These 20 Color Photographs Of WWII Reveal So Much We Never See
Captured in a new book, published by the Imperial War Museum (IWM), actual color photographs, not recolored black and whites, illustrate rare views of World War II.
The IWM is a British museum about the history of conflict, encouraging us to remember and learn something from the aftermath of our battles.
The book, titled The Second World War In Colour, by Ian Carter, takes a war which often feels distant in time and space. Especially for Americans, those born since the war, the Second World War is a scene in movies at best.
At the time it took place, we had color photography, but black and white was cheaper by comparison. Adding to the monochrome memory that is that war, movies often depict scenes in black and white to create the sense of something antique.
To get this close to the action of the Civil War or even The Great War, we have to colorize black and white stills. Not in Carter’s book. These photos, which numbered in excess of 3,000 images, commissioned by Britain’s Ministry of Information, are now available to the public through Carter’s book.
“The images in this book show the vivid hues of the flames and fabrics, the intense blue skies, the sun-tanned faces and the myriad of colours of military camouflage,” said Carter in a press release.
Many of them have been in the archives since 1949, only now available to the public. These photos transport us to the war or rather, bring it to our doorsteps.
What may astound you more than the vibrancy in these photos is the proliferations of women fighting in World War II.
Albeit ancillary but important work in most cases, the presence of women is demonstrative of something new. For better or worse, this was the first war where humans came together to fight a true multinational all-genders-welcome fight.
A Churchill Crocodile Flamethrower – 1944
Our use of tanks in WWII was unprecedented. In this shot, we see humanity’s latest technology paired with one of our oldest, used to clear brush as a potential hiding place.
Coastal Artillery HG – 1942
Dover, England: Women of the Auxiliary Territorial Services (ATS), plotters, in this case, facilitating communication and navigation for the field.
U.S. Mustang in British Airspace – 1944
This pilot, Lieutenant Vernon R. Richards of the 361st Fighter Group, flies his P-51D Mustang to escort a bomber.
The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force Sewing – 1944
In a war fought as much in the air, as it was on the beaches, and on the land, the allied forces needed more parachutes than ever before. To keep up with demand, we employed armies of women to sew them.
Auxiliary Territorial Services – 1942
As an extension of the ATS, the spotter supports the 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun in the background, searching the skies for the enemy.
British Tank In Tunisia – 1943
Much like their smaller versions, pistols, and rifles, one must clean the barrels of tanks so they operate properly. These soldiers of the 6th armored division work together at El Aroussa in Tunisia to ready this tank for the next battle.
US Air Force – 1943
From the U.S. 8th Air Force, the 91st Bomb Group flies on a mission to bomb U-boats. The bombers are B-17Fs, the Flying Fortress. The bomber in front is the Mary Ruth.
Princess Mary’s Hospital – 1943
Exercising the idea that a little fresh air does you good, recovering airmen lounge with nurses in the yard outside the Princess Mary’s RAF Hospital in Buckinghamshire, UK.
Women’s Timber Corps – 1943
Culford, Suffolk training camp: Here’s yet another example of women contributing to the war effort. Two women of the Land Army saw timber for upright poles used as pit props.
Bomber Assembly Plant – 1943
At Avro’s assembly plant in Woodford near Manchester, Lancaster Bombers stretch as far back as one can see. This is such a great shot, capturing them before they inhale the fumes of war.
Royal Artillery, in action in Italy – 1943
Operating a 5.5-inch anti-aircraft gun, the 75th Regiment, Royal Artillery, readies another round in Italy.
Supreme Allied HQ – 1944
This is such a gem. General Dwight D. Eisenhower sits at the head of the Supreme Allied Headquarters, with his senior commanders in London. Note, women and minorities have joined the war effort, but they haven’t yet made it into this circle.
Light Infantry Training – 1944
Possibly a posed shot, note that there is little sunlight for this otherwise clear image. The lighting on Private Alfred Campin of the 6th Battalion is likely artificial.
Paratroopers – 1944
Readying for a practice jump, these RAF paratroopers are a somber group, perhaps contemplating the dangers ahead. It begs the question: How many of them would go home in one piece when the war ended?
The British Home Front
Damaged from raids in the Holborn area of London, these buildings mandate inspection. This man is an Air Raid Precautions warden. His job is to assess the damage
Pilot And Dog – 1944
Between flights, there’s nothing like a little affection from humanity’s best friend. This is Sally, a labrador belonging to RAF’s Wing Commander James ‘Johnnie’ Johnson. In the background, his other best friend, a Spitfire, waits patiently for his return.
The Liberation Of Eindhoven – 1944
September, in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, civilians and soldiers gather to celebrate the liberation of their city by the allies.
The Plan, Sir – 1944
From his command caravan, King George VI reviews the allied strategy in Holland with his Field Marshal, Sir Bernard Montgomery.
Athens, Greece – 1944
The Caryatids on the Acropolis remain untouched from the long reach of the war, a suitable place for R&R, as these British soldiers learn.