This blog will explore the stories behind five iconic World War II images. The first image is of a woman crying over her dead son during the liberation of Paris in 1944.
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The Second World War was the bloodiest war in human history, encompassing almost all of the planet’s continents. In addition to troops, sailors, and Marines, war photographers were there in the jungles, deserts, streets, and snow to document not just the war’s destruction, but also its triumphs.
The following are some of the most moving images from the six-year war.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was moored inboard of the repair ship Vestal. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, “the enormous explosion that followed has never been completely explained, because the bomb reportedly did not penetrate Arizona’s armored deck, which protected her magazines.” Over 1100 of her crew members were killed, and the battleship was declared a complete loss, sinking to the harbor’s bottom. The USS Tennessee’s sailors may be seen at left, directing fire hoses on the oil-slicked sea in order to push the flames away from their ship. The shocking image of the USS Arizona engulfed in flames quickly became a rallying cry for the country to “Remember Pearl Harbor.” The United States was at war one day after the assault. (Naval History and Heritage Command) (Naval History and Heritage Command) (Naval History and Heritage Command
Jimmy Doolittle and his B-25 are first off the deck of the USS Hornet, heading for Japan, in one of the few photos shot on the day of the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1941. (From the National Archives)
The photograph, dubbed “The Weeping Frenchman,” originally appeared in print in Life Magazine on March 3, 1904, and came to symbolize the sorrow of a country under occupation. The guy in the picture is identified as Monsieur Jerôme Barzetti, who publicly wept when French flags were pulled down in the city of Marseilles in September 1940, according to Lucien Gaillard’s book “Marseille sous l’occupation.” (From the National Archives)
On Feb. 23, 1945, Col. Dave Severance, Company Commander of Easy Company of the 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, became associated with a historic moment in American history when he responded to orders from his battalion commander to send a patrol to Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest summit described by Marine Lt. Gen. Holland M. “Howlin’ Mad” Smith as a “grim, smoking rock.” The squad raised an American flag on the peak after receiving instructions from the battalion commander. It wasn’t, however, the famous picture by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal. When the first flag was flown atop Mount Suribachi, Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal intended to retain it as a memory. As a result, a bigger flag was hoisted in its place, which Rosenthal documented to great acclaim. (USMC)
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