Ghosts of Time: 39 Incredible Then & Now WWII Pictures

Omaha Beach, 1944-2015

Not everyone was happy when the First World War ended, and it was not just the Germans, who were severely punished for their role in instigating the conflict.

Due to the massive reparations imposed on Germany and the deep divisions that resulted in the war’s aftermath, many people believed another conflict was inevitable. They were right.

Although no one could have predicted the unprecedented rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party, it seemed highly likely that some new order would rise in Germany and, as a result of the harsh conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, they would be hostile towards the rest of Europe. Sure enough, as we now know, that is exactly what happened.

The push toward the Second World War began when the Great Depression shook the world’s economy in October 1929. Already reeling from severe austerity measures, Germany went over the edge. Poverty increased dramatically and the country’s already fragile financial system was brutalized even further. Resentment quickly flourished among the general public towards the nations that had seemingly put them in this dire situation.

This haunting collection of images takes us on a journey across the years, combining historical photographs with their modern-day settings.

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Bomber Command


US troops inspect a Knocked-out German 4.7 cm PaK(t) auf Panzerkampfwagen 35R(f) self-propelled gun, near Le Molay-Littry, France 20 June 1944 -2015


A knocked out Sherman tank,Villiers Bocage June 1944 – 2015

This paved the way for the rise of the Nazi party, under Adolph Hitler. He was swept to power on a tide of nationalism and resentment, and quickly set about rearming the country, despite the fact that this directly violated the terms of Germany’s surrender in 1918.

In the east, the Russian Empire’s revolution in 1917 resulted in a Communist state. Italy became Fascist, while Japan’s military government began plans to expand their empire beyond China. Germany forged new alliances, and these formed the basis for the Axis Powers, the union that would eventually come to be opposed by the Allies.

Germany moved even closer to the Second World War – the most deadly conflict in human history – when Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938, to reunite the German people separated by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. This was only the beginning of Hitler’s ambitions, however.

His forces did the same with Sudetenland (the German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia) in October of the same year. Remembering the horrors of the First World War, Britain and France did nothing.

New arrivals: In the days and weeks following D-Day,more US troops arrive on Utah beach 1944 – 2015

Eventually, of course, they were forced to declare war when Germany invaded Poland, on the 1st of September, 1939. Germany then marched on Denmark and Norway, followed soon afterward by the invasion of Belgium and France. This pattern of seemingly unstoppable German expansion would continue for much of the war. The Soviet Union had a pact with Germany, but even that was eventually scrapped as Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa in 1941, marking the start of his invasion of Russia.

Events turned in the winter of 1941 when the German advance into Russian territory was halted.

The United States had managed to distance themselves from any direct involvement in the war, but that all changed when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on the 7th of December, 1941. Believing they had neutralized America’s Pacific Fleet, the Japanese then attacked the Philippines (which belonged to the United States at the time) and Hong Kong (a colony of Britain). Other nations in the Pacific were next. The United States declared war on Japan, forcing Germany to declare war on America. In so doing, Italy became an enemy of America.

Passing through: Members of the 101st airborne passing through Sainte Marie du Mont June 1944 – 2015

The next stage of the war took place in North Africa, which was already split between various European powers. War arrived there in 1942 as the Allies and Axis forces tried to control supplies of oil necessary for the war effort and vital industries. For the Allies, control of the region gave them a much-needed stepping stone into Italy, which surrendered in October 1943.

In June 1944, the Allies landed on the French beaches of Normandy – giving them a foothold in Western Europe. Russia, by then an Allied country, began moving its armies east – part of a three-pronged effort to enter the German heartland. The Russians reached the German capital in Berlin first – ending the war in Europe on the 8th of May, 1945. Not so in Asia, due to a still-defiant Empire of Japan.

Not wishing to prolong the war further and avoid wasting more American lives, the United States decided to use the atom bomb against Japan. On the 6th of August, 1945, Hiroshima became the first ever target of a nuclear weapon, while Russian forces invaded Japanese overseas territories.

Yet still Japan remained defiant. Three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki, and it was clear that the war could not go on. Japan surrendered on the 15th of August and formally signed a peace treaty on the 2nd of September, 1945 – thus ending the Second World War and redrawing the map of Europe and parts of Asia.

Joyful greetings: US troops move inland through Colleville sur Mer June 1944 – 2015
A French civilian takes time to chat to a US soldier, Mont Saint Michel 1944 – 2015
Men of the Durham Light Infantry, 49th (West Riding) Division alongside a knocked-out German Tiger tank from the 3rd Company of SS Heavy Tank Battalion in Rauray, during Operation ‘Epsom’, 28 June 1944 – 2015
German soldiers at the gate of Fort de Boncelles in Belgium, May 1940 – 2015.
Universal carriers and motorcycles driving inland from Arromanches during the build-up of Allied reinforcements in the bridgehead, 22 June 1944 -2015 (in reality its Route du Débarquement Saint-Côme-de-Fresné)
German and US medics await the arrival of injured personnel, Aid station #2 St Mere Eglise
A US patrol in the area of Cherbourg Harbour station 1944 – 2015
Firefighters and other emergency personnel respond to the crash of a B-29 prototype at the Frye Meat Packing Plant,Seattle . A total of 32 died on the plane and in the fire. Feb 1943 – 2015 (the present building was built on the same footings as the original)
Dancing Engineers: A GI entertaining his mates,from the Engineer Special Brigade,Weymouth seafront, June 1944 – 2015
On home ground: The Regiment de la Chaudiere in front of Canada House speaking with French civilians June 1944 – 2015
Rations: US troops loading K rations just prior to D-Day Weymouth,Dorset 1944 – 2015
Members of the 82nd AB enter Nijmegen after crossing the Waalbrug 1944 – 2015 (photo courtesy of Toen-nu Koos ty)
HE 111 on their way to Poland, Kampfgeschwader 1 (KG 1) 1939 – 2015
A truck pulling a 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun moves along the Quai de Julliet in Caen. In the distance can be seen the Abbaye des Hommes. 1944 – 2015
Dedication of the 1st US cemetery on French soil, Temp cemetery 1 Omaha beach 12th June 1944 – 2015
Village life :US troops at the water pump in St Marie du Mont 1944 – 2015
Honour and sadness:Silver Star award ceremony Carentan (one of the flower girls ,Danielle Laisney, was killed by German artillery during this ceremony, although accounts and dates vary) June 1944 – 2015 (now photo Barbara Wilkinson ty)
Relief:US troops meet at the corner of what is now Mcauliffe Place, Bastogne .1944 – 2015
WN33: The British 2nd Army: Royal Navy Commandos of LCOCU (Landing Craft Obstacle Clearing Unit) examine a large casemate and its 88mm gun which formed part of German strongpoint WN33 on the western edge of La Riviere, and which caused the forces landing on ‘King’ Beach, GOLD Area considerable trouble before it was silenced. 1944 – 2015
Underground: Russian civilians take shelter from German aerial bombing raids during the Battle of Moscow in the city’s Mayakovskaya metro station. Moscow, 1941 – 2015
Which way now: Major General Manton Sprague Eddy, commander 9th Infantry Division confers with his officers in Beauvain.
The late fine was huge: Italian soldiers requisition library books from the Library of Palazzo Barberini for reading material to be sent to Italian soldiers on the front lines. Rome, Italy 1941 – 2015
US troops dress a shop dummy in a German flag, close to the Roman Gate of Porta Nigra, Trier, Germany
US Airman inspecting V-1 factory. The Mittelwerk occupied large tunnels underneath a mountain near Nordhausen in the Harz Mountains in central Germany 1945 – 2015