Famous War Photos

This hub is dedicated to the most emotional and powerful images of war I have ever come across. It is not a partisan propaganda piece for war, ideology or philosophy. The courage, fear, anger and dread that many of these photos inspire are a testament and tribute to human nature and an awe-inspiring look at what human beings are capable of; for good or for ill.

From the American Civil War, to the Iraq War and beyond -- I have attempted to make this hub as inexplicit as possible but some pictures may nevertheless be disturbing, but that after-all is the nature of war. A more powerful message does not exist. 

The flag raisers of Iwo Jima.
The flag raisers of Iwo Jima.

The World Wars

The two greatest wars in recorded history need no introduction. Most pictures will require little context (such as the one below) others will require some foreknowledge in order to be understood correctly. I have tried to research the photos as accurately as possible, but in some cases there are differing views and some controversy (usually stemming from a political standpoint), in almost all scenarios I have gone with the majority view. 

Invasion Of France, 1940

National Archives - A French man reacts to the German march on Paris, June 14 1940. His expression speaks volumes.
National Archives - A French man reacts to the German march on Paris, June 14 1940. His expression speaks volumes.
Nuremberg Rally, 1934 -Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive)
Nuremberg Rally, 1934 -Deutsches Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archive)

The Nazis used aesthetics and symmetry as symbols of power and unity. This often led to dazzling public displays such as the 1934 Nuremberg rally (right).

Situated at the heart of the German Reich, Nuremberg was the perfect place for the Nazis to hold their rallies and attract as much attention as possible.

One look at this picture reminds us (well -- me) of how easy it must have been to succumb to the pressure. Either by fear or by awe, the use of symmetry and the continuous incessant propaganda of unity were a very powerful tool, in competent hands.This process is evidenced by the fact that each recurring Rally hosted a larger and large number of participants, which ended up hosting as many as 500,000 people from all branches of the socialist party.



Kiss

V-Day In Times Square - Alfred Eisenstaedt
V-Day In Times Square - Alfred Eisenstaedt

Kissing the war goodbye

  • V Day In Times Square

Alfred Eisenstaedt's photo shows a sailor kissing a young woman in a white dress on August 14, 1945. Later published on LIFE magazine this photo rose to notoriety due to the context within which it was shot which was the end of the war.

Eisenstaed later commented on his picture in his book, "The eye of Eisenstaed":

I was walking through the crowds on V-J Day, looking for pictures. I noticed a sailor coming my way. He was grabbing every female he could find and kissing them all — young girls and old ladies alike. Then I noticed the nurse, standing in that enormous crowd. I focused on her, and just as I'd hoped, the sailor came along, grabbed the nurse, and bent down to kiss her. Now if this girl hadn't been a nurse, if she'd been dressed dark clothes, I wouldn't have had a picture. The contrast between her white dress and the sailor's dark uniform gives the photograph its extra impact.



Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth

National Archives - A very young soldier lost in thought.
National Archives - A very young soldier lost in thought.

Vietnam

The Vietnam war, or the second Indochina war spanned between September 26, 1959 to April 30, 1975. This was one of the first major wars to feature embedded journalists that captured the war in color. Due to this, there is an immense spectrum of readily available photography that exposes the reality of war, in all its shades of purpose and meaning.

The role of journalists was instrumental in creating an opposition to the war. The U.S became divided by "Hawks" (pro-war advocates) and "Doves" (anti-war), and to this day remains a divisive issue in contemporary politics.

I have tried to capture an assortment of pictures, not only action oriented, but also personifications of war (right) and the day-to-day life of soldiers.

I chose this first photo on the right to underline the ambiguity of war. An obviously young, underage soldier is found fighting for his country in the jungles of Vietnam -- a kid young enough to resemble our children, and grandchildren.

"Flying under radar control with a B-66 Destroyer, Air Force F-105 Thunderchief pilots bomb a military target through low clouds over the southern panhandle of North Viet Nam. June 14, 1966" - Colonel Cecil J. Poss, 20th TRS USAF (National Archives)
"Flying under radar control with a B-66 Destroyer, Air Force F-105 Thunderchief pilots bomb a military target through low clouds over the southern panhandle of North Viet Nam. June 14, 1966" - Colonel Cecil J. Poss, 20th TRS USAF (National Archives)

Caught between warring factions the ultimate victims of war are inevitably civilians.

Staff Sgt Wayne Smith - September 1970
Staff Sgt Wayne Smith - September 1970

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Comments 4 comments

stars439 profile image

stars439 6 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Fantastic photos, and a great hub. God Bless You.


djplayer profile image

djplayer 5 years ago from St.Charles

I think this is kind of cool.


MatthewDavenport profile image

MatthewDavenport 5 years ago from Warsaw, MO

very informative..Those pictures will long out last us.


Michael Giggs profile image

Michael Giggs 4 years ago from London

Photos make you think.

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