Thursday, October 19, 2017

Smiling Soldiers of World War II



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Wehrmacht boys on the way to Stalingrad, 1942.

World War II was not exactly a barrel of laughs. Most soldiers during the conflict, or one reason or another, kept a pretty straight face for the cameras. Unlike today, when everyone mugs for the camera, back in the day photographs were considered very serious indeed. There was an unwritten rule that you did not smile for such a serious and permanent experience.

But not always.

Here we have a collection of photos of smiling World War II participants. The one thing they have in common? They are all smiling. Or, at least as close as they probably got. I'm not going for "the best smiles." Some of these folks perhaps aren't even smiling at all, by technical standards. Instead, I am looking for real emotion, a real outburst beyond the confines of a soldierly, stolid appearance that was the preferred appearance in a, you know, serious conflict. Or at least a smile that says something. Or, is just a really good smile.

I must warn you - a smile is not always a sign of good-hearted feeling. At least, a smile does not always convey an emotion that you wish to share. Or, to put it yet another way - what someone else finds funny, you may not. I have one or two instances of that here.

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So, there are some famous people, and some minor celebrities, some that you might know the name of if you really are into World War II, and a handful whose names you'll probably never know. Just people, enjoying a moment.

This page is meant to be taken lightly, kindly don't get offended at its lack of seriousness.

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This is top Soviet sniper Maxim Passar. Now, this obviously is posed, but I include it because Passar is making a bit of an in-joke of his own and so the smile is at least in part real. If you are an expert, you spotted it straight off. Hint: that's not a sniper rifle that he's holding.

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The Germans in the cart headed toward Stalingrad thought the skeleton left by the Russians on the side of the road was amusing.


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Waffen SS Major Otto Kumm, perhaps 1941. Okay, he's only kind of smiling. For an SS Major - that's a big ol' smile.

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German Army Lieutenant General Heinz Guderian and Russian Army Brigadier General Semyon Krivoshein during the joint victory parade in Brest, Poland, 22 September 1939. It's always time to smile when the Soviets are on your side.

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Soviet sniper girl Roza Shanina. Yes, this apparently is a real picture.

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I know this shot of Clark Gable is posed - but this has to be one of the top military smiles of World War II. Heck, don't limit it to just World War II, either.

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A soldier with the SS Totenkopfverbande shaves a Polish Jew. I warned you that not all of these pictures would be light and amusing, just that they would feature smiling. Smiling can be done for many reasons and stem from many motivations. Let's never get carried away with the idea that World War II was light comedy.

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Reinhard Heydrich finds something quite amusing. Heinrich Himmler is looking quite dapper.
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Ilse Hirsch, BDM pinup girl and leading lady of Operation Carnival in 1945.

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Nothing lightens the mood like a little mud.

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This picture shows some Wehrmacht boys and DAF (Labour Front) women chatting up a Falange lady, apparently in Spain. 

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Friedrich Konrad Winkler, Stalingrad 1942. Winkler probably had to work hard to gin up this smile for the propaganda man. Note the broken combat pin on his tunic, something Stalingrad soldiers did to show they had really earned it. Winkler survived the battle, but died soon after in Soviet captivity.

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Some panzer guys enjoying a moment.

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2nd SS Pz.Div. "Das Reich" officers: SS-Sturmbannführer Christian Tychsen, SS-Obersturmführer Hans Pavelka and Untersturmführer Karl-Heinz Worthmann.

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Audie Murphy, most decorated Allied Vet of World War II. I find this picture... incongruous, but it's probably just me.

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Max Wünsche, who led the 12th SS Panzer Regiment of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend in Normandy.

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An Allied soldier with some Dutch boys.

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A Finnish soldier with what appears to be a Panzerfaust, which places this in 1944.

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A German soldier during the Battle of the Bulge (colorized).

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Heinrich Himmler showing a toothy grin before the war.

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An Allied soldier donning his finest lace as camouflage.

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Don't know anything about this fellow (colorized). Seems in a good mood, though. You wouldn't want to make him angry, however.

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German machine gunner.
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Chuck Yeager with a colleague.

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Not too many smiles during the Battle of the Bulge, but here are a few.

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Hitler, his future brother-in-law Fegelein, and Heinrich Himmler find something amusing. Or, maybe Himmler just has gas.

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You no doubt recognize this fine fellow, but if not: PT 109.

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Hanna Reitsch was not faking anything about her love for National Socialism.

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Churchill as he was.
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Churchill as he wanted to be seen.

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Even some of the guards are smiling.


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Oh, I'm going to hear it from the purists about this one (courtesy CBS/Paramount).


2017

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