Friday, January 15, 2016

Odd Photos from World War II

odd photos World War II

I've been collecting odd photos from World War II and decided finally to post them. By odd, I just mean... revealing in ways that are not necessarily quite normal and by-the-book.

odd photos World War II
A captured German officer gives a large British soldier - who it should be emphasized is standing at absolutely correct attention - an appraising glance.
Well, they are odd to me, but you may find them perfectly normal, and perhaps some of them are.

odd photos World War II
The Nuremberg trials were a gas.
There are photos from both sides, and a few aren't really odd so much as just incongruous.

odd photos World War II
Ok, you're a true expert on the war. You know everything about it and nobody else knows anything. I run into you guys all the time, and often you do know more than me and I am in awe. However,  at least as often you just think you know everything. Let's put it to the test: what unit is this special patch from? Maybe the GrossDeutschland? The Goerings? Probably the LSSAH, right? There was one particular unit that wore this patch, and one only, and it was a major formation that is in all the history books. I will give you the big hint that it is not any of those three units I just named. The answer is at the end of this article.
 Or unexpected.

William Hitler
Just an average bloke in the US Navy? Yes, quite. William Hitler, the other Hitler's nephew. Great seaman. Terrible name.
Or out of place.

odd photos World War II
Hitler reacts to a kiss from an excited Carla de Vries, a 40-year-old American woman at the Berlin Olympics (August 15, 1936). She was just walking by and swooped in. Her brother-in-law said: "She wanted to meet Hitler but I'm surprised at the way she did it!" Her rationale was, "Why, I simply embraced him because he appeared so friendly and gracious . . . . I don't know why I did it. Certainly, I hadn't planned such a thing. It's just that I'm a woman of impulses, I guess."
Hitler had his admirers. Even American ones, as above at the Olympics. Bet she wanted that one back later.

Hitler odd
This picture just strikes me as very odd. Okay, the picture of Hitler staring at the woman is creepy by itself. But, look at the woman ... should I say "woman" ... I hate to be impolite, but that is some jaw on that "lady."
Or just plain, well, humorous. Happy Easter, Homey!

odd photos World War II

And you wondered why mail call is so important?

odd photos World War II
This is what the boys at the front really want in the mail.
Well, boys will be boys. You know how it is, they just want a little of that lovin' feeling.

odd photos World War II
Japanese army soldiers take a moment to relax and massage each other’s shoulders, somewhere in China, the late 1930s.
Aliens, anyone? They must have got some of those foo fighters with that 88.

odd photos World War II
All right, before you get all excited about pointing out my gullibility, I know this is a fake, but I think it's hilarious anyway. Besides, perhaps you've seen this elsewhere, so let's debunk it.
odd photos World War II
Here is the real gun. I know, no aliens, bummer. ;)
It is easy to picture all Germans as robots shouting "Heil Hitler" as they click their heels and run to their machine guns. That is the stereotype and was at least as early as "To Be Or Not To Be" in 1941, when the climax of the film occurs as a blindly loyal Wehrmacht soldier is convinced that it is his duty to Hitler to jump out of a plane without a parachute. However, these photos show a little, shall we say, originality.

odd photos World War II
Cats, they loved cats.
Now, there may have been some mindless drones during the war - there usually are, in all armies. But for the vast majority of World War II grunts on both sides, the war was a major inconvenience, and an opportunity to have a little fun was welcome.

odd photos World War II
This is one of the more unusual shots I have seen from World War II. It is a group of German pilots of Heinkel He-111 bombers - pressed into service for the emergency airlift - at some sort of symbolic wake. I don't believe anyone specific has died - rather, they are attending their own mock funerals. The coffin is inscribed in German: “Dein leben – dein gewinn” – or, "your life – your reward." Also, “mich auch” – "for me, too." This is an awesome shot on so many levels - the pilots showing their morbid understanding of their own likely fates, the bomber in the background, the one flying on the horizon. Hundreds of planes were lost during the airlift. This was taken by Siegfried Lauterwasser at Tatsinskaya airfield, the main supply base 260 km from Stalingrad, fall of 1942. The airfield was lost by the end of the year and in fact the failure to hold it sealed the fate of the Germans in Stalingrad. This is an original color photograph.
Sometimes the frat boys really put the hard sell on the ladies, as below. And yes, they are all loving it, check out the two other girls with the pistols ready to go.

odd photos World War II
A lady should know how to handle a pistol.
While some of the official studio portraits themselves are a bit farcical or at least "revealing" in hindsight, in general, wartime photographers tried to make everything look just-so. The point was to make things ideal for government magazines and so forth. So, seeing a break in that monotony in the photographic record is kind of fun.

odd photos World War II

Anyway, this page is intended as some light relief from the otherwise grim pages full of death and killings. Or, at least, a more human look at the less heroic sides of the conflict.

odd photos World War II
It looks like the Russian bear has been tamed!
Oh, how rude!

No offense is meant, if you prefer not to see a lighter side to the war, that's perfectly understandable and you certainly have your reasons. I also have plenty of pages of death and destruction if that is your thing.

odd photos World War II

However, for those looking for something "completely different," as Monty Python would say, well, here it is.

odd photos World War II
No, I don't get it, either, but I bet some heavy drinking was involved.
And, no, I have absolutely no idea what the situation was for some of these shots. I don't know the identities of the people involved (well, except for one or two), and I don't know the photographers. It's possible some are not genuine. This page is meant as a bit of fun, not some kind of deep critical analysis.

However, when you get gangs of high-spirited young guys out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do except wait for death and with no women, you do get some unusual behavior.

odd photos World War II
Look ma, no cooking flames needed!
Even the civilians get into the act now and then.

odd photos World War II
I love shots like this, there were usually civilians all around during these battles and they just wanted to be helpful at times.
Perhaps the best attitude of all for some wise folks is just to ignore that silly war raging around them.

odd photos World War II
I don't know what the heck the lady is carrying, but it must have been important.
Now and then, a political statement will occur, but it's all just part of the fun.

odd photos World War II

The fact that I get a chuckle out of some of these no doubt says more about me than anything else, but it appears the fellows themselves found it humorous as well.

odd photos World War II
Again, remember the "no women" part.
Incidentally, one reaction that I expect to these - because I've seen it before - is "Oh, that is nothing unusual! We did such-and-such and this-and-that." I know, I know. But did you take photographs and keep copies for 70 years?
odd photos World War II

Let's just say that some of these guys would have done better if there were some women around. Any women.

You also have to remember that homosexuals and the like were sent straight to concentration camps, so some of these photos definitely are not political statements or "guys just expressing their true inner feelings." I know that's what some will want to think of seeing these, but it's extremely unlikely. Dressing in drag and such is kind of a male rite of passage or bonding experience or whatever.

odd photos World War II
There was just something about huge gun barrels that drew the Wehrmacht boys to them like this.
Now, with some of them, you just know they knew what they were doing and the shots are fairly obvious. To be fair, though, some of the subjects of these shots probably didn't intend to create a comical image. Remember, the photographer is the one who chooses what to shoot and how to position themselves.
I'm not sure if the general noticed the symbolism here, but the photographer sure did (Zschackel, Federal Archive).
But then, others were, shall we say, a bit more knowing.

Certainly, in context, all these photos undoubtedly would make perfect sense. "It was so-and-so's birthday party, it was the night of the company skit and somebody had to play the maiden, we were ordered to collect flowers for the General's wife or blah blah blah." The whole thing with old photos, though, is that sometimes context flew out the window and didn't return.
A lot of German soldiers had pets.
And most of these guys sure seemed happy, context or not.

Of course, some of the "happy" pictures were posed and only taken and distributed as pure misdirection.

Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler, his wife, and daughter Gudrun out picking flowers without a care in the world. Note that Heinrich very uncharacteristically is dressed in civilian clothes during the middle of the war. Now, why are the Himmlers out picking daisies, and why is someone coincidentally taking pictures for the newspapers? Because it is 19 June 1941, and the start of Operation Barbarossa is a mere three days away.
Yes, the Germans did have DJs, and they did spin records. The photo below is not a fake. They were distributing gramophone records, apparently of Hitler speeches, at a radio exhibition which started in Berlin on August 19, 1932. And yes, the chicks did dig it.
Listening to the latest hits on the Fuhrer's hit parade (AP Photo).

odd photos World War II

odd photos World War II
The Soviet propaganda sign says, "The fastest way home is to be in a Russian POW camp."

odd photos World War II

odd photos World War II

The answer to the patch question above: That is the insignia of the US Army's 45th Infantry Division. It was a part of the Oklahoma National Guard, and the swastika was a Native American symbol that the unit wore to honor the local people.


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