World War 2 Pictures
Part  1



This pictorial history, with commentary, records events that dramatically or incrementally changed the world. These photographs are chronological and historical data points that shattered twenty-one years of world peace.

The war touched every continent and ocean of the globe. World War 2 destroyed many of the alliances that had fought together in the "Great War" (1914-1918) under the German flag or beneath  Allied banners.

Reversal of alliances produced contrary roles with unintended consequences-- e.g. major players: Italy and Japan; vacillating player: Russia (Soviet Union); minor player: Romania and many other lesser participants. The "Axis" countries were now global and matched the dimension of the nations that comprised the "Allies".

In March 1938, Adolph Hitler's Nazi Germany annexed (anschluss) neighboring Austria and was welcomed by its population. Less receptive was neighboring Czechoslovakia, but too weak to offer resistance to a German invasion (March 16, 1939). That country was abandoned by Great Britain and France who believed that Hitler's appetite was satisfied with this conquest. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sold that message to the English people in a moment of wishful thinking. Thus it is fitting to begin a photo tour of World War 2 with this honorable gentleman who henceforth was known for his injudicious policy of appeasement.

This new war was cruel and its human toll was upwards of sixty million deaths. Many of the photos below reflect the horror of World War 2 and were gathered by news organizations and culled from the official archives of the Allies. The effort was appropriately memorialized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States as a tribute to those who served. The photos displayed were gathered and published at wars end by this veterans organization, and we are appreciative their remarkable efforts.  

On any one day of the war, headline news stories and their accompanying photos fought each other for space. The viewer will note numbers of diverse photos occur on the same date and in different parts of the world. Owing to the volume of photographs, the format has been divided by date into several parts as provided in the Contents Box.


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September 3:  Sunday 11: 15 A.M. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain: "-----this country is at war with Germany----"

On the same day, Londoners responded to the air raid sirens.

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,Concluding this eventful day, the British liner, Athenia, was sunk by a U-boat.          
112 of the 1000 passengers did not survive.

September 12: British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) landed on French soil.

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September 17: U boat torpedo sinks H.M. Courageous (carrier) & lost its Captain.

September 27:  Poland fell to German tanks and planes and divided Poland with Russia by secret provisions in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty.

October 28: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed  joint session of Congress and they agreed to repeal arms embargo  that opened the door for aid to British and French governments. Four months earlier Roosevelt met with King George of Great Britain.

                      World War 2 Pictures

October: French Patrols on Western Front in Belgium  and search for Germans.            

November 8: Bomb plot failed to kill Hitler who left Munich beer hall 15 minutes earlier.

                          nine killed

November 30: Russia bombed Helsinki, Finland without German interference. Russian victory by March 1940, but suffer heavy casualties from Finnish ski troops. Finnish sniper, Simo Hayha, credited with 505 kills in 100 days. He used the Finnish 28/30 rifle with metal sights. Telescopic sights fogged up in the below zero cold. Russian soldiers without white outer clothing made excellent targets.

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December 17: British fleet trapped the heavy cruiser Graf Spee on Uruguay river and Germans forced to scuttle one of their great ships.


February:    Australians land at Suez Canal to support British forces in Africa.

Northern France: German's Siegfried defensive stronghold faced French Maginot Line

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British P.M. Neville Chamberlain and General Lord Gort inspected their forces in France.

March 18: Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini met at Brenner to define Italian role.

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April 8: Oil soaked survivors of British destroyer, H.M.S. Glowworm, sunk by German fleet Germans take on survivors

April 9: Denmark and Norway invaded and occupied in swift German attack.

Copenhagen                                        Oslo

Winston Churchill promised Allied aid for Norway "to the best of their ability" and bombs German positions in Bergen.

        World War 2 Pictures

April 17: First contingents of French Canadian Division arrives in Britain.

April 30:  Two firsts: 1st English casualties (2 killed, 160 injured) and 1st German bomber shot down in an English garden.

May 10: German blitzkrieg begins in Low Countries. Parachutists in vanguard land in Holland and overcome Dutch resistance in five days


Bombs strike Amsterdam. Wounded father views deceased daughter.

Chamberlain Resigns
Winston Churchill Prime Minister   

May 14: British Tommies reprise 1914 and return to defend Belgium neutrality and join Belgian troops

                          Stream of Refugees Begin

May 17: Belgian capital, Brussels, falls and King Leopold III surrenders Belgium May 29

Surrender leaves Allies left flank completely exposed, and German tanks and dive bombers lead the drive into France and to the English channel.

     In contravention of Geneva Convention, Germans bomb hospital train.

May 27-31  Amiens, Abbeville and Arras fall to the Germans, and French and British are trapped in the northern corner of France and await rescue on the Dunkirk beach.                                                   click to enlarge

The Little Armada

June 3: British and French troops evacuated by a flotilla of British ships, Royal Navy and privately owned vessels, big and small, while under German air attack and defended by Royal Air Force (R.A.F.)

PM Churchill: "--decisively defeated the main strength of the German Air Force and inflicted a loss of nearly four to one".

June3- 5:   Paris bombed and 500,000 German infantrymen follow a line of their tanks and drive on Paris.

June 10: Italy declares war on Great Britain and France. President Roosevelt responds: "stab in the back"              

                                                   Italian troops march in Rome

June 14:  Nazi swastika flies over Paris


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June 18: As France topples, the last British soldiers, not trapped in Dunkirk, hurriedly embark at Cherbourg. It will be precisely four years before the B.E.F. returns in the "D" day invasion allied with the United States.

British lose access to French Channel Ports


                                                    French 3rd Republic Falls

June 21: Hitler demands that the French surrender in the same train coach and location that Germany surrendered in World War 1 (November 11, 1918). The insult to French honor is complete.                                   


                               Nazi propaganda archive film

July 6:  A victorious Hitler returns to Berlin.

July 14:

Britain prepares for invasion of homeland.

July 29:        Nazis bomb shipping in Dover Harbor but lose nineteen planes.

Churchill:"We shall fight on the beaches.We shall never Surrender". 7/14

Battle of Britain


August 4: United States Executive Branch circumvents prohibition against outright grants of war materiel by declaring a "lend lease" arrangement with Britain and  transfers huge stores of  destroyers essential to counter U-boats.

August 6: Britain aided by Somaliland Camel Corp to fight Italian invaders, but forced to abandon the country, on the African Horn, to the Italians two weeks later.

August 25: Nazi bombs fell on the famous St. Paul's cathedral on August 16, and nine days later the German Luftwaffe again penetrated central London.

Aug 16: St. Paul's spires struck

                After One  year of war---September '39-----September '40

September 10:  R.A.F. bombs Berlin .

September 13: Italy invaded Egypt and repulsed by December11, by joint operations of British and its Dominion forces: Indian and Anzac(Australia/New Zealand)

                          Italians - - from invaders to prisoners

September 27: Japan joins Axis partnership.

October: Westminster is hit in London air raid.

October 16:             Effective date of first United States peacetime draft.

10,000,000  Americans would ultimately be drafted to fill the ranks of army, navy, marines. 


October 23: Marshal Petain takes French Vichy government into the Axis orbit.

October 28:  Greeks resist Italian Invasion .       Italians routed and retreat November 5.


November 14: Secret Intelligence technology enters new phase of warfare.

                 Primitive computer

British decipher German code (Enigma machine) and have advance warning of its intention to bomb Coventry. British High Command decides not to forewarn that city fearing it would signal to the Germans that their code was broken by its Ultra machine at secret Bletchley Park decryption Headquarters.

November 30: King George inspects Southampton

Tower of London hit

         800 year old walls destroyed

December 9: Italy occupied Libya in 1918 (prize of World War 1).
R.A.F. bombs Italian position. Then British invade Libya.

December 29: London struck  by German air blitz.

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Major Source of Photos:

Veterans of Foreign Wars, Pictorial History of The Second World War.Wm. H. Wise & Co., Inc. 1944.

See Part 2: World War ii Pictures 1941-1942

See Part 3: World War 2 Photos 1943

See Part 4: World War ii Photos 1944

See Part 5: world War 2 Photographs 1945

American Wars | Causes of World War 2 |

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