Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. Service Members who died while in the military service. First enacted by formerly enslaved African-Americans to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War – it was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in all wars. Here are a series of historic photos recalling World War II.
The Second World War was documented on a huge scale by thousands of photographers and artists who created millions of pictures. American military photographers representing all of the armed services covered the battlefronts around the world. Every activity of the war was depicted–training, combat, support services, and much more. On the home front, the many federal war agencies produced and collected pictures, posters, and cartoons on such subjects as war production, rationing, and civilian relocation. (click images to view in a new tab if too large to view, that will reduce size)
“Hitler accepts the ovation of the Reichstag after announcing the `peaceful’ acquisition of Austria. It set the stage to annex the Czechoslovakian Sudetenland, largely inhabited by a German- speaking population.” Berlin, March 1938. 208-N-39843.
Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, Germany, ca. June 1940. 242-EB-7-38.
“A Frenchman weeps as German soldiers march into the French capital, Paris, on June 14, 1940, after the Allied armies had been driven back across France.” 208-PP-10A-3.
“USS SHAW exploding during the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.” December 7, 1941. 80-G-16871.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the Declaration of War against Japan, December 8, 1941. 79-AR-82.
“Stars over Berlin and Tokyo will soon replace these factory lights reflected in the noses of planes at Douglas Aircraft’s Long Beach, Calif., plant. Women workers groom lines of transparent noses for deadly A-20 attack bombers.” Alfred Palmer, October 1942. 208-AA-352QQ-5.
“Officer at periscope in control room of submarine.” Ca. 1942. 80-G-11258.
“Howard A. Wooten.” Graduated December 1944 from Air Corps School, Tuskegee, AL. Ca. December 1944. 18-T-44-K-17.
“Back to a Coast Guard assault transport comes this Marine after two days and nights of Hell on the beach of Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands. His face is grimey with coral dust but the light of battle stays in his eyes.” February 1944. 26-G-3394.
“Landing on the coast of France under heavy Nazi machine gun fire are these American soldiers, shown just as they left the ramp of a Coast Guard landing boat.” CPhoM. Robert F. Sargent, June 6, 1944. 26-G-2343.
“Nurses of a field hospital who arrived in France via England and Egypt after three years service.” Parker, August 12, 1944. 112-SGA-44-10842.
“Cpl. Carlton Chapman…is a machine-gunner in an M-4 tank, attached to a Motor Transport unit near Nancy, France.” 761st Mt. Bn. November 5, 1944. Ryan. 111-SC-196106-S.
“Flag raising on Iwo Jima.” Joe Rosenthal, Associated Press, February 23, 1945. 80-G-413988.
“Standing in the grassy sod bordering row upon row of white crosses in an American cemetery, two dungaree-clad Coast Guardsmen pay silent homage to the memory of a fellow Coast Guardsman who lost his life in action in the Ryukyu Islands.” Benrud, ca. 1945. 26-G-4739.
“Pfc Angelo B. Reina, 391st Inf. Regt., guards a lonely Oahu beach position. Kahuku, Oahu.” Rosenberg, Hawaii, March 1945. 111-SC-221867.
“Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., pilot of the ENOLA GAY, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, waves from his cockpit before the takeoff, 6 August 1945.” 208-LU-13H-5.
“New York City celebrating the surrender of Japan. They threw anything and kissed anybody in Times Square.” Lt. Victor Jorgensen, August 14, 1945. 80-G-377094.
“Persons of Japanese ancestry arrive at the Santa Anita Assembly Center from San Pedro. Evacuees lived at this center at the former Santa Anita race track before being moved inland to relocation centers.” Clem Albers, Arcadia, CA, April 5, 1942. 210-G-3B-414.
“A PT marksman provides a striking camera study as he draws a bead with his 50 caliber machine gun on his boat off New Guinea.” July 1943. 80-G-53871.
“USS BUNKER HILL burning after Jap suicide attack.” Near Okinawa, May 11, 1945. 80-G-274266.
“A Chinese soldier guards a line of American P-40 fighter planes, painted with the shark-face emblem of the `Flying Tigers,’ at a flying field somewhere in China.” Ca. 1942. 208-AA-12X-21
“Dynamic static. The motion of its props causes an `aura’ to form around this F6F on USS YORKTOWN. Rotating with blades, halo moves aft, giving depth and perspective.” November 1943. 80-G-204747A.
“Standing up gloriously out of the flames and smoke of surrounding buildings, St. Paul’s Cathedral is pictured during the great fire raid of Sunday December 29th.” 1940. 306-NT-3173V.
Gen. Erwin Rommel with the 15th Panzer Division between Tobruk and Sidi Omar. Sdf. Zwilling, Libya, January or November 24, 1941. 242-EAPC-6-M713a.
. “General Bernard L. Montgomery watches his tanks move up.” North Africa, November 1942. 208-PU-138LL-3.
“Lt. Col. Lyle Bernard, CO, 30th Infantry Regiment, a prominent figure in the second daring amphibious landing behind enemy lines on Sicily’s north coast, discusses military strategy with Lt. Gen. George S. Patton. Near Brolo.” 1943. 111-SC-246532.
“Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower gives the order of the Day. ‘Full victory-nothing else’ to paratroopers in England, just before they board their airplanes to participate in the first assault in the invasion of the continent of Europe.” Moore, June 6, 1944. 111-SC-194399.
“Gen. Douglas MacArthur wades ashore during initial landings at Leyte, P.I.” October 1944. 111-SC-407101.
“A dense column of smoke rises more than 60,000 feet into the air over the Japanese port of Nagasaki, the result of an atomic bomb, the second ever used in warfare, dropped on the industrial center August 8, 1945, from a U.S. B-29 Superfortress.” 208-N-43888.
In the background, a Roman Catholic cathedral on a hill in Nagasaki. Ca. 1945. 77-AEC-52-4459.
Prisoners in the concentration camp at Sachsenhausen, Germany, December 19, 1938. 242-HLB-3609-25
“Starving inmate of Camp Gusen, Austria.” T4c. Sam Gilbert, May 12, 1945. 111-SC-264918.
“The endless procession of German prisoners captured with the fall of Aachen marching through the ruined city streets to captivity.” Germany, October 1944. 260-MGG-1061-1
“American soldiers, stripped of all equipment, lie dead, face down in the slush of a crossroads somewhere on the western front.” Captured German photograph. Belgium, ca. December 1944. 111-SC-198245.
“A Coast Guard seaman died at his battle station aboard the USS MENGES, torpedoed by a nazi sub in the Mediterranean. He represents the old Coast Guard expression, `You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.'” PhoM1c. Arthur Green. 26-G-2330.
“Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, signing the ratified surrender terms for the German Army at Russian Headquarters in Berlin.” Lt. Moore, Germany, May 7, 1945. 111-SC-206292.
“Jubilant American soldier hugs motherly English woman and victory smiles light the faces of happy service men and civilians at Piccadilly Circus, London, celebrating Germany’s unconditional surrender.” Pfc. Melvin Weiss, England, May 7, 1945. 111-SC-205398.
“The famous British liner, QUEEN MARY, arrives in New York Harbor, June 20, 1945, with thousands of U.S. troops from European battles.” 80-GK-5645.*
“These Jewish children are on their way to Palestine after having been released from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. The girl on the left is from Poland, the boy in the center from Latvia, and the girl on right from Hungary.” T4c. J. E. Myers, June 5, 1945. 111-SC-207907.
“GI’s at the Rainbow Corner Red Cross Club in Paris, France, whoop it up after buying the special edition of the Paris Post, which carried the banner headline, `JAPS QUIT.'” T3c. G. Lempeotis, August 10, 1945. 111-SC-210208.
“Photo taken at the instant bullets from a French firing squad hit a Frenchman who collaborated with the Germans. This execution took place in Rennes, France.” Himes, November 21, 1944. 111-SC-196741.
At the White House, President Truman announces Japan’s surrender. Abbie Rowe, Washington, DC, August 14, 1945. 79-AR-508Q.
“Bones of anti-Nazi German women still are in the crematoriums in the German concentration camp at Weimar, Germany, taken by the 3rd U.S. Army. Prisoners of all nationalities were tortured and killed.” Pfc. W. Chichersky, April 14, 1945. 111-SC- 203461. (ww2_182.jpg)
“A truck load of bodies of prisoners of the Nazis, in the Buchenwald concentration camp at Weimar, Germany. The bodies were about to be disposed of by burning when the camp was captured by troops of the 3rd U.S. Army.” Pfc. W. Chichersky, April 14, 1945. 111-SC-203464. (ww2_181.jpg)
“A German girl is overcome as she walks past the exhumed bodies of some of the 800 slave workers murdered by SS guards near Namering, Germany, and laid here so that townspeople may view the work of their Nazi leaders.” Cpl. Edward Belfer. May 17, 1945. 111-SC-264895
“Conference of the Big Three at Yalta makes final plans for the defeat of Germany. Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Premier Josef Stalin.” February 1945. 111-SC-260486.
American generals: seated left to right are William H. Simpson, George S. Patton, Jr., Carl Spaatz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Courtney H. Hodges, and Leonard T. Gerow; standing are Ralph F. Stearley, Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Walter Bedell Smith, Otto P. Weyland, and Richard E. Nugent. Ca. 1945. 208-YE-182.
. “With torn picture of his feuhrer beside his clenched fist, a dead general of the Volkssturm lies on the floor of city hall, Leipzig, Germany. He committed suicide rather than face U.S. Army troops who captured the city on April 19. 1945.” T5c. J. M. Heslop. 208-YE-148.
“The Tapel Massacre on 1 July 1945. Picture shows Pedro Cerono, the man who discovered the group of 8 skulls. Tapel, Cagayan Province, Luzon, Philippine Islands.” T5c. Lewis D. Klein, November 23, 1945. 111-SC-227909.
“American prisoners of war celebrate the 4th of July in the Japanese prison camp of Casisange in Malaybalay, on Mindanao, P.I. It was against Japanese regulations and discovery would have meant death, but the men celebrated the occasion anyway.” July 4, 1942. 111-SC-333290. (ww2_172.jpg)
“Correspondents interview `Tokyo Rose.’ Iva Toguri, American-born Japanese.” September 1945. 80-G-490488.
“Japanese POW’s at Guam, with bowed heads after hearing Emperor Hirohito make announcement of Japan’s unconditional surrender.” August 15, 1945. 80-G-490320. (ww2_175.jpg)
“The 90th Division discovered this Reichsbank wealth, SS loot, and Berlin museum paintings that were removed from Berlin to a salt mine in Merkers, Germany.” Cpl. Donald R. Ornitz, April 15, 1945. 239-PA-6-34-2.