17 Brilliantly Colorized Historical Photos

November 20, 2017 | 1 Comment » | Topics: History

A German soldier with a saw tooth bayonet stands in a dugout wearing his brow plate slid down to his neck, World War I

Presumably, this would allow him to keep the weight off his head until he raised it to place it over his helmet lugs. The saw tooth bayonet was a weapon considered to be too brutal in an already barbaric war. When plunged into the victim, it caused severe pain, also pulling out the victim’s insides when removed. Therefore, any prisoners captured with this version of bayonet were immediately executed. 


Eunice Hancock, a 21-year-old woman, operates a compressed-air grinder in a Midwest aircraft plant during World War II. August 1942

American women in World War II became involved in many tasks they rarely had before; as the war involved global conflict on an unprecedented scale, the absolute urgency of mobilizing the entire population made the expansion of the role of women inevitable. The hard skilled labor of women was symbolized in the United States by the concept of Rosie the Riveter, a woman factory laborer performing what was previously considered man’s work.

With this expanded horizon of opportunity and confidence, and with the extended skill base that many women could now give to paid and voluntary employment, American women’s roles in World War II were even more extensive than in the First World War. Women worked in the war industries, building ships, aircraft, vehicles, and weaponry. Women also worked in factories, munitions plants and farms; drove trucks; provided logistic support for soldiers; and entered professional areas of work that were previously the preserve of men. Women also enlisted as nurses serving on the front lines, and there was a great increase in the number of women serving for the military itself.

During World War II, approximately 400,000 U.S. women served with the armed forces and more than 460 — some sources say the figure is closer to 543 — lost their lives as a result of the war, including 16 from enemy fire. However, the U.S. decided not to use women in combat because public opinion would not tolerate it. Women became officially recognized as a permanent part of the U.S. armed forces after the war, with the passing of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act of 1948.


A US soldier stands amid crates and stacks of loot stored by Nazi Germany in Schlosskirche (Castle Church), Bavaria, 1945

In addition to stealing priceless art, basic items such as clothing, fabric, furniture, dishes, and other household items were plundered for use by the Reich.

Known as Möbel Aktion, at least 70,000 dwellings in France, Belgium and the Netherlands were emptied between 1942 and 1944; in Paris 38,000 apartments were stripped bare by French moving companies at the request of the German authorities. It took 674 trains to transport the loot to Germany. Some 2,700 train cars supplied Hamburg alone.

Any personal items like photos or damaged items were burned. What remained was put in crates and taken to warehouses and sorting centers specifically established for this purpose. This church in Ellingen was one of those warehouses.

The property stolen was redistributed to supervisors of the Möbel Aktion and German soldiers, or offered as compensation to Germans who suffered losses caused by Allied bombings. While some of the items in the crates and in the piles of items in the church are hard to identify, the bolts of fabric and items of clothing are able to be identified. Also, the Dutch surname Oevli, is seen on three of the crates with numbers. Almost all of the packages and rolls of fabric have tags and were most likely sent on to workhouses to make clothing.


Unpacking Mona Lisa at the end of World War II in 1945

During WW2 the Nazis infamously stole an absurd amount of artwork from every country that they invaded. Many of these paintings went into personal collections of Hitler himself or high-ranking officials, and other paintings, particularly anything abstract, were labeled as degenerate art and destroyed.

In preparation for the advancing German forces, the Louvre in Paris scrambled to remove most of their collections from the museum and shipped them vineyards, farms, and properties spread across the south of France in order to make it more difficult to find the artworks.

There is a really great documentary about the entirety of the Nazis’ conquest of European art called “The Rape of Europa,” and it includes a section all about this unfolding in France. Two curators for the Louvre were assigned to look after the Mona Lisa in a castle. Their daughter recounts them opening the painting once they were there.

The Rape Of Europa


Charlie Chaplin attends the premiere of his newest film City Lights in Los Angeles, accompanied by Albert Einstein. February 2, 1931


Bodybuilder Gene Jantzen with wife Pat, and eleven-month-old son Kent, 1947


US Marine running through Japanese fire on Okinawa, Japan, 7 Jun 1945 

Photograph showing marine PFC Paul E. Ison running over open ground, photographed by PVT Bob Bailey, May 1945. Ison, 1st Division, 3rd Battalion, Lima company was a demolitions man in a group of 4 who were sent ahead to knock out defensive pillboxes and positions. In this episode in Death Valley he had already run across two times and somehow remained unscathed. The first was in the morning, to reach the demo position. The second was to return to HQ to pick up the explosives which they had previously been told were already at the demo site. The third was to return to the demo site with the explosives. This is Ison’s own copy of the image, the original image having the figure slightly to the left of center. He was 28 when the photo was taken and had four kids when he joined the Marine Corps to defend his country. On this day, in an eight-hour period, the Marines sustained 125 casualties crossing this particular valley. The Marine Corps Historical Centre (1998) notes that: overall American losses in the land battle (on Okinawa) amounted to 7,374 killed, 31,807 wounded and 239 missing in action. At sea and in the air, the Navy reported 36 US ships sunk, 368 damaged, 763 aircraft lost to all causes, 4,907 seamen killed or missing in action and 4,824 wounded. Despite the magnitude of these losses by the Americans, the Japanese sustained even greater casualties at Okinawa than in any previous Pacific battle.


Two riflemen from the 317th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division, take a moment to roll their own cigarettes in Goesdorf after 27 days of fighting – January 10, 1945

Left is SSG Abraham Aranoff, Boston, Mass., right is Private Henry W. Beyer of Grand Rapids, Michigan. These men, from E Company, 1st Battalion, 317th Infantry, had been fighting for 27 days straight, most of it during the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes. They’d just been pulled out of the lines for a short, well-deserved break. 

The Battle of the Bulge (16 December 1944 – 25 January 1945) was the last major German offensive campaign in its western theater during World War II. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in Belgium, France, and Luxembourg, on the Western Front, towards the end of World War II, in the European theatre. The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard. American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany’s armoured forces, and they were largely unable to replace them. German personnel and, later, Luftwaffe aircraft (in the concluding stages of the engagement), also sustained heavy losses.

The Germans’ initial attack involved 406,000 men; 1,214 tanks, tank destroyers, and assault guns; and 4,224 artillery pieces. These were reinforced a couple of weeks later, bringing the offensive’s total strength to around 450,000 troops, and 1,500 tanks and assault guns. Between 67,200 and 125,000 of their men were killed, missing, or wounded in action. For the Americans, out of 610,000 troops involved in the battle, 89,000 were casualties. While some sources report that up to 19,000 were killed, Eisenhower’s personnel chief put the number at about 8,600. British historian Antony Beevor reports the number killed as 8,407. It was the largest and bloodiest battle fought by the United States in World War II


Fidel Castro at the Lincoln Memorial – 1959

“Taken (by the Cuban photographer Alberto Korda) several weeks after he assumed leadership in Cuba and a month before joining forces with Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro paid a visit to the United States in 1959 and laid a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial. While Castro’s visit didn’t go as well as he anticipated (Eisenhower declined to meet with him on the grounds that he didn’t believe Castro would remain neutral during the Cold War), his admiration for Abraham Lincoln remained strong. While in power, Castro always kept a bust of Lincoln in his office, citing Lincoln’s devotion to “the just idea that all citizens are born free and equal” as a source of personal and professional inspiration.”


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s address on the 50th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. October 28, 1936

Here’s the speech


Richard Pierce – 14 years of age, works as a Western Union Telegraph Messenger. with nine months of service. He works from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Smokes. Visits houses of prostitution. Wilmington, Delaware, ca. May 1910


Richard M. Nixon and Elvis Presley at the White House – 1970 

When Presley had showed up that morning at the White House — decked out in a purple velvet suit, a gold belt and a Colt. 45 pistol — he came bearing a personal letter to the President explaining his reasons. “I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good,” the 35-year-old singer wrote in the letter, which noted that young people see him as one of them, thus making him the perfect person to help fight the war on illegal drugs. “I would love to meet you just to say hello if you’re not too busy.”

Presley, a collector of police badges, wanted a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and to be named a “Federal Agent at Large.”

“The narc badge represented some kind of ultimate power to him,” Priscilla Presley, Elvis’ then-wife, wrote in her memoir Elvis and Me. “With the federal narcotics badge, he [believed he] could legally enter any country both wearing guns and carrying any drugs he wished.”

The badge, aides later wrote, was an “honorary” one, but Elvis thought it was the real thing.

Both men would face swift falls from grace in the mid-1970s, between Nixon resigning in 1974 and Presley’s reliance on prescription drugs — which, a former employee later explained, he saw as separate from the illegal drugs he was so eager to help police — worsening in the lead-up to the heart attack that ultimately killed him.


The day Al Capone arrived at Alcatraz – January 7, 1939

During his early months at Alcatraz, Capone made an enemy by showing his disregard for the prison social order when he cut in line while prisoners were waiting for a haircut. James Lucas, a Texas bank robber serving 30 years, reportedly confronted the former syndicate leader and told him to get back at the end of the line. When Capone asked if he knew who he was, Lucas reportedly grabbed a pair of the barber’s scissors and, holding them to Capone’s neck, answered: “Yeah, I know who you are, greaseball. And if you don’t get back to the end of that fucking line, I’m gonna know who you were.”


“The Untouchable” Eliot Ness – ca 1935

“American Prohibition agent, famous for his efforts to enforce Prohibition in Chicago, Illinois, bringing down Al Capone, and the leader of a famous team of law enforcement agents nicknamed The Untouchables. His co-authorship of a popular autobiography, The Untouchables, which was released shortly after his death, launched several television and motion picture portrayals that established Ness’s posthumous fame as an incorruptible crime fighter.”


Ralph Neppel wearing his newly awarded Medal of Honor around his neck, gets kissed in the White House by his fiancee, Jean Moore. – September 10, 1945

“He was leader of a machinegun squad defending an approach to the village of Birgel, Germany, on 14 December 1944, when an enemy tank, supported by 20 infantrymen, counterattacked. He held his fire until the Germans were within 100 yards and then raked the foot soldiers beside the tank killing several of them. The enemy armor continued to press forward and, at the pointblank range of 30 yards, fired a high-velocity shell into the American emplacement, wounding the entire squad. Sgt. Neppel, blown 10 yards from his gun, had 1 leg severed below the knee and suffered other wounds. Despite his injuries and the danger from the onrushing tank and infantry, he dragged himself back to his position on his elbows, remounted his gun and killed the remaining enemy riflemen. Stripped of its infantry protection, the tank was forced to withdraw. By his superb courage and indomitable fighting spirit, Sgt. Neppel inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and broke a determined counterattack.”


Hollywood songwriter Harry Carroll with chorus girls at his beach house in Santa Monica, California, 1929


US Civil War – Officers of the 69th New York Volunteer Regiment pose with a cannon at Fort Corcoran in 1861

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  • That last one, the Civil War, looks more like toy soldiers staged. It’s not, but, real old photos colorized come out weird.