Forgotten Stories Told Through Photographs

On September 1st, 1939 one of the biggest wars of all time began. World War II brought death, destruction, and hatred across the world. Six years later in 1945, the bloodshed finally ended, but not before ruining the lives of millions and millions of people. What many people forget about are the soldiers on the fighting grounds who went on the battlefields and risked their lives for the safety of others. Since World War II was not fought on American soil, US troops were deployed all over Europe, with a large number of them going to France, Germany, and Belgium. No matter where they were deployed, the horrifying sights of World War II followed them. Disturbing scenes such as concentration camps, the loss of a fellow soldier, or the sound of bombs going off in the distance affected the minds and the hearts of the soldiers. Yet in spite of all of the horror the came with World War II, our American soldiers kept smiles on their faces when it was all said and done.

When World War II finally came to a close in 1945, a sense of triumph swept the US. At the same time, US soldiers on the other side of the pond were celebrating the massive victory. The Pepperdine Special Collections Library possesses a collection of images from the Michael D. Moore collection that truly embody the strength and courage of our US soldiers during the war. For example, take the image of two American soldiers riding a tank out of Kinsweller, Germany. The soldiers have a stern, yet subtle expression on their faces. They have secured a victory, yet they know that the war is not over yet. Furthermore, the image taken in the then-recently captured town of Lovenich, in Germany, shows four American soldiers smiling as they collect mattresses after protecting the city from enemy bombshell attacks. The smiles on their faces shows how they found ways to have fun and enjoy themselves despite what was going on around them. American troops were not only stationed in Germany, but also in France. Troops in the city of Dreux were positioned in the center of the city in order to keep it safe. Despite the fact that they were in a war, the soldiers kept their spirits up, as seen in one of the images in the collection. In the image, four soldiers are posing on a tank in front of a large sign that says, “HAPPY WELCOME FOR YOU ALLIES.” That sign represented more than just a welcoming for the soldiers. It was a form of encouragement which lifted their spirits while they were out protecting lives. The most interesting photo in this collection shows a group of American soldiers laying down in a line across the side of a building, with some of them sleeping and some of them enjoying the sun. Even heroes need a rest sometimes.

The images in this collection give us a glimpse on what types of conditions our soldiers had to endure. The weather varies significantly throughout the photographs; The images taken in Belgium show the heavy snowfall that the soldiers had to endure while deployed in cities like Bastogne and Lierheux. In France, on the other hand, soldiers had to endure rainfall while fighting to protect cities.

World War II was a very dark time for humanity, but throughout all of the darkness there was a glimmer of hope, and that hope came from all of the soldiers who put their lives on the line in order to save others. Although today we talk about how we support our soldiers, we don’t actually understand what they must endure in their time of service. The only way to truly get a small understanding of their experiences is through these types of photographs. Photographs allow us to see some of what they saw, but they don’t allow us to feel what they felt, hear what they heard, or experience what they did. The only thing we can do is show our utmost support for them because they are doing what we are not willing to do. Around 70 million lives were lost in World War II. The toll, as bad as it was, would have been even worse if it weren’t for those brave soldiers. The Boone Special Collections Library is an amazing source for finding new and insightful information, and this collection of photos from World War II is a great example of that. They say a photograph says a thousand words, and in the case of these images that rings completely true.