32 sad, tragic but fascinating colorised images of WWII

Jack Knight


Wehrmacht troops on the Eastern Front (c.1942) They are seen here carrying the Maschinenpistole MP.40.

“Although the MP 40 was generally reliable, a major weakness was its 32-round magazine. Unlike the double-column, dual-feed magazine insert found on the Thompson M1921-28 variants, the MP 38 and MP 40 used a double-column, single-feed insert. The single-feed insert resulted in increased friction against the remaining cartridges moving upwards towards the feed lips, occasionally resulting in feed failures; this problem was exacerbated by the presence of dirt or other debris. Another problem was that the magazine was also sometimes misused as a handhold. This could cause the weapon to malfunction when hand pressure on the magazine body caused the magazine lips to move out of the line of feed, since the magazine well did not keep the magazine firmly locked. Soldiers were trained to grasp either the handhold on the underside of the weapon or the magazine housing with the supporting hand to avoid feed malfunctions.”

By 1942 the Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces) on the Eastern Front consisted of many volunteers from other countries, such as, Belgium, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Croatia the Baltic States, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Caucasus.

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4./Fallschirmjäger in Florence, Italy. Mid August 1944  (Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-588-2292-22)

Dispositions on the Gothic Line August-September 1944, Defending the section of the line around Florence was I Fallschirm Korps of the Fourteenth Army. The 356. Infantry Division was positioned on the eastern flank, the 4. Fallschirmjäger Division was in the centre and the 362nd Infantry Division was on the western flank. They faced forces from the British 13th Corps and the US IV Corps.

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A Maquisard carrying a German MP.40 (Machinenpistole) at the time of the Liberation of Paris during August 1944.

Photo © Izis Lithuanian born photographer, Izraelis Bidermanas “Izis”, found refuge in the region of Limoges during the Second World War where he joined the French Resistance fighters. During the Liberation in August 1944 he made portraits of his fellow “Maquisards”.

The maquis increased fast with the reinforcement of many young men trying to escape the invasion by German troops in November 1942 and the STO(Service du travail obligatoire) in early 1943. Maquis operations changed from sabotages in 1943 to massive attacks against occupation troops in 1944. At its peak, the Limousine maquis is estimated to have reached between 8,000 and 12,000 fighters.

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Troops from the 101st Airborne with full packs and a bazooka, in a C-47 just before take-off from RAF Upottery Airfield to Normandy, France for “Operation Chicago. 5th June 1944.

Additional ID: (F-Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division underway to Normandy aboard their C-47 #12. At 01.20 hours they jumped over DZ “C” (Hiesville). L to R: William G. Olanie, Frank D. Griffin, Robert J. “Bob” Noody, Lester T. Hegland. This photo took on a life of its own after publishment. In the picture Bob remembers he must have weighed at least 250 lbs, encumbered with his M-1 rifle, a bazooka, three rockets, land mines, and other assorted “necessities”.)

The division, as part of the VII Corps assault, jumped in the dark morning before H-Hour to seize positions west of Utah Beach. As the assault force approached the French coast, it encountered fog and antiaircraft fire, which forced some of the planes to break formation. Paratroopers from both the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions missed their landing zones and were scattered over wide areas.

From 00.15 in the darkness of June 6, 1944, when Capt. Frank L. Lillyman, Skaneateles, N.Y., leader of the Pathfinder group, became the first American soldier to touch French soil, and for 33 successive days the 101st Airborne carried the attack to the enemy.

(Colourised by Paul Reynolds)
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A US soldier says farewell at Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station, New York), before being posted abroad in December 1943. (Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt) Eisenstaedt when speaking of the time he photographed American soldiers saying farewell to their wives and sweethearts in 1943 on assignment for ‘Life’ Magazine: “I just kept motionless like a statue.” he said. “They never saw me clicking away. For the kind of photography I do, one has to be very unobtrusive and to blend in with the crowd.”

(Colorised by Gisele Nash from America)
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Private L.V. Hughes, 48th Highlanders of Canada, Cdn.1st Division sniping a German position near the Foglia River, on the Gothic Line in Italy. Late August 1944. He looks to be using a Nº4 Mk.1(T) Lee Enfield Sniper Rifle with a Canadian made Nº32 R.E.L. Mk.III Telescopic Sight.

Gothic Line, Italy – Canadian 1st Division
While the Canadian 3rd Division troops had been in battle in France for almost 3 months, the Canadian 1st Division had landed in Italy from Sicily almost one year before, on the 3rd of September 1943. The 48th Highlanders (Toronto) approached ‘The Gothic Line’ — the next German line of defence and the next grand battle.

In the last week of August 1944, the entire Canadian Corps began its attack on the Gothic Line with the objective of capturing Rimini. Six rivers lay across the path of the advance. On August 25, the Canadians crossed the Metauro River but the next, the Foglia was more formidable. Here the Germans had concentrated their defences, and it required days of bitter fighting and softening of the line by Allied air forces to reach it. On August 30, two Canadian brigades crossed the Foglia River and fought their way through the Gothic Line. On September 2 General Burns reported that “the Gothic Line is completely broken in the Adriatic Sector and the 1st Canadian Corps is advancing to the River Conca.”

The announcement was premature for the enemy recovered quickly, reinforced the Adriatic defence by moving divisions from other lines and thus, slowed the advance to Rimini to bitter, step-by-step progress. Three miles south of the Conca the forward troops came under fire from the German 1st Parachute Division, while to the west heavy fighting was developing on the Coriano Ridge. By hard fighting the Canadians captured the ridge and it appeared that the Gothic Line was finally about to collapse, but this was not to be. For three more weeks the Canadians battled to take the hill position of San Fortunato which blocked the approach to the Po Valley. On September 21, the Allies entered a deserted Rimini. That same day the 1st Division was relieved by the New Zealand Division to sweep across the plains of Lombardy to Bologna and the Po. But the rains came. Streams turned into raging torrents, mud replaced the powdery dust and the tanks bogged down in the swamp lands of the Romagna. The Germans still resisted.

(Colourised by Doug)