Island was declared secured by August 1st. By August 10th, 13,000 Japanese civilians were interned, with 4,000 dying from suicide, murdered by Japanese troops, or killed in combat. 252 Japanese troops were taken prisoner and the rest of their garrison was wiped out. Pictured above is a U.S. soldier giving a snack to one of the interned civilians.
Leslie “Bull” Allens, an Aussie Soldier, carries a wounded comrade and saves 12 wounded men
In some of the most devastating times, true heroism is exposed by those who are willing to put themselves at risk for others. A true feat of courage that shows above all in a time when most would not be willing to do the same. Leslie Allen was born in 1916 in Victoria, Australia, and joined the second Australian Imperial force in 1940 at 23 years old.
On the battlefield, he found himself at the foothills of Mount Tambo, a strategic point in New Guinea. He witnessed the American run into entrenched Japanese defenders with machine guns and mortars. Casualties were high and all Allen could hear was the cry for help from wounded soldiers. Allen stepped forward and ran up the muddy hill into the chaos of battle and returned with a wounded soldier on his back. He did not stop there, he did this time and time again saving 12 wounded men from certain death.
Private First Class Rez P. Hester sleeps in a foxhole while Butch, his war dog, stands guard on Iwo Jima
While on Iwo Jima, there were reports of at least 100 dogs of various breeds that were deployed there to help the Marines hunt down Japanese soldiers in caves and tunnels. The dogs were often trained to keep watch over the sleeping Marines so they could get some much-needed rest without having to worry about Japanese soldiers sneaking up on them in the middle of the night.
Stiff resistance was met along the front, the Japanese dug into caves, pillboxes, and foxholes. They would try to keep as close to the Allied front as possible in an attempt to escape Allied mortar fire. The marines would also dig foxholes along the front in order to have a secure place to rest and to escape enemy mortar fire. These foxholes would become a temporary fortification to fire from, to evade enemy fire, and to rest.
In 1945, American and German soldiers fought side-by-side during the battle of Castle Itter, against the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division
Castle Itter is in the Austrian Alps, located in the state of Tyrol. In 1943, it was taken by the Nazis and converted into a prison for those they considered VIP prisoners. On May 4th, 1945, four days before the surrender of Nazi Germany, the prisoner count at Castle Itter was just 14. The 17th Waffen-SS Panzergrenadier Division had been ordered to go to the castle and execute all the prisoners.
When a highly decorated Wehrmacht Major heard of this, he decided to take action. At this point, Major Andreas Krobot had thrown his hat into the ring with the local Austrian resistance and become their new leader. Now disillusioned with the Nazi ideology, he had defied recent orders to rejoin the SS. He decided to help those who resisted them. He took a white flag and drove towards the nearest American unit in the area to get their help. After approval from high command, the Americans joined forces with this resistance group formed of German soldiers and they fought side by side that morning to defend their position.
Canadian soldiers disembark at Juno Beach in Normandy, France during the D-Day invasion on June 6th, 1944
On June 6th, 1944 the Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy at the start of the ground assault that would commence the battle in Europe. The Canadian forces took part in the greatest amphibious operation in military history. Over 10,000 Canadian sailors in 110 warships, 15 RCAF squadrons, and 14,000 soldiers took part in D-Day.
Juno Beach was one of the five beaches assaulted by the Canadian Army’s 3rd infantry division and 2nd Armored Brigade. The invasion had been years in the planning, and they were going up against German forces led by the experienced General Erwin Rommel. The beach had been fortified by the Germans to include millions of mines and obstacles. The casualties the Canadians suffered on Juno beach alone were 340 Canadians killed, 574 wounded and 47 captured.
Japanese Prisoner of war in the Pacific
The Pacific campaign was a deadly, bloody Island hopping set of battles that were part of the 2 front war the U.S. faced during World War 2. During this time, it is estimated that prior to the end of it, 10 million Imperial Japanese military soldiers were captured alive or surrendered to Western Allied forces.
The Soviets also imprisoned another half million Japanese troops and civilians in China and other war zones. There would've likely been more if the surrender was not limited by the Japanese military indoctrinating its personnel to fight to the death. The Japanese also believed that those who surrendered would be killed by their captors.
U.S. Marines in a shell hole on the Japanese Island of Saipan in June 1944
During the Pacific campaign against the Japanese, the U.S. stormed the beaches of Saipan on June 15th, 1944. The goal was to gain a crucial airbase located on the Island from where the U.S. could launch the B-29 bombers directly to Japan's homeland. American forces streamed from their landing crafts to establish a beachhead. Meeting fierce Japanese resistance, they would go for cover anywhere they could find, including shell holes from previous mortar fire.
They pushed the Japanese soldiers inland, causing them to retreat to the North. Fighting continued to be brutal as they got further inland, fighting around Saipan’s highest peak. It was so brutal that the Marines named some of these conflict sites as Death Valley and Purple Heart Ridge. The U.S. finally trapped the Japanese in the Northern part of the Island, in a desperate attempt, they launched a counter-banzai charge, but this counter did not work. On July 9th, the U.S. was victorious on Saipan, raising the U.S. flag in Victory.
The German name for this place is das Kehlsteinhaus, but English speakers refer to it as The Eagles Nest
The Kehlsteinhaus or Eagles Nest was the name of Adolf Hitler's headquarters located near Frankfurt. This project was started in April of 1937 and was meant as a gift to Adolf Hitler from the Nazi Party. Construction was an enormously difficult task with the building being on top of a mountain with a steep access road and a 400-foot elevator shaft inside the mountain.
Over 3,000 men worked day and night through winter and summer for 13 months to complete this project. The road up to it was blasted out of the mountainside, passing through five tunnels to get to the entrance. The peak to the summit is 6,017 feet, and this project was so important to the Germans that only high-paid Germans, Austrians, and Italians could work on it.