History

21 WW2 Photos That You Must See

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Even for the youngest of us, World War II’s resonance has not finished affecting our collective psyche. For Millennials, many of our grandparents fought or nursed during the Second World War. In those cases, we have pictures of our ancestors in uniform. Here are 21 photographs from World War II that will likely affect you, no matter what age you are.

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Here, an American soldier has found the grave of an unknown U.S. Soldier. The enemy buried the body before retreating. The first American soldier to find the grave decorated it with ferns and mortar shells.

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Bodies of American and German soldiers lie wrapped in mattress covers, as German prisoners dig graves. Exact whereabouts of this photograph are unknown.

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Rohrwiller, Germany, February 4th 1945: An M-10 Tank Destroyer from the 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion with the 143rd Infantry Regiment, 36th Division, rolls past an unknown town’s heavily shelled church.

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The French FFI escorts German Prisoners of War, from the German Military Police Force as well as Gestapo agents, from Strasbourg to the 3rd Infantry Division.

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In Lug, Germany: the remnants of a German group which tried to escape encirclement by the U.S.’s 3rd and 7th Armies. Vehicles and wrecked equipment and  remain.

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A German factory that may have been possibly located in Schweinfurt. A row of machines for polishing and grinding, for finishing the ball-bearings, can be seen. All sizes of bearings were made here.

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400 lbs of TNT inside English anti-tank mines are used to blow up Pill Boxes in this shot. A “pill box” is the term for a machine gun emplacement.

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This is the German town of Winger-sur-Moder. American forces, stationed at the close-by mountain, are trying to take it over. They were infiltrated by six SS-Gebirgsjager Division troops overnight; U.S. Prisoners of War were taken. The burning seen in the photograph is the town’s Hotel Wenk; it was hit by a tracer bullet, causing the fire. In the church tower (seen off to the left,) a German lookout and sniper is stationed to try to stave off the U.S. forces.

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The helmet atop a rifle here were left to mark the bodies of two U.S. Infantrymen. The Seventh Army were on a drive of a new front, fifty miles between Saarbrucken to the Rhine, when these soldiers’ lives were taken. The abandonment of one’s weapon surely was worth marking a fallen body, in the hopes that someone with more time and tools could give these men a proper burial.

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Soldiers from the Seventh Army in a German town within the Bobenthal. They are searching for any German snipers that may be hidden in the building. The Tudor-style looking house contrasts greatly with the 20th century soldiers and their machine guns.

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This M914 155mm Howitzer was in the process of getting towed by a wrecker, but when it got stuck in the mud, the Germans had to call in a bulldozer to dislodge it. The U.S. Army’s Howitzer artilley gun was used in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, before being replaced by the M918 Howitzer.

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One can see the “crash path” of a B-17 plane on a snowy field in this shot, on the Seventh Army front. The plane’s crew bailed out, all except for the pilot; he rode the plane as it went down, and managed to survive the crash with only minor scrapes. In the foreground, see the burnt pole that was clipped by the plane on the way in.

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This is – or rather, was – the town of Heilbronn, Germany. Like so many European towns during World War II, this one was all but obliterated by the war. More trees are seen standing in this photograph than buildings. At least a church spire is clearly remaining; that likely gave the poor civilians some solace, and even shelter, as all the rest of their town was destroyed in a conflict they weren’t even involved in (except for their men … )

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On the first day of the Seventh Army offensive in Germany, on March 15th, this German plane was shot down by small arms fire. The German pilot’s charred remains are visible in the photograph. Interestingly enough, experts believe they have identified this plane as a U.S. P-47. It must have been taken over and re-purposed by German forces.

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The cloud comes from the detonation of explosives bringing down a German bridge. The feat of U.S. engineers, the bridge’s destruction helped the U.S. Army hold off German forces trying to retake the town. Wood splinters fly through the air. How deafening it must have been.

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Remains of German Howitzers and a German soldier, casualties of the Seventh Army, are seen; a U.S. soldier stands next to the body. One wonders if the soldier wished he could just walk from the carnage and wreckage into those lovely hills and trees in the background.

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The German soldiers in this photo are on the losing side, but they seem to look happy that the the war is finally over after five years of fighting. Here, the soldiers of the 19th Army are seen surrendering Germany to the Allied Forces, giving over their rifles to the Americans in Landeck, Austria. Surrendered hand grenades and other fighting equipment can also be seen. The war equipment creates quite a contrast with the idyllic Austrian countryside in the background, which could host Julie Andrews singing about how the hills are alive.

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This road leads to an important town in Austria, a stronghold once defended by German soldiers. Those same German soldiers are seen marching down the road they defended as Prisoners of War in this photo. While the line of men ends in the distance, there were approximately 1000 soldiers. This Austrian town was given up by the Germans without too much resistance at this point; however, other key Austrian towns were defended tooth and nail by the Germans close by.

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Just a small segment of the Hungarian troops who surrendered to the Seventh Army are seen in this photo. The leader of these troops claimed they had been used as service and labor troops. Interestingly, the location is Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where the last Winter Olympics to occur before the War were held. It is a mountain resort town in Bavaria, Southern Germany, on the border with Austria.

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German civilians stand in the middle of their former town; it looks like maybe one building still stands in full. General Palmer wrote on the back of this photo that it was a “well liberated town.” I wonder if these civilians would agree! A man with a cart picks through for salvageable scraps of … anything. Three other civilians help him.

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General Palmer scrawled on this photo that this was a “friendly little town town, that was ‘scorched.'” It was a French town, which the Germans mined and then burned. Smoke and dust are seen creating a haze in the sky.

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