These Unbelievable Photos Show the Truth and Heartache of War
We all know the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Perhaps that’s because an image can quickly evoke an emotion in the person who views it. When it comes to war, historical photographs can convey the drama, emotion and humorous moments that are more difficult to convey in text. The following photographs show the grim realities of war. They show couples for whom parting is sweet sorrow and soldiers who have hearts. They show women who take up arms for their people, and eulogize animals who served as well. They celebrate moments of liberation and ensure that and refugees will not be forgotten. Let’s explore these incredible photos of war.
Civil War Veteran Jacob Miller, 1911
Civil War Veteran Jacob Miller, 1911. He lived with an open bullet wound for many years.
Civil War veteran Jacob Miller was shot in the head at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 19, 1863. He was shot in the forehead and lived with an open bullet wound for more than 30 years. Miller said that 17 years after he was shot, some buckshot dropped out of his head. Fifteen years after that, two chunks of lead fell out, leaving him with a dent.
Dutch Children, 1944
American GIs escort Dutch children in 1944. The children are wearing traditional Dutch dresses and caps. The winter of ‘44 was brutal for the Dutch people, who were starving due to a Nazi blockade on supplies. The Allied countries initiated humanitarian food and supply drops called Operations Manna and Chowhound.
English Soldier after Dunkirk, 1940
A soldier arriving back in England after surviving the Evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. British forces found themselves surrounded by the Axis powers in France, with little hope of survival. The British Expeditionary Force and its allies executed a daring evacuation of 338,226 soldiers in a maneuver that was described as the Miracle of Dunkirk.
Sgt. Stubby, the most decorated war dog of World War I. This Boston Terrier was discovered hanging around the training grounds of the 102nd Infantry. The soldiers took him overseas, where he participated in 17 attacks on the Western front, alerting his soldiers to mustard gas attacks, catching a German soldier, and surviving days of constant gunfire.
Comforting Soldier, 1945
A soldier of the 9th Armored Division comforts a little French girl and her dog just after the Battle of the Bulge in 1945. The Battle of the Bulge was a surprise attack by the Germans that depleted the German side and incurred the highest American casualties of the War.
Atomic Bomb, 1950’s
This dancer is completing a literal photobomb by posing for a picture while a nuclear bomb is being tested in Nevada during the 1950’s. Atomic bomb tests spawned a unique tourist culture in Las Vegas and the surrounding cities, where people flocked to witness America’s weapons of war.
Russian Soldier, 1994
A Russian soldier plays an abandoned piano in a forest near Chechnya, circa 1994. President Boris Yeltsin deployed Russian troops to put down a rebellion by the local Chechen people, who declared themselves independent and began to expel non-Chechens from the region.
East Germany, 1989
An East German border guard looks through a gap in the Berlin Wall on the morning of November 10, 1989, the morning it finally fell. One day earlier, the East German government had announced that its citizens could visit West Germany for the first time since it was constructed in 1961. Citizens on both sides responded by tearing it down.
The Berlin Wall
A couple steals a kiss through the Berlin wall in Germany. The wall separated East and West Germans from 1961 to 1989. The wall was erected when the Soviets gained control over the Eastern Bloc countries of Europe. Since many citizens wanted the Soviets to leave, the countries controlled by the Soviet Union forbid its citizens to visit the West.
Babies in Vietnam, 1975
An airplane filled with babies leaving Vietnam in 1975. Operation Babylift was the name of the evacuation of over 3300 Vietnamese orphans evacuated by air after the Fall of Saigon. The children were taken to the United States, Canada, Australia and France.
Roza Shanina, Soviet Sniper
Roza Shanina, a Soviet sniper known as the Unseen Terror of East Prussia during WWII. Roza volunteered for the military after the death of her brother in 1941 and racked up 59 confirmed kills, including 12 at the Battle of Vilnius. Roza was killed in action.
Soldier Kisses Girl, 1950
A soldier leans out of a train window to kiss his girl, while his fellow soldiers look on with approval. The photograph was taken in 1950. Although WWII was over, the world was embarking in a new political order that divided the countries into capitalist and communist, leading to the Cold War.
Father Christmas, 1940
A man dressed as Father Christmas takes off his red hood in exchange for a helmet to deliver presents during the London Blitz in 1940. Father Christmas is the traditional gift-giver in England. Like Santa Claus, is he is depicted as a kindly old man with a long white beard who wears red and visits children.
Jewish Home, 1932
A Jewish home proudly displays a menorah in the window during Hanukkah in 1932. The brave Jewish family displayed the menorah despite the presence of a Nazi flag hanging right across the street.
Pearl Harbor Airfield
American soldiers and local Hawaiians standing at an airfield that was bombed in Pearl Harbor. Known as “The Day That Shall Live in Infamy,” the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor spurred the United States to enter World War II.
War Veteran and Wife, 1855
An ambrotype portrait of a British war veteran and his wife in 1855. The veteran is wearing a Military General Service Medal (known as a MGSM) with five clasps, which symbolizes that he fought in five battles during the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon frequently proclaimed his interest in invading England, even amassing a huge army that it positioned on the Calais, representing a visible threat to Great Britain.
Soldiers in Horse Formation, 1915
More than 650 soldiers standing in a formation designed to resembles a horse’s head, neck and noseband. The soldiers, located in Camp Cody, New Mexico, in 1915, posed in tribute to the many horses who died fighting in World War I. Eight million war horses, donkeys and mules perished in WWI.
Barbara James Rescued, 1944
A British search and rescue soldier rescues a girl named Barbara James after her home was bombed by the Germans in 1944. The Nazis carried out the “Baby Blitz” from January to May in Southern England, the final strategic bombing by the Luftwaffe during WWII.
Omaha Beach, 1947
A woman stands on Omaha Beach, surrounded by the ruins of D-Day. The Allies stormed the beaches of Normandy in France in 1947.
Easter Eggs for Hitler, 1945
Two African American soldiers posing with two bombs that carry messages of “Happy Easter Adolph” in 1945. The W. Thomas and PFC. Joseph Jackson were dropping these “Easter Eggs” on the German front.
George A. Kaufman, 1945
American Sergeant George A. Kaufman smiles as he replaces an ‘Adolf Hitler St.’ sign with a Roosevelt Blvd one in Krefeld, Germany, 1945. Today, the city, which is located just north of Dusseldorf, has renamed the street Rhine Street.
Dick Winters, World War II
Dick Winters posing with the rest of the men in Easy Company as they hung out at Hitler’s old residence, Eagle’s Nest. Winters’ experience in the war was chronicled in the book and movie Band of Brothers.
Jewish Refugees, 1945
Jewish refugees become aware that they have just been liberated at Farsleben, April 13, 1945. Major Clarence Benjamin photographed this woman and her children at the moment the discovered they had been liberated from the Nazis. The American soldiers had discovered a train full of sick and emaciated Jews in April of 1945.
Soldier with Violin, 1917
A soldier playing the violin on the back of a tank in Trafalgar Square, 1917. Thousands had attended the Rally for War Loan, which were savings bonds that would help England raise funds to support their efforts in WWI.
Civil War Surgeon’s Kit, 1864
A colorized photograph of a Civil War surgeon’s kit, 1864. There is a long knife, several bottles of antiseptic and brandy to treat pain and provide anesthesia. Nurses and doctors were forced to improvise and create new techniques when faced with massive casualties of the American Civil War.
Love Story on the Lawn, 1944
An American soldier and his English girlfriend frolicking on the lawn in Hyde Park, London, 1944. World War II forged many love stories between people from different countries who met each other in turbulent circumstances.
Green Line, 1982
The Green Line demarcation zone, Beirut, Lebanon 1982. When the Lebanese Civil war erupted in 1975, the demarcation zone between Christian and Muslim was symbolized by the green foliage that grew between the two sides. The lush border was beautiful but it marked the most dangerous area in Beirut.
Louvre, World War II
The empty Grande Galerie at the Louvre, which was abandoned during World War II. In 1938, the French evacuated paintings, sculptures and other great works of art, keeping them hidden to prevent their destruction. Although the Nazis ordered the museum reopened in 1940, it was half-empty, as the photo illustrates.
Canadian Soldiers in the Korean War, 1952
Canadian soldiers serving during the Korean War built this rough facsimile of a hockey rink in 1952. Over 26,000 Canadian soldiers served in Korea from 1950 to 1953 as part of a United Nations force supporting South Korea.
Hazel Ying Lee, 1942
Hazel Ying Lee a Chinese American pilot who fought in World War II, circa 1942. A Portland, Oregon native, Lee joined the Women Airforce Service Pilots in 1943. The WASP was formed to protect the U.S. homefront during the war, when there was a shortage of male pilots.
Abandoned Ontario Mining Town, 1911
An abandoned mining town on Silver Islet, Lake Superior, Ontario in 1911. The tiny peninsula was found to have a vein of pure silver in 1868 by the Montreal Mining Company, spurring a silver rush in the area.
West Berlin Couple, 1960’s
A young West Berlin couple climb onto a post in order for the woman to speak to her mother in East Berlin. This photograph was taken in the 1960s, shortly after the East Germans sealed the city off, splitting Germany in half for nearly 30 years.
World War II Naval Ship, 1940’s
Several women kissing their boyfriends and husbands through the porthole of a World War II Naval ship, 1940s. For many women, these partings were filled with emotion, since they had no idea when they would see their Navy man again.
Female IRA Volunteer
A female IRA volunteer on active service in West Belfast with an AR18 assault rifle. Many women served with the Irish Republican Army in the 20th century as it fought for independence from Great Britain.
A woman crying on the day Dessau was bombed by allied aircraft, 1945. Dessau was firebombed by the Allies 20 times during WWII. 84 percent of the city was destroyed by the War’s end.
A boxing match between two marines over 116 years ago. The photograph is by military photographer Edward H. Hart. The original was in black and white. This version was colorized by Ryan Urban.
Nicole Minet, 1944
Simone Segouin, known as Nicole Minet, was an 18-year old French Résistance fighter, patrolling Paris in 1944. As a member of the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans , a communist group formed to fight the Germans, Segouin blew up bridges, captured soldiers, and participated in other dangerous missions.
Couple with Gas Masks, 1940
A couple kissing under the mistletoe, wearing gas masks, circa 1940. Life Magazine published the photograph, which showed the reality of life for those who lived during World War II in London.
East and West Berlin Border Crossing 1955
A young girl barely makes it across the border between East and West Berlin, 1955. Two groups of police from East and West are getting into a scrum over keeping people over the line. Eventually a wall was built to separate the two sides.
British Soldiers Kiss their Women Goodbye, 1935
British soldiers kissing their sweethearts goodbye as they leave from Feltham Station, 1935. Feltham Station was opened in 1848 and was one of the closest stations to Heathrow Airport.
French Girls and an American Soldier’s Binoculars, 1944
Three French girls have fun looking through the binoculars of an American soldier after the Liberation of Normandy in 1944.
Big-Hearted East German, 1961
A big-hearted East German soldier helping a small boy cross the new Berlin Wall so he could reunite with his family in 1961. The Berlin Wall made things difficult for soldiers and police on both sides, who were often asked to enforce family separation.