50 World War II Photos Not Found In History Books
World War II will forever be a part of history, a war so big that it changed the landscape of our world. Most people like to forget it happened due to all the tragedy the war caused, however, there is a lot that isn't told about the war. There are some iconic photos used to symbolize World War II, but there are a lot of pictures that were left out of the history books entirely in order to change the narrative. If you are interested in seeing some of the lesser-known photos from World War II, scroll through this gallery to see if your perspective of the war changes.
German soldier’s sad return
This picture of a German soldier’s return shows a bit of the war’s dark side as the German soldier struggles with something that thousands, possibly millions of other soldiers on the different war fronts had to cope with as well.
Advances in communication technology were minimal then compared to the modern age so there wasn’t any way for soldiers to reach their loved ones, and many would return home to find nobody there. In this case, the soldier’s family had gone missing since the Allied air raids.
D-Day soldiers disembarking at Normandy
This picture right here is one of the most popular war images in history, and it was taken during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. The operation was part of Operation Overlord, and it was codenamed Operation Neptune, the biggest seaborne invasion ever.
In the picture, we see the Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel of the 16th Infantry Regiment as they arrived onshore at the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach. This was the operation that kickstarted the liberation of France, and all of Europe by extension.
The Bombed Holland House
The Holland House, or Cope Castle, was a glamorous building before it was bombed during the war. On September 27, 1940, the building was struck by twenty-two bombs during a raid that lasted ten hours.
A large chunk of the building was destroyed in the aftermath of the attack, with the east wing and a large chunk of the library being the surviving portions, but the entire roof came off. The Holland House became designated a grade I listed building in 1949, bringing it under the protection of the Town and Country Planning Act.
British women mechanics
Soldiers get all the glory during warfare but others like mechanics and engineers played equally crucial roles behind the scenes. The lady in this picture was one of many women that played vital roles in the war by working on the tracks of a British tank.
The track she worked on here is a tank tread, or caterpillar track, which is a system of propulsion that is made up of a non-stop band of track and treads. This system was first used on Little Willie after it was constructed in 1915.
The Women’s Guerilla Corps and an Army Sergeant
This picture is further proof, if you need it, of the role some brave women played in the war efforts. The British women captured in this photo in 1941 were learning how to hold a rifle the correct way during the Second World War.
They were part of the hundreds of thousands of women that fought across the world. Most started as volunteers but their roles became official as time passed. In the UK for instance, the Women’s Royal Naval Service was overseen by the Ministry of Labor.
Milkman in London
Starting from September 7, 1940, there was a concentrated bombing of critical industrial targets and civilian places in London. These heavy attacks were called the Blitz, and they lasted 57 days and there was hardly a break from the day to night.
As a result of the bombardments, fires broke out in the city, and relief only came once Germany decided to invade Russia. Photographers recorded the aftermath of the bombings on October 9th, and this was one of the pictures they took.
Citizens taking shelter in a subway tunnel
Throughout the course of the Second World War, the London Underground was used as a bomb shelter. Because of this, citizens were primed to retreat to the Underground once the German bombs started hitting.
The Underground was also used as a military base and weapons-production site besides providing a safe space for citizens during the Blitz. The subway system provided what was needed because only two bomb shelters were eventually built, even though the government planned to build about ten of them.
Paratroopers dotting the sky
During the Second World War, the Germans popularized the use of military paratroopers on a large scale. The paratroopers were typically used for surprise attacks that resulted in the achievement of certain objectives like the capture of bridges and airfields.
They offer a tactical advantage in the form of allowing entry into a battlefield and attacks on areas that are difficult to access from the ground and other transport means. A circular parachute design was commonly used among paratroopers at the time.
Pictured here is the Boeing B-29 Superfortress 42-24592 aircraft called Dauntless Dotty. The aircraft was of the 869th Bomb Squadron, 497th Bomb Group, 73rd Bomb Wing, and 20th Air Force.
This was the plane that led the B-29 raid on Tokyo in November 1944, an attack that led to the first bombing assault on the city since April 1942. It would eventually crash into the Pacific Ocean moments after it took off on a trip that would have seen it return to the US.
The P-51 Mustang is a North American Aviation long-range single-seat fighter and fighter bomb plane that was deployed in the Korean War and World War II. The Tika IV in this picture was flown over England in 1944 by Lt. Vernon L. Richards.
Apparently, an employee of the US government took the picture in a bid to portray how the aircraft was used in wartime. Unfortunately, the same aircraft was destroyed in November of the same year, and with it, Lt. Richards.
A soldier and his loved one
This photo was taken when the war began for the British Army with European campaigns in 1940. Featured in this historic picture is an unidentified soldier as he whispered to a young woman, who could have been his friend, relative, or loved one.
It’s apparent that his goodbye came after whatever he whispered and while we have no idea what he actually said, one can imagine that it is a lighthearted conversation they’re having and that’s understandable because humor is known to help fighters deal with the horrors of warfare.
The thousand-yard stare
The two-thousand-yard stare or the thousand-yard stare described the unfocused, blank look of soldiers that had become emotionally removed from the horrors of the war playing out around them.
This phrase became famous after Life Magazine released the painting "Marines Call It That 2,000 Yard Stare" done by their correspondent and war artist, Tom Lea. The Marine in this picture had just survived some horrors during the Battle of Eniwetok, but sadly, he died a couple of weeks later in a firefight.
Lancaster Bombers in an assembly plant
The Lancaster Bombers are British-made four-engine heavy bombers powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlins and designed by Roy Chadwick. The first Lancaster Bomber was enlisted with the Royal Air Force in 1942, and it quickly became the designated aircraft for night-time bombing runs.
The site where this picture was taken would become known as the Manchester Woodford Aerodome, a crucial spot for military hardware production during the war. Besides the Lancaster bomber, there were other planes like the Avro Shackleton and Avro Anson that were built at the factory.
American troops surrender at Corregidor
In May of 1942, the Battle of Corregidor culminated the Japanese conquest of the Commonwealth of the Philippines played out for two days. In order to use Manila Bay, the Japanese forces had to claim the island Bastion because Japan would always be denied the use of the Far East’s finest natural harbor as long as the island was controlled by American forces.
Japan won the battle, and the control of the island changed hands for good. In the aftermath of Japan’s victory, Filipino and American prisoners of war were marched on the streets of Manila.
The brave rescue dog
The dog in this picture is a mixed-breed terrier and a real hero of World War II that was found in London by an Air Raid warden. The dog was named Rip, and it became the first search and rescue dog of the service.
Rip had an uncanny ability to sniff out victims trapped below buildings that had been bombed. The dog was never trained for the job but it excelled at it, and his service inspired the authorities to train more search and rescue dogs over the course of the war.
Once real tanks were unveiled in WWI, dummy tanks emerged as well but they weren’t used as much in WWI as they were in WWII. Both the Axis and the Allies used dummy tanks during the war, and this right here is a German Decoy Tank or the Panzerattrape.
The Germans mostly used these tanks for training their forces, and they had both wooden and inflatable dummy tanks. The Panzerratrape was used in the campaign in North Africa before the Normandy Beaches' landings.
American movie star in WWII Military Uniform
Before World War II broke out, Jimmy Stewart had made a name for himself as a legendary actor and Academy Award winner, but then he became a US Air Force pilot in the war. After logging a couple of hundred hours as a civilian, the Army initially turned Stewart away because he was underweight.
Unfazed by the initial rejection, Stewart would then undergo months of training before flying multiple combat missions and recruiting airmen with an appearance in the USAAF’s Winning Your Wings video.
USS West Virginia
This historic picture captured the moment US Navy sailors rescued a survivor of the unfortunate USS West Virginia. The sunken ship was a Colorado-grade battleship that was constructed in 1920, launched a year later, and commissioned the following year.
Before the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese Imperial forces, the battleship had been featured in engineering and gunnery courses, winning a couple of medals in the process. It was, however, sunk by a couple of bombs and torpedoes during the war.
The American Flag at Iwo Jima
This right here is an iconic picture called "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima." It was taken by Joe Rosenthal in February 1945 and it shows the moment six US Marines raised the flag of the United States on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
On February 25, 1945, the photograph was published for the first time in the Sunday newspapers, and because it became famous, it was reprinted in several other publications as well. It would eventually become the only picture to win the Pulitzer Prize for photography in the year it was published.
Farewell at the Train Station
In case you didn’t already know, more than 16 million Americans were drafted in WWII and they served in the war. The implication of their service in the war is that the lives they lived before the war ended and they left everything behind, including their loved ones.
However, they got to say goodbye to their people before they left, and fortunately for those of us that weren’t there, a picture of their final farewell was taken at the train station.
Marines having coffee
After two days and two nights of fighting on the Marshall Islands during the Battle of Eniwetok, the three officers we see here laid back and decided to take a break no one would argue they’d earned. Pfc. Faris M. Bob Tuohy is shown clutching his cup of coffee while the other marines sit at the table with him.
They’d invaded Eniwetok after the success of the American forces at the Battle of Kwajalein in the Southeast. Capturing Eniwetok provided the troops with an airfield to support their attacks.
German women and the Faith and Beauty Society
The Faith and Beauty Society was a German organization that was created to serve as the link between the National Socialist Women’s League and the League of German Girls.
At the time, members were made up of volunteers who had to be between 17 to 21 to be part of their organization’s drive to see girls contribute to the community before getting married or getting a job. The volunteers were taught home economics and were primed for being mothers and wives.
A Muslim woman and a Jewish woman
A Muslim woman named Zejneba Hardaga is pictured protecting Rivka Kavillo, a Jewish lady, and her family in Sarajevo in 1941. If you look closely, you’ll see Hardaga trying to ensure Kavillo’s yellow Star of David is properly concealed with her veil.
Doing this also helped Hardaga protect Kavillo’s children as well. Once they’d gone beyond the walk, Hardaga also let Kavillo and her children stay at her place to guarantee their safety despite how unsafe that was for Hardaga herself.
Pearl Harbor 1941
The Pearl Harbor attack of 1941 has been recreated in pop culture over the years but right here is the real deal. In this remarkable picture, a couple of American sailors stand in the midst of wrecked planes at Fort Island, looking on as the forward magazine of a ship exploded in the center background.
The USS Shaw was hit by several bombs, two on the forward machine gun platform and one more on the port wing of the bridge. The ship was restored a couple of months after the attack.
Royal Air Force Bomber
The Royal Air Force Bomber in this picture was riddled with holes caused by splinters after a rocket exploded beside the Handley Page Halifax Mark II. The assault occurred in Central Europe, yet the bomber managed to make it back to its Italian base.
This was a British twin-engine mid-bomber that was procured along with two other large twin-engine bombers. This aircraft earned the "Flying Suitcase" moniker for the cramped conditions its crew had to endure during the early battles as part of the raid on Berlin on the first night.
The Band of Brothers and Dick Winters at the Eagle’s Nest
The Band of Brothers and Richard Winters are featured in this historic picture. Winters was an officer in the war that made a name for himself with his command of the 2nd Battalion, the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Richard parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
He fought in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany in that span and he was eventually promoted to the rank of Major. Germany had just surrendered at Kehlsteinhaus when this picture was taken, and Winters has been featured in a handful of books over the years.
Dutch girls and American soldiers
The picture you see here was taken after Holland was liberated, a symbolic point in the war that marked the end of German occupation. On May 5, 1945, a combination of the British infantry divisions, the 1st Polish Armoured Division, the British I Corps, the Dutch forces, and the Czechoslovak troops all helped liberate Holland in a historic battle.
May 5th became a national holiday in 1990 and it has been celebrated and remembered every year since. The Dutch also hold their Remembrance of the Dead Day on May 4.
The Connecticut Train Station reunion
In this heart-warming picture, a young lady is captured as she hugs and kisses a soldier still in his uniform in 1945. The lady appeared thrilled to see the soldier, and even the couple nearby could see how smitten she was.
Going off to war and bidding farewell to their loved ones was a difficult thing for the enlisted but the emotions of reuniting with loved ones after the war might be even stronger because hand-written letters were the only way they could communicate.
Kaiser Wilhelm II and Winston Churchill
This historic picture was taken in the autumn of 1906, and it features a 32-year-old Winston Churchill beside Wilhelm II, the Kaiser of the German Empire. Churchill had been invited to Germany by the Kaiser to see military parades and demonstrations that were taking place close to the city of Breslau.
Churchill wasn’t anywhere near as old as the Roaring Lion that ruled England in the Second World War, but he was already a celebrated person and Member of Parliament. You can see the smiles on their faces as the two had a lot of shared interests.
The broken wing plane
While hovering over Chichi Jima, this avenger took on a lot of fire and as a result, its wing got broken as the aircraft above it got hit by anti-aircraft fire and they collided. Unfortunately, the other plane didn’t make it as it got lost in the collision in midair.
The one in this picture was piloted by Lt. Bob King, who managed to make it back to the US Fleet’s vicinity. It was part of the Torpedo Squadron Eighty-Two that flew in the South Pacific region.
Searchlights on a British plane
This historic picture of an aircraft was taken at the Rock of Gibraltar, which is one of the two Pillars of Hercules. The aircraft was a fixed-wing propeller-driven airliner called Douglas DC-3. It is a historic aircraft that changed the course of air travel in the 1930s-40s.
The DC-3’s World War II legacy and impact on the airline industry have made it one of the most important aircraft ever. A number of these aircraft were drafted during WWII, and thousands of them were produced as a result.
The inflatable decoy tank
The US Army had a tactical deception unit called the Ghost Army, although the unit’s official name was the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops or Operation Quicksilver. This unit comprised of 1,100 men whose mission was to impersonate other units of the Allied Army in a bid to deceive the German forces.
This unit was responsible for over 20 deceptions on the battlefield, most of which happened close to the front lines. They used fake canons, trucks, jeeps, and dummy tanks to fool those on the other side.
Billboard Near The Manhattan Project Facility
The billboard in this picture actually existed in Tennessee’s Oak Ridge Facility. The facility was built as part of the town in 1942. Scientists had begun to secretly research the power of atomic weapons a couple of years before.
The studies were led by J. Robert Oppenheimer, an atomic physicist and the father of the atomic bomb, whose work and research culminated in the creation of the world’s first nuclear bombs. In July 1945, an explosion created a 7-mile mushroom cloud at the Alamogordo Air Base so the warnings in this sign were all justified.
A Spotter and an Anti-Aircraft Gun
This remarkable picture of a spotter and a 3.7-inch Anti-Aircraft Gun was taken in December 1942 and because it remained a remarkable portrayal of WWII Warfare, color was added to it many decades later.
The spotters were known as Ack-Ack Girls, and they helped the gun operators to locate targets and facilitate the multiple systems involved in the gun, including the range finder. They, however, rarely got to fire actual shots themselves. They served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service and helped defend Britain’s territorial integrity.
Female workers working on hi-power pistols
In this picture taken at the John Inglis Munitions Plant in Canada, some female workers were photographed while they assembled guns. The company the women worked for manufactured weapons for the British Commonwealth and United Kingdom forces during the Second World War before becoming Whirlpool Canada, a large appliance maker.
John Inglis won a supply contract with the Canadian and British governments that required them to supply thousands of guns, including the Browning Hi-Power single-action semi-automatic one captured in this picture.
A Jewish girl and a children’s home
In this historic picture, a Jewish girl that had only lived in a concentration camp at that point drew a picture of her home in the Warsaw orphanage she’d been raised in. The picture was taken by David Seymour, a Polish photojournalist, and photographer after the war ended with Nazi Germany’s surrender.
The subject is a miniature Teresa that had to endure too much trauma for someone so small. Only 451 Jewish children were found after Auschwitz was liberated in January 1945.
Two Marines in Enemy Territory
Pictured here are two marines that served in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment during the battle of Okinawa in May 1945. David Hargraves provides cover fire on the left with his submachine gun while his colleague, Gabriel Chavarria, is armed with a Browning Automatic Rifle and appears to break cover.
The photograph itself was taken from a position of cover during the battle between the United States Marines and the Japanese Imperial Army.
A lift and a goodbye kiss
In this touching picture from the war, Martha O’Driscoll is captured giving her man a befitting send-off as he was going to war. Martha was an actress for ten years whose marriage to Arthur I. Appleton, the President of Appleton Electric Company, caused her to retire from acting.
In the 1940s, she got to tour with Errol Flynn and the USO, a nonprofit charity organization that provided much-needed entertainment by bringing musicians, actors, and comedians to troops in different countries.
A Paratrooper's Gear
There is a lot of gear in this picture, and despite how much it all seems, the whole thing was typically wrapped up in a small pack for soldiers to carry. Some of the things in there are a handgun, a rifle, some bayonets or machetes, and multiple grenades.
Some other things like a flashlight, pocket knife, notebook with pencils, and some rations are also included. Paratroopers also had to be equipped with outerwear, a radio, and flares for their difficult job.
USS Oklahoma, Pearl Harbor
America’s historic Pearl Harbor is the location, and the subject is a Nevada-grade battleship that was built in 1910 and commissioned six years later. It served as part of Battleship Division 6, which provided protection for Allied convoys whenever they voyaged across the Atlantic.
The Battleship was improved from 1927 to 1929, and five years later, it saved some American citizens and refugees during the Spanish Civil War. Unfortunately, the ship was hit by several torpedoes during the Pearl Harbor attack and it sunk.
Maori Battalion Haka for the King of Greece
New Zealand’s Maori culture popularized their traditional ancestral war cry called the Haka. In this picture, Maoris, who served in C Company, 28th Maori Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Division was photographed at an Egyptian army training camp in June 1941.
The Greek royal family, headed by King George II of Greece, was there to see the officers perform, accompanied by Prince Peter, Major General Freyberg, and his wife the Queen. This particular army unit was engaged in many military campaigns throughout the course of the war and they were a resilient unit.
Women training for the German invasion
The thing about World War II that most people don’t realize is how big of a role women actually played in the war. This 1942 picture is proof that certain women played equally crucial roles in the war in England at least.
Here, we see some ladies from the Watford Home Defense Unit getting ready and sharpening their marksmanship. The entire group we see in this unit were initially volunteers who weren’t supposed to join the service but they became part of the roughly 50,000 women to volunteer.
Russia’s Explosive-Strapped Dog
The Soviet military forces extensively trained anti-tank dogs to deliver explosives to armored vehicles and tanks. What the dogs are trained to do is leave the bomb before retreating so it would go off according to the timer.
However, because it didn’t quite work as planned, an impact detonation procedure which led to the death of the dogs was instead deployed but it also failed. US forces have also tried to use dogs for different combat scenarios with varying results.
Celebration in Paris
After Germany announced its surrender, a celebration broke out in Paris’ Champs Elysees in May 1945. V-E Day, also known as Victory in Europe Day is a day of celebrating the acceptance of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender by the Allies.
This marked the end of the brutal war, and the day has been celebrated since 1945. In Orleans for instance, V-E Day is celebrated along with the anniversary of the Siege of Orleans which was lifted by the Joan of Arc-led French forces.
James Johnnie Johnson
Wing Commander James Johnnie Johnson, the top-scoring fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force, had 31 confirmed kills at the time this picture was taken. Behind him is his Spitfire aircraft and his pet Labrador, Sally, is in front of him.
Johnson was part of the heavy aerial warfare that was part of the offensive sweeps over the occupied European territories. The Wing Commander’s combat tour saw him participate in the Combined Bomber Offensive, the Dieppe Raid, Operation Market Garden, and the Western Allied invasion of Nazi Germany.
London after the Blitz
Towards the end of the Battle of Britain in 1940, the Blitz air attacks were launched against British targets. The attacks were essentially a fight for air superiority between the Royal Air Force of Britain and Germany’s Luftwaffe.
There were a series of bombings from September that were characterized by the Germans’ transition from daylight attacks to night attacks. In the span of the bombings, more than a million houses were struck and thousands of civilians were killed. One thing the bombings failed to do is force a British surrender, despite the expectations of Nazi Germany.
A woman and her soldier boyfriend
A London railway station is where this picture of a woman and her soldier partner was taken in June 1940. The picture is so famous that some color was added to it, and it was used as the cover of Julie Summers’ Stranger in the House.
The deeply emotional picture provides a visual portrayal of the plight of women and the emotions they felt as they welcomed home their partners and loved ones after the Second World War. In some cases, they’d been separated from their loved ones for years.
A Canadian boy and his father
This photo has earned the "Wait for me, Daddy" moniker over the years as a result of its fame. It was taken on October 1, 1940, by Claude P. Dettloff and it is one of the most famous Canadian war pictures ever.
Warren Bernard, a five-year-old, is captured just as he was running to his father, Jack Bernard, who served in the British Columbia Regiment. This heart-warming moment happened just before the family was separated by WWII, and Jack had to adjust his rifle to hold his son for a bit.
Celebrating the liberation of France
The venue here is the Champs Elysees in Paris, where a crowd had gathered to watch French cars roll past as they celebrated the liberation of France in August 1944. Nazi Germany had ruled Paris since the Second Compiegne Armistice had been signed in June 1940, so there was plenty to celebrate at this point.
The French Forces of the Interior had staged an uprising against the German forces as the US Third Army approached, a significant moment in the warfare.