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Weekly Series

December 13, 2014

World War II in Photographs

Focussing on the lesser known aspects of history's greatest struggle

German panzergrenadiers advance into Russia along with a Panzer III, summer 1941.

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The Second World War holds an unending fascination for people today. It's hardly any wonder, the war was the largest single event in human history that took an extraordinary toll in lives, perhaps 60 million over its course. From the war's European start in 1939 to its conclusion in 1945, an average of 30,000 people died every single day.

In the English speaking world the rough outlines of the war's course are known to virtually all. Poland and Dunkirk, Pearl Harbour and Midway, Stalingrad and D-Day, the surrender of Germany and the atomic bombing of Japan. Yet in a war that affected even the remotest corners of the globe there are many campaigns that have been neglected in the popular consciousness. Though they profoundly impacted the countries they involved, in the English speaking world few people are aware they even occurred. Campaigns like the ones in Finland and East Africa, Borneo and China.

My aim here is to focus on these largely underrepresented campaigns while corraling together all the most fascinating and horrifying photographs I've come across studying the war. I'll seek to explain the conflict, not only what happened but why in an accessible and interesting manner, looking in in detail at armies and equipment, generals and the military effectiveness of competing enemies. I won't dwell too long on the well-rehearsed battles like those fought in Northwest Europe in 1944-45. Instead I'll devote time to aspects of the war I feel have been underrepresented in the popular media. I'm not a historian but I have a strong grasp of military history and will rely fully on historians for the information presented here.

Every week I'll add a new campaign to this study. Be sure to keep checking back!

A British officer leads his troops into combat at the Battle of El Alamein, November 1942.

U-31 sinking after it has been forced to the surface by depth charges from the destroyer Antelope. 44 of the 46 crew survived (this U-Boat had been previously sunk just outside its port by British bombers with the loss of all hands, but raised and repaired).

Russian troops and T-34/76 Mod. 43's advance through a German mortar barrage during the Battle of Kursk, July 1943.

A crater from German bombs during the Blitz in 1940. The bomb had penetrated into a tube station, killing 60 people huddled inside for protection.

American troops scramble to react to sudden Japanese resistance during the Bougainville Campaign, March 1944.

A kamikaze plane, looks like a Zero, photographed miliseconds before carrying out its mission in 1945.

An Sd. Kfz. 251 halftrack of the 21st Panzer Division in North Africa, 1942.

An American B-24 Liberator breaks in half after being hit by a rocket fired by a Me-262 jet fighter in 1945.

A flight of Pe-2 bombers zooms overhead as Soviet troops pick their way past a knocked out JS-2 (Joseph Stalin) on their way to the Reichstag.

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