World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history. Over 30 countries, around the globe, were involved in the brutal conflict, until the Axis powers collapsed in 1945. The war changed the political, financial, and social structure of the world. Many hoped to forget those brutal times. However, one must learn from the past or history is doomed to repeat itself. Therefore, these pictures must be seen. These photos give you an insider view of the war. Warning: Some of these photos are very graphic.
In the early 1940s, the Germans began heavy air raids over Britain. The British press labeled these air raids, The Blitz. The name is derived from the German word Blitzkreig which translates to “Lightning War.” The German targeted industrial buildings and civilian centers. Due to the structure of the Tower Bridge, this famous landmark luckily faced little damage. However, the surroundings areas were not as lucky.
German Prisoners Of War
During WWII, many german soldiers were taken prisoner. Many were originally jailed in Great Britain. However, as the British facilities filled, the POWs were shipped to the United States. The Smithsonian reports “From 1942 through 1945, more than 400,000 Axis prisoners were shipped to the United States and detained in camps in rural areas across the country. Some 500 POW facilities were built, mainly in the South and Southwest but also in the Great Plains and Midwest.” The picture below shows German prisoners captured at Friedrichsfeld.
The Capital of Ruins
The Battle of Saint-Lô was one of the three conflicts in the Battle of the Hedgerows. Saint-Lô had been captured by Germany in 1940. After the Invasion of Normandy, the Americans targeted Saint-Lô as it held the location of a strategic crossroads. The American military attacked the city with full force, and 95% of the city was destroyed. Due to high amount of devastation and casualties the city was named “The Capital of Ruins.”
The USS Arizona
December 7, 1941 will forever be a “date which will live in infamy.” The bombing of Pearl Harbor is the most famous surprise attack in military history. The Americans were not prepared and it led to lots of destruction and casualties. The USS Arizona was docked in the harbor that day and was bombed. Over 1,700 officers and crewmen were killed. The ship could not be repaired and still lies on the bottom of the ocean.
The Sherman Tank
The Sherman tank was the most numerous battle tank used in World War II by the Allies. The manufacturing was easy and cheap, therefore, large numbers could be created quickly. Disabled tanks could also easily be taken apart or fixed and returned quickly to battle. Unfortunately, while fighting in Cologne, Germany, these soldiers’ Sherman was attacked and made the tank useless in battle. The crewmen ran for safety.
Tank Guns & Camoflauge
The US II Corps saw devastating losses the first time they went to battle with the Axis forces in Tunisia. However, the Battle of El Guettar was a different story. The Army Group Africa, lead by German officers, decided to move in and attack U.S. troops in the El Guettar valley. The Army Group Africa brought 50 tanks. However, they were slowed down when they hit a minefield, followed by the U.S. using their newly acquired 31 M10 tank destroyers. Within an hour, 30 tanks were destroyed and the Army Group Africa retreated. Below we see U.S. troops fighting in the El Guettar Valley.
The Other Casualties
World War II, as stated previously, was one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history. However, humans were not the only casualty of the war. Animals were also caught in the conflict and many perished. This picture shows Allied troops stringing wire around 4 German artillery horses that were shot and killed. Along with the horses, 5 German soldiers were also killed. Sadly, sometimes the killing of animals could not be avoided.
Yokohama, Japan was attacked by nearly 30 U.S. air raids during WWII. During the Great Yokohama Air Raid, on May 29, 1945, an estimated 7,000 people were killed in a little over an hour of firebombing. That same day 45% of the city was turned to rubble. Sadly, many civilians were killed and many homes were destroyed. Here we see a man amongst the destruction of what was once his home.
The Road To Rome
The Italian Campaign was one bloody part of the War that many would like to forget. After the Allied troops took Sicily in 1943, a 20 month campaign ensued to capture the country of Italy back from the Axis powers. Tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians were killed. Towns were leveled from warfare and many were left homeless. However, the Allied forces were successful in their campaign. The photos shows an American soldier traveling by jeep through a bombed city, in Italy, on his way to Rome.
Dead In The Streets
War is brutal, war is unforgiving, war is tragic. If a picture could really tell a story, that’s the story this picture would tell. Casualties of war are aplenty and many people die in devastating circumstances. Due to the nature of war, many dead bodies are left to lie in the streets for hours or days at a time. Although both sides of the war did try to recover all their soldiers’ bodies, the sight after a battle was not pretty. Here we see German soldiers laying dead on the ground after the Seventh Army broke through the Siegfried Line.
Tokens of Victory
One of the last steps the Allied forces had to taken in order to breakthrough to Rome was partake in the Battle of Cassino. Cassino was the entrance of many nearby valleys and was therefore a crucial town to be captured. The town had an historic hillside abbey called Monte Cassino. Unfortunately, Allied trooped discovered the Germans were using the abbey as an observation post. Therefore, the abbey was targeted and bombed. After several assaults on the abbey and the town, the Allied forces were victorious. These British and South African soldiers hold up a Nazi flag as a trophy, while other officers bulldoze the debris.
The Flying Fortress
Developed in the 1930s, by the United States Army Air Corps, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was a heavy bomber aircraft. The B-17 dropped more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft during the war. The plane would normally carry a 4,000 pound (1,800 kg) bomb load on long missions. However, it had the capability to carry up to 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg) for shorter distances and lower altitudes.
Inspecting Abandoned Posts
In order to protect Highway 6 (a highway leading directly to Rome), the German and Italian military forces set up several military fortifications. This network of fortifications became known as the Winter Line. It took the Allied forces 4 major offensives, between January-May 1944, before the line was eventually broken. These soldiers most likely took part in those offensives. The American soldiers are inspecting an abandoned German post in Italy.
Preparing For Takeoff
World War II was very much fought in the sky. The bombing of Pearl Harbor and the dropping of the atomic bombs over Japan were all critical moments in the war, that were created by fighter planes. This picture shows the flight deck crew prepare Grumman F6F Hellcat fighters of VF-16 and Douglas SBD Dauntless dive-bombers for launch. This is the flight deck of the USS Lexington near New Guinea. These planes were headed to attack Palau in Operation Desecrate One in March 1944.
Feared Russian Female Sniper
Meet Roza Shanina, a soviet sniper during World War II. Shanina volunteered for the military after her brother died in 1941. She chose to be a sniper on the front lines. She was killed in action during the East Prussian Offensive while trying to shield a severely wounded commander from enemy fire. During her service she was credited with 59 kills. She was the first female sniper to receive the Order of Glory, an award which is given for bravery in the face of the enemy.
Fighting The Elements
Mother Nature is not bias and does not worry about human conflict. Not only did soldiers have to fight the enemy, but also Mother Nature. The war was fought for many years through all seasons. Soldiers would experience frigid to boiling temperatures. However, they had to remain vigilant at all times. Pictured below is a pile of dead German soldiers, whose bodies froze postmortem due to cold weather.
Dining On Weapons
Soldiers were forced to fight, eat, and sleep in sometimes very harsh conditions. They would do whatever was necessary to stay alive and follow orders. These American troops are mentally preparing for battle while eating a meal. There table: a box of ammunition. However, they were not worried about their dining area but rather the battle in the near future. These troops were prepping for the D-Day invasion of France.
Mushroom Cloud Over Nagasaki
In August 1945, Harry S. Truman ordered the drop of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a devastating blow to the Axis powers and Japanese people. Below is the mushroom cloud that was created from the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. The cloud is a formidable sign of mass destruction and death. The Japanese surrendered shortly after the bombs were dropped.
Takeoff To War
Air warfare was a strategic component to World War II. Both the Allied and the Axis powers sought to build superior planes in order to have advantage in the air. Both sides created planes that could carry long-range bombs to create devastating loss. Pictured below is American Lt. George Glacken with his gunner Leo Boulanger, on a flight deck in 1944. The plane in which they are about to fly is the Douglas SBD.
Although they were always enemies, soldiers on both sides had an unspoken respect for each other. They both understood what each was experiencing – the pains of war, the belief of their cause and the love for their country. It was mutual understanding only those who fought in the war can comprehend. Pictured is a American soldier decorating the grave of an unknown U.S. soldier. The soldier was buried by enemy troops before they retreated.
The U.S. Army planned their attacks wisely on officers and civilians alike. Although they always tried to find ways to avoid killing innocent lives. Unfortunately, as stated before, sometimes those innocent lives included animals. The U.S. Army had to fire on this caravan as it was discovered to be carrying military equipments for the Axis powers. This picture was shot in Lug, Germany, after the attack was completed.
Destruction Of Poland
Poland saw some of the most destruction out of any country involved in the war. Poland was originally captured during the German-Soviet invasion in September 1939. The occupation of the country did not end until the Allies defeated the Germans in May 1945. During this occupation Poland saw massive destruction of infrastructure and enormous amounts of death. Nearly 6 million Polish citizens were killed, which was approximately 21% of the population at the time. Of those 6 million, 90% were civilians killed by deliberate actions of the Germans and the Soviets.
Although this photo is disturbing to see, it shows a morbid truth of war. This photo was snapped on March 15, 1945. The charred remains of a German pilot were found in a plane that was shot down in the first day of the Seventh Army offensive in Germany. During Operation Undertone, the Seventh Army successfully fought through the Rhine into Germany. From there, they captured Nuremberg than Munich.
Hitler’s Hideaway Destroyed
The Berghof was Adolf Hitler’s home in the Bavarian Alps. Besides his headquarters in East Prussia, he spent more time there than anywhere else during the war. In April 1945, the Berghof was bombed by British aerial bombs. It was then set on fire by SS troops. The picture was snapped of the destruction of what was once Hitler’s vacation residence. The Bavarian government demolished the burnt building in 1952.
The USO (United Service Organizations Inc.) is a nonprofit, founded in 1941, that provided live entertainment to U.S. service members. Multiple units were sent overseas to entertain the soldiers that were deployed for combat. The performances were called Camp Shows and helped greatly boost the morale of the soldiers. The U.S. was not the only country to enjoy some entertainment. The Soviet soldiers also received entertainment. Pictured below are Soviet soliders, in 1945, stopping for a small show on the outskirts of Berlin.
The North African Campaign began in June 1940. After several back and forth between the Allied and Axis powers, the Allied powers came out victorious in 1943. There were several effective defensive strategies used throughout those 3 years. Pictured is a pattern of anti-aircraft fire over the city of Algiers. The photo is recording several moments of gun fire, which acted like a protective screen over the city.
Omori was a man-made island constructed by Prisoners of War, in Japan. The purpose of the island was to isolate POWs. The living conditions were harsh, as prisoners often died of neglect, abuse and malnutrition. This prison was recently highlighted in Hollywood in the film “Unbroken.” The film is based on the life of U.S. Olympic athlete, soldier, and POW, Louis Zamperini. Pictured is Zamperini after the island was liberated by the Americans.
Moments Before Execution
German Wehrmacht General Anton Dostler was found guilty of war crimes in the first Allied war trial. His biggest crime was having ordered the shooting death of 15 unarmed American POWs, in March 1944. He was sentence to be executed by firing squad in Aversa, Italy on December 1, 1945. This picture was taken right before his execution as he was getting tied to a stake.
Public Death Of Mussolini
By the end of World War II, former fascist Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini was on the run. However, he was captured by anti-fascist Italians, while attempting to flee to Switzerland. He and his mistress were killed and their bodies were taken to Milan and were hung upside-down from the roof of a gas station. It was public display for everyone to voice their hatred for the former dictator.
Easter Eggs For Hitler
These two American soldiers wrote on their heavy artillery, wishing Hitler a Happy Easter. Of course, this was all sarcastic. Writing on weapons was a common practice as it allowed to the soldiers to humorously express their hate for the enemy. Pictured is Technical Sergeant William E. Thomas and Private First Class Joseph Jackson of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion.