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The Pictures that Defined World War II

The Pictures that Defined World War II


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Getting the perfect shot in wartime is not only about weapons. With over 30 countries involved in World War II and the loss of over 50 million lives, war photography captured the destruction and victories of the deadliest war in history.

Lead by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, over one million German troops invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Just two days later, Britain and France declared war on Germany—and the world was once again at war. Photographers were there every step of the way to capture the heroic triumphs and devastating losses.

Here is a look at some of the most poignant moments captured.

After German soldiers swept through Belgium and Northern France in a blitzkrieg in May of 1940, all communication and transport between Allied forces were cut, leaving thousands of troops stranded. Operation Dynamo was quickly put in place to evacuate the Allies stuck along the beaches of Dunkirk, France. Soldiers waded through the water hoping to escape by rescue vessels, military ships, or civilian ships. More than 338,000 soldiers were saved during what would be later called, the “Miracle of Dunkirk.”

LISTEN ON APPLE PODCASTS: Hope, Through History: Winston Churchill and World War II

On December 7, 1941, the U.S. naval base Pearl Harbor was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces. Japanese fighter planes destroyed nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 airplanes. More than 2,400 Americans (including civilians) died in the attack, with another 1,000 Americans wounded.

This event was the tipping point for the U.S. The next day, December 8, 1941, Congress approved Roosevelt’s declaration of war on Japan. Two years after it’s bloody start, the U.S. had officially entered World War II.

Just three days later, Japan’s allies, Germany and Italy, declared war against the United States, which Congress reciprocated by declaring war on the European powers. The world was once again at war.

With the United States now involved in the war, men were joining the fight by the millions. Women stepped in to fill the empty civilian and military jobs once only seen as jobs for men. They replaced men in assembly lines, factories and defense plants, leading to iconic images like Rosie the Riveter that inspired strength, patriotism and liberation for women.

Women also took part in the war effort abroad, even taking on leading roles behind the camera. This photograph was taken by photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White, one of the first four photographers hired for Life Magazine. She later became the first female war correspondent and the first woman to be allowed to work in combat zones during the war.

This photograph, taken in 1942 by Life Magazine photographer Gabriel Benzur, shows Cadets in training for the U.S. Army Air Corps, who would later become the famous Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black military aviators and helped encourage the eventual integration of the U.S. armed forces.

With racial segregation still remaining in U.S. armed forces during this time, it was believed that black soldiers were incapable of learning to fly and operate military aircrafts. As the U.S. involvement in World War II increased, however, civilian pilot training programs expanded across the country forcing inclusion.

After Hitler’s invasion of Poland, more than 400,000 Jewish Poles were confined within a square mile of the capital city, Warsaw. By the end of 1940 the ghetto was sealed off by brick walls, barbed wire and armed guards as other Nazi-occupied Jewish ghettos sprung up throughout Eastern Europe.

In April 1943, residents of the Warsaw ghetto staged a revolt to prevent deportation to extermination camps. The Jewish residents were able to stave off the Nazis for an impressive four weeks. However, in the end the Nazi forces destroyed many of the bunkers the residents were hiding in, killing nearly 7,000 people. The 50,000 ghetto captives who survived, like this group pictured here, were sent to labor and extermination camps. This photograph was found amongst others in a report by the SS General Stroop titled, “The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw is No More!”

The photographs that emerged from the Nazi-lead concentration camps are among some of the most horrifying ever produced, let alone during World War II. The images remain clear in one’s mind, families being captured and separated, emaciated bodies in barracks.

This 1944 photograph shows a pile of remaining bones at the Nazi concentration camp of Majdanek, the second largest death camp in Poland after Auschwitz.

This photograph titled “Taxis to Hell- and Back- Into the Jaws of Death” was taken on June 6, 1944 during Operation Overlord by Robert F. Sargent, United States Coast Guard chief petty officer and “photographer’s mate.” The photograph was originally captioned,

“American invaders spring from the ramp of a Coast Guard-manned landing barge to wade those last perilous yards to the beach of Normandy. Enemy fire will cut some of them down. Their ‘taxi’ will pull itself off the sands and dash back to a Coast Guard manned transport for more passengers.”

The D-Day military invasion was an enormous coordinated effort with the goal of ending World War II. Today, it is regarded by historians as one of the greatest military achievements.

On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army entered Auschwitz and found approximately 7,600 Jewish detainees who had been left behind. Here, a doctor of the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army helps take survivors out of Auschwitz. They stand at the entrance, where its iconic sign reads “Arbeit Mecht Frei,” (“Work Brings Freedom”). The Soviet Army also discovered mounds of corpses and hundreds of thousands of personal belongings.

Prior to the liberation of the camps by the Allies, Nazi guards forced what was known as death marches. Throughout the month of January, over 60,000 detainees were forced to march some 30 miles in their frail, emaciated states leading to the death of many prisoners. Those who survived were sent on to other concentration camps in Germany.

This Pulitzer Prize winning photo has become synonymous with American victory. Taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, it is one of the most reproduced, and copied, photographs in history.

During the battle, marines took an American flag to the highest point on the island: Mount Suribachi. U.S. Marine photographer Louis Lowery captured the original shot but several hours later, more Marines headed to the crest with a larger flag. It was on this second attempt, that the iconic image was snapped. Three of the six soldiers seen raising the flag in the famous Rosenthal photo were killed during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The Battle of Iwo Jima image was so powerful in it’s time that it even caused copycats to stage similar images. This photograph was taken on April 30, 1945, during the Battle of Berlin. Soviet soldiers took their flag in victory and raised it over the rooftops of the bombed-out Reichstag.

The photograph was also manipulated. The photographer concealed the wrists of the soldiers, which were covered in stolen wristwatches that were looted from the Germans. Stalin had given his soldiers strict instructions not to loot, so the photo manipulation was to avoid harsh consequence, discipline and possibly even death.

On August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped the world’s first atom bomb over the city of Hiroshima. Prior to the outbreak of the war, American scientists had been considering the development of atomic weapons to defend against fascists regimes. Once the U.S. joined the war, “The Manhattan Project” began creating the bomb that created this mass destruction. Oddly enough it was nicknamed “Little Boy.”

The bomb exploded 2,000 feet above Hiroshima with an impact equal to 12-15,000 tons of TNT. This photograph captured the mushroom cloud.

Approximately 80,000 people died immediately, with tens of thousands more dying later due to radiation exposure. In the end, the bomb wiped out 90 percent of the city.

Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt captured this photo in Time Square on Victory against Japan Day (“V-J Day”), August 14, 1945. Sailor George Mendonsa saw dental assistant Greta Zimmer Friedman for the first time among the celebration at V-J Day. He grabbed and kissed her. This photograph would go on to become one of the most well-known in history, while also stirring up controversy. Many women have claimed to be the nurse over the years, some saying it depicts a nonconsensual moment, even sexual harassment.

Watch full episodes of World War II: Race to Victory.


World War II: The horror of war in pictures

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The deadliest and most destructive war in human history claimed between 40 and 50 million lives, displaced tens of millions of people, and cost more than $1 trillion to prosecute. The financial cost to the United States alone was more than $341 billion (approximately $4.8 trillion when adjusted for inflation). Nearly one-third of homes in Great Britain and Poland were damaged or destroyed, as were roughly one-fifth of those in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Yugoslavia. In Germany’s 49 largest cities, nearly 40 percent of homes were seriously damaged or destroyed. In the western Soviet Union, the destruction was even greater.

The human cost of the war can hardly be calculated. Civilian population centres were intentionally targeted by both the Axis and the Allies. Planes of the U.S. Army Air Forces burned scores of Japanese cities to the ground with incendiary bombs before Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed with atomic weapons. Japan’s troops in Asia enslaved some 200,000 women to act as sex workers (“ comfort women”) and often acted with a general disregard for human life, especially toward prisoners. Unit 731 of the Imperial Japanese Army carried out horrific medical experiments on thousands of prisoners of war and civilians men and women were subjected to chemical and biological agents and vivisected to survey the results.

After agreeing to a partition of Poland with Germany, the Soviets slaughtered as many as 20,000 Polish prisoners of war at Katyn. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact guaranteed Soviet hegemony over the Baltic states, and tens of thousands of people were killed or unjustly imprisoned after the Soviets invaded Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The troops of the Red Army used mass rape as a terror tactic as they advanced into Germany using medical records and written requests for abortions as data points, experts estimated 100,000 women were raped in Berlin alone. Claims of war crimes carried out by the Red Army were generally dismissed by the Soviets as Western propaganda, however. When these actions were acknowledged, the Soviets professed that they were justified given the treatment of Soviet civilians by the Wehrmacht and SS troops.

The institutional scale of the Third Reich’s crimes against humanity makes it clear that the Holocaust was not merely a by-product of the Nazi war effort but a goal in itself. Hitler laid the bureaucratic groundwork for the mass destruction of European Jewry with the T4 Program, a targeted “euthanasia” campaign that sought to purge Germany of the infirm or disabled. These people—who ranged from newborns to the elderly—were deemed nutzlose Esser (“useless eaters”) possessing lebensunwerten Lebens (“life unworthy of life”), and they were murdered by the tens of thousands. The T4 Program proved the efficacy of gas chambers as implements of mass murder, and they became a key element of the “ final solution” proposed by SS official Reinhard Heydrich at Wannsee on January 20, 1942:

Another possible solution of the problem has now taken the place of emigration, i.e. the evacuation of the Jews to the East, provided that the Führer gives the appropriate approval in advance.

These actions are, however, only to be considered provisional, but practical experience is already being collected which is of the greatest importance in relation to the future final solution of the Jewish question.

Approximately 11 million Jews will be involved in the final solution of the European Jewish question…

It was understood by all attendees that “evacuation of the Jews to the East” was a euphemism for the Vernichtung (“annihilation”) of millions of people. That Heydrich, Adolf Eichmann, and the genocidal apparatus they constructed fell short of their goal of “11 million Jews” was due to advancing Allied armies and not to any lack of effort on the part of the Nazis.


Noboru “Don” Seki

Private Noboru Seki of Honolulu, Hawaii (Zach Coco)

In early December 1941, Noboru “Don” Seki’s parents returned to their home country of Japan. The couple’s 18-year-old son, who had been born and raised in Hawaii, opted to remain in Honolulu, where he was employed as a construction worker. Seki’s decision proved fateful: Just three days after his parents’ departure, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into the war after two years of neutrality.

Initially barred from enlisting due to his Japanese heritage, Seki was only allowed to join the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team—made up almost entirely of Nisei, or second-generation Japanese immigrants—in 1943. His unit fought in Italy, capturing the cities of Florence and Leghorn, in addition to leading a daring rescue of Texas National Guard troops surrounded by the German army. As a result of injuries sustained during this mission, Seki had to have his left arm amputated.

Speaking with Coco, Seki pointed out that if he’d gone to Japan with his family, he would’ve been drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army and pitted against his former countrymen. Instead, he said, he continued to live “in the greatest country and be a good American.”


A disgrace in the history of humanity: World War II

Memories of World War II, known as the bloodiest war in the history of humanity, are still with us, even 73 years later.

The war between Axis powers led by Nazi Germany (the Third Reich), Italy, and Japan, and the Allies consisting of Britain, France, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, ceased in Europe after Nazi Germany&rsquos unconditional surrender on May 9, 1945.

However the Allies waged the war a while longer in the Pacific as Japan refused to surrender. Eventually Japan&rsquos unconditional surrender in the wake of the two atomic bombings by the U.S., which cost nearly 150,000 lives, marked the final end of the war on Sept. 2, 1945.

Innumerable casualties still rankle

Despite the 73 years that have since passed, the victims who were able to survive and their descendants still suffer the agony of the devastating war.

World War II, in which 70 million people from both sides were involved, produced the largest number of casualties in world history.

During the six years of war, more than 60 million people -- both combatants and civilians -- lost their lives, or three percent of the world&rsquos population in the early 1940s, 2.3 billion.

The death toll climbed to 80 million due to famine and various diseases caused by war.

Millions of civilians in war-battered regions were displaced due to exile, deportation and mandatory evacuation orders by the warring factions.

Especially Nazi Germany&rsquos racist policies displaced numerous Jews around Europe, as well as many civilians forced to leave their homes in Finland, Poland, the Baltic states, Serbia and Hungary.

Death camps and the Holocaust

One of the most grievous facts of World War II were the massacres committed in concentration and extermination camps.

At the Auschwitz-Birkenau Camp in Poland, the deadliest among them, 1.1 million people were massacred.

Regarded as one of the greatest tragedies of humanity, the Nazi camps witnessed horrible human experimentation, executions in gas chambers, and crematoriums.

Many Jews and people from other groups became victims of the Nazis&rsquo eugenicist policies.

Six million Jewish civilians in total were massacred during World War II, an event the UN later recognized as a Holocaust.

Furthermore, at least 1,800 Japanese-origin Americans died from mistreatment, violence, and malnourishment in internment camps across the U.S. where 127,000 people were placed during the war.

Massive war investments

World War II is also known for huge investments of belligerents in the war industry and the high number of war expenditures.

From a budget of some $1 trillion, from 1940 to 1945, the U.S. spent $341 billion on war.

Nazi Germany, with its $400 billion average budget, spent $272 billion &ndash more than half of its national wealth.

The Soviet Union&rsquos war expenditures totaled $192 billion, while it had a $350 billion average budget during the war.

And Britain, with a $340 billion average budget, invested $120 billion on war.

As for arms production, the U.S. army produced 300,000 fighter jets, 89,000 tanks and 363,000 pieces of artillery ammunition.

Soviet arms production consisted of 120,000 jets and 660,000 pieces of artillery ammunition.

Nazi Germany also produced 104,000 jets, 65,000 tanks, and 255,000 pieces of artillery ammunition.

Economic effects of war

During World War II, many of the factories in warring states were used to make ammunition, which resulted in a steep fall in industrial and agricultural productivity.

Thus, European nations&rsquo industrial infrastructure was reduced 70 percent in the wake of the war.

Bread was rationed and meat prices boomed in many countries. Food crises were seen in Italy, Austria, and Eastern Europe.

Having lost 27 million population to war, almost no source of funds remained in Soviet Union during the post-war period.

Diseases caused by war

Thousands of war-battered combatants and civilians caught various diseases after the war. Many of them suffered terrible health problems, while many others became disabled or psychologically traumatized.

Numerous American soldiers suffered malaria on the Pacific front, while typhus ruined thousands of people in Europe and North Africa.

Serious health risks emerged after the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Japan&rsquos Hiroshima and Nagasaki posed a danger for locals decades after the war.

The effects of the bombings caused a variety of diseases, such as deformities, disabilities, and cancer.

Post-war Europe and the new world order

The Allies&rsquo victory in World War II succeeded in stopping the menace of Nazism. Nevertheless, the Soviet Union joining the Allies, empowering the communist ideology in Eastern Europe, raised another threat marking the new world order.

The post-war world map was shaped by the leaders of the U.S., Soviet Union and Britain -- the &ldquoBig Three&rdquo -- at the trilateral conferences of Tehran, Moscow, Yalta and Potsdam held between 1943 and 1945.

In Europe, the Soviet Union gained dominance over Romania, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Bulgaria, and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, while Western Europe remained under U.S. and British control.

Germany was divided into two states and shared by four different states. In Eastern Germany, Soviet Union held total control, while Britain, the U.S., and France shared the Western part.

The Soviet Union&rsquos communist expansion in Europe laid the foundation for the bipolar world order.


4. Never lose your weapon — ever

Troops periodically lose their weapon when entering into some downtime just by simply setting down their rifle down for a few moments. It makes sense when you’re stuck holding your weapon for hours on end, you’ll want to take a break eventually. It’s all too easy. A troop gets some downtime, puts their weapon down, starts to decompress, begins an activity, and, in the process, walks away from their rifle.

If you forget it at your “rack,” it’s not the end of the world, but absent-mindedly put it anywhere else and you’re asking for something bad to happen.

You better go look for it.


World War II in Color: The Italian Campaign and the Road to Rome

American jeeps traveled through a bombed-out town during the drive towards Rome, World War II.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Written By: Ben Cosgrove

Ask a dozen military historians to name the single most pivotal battle or campaign of World War II the one operation that saw the war’s momentum irrevocably swing from the Axis to the Allied powers and you’ll get a dozen answers. Did the pendulum shift as early as the Battle of Britain? At Midway? During the liberation of Paris? Kursk? The Battle of the Bulge? Stalingrad? A definitive answer is impossible.

But one campaign that everyone agrees was a significant turning point in the Allied effort was launched in July 1943. Before dawn on July 10 of that year, 150,000 American and British troops along with Canadian, Free French and other Allies, and 3,000 ships, 600 tanks and 4,000 aircraft made for the southern shores of the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea: the storied, 10,000-square-mile land of Sicily. Within six weeks, the Allies had pushed Axis troops (primarily Germans) out of Sicily and were poised for the invasion of mainland Italy and one of the most arduous 20 months of the entire war: the long, often brutal Italian Campaign.

Tens of thousands of troops, on both sides, were killed or listed as missing, while hundreds of thousands more were wounded. And, of course as in most every major campaign of the war hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed, while countless more were wounded, raped, left homeless and otherwise traumatized.

Here, LIFE.com presents a series of both rare and classic color pictures made throughout the Italian Campaign by the great Carl Mydans.

Finally, it’s worth noting that, within weeks of the start of the invasion of Sicily, the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who had ruled Italy for more than two decades, was booted from power and arrested. “Il Duce” subsequently escaped, with German help, and was then on the run or in hiding without cease for almost two years. He was captured by Italian partisans in late April 1945, summarily executed, and along with his mistress and several other Fascists literally hanged by his heels, in public, for all to see.

In early May 1945, the war in Europe ended.

American jeeps traveled through a bombed-out town during the drive towards Rome, World War II.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

American armor moved up the Appian Way during the drive towards Rome.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

American soldiers marched up the Appian Way during the drive towards Rome in World War II.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Italians watched American armor pass during the drive towards Rome along the Appian Way, World War II.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

A column of American medical vehicles during the drive towards Rome, World War II.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

American soldiers rested in a courtyard during the drive towards Rome, World War II.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

American troops stood in front of a bombed-out building during the drive towards Rome, WWII.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Ruins of the town of Monte Cassino, a result of massive Allied bombing during an attempt to dislodge German troops occupying the city, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Ruins in the Rapido Valley, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

A German graveyard along the Esperia Road, photographed during the Allied drive towards Rome, World War II.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Troops in the Liri Valley, on the road to Rome, Italian Campaign, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

An American soldier tried to spot German positions during the Allied drive towards Rome, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Liri Valley, on the road to Rome, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

American troops camped by the roadside during the drive towards Rome, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

An American soldier slept on a pile of rocks during the drive towards Rome, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Liri Valley, on the road to Rome, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

In the Rapido Valley, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

American troops rested in a field during the drive towards Rome, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

An American soldier took a meal break during the drive towards Rome, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

American troops looked over German armor destroyed during the drive towards Rome, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

The Italian Campaign, World War II, 1944.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

British and South African soldiers held up a Nazi trophy flag while combat engineers on bulldozers cleared a path through the debris of a bombed-out city, Italian Campaign, World War II.

Carl Mydans/Life Pictures/Shutterstock


Key Figures of World War II

Benito Mussolini founded Fascism and ruled Italy as a dictator for more than 21 years. He dreamed of making Italy into a great empire . He banned all other parties and took control of industry, schools, the police and the media . Il Duce joined an alliance with German dictator Adolf Hitler. Both countries sent soldiers to Spain to support General Franco in the Spanish Civil War . In 1943 Mussolini was arrested but soon later rescued by German commandoes . In 1945 Italians who were against fascism captured Mussolini as he wanted to escape to Switzerland . The next day he was shot to death.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR, as he was also called, was the only president elected four times. He served for more than 12 years, longer than any other person. Roosevelt became president during the Great Depression, which was a hard time for American economy . One out of four workers had lost their jobs and many families had no money to buy food or clothes. President Roosevelt created a programme called the New Deal in which the government helped poor people, gave them work and paid for food and shelter . President Roosevelt tried to keep America out of World War II, but when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour the United States entered the war. Roosevelt was a strong leader throughout the war . He died shortly before the war ended in 1945.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War. He was a strong leader and a talented speaker, writer and painter. Churchill held speeches that gave the British people hope and courage during the horrible years of the war. After Germany&rsquos surrender in 1945 Churchill lost his job as Prime Minister but returned in 1951. In 1953 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin was the dictator of the USSR from 1929 until 1953. During his rule , the Soviet Union became one of the world&rsquos greatest powers. In the late 1800s Stalin joined a group of Marxist revolutionaries . Although Stalin had not played a big role during the Russian Revolution he started gaining power. When Lenin died Stalin took control. He was a ruthless dictator , in many ways like Hitler, and had millions of people killed or exiled because they threatened his power or opposed his plans. After World War II the Soviet army stayed in the eastern part of Europe and Stalin set up communist governments there.

Harry Truman

Harry Truman became president in the spring of 1945, shortly before the war in Europe ended . In August of the same year Truman decided to use the atomic bomb to end the war against Japan.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower became the leader of the Allied forces in Europe .He planned the invasion that led to the end of the war . After the war &ldquoIke&rdquo became a very popular figure in the US and was elected president in 1952.

Heinrich Himmler

Himmler was one of the most loyal followers of Adolf Hitler. As the head of the German police he ordered the deaths of millions of people. He committed suicide in May 1945 after the Allied troops had captured him.

Joseph Goebbels

Goebbels was Nazi Germany&rsquos propaganda minster. He tried to persuade the Germans and the outside world to believe in Hitler&rsquos regime . Goebbels controlled newspapers, radio programmes, motion pictures and the arts in Germany. At the end of the war Goebbels and his wife poisoned their six children and then he asked a Nazi soldier to kill them both.

Charles de Gaulle

General Charles de Gaulle was the most outstanding French patriot , soldier and statesman of the 20th century. He led the French resistance against Nazi Germany and restored order in France after World War II . He was the architect of a new constitution and became president in 1958.

World War II - Table of Contents

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The Pictures that Defined World War II - HISTORY

I found this 1917 advertisement for swastika jewelry while browsing through the NY Public Library Digital Gallery. The text reads in part:

To the wearer of swastika will come from the four winds of heaven good luck, long life and prosperity. The swastika is the oldest cross, and the oldest symbol in the world. Of unknown origin, in frequent use in the prehistoric items, it historically first appeared on coins as early as the year 315 B.C.

As this suggests, while the symbol of the swastika is most frequently associated with Hitler and Nazis during World War II, and is still used by neo-Nazi groups, the symbol itself has a much longer history. From wikipedia:

Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates from the Neolithic period. An ancient symbol, it occurs mainly in the cultures that are in modern day India and the surrounding area, sometimes as a geometrical motif and sometimes as a religious symbol. It was long widely used in major world religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

Before it was co-opted by the Nazis, the swastika decorated all kinds of things. Uni Watch has tons of examples. Here it is on a Finnish military plane:

A women’s hockey team called the Swastikas from Edmonton (from 1916):

In the comments, Felicity pointed to this example:

My mom is a quilter and collects antique quilts (when she can afford them). She says that while in general, antique quilts and quilt-tops have gone up a great deal in price over the decades, there’s still one sort you can pick up for a song — swastika quilts.

It’s kind of sad to think of somebody in 1900 putting all that time and hand-stitching into a ‘good luck’ quilt that is now reviled.

All of these examples occurred before the Nazis adopted the swastika as their symbol (and changed it slightly by tilting it on a 45-degree angle). Of course, the original meaning or usage of the swastika is beside the point now. Because it is so strongly associated with the Nazis, it’s impossible to use it now without people reading it as a Nazi symbol. And in fact it’s unimaginable that a group in the U.S. or Europe would use the swastika today without intentionally meaning to draw on the Nazi association and the ideas espoused by Hitler and his party.

Wendy Christensen is an Assistant Professor at William Paterson University whose specialty includes the intersection of gender, war, and the media. You can follow her on Twitter.

Comments 90

Elizabeth &mdash June 3, 2008

To an educated eye one can automatically tell those are not the Nazi swastikas, as the Nazi swastika is on a slant.

Wendy &mdash June 3, 2008

True, the Nazi swastika is tilted on a 45 degree angle. Nonetheless, the swastikas in this 1917 ad evoke Nazism now, post-WWII (which I imagine is why it was part of the online library gallery of racist images and symbols). My guess would be that either version of the image would evoke Nazism if someone wore it on t-shirt today.

ESS &mdash June 4, 2008

This post reminded me of one done by Paul Lukas at UniWatch, a website that examines the "Obsessive Study of Athletics Aesthetics," that examined the use of the swastika as a logo for various sports teams.

Here is the link: http://www.uniwatchblog.com/2007/11/01/and-look-theres-a-young-marge-schott-in-the-front-row/

Sociological Images » WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO BEHIND YOUR BACK (DECEMBER 2008) &mdash January 1, 2009

[. ] Remember how the swastika didn’t used to connote total evil? Neither did we. We added several more examples of pre-Nazi uses of the swastika to this post. [. ]

Felicity &mdash January 2, 2009

My mom is a quilter and collects antique quilts (when she can afford them.) She says that while in general, antique quilts and quilt-tops have gone up a great deal in price over the decades, there's still one sort you can pick up for a song -- swastika quilts.

It's kind of sad to think of somebody in 1900 putting all that time and hand-stitching into a 'good luck' quilt that is now reviled. Here's one photo I found: Nevada state museum

Stompie smax &mdash January 2, 2009

incidentally, that use by world religions isn't entirely past tense. it probably comes as a bit of a shock to many visiting westerners that the swastika is used as the symbol for buddhist temples on most japanese maps.

Carrie &mdash January 2, 2009

To add to the comment about temples in Japan, in Korea we have swastikas marking traditional medicine shops and other small Buddhist run/related shops.

Sociological Images » WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO BEHIND YOUR BACK (JANUARY 2009) &mdash February 1, 2009

[. ] found another instance of pre-nazi uses of the swastika, this time the symbol was used in a warm, cozy quilt. Thanks to Felicity who pointed us to it [. ]

T &mdash February 3, 2009

The tiles in the entrance of a pre-war (1928) apartment building in Brooklyn feature swastikas. I used to live there and the porter told us that a lot of the buildings in the neighborhood had swastika motifs -- I have seen swastikas worked into the borders of wood floors as well. According to the porter, a lot of these buildings were constructed by teams of native american builders from upstate New York. He also claimed that building inspectors had tried to get them to replace the tiles over the years.

Simono &mdash February 3, 2009

At least in germany, austria everybody knows of pre-nazi swastika use. though we call it "swastika" in non-nazi context ("hakenkreuz" - if its nazi context).

Simono &mdash February 3, 2009

oh and you are not allowed to wear those in public, at least in germany+austria. that could theoretically get you in jail for a long time (short version: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verbotsgesetz_1947)

Lila &mdash February 26, 2009

There are big swastika tiles on the landings of the stairs in one of the buildings at the University of Chicago. I have no idea how old they are, but it really freaked me out last week when I noticed I was standing on one! :)

Ego Kornus &mdash March 28, 2009

Great post,
and Swastika is good!

Sociological Images » What We’ve Been Up To Behind Your Back (June 2009) &mdash July 1, 2009

[. ] Gwen and I saw a swastika design built into a brick chimney. It reminded us of Wendy’s fascinating post on the history of the swastika symbol from June 2008. Before WWII, it didn’t signify oppressive racist ideology at all. The [. ]

Seatangle &mdash July 4, 2009
World War II Era Converse with Swastika Soles » Sociological Images &mdash June 2, 2010

[. ] also our post on the surprising history of the symbol. var object = SHARETHIS.addEntry(< title:'World War II Era Converse with Swastika Soles', url: [. ]

Allie &mdash June 2, 2010
Sara &mdash June 7, 2010

We Hindus and Jains can't use our symbol in the USA because people think its a Nazi symbol. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jainism & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindusim

Most awkward gift wedding gift ever | When Latke Met Ladki &mdash September 19, 2011

[. ] opening). In Hinduism and many other Indian religions like Jainism and Buddhism, it is regarded as one of the oldest symbols of prosperity, good luck, health and heaven dating as far back as 3300–1300 BCE. The swastika is as common and accepted in Hindu communities [. ]

Mike T. &mdash August 5, 2013

Didn't swastika symbolize the sun before hitler has used it? I remember seeing on tv that in India there are still bridges that had swastika decorations.

Orse &mdash November 11, 2013
Ely &mdash May 23, 2014

The guna people here in Panama have used the swastika since forever. It's on their flag:

That's Guna Yala's flag (the autonomous territory, the "comarca" where a good deal of the gunas live).

I guess it helps that Panama is a country that has never had much to do with the nazis. Sure, when I think about swastikas, my brain screams "nazis", but if I see it around here, in Panama, I'm like "ohhhhh, a guna thing, that's a really pretty handicraft. ".

Not to mention all the hindus who wear swastika necklaces and stuff sometimes.

Daniel Pose &mdash May 24, 2014

If the 1917 swastikas are remarkable, then readers will marvel at photos showing that in 1917 the US's Pledge of Allegiance used the early stiff-armed salute that was adopted later in Germany. The pledge was the origin of the Nazi salute and Nazi behavior (see the discoveries of the historian Dr. Rex Curry).

The German National Socialist's symbol was not a "swastika" in that the German socialists did not call their symbol a "swastika." They called their symbol a "Hakenkreuz," which means "hooked cross" because their symbol was a type of cross. It was also not a swastika in that they used it to represent crossed "S" letters for their dogma -"socialism"- as alphabetical symbolism (again see work of Dr. Curry). German turned their symbol 45 degress and points it in the "S" letter direction. So, the Germans did not "hijack" the symbol. The hijacking of the symbol was done by people who did not want to disparage the Christian cross, so they began deliberately mis-identifying the German socialist symbol as a "swastika." That continues to this day. If you want to rehabilitate the swastika, then you should explain these differences so that others will understand.

One reason that the writer Christensen does not know this is because she uses wakipedia (wikipedia). She should not let students her university cite wakipedia and neither should she. The swastika is one example of many topics on which wakipedia will never publish the truth.


   World War 2 Weapons part 1

The backstory of weapons employed in World War 2 on land, sea and air was the intense focus of the scientific /tech communities to create the means for the greatest devastation.

Earlier wars may have planted the seeds for lethality, but this new war that engulfed the planet was a quantum leap into the future of weaponry.

The reader will hardly forget the game changer: the atomic bomb that made hyperbole an understatement. 

The weapons were often  utilized with a degree of barbaric cruelty and hatred. How else can history explain over 60 million dead? 

Automation  became a standard for what had merely been mechanical.

Introduction of full rapid fire required new platforms that created new systems for delivery.

The aircraft carrier, the amphibious landing craft, the self propelled gun, the dive bomber became terms  common in civilian discourse.

Our identification of these weapons into Land, Sea, Air does not limit their use to these broad categories. Many of the systems crossed these boundaries and were employed effectively in all environments.

 Naval officer and Medal of Honor winner, John D. Bulkley: It's not the captain but "the men who do the fighting, man the guns, they're the guys that really win the war".          

These arms were regularly described by all belligerents as those weapons used by an infantry squad, but not necessarily limited to the infantry. They are portable.

The pistol was notoriously inaccurate and useful only in close combat. This weapon was carried by infantry officers, tank crews and pilots. There were no significant innovations from those pistols used in World War 1. All were semi-automatic. (Each trigger pull fired a single shot.)

United States:  .45 caliber M1911-----considered the best pistol carried.

Germans:         .38 caliber Walther----considered more reliable than their

British:  .38 caliber Webley and Enfield 2

Soviets: Nagent revolver 1895 and Tokarev pistol---------not widely issued

Italy:      Beretta  .33 caliber-------not accurate but widely issued- small and compact

Japan:   Nambu Type 94----unsafe. Many officers preferred ceremonial sword.

        Was sometimes used by officers to commit suicide ("Seppuk" to avoid capture.)

Many of the armies entered the war equipped with World War 1 rifles. Americans were issued 1903 Springfield, bolt action. The Japanese were using a weapon that was in vogue in the Russo-Japanese conflict of 1904.

United States: By 1945, the standard rifle was the 9 lb Garand M1 (John Garand) with a maximum range of 5500 feet. The rifle was semi automatic and self loading.  It was gas operated and fed with an 8 clip .30 caliber cartridge. Its sight was extremely accurate and the gun unaffected by weather. The butt carried swabs, brush and cleaning rod. Its simplicity was confirmed by every infantryman who could it tear it down and put it together in the dark. It was described as 9 plus pounds of terrific "knock down" power and never jammed.

British:     Reliable Lee Enfield NO. 4 AND 5

Japan:      Arisaka, Meiji, Mosin  The Arisaka was a copy of the German Mauser rifl 38"  long and used as a sniper weapon when telescope sight added (6.5 cal.).

Germany: Karabiner 98K, one of many numerous upgrades, fired a Mauser cartridge 7.92x57mm. Many German rifles utilized earlier Czechoslovakian designs. Used by  Wehrmach(infantry), kriegsmarine (Subs), Luftwaffe (air), Waffen SS (multi services from police to panzer).                                          

The Thompson gun had its origin at the end of world War 1. It was the notorious weapon of choice for 1930's gangsters when known as the "Tommy" gun.The gun was fully automatic. (Gun continuously fires as long as the trigger remains depressed.)

United States: This gun was occasionally issued to non commissioned officers but its  low velocity and failure to penetrate light armor was a significant problem.It was found somewhat ineffective in jungle battle. The M1 model had a 50 round box magazine instead of the familiar looking round drum. Marines were issued the weapon in the Pacific and used on Okinawa (April-June 1945).

Britain: Their commandos favored the Thompson gun. They would also manufacture their version of the submachine gun---the Sten gun.

Japan:      Used their machine gun when they captured the oil fields on Java,rarely utilized. 

Germany  The following illustrates the MP 40 and its deadly stream of fire.

Germany: Most innovative-- produced a semi or fully automatic assault rifle. The machine pistol 43 (Sturmgewehr=storm rifle) had shorter range than most rifles, a less powerful bullet. It's compact form made it more controllable and proved very effective on Russia's, eastern front. Although referred to as a rifle, it  had the qualities of a sub-machine gun.

The significant use of steel for defense had its counterpoint in the armor piercing projectiles. Technology utilized two methods.

A. Kinetic energy---depended on velocity of at least 3,000 feet per second. It was constructed of tungsten/carbide material that was denser than steel.

B. Chemical development of a hollow, higher explosive charge generating high, penetrating heat traveling at 2,000 feet per second. Utilized by all belligerents.

Hand held hollow materials containing explosives and thrown at an  enemy have been used in multiple centuries. The grenade in World War 2 became an integral weapon in every infantry man's kit. The United States manufactured over 87 million grenades for use in close quarter fighting.

Marine Corporal Robert Johnsmiller reported his grenade experience on Red Beach, Tarawa while crawling through the bodies of dead comrades (Gilbert Islands Campaign November 20, 1943) :

" A Japanese hand grenade landed next to me. alerted by my buddy to 'roll', I quickly moved my body as it went off". Wounded, he kept crawling forward until he reached a trench. He looked into the ditch and saw a Japanese soldier looking up at him. He pulled back and signaled to his comrades."We quickly dispatched grenades into the emplacement and silenced the threat".

The corporal's grenade wound----a lost eye.

Grenades evolved that differentiated between offensive and defensive use. The defensive grenade (MKII) when exploded emitted deadly fragments at super speed. The offensive  grenade (MKIII) created an explosive blast.

Some grenades were utilized for signaling or screening. Some even had handles for throwing. One grenade manufactured, when thrown, emitted tear gas.

There also was the "home made" grenade known as the molotov cocktail (Soviet Commissioner for Foreign Affairs---Vyocheslav Molotov). When Great Britain feared invasion, the government distributed to its citizens this type of weapon which followed the molotov formula: a solution of phosphorus and benzine.  This explosive appeared in a number of innovative forms. The simple bottle was the most used and first appeared in  numbers with Finnish troops in the their run-up pre -World War 2 fight against the Soviet Union. The Russians used the more traditional long handle type of  grenade similar to German "potato masher".

The grenade could also be attached to the muzzle of a rifle adding to the effectiveness of the infantry man.There also was a stick on grenade applied to a tank body timed to explode.

The U.S. grenade was made of cast iron and grooved to improve the grasp of the throwing hand and increase its deadly fragments ("frag grenade"). Its pineapple appearance gave rise to that popular description of the grenade.

The German and Japanese grenades followed a different design, but their effect was similar to the American explosives.

The Germans introduced the flame thrower in world War 1. The technology which had been based on portable tanks or canisters filled with gasoline carried by the infantryman was now also added to the tank's arsenal. In the Pacific Theater, the flame thrower was used by Americans and Japanese effectively against foxholes, caves, pill boxes with the hidden soldier as a target.

On Okinawa in the spring months of 1945 , American marines referred to their effort to force Japanese surrender with flame throwers as " cave flushing ". The Japanese often chose death from burns and suffocation rather than surrender..

Machine guns are a hybrid falling between small arms and traditional artillery. Small arms are usually represented as portable and hand held by an individual soldier. With the possible exception of the light machine gun, any weapons system that requires a crew to carry and operate will fall outside the domain of small arms.

Machine guns were employed by all the armed services.During the Pacific campaign to retake New Guinea, in early 1943, American air men mounted extra machine guns  in order to increase strafing power against the Japanese.

The power of the automatic machine gun on Okinawa prompted a marine to write."It was an appalling chaos".  Ernie Pyle, famed front line reporter, was hit and killed by a Japanese machine gun bullet in this Pacific Island battle.

It was hardly different in the Italian campaign to capture Cassino. General Mark Clark commanded the American Fifth Army. He ordered his men to cross the Rapido River into the face of German machine gun emplacements. Clark finally had to order a withdrawal with high casualties. The Germans were barely damaged (January-February 1944).

The machine gun was to be a factor in the Pacific until the day the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri (Sept. 2, 1945).  In the U.S. effort to pacify Luzon Island in the Philippines, and protect Manila Bay, hidden Japanese machine guns on Bataan could not be dislodged protecting over 100,000 Japanese troops in the place where they had treated American prisoners with barbartic cruelty--the Bataan death march. 

Czechoslovakia, the country that was unable to defend itself in 1939, was the major designer of the "state of the art" machine gun. The British Bren gun was a product of the Czech design. The American Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) was the U.S. answer for its light machine gun. Both guns were light enough to be carried or could be mounted on a bipod. This flexibility made the gun a valuable asset at squad level. Sometimes employed as a small arm, and sometime manned by a crew.

BAR was also produced as a heavy machine gun, and could be used as an anti-aircraft gun.

The German MG 34 weighed 26 lbs. This heavy air cooled gun was used extensively. It fired 7.92mm at a rate of 800-900 rounds per minute.

The Russians answer was an 80 lb. gun that fired 600 rounds per minute.

The British relied on an upgraded World War 1 Vickers that replaced their Lewis heavy machine gun. It was water cooled, weighed 40lbs and fired 450 rounds per minute.

The Japanese had 7.7mm gun (Type 92) that was  poorly designed but used effectively by well trained crews. It fired 550 rounds per minute and weighed 70 lbs.

In 1944, American's had gained a marked superiority in numbers and effectiveness of its big guns. General William H. Simpson remarked: "Never send an infantryman in to do a job that an artillery shell can do for him".

However, in 1939, the Germans set the standard for the disposition of their cannon. When they attacked Poland, they introduced the concept of big gun mobility. Nevertheless, in 1940, in a full fledged war, the Allies held a two to one ratio over the Germans with 14,000 field guns. But the Germans neutralized the disadvantage with their tactic of blitzkrieg (lightning) warfare which exploited weaknesses in the allies defensive lines with rapid strikes by their panzer (tank) corps  discussed below. Ultimately, that disadvantage in numbers would contribute to the German defeat. By June 1944, The Allies fielded 1182 assault weapons against 337 comparable pieces. Despite the long odds, General Erwin Rommel had built along the French coast his famous defensive "fortress" wall installing an array of huge cannon believing that it made the coast impregnable.

Artillery that crushed infantry units, shot down airplanes, sunk enemy shipping accounted for half of all battle casualties. The panoply of weapons were generally described as light, medium and heavy, The Library of Congress World War II Companion (see Reference below) further defines the classification summarized as follows:

1. Guns with high velocity and flat trajectories-------coastal, fixed defense or on tracks as shown below. This railroad gun was manufactured on orders from Hitler and used sporadically. Aside from the railway gun, these other big guns were fixed as though set in concrete----as many were.

ਂ. Howitzers with low velocity fire with a higher trajectory to drop over defensive cover a front line gun. This weapon was mobile and transportable by appropriate vehicles.

The Germans developed a howitzer with a 30 mile range with thousand plus projectle weight.    A front line gun.

Long guns were adept at supporting infantry advances and, as in World War 1, could lay down "creeping barrages" that cleared enemy areas as troops moved under this umbrella.

3. Mortars dropped shells at the greatest angle over obstacles--light ( U.S. 81mm muzzle loaded) heavy, fixed or self propelled as the German 60cm below (Sturmtiger).

This was a front line, mobile gun. The Howitzer and mortar could also be mounted and made a self-propelled weapon system.  A front line gun.

4. Rockets represented a new form of delivering an explosive. It came in several forms: hand held as the American anti-tank weapon, recoiless "Bazooka", or mounted on a platform as the Russian Katyusha. The rocket increased the speed to the target, but not always accurate.

The  bazooka, on the other hand,  was quite effective, and was armed with a rocket shaped missile with its own motor that produced exceptional heat that could penetrate armor. The  Germans picked up many on the North  African battlefields dropped by Ameicans. They retrofitted the design to increase rocket size and manufactured  them for their use.

The power of these guns and the noise they generated was greatly feared by enemy troops. A survivor of the surrender of Corregidor May 6, 1942, an American island fortress in the Philippines, reported that the wounded sought refuge in tunnels and caves to avoid the "mind numbing" barrage of Japanese guns.

At the battle of Kursk on the Russian front, July 15-17, 1943, a German infantryman reported: "First came a dreadful barrage"----3 hours long.

In North Africa, the British were desperate to protect the Suez Canal and expel Germans from Egypt.  On October 23, 1942 , they began a two week campaign to repulse the German forces at El Alamein with a 1,000 gun barrage. It marked a turning point in the North African battlefields with General Bernard Montgomery besting General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Corps and pushing the Italo-German forces back into Libya.


World War II: After the War


At the end of World War II, huge swaths of Europe and Asia had been reduced to ruins. Borders were redrawn and homecomings, expulsions, and burials were under way. But the massive efforts to rebuild had just begun. When the war began in the late 1930s, the world's population was approximately 2 billion. In less than a decade, the war between the Axis the Allied powers had resulted in 80 million deaths -- killing off about 4 percent of the whole world. Allied forces now became occupiers, taking control of Germany, Japan, and much of the territory they had formerly ruled. Efforts were made to permanently dismantle the war-making abilities of those nations, as factories were destroyed and former leadership was removed or prosecuted. War crimes trials took place in Europe and Asia, leading to many executions and prison sentences. Millions of Germans and Japanese were forcibly expelled from territories they called home. Allied occupations and United Nations decisions led to many long-lasting problems in the future, including the tensions that created East and West Germany, and divergent plans on the Korean Peninsula that led to the creation of North and South Korea and -- the Korean War in 1950. The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine paved the way for Israel to declare its independence in 1948 and marked the start of the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict. The growing tensions between Western powers and the Soviet Eastern Bloc developed into the Cold War, and the development and proliferation of nuclear weapons raised the very real specter of an unimaginable World War III if common ground could not be found. World War II was the biggest story of the 20th Century, and its aftermath continues to affect the world profoundly more than 65 years later. (This entry is Part 20 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)

German Wehrmacht General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by a firing squad in a stockade in Aversa, Italy, on December 1, 1945. The general, the commander of the 75th Army Corps, was sentenced to death by a United States military commission in Rome for having ordered the shooting of 15 unarmed American prisoners of war in La Spezia, Italy, on March 26, 1944. #

Soviet soldiers with lowered standards of the defeated Nazi forces during the Victory Day parade in Moscow, on June 24, 1945. #

Gaunt and emaciated, but happy at their release from Japanese captivity, two Allied prisoners pack their meager belongings, after being freed near Yokohama, Japan, on September 11, 1945, by men of an American mercy squadron of the U.S. Navy. #

The return of victorious Soviet soldiers at a railway station in Moscow in 1945 #

An aerial view of Hiroshima, Japan, one year after the atomic-bomb blast shows some small amount of reconstruction amid much ruin on July 20, 1946. The slow pace of rebuilding is attributed to a shortage of building equipment and materials. #

A Japanese man amid the scorched wreckage and rubble that was once his home in Yokohama, Japan #

The Red Army photographer Yevgeny Khaldei (center) in Berlin with Soviet forces, near the Brandenburg Gate in May 1945. #

A P-47 Thunderbolt of the U.S. Army Twelfth Air Force flies low over the crumbled ruins of what once was Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden, Germany, on May 26, 1945. Small and large bomb craters dot the grounds around the wreckage. #

Hermann Göring, once the leader of the formidable Luftwaffe and the second in command of the German Reich under Hitler, appears in a mugshot on file with the Central Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects in Paris, France, on November 5, 1945. Göring surrendered to U.S. soldiers in Bavaria, on May 9, 1945, and was eventually taken to Nuremberg to face trial for war crimes. #

The interior of the courtroom of the Nuremberg trials in 1946 during the Trial of the Major War Criminals, prosecuting 24 government and civilian leaders of Nazi Germany. Visible here is Hermann Göring, the former leader of the Luftwaffe, seated in the box at center right, wearing a gray jacket, headphones, and dark glasses. Next to him sits Rudolf Hess, the former Deputy Führer of Germany then Joachim von Ribbentrop, the former Nazi Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilhelm Keitel, the former leader of Germany’s Supreme Command (blurry face) and Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the highest ranking surviving SS-leader. Göring, von Ribbentrop, Keitel, and Kaltenbrunner were sentenced to death by hanging along with 8 others—Göring died by suicide the night before the execution. Hess was sentenced to life imprisonment, which he served at Spandau Prison, Berlin, until he died in 1987. #

Many of Germany’s captured new and experimental aircraft were displayed in an exhibition as part of London’s Thanksgiving week on September 14, 1945. Among the aircraft are a number of jet- and rocket-propelled planes. Pictured here is a side view of the Heinkel He-162 “Volksjäger,” propelled by a turbo-jet unit mounted above the fuselage, in Hyde Park, London. #

One year after the D-Day landings in Normandy, German prisoners landscape the first U.S. cemetery at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer, France, near Omaha Beach, on May 28, 1945. #

Sudeten Germans make their way to the railway station in Liberec, in former Czechoslovakia, to be transferred to Germany in this July 1946 photo. After the end of the war, millions of German nationals and ethnic Germans were forcibly expelled from both territory Germany had annexed and formerly German lands that were transferred to Poland and the Soviet Union. The estimated numbers of Germans involved ranges from 12 to 14 million, with a further estimate of 500,000 to 2 million dying during the expulsion. #

A survivor of the first atomic bomb ever used in warfare, Jinpe Teravama retains scars after the healing of burns from the bomb explosion in Hiroshima, in June 1947. #

Disabled buses that have littered the streets of Tokyo are used to help relieve the acute housing shortage in the Japanese capital on October 2, 1946. Japanese who hauled the buses into a vacant lot are converting them into homes for their families. #

An American G.I. places his arm around a Japanese girl as they view the surroundings of Hibiya Park, near the Tokyo palace of the emperor, on January 21, 1946. #

This is an aerial view of the city of London around St. Paul’s Cathedral showing bomb-damaged areas in April 1945. #

General Charles de Gaulle (center) shakes hands with children, two months after the German capitulation in Lorient, France, in July 1945. Lorient was the location of a German U-boat (submarine) base during World War II. From January 14 to February 17, 1943, as many as 500 high-explosive aerial bombs and more than 60,000 incendiary bombs were dropped on Lorient. The city was almost completely destroyed, with nearly 90 percent of the city flattened. #

The super transport ship General W. P. Richardson, docked in New York, with veterans of the European war cheering on June 7, 1945. Many soldiers were veterans of the African campaign, Salerno, Anzio, Cassino, and the winter warfare in Italy’s mountains. #

This aerial file photo shows a portion of Levittown, New York, in 1948 shortly after the mass-produced suburb was completed on Long Island farmland. This prototypical suburban community was the first of many mass-produced housing developments that went up for soldiers returning home from World War II. It also became a symbol of postwar suburbia in the U.S. #

This television set, retailing for $100, is reportedly the first moderately priced receiver manufactured in quantity. Rose Clare Leonard watches the screen, which reproduces a 5-by-7-inch image, as she tunes in at the first public postwar showing at a New York department store, on August 24, 1945. Although television was invented prior to World War II, the war prevented mass production. Soon after the war, sales and production picked up, and by 1948, regular commercial network programming had begun. #

A U.S. soldier examines a solid-gold statue, part of Hermann Göring’s private loot, found by the 7th U.S. Army in a mountainside cave near Schönau am Königssee, Germany, on May 25, 1945. The secret cave, the second found to date, also contained stolen priceless paintings from all over Europe. #

In Europe, some churches have been completely ruined, but others still stand amid utter devastation. Mönchengladbach Cathedral stands here in the rubble, though still in need of repairs, seen in Germany, on November 20, 1945. #

On May 21, Colonel Bird, the Commandant of Belsen Camp, gave the order for the last hut at Belsen Concentration Camp to be burned. A rifle salute was fired in honor of the dead, and the British flag was run up at the same moment as a flame-thrower set fire to the last hut. A German flag and a portrait of Hitler went up in flames inside the hut in June 1945. #

German mothers walk their children to school through the streets of Aachen, Germany, on June 6, 1945, for registration at the first public school to be opened by the U.S. military government after the war. #

A general view of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East meeting in Tokyo in April 1947. On May 3, 1946, the Allies began the trial of 28 Japanese civilian and military leaders for war crimes. Seven were hanged, and others were sentenced to prison terms. #

Soviet soldiers are on the march in northern Korea in October 1945. Japan had ruled the Korean peninsula for 35 years, until the end of World War II. At that time, Allied leaders decided to temporarily occupy the country until elections could be held and a government established. Soviet forces occupied the north, while U.S. forces occupied the south. The planned elections did not take place, as the Soviet Union established a communist state in North Korea, and the U.S. set up a pro-western state in South Korea�h claiming to be sovereign over the entire peninsula. This standoff led to the Korean War in 1950, which ended in 1953 with the signing of an armistice, but to this day, the two countries are still technically at war with each other. #

In this October 1945 photo from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, communist leader Kim Il-sung chats with a farmer from Qingshanli, Kangso County, South Pyongyang in North Korea. #

Soldiers of the Chinese Communist Eighth Route Army on the drill field at Yanan, the capital of a huge area in north China that is governed by the Chinese Communist Party (CPC), seen on March 26, 1946. These soldiers are members of the “Night Tiger” battalion. The CPC had waged war against the ruling Kuomintang (KMT, or Chinese Nationalist Party) since 1927, vying for control of China. Japanese invasions during World War II forced the two sides to put most of their struggles aside to fight a common foreign foe—though they did still fight each other from time to time. After the war ended, and the Soviet Union pulled out of Manchuria, a full-scale civil war erupted in China in June 1946. The KMT eventually was defeated, with millions retreating to Taiwan, as CPC leader Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China in 1949. #

This 1946 photograph shows the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, or ENIAC, the first general-purpose electronic computer𠅊 30-ton machine housed at the University of Pennsylvania. Developed in secret starting in 1943, ENIAC was designed to calculate artillery-firing tables for the United States Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory. The completed machine was announced to the public on February 14, 1946. The inventors of ENIAC promoted the spread of the new technologies through a series of influential lectures on the construction of electronic digital computers at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946, known as the Moore School Lectures. #

A test nuclear explosion codenamed �ker,” part of Operation Crossroads, at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, on July 25, 1946. The 40-kiloton atomic bomb was detonated by the U.S. at a depth of 27 meters below the ocean surface, three and a half miles from the atoll. The purpose of the tests was to study the effects of nuclear explosions on ships. Seventy-three ships were gathered to the spot𠅋oth obsolete American and captured ships, including the Japanese battleship Nagato. #

Northrop’s Flying Wing Bomber known as the XB-35 in flight in 1946. The XB-35 was an experimental heavy bomber developed for the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. The project was terminated shortly after the war because of technical difficulties. #

Japanese ammunition being dumped into the sea on September 21, 1945. During the U.S. occupation, almost all of the Japanese war industry and existing armament was dismantled. #

These unidentified German workers in decontamination clothing destroy toxic bombs on June 28, 1946, at the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service Depot, at St. Georgen, Germany. The destruction and disposal of 65,000 dead-weight tons of German toxics, including mustard gas, was accomplished in one of two ways: burning or dumping the empty shells and bombs into the North Sea. #

U.S. military authorities prepare to hang Dr. Klaus Karl Schilling, 74, at Landsberg, Germany, on May 28, 1946. In a Dachau war-crimes trial, he was convicted of using 1,200 concentration-camp prisoners for malaria experimentation. Thirty died directly from the inoculations and 300 to 400 died later from complications of the disease. His experiments, all with unwilling subjects, began in 1942. #

The new cemetery at Belsen, Germany, on March 28, 1946, where 13,000 people who died after the Belsen concentration camp was liberated are buried. #

Jewish survivors of the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp, some still in their camp clothing, stand on the deck of the refugee immigration ship Mataroa, on July 15, 1945, at Haifa Port, during the British Mandate of Palestine, in what would later become the state of Israel. During World War II, millions of Jews were fleeing Germany and its occupied territories, many attempting to enter the British Mandate of Palestine, despite tight restrictions on Jewish immigration established by the British in 1939. Many of these would-be immigrants were caught and rounded up into detention camps. In 1947, Britain announced plans to withdraw from the territory, and the United Nations approved the Partition Plan for Palestine, establishing a Jewish and a Palestinian state in the country. On May 14, 1948, Israel declared independence and was immediately attacked by neighboring Arab states, beginning the Arab-Israeli conflict that continues to this day. #

Some of Poland’s thousands of war orphans at a Catholic orphanage in Lublin, on September 11, 1946, where they were being cared for by the Polish Red Cross. Most of the clothing, as well as vitamins and medicines, were provided by the American Red Cross. #

The Empress of Japan visits a Catholic orphanage staffed by Japanese nuns for children who have lost their parents in the war and air raids over Tokyo. The empress inspected the grounds and paid a visit to the chapel. Children wave Japanese flags to greet the empress during her visit in Fujisawa in Tokyo, on April 13, 1946. #

New buildings (right) rise out of the ruins of Hiroshima, Japan, on March 11, 1946. These single-story homes built along a hard-surfaced highway are part of the program by the Japanese government to rebuild devastated sections of the country. At left background are damaged buildings whose masonry withstood the effects of the first atomic bomb ever detonated as a weapon. #

Clocks are being readied for export to Allied countries, shown as collateral for imported goods needed by Japan. Thirty-four Japanese factories produced 123,000 clocks during April 1946. Photo taken on June 25, 1946. #

U.S. General George S. Patton acknowledges the cheers of thousands during a parade through downtown Los Angeles on June 9, 1945. Shortly thereafter, Patton returned to Germany and controversy, as he advocated for the employment of ex-Nazis in administrative positions in Bavaria he was relieved of command of the 3rd Army and died of injuries from a traffic accident in December, after his return home. Joe Rosenthal’s famous Iwo Jima flag-raising photograph is visible on the war-bonds billboard. #

This 1945 photo shows German women clearing up the debris on Berlin’s Tauentzienstrasse, with the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church in the background. The absence of able-bodied men meant that the responsibility for clearing the wreckage fell mainly to civilian women, which were called “Truemmerfrauen,” or rubble ladies. The signs on the left mark the border between the British-occupied sector and the U.S. sector of the city. #

The scene in Berlin’s Republic Square, before the ruined Reichstag Building, on September 9, 1948, as anti-communists, estimated at a quarter of a million, scream their opposition to communism. At the time, the Soviet Union was enforcing the Berlin Blockade, preventing Allied access to the parts of Berlin under Allied control. In response, Allies began the Berlin Airlift until the Soviets lifted the blockade in 1949, and East Germany and West Germany were established. When the meeting pictured here broke up, a series of incidents between anti-Red Germans and Soviet troops brought tension to a fever pitch as shootings took place, resulting in the deaths of two Germans. #

In March 1974, some 29 years after the official end of World War II, Hiroo Onoda, a former Japanese Army intelligence officer, walks out of the jungle of Lubang Island in the Philippines, where he was finally relieved of duty. He handed over his sword (hanging from his hip in the photo), his rifle, ammunition, and several hand grenades. Onoda had been sent to Lubang Island in December 1944 to join an existing group of soldiers and hamper any enemy attacks. Allied forces overtook the island just a few months later, capturing or killing all but Onoda and three other Japanese soldiers. The four ran into the hills and began a decades-long insurgency extending well past the end of the war. Several times they found or were handed leaflets notifying them that the war had ended, but they refused to believe it. In 1950, one of the soldiers turned himself in to Philippine authorities. By 1972, Onoda’s two other compatriots were dead, killed during guerrilla activities, leaving Onoda alone. In 1974, Onoda met a Japanese college dropout, Norio Suzuki, who was traveling the world, and through their friendship, Onoda’s former commanding officer was located and flew to Lubang Island to formally relieve Onoda of duty, and bring him home to Japan. Over the years, the small group had killed some 30 Filipinos in various attacks, but Onoda ended up going free, after he received a pardon from President Ferdinand Marcos. #



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