World War II Photos That Were Lost To History

History | 5/12/20

You’ve heard a lot about the second world war in history class. You’ve seen black and white pictures of soldiers before. You haven’t seen pictures like these before, though. World War II was a monumental global event. It lasted from 1939 to 1945. To date, it is the deadliest conflict in human history. Approximately 70 to 80 million people died during the war from combat-related injuries, genocide, disease, and the use of atomic weapons.

Keep reading to see some long lost photos from World War II that just might surprise you.

We Found Bigfoot

Nazis with bear
Reddit/TangerineIsland
Reddit/TangerineIsland

Nope, this is not actually bigfoot. It’s not a real bear either. This is a photo of a man in a bear suit next to some German soldiers. Apparently the guy in the suit wanted to make some extra money and keep warm during the winter, so he put on a bear suit and traveled around from town to town taking pictures with people for a small fee.

This went on for several years between the 1920s and the 1960s.

A Failed Kamikaze Attack

Kamikaze plane being shot down
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Kamikaze attacks by Japanese pilots were a frequent tactic used by the Japanese in the Pacific Theater, which involved a pilot crashing their plane into a structure or boat with themselves inside. However, kamikaze pilots weren’t always that effective.

Historians assume that only around 19% of kamikaze attacks were successful. Featured is a failed kamikaze attack, with the plane being shot out of the sky by naval forces before it could hit its target.

They Captured A Railway Gun

Soldiers on railway gun
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Although the German railway guns may have been an extremely formidable weapon, they weren’t invincible, and their size made them a target for Allied forces. Here, American troopers can be seen proudly standing on top of a captured railway gun.

Easily one of the German’s biggest weapons, they were sorely disappointed when they learned that it had fallen into the enemy’s hands. Now, the railroads and the forts in France were safe, for the most part.

After D-Day

Soldiers on D-Day
Pinterest/isigny
Pinterest/isigny

This photo was taken on D-Day, which occurred on June 6, 1944. On that day, 156,000 Allied troops stormed the beaches of France to liberate the country and fight against Hitler’s army. This photo was taken after the Allied troops won the battle. They’re trying to figure out what to do with the German prisoners they just took.

D-Day was an extremely bloody day for both sides of the conflict, but it was also a very successful day for the Allied Troops.

Aleksandra Samuskemo

Girl in front of tank
Pinterest
Pinterest

This is a photo of Aleksandra Samusenko. She was a Soviet T-34 tank commander and a liaison officer during World War II. She was also the only female tanker in the 1st Guards Tank Army and was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War 2nd and 1st class.

Aleksandra was a brave fighter which is why she earned the Order of the Red Star for her bravery in the Battle of Kursk. During the fighting, she maneuvered her tank crew out of a deadly ambush, saving numerous lives.

The End Of The War

Crying German boy
John Florea/Keystone/Getty Images
John Florea/Keystone/Getty Images

When Hitler came to the realization that the city of Berlin was finally going to fall to the Allies, he called in all of his reserve soldiers in a final effort to hold off the enemy.

Although he didn’t partake in the fighting himself, during that time, he married his mistress, and the two went on to take their own lives in his bunker. This is an image of a young German soldier who has just been captured by the encroaching Allies.

Tons Of Paper Money

Kids playing with money
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Between World War I and World War II, Germany’s economy suffered greatly, with one of the biggest issues being hyperinflation. By this point, inflation was so bad that $1 US was worth 4.2 million DM, making paper money had become essentially worthless with people using it to fuel the fires in their hearth rather than use it to buy things.

For example, here are a group of young boys playing with them as though they are nothing more than playing cards. That’s a lot of money to be playing with!

A Real Russian Bear

Man feeding polar bear
Pinterest/Ashh Collectables
Pinterest/Ashh Collectables

While fighting was taking place all of Europe, some tend to forget that there was also fighting occurring in the frozen lands of Russia. Here is a snapshot of a Russian tank driver taking the opportunity to feed polar bear cubs.

While the Russians were used to this kind of climate, the Germans were not, which resulted in numerous hard losses as they tried to invade the country. Maybe they should have fed the polar bears!

Burning Down A Concentration Camp

Allied soldiers watching a camp burn
KEYSTONE-FRANCE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
KEYSTONE-FRANCE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

When allied soldiers were confronted with concentration camps, they were at a loss for words. They didn’t think that humans were capable of such evil, let alone that it was occurring without their knowledge.

Many of the camps were in such bad condition that they had no choice but to burn them down after saving as many living people left as they could. Here, Allied soldiers watch as the Bergen-Belsen camp is being burned because it was infested with disease.

A Pigeon Takes Flight

a carrier pigeon
contributor/Getty Images
contributor/Getty Images

When we think about war heroes, we don’t often think about pigeons, but the truth is, these little birds helped win the war for the Allied forces. The pigeon in this photo served as Britain’s reserve of communications. Pigeons proved to be super smart animals and super-efficient messengers.

Other modes of communication just weren’t as quick or secure. You can always count on a pigeon to deliver your mail on time. Also, pigeons are great secret keepers.

This Once Was A House

House destroyed by bombs
Pinterest/irishamerican
Pinterest/irishamerican

Adolf Hitler never shied away from anything that was fancy and new. At the height of his power, he could have just about anything his heart desired, which included numerous properties in his favorite places throughout Europe.

One of these was his famous estate in the Berchtesgaden hills. While it looked grand at one point, it was eventually reduced to rubble by American bomber planes. Shown above is what remained by the end of the war.

Working Out

Men working out
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Just over a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States passed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. The act required all men between the ages of 18 and 45 to register for the military draft.

However, men weren’t just sent straight into the thick of the fighting. They had to be properly trained and in shape enough to prepare themselves for the physicality involved in warfare. Here, men can be seen training at a boot camp.

The Unthinkable

Parisian man crying
Reddit/billyzero
Reddit/billyzero

It’s human nature for people to think that nothing bad will happen to them until it finally does. This is most likely what many of the citizens of Paris were thinking before Axis tanks were driving into their city.

This is an image of a man who just realized that his hometown of Paris had finally fallen to the Nazis and was now under their control. It’s an impactful look of shock and disbelief that’s hard to forget.

Remote Controlled Tanks

Remote controlled tanks
Fox Photos/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Getty Images

During the war, the Germans were always trying out new kinds of weapons and technology with the hopes of staying ahead of the Allied forces. While they were successful in some aspects, they also had their fair share of failures as well.

One of these failures included these small remote-controlled tanks referred to as Goliaths by the Germans and Doodlebugs by the Allies. The idea was that they would be driven into enemy areas using a remote and then explode, but they weren’t as effective as expected.

Gas Masks For Animals

dog masks
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

Have you ever seen three Airedale dogs wearing special gas masks? Well, now you have! These pooches were at a Surrey kennel at the time of this picture and it shows how deadly things were.

You don’t want to see animals perish from toxic fumes, so fitting them with unique masks was the best plan of action. Lt. Col E. H. Richardson trained these dogs so they would be ready to carry out vital tasks.

The Grave Of Another Soldier

Soldier putting wreath on grave
Pinterest
Pinterest

The men and women who fought during World War II saw some pretty horrific sights. Countless lives were lost during the conflict, and nobody was prepared for the violence that occurred. The Allied soldier in this photo definitely wasn’t expecting to find the grave of a fellow soldier while on his mission.

What made this grave even more unusual is that the enemy had buried the unknown soldier. On top of the grave that was dug, the soldier added a wreath.

The Horror!

Watching film
Reddit/Snarblox
Reddit/Snarblox

To see what was actually going on and the real reason that they were fighting, many British and American soldiers took it upon themselves to watch videos of the atrocities that had taken place in concentration camps.

It gave many of the soldiers a new meaning in their cause and a desire to fight harder than ever. Obviously, the films were painful to watch and left many of the Allied soldiers in tears.

Starting Again

Homeless Japanese
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

The United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. After that, life in Japan was never the same. Many Japanese citizens lost their lives and those who survived were left to pick up the pieces.

With nothing left of their cities, its citizens had to survive by whatever means possible, even if it meant living out of broken-down buses in small communities. It took years for Japan to re-establish itself as a vibrant and thriving country.

Taking A Break

Men drinking a beer
Pinterest
Pinterest

A little less than a year after D-Day, on February 4, 1945, the Allied forces successfully liberated Belgium from Axis occupation. The war was by no means over, but for a brief moment, the Allied soldiers were able to take a break and relax.

In this photo, you can see two Canadian soldiers enjoying a brief moment of peace. Moments like this one were few and far between. These soldiers are enjoying a rare moment without violence.

A Whole Collection

Man looking through collection
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

During the German army’s ruthless campaign across Europe, they did far more than just take the land and people’s lives. They also took most anything worth value including looting museums and taking classic pieces of art and goods.

Pictured here, is an Allied soldier sifting through a stolen art collection that once belonged to the Axis officer Hermann Goering. He had taken these relics from all across Europe as his party expanded over the years.

A Major Weapon

German railway gun
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

During World War II, the Germans created huge railway guns, such as the Schewer Gustav, that were built with the intention of destroying many of France’s most important forts.

These guns were massive. Most of them weighed over 1,350 tons and were mobilized on railroad tracks with the ability to shoot at targets as far as 29 miles away. These guns took a while to reload, though. The could only shoot a projectile every 30 to 45 minutes.

Dogs Can Fly Too

pilot with dog
Culture Club/Getty Images
Culture Club/Getty Images

We’ve seen dogs do some pretty impressive things before, but have you ever seen a dog fly a plane? This British bulldog looks ready to fly into action alongside her fearless pilot! This dog didn’t actually fly, but she did like to hang out in the cockpit whenever the planes landed.

We think she would make a great captain, though. It looks like she has a passion for the job. Also, shes pretty darn cute.

Sharing A Laugh

Nazi dancing
Pinterest
Pinterest

Although World War II is marked as a dark stain on human history and to have experienced it would have been terrible, soldiers still liked to have fun when they could.

In this photo, a group of Axis soldiers can be seen laughing at their friend who has slipped on the ice! As embarrassing as this situation was, it also highlights that humans were on both sides of the war.

A Colorized Photo Of War Heroes

Men with cameras in front of plane
Pinterest
Pinterest

Most of the photos you see from World War II are in black and white, however, there are specialized photography techniques that can be used to colorize black and white photographs. Years after the war ended, photographs were edited to show what life during the war was really like in full color.

The photographers here can be seen posing with their cameras as they prepared to board their plane to take shots of the war from above. It’s thanks to people like them that we have all of the photos on this list.

Propaganda Campaigns

Soldier helping woman and child
Imgur/12UglyTacos
Imgur/12UglyTacos

During World War II, the Japanese population was brainwashed by the government via mass propaganda campaigns that the US soldiers were cruel, evil, and violent. They were taught that they would kill them without a second thought and to both fear and hate them.

However, this rare image shows otherwise, featuring a young American soldier helping a Japanese woman and her baby from their hiding place once it was safe for them to reveal themselves.

Switching Places

Concentration camp inmate and German soldier
Reddit/Atomic_Potato_memes
Reddit/Atomic_Potato_memes

When Allied forces liberated the Nazi concentration camps throughout Europe, many had no idea they even existed. They couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the thousands of bodies contained inside of the camps.

Unfortunately, even after they were liberated, many of the prisoners continued to die from disease and malnutrition. This image shows a former concentration camp prisoner standing over a German soldier who is now at the mercy of the Allies.

Hungarian Mini Tanks

Line of mini tanks
Pinterest/Lewis Adams
Pinterest/Lewis Adams

Wartime is when some of the most significant strides in military technology take place, as there’s no shortage of need for new and more effective weapons during a conflict. One of these new weapons was the Hungarian mini tanks.

While they may have seen as a good idea at the time, able to maneuver where regular tanks couldn’t, in the end, they proved to be ineffective, and they ceased to be produced. This is most likely because they were outgunned by larger tanks.

Chilling In The Cockpit

solider in downed german airplane July, 1945
Tony Vaccaro/Getty Images
Tony Vaccaro/Getty Images

Here we have a GI waving from the cockpit of a crashed plane. It’s a German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter aircraft, if we want to be specific. This picture takes place in Bavaria, Germany.

There were probably so many planes left in this position during World War II. This GI saw the photo opportunity and took full advantage of it! We’re unsure if this gentleman survived the remainder of the battle, but if not, he left behind a touching memory.

Still Smiling

Smiling before firing squad
adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images
adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images

Georges Blind was a French man who was a member of the French resistance during World War II. He was arrested by an Axis patrol on October 14, 1944, and was taken to a camp in Schirmeck, Alsace, on October 24.

There, he was involved in multiple mock executions to get him to talk. In the photo, he can be seen smiling even though he could be shot by a firing squad at any second. However, he was not killed by a firing squad, and the exact cause of his death remains unknown.

Prisoners Of War

German prisoners of war
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Although it may have seemed like the Germans had the upper-hand for the majority of the war in Europe, toward the end, the tables had certainly turned. This is an image of thousands of German prisoners of war taken on August 21, 1944, in Nonant-le-Pin, France.

By this point, the Allies had so many prisoners of war on their hands that they didn’t even know what to do with them, which is clearly shown here with them all crowded into one place.

A New Friend

Napping kitten
Pinterest
Pinterest

Unfortunately, in almost all combat situations, stray animals can be found all over the place. So, it isn’t uncommon for soldiers to take them for their own as pets. Not only are they helping the animal, but it also helps to boost troop morale, keep them preoccupied, and take their mind off the constant danger.

These sailors found themselves a kitten and fashioned a little hammock for it to sleep in. You can tell by the looks on their faces that this was a sight for sore eyes.

The Day Paris Was Captured

Hitler and the Eiffel Tower
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When the Axis took over France, and more specifically Paris, they used it as a perfect opportunity to snap some shots for propaganda purposes. Here, Adolf Hitler can be seen walking down the recently-captured city of Paris with the iconic Eiffel Tower in the background.

Incredibly, he only managed to spend in Paris for a few hours before having to move on. He commented that it was one of the most beautiful cities he had ever seen.

Pearl Harbor

Sailors watching explosion
Fox Photos/Getty Images
Fox Photos/Getty Images

In order to secure their power in the Pacific Ocean, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, an American naval base in Hawaii. The attack was devastating, destroying many American ships, claiming the lives of more than 2,000 Americans, and dragging the United States into World War II.

In the photo, sailors stand and watch in horror as the USS Shaw explodes in the background. This attack would not go unanswered by the United States.

Saved Just In Time

People rescued from a train
Reddit/DoMoreWithLess
Reddit/DoMoreWithLess

Unfortunately, the extermination of millions of people carried on up until the final days of the war. In fact, Allied forces ended up saving thousands of people being carried on trains on the way to extermination camps.

Here, a woman and her young child can be seen leaving a recently-saved train full of people in the final days of the war. If they had been reached any later, they might not have survived.

A Woman Working On Bomber

woman working on bomber
Howard R. Hollem/Getty Images
Howard R. Hollem/Getty Images

There aren’t many color photos from WWII, so that makes this one even more special. Here, we have an anonymous woman working on a bomber at Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in Fort Worth, Texas.

She was a riveter, following the iconic Rosie the Riveter who shaped how women worked during the war. As she worked and smiled, her duty was pivotal in the grand scheme of things. America needed weaponry, and her assistance helped provide that.

A Shaken Man

man depressed
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

Unless you’ve been out there, you don’t know the effects of war on a person’s psyche. As you can see in this image, one man sits in despair as he thinks about everything.

When will it end? Will I die soon? Are my loved ones okay? Many questions might run through your mind in this situation and the scary part is that you wouldn’t know the answers to any of them.

Germans Being Deported

the germans get deported
Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One cold truth of war is that there’s no telling if you’ll have a home to call your own in the midst of things. In this picture, you see a small child holding her things getting deported from Czechoslovakia.

Around a quarter million Germans had to face this same fate after the collapse of German power in 1945. Having to put your child through this is something no parent wants to do, but it’s a sad fact of war.

They’re Lifting A Tank!

tank made of rubber
Roger Viollet via Getty Images
Roger Viollet via Getty Images

How on Earth are they lifting a tank? Oh yeah, it’s made of rubber. In this image, we see what they called a decoy tank being lifted by several men.

When it’s time for war, spotting an enemy tank in the distance can change the course of battle. Unless those who see it immediately recognize that its a fraud, a rubber tank can be supremely helpful. This photo was taken in England.

Time For A Wedding

bombed home
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

War couldn’t stop true love. Even with a bombed-out home, Miss Ena Squire-Brown donned her wedding gown and strolled down the walkway as she went to St. George’s Church in Forest Hill.

Miss Ena rose to fame as an international dancer thanks to her famed “Dove Dance.” Her future husband was Royal Air Force flying officer J.C. Martin. At least they kept their love alive and didn’t let the war prevent them from tying the knot.

Staying Fresh On The Fly

haircut in color
Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images
Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images

Who says there’s a bad time to get a haircut? Don’t tell that to RAF pilot, Flying Officer Francis Mellersh. In this color photo, we see the officer getting a cut between missions.

He’s reading John Buchan’s “Greenmantle.” during the cut as well. He looks cool and calm, but he’s more than likely mentally getting ready for a mission that could very well be his last. If he wants to look his best in battle, let him do it.