31 Photos Taken Just Before History Was Made

By | May 13, 2017

Tank Man At Tiananmen Square

Tank Man

History’s most iconic depiction of resistance was when an unidentified man known as “Tank Man” single-handedly stood down four Chinese tanks among the Tiananmen Square protests against political corruption and persecution. This photo shot on June 5, 1989 shows the “Tank Man” approaching those tanks in the middle of the street ready to make history.

Adolf Hitler's Death

Adolf Hitler

This photo captured on April 29, 1945 of Hitler (right) with adjutant Julius Schaub surveying the ruins of the Reich chancellery in Berlin was believed to be the last picture of him prior to his suicide.

Amelia Earhart's Disappearance

Amelia Earhart

Famed female pilot, Amelia Earheart was caught on camera saying goodbye to her husband, George P. Putnam in Miami on June 1, 1937. This was just before setting off to that journey where she disappeared over the Central Pacific.

The Execution Of Nguyễn Văn Lém

Vietcong prisoner

During the Vietnam War, a Vietcong prisoner named Nguyễn Văn Lém was being escorted by South Vietnamese soldiers prior to his execution in Saigon on February 1, 1968. The iconic picture of that execution would soon gather the Pulitzer Prize that roused the antiwar movement.

The Titanic

Titanic journeying

The image of RMS Titanic as it departs Southampton, England on April 10, 1912. Later, it would end up sinking in the North Atlantic and leave more than 1,500 passengers dead.


American troops

On June 6, 1944, American troops cluster behind the shield in their landing craft as they approach Omaha Beach. This historic battle was considered a turning point in the Western part of World War II. It was also a bloody assault as awaiting German soldiers slaughter thousands of American troops as they emerged from their boats.

The Moon Landing

Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, his foot suspended inches above the lunar surface, as he descends the Eagle module and was about to take the first step ever taken on the moon by a human being on an eventful day of July 2 0, 1969.

Saddam Hussein's Death

Hussein Execution

On December 30, 2006, executioners prepare ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein just seconds before his hanging in Khadimeya, Iraq.

The Assassination Of John F. Kennedy

JFK and wife

This photo of President JFK and the First Lady driving down Dallas Texas’ Main Street was taken a few minutes before his assassination on November 22, 1963.

Raising The Flag On Iwo Jima

Soldiers raising flag

In this picture, the Marines secure the first flag atop Mount Suribachi. This flag raising signaled victory to the American troops. There was, however, a second flag that became the iconic photo of U.S. Marines raising it at Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945.

The Gettysburg Address

Lincoln at Gettysburg

This shot is one of the two confirmed photos of Abraham Lincoln (pinpointed by the red arrow) hours before his historic Gettysburg Address at Soldiers' National Cemetery, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863.

Pearl Harbor

Japanese Waving farewell

Taken aboard a Japanese aircraft carrier, it appears to be Japanese servicemen waving farewell, and perhaps good luck, to one of the planes about to attack on U.S. naval base at Pearl harbor on December 7, 1941.

The Hindenburg Disaster

Airship Hindenburg

This photo of the German airship Hindenburg hovering over New York City was taken mere hours prior to its fiery crash in Manchester Township, New Jersey on May 6, 1937.

John Lennon's Death

Lennon and assassin Chapman

In this photo, John Lennon (left) was signing an album for the man who would assassinate him later that night, Mark David Chapman.

The Dropping Of The Atomic Bomb

Pilot of Enola Gay

On August 6, 1945, Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. tasked to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan was waving from his plane – the Enola Gay – prior to taking off for the mission.

The Assassination Of Robert F. Kennedy

Senator Robert Kennedy

A photo of Senator Robert F. Kennedy standing alongside his wife in front of his supporters at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He was claiming victory in California’s presidential primary and was approximately 5 minutes before he was killed by Sirhan Sirhan.

Osama bin Laden's Death

Watching live feed

Captured in the White House Situation Room, the member s of the national security team with President Barack Obama, VP Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were watching the live drone feed of the mission to kill Osama bin Laden on May 1 of 2011.

Boston Marathon Bombing

Islamist Chechen terrorists

On April 15, 2013, these two Islamist Chechen terrorists namely Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were standing near the finish line prior to detonating the explosives that killed 3 and left 250 others injured.

The Assassination Of Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK last speech

The night Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now famous “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968. King was killed by James Earl Ray the next day at a nearby Lorraine Motel.

The Attempted Assassination Of Ronald Reagan

Attempted assassination Reagan

Outside the Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., President Ronald Reagan was waving to onlookers seconds before the failed attempt of his assassination by John Hickley on March 30, 1981. Although he was struck by a bullet in his chest, he was able to recover fully with 12 days of hospitalization.

The First Flight

Wilbur lying on plane

A picture of Wilbur Wright as he tries to examine the controls of the damaged Wright Flyer after an futile attempt on December 14, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, N.C. – three days after, Orville (Wilbur’s brother) was able to successfully pilot this same plane to be part of history’s first sustained flight.

Ali Knocks Out Liston

heavyweight champion

Immortalized as an icon in the world of sports, heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali (right) defended his title against Sonny Liston (left) in Lewiston, Maine on May 25, 1965. Ali knocked out Liston during the 1 round and gave us history. The scene here was just moments before the knockout occurred.

The Assassination Of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Archduke assassination

Immensely changing the course of the 20th century, this event caused the beginning of World War I when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed by Bosnian Serb separatist Gavrilo Princip just a few minutes after the archduke and his wife, Sophie left the guildhall in Saravejo on June 28, 1914.

The First American In Space

Shepard inside Freedom

This photo shows astronaut Alan Shepard as he sits inside the Freedom 7rocket before its launch to space on May 5, 1961 in Cape Canaveral, Florida; making him the first American in space.

The Eruption Of Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens

This was shot a day before its devastating eruption on May 17, 1980. It was the largest explosion in American history that killed 57 people as it sent ash 15 miles into the air causing more than a billion dollars’ worth of damage.

The 2005 London Bombings

terrorist Hussain

This shows the terrorist Hasib Hussain (right) as he exits a shop at King’s Cross Station in London prior to his suicide mission of bombing a city bus that killed 13 people. His bomb was just one in a series of four synchronized citywide assaults killing 52 and injured as many as 700.

The First Atomic Bomb

the Gadget

Taken on July 16, 1945, the crewmen unload the first atomic bomb called “The Gadget” and primed it for final assembly prior to its detonation in the Jornada del Muerto desert of New Mexico.

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

Challenger explosion

This is the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger captured less than a second after ignition and prior to its explosion on live television mere 73 seconds after takeoff. This image divulges the fatal gray smoke from the shuttle’s right solid rocket booster that killed all seven crew members on January 28, 1986 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The Assassination Of President William McKinley

Mckinley ascending steps

Ascending the stairs of the Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York, American President William McKinley was captured in his final photo just a few minutes before anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot and killed him with 2 gunshots to his abdomen on September 6, 1901.

The End Of World War II

japanese surrender

On Spetmeber 2, 1945 in Tokyo Bay, World War II was officially ended when Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu (front left), General Yoshijiro Umezu (front right), and subordinates step aboard the USS Missouri and surrendered to U.S. forces.

Lee Harvey Oswald's Death

JFK assassin dead

The man arrested for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy named Lee Harvey Oswald (second from left) was shot dead at the Dallas police headquarters basement by Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963.