22 Images That Show the Many Faces of World War II

Photo Credit: 1. US Department of Defense / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain (Colorized by Hotpot.AI) 2. German Military Photo / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain (Colorized by Hotpot.AI)

By Damian Lucjan and Clare Fitzgerald

Society had never before experienced a conflict quite like the Second World War. While the Great War was the first to bring together the world’s power in armed engagements, World War II was on a much-larger scale, as shown by the faces of both those fighting in the conflict and its millions of victims.

Captured German Pilot

German pilot sitting on the front of a Jeep with his hands behind his head
Photo Credit: David Stubblebine / World War II Database / Public Domain

Captured Luftwaffe pilot who was shot down by anti-aircraft fire near Weisweiler, Germany during the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, 1944. His name and fate are unknown, but given the date and location, it’s likely he survived the war.

Czesława Kwoka

Portrait of Czesława Kwoka
Photo Credit: Wilhelm Brasse / Poeticbent / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

14-year-old Czesława Kwoka, a Polish girl who was also Catholic, during her imprisonment at Auschwitz. Over the course of the Second World War, an estimated 230,000 children, most of them Jewish, lost their lives at the concentration camp.

German battleship Tirpitz

Sailor constructing a model of Tirpitz
Photo Credit: C. Peter Chen / US Navy / Naval History and Heritage Command / World War II Database / Public Domain

Sailor constructing a model of Tirpitz while onboard the German battleship. The second of two Bismarck-class vessels launched for use by the Kriegsmarine, she was sunk by Royal Air Force (RAF) bombers during Operation Catechism on November 12, 1944.

Weeping Parisian

Weeping Frenchman standing in a crowd
Photo Credit: Office of Emergency Management / Office of War Information / Overseas Operations Branch / New York Office / News and Features Bureau / Life Magazine / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

As Life Magazine explained in its March 3, 1941 issue, this photo depicts a Parisian man shedding patriotic tears as flags for his country’s lost regiments are exiled to Africa.

US Marine after two days of fighting

Portrait of a US Marine
Photo Credit: US Department of Defense / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The face of a US Marine after two days and nights of fighting during the Battle of Eniwetok, a World War II engagement that occurred in the Pacific Theater in February 1944. It’s believed he was killed a month later.

The Crying Boy

Hans-Georg Henke crying while walking down a street
Photo Credit: ullstein bild / Getty Images

The face of 16-year-old Hans-Georg Henke, an anti-aircraft soldier during World War II. A member of the Luftwaffe‘s anti-air squad, he manned 88 mm guns at a German battery as a way of supporting his family after the deaths of his parents.

He claimed this photo was taken as the Red Army overran his unit. However, an American photographer later said it was taken in Hessen and that the emotion on Henke’s face is combat shock caused by the incoming US forces.

Actions have consequences

Anton Dostler being tied to a stake
Photo Credit: Unknown Author / US National Archives / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

German Gen. Anton Dostler being tied to a stake before his execution by firing squad on December 1, 1945. He was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to death by an American military tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials.

Taking a coffee break

Three US Marines sitting at a table, drinking coffee
Photo Credit: Unknown Author / National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Pfc. Faris M. Tuohy drinking a cup of coffee aboard a ship off the Marshall Islands during the Battle of Eniwetok, February 1944. After seven days of fighting, the American forces came out victorious over Japan.

Japanese-American veteran being detained

Japanese-American veteran being led into a vehicle by two men
Photo Credit: Clem Albers / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

A US Navy veteran from the First World War is brought to the Temporary Detention Camp for Japanese-Americans in April 1942, a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A total of 97,785 Japanese-Americans were held at internment camps throughout the Second World War.

Elated American pilot

Alexander Vraciu holding up six fingers with a big smile on his face
Photo Credit: US Navy / Naval History and Heritage Command / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Lt. Junior Grade Alexander Vraciu, an aviator with the US Navy, using his fingers to show how many aircraft he downed during the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. This photo was taken aboard the USS Lexington (CV-16).

Women in the cockpit

Elizabeth L. Remba Gardner in the cockpit of an aircraft
Photo Credit: US Department of the Air Force / Wikimedia Commons / Unrestricted Use

Elizabeth L. Remba Gardner was a member of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), which ferried military aircraft throughout the Second World War. This photo was taken just prior to her taxiing down the runway at Harlingen Army Airfield, Texas.

Saying ‘thank you’

French girl kissing Elvin Harley on the cheek
Photo Credit: Tec-5 L. G. Crabtree, U.S. Signal Corps / 3rd Armored Division Public Affairs / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Tec-4 Elvin Harley of the 3rd Armored Division receives a peck on the cheek from a French girl while listening to music by the 9th Armored Division Band near Aboncourt, France on February 14, 1945.

Taking a moment

James Lee Frazer reading the Bible
Photo Credit: Unknown Author / National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

STM2-c James Lee Frazer taking a moment to read a few chapters of the Bible. This photo was taken the day before a raid on Manila Bay in January 1945.

Warsaw Uprising

Three Polish Boy Scouts standing together
Photo Credit: Jerzy Tomaszewski / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Polish Boy Scouts serving with the Radosław Regiment during the Warsaw Uprising, September 1944. Look at the determination on their faces as they fight for Poland’s liberation. All three survived the war.

Māori Battalion putting on a ceremonial performance

Māori Battalion putting on a ceremonial performance in the desert
Photo Credit: Unidentified New Zealand Photographer / Restored by Adam Cuerden / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Māori Battalion performing a haka in Helwan, Egypt for the King of Greece, July 1941.

Taking a break

Lloyd Culuck eating from a can
Photo Credit: US Army Signal Corps / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Pvt. Lloyd Culuck of Company A, 1st Battalion, 172nd Infantry Regiment takes a break to eat from a can of Ration B on New Georgia Island in the Southwest Pacific during the New Georgia Campaign. Having landed on July 2, 1943, he hadn’t changed his clothes in 12 days, due to the amount of fighting between the American forces and Japan.

Marching through the Ardennes

German machine gunner with an ammunition belt around his neck
Photo Credit: German Military Photo / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

German machine gunner marching through the Ardennes during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944.

Italian wine

G.H. Westlake carrying a cask of wine
Photo Credit: Daventry B J H (Fg Off), Royal Air Force Official Photographer / Imperial War Museums / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Wing Commander G.H. Westlake, the commanding officer of No. 1 Mobile Operations Room Unit, with a cask of Sicilian wine. While a fighter pilot with No. 80 and 213 Squadrons RAF, he shot down nine enemy aircraft and shared in the downing of two more. He also led No. 213 Squadron in North Africa between August and October 1942.

Westlake worked as a controller for No. 211 and 212 Groups in Tunisia, before becoming 1 MORU during the invasions of Sicily and Italy. He later returned to operations, commanding a unit of the Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force, before leading the No. 239 Wing RAF in Italy.

He was responsible for the success of Operation Bowler, leading an attack against a harbor in Venice in March 1945.

The Japanese surrender brought about an emotional response

Japanese prisoner of war (POW) covering his face with a tissue
Photo Credit: C. Peter Chen / National Museum of the United State Navy / World War II Database / Public Domain

The face of a Japanese prisoner of war (POW) listening to Emperor Hirohito’s surrender, which signaled the end of World War II.

‘V’ for victory

British soldier holding up the 'V' for Victory sign at two German prisoners of war (POWs)
Photo Credit: No 1 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Chetwyn L (Sgt) / Imperial War Museums / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

British soldier holding up the “insult” version of the famous “V” for Victory sign toward German POWs that were captured at El Alamein, October 1942.

Intense fighting on Guam

Gill A. Gideon Jr. aiming his M1 Carbine
Photo Credit: C. Peter Chen / Paul Dorsey / US Marine Corps / World War II Database / Public Domain

US Marine Gill A. Gideon Jr. aiming his M1 Carbine during fighting on the first day of the Battle of Guam. The engagement resulted in an American victory.

Look at this gun!

US Marine holding a Type 99
Photo Credit: Unknown Author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

More from us: These Images Show How the French Celebrated Following the Liberation of France

The shocked face of a US Marine holding a Type 99 on Saipan, which was equipped by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

Damian Lucjan

Damian is a history geek that’s working for War History Online for almost a decade. He can talk about the history and its chain of events for hours and is 100% legit fun at parties. Aside of history, geography and etymology of all things are no less exciting for him! An avid video game player, meme distributor, and your comment section moderator all in one. Mythologies of all cultures are fascinating to him, Greek, Nordic, Slavic – you name it, and he’s in!

In his spare time, assuming he has some left, he gives it all to his family, enjoying morning walks, a good book, an exciting FPS, and a long nap…or a few. Definitely a cat person.