War Photos From The Past You Would Never Find In History Books
By Sophia Maddox | April 19, 2023
Early stages of the Vietnam War
Amidst the noise and glamour of Hollywood and pop culture, it's easy to forget that history is replete with brutal and horrific moments of conflict and war. These moments are documented through photographs that capture the heart-wrenching stories of those who have witnessed the worst of humanity. As you scroll through this gallery of war photos, you will encounter images that show the human cost of war, the devastation it causes, and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
These photos offer a glimpse into a different side of history, one that is often forgotten or ignored in mainstream narratives. They serve as a reminder that war is not just about battles and tactics, but about the lives of ordinary people caught in the crossfire. We invite you to take a moment to view these images with empathy and understanding, to acknowledge the sacrifices of those who have been impacted by war, and to reflect on what we can do to prevent future conflicts. Keep reading to bear witness to the raw reality of war through the eyes of those who have captured it with their cameras.
This photograph offers a unique view of an attack that occurred early on during the Vietnam war. What you see are American jets dropping napalm over Viet Cong outposts. Napalm is a gel that's sticky as all get out and incredibly flammable. They use this stuff in bombs and flamethrowers, and it's no joke.
Napalm is made up of a volatile petrochemical and a gelling agent, which combine to create this hellish concoction. The name itself is a mashup of two of the original thickening and gelling agents: coprecipitated aluminum salts of naphthenic acid and palmitic acid.
You don't wanna mess with napalm, it's the kind of thing that can light up a whole area in a matter of seconds, leaving nothing but ash and devastation in its wake. It's the kind of weapon that can change the course of a war, and not in a good way.
WWII claimed a few hundred thousand planes
Fleets of planes filled the skies on various missions throughout the war. Pictured here is just one out of the 94,000 United States aircrafts lost during World War II. Comparatively speaking, Germany also lost quite a few planes, totaling at 76,000. And even more devastating was the Soviet Union’s loss of over 106,000 planes.
Fleet of Planes headed for New Guinea during WWII
So check it out, we got the flight deck crew doing their thing, getting these planes all ready to take off. You got the F6F-3 Hellcats of VF-16 and the SBD-5 Dauntlesses of VB-16, all revved up and ready to roll. They're launching from the USS Lexington, making their way to New Guinea, like some kind of airborne army, in the early days of April '44.
And let me tell you, these planes were no joke. They didn't just fly around looking pretty, they got down to business. The USS Lexington's planes took out a whopping 372 enemy aircraft in mid-air, and blasted another 475 on the ground. That's some serious firepower, my friend.
And that's not all. They didn't stop there. They took down or demolished a staggering 300,000 tons of enemy cargo, and you know what, they even managed to put a dent in an additional 600,000 tons. These guys were a force to be reckoned with, and they didn't mess around.
There were some pretty impressive lady-snipers in WWII
So let me tell you, during WWII, you had some serious women out there on the front lines, sniping it up like it was nobody's business. The Soviets, for example, had a whole squad of badass female snipers, and Roza Shanina was one of the best. Just look at her here, with her 59 confirmed kills, ready to take down whatever came her way.
She didn't go unnoticed. In 1944, a Canadian newspaper called her "the unseen terror of East Prussia." And she even became the first lady of the 3rd Belorussian Front to snag the Order of Glory.
Roza was out there on the front lines, doing what she did best, when she was killed in action during the East Prussian Offensive. She was shielding the commander of an artillery unit who had been hit bad, and she paid the ultimate price. And get this, her bravery conflicted with Soviet policy of not throwing snipers into the heavy battles.
But you know what, Roza's legacy lived on. Even during her lifetime, people were singing her praises. And in '65, her combat diary was finally published, so we could all get a taste of what it was like to be a sniper like Roza Shanina.
France stepped up their tank game during WWII
The Great War had come and gone, and France, still scarred from the horrors of trench warfare, knew it had to step up its tank game. They poured resources and manpower into developing tanks that could help avoid the same old stalemates that plagued the last war. And boy, did they succeed. By the dawn of World War II, the French had amassed a tank force that rivaled the big guns of the Soviet, British, and German armies. Just look at these beasts, towering over those puny German panzers like they were nothing.
And don't you dare think that these tanks were just for show. The French had planned for a defensive war, and they built their tanks accordingly. These bad boys were heavily armored and packed a punch, the infantry tanks built to withstand the worst of what the enemy could throw at them. When the German offensive finally came, the French had an army of roughly 5,800 tanks at their disposal, both in their homeland and beyond. And let me tell you, some of those tanks were damn effective against the German war machines.
The London Bridge took a beating but proved resilient during WWII
Over a million people starved to death after the siege of Leningrad
The first successful atomic bomb test was in 1945
So picture this: It's July 16, 1945, and out there in the New Mexico desert, history is being made. They called it "Trinity," but it was really the world's first nuclear explosion. They hoisted this plutonium device they called "Gadget" onto a 100-foot tower, and at 5:30 in the morning, they let it rip.
And let me tell you, it was a sight to see. That explosion released 18.6 kilotons of power, vaporizing the tower and turning the asphalt and sand around it into this trippy green glass they called "trinitite." And the heat that came off that thing was like nothing you've ever felt before, knocking observers to the ground and scorching everything in its path.
People from all over felt it. Witnesses reported seeing a flash of fire, an explosion, and black smoke from as far as 200 miles away. A U.S. Navy pilot flying at 10,000 feet said it lit up the cockpit like the damn sun was rising in the south. And when he tried to radio for an explanation, all they said was, "Don't fly south."
But get this, after the test, they tried to cover it up, saying it was just a remotely located ammunition magazine that exploded. Can you believe that? It wasn't until after the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima that they finally admitted the truth.
Hiroshima was obliterated by the United States
So you got this B-29 bomber, Enola Gay, taking off from Tinian, headed straight for Japan in the early hours of August 6, 1945. Their target? Hiroshima, the city nestled on the southwestern Honshu Island, home to nearly 300,000 civilians and an army of about 43,000 soldiers.
The bomber flies low to the ground on automatic pilot, until they finally reach 31,000 feet. Then, at about 8:15 a.m. Hiroshima time, they drop the bomb. They call it "Little Boy," but don't let the name fool you. That thing weighed almost 10,000 pounds, and it was made of uranium.
The bomb detonated about 1,900 feet above the city, right over a parade field where Japanese soldiers were doing calisthenics. And let me tell you, that explosion was something else. It lit up the whole damn sky, and you could feel it for miles.
The aftermath was devastating. 140,000 people killed. 70% of all buildings destroyed. Survivors left to suffer, not just from the physical burns, but from the generational after-effects of radiation.
And the worst part? We'll never know for sure how many people died as a result of that attack. Some 70,000 people probably died from the initial blast and radiation effects. And you know what? About twenty American airmen were held as prisoners in that city. By the end of 1945, because of the fallout and other after-effects, the death toll was probably over 100,000. And the death toll kept climbing. Cancer and other long-term effects took hold, and the five-year death total may have reached or even exceeded 200,000.
The Russians filled their front lines with criminals
German POWs Captured by Americans
After the U.S. joined in on World War II, the Brits came a-calling, asking for a little help with their prisoner housing situation. They needed the U.S. to take in 175,000 prisoners, but the Americans were none too pleased about it. They weren't prepared for this kind of thing. They barely had any experience with POWs from the last war, so they had no clue how to handle basic needs like food, clothing, and housing for their prisoners
And on top of all that, there was the whole security issue. The American government was worried that having Germans on their soil would make people nervous, and they didn't want to take away any Germans who were already fighting for the cause.
Despite all the "wild rumors" flying around about how the Allies treated their prisoners, some of those Germans were actually happy to be captured by the Brits or the Americans. They knew that being captured by the Soviets was a whole other ballgame. And some of them, well, they just didn't agree with Nazism or the way their country was handling the war.
The American shipped the German prisoners over in these Liberty Ships, which were headed back to the States empty anyway. They'd send over as many as 30,000 prisoners per month to New York or Virginia, where they'd be processed and sent to their designated camps. And you know what? The good treatment started right away. They fed these guys substantial meals aboard the ships, and when they arrived in America, they were blown away by the comfort of the Pullman cars that carried them to their prison camps. They couldn't believe how big this country was, and how it seemed to be doing just fine despite the war raging on.
The Battle of Heilbronn didn’t leave much standing
The Battle of Heilbronn, a nine-day brawl that took place in April of '45, right in the thick of World War II. The U.S. Army was going up against the Germans for control of Heilbronn, a mid-sized city on the Neckar River between Stuttgart and Heidelberg.
Even though the war was almost over, these Germans were not giving up without a fight. They put up a very firm resistance, and they had a bunch of Nazi Party goons backing them up. It was a real house-to-house bloodbath, let me tell you.
But the U.S. troops finally managed to capture Heilbronn after a long, grueling battle. And in the process, they captured 1,500 Germans. The U.S. 63rd Division and the 10th Armored Division also did their part, driving southwestward and putting pressure on the enemy's line along the Jagst River. They were hoping to trap the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division, but those guys managed to slip away.
After all that fighting, the town was practically leveled. The buildings that were still standing were uninhabitable, just a bunch of ruins. It was a shame.
Antibiotics were recycled during WWII
In 1928, a potent and effective antibiotic was discovered and like most things, it became very high in demand during World War II. It was so widely sought in fact, that doctors went so far as to begin recycling it. They would extract the drug from the urine of the soldiers already taking it, then re-use it on other soldiers.
A happy and newly liberated France
Pictured here is the aftermath of the battle of Normandy. The battle led to the successful liberation of France from the hold of Germany. As you can see, everyone was relieved and grateful the battle was won. Here are crowds of citizens greeting and thanking American soldiers for helping them.
People in South Vietnam were desperate to escape during the war
You can feel the sense of urgency in this photograph. People in South Vietnam were fleeing any way they could during the war. This is the gate of the United States Embassy in South Vietnam. Hundreds of people were crowded outside, desperate to climb over and get a seat on one of the last few helicopters out.
A look at the war torn streets of Italy
Pictured here are American servicemen, driving down the ravaged streets of a town in Italy destroyed by WWII. This photograph was taken in May of 1944, at this point in Italy the Allies at Anzio were linking up with Allies from south Italy.
During the Korean War, Railroad tracks were rigged with explosives
During the Korean War the American military had a new mission that came about: train busting. It was a real doozy. Soldiers would get in as close to the shore as possible, and then they'd start launching shells inland to wreck railroad tracks, trains, and bridges. The goal was to stop or at least delay the movement of troops and supplies to the North Koreans and the Communist Chinese forces.
And look at this photograph, taken on April 13th, 1951. It shows a group of British Royal Marines on a railroad track in Songjin, South Korea. These guys are no joke, they're setting up some demolition charges on those tracks, fully knowing that the enemy troops were planning to use them later that very same day. It's some real gutsy stuff, but that's just how these guys rolled.
Remnants of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam
This photo was taken near the outskirts of Saigon. The Army of the Republic of Vietnam would shed their uniforms, including their shoes in attempts to hide their true identities from possible threats. As can be seen, drivers would be bombarded with pieces of former identities scattered all along the road.
One of the war torn areas of Japan was Yokohama
Between April 1942 and August 1945, Yokohama, Japan was the target of multiple aerial bombs. The thing is, much of Yokohama had already been destroyed back in 1923 by the Great Kantō earthquake. They worked so hard to rebuilt from the rubble only to have WWII destroy it all over again. Pictured here is a resident among the scattered remnants of what was once his home.
Americans made dummy tanks to trick the Germans
US soldiers created phantom armies in efforts to throw off the Germans. This ensured the German’s couldn’t confirm their actual positioning. Fake tanks weren't enough though, they even included pre-recorded audio to make them more convincing. All this was executed in Operation Fortitude to help secure the element of surprise for the attack on Normandy.
Escaping over the damaged bridge in Pyongyang
This startling photograph is of the bridge in the capital city of Korea, Pyongyang. It had been badly damaged during the course of the war but as you can see, refugees from various corners of Korea all flocked there. They were desperately scrambling over the bridge in efforts to escape south of the Taedong River.
Fleeing the Korean War
Families were forced to flee their country in order to keep their loved ones alive. In this picture, we can see a father carrying his son across the sea and to safer ground.
Young American soldiers gathered together to enjoy a popular comedy series The Jack Benny Show. Starring the man himself, the show which was very successful in the 1950s, displayed the adventures of the comedian and his friends.
Acts of Rebellion
In the Korean War, the South Korean soldiers were right there alongside the U.S. troops, and they had a pretty important mission: to prevent any kind of rebellion against the Rhee government.
And look at this photo above, it's a real doozy. You've got these South Korean soldiers who are in the process of arresting some communist detainees that they believed could inspire others to rebel, and that's the last thing that the Rhee government wanted.
It's a tense situation, to say the least. These soldiers are on high alert, ready to do whatever it takes to keep things under control.
Communist Rebels Marching to Trial
Two armed soldiers can be seen standing guard in a community in Korea. Meanwhile, in the background, thick black smoke arises as an entire village is consumed and destroyed by fire.
Families Were Ripped Apart During the Korean War
Recruits Waiting For Training
Captured Soldiers on Their Way To an Unknown Future
Alright, let's talk about some serious numbers here. A total of 635,000 tons of bombs were dropped on Korea, and get this: 32,557 tons of that was pure napalm. That's some serious heat right there. To put it in perspective, the U.S. dropped 1.6 million tons in the European theater and 500,000 tons in the Pacific theater during the entirety of World War II (including 160,000 on Japan).
To see the real devastation that this kind of bombing can cause, just take a look at this picture. It shows the aftermath of a battle in Seoul, with a group of distressed Koreans gathered around a companion amidst the wreckage of the war. The destruction is absolutely staggering, and it's the kind of thing that can haunt you for the rest of your days. It's a reminder that war is hell, and that there's nothing glamorous about it. It's just destruction and devastation, plain and simple.
SETTING THE TRAP
Take a look at this photo from April 13th, 1951 in Songjin, South Korea. You've got these British Royal Marines who are on a serious mission. They're placing demolition charges on a rail track that the enemy troopers were planning to use later on in the day.
These guys are experts at what they do, and they know just how important it is to destroy these train lines. It's not just about destabilizing the enemy - although that's certainly a big part of it. It's also about making it impossible for them to transport the things they need to survive, like food, weapons, and medical supplies.
War is all about strategy, and these Marines are putting their skills to good use. They know that every little thing they do can make a difference in the outcome of the war, and they're not going take any chances. They're going do whatever it takes to get the job done, no matter how dangerous it might be.
During a battle with Chinese soldiers, a Turkish UN solider ambushed the enemy troopers and overpowered them. The triumphant soldier is shown above, sitting on the mule he captured from the battle.
MAY 10TH, 1951
Prisoners of War
Let's talk about the brave men on the front lines of the Korean War. These Marines were the real deal, facing off against the enemy in battle after battle. Many of them suffered serious injuries during these fights, wounds that would have been fatal in previous wars.
But in Korea, things were different. Thanks to some major advancements in medical technology, these wounded soldiers had a much higher chance of survival. That's because of a couple of key things: the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, or MASH unit, and the aeromedical evacuation system.
These were technologies that had been used to a limited extent before, but in the Korean War, they came into their own. And it was the helicopter that really stole the show. According to Army Major William G. Howard, the helicopter "fundamentally changed the Army's medical-evacuation doctrine."
It's hard to overstate just how big of an impact this had on the war effort. The fatality rate for seriously wounded soldiers dropped to just 2.5 percent, half of what it was in World War II. That means that countless lives were saved, and countless families were spared the heartbreak of losing a loved one. It's a testament to the bravery and ingenuity of the men and women who fought in that war, and to the power of human innovation in the face of adversity.
Camouflage Was a Huge Part of the Korean War
The remnants of war linger on as this haunting photograph from August 1950 shows. Akok, a once-thriving village in the northern region of South Korea, now lies in smoldering ruins, a testament to the ruthless devastation of conflict. In total, an unfathomable 635,000 tons of bombs, including 32,557 tons of napalm, were dropped on Korea, which far exceeded the 1.6 million tons dropped on the European theater and 500,000 tons on the Pacific theater combined during the entirety of World War II.
September 15TH, 1950, time to re-up
General MacArthur Makes an Official Visit
In the photograph, you see a cool and collected General Douglas MacArthur donning a sleek leather jacket as he takes a tour of the newly opened Inchon Front in Western Korea. This snap was taken on the 19th of September, 1950. It was during the brutal and bloody Korean War that the U.S. Marines made their way to Inchon, a location deemed too risky by many, but insisted upon by the U.N. Supreme Commander, MacArthur.
Facing moderate resistance, the Marines were able to secure the location by early evening. The daring landing proved a brilliant move as it cut the North Korean forces in half, allowing the U.S.-led U.N. force to recapture Seoul, the South Korean capital which had previously fallen to the communists. Allied forces then converged from both the north and the south, decimating the North Korean army and taking a whopping 125,000 enemy troops captive.
The Aftermath of the Battle of Taejon
The Battle of Taejon was a brutal and bloody affair, an early engagement of the Korean War where the Americans had attempted to hold the line against the communists. The beleaguered forces of the United States Army had tried to defend the headquarters of the 24th Infantry Division, but they were no match for the relentless onslaught of the numerically superior North Korean Army. The 24th Infantry Division's regiments were already battered and exhausted from the previous two weeks of delaying actions to stem the advance of the KPA. The American death toll was staggering, with 1,128 men killed and 228 wounded, and almost 2,400 missing, most of these brave souls from the 34th Infantry. The conflict was fierce and unrelenting, but by the time the battle ended, the United States had moved enough forces onto the Korean Peninsula to roughly equal the number of attacking North Korean forces.
Invaders from the Outside
A Polish midwife named Stanislawa Leszcynska delivered over 3,000 babies at the Auschwitz concentration camp
In a Polish concentration camp, Stanislawa Leszcynska, a midwife, was forced to assist the Gestapo in Auschwitz during the Holocaust. She delivered over 3,000 babies, many of whom were killed in a barbaric act. After being transported to the camp with her daughter, Stanislawa and her daughter were tattooed with camp numbers 41335 and 41336 respectively. Once in the camp, she met the infamous Dr. Mengele, who advised her to document birth issues and diseases.
In her work, The Report of a Midwife from Auschwitz, she detailed how the newborns were taken away and drowned in a barrel by Schwester Klara, who was imprisoned for infanticide, and her assistant Schwester Pfani. The expectant mothers did not realize what would happen to their babies, and many traded their meager rations for fabric to make diapers. Of the 3,000 deliveries she performed, only 30 infants survived in the care of their mothers. The rest, about 2,500, were killed, and a few hundred with blue eyes were taken to be Germanized. Stanislawa remained the camp's midwife until it was liberated on January 26, 1945, leaving behind a devastating legacy.
Toilet Paper Troubles
Toilet paper was a luxury item that became a wartime requirement. The rationing of the precious commodity was felt by both British and American soldiers, with the Brits receiving a paltry three sheets a day and the Yanks getting a more generous, but still meager, twenty-two. One can only wonder how they managed to make do with such a meager supply. However, the Waldorf brand of toilet paper was there to ease the strain, made for the US Army by Scott Tissue. The history of the Waldorf brand dates back to 1890, making it the first paper sold in rolls. In a time where most Americans were still using newspaper or pages from the Sears catalog, Waldorf was a welcome upgrade.
Calvin Graham, the brave little seaman who left for battle from the Philadelphia Navy Yard in the summer of 1942, was only 12 years old. Graham was already plotting his way to war at 11 years old, living in a cheap rooming house in Crockett, Texas, with his older brother. With a stepfather who was abusive and six other siblings at home, Calvin had to sell newspapers and deliver telegrams to make ends meet.
His mother would occasionally come around to sign his report cards, but his life had become a daily grind. When his cousins died in battle, Calvin decided he needed to join the Navy to do his part. To get around the age limit, he forged his mother's signature, put on his brother's clothes, fedora and shoes, practiced "talking deep," and lied to the recruiters. At 5-foot-2 and just 125 pounds, he knew the dentist would spot his age by his teeth.
So he told the dentist that the guys in front of him weren't really 17 yet, and the dentist finally let him through. Graham's heroic effort was enough to fool the Navy, which was struggling at the time, and he set out to make a difference in the war.
Nazi Medical Research Was Nothing More Than Torture
Between 1939 and 1945, the Third Reich conducted at least seventy medical research projects involving barbaric and often lethal experimentation on human subjects in Nazi concentration camps. The experiments were conducted by established institutions within the Third Reich and were classified into three categories: research aimed at enhancing the survival and rescue of German troops; testing of medical procedures and pharmaceuticals; and experiments that aimed to confirm Nazi racial ideology. Over seven thousand victims of such medical experiments have been documented, their lives and dignity cruelly snuffed out in the name of research.
The Medical Case, the inaugural of twelve subsequent Nuremberg proceedings tried by the American Nuremberg Military Tribunal, kicked off on October 25, 1946. The trial featured twenty-three physicians, scientists, and other senior officials in the Nazi medical administration and army. Seven of the accused were sentenced to death and executed; nine were handed lengthy prison sentences; and seven were acquitted. Several notorious perpetrators were never brought to justice for their unspeakable acts, including the likes of Josef Mengele, the infamous doctor at Auschwitz-Birkenau, who fled to South America, and Horst Schumann, who was deemed physically unfit to stand trial in the 1960s.
Adolf Hitler, a name that still chills the bones of anyone who knows anything about history. The Führer, the man responsible for one of the most catastrophic events of the twentieth century, had a nephew who fought for the Allies in World War II. A detail that most people are oblivious of. William Hitler, born William Patrick Stuart-Houston, was an American soldier who served in the US Navy, fighting against his malevolent uncle's regime. It's important to establish here that he was no quisling, no Nazi spy, but a man who fought with sincerity and revulsion for the repugnant actions of his infamous uncle. However, the fact that he was able to serve in the US Navy was an enigma in itself.
Nonetheless, William was resolute in his determination to serve his country. He made numerous attempts before eventually seeing action fighting for the Allies. He didn't let the stigma of his surname deter him from his mission. In a letter addressed to President Roosevelt, he explained why he moved to America from the UK:
The British are an insular people, and while they are kind and courteous, it is my impression, rightly or wrongly, that they could not in the long term feel overly cordial or sympathetic towards an individual bearing the name I do.
It wasn't until 1944 that William was deployed to the front lines, but he made his mark on the battlefield. Despite serving as a hospital corpsman in the Navy for three years, he didn't spend his last year patching up other soldiers. At one point, he was hit by shrapnel in his leg, an incident that earned him the Purple Heart, a prestigious military decoration. William Hitler may have shared blood ties with one of the most heinous villains of all time, but he proved to the world that the sins of the uncle should not be visited upon the nephew.
Nine American soldiers survived when their plane crashed during a WWII mission. Eight were captured by the Japanese and eaten. The survivor was George H.W. Bush, the future President of the United States of America.
World War II, a time of death and destruction, was also a period of remarkable progress in medical technology. One of the most significant developments was the mass production of penicillin, an extraordinary pharmaceutical that changed the course of modern medicine. On March 14, 1942, U.S. made-penicillin saved the life of the first patient suffering from septicemia, a life-threatening condition caused by blood poisoning.
At the beginning of World War II, the mold known as Penicillium notatum had already earned its stripes in laboratories for inhibiting the growth of specific bacteria. However, the pharmaceutical we know today as penicillin was still a mere pipe dream. Several American pharmaceutical companies had toyed with Fleming's mold, but none had seriously pursued its potential, leaving it as nothing more than a novelty. Only after a visit by Oxford scientists Howard Florey and Norman Heatley in the summer of 1941 did American officials begin to realize the compound's potential.
The road to making penicillin a clinical and commercial success was paved with numerous challenges and relied on a vast array of resources, both human and scientific. Military leaders recognized that penicillin would play a critical role in the recovery of their wounded soldiers, and they mobilized the necessary resources instead of prioritizing their economic goals. Mold samples, classified reports, and scientists traversed the country and the world, fostering collaboration among diverse scientists involved in the project and providing access to an unprecedented network of scientific exchange. The result was a breakthrough that altered the course of medical history.
Through the Ringer
Taking Loyalty To A Whole New Level
Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese intelligence officer, was a man of unwavering determination. He held his ground on the Philippines' Lubang Island, long after World War Two was over, for almost three decades. He was a soldier who refused to surrender until his former commander relieved him of his duties.
In the final days of the war, Onoda was a lieutenant stationed on Lubang, a minuscule island in the Philippines. Soon after his arrival, a US attack forced the Japanese combatants to retreat into the jungle. But Onoda refused to yield and remained concealed on the island for nearly 30 years. In 1959, the Japanese government declared him dead, but he was still very much alive, devoted to a covert mission that demanded he safeguard the island until the imperial army's return. In his mind, the war had never ended, and he was resolute in his conviction.
During World War II, Russian troops forced legions of convicts to run through minefields ahead of advancing troops. The goal was to have the convicts weed out the mines to prevent the soldiers from walking into them. It was a cruel tactic, but completely in-line with the depravity exhibited during the war.
January 20, 1944, marked the birth of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, known by its otherworldly moniker: the "Ghost Army." The first-ever mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit in US Army history, the Ghost Army was a top-secret operation designed to trick the Germans during the final year of World War II. Led by Army veteran Colonel Harry L. Reeder, the unit consisted of 82 officers and 1,023 men, all skilled in the art of subterfuge.
With nothing heavier than .50 caliber machine guns, the 23rd simulated two whole divisions, a staggering 30,000 men, using visual, sonic, and radio deception to hoodwink the Germans. From Normandy to the Rhine River, the unit staged 22 large-scale deceptions in Europe, with the majority of the group landing in England in May 1944, just before D-Day. Conceived by Colonel Billy Harris and Major Ralph Ingersoll, two American military planners based in London, the unit comprised a unique blend of artists, engineers, professional soldiers, and draftees. It included several illustrious names, such as fashion designer Bill Blass, painter Ellsworth Kelly, and photographer Art Kane, among others.
The 23rd was no ragtag bunch of amateurs. Many of its members were West Point graduates or former Army Specialized Training Program participants, and it boasted one of the highest IQs in the Army, with an average of 119. The unit deployed inflatable tanks and vehicles, fake radio traffic, sound effects, and even phony generals, utilizing their imagination and illusion to confound the enemy and, in the process, save thousands of lives. Together with the 3133rd Signal Service Company in Italy, the Ghost Army played a pivotal role in liberating Europe from the clutches of Nazi tyranny.
Nazi Henry Ford
Henry Ford, a prominent figure in the automobile industry, was not without his prejudices. His anti-Semitic views reflected the fears and assumptions of many Americans during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Anti-Semitism in America evolved in both expression and virulence with the influx of millions of Jews who emigrated from Europe during Ford's youth in the latter half of the 19th century.
The peak of this hateful movement occurred during the mid-1920s, a time of rampant discrimination, when the Ku Klux Klan claimed a membership of four million, Prohibition put a clamp on alcohol consumption, and immigration policies favored immigrants from northern and western Europe over other regions of the world.
It's impossible to gauge what would have happened if Henry Ford hadn't existed. Would the anti-Semitic brigade have been even more belligerent? We'll never know. The US government knew all too well the extent of anti-Semitism and how much it constrained their options, embodied by Ford himself. It was a pervasive attitude that shackled them, a cruel and confining reality.
Calling All Nurses
World War II witnessed the unwavering service of 59,000 American nurses. At the time of the brutal attack on Pearl Harbor, the Army Nurse Corps had listed only 1,000 nurses on its rolls. But following the devastating attack, the rolls swelled to 12,000, and the nurses were summoned to serve even closer to the battlegrounds than before, under constant threat of gunfire. Their skill and devotion proved invaluable, as the U.S. military experienced an astonishingly low rate of death following injury. Less than four percent of soldiers who were treated in the field for wounds or disease perished, thanks to the diligence and courage of these selfless nurses.
Okinawa vs D-Day
The battle of Okinawa was a portent of the inevitable invasion of mainland Japan. On April 1, 1945, more than 60,000 soldiers and U.S. Marines of the 10th Army descended on Okinawa. Initially, the Japanese offered little resistance, but then the fight intensified on the southern end of the island, and the conflict raged for three months on land, sea, and air. The torrential rain and the uneven terrain made navigation an arduous task, providing the Japanese with strategic positions to mount their defense.
Although the U.S. troops ultimately emerged victorious, more than 12,000 American soldiers perished in the fight, with another 49,000 Americans sustaining injuries. The casualties on the Japanese side were equally staggering, with more than 100,000 combatants and as many as 150,000 civilians losing their lives.
The Attack on Pearl Harbor that Brought America Into World War II
At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time on December 7, 1941, a Japanese dive bomber appeared out of the clouds above Oahu, sporting the ominous red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed in its wake, hurtling toward the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a savage assault. The sudden attack inflicted a crippling blow on the U.S. Pacific fleet, yanking the United States irrevocably into the quagmire of World War II.
Much of the Pacific fleet was decimated: Five of the eight battleships, three destroyers, and seven other ships were either sunk or severely damaged, and more than 200 aircraft were destroyed. The casualty count was staggering: 2,400 Americans perished, with 1,200 more left wounded, many of them bravely battling to repel the onslaught. Japan's losses were comparatively minuscule, with just 30 planes, five midget submarines, and fewer than 100 men lost. Fortunately, all three Pacific fleet carriers were out at sea during the raid, undergoing training maneuvers. These colossal aircraft carriers would go on to exact their revenge against Japan six months later in the Battle of Midway, dealing a staggering blow to the previously invincible Japanese navy and reversing the tide of the war.
Concentration Camp Tragedy
Even after concentration camp members were freed by the Allied Forces, many of them were so ravaged by the conditions they were forced to live through that they died shortly after they were freed.
Many Jewish survivors were wary of returning to their former homes due to the lingering specter of antisemitism that persisted throughout parts of Europe and the profound trauma they had endured. Some who did return home lived in constant fear for their lives. In postwar Poland, for instance, the scourge of violent anti-Jewish riots known as pogroms continued to rear its ugly head. One of the most appalling of these events took place in the town of Kielce in 1946, as Polish rioters savagely killed at least 42 Jews and mercilessly beat many others.