10 Iconic WWII Aerial Photos Then and Now

With the aid of Google Earth, we have revised 10 iconic Second World War locations that were immortalised in aerial photographs.

Cologne Cathedral 1944 / 2016

The German city of Cologne was bombed in 262 separate air raids by the Royal Air Force (RAF)  during World War II. A total of 34,711 tons of bombs were dropped on the city, demolishing most of the city and her industry.

When  British bombers passed overhead during the winter and early spring of 1940, causing air raid alarms to go off on more than one occasion, the first actual bombing of the city took place on 12 May 1940. The most notable attack on Cologne was the first 1,000 bomber raid which took place on May 30/31, 1942.

Despite being hit dozens of times by Brittish bombs, the city’s cathedral is clearly visible, it miraculously survived the war.

Cologne Cathedral 2016
Created with Google Earth

Pearl Harbor 1941 / 2016

The “then” photograph was taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack.

The USS West Virginia, moored on the other side of Ford Island (center) has just been hit by a torpedo. The other battleships that are moored near the West Virginia are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California.

You can even see Japanese planes over Ford Island!

Pearl Harbor 2016b
Created with Google Earth

Iwo Jima 1945 / 2016

The first wave of U.S. Marines heads for the beach of Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945

Iwo Jima 2016
Created with Google Earth

Remagen Bridge 1945 / 2016

Aerial view of the Remagen Ludendorff Bridge on 15 March 1945, it was the only bridge across the Rhine river captured intact by the allies.

Remagen Bridge 2016
Created with Google Earth

Berlin 1945 / 2016

The Brandenburger gate, looking toward was what to become Soviet-controlled East-Berlin, Hitlers Reich Chancellary is on the right of the gate but not visible.

Berlin 2016
Created with Google Earth

London 1945 / 2016

Aerial view of London – St Paul ‘s Cathedral and the City of London

London 2016b
Created with Google Earth

Pegasus Bridge 1944 / 2016

The three Horsa gliders at the Eastern end of Pegasus bridge, the circular object to the top-right of the bridge is the gun pit and trenches are also visible.

Pegasus Bridge 2016
Created with Google Earth

Pointe Du Hoc 1944 / 2016

Bombarding the German gun batteries at La Pointe Du Hoc by Douglas A-20 Havoc bombers of the US 9th Airforce

Pointe Du Hoc
Created with Google Earth

Arnhem 1944 / 2016

Aerial reconnaissance photo of the Arnhem road bridge taken by the Royal Air Force on 19 September, it shows signs of the British 1st Airborne division defending the northern ramp and the wrecked German vehicles from the previous day’s fighting.

Arnhem 2016
Created with Google Earth

Auschwitz 1944 / 2016

The “then” photo was taken by the 60 Photo-reconnaissance Squadron of the South African Air Force operating from southern Italy on May 31st, 1944 for bombing intelligence purposes. The photoreconnaissance plane was actually looking for the nearby IG Farben war production factory and other war production facilities in the area.

The captions and arrows you see on the pictures were added by two CIA researchers who reinterpreted the photo in 1978. The arrows point to a number of groups of inmates inside the camp. There are also several railcars visible next to the ramp and you can see smoke billowing from the chimney of crematorium V. This is a clear indication that shortly before, people were exterminated in the gas chamber beneath it.

Auschwitz 2016
Created with Google Earth

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.

@joris1944 facebook.com/joris.nieuwint