The Second World War marked the deadliest conflict in human history, spanning nearly all continents on Earth. Next to soldiers, sailors, and Marines, war photographers were there in the jungles, deserts, streets, and snow to capture not only the devastation that the war wrought, but the victories as well.
Below are some of the most poignant moments captured during the six year conflict.
On December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was moored inboard of the repair ship Vestal when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor. “The massive explosion that followed,” according to the Naval History and Heritage Command, “has never been fully explained, since the bomb apparently did not pierce Arizona's armored deck, which protected her magazines.” Over 1100 of her crew were killed, and the battleship was considered a total loss, settling at the bottom of the harbor. Sailors of the USS Tennessee can be seen at left, directing fire hoses on the oil slicked water to force flames away from their ship. The startling photo of the USS Arizona engulfed in flame swiftly became a rallying cry for the nation to “Remember Pearl Harbor.” One day after the attack the United States was at war. (Naval History and Heritage Command)
One of the only photographs taken on the day of the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1941, Jimmy Doolittle and his B-25 is first off the deck of the USS Hornet, headed for Japan. (National Archives)
Dubbed “The Weeping Frenchman,” the photo first appeared in print in Life Magazine in their March 3, 194, issue, and came to represent the grief of a nation under occupation. The book “Marseille sous l’occupation” by Lucien Gaillard identifies the man in photo as Monsieur Jerôme Barzetti, who openly cried as French flags were taken down in the city of Marseilles in September 1940. (National Archives)
Col. Dave Severance, Company Commander of Easy Company of the 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, became associated with a historic moment in American history on Feb. 23, 1945, when he responded to orders from his battalion commander to send a patrol to Mount Suribachi, the highest summit on the island described by Marine Lt. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith as a “grim, smoking rock.” Following orders from the battalion commander, the platoon hoisted an American flag on the summit. But it wasn’t the famed image captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. The Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal, upon seeing the first flag raised on Mount Suribachi, wanted to keep it as a memento. Thus a second larger flag was raised to replace it, which Rosenthal went on to document to much acclaim. (USMC)