Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sniper Girl: Roza Shanina

This Girl Was A Real Killer

Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina. Some of these pictures, like this one, have been colorized.
One area of arms in which women unquestionably excelled during World War II was as Soviet snipers. Some of the deadliest combatants of the war on either side wore skirts, and they weren't just Scotsmen. Female sniper kill counts ran into the dozens, and sometimes into the hundreds. While there were many male snipers, and they did quite well, too, it was in this field (and also as night witches) where Soviet female soldiers came into their own.

Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina in 1944.
Roza Georgiyevna Shanina (3 April 1924 – 28 January 1945) was one of the best Soviet snipers, credited with 59 confirmed kills (54 according to some sources) and many more wounded (some of whom also may have perished from their wounds). She was the first female Soviet sniper to earn the Order of Glory.

Roza Shanina
This shot likely was taken when Roza was awarded one of her medals.
Praised for her shooting accuracy using a Mosin Nagant M91/30 rifle with a PU scope (3.5x), Shanina was capable of firing precise semi-automatic shots on moving enemy targets and scoring multiple kills ("doublets"). She volunteered to serve as a marksman on the front line and thereby blazed a trail for future female snipers.

Roza Shanina
An amazing photo of Roza Shanina. The rifle is a Mosin Nagant 1891/30 with a PU (SVT) 3.5x sniper scope 1943 - obviously well-used as evidenced by the wear around the scope. She holds the rank of staff sergeant; lance-sergeant = старший сержант) (colorized). I believe this is genuine as discussed below.

Roza Shanina
Since there seems to be (quite reasonable) disbelief that the above photo is real (if colorized), I dug this black and white version up. As far as I can tell, it is a real photo of Roza, unlikely as I know that may seem due to the high resolution. I also will point out that the wear on the scope appears very similar to other period photos of her. There are imaging tricks that can be used to enhance old photos, and it also is not unreasonable to believe that this national heroine was photographed with the best camera available. I welcome any contradiction to that conclusion in the comments, but for now, I will treat the photo as genuine.
Roza volunteered for service after the death of her brother during Operation Barbarossa.

Roza Shanina
This is another colorized photo of Roza Shanina, apparently from the same photo session as the one above. This one looks genuine, so the other photograph likely is, too. Somebody with skills cleaned up the other one, the best job I think I've ever seen.
Roza had a very good aim, which she displayed at sniper school as well as on the battlefield. With her good lucks and prowess at killing enemy men, it wasn't long before she became a national heroine.

Roza Shanina
Rosa posing with her sniper rifle.
Rosa was named after Rosa Luxembourg, a German communist revolutionary. She was a self-willed girl and left her small village at 14 to attend college in Arkhangelsk.

Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina with Lydia G. Vdovin and Alexndra Maksimovna Ekimova.
She had to walk 120 miles across the tundra to the nearest train station in order to get there, but that was nothing new, as she had walked 8 miles to school every day for years. Her parents objected, but you know how teenagers can be.

Roza Shanina
A colorized version of the shot above.
While at college, Roza broke curfew often and climbed into her upstairs room via tied bedsheets. Ultimately, for financial reasons, Roza took a job as a kindergarten teacher while taking occasional classes.

Roza Shanina
Shanina showing her decorations.
When war broke out, two of Shanina's brothers were killed in 1941, and later two more as well. The Soviets had begun recruiting female snipers because of what they believed to be unique female traits suited to that endeavor.

Roza Shanina
Snipers Sergeant Roza Shanina and Junior Sergeant Alexander Maksimovna Ekimov.
It seems they were right because many of the war's top snipers were female. Roza was above average in height, with light brown hair and blue eyes, and spoke in a Northern Russian dialect.

Roza Shanina
Roza showing her commander her sniper rifle.
Shanina volunteered after her second brother's death, but her application was denied (perhaps because of her age). She then learned how to shoot at a nearby range on her own. On 22 June 1943, exactly two years after the war began, she was admitted into the Vsevobuch military training program.

Roza Shanina

Shanina enrolled in the Central Female Sniper Academy. She did well in training and requested a front-line unit. Roza joined the 184th Rifle Division.

Roza Shanina

The Soviet leadership, contrary to some pre-war propaganda, was not eager to send women to the Front to be killed, but Roza demanded the chance. It is said that she snuck out to join the forward troops.

Roza Shanina
While this photo, which is a colorized version of one above, does not really show it, the skirt was actually dark blue. She is wearing a male issue field shirt.
On 2 April 1944, she was made commander of the all-female 1st Sniper Platoon of the Soviet 184th Rifle Division. Ultimately deployed on the northern part of the central front near Vitebsk, she scored her first kill on 5 April 1944. Between 6 and 11 April 1944, Roza was credited by her commander with 13 kills. She received the Order of Glory 3rd Class on 17 April 1944, becoming the first female sniper to earn this award. Her tally of victims continued to rise, and she killed an even dozen of enemy soldiers during the Battle of Vilnius.

Roza Shanina
Roza, described as having a mild manner and demure smile, in the Washington Examiner in 1944.
On 9 June 1944, Soviet newspaper Unichtozhim Vraga featured Roza on its cover. During Operation Bagration, the reconquest of Belorussia that began on June 22, 1944, Shanina advanced with the front-line troops against orders. She received an official reprimand (we would say that she was "written up"), but she did what she had to do.

Roza Shanina

While usually armed with a sniper rifle, on occasion Roza used a submachine gun. She used "blinds," hidden spots near the German lines which were specially camouflaged. She also was adept at taking out German snipers hidden in trees by waiting until the light was just right for her to spot them.

Roza Shanina

As Operation Bagration proceeded, Shanina advanced with the troops into East Prussia. She often had multiple-kill days, once recording five in one day. She was awarded the Order of Glory 2nd Class on 16 September 1944.

Roza Shanina
Notice the wear on the scope, which helps to spot authentic shots of Roza.
Fierce fighting developed around the border town of Schlossberg (now Dobrovolsk), and the town (the first German town occupied for a time by the Soviets in September) was not finally taken for good until 16 January 1945.

Roza Shanina
Stepping back a pace, Roza Shanina with her spotter.
Roza was in the thick of it and received the Medal for Courage on 27 December 1944.

Roza Shanina
Leningrad 1944: Snipers Faina Yakimova, Roza Shanina, and Lidia Volodina.
With the Germans now backed into their own homeland, the fighting became fiercer than ever. Roza was shot in the shoulder on 12 December 1944. She required an operation but recovered quickly. Upon her return, obviously a hard-nosed kid, she was given permission for front-line combat. She had developed into a killing machine, and claimed 26 Germans killed along the East Prussia border.

Roza Shanina

According to her diaries (which were prohibited by Soviet law), published long after the war, Shanina had an urge to be on the front lines even though her head told her it was a bad idea. She also at times engaged in hand-to-hand combat, along with other female snipers. Her diaries also allude to some unfulfilled romantic longings for fellow soldiers. Her last diary entry, just before her death, was very dark on this score.

Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina profiled by the AP on 23 September 1944 calls Roza Shanina "the unseen terror of East Prussia."
It is fair to say that there were internal contradictions to being one of the top killers of the war and also finding romantic/spiritual fulfillment at the same time. Just because she was beautiful did not mean that her fellow soldiers who were fighting for their lives every day and living in mud and dirt were falling all over her. She also lost many friends as casualties, and her entire platoon save a handful of others was wiped out.

Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina with fellow sniper "Dusya" Krasnoborova.
Entering the built-up areas of East Prussia exposed everyone to random sniper fire, and the artillery and rocket fire became intense. The Germans were fighting with extreme savagery out of sheer desperation. Contrary to what one might think, Soviet casualties during this late stage of the war were enormous. Ultimately, it was German artillery that got Roza (some sources say a grenade). Shanina raised her risk by volunteering for hazardous assignments such as what she described as a "melee combat."

Roza Shanina

While serving in the 144th Rifle Division, she was mortally wounded by a shell fragment on 27 January 1945 near Richau Estate (later Telmanovka) in East Prussia (near Novobobruysk in Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia).

Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina with Alexndra Maksimovna Ekimova.
It appeared that she was sheltering another soldier with her body when she got hit by shrapnel (both perished). Roza Shanina died the next day.

Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina showing her gun to Alexndra Maksimovna Ekimova and Lydia G. Vdovin.
Originally buried on the shore of the Alle River (now Lava), her remains are located in Znamensk, Kaliningrad Oblast.

Roza Shanina

War correspondent Pyotr Molchanov somehow kept Roza's diaries in Kyiv for decades after the war. Her story began to circulate with the publication of excerpts from her three-notebook diary and letters in the magazine Yunost in 1965. Several streets have been named after her, her high school has a commemorative plate, and there is a museum dedicated to Roza in the village of Yedma.

Roza Shanina
Roza Shanina (left) with Evdokia Fedorovna Krasnoborova and war correspondent Fridlyansky.
Roza was not the top sniper of the war, nor the top female sniper (that would be Lyudmila Pavlichenko, 309 kills). However, her reputation and trail-blazing spirit were immense, and her picture appeared during the war in various Soviet media outlets and even some Western ones as well (such as Canadian newspapers that termed her "the unseen terror of East Prussia").

Roza Shanina

Despite dying at the tender age of 20, her fame is immortal. After her death, she received numerous accolades and awards, some quite recent. She became even more of a national heroine than she had been in life, though during her life she was honored as well. You may never have heard the name Roza Shanina before, and may never again, but in Russia, she is a legend.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Christmas on Guadalcanal

Christmas Guadacanal

This is Christmas on Guadalcanal. I devote a lot of acreage on this site to the ETO, because imho - and it is very imho indeed - the PTO was distinctly secondary in terms of grand strategy. During the war, pretty much everybody except Admiral King thought that, too, so it's not like I'm taking a controversial position there. The thing is, the grunts knew that that is what everybody thought, too. Which is what made any little vestige of normalcy a bit more colorful, because dying in some forgotten backwater was not at the top of anybody's priority list and a touch of home before it happened was something to be treasured. If any of the guys in these photos had ever heard of Guadalcanal before being sent there, it would have been a miracle. There weren't too many miracles in the middle of the Pacific.

Christmas Guadacanal

Another reason is simply that there is more material from the ETO to work with. The Pacific campaign involved a lot of long-range carrier battles and short, quick fights for barren isles that nobody cared about then or now. There just isn't as much pizzazz there, regardless of the human consequences. Of course, there were land campaigns, but the scenery was just tree after tree, with occasional beaches full of dead guys. Now, if they had had a lot of beautful color kodachrome to work with, things would look different to posterity. But palm trees in black and white aren't all that snappy.

Christmas Guadacanal
These guys look like they've had enough. Appears to be an inspection.

Anyway, regardless, now and then I bestir myself and get back to some dreary tropical island where nothing fun every happened and guys got shot and left to moulder in the surf. Remember that December is the hottest month of the year south of the Equator. So, in honor of whatever festive spirit may move you, here, ladies and gentlemen, we present: Christmas in Guadalcanal.

Christmas Guadacanal

These were taken in December 1942. Those with a quick grasp of dates probably realize that the Japanese only had about another month or so on the island before they booked for Rabaul. Those who are probably much more knowledgeable than me about this campaign also realize, though, that the battle for Guadalcanal had been by no means won at that point. Yes, the Japanese had been sent reeling, and the US had re-established control of the seas around the island during the previous November. But everything was still uncertain, and the Japanese were launching absolutely insane suicide charges against fixed defenses now and then for some reason known only to them. The Imperial Fleet could at any time have arrived to change the situation, too. That it never did is probably something the top brass in Tokyo deeply regretted in coming years. The bottom line is that the war on Guadalcanal was in every sense of the word still hot at this point.

Christmas Guadacanal

If some of these photos seem a tad, shall we say, religious in nature, you are 100% correct, mate. That was the reality then. People prayed before they got shot and left to moulder in the surf. This is a blog about history, not political correctness.

Christmas Guadacanal

I don't always know the original source for photographs, but this time I think I do. Credit goes to Ralph Morse of Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images. The original title: Santa arrives to entertain Allied troops, Guadalcanal, December 1942.

Christmas Guadacanal
Time to sing a few carols.

Incidentally, there is a heavy emphasis on cemeteries in this sequence. You don't often see that in World War II photo sequences. However, here, in Guadalcanal, death from snipers or malaria or whatever strange bug bit you in the morning was a constant reality. While these graves are all well marked, it also is true that, to this day, they can't find some known graves on these islands. They're still looking for them. And that's a fact.

Christmas Guadacanal
Christmas Guadacanal
Christmas Guadacanal


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tales From the Dutch Resistance Part IV

Tales of the Dutch resistance

This is a continuation of my "Tales of the Dutch Resistance" series profiling one "Hans." He is an old man now, but once upon a time he was a young miner in Holland. He was tough, and still is, but not how you probably think of "tough." But, I don't want to explain. I want to show.

Is it true? Or just a tall tale. You decide.

We pick up where we left off.

Chapter IV: Dynamite

Hans shifted uneasily on his feet. His mine boss, Pieter, apparently expected him to do something as a form of repayment for saving him during the earlier incident. However, he did not like to feel obligated, and he had no special abilities. This all seemed unnecessary.

He thought about it, then made his decision. He looked back up at Pieter.

"What do you want me to do?"

Pieter smiled and sat back in his chair.

"You are placed in the perfect position to help us. But let me ask you something first. While you were taking your train rides, did you happen to notice what else was on the tracks?"

Hans thought about it. Nothing had seemed very special about the trip. He had noticed all the guards at the Eindhoven station, but the Germans were like that. They were everywhere, always meddling. Then, he did remember something, but it seemed too obvious to mention. However, he had to say something.

"I saw a lot of German trains."

Pieter's smile broadened. "Very good. Did you happen to notice what kind of trains they were?"

"They were German trains. I saw some freight trains, too. The station at Eindhoven seemed very busy, and it was full of Boche. They asked for my papers, there was a lot of security, they acted like I was a threat or something. They almost caught me."

"You are very observant. Yes, Eindhoven has become a key transit stop for the Germans. Trains carrying planes stop there, and some other trains with construction materials and troops continue onward. They are building weapons on the coast to use against England. There also are materials and people like us being taken on the trains back to Germany. Those poor souls won't be coming back here."

Coastal gun used against England (Vennermann, Federal Archive).

Hans had no idea why they were talking about trains. What did trains have to do with him? Did Pieter want him to become a train engineer? He stayed silent and waited for Pieter, who had paused as if expecting something from him, to continue.

"Let me explain it plainly, Hans. You are one of my best miners. That is why you are part of the crew that works with explosives. We know that you are meticulous and trustworthy."

Hans nodded. He still had no idea what was going on.

"We need you to get some of that dynamite for us. It will help us with our projects."

This time, Hans did have something to say.

"Get you dynamite? Why can't you get it? It's your mine!"

Pieter's face darkened. "I told you that we need you to get it. The Germans don't let us anywhere near the explosives. It is brought here under guard and locked in the dynamite room in the mine. If I could just order some myself, I wouldn't be asking you for your help."

"You want me to get dynamite? You mean bring it out? That is impossible!"

Pieter leaned forward. The swivel chair creaked ominously.

"You owe us your life. There is a way. I want you to go and figure out how to do it."

"It is impossible."

"Well, think of a way. I want to see you back here next week. You can explain to me then how you are going to do it." Pieter then motioned toward the door. He seemed irritated.

Hans stumbled out of the office in a daze. He had no idea how to smuggle dynamite out of the mine. The SS searched everyone, both as they entered and as they left. There were always several of them at the entrance.

The incident preoccupied him for days. The dynamite room was only open to him and a few other people. It had boxes of dynamite, all piled in a corner. Nobody kept track of it, because there was plenty to last several months at the very least. However, anyone entering had to sign in and out.

Getting it out of the room wasn't the hard part, though. That would be avoiding detection by the SS at the mine entrance. They did a full body search, and dynamite was too big to simply stuff under one's shirt or down one's trousers and hope to get away with it. Getting caught smuggling dynamite would brand one as a partisan, and the Germans were known to not waste much time dealing with partisans that they caught. They seldom even made it back to prison.

Hans' older brother - whom we shall call Franz - also worked in the mine, though he no longer lived at home. A few days after the meeting with Pieter, he noticed Hans looking preoccupied.

"Hans, what's wrong. You've been acting strange ever since you came back from your girlfriend's house." Hans hadn't seen his brother often enough or under the right circumstances to have explained what had happened. He assumed that their father had done so, but he wasn't sure.

Hans always told his family everything. It worked out better that way. He told Franz about the strange request, though he didn't mention who had made it. He also didn't mention the earlier incident. He just felt funny talking about it.

Franz thought about Pieter's request for a moment. He seemed thoughtful. "It is impossible for anyone to steal dynamite. They would catch you the first or second time that you tried it."

Hans nodded. He knew it would lead to his death. However, he felt obligated to Pieter and the others who had helped him. He had no idea what to do. Pieter could turn him in, too. This couldn't work out well.

Franz tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, stop it, brother. I said it was impossible for you to do it. However, it isn't impossible for us to do it."

Hans looked up. He wasn't expecting this.

Franz continued. "Have you ever noticed anything odd about the guards?"

Odd? "No, they are just dirty SS. They are all horrible."

"Think about it. How many do you know?"

"Know? I don't know any of them. There are different ones there every single day!"

Franz smiled. "That's right. Have you ever seen the same SS at the mine from one day to the next?"

Hans thought about it. Come to think of it, there were always different faces there. He had no idea why. Perhaps it was considered a menial job by the Germans? Or perhaps it was just a task given to whoever was available that day. In any event, he didn't see the point to wondering about it.

Franz didn't wait for him to respond. He suddenly seemed excited, as if he had discovered gold in the mine or something instead of the filthy coal they dealt with every day.

"Brother, don't you see? That is how we are going to do this!"

"Do what? Smuggle out dynamite? The guards have nothing to do with this."

Smiling, Franz nodded. "That's right. The guards are always changing. They have no idea what happened in the mine yesterday, and they will have no idea what happened today when we go back tomorrow."

Hans shrugged. "So what? They always search you anyway. I don't want to get caught with dynamite whether the guards know me or not."

"Let's just say that I have an idea. We can try it out tomorrow."

"Tomorrow! I'm not smuggling out anything tomorrow! You're crazy!"

Nodding again, Franz explained what he had in mind. Hans didn't like it at all, but he agreed to go along with the idea, just so long as there wasn't any real dynamite involved.

It was a complicated plan. Just after the guard station was the locker room, where the men showered after work. Franz told Hans to go out at the end of the day, get searched, and then shower as usual. After that, though, the routine would change a little.

The next day, Hans left as usual. He stopped, was searched, and came back up the stairs from the showers. Instead of turning to the right and leaving, though, he turned to the left, back to the guards, and walked over to them.

"I have forgotten my lunch box in my locker. May I go and get it?"

The SS men barely looked at him. One waved him on.

The lockers were in another room down the corridor. Everybody ate lunch there, and they never took their boxes into the mine proper. Guards watched them as they ate and replaced their boxes in their lockers. Everything was tightly controlled, and there was no possibility of anyone putting something in their lunch boxes.

Hans went back in to the lunch room, grabbed his box, and walked out. He was so nervous that he felt as if he had left his own body. He held the lunch box with a death grip, and his nerves made it feel as if it weighed like a block of concrete. His wrist was cramped, and he could barely bend it. He wasn't even sure why he was nervous - this was just a test - but he feared the guards might think he was wasting their time. They had been known to beat up some of the men who had annoyed them.

With a forced smile, he waved the lunch box at the guards as he walked by and out toward the mine elevator. The SS men had already marked him on the sheet as having left, and didn't even look up at him from their newspapers.

Outside the mine, Franz was waiting. As soon as he saw Hans, he leapt up from where he was sitting and ran over. He looked down at the lunch box and seemed fascinated by it. Franz had a strange look on his face.

"So it worked? You didn't have any trouble?"

"Trouble? What trouble? I just did as you asked."

Franz laughed loudly, as though Hans had told the greatest joke of his life. Hans looked at him and couldn't tell if he was making fun of him or not, but it was a strange laugh and it made him nervous. Everything was just getting weird.

"That is excellent, Hans. Let's walk home together. I think we have solved our problem."

They didn't say much on the walk home. Hans had no idea what they had done that had solved anything. He just had an empty lunch box, and was starting to get hungry again.

Once they were inside and the door was shut, Franz snatched the box out of Hans' hands. He fumbled at the clasp, then yanked it open. The box fell open. With a loud clunk, a large object hit the floor. Franz must have jumped half a meter in the air. Then, he reached down and scooped it up.

It was a stick of dynamite.

Part V.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

German Trophy Photos

German trophy photos
Operation Barbarossa.
One of the weirdest trends of World War II was German trophy photos. I'm not talking about bowling trophies, either.

German trophy photos

There was something about German military culture that compelled the propaganda photographers attached to units.

German trophy photos
Operation Barbarossa featured a lot of these sorts of shots.
While that in-and-of-itself is not unusual, these propagandists liked to have the troops pose in a sort of triumphant way in front of burning Soviet buildings and the like. That was a bit unusual, at least as a standard practice.
German infantry in Russia, 30 October 1941
German infantry marching past a burning house in Russia, October 1941 (Federal Archive Bild 146-1989-030-27).
Or, maybe the soldiers themselves wanted to pose that way. Either way, it made for some evocative shots.

German trophy photos
Germans in the Soviet Union, 1941.
We can debate the purpose and circumstances of such photos, but not the fact that the pictures were taken. There are so many of these sorts of pictures that they must have reflected something common to the German war effort. You can and will draw your own conclusions about what they mean - but it is interesting that they exist. We will take a broader view of the topic of trophy photos below.

German trophy photos
A very carefully posed shot.
Sometimes, the menace was implied in an artful way. For instance, in the shot above that appears to be posed but made to look "natural," we see a village burning in the background. Oh, and just by chance, the guy nearest the camera (purposefully kneeling so we can see him clearly) has a flamethrower. Flamethrower + burning village = what a coincidence! Would he kneel for the cameraman and wait until the shot was perfectly composed, with the two grunts walking by perfectly framing the burning building if he were not proud of his handiwork? You decide.

A quick caveat: I have tried to verify the authenticity of these photos, but there are many "re-creations" and outright fakes sometimes made for propaganda purposes by very sophisticated operations.

German trophy photos

Anyone spotting a fake on this site should leave a comment below and I'll delete it if there is a real possibility the photo isn't genuine.

German trophy photos
I think that is an MG 42 he's holding, I don't know what is burning in the background but it is probably someone's home.
The Germans often would pose in front of burning buildings or in front of dead bodies they had just killed, sometimes rather self-consciously.

German trophy photos
Panzergrenadiers posing in front of a T-34-85, which places this in 1944 or '45. The fellow with the panzerfaust will get a tank destroyer arm patch for that, perhaps the other guy as well. They don't look too excited, they know they might not live long enough to wear the patch.
These pictures don't just happen. They are carefully posed and arranged by the propaganda ministry photographer. There was a practical reason to take them, too: awards and promotions were based upon destroying tanks and other achievements. The Tank Destruction Badge (Sonderabzeichen für das Niederkämpfen von Panzerkampfwagen durch Einzelkämpfer) was highly prized. It wasn't just the Germans - the Soviets were notorious for "marking" the tanks they had destroyed so nobody else stole the credit for their work. Everybody wanted proper credit.

German trophy photos
"We're number eins!"
From the looks of it, this included senior officers as well.

... even Field Marshals.

Trophy pictures Field Marshal Ewald von Kleist
Field Marshal Ewald von Kleist in front of burning facilities.
It was kind of a "Look, ma, see what I did!" trend that is completely inexplicable. Yet, it happened over and over.

German trophy photos

It is understandable that soldiers would be happy to pose for propaganda shots.

However, at times it goes completely off the rails - as when they pose like elephant hunters, beaming as they stand over (or under) their victims. It is a mindset completely alien to modern times, perhaps more appropriate to medieval days.

One also has to wonder at how gleeful everyone looks. It's one thing to pose for a photo, but to find it positively hilarious to stand in front of someone that you just hanged or shot is simply bizarre.

German trophy photos Russia

From a military sense, burning down isolated farmhouses has a certain logic to it. You deny the enemy a place to sleep and set up camp. It's not really the way to endear yourself to the locals who see you coming their way, but nobody really cared about that stuff.

German trophy photos Russia
If you don't need it - burn it.
There are reports that Wehrmacht soldiers used these photos to show their comrades in new units what they had done, sort of like calling cards.

There are plenty of photos of German soldiers (SS or otherwise) in the act of killing people. However, when they are self-consciously cracking broad smiles or even apparently making fun of a corpse, that takes it to a whole other realm.

If there is one thing about reviewing photos of the period that has baffled me, that is it. Posing with someone you just killed - why?

However, I actually have one more point to make - and you're probably not going to like it. But this blog is about reality, not myth or legends.

It wasn't just the Axis soldiers who did this.

German trophy photos

Trophy photos
This sniper was unusually proud of his kill.

German trophy photos

And it wasn't just men.

German trophy photos
Oh... the best part about this photo is that she is in the process of writing a thank you note... for the skull.

War is Hell.