Friday, October 27, 2017

Perfectly Timed Photos of World War II

Photos Snapped Just At The Right Moment

B-24J Liberator Perfectly Timed Photo
B-24J Liberator of the 854th Bomb Squadron after being hit during a low-level supply drop for the 101st Airborne near Eindhoven, Holland on 18 September 1944. It looks fairly normal, but this is the moment of impact with the ground. Everyone perished but gunner Frank DiPalma, who was badly wounded.

This page is devoted to photos that captured an instant in time, a moment in the midst of chaos. There are a lot of these types of perfectly timed photos of World War II, but a few stand out. I will add to these from time to time, so, if you don't see your favorite here, well, maybe I'll get to it at some point. Many of these are photos of aircraft because they seem to have the best moments where things were looking okay... but they really weren't. It's also simply more feasible to capture someone else's troubles in the air from your relatively safe location at some distance, as opposed to calmly snapping a photo from within a few yards of some victim while you also are under fire.

B-17 Blue Streak
There is some dispute over exactly what bomber this was. It perhaps was B-17G 43-37883 "Blue Streak" of the 834th Bomb Squadron, 486th BG (M/Sgt Lew Funk via John Funk). 
This is a fun page for me (not for the poor men in the pictures) because it provides a chance to show some photos of topics not covered elsewhere on this blog yet. So, we have a bunch of photos from the Pacific Theater of Operations, which has had less coverage than the European Theater, as well as some late-war bombing photos when the Allies had aerial supremacy but still took heavy losses. It is not so much what the photos show that is dramatic - but what you know must follow within another split second.

A moment to remember brave men who didn't survive some of these incidents.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" Japanese bomber Perfectly Timed Photo
A Mitsubishi G4M "Betty" Japanese bomber touching down on the water. If it had floats, this would be perfectly fine. It doesn't.

Luftwaffe Henschel Hs 129 1943.Perfectly Timed Photo
 Luftwaffe Henschel Hs 129, 1943.
B-17  Schweinfurt Perfectly Timed Photo
This photo is deceptive because it looks as if the plane is flying level. If you look closely, though you will see that the bomber, which had its wing shot off, already has flipped over and is flying upside down. Contrary to some Hollywood films, that is not a good thing if you want to keep flying. The B-17 was one of many lost during the Schweinfurt raid in October 1943. Photo: US AIR FORCE.
The photo below is interesting because it shows one of the drawbacks of the "bomber stream," closely packed bombers that are crammed together for defensive purposes. The spacing was precise - if a plane deviated at the wrong time for any reason, it faced destruction from its fellow bombers. Below is one such instance. Incidentally, there is a theory that bandleader Glenn Miller perished in an incident not too dissimilar than this when his light plane inadvertently passed beneath bombers returning from a scrubbed mission that were releasing their bombs into the English Channel. The theory posits that one of the bombs hit his small plane and destroyed it instantly.

B-17G Perfectly Timed Photo
B-17G Flying Fortress "Miss Donna Mae II" is over Berlin... but not for long. It already has been hit by bombs dropped from the bomber above (apparently the one taking this picture) on 19 May 1944. A 1,000 lb bomb has torn off the left stabilizer. Immediately after this, the damage sent the plane into an uncontrollable spin. All 11 aboard perished.

Grumman F6F Hellcat USS Antietam.Perfectly Timed Photo
A Grumman F6F Hellcat flipping on the USS Antietam. The guys on deck running for their lives survived, not sure about the pilot.

B-24 Liberator Perfectly Timed Photo
B-24 Liberator, 799th BS, 464th BG, 15th AF, April 10, 1945, near the city of Luda, Italy.

El Alamein 1942 Perfectly Timed Photo
German Afrika Korps tankers captured by British soldiers at the second battle of El Alamein, 1942 (colorized).

Japanese Ki-21 aircraft Perfectly Timed Photo
The crew of a Douglas A-20 Havoc took this shot during a bomber run against a Japanese airfield. That is a Japanese Ki-21 aircraft about to be destroyed by incendiary bombs.

Kursk Perfectly Timed Photo
This is a famous photograph of a Wehrmacht soldier at the moment of being shot at the Battle of Kursk in 1943. Some claim this is a doctored photo, but if so, it was done during the war, because it was reproduced then or very shortly thereafter.

Reinhard Heydrich Heinrich Himmler Perfectly Timed Photo
Reinhard Heydrich finds Heinrich Himmler's jaunty attire amusing. He probably didn't want this picture taken, Heinrich was not renowned for his sense of self-deprecating humor.

USS Enterprise Perfectly Timed Photo
This photo was taken on 24 August 1942 on the flight deck of U.S.S. Enterprise. It is an excellent photo, one of the best action shots of the war. The shrapnel came up and killed the photographer, Robert F. Read. 
Heinkel He 111 Perfectly Timed Photo
A Heinkel He 111.

Japanese flying boat Perfectly Timed Photo
A Japanese flying boat hit by a P-38 Lightning, August 1942 off the Aleutian Island chain.

B-17 Perfectly Timed Photo
This B-17 bomber took a solid hit in 1944. This was taken by a gun camera from either a Bf 109 or Focke-Wulf 190.

Bf 110 Junkers Ju 52 Perfectly Timed Photo
A Bf-110 has made an amazing landing in someone's yard (that perhaps is the crew over by the fence?), and another Luftwaffe plane (a Junkers Ju 52 I believe, I am terrible at airplane recognition) hovers over it like a mother hen. I know it is just two planes... but I find the composition striking, and it only lasted for a split second (Pilz, Federal Archive).

B-17 Perfectly Timed Photo
This was a B-17 of the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Squadron, 8th Air Force that went down over Berlin, 9 Mar 1944. One source says that it was bomber "Silver Dollar" with no survivors, another that it was bomber "Lakanuki" and that tail gunner David L. Butcher survived by being thrown clear when the tail came off.

Bf 109 Perfectly Timed Photo
Moment of impact. It appears to be a Bf-109.
Kamikaze Perfectly Timed Photo
Kamikaze attack on an unidentified US carrier.

Dornier Do-17 during Battle of Britain
The crew of this Dornier Do-17 is having a very bad day during the Battle of Britain, 1940.

Kamikaze Perfectly Timed Photo
A Japanese Mitsubishi Ki-51 "Sonia" light bomber attempts a Kamikaze (Divine Wind) suicide attack on the USS Columbia (Cleveland-class light cruiser) in Lingayen Gulf, Philippine Islands - 6th of January 1945. One kamikaze plane missed, then one hit (apparently this one). The plane hit the main deck by the aft gun turret. The plane and its bomb penetrated two decks and then exploded, killing 13 and wounding 44. The ship was hit again the next morning but remained in service throughout the landings, using its forward guns.

Kamikaze Perfectly Timed Photo
Kamikaze attack on the USS Missouri.

B-26 Martin Marauder Perfectly Timed Photo
This is an eerie photo of a B-26 Martin Marauder after being hit in 1943. Many sources online claim that this plane made it back to base, but others claim that it already was in the process of flipping over when this shot was taken. The latter appears more likely. It looks so peaceful.

B-26 loses engine Perfectly Timed Photo
B-26 “Marauder” of the 17th Bomb Group loses its engine over Toulon.

Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” Perfectly Timed Photo
A Mitsubishi G4M “Betty” medium bomber photographed from the flight deck of USS Lexington, 20 February 1942 (U.S. Navy).
B-24 Liberator Perfectly Timed Photo
B-24 Consolidated Liberator bomber.

B-17 Perfectly Timed Photo
A B-17 of the 303rd Bomb Group looks like it is flying fine, but it's about to head down.

B-26 Perfectly Timed Photo
Martin Marauder B-26 bomber, serial number 43-34565, "Gratis Gladys," 7I-B, 497th Bomb Squadron, 344th Bombardment Group, 9th U.S. Air Force. It is seen crashing after sustaining a direct hit in the left engine during the bombing of Erkelenz, Germany, 26 Feb 1945. Everybody perished - Pilot Capt. Carl Franklin Chapman, Co-Pilot 1st Lt John Jack Sheehan, Bomb. 2nd Lt James Richard Harl, Nav. 1st Lt. Kenneth Gordon, Radio/Gun T/Sgt. J P Herndon, Eng/Turret S/Sgt James B. Ballard.



  1. The Henschel Hs129 photo is a fake. The B17 falling with its severed wing beside was hit by flak and the photo was taken by an automatic camera in another B17.

  2. Ground attack aircraft they didn't send them after bombers they were mostly tank busters hs129