- First flight with the Wright Brothers, 1903
- The last known photo of the Titanic afloat, 1912
- The Solvay Conference, probably the most intelligent picture ever taken, 1927
- The Reichstag fire, 1933
- Nazi Nuremberg Rally, 1934
- Migrant worker, 1936
- Jesse Owens wins four golds in Nazi Germany, 1936
- The Hindenburg disaster, 1937
- Hitler in Paris, 1940
- Pearl Harbor attack
- Adolf Hitler declared war on the USA, 1941
- The Big Three at the Tehran Conference, 1943
- Normandy landing, 1944
- MacArthur landing, 1944
- Potsdam Conference, 1945
- Raising the flag on Iwo Jima, 1945
- Soviet flag over Reichstag, 1945
- The ruins of Dresden, 1945
- First atomic bom, 1945
- The kiss, 1945
- Signing surrender documents, 1945
- Hirohito and MacArthur meeting for the first time, 1945
- The Nuremberg Trials, 1945-1949
- Gandhi and the spinning wheel, 1946
- Einstein sticking his tongue out, 1951
- Che Guevara, 1960
- Thích Quảng Đức self-immolating, 1963
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr.’s final salute, 1963
- Small guerrila girl capturing air man, 1965
- Human rights salute, 1968
- Earthrise Photo, 1968
- The execution of a Viet Cong guerilla, 1968
- A man on the Moon, 1969
- Napalm Girl photo, 1972
- Burst of ioy, 1973
- Evacuation from Saigon, 1975
- A starving boy and a missionary in Uganda, 1980
- John Lennon signs an autograph for his murderer, 1980
- Hand of God goal, 1986
- A teenager landing on Red Square, 1987
- Tank Man, 05-Jun-1989
- The fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989
- Starving child and vulture, 1993
- Pillars of Creation, 1995
- Oklahoma bombing, 1995
- The day a computer beat a chess world champion, 1997
- 99 Cent, 1999
- The moment Bush was informed of the World Trade Center attack, 2001
- White House watching the raid, 2011
- A small Syrian boy washed up on a beach, 2015
Since the invention of the camera, photography has played a pivotal role in capturing and recording our past so that later generations can live vicariously what others witnessed first hand. As billions of photos have been taken throughout the years, only the smallest fraction of those rare photos from history will ever leave an indelible mark that will never be forgotten.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so it can excite different levels of feelings in our heart. Photos may mark a historic milestone, like Earthrise; some may remind us of the fate of children like Kim Phu, Baylee or the unknown child near a vulture; they may become iconic for a socio-economic period, like Migrant worker in the Great Depression; they may present new angles like 99 cents; they may show interesting human nature different from daily appearance, like “Einstein sticking his tongue out”.
With our feelings aroused by a photo, we should consider the idea from one of the photographers: “… photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths”. We should know the other half-truths, so that we have a more in-depth viewpoint toward the humane nature, or to know more about the social setting, or to judge more fairly, or to have more sympathy… Like “Starving child and vulture”: there is suffering but there are also relief works around that are not seen in the photo; or like Burst of joy: the joy followed by sadness that the photo cannot tell.
This article brings you the stories behind some famous photos to fill other half-truths.
First flight with the Wright Brothers, 1903
Since 1899, Wilbur and Orville Wright had been scientifically experimenting with the concepts of flight. They labored in relative obscurity, while the experiments of Samuel Langley of the Smithsonian were followed in the press and underwritten by the War Department. Yet Langley, as others before him, had failed to achieve powered flight.
It was the Wrights’ genius and vision to see that humans would have to fly their machines, that the problems of flight could not be solved from the ground. In Wilbur’s words, “It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.” With over a thousand glides from atop Big Kill Devil Hill, the Wrights made themselves the first true pilots. These flying skills were a crucial component of their invention. Before they ever attempted powered flight, the Wright brothers were masters of the air.
Through glider experiments on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, they had solved the problem of sustained lift and more importantly they could now control an aircraft while in flight. The brothers felt they were now ready to truly fly. But first, the Wrights had to power their aircraft.
Gasoline engine technology had recently advanced to where its use in airplanes was feasible. Unable to find a suitable lightweight commercial engine, the brothers designed their own. It was cruder and less powerful than Samuel Langley’s, but the Wrights understood that relatively little power was needed with efficient lifting surfaces and propellers. Using their air tunnel data, they designed the first efficient airplane propeller, one of their most original and purely scientific achievements. They mounted the engine on the new 40-foot, 605-pound Flyer with double tails and elevators. They were finally ready on December 14th.
In order to decide who would fly first, the brother tossed a coin. Wilbur won the coin toss, but lost his chance to be the first to fly when he oversteered with the elevator after leaving the launching rail. The flyer, climbed too steeply, stalled, and dove into the sand.
Three days later, they were ready for the second attempt. The headwind would slow their groundspeed to a crawl, but they proceeded anyway. Now it was Orville’s turn.
On 17-Dec-1903, Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane 20 feet above a wind-swept beach in North Carolina. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 ft (37 m). Three more flights were made that day with Orville’s brother Wilbur piloting the record flight lasting 59 seconds over a distance of 852 ft (260 m). The Wright brothers documented much of their early progress in photographs made on glass negatives.
Photo: 17-Dec-1903. Man’s first powered, controlled, sustained flight. Orville Wright at the controls of the machine, lying prone on the lower wing with hips in the cradle which operated the wing-warping mechanism. Wilbur Wright running alongside to balance the machine, has just released his hold on the forward upright of the right wing. The starting rail, the wing-rest, a coil box, and other items needed for flight preparation are visible behind the machine. Orville Wright preset the camera and had John T. Daniels squeeze the rubber bulb, tripping the shutter.
This was the real thing, transcending the powered hops and glides others had achieved. The Wright machine had flown. But it would not fly again; after the last flight it was caught by a gust of wind, rolled over, and damaged beyond easy repair. With their flying season over, the Wrights sent their father a matter-of-fact telegram reporting the modest numbers behind their epochal achievement.
The last known photo of the Titanic afloat, 1912
This photograph, taken on 12 April 1912, is the last known picture of RMS Titanic on the surface of the ocean. It was taken during her maiden voyage at Crosshaven, Ireland, just after the vessel departed Queenstown where it had stopped before heading westwards towards New York. Three days after this photo was taken 1,514 people would be dead and the Titanic would be on the bottom of the North Atlantic after colliding with an iceberg in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.
According to Time Magazine this photo was taken by Irish Jesuit priest Francis Browne who sailed with the ship for the first leg of its journey, from Southampton (England) to Cobh (Ireland) then called Queenstown. The priest would have stayed for the remainder of the transatlantic journey too, having received an offer of a ticket from a wealthy family he befriended while on board. When Browne reached Cobh, however, he received a note from his clerical superior, ordering him to return to his station immediately rather than sail on with Titanic.
The Solvay Conference 1927
The Solvay Conference, founded by the Belgian industrialist Ernest Solvay in 1912, was considered a turning point in the world of physics. Located in Brussels, the conferences were devoted to outstanding preeminent open problems in both physics and chemistry. The most famous conference was the October 1927 Fifth Solvay International Conference on Electrons and Photons, where the world’s most notable physicists met to discuss the newly formulated quantum theory. The leading figures were Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr.
Einstein, disenchanted with Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, remarked “God does not play dice”. Bohr replied: “Einstein, stop telling God what to do”. 17 of the 29 attendees were or became Nobel Prize winners, including Marie Curie, who alone among them, had won Nobel Prizes in two separate scientific disciplines.
This conference was also the culmination of the struggle between Einstein and the scientific realists, who wanted strict rules of scientific method as laid out by Charles Peirce and Karl Popper, versus Bohr and the instrumentalists, who wanted looser rules based on outcomes. Starting at this point, the instrumentalists won, instrumentalism having been seen as the norm ever since.
And the colorized version, below.
Photo: This is probably the most intelligent picture ever taken. Back to front, left to right:
Back: Auguste Piccard, Émile Henriot, Paul Ehrenfest, Édouard Herzen, Théophile de Donder, Erwin Schrödinger, JE Verschaffelt, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, Ralph Fowler, Léon Brillouin.
Middle: Peter Debye, Martin Knudsen, William Lawrence Bragg, Hendrik Anthony Kramers, Paul Dirac, Arthur Compton, Louis de Broglie, Max Born, Niels Bohr.
Front: Irving Langmuir, Max Planck, Marie Curie, Hendrik Lorentz, Albert Einstein, Paul Langevin, Charles-Eugène Guye, CTR Wilson, Owen Richardson.
The scientists in the picture:
Auguste Piccard designed ships to explore the upper stratosphere and the deep seas (bathyscaphe, 1948).
Emile Henriot detected the natural radioactivity of potassium and rubidium. He made ultracentrifuges possible and pioneered the electron microscope.
Paul Ehrenfest remarked (in 1909) that Special Relativity makes the rim of a spinning disk shrink but not its diameter. This contradiction with Euclidean geometry inspired Einstein’s General Relativity. Ehrenfest was a great teacher and a pioneer of quantum theory.
Edouard Herzen is one of only 7 people who participated in the two Solvay conferences of 1911 and 1927. He played a leading role in the development of physics and chemistry during the twentieth century.
Théophile de Donder defined chemical affinity in terms of the change in the free enthalpy. He founded the thermodynamics of irreversible processes, which led his student Ilya Prigogine (1917-2006) to a Nobel prize.
Erwin Schrödinger matched observed quantum behavior with the properties of a continuous nonrelativistic wave obeying the Schrödinger Equation. In 1935, he challenged the Copenhagen Interpretation, with the famous tale of Schrödinger’s cat. He shared the nobel prize with Dirac.
Jules Emile Verschaffelt, the Flemish physicist, got his doctorate under Kamerlingh Onnes in 1899.
Wolfgang Pauli formulated the exclusion principle which explains the entire table of elements. Pauli’s sharp tongue was legendary; he once said about a bad paper: “This isn’t right; this isn’t even wrong.”
Werner Heisenberg replaced Bohr’s semi-classical orbits by a new quantum logic which became known as matrix mechanics (with the help of Born and Jordan). The relevant noncommutativity entails Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.
Sir Ralph Howard Fowler supervised 15 FRS and 3 Nobel laureates. In 1923, he introduced Dirac to quantum theory.
Léon Nicolas Brillouin practically invented solid state physics (Brillouin zones) and helped develop the technology that became the computers we use today.
Peter Debye pioneered the use of dipole moments for asymmetrical molecules and extended Einstein’s theory of specific heat to low temperatures by including low-energy phonons.
Martin Knudsen revived Maxwell’s kinetic theory of gases, especially at low pressure: Knudsen flow, Knudsen number etc.
William Lawrence Bragg was awarded the Nobel prize for physics jointly with his father Sir William Henry Bragg for their work on the analysis of the structure of crystals using X-ray diffraction.
Hendrik Kramers was the first foreign scholar to seek out Niels Bohr. He became his assistant and helped develop what became known as Bohr’s Institute, where he worked on dispersion theory.
Paul Dirac came up with the formalism on which quantum mechanics is now based. In 1928, he discovered a relativistic wave function for the electron which predicted the existence of antimatter, before it was actually observed.
Arthur Holly Compton figured that X-rays collide with electrons as if they were relativistic particles, so their frequency shifts according to the angle of deflection (Compton scattering).
Louis de Broglie discovered that any particle has wavelike properties, with a wavelength inversely proportional to its momentum (this helps justify Schrödinger’s equation).
Max Born’s probabilistic interpretation of Schrödinger’s wave function ended determinism in physics but provided a firm ground for quantum theory.
Irving Langmuir was an American chemist and physicist. His most noted publication was the famous 1919 article “The Arrangement of Electrons in Atoms and Molecules”.
Max Planck originated quantum theory, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. He proposed that exchanges of energy only occur in discrete lumps, which he dubbed quanta.
Niels Bohr started the quantum revolution with a model where the orbital angular momentum of an electron only has discrete values. He spearheaded the Copenhagen Interpretation which holds that quantum phenomena are inherently probabilistic.
Marie Curie was the first woman to earn a Nobel prize and the first person to earn two. In 1898, she isolated two new elements (polonium and radium) by tracking their ionizing radiation, using the electrometer of Jacques and Pierre Curie.
Hendrik Lorentz discovered and gave theoretical explanation of the Zeeman effect. He also derived the transformation equations subsequently used by Albert Einstein to describe space and time.
Albert Einstein developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics).He is best known in popular culture for his mass–energy equivalence formula (which has been dubbed “the world’s most famous equation”). He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect”.
Paul Langevin developed Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation. He had a love affair with Marie Curie.
Charles-Eugène Guye was a professor of Physics at the University of Geneva. For Guye, any phenomenon could only exist at certain observation scales.
Charles Thomson Rees Wilson reproduced cloud formation in a box. Ultimately, in 1911, supersaturated dust-free ion-free air was seen to condense along the tracks of ionizing particles. The Wilson cloud chamber detector was born.
Sir Owen Willans Richardson won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1928 for his work on thermionic emission, which led to Richardson’s Law.
(Photo credit: Benjamin Couprie, Institut International de Physique de Solvay. The colored version made by u/mygrapefruit).
The Reichstag fire, 1933
It was a flashpoint event when Adolf Hitler played upon public and political fears to consolidate power, setting the stage for the rise of Nazi Germany.
Less than a month after Adolf Hitler had been sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, an impulsive young Dutchman named Marinus Van der Lubbe set fire to the German Parliament building. The 24-year-old unemployed mason had recently left the Communist Party for a radical anarcho-syndicalist organization. This feeble-minded maniac was a godsend to the Nazis. He had been picked up by them a few days before, having been overheard in a bar boasting that he had attempted to set fire to several public buildings and that he was going to set fire to the Reichstag next.
On the morning of 27 February, Van der Lubbe spent his last remaining money on matches and firelighters. After checking the building to establish the best way in, he waited until nightfall, then gained entry to the empty and darkened Reichstag building at about nine in the evening. His senses sharpened in the dark by long practice thanks to his impaired vision, he tried to set light to the furniture in the restaurant, then, on meeting with no success, he found his way into the debating chamber, where the curtains proved easily combustible.
Soon, the wooden panelling was blazing and the fire had gained sufficient strength for the dome above the chamber to act as a kind of chimney, fanning the flames by creating an upward draught. Meanwhile, Van der Lubbe rushed through the rest of the building attempting to start other fires. Eventually, police arrested him on the scene. The young man was found outside the building with firelighters in his possession and was panting and sweaty. By the time he was arrested, the building was ablaze, and the fire brigade, despite arriving promptly on the scene, could do nothing but dampen the ruins of the main chamber and do its best to save the rest.
It was established at the subsequent trial at Leipzig that the Dutch half-wit did not possess the means to set so vast a building on fire so quickly. According to the estimony of experts at the trial, the main fires had been set with considerable quantities of chemicals and gasoline. It was obvious that one man could not have carried them into the building, nor it would have been possible for him to start so many fires in so many scattered places in so short a time.
There is evidence to establish beyond reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who carried out the arson. From Goering’s Reichstag President’s Palace an underground passage, built to carry the central heating system, ran to the Reichstag building. Through this tunne Karl Ernst, the Berlin S.A. leader, led a small attachment on the night of 27 February to the Reichstag where they scattered gasoline and self-igniting chemicals and then made their way quickly to the place the way they had come. At the same time, Van der Lubbe carried out his threat as described above.
The coincidence that the Nazis had found a demented Communist arsonist who was out to do exactly what they themselves had determined to do seem incredible, but is nevertheless supported by the evidence. It was clear from the investigators that Van der Lubbe was unstable, probably mentally ill, so it seems clear he was a dupe of the Nazis.
Photo: The Reichstag during happier time
The Reichstag fire is seen as pivotal in the establishment of Nazi Germany. The Nazi exploited the fire to secure President von Hindenburg’s approval for an emergency decree, the Decree for the Protection of the People and the State of February 28. Popularly known as the Reichstag Fire Decree, the regulations suspended the right to assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and other constitutional protections, including all restraints on police investigations. This decree also authorized the police to ban political meetings and marches, effectively hindering electoral campaigning. With this extraordinary ruse, Hitler was at a stroke able to made Germany a Nazi Third Reich.
Justified on the false premise that the Communists were planning an uprising to overthrow the state, the Reichstag Fire Decree permitted the regime to arrest and incarcerate political opponents without specific charge (some 10,000 Communists were detained within two weeks), dissolve political organizations (the Communist Party was effectively outlawed in Germany from this time forward), and to suppress publications. The Reichstag Fire Decree also gave the central government the authority to overrule state and local laws and overthrow state and local governments.
In February 1933, three men were arrested who were to play pivotal roles during the Leipzig Trial, known also as the “Reichstag Fire Trial”: Bulgarians Georgi Dimitrov, Vasil Tanev and Blagoy Popov. The Bulgarians were known to the Prussian police as senior Comintern operatives, but the police had no idea how senior they were: Dimitrov was head of all Comintern operations in Western Europe.
The responsibility for the Reichstag fire remains an ongoing topic of debate and research. Historians disagree as to whether van der Lubbe acted alone, as he said, to protest the condition of the German working class. Some historians endorse the theory, initially proposed by the Communist Party, that the arson was planned and ordered by the Nazis as a false flag operation.
The Reichstag building remained in its fire-damaged state until it was partially repaired from 1961 to 1964, then completely restored from 1995 to 1999.
The Reichstag fire has become a powerful political metaphor. Whenever citizens and politicians feel threatened by executive overreach, the “Reichstag Fire” is referenced as a cautionary tale.
The rise and fall of the Third Reich – A history of Nazi Germany, by William L. Shirer, 1961, renewed 1989.
Nazi Nuremberg Rally, 1934
The Nuremberg Rally (officially Reichsparteitag, meaning Realm Party Convention) was the annual rally of the Nazi Party in Germany, held from 1923 to 1938. The rallies were primarily propaganda events, carefully staged to reinforce party enthusiasm and to showcase the power of National Socialism to the rest of Germany and the world.
These events were held at the Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg from 1933 to 1938 and are usually referred to in English as the “Nuremberg Rallies”. The rallies usually were held in late August or September, lasted several days to a week, and drew hundreds of thousands of Party members and spectators, including hundreds of foreign journalists. The first Nazi Party rallies took place in 1923 in Munich and in 1926 in Weimar. From 1927 on, they took place exclusively in Nuremberg. The Party selected Nuremberg for pragmatic reasons: it was in the center of the German Reich and the local Luitpoldhain (converted parkland) was well suited as a venue. In addition, the Nazis could rely on the well-organized local branch of the party in Franconia, then led by Gauleiter Julius Streicher. The Nuremberg police were sympathetic to the event.
Later, the location was justified by the Nazi Party by putting it into the tradition of the Imperial Diet (German Reichstag) of the Holy Roman Empire, considered the First Reich. After 1933, the rallies took place near the time of the Autumnal equinox, under the title of “The German people’s National Party days” (Reichsparteitage des deutschen Volkes), which was intended to symbolize the solidarity between the German people and the Nazi Party. This point was further emphasized by the yearly growing number of participants, which finally reached over half a million from all sections of the party, the army, and the state.
The climax of the rallies was the solemn consecration of the colours, in which new flags were touched to the Blutfahne (Blood Banner), a tattered standard said to have been steeped in the blood of those killed in Hitler’s abortive Beer Hall Putsch of November 8–9, 1923.
In 1934, the 6th Party Congress was held in Nuremberg, September 5–10, 1934, which was attended by about 700,000 Nazi Party supporters. It was labeled the “Rally of Unity and Strength” (Reichsparteitag der Einheit und Stärke), “Rally of Power” (Reichsparteitag der Macht), or “Rally of Will” (Reichsparteitag des Willens). This rally was particularly notable due to Albert Speer’s Cathedral of light: 152 searchlights that cast vertical beams into the sky around the Zeppelin Field to symbolise the walls of a building.
Photo: The Totenehrung (honoring of the dead) at the 1934 Nuremberg Rally. SS leader Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler and SA leader Viktor Lutze (from L to R) on the stone terrace in front of the Ehrenhalle (Hall of Honor) in the Luitpoldarena. In the background is the crescent-shaped Ehrentribüne (the Tribune of Honor).
Migrant worker, 1936
The picture that did more than any other to humanize the cost of the Great Depression almost didn’t happen. Driving past the crude “Pea-Pickers Camp” sign in Nipomo, north of Los Angeles, Dorothea Lange kept going for 20 miles (36 km). But something nagged at the photographer from the government’s Resettlement Administration, and she finally turned around. At the camp, the Hoboken, N.J.–born Lange spotted Frances Owens Thompson and knew she was in the right place. “I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother in the sparse lean-to tent, as if drawn by a magnet,” Lange later wrote. The farm’s crop had frozen, and there was no work for the homeless pickers, so the 32-year-old Thompson sold the tires from her car to buy food, which was supplemented with birds killed by the children.
Lange, who believed that one could understand others through close study, tightly framed the children and the mother, whose eyes, worn from worry and resignation, look past the camera. Lange took six photos with her 4×5 Graflex camera, later writing, “I knew I had recorded the essence of my assignment.”
Afterward Lange informed the authorities of the plight of those at the encampment, and they sent 20,000 pounds of food. Of the 160,000 images taken by Lange and other photographers for the Resettlement Administration, Migrant mother has become the most iconic picture of the Depression. Through an intimate portrait of the toll being exacted across the land, Lange gave a face to a suffering nation.
Jesse Owens wins four golds in Nazi Germany, 1936
In 1936 Jesse Owens arrived in Berlin to compete for the United States in the Summer Olympics. Adolf Hitler was using the games to show the world a resurgent Nazi Germany. Nazi propaganda promoted concepts of “Aryan racial superiority” and depicted ethnic Africans as inferior. Owens countered this by winning four gold medals.
Nevertheless, Hitler personally penned a letter to Owens to congratulate him on his spectacular victories. This is more than what he got from the American presidents. On the first day of competition, Hitler shook hands only with the German victors and then left the stadium. Olympic committee officials insisted Hitler greet every medalist or none at all. Hitler opted for the latter and skipped all further medal presentations. On reports that Hitler had deliberately avoided acknowledging his victories, and had refused to shake his hand, Owens said at the time:
“Hitler had a certain time to come to the stadium and a certain time to leave. It happened he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100 meters. But before he left I was on my way to a broadcast and passed near his box. He waved at me and I waved back. I think it was bad taste to criticize the ‘man of the hour’ in another country”.
Many Americans imagined that black athletes would be poorly treated in Berlin, but the 100,000 Berliners chanting “Jes-say O-vens” as he won the 100m proved the contrary. Owens and his black teammates enjoyed freedom of movement and equality seldom experienced stateside. The Nazis wanted to use the Olympics to display a renewed Germany to the world. International Olympic boycott movements had threatened the opportunity. Consequently, the Olympic village was integrated and all racist propaganda was suspended for the duration of the games. Robert Vann, an African-American newsman, wrote: “These German people are mighty fine. They have a spirit of sportsmanship and fair play which overrides the color-barrier”.
However, this rosy picture of Berlin in 1936 was not conducive to framing a struggle between opposed political ideologies. In truth the tolerant Berlin on which Vann reported was created specifically for the duration of the Olympics at the behest Goebbels and the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Anti-Semitic posters and publications were removed from the streets. Buildings were white-washed and painted. Public persecution of Jewish Berliners was forbidden.
During the Olympics, Owens was allowed to travel with and stay in the same hotels in Germany as whites, while at the time African-Americans in many parts of the United States had to stay in segregated hotels while traveling. Later Owens said:
“When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn’t ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn’t live where I wanted. I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either. Hitler didn’t snub me – it was Roosevelt who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram”.
The four-time gold medalist was a national hero, but he was a black national hero. Upon Owens’ return from Europe, he and his family found it difficult to find a hotel in Manhattan. The Chicago Defender remarked: “America’s arms of welcome to Jesse Owens, world-famed track hero, Sunday night, were the arms of Jim Crow”. The Olympic champion was forced to use a service elevator to attend a banquet in his honor. Olympic success made Jesse Owens known, it could not make him free.
In spite of his fame on his return from Berlin, Owens struggled for money and began to participate in stunt races against dogs, motorcycles and even horses during halftime of soccer matches and between doubleheaders of Negro League baseball games. Owens would start 40 yards ahead of his equine competitors before sprinting for 100 yards, and he would often win by a nose. “People said it was degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse,” Owens said, “but what was I supposed to do? I had four gold medals, but you can’t eat four gold medals”.
Jesse Owens and the German athlete on the right Luz Long became friends during the Olympics. Luz Long gave tips to Jesse Owens that maybe saved the competition for him, and congratulated and embraced him after the win with the utmost sportsmanship. They remained in correspondence until Long was killed in Sicily when the Allies invaded the island. Owens said: “It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler. You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment”.
Jesse Owens won those gold medals wearing shoes given to him by Adolf “Adi” Dassler, the founder of Adidas who was also a Nazi. German shoemaker Adolf “Adi” Dassler didn’t view the Berlin Games as a vehicle for Nazi propaganda but as a chance to launch his humble athletic shoe business. He successfully lobbied not only German athletes, but Owens as well, to wear his personally handcrafted leather track shoes with extra long spikes.
Born James Cleveland Owens, the track star was called “J.C.” by his family. On his first day at Bolton Elementary School after moving to Cleveland at age 9, the teacher misheard his Alabama drawl and thought he said his name was “Jesse” instead of “J.C.” Owens was too shy to correct his new teacher in front of his new classmates, and he was called “Jesse” for the rest of his life.
In 1984, a street outside Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, where Owens shot to fame, was rechristened Jesse-Owens-Allee, and the section of the Olympic Village in which the sprinter stayed during the 1936 Summer Olympics features displays about the American champion.
The Hindenburg disaster, 1937
Zeppelins were majestic skyliners, luxurious behemoths that signified wealth and power. The arrival of these ships was news, which is why Sam Shere of the International News Photos service was waiting in the rain at the Lakehurst, N.J., Naval Air Station on May 6, 1937, for the 804-foot-long (245 meters) LZ 129 Hindenburg to drift in from Frankfurt.
Suddenly, as the assembled media watched, the grand ship’s flammable hydroge caught fire, causing it to spectacularly burst into bright yellow flames and kill 36 people. Shere was one of nearly two dozen still and newsreel photographers who scrambled to document the fast-moving tragedy. But it is his image, with its stark immediacy and horrible grandeur, that has endured as the most famous – owing to its publication on front pages around the world and in LIFE and, more than three decades later, its use on the cover of the first Led Zeppelin album.
“I had two shots in my [camera] but I didn’t even have time to get it up to my eye,” Shere later said. “I literally shot from the hip – it was over so fast there was nothing else to do.”
The crash brought the age of the airships to a close, and Shere’s powerful photograph of one of the world’s most formative early air disasters persists as a cautionary reminder of how human fallibility can lead to death and destruction.
The disaster killed 35 persons on the airship and one ground crew member, but miraculously 62 of the 97 passengers and crew survived.
Almost as famous as Shere’s photo is the anguished voice of Chicago radio announcer Herbert Morrison, who cried as he watched people tumbling through the air, “It is bursting into flames… This is terrible. This is one of the worst catastrophes in the world… Oh, the humanity!”
Hitler in Paris, 1940
One day after France signed the armistice with Germany, Adolf Hitler celebrated the German victory over France with a triumphant tour of Paris. Hitler surveying his conquest with his various companions and became one of the most iconic photos of the 1940s and World War 2. This was the first and the only time he visited Paris.
Photo: Adolf Hitler poses in Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background, one day after the formal capitulation of France, on June 23, 1940. He is accompanied by Albert Speer, German Reichsminister of armaments and Hitler’s chief architect, left, and Arno Breker, professor of visual arts in Berlin and Hitler’s favorite sculptor, right).
Adolf Hitler made a swift tour of Paris in the early hours of 23 June. It included the Paris opera, the Champs-Elysées, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower. After visiting Napoleon’s tomb and the Sacre Coeur, Hitler left Paris. In all, Hitler spent about three hours in the city.
His visit to the Napoleon’s tomb was special. “That was the greatest and finest moment of my life”, he said upon leaving. Comparisons between the Fuhrer and Napoleon have been made many times: They were both foreigners to the countries they ruled (Napoleon was Italian, Hitler was Austrian); both planned invasions of Russia while preparing invasions of England; both captured the Russian city of Vilna on June 24; both had photographic memories; both were under 5 feet 9 inches tall, among other coincidences.
As a tribute to the French emperor, Hitler ordered that the remains of Napoleon’s son be moved from Vienna to lie beside his father.
But Hitler being Hitler, he came to do more than gawk at the tourist attractions. He ordered the destruction of two World War I monuments: one to General Charles Mangin, a French war hero, and one to Edith Cavell, a British nurse who was executed by a German firing squad for helping Allied soldiers escape German-occupied Brussels. The last thing Hitler wanted were such visible reminders of past German defeat.
Hitler would gush about Paris for months afterward. He was so impressed, he ordered architect and friend Albert Speer to revive plans for a massive construction program of new public buildings in Berlin, an attempt to destroy Paris, not with bombs, but with superior architecture. “Wasn’t Paris beautiful?” Hitler asked Speer. “But Berlin must be far more beautiful. When we are finished in Berlin, Paris will only be a shadow”.
Albert Speer’s memoirs about Hitler’s visit in Paris (taken from Albert Speer: Inside The Third Reich):
Three days after the beginning of the armistice we landed at Le Bourget airfield. It was early in the morning, about five-thirty. Three large Mercedes sedans stood waiting. Hitler as usual sat in the front seat beside the chauffeur, Breker and I on the jump seats behind him, while Giessler and the adjutants occupied the rear seats. Field-gray uniforms had been provided for us artists, so that we might fit into the military framework. We drove through the extensive suburbs directly to the Opera, Charles Garnier’s great neobaroque building… It was Hitler’s favorite and the first thing he wanted to see.
After a last look at Paris we drove swiftly back to the airport. By nine o’clock in the morning the sightseeing tour was over. “It was the dream of my life to be permitted to see Paris. I cannot say how happy I am to have that dream fulfilled today”. For a moment I felt something like pity for him: three hours in Paris, the one and only time he was to see it, made him happy when he stood at the height of his triumphs.
In the course of the tour Hitler raised the question of a victory parade in Paris. But after discussing the matter with his adjutants and Colonel Speidel, he decided against it after all. His official reason for calling off the parade was the danger of its being harassed by English air raids. But later he said: “I am not in the mood for a victory parade. We aren’t at the end yet”.
Interesting fact: Upon the German arrival in the city, the lift cables of the Eiffel Tower were cut by the French. During the years of the war, the site remained closed to the public, and the elevators were repaired only in 1946. In 1940, the German soldiers had to climb the Tower to hoist the swastika flag; the flag was so large that it was blown away just a couple of hours later and needed to be replaced with a smaller one. The Tricolour remained lowered until 25 June 1944, when the Germans had been driven out of the capital.
Pearl Harbor attack
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, on the morning of December 7, 1941.
The attack commenced at 7:48 hours Hawaiian Time. The base was attacked by 353 Japanese aircraft in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four sunk. All but the USS Arizona were later raised, and six were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship, and one minelayer. One hundred eighty-eight U.S. aircraft were destroyed; 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded. Important base installations such as the power station, dry dock, shipyard, maintenance, and fuel and torpedo storage facilities, as well as the submarine piers and headquarters building (also home of the intelligence section), were not attacked. Japanese losses were light: 29 aircraft and five midget submarines lost, and 64 servicemen killed, one sailor was captured.
Photo: taken at 07:55 hours on 07-Dec from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. View looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base and fuel tank farm in the right center distance. A torpedo has just hit USS West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California. On the near side of Ford Island, to the left, are light cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, target and training ship Utah and seaplane tender Tangier. Raleigh and Utah have been torpedoed, and Utah is listing sharply to port. Japanese planes are visible in the right center (over Ford Island) and over the Navy Yard at right. U.S. Navy planes on the seaplane ramp are on fire. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry.
The Pearl Harbor assault had left the base’s most vital onshore facilities – oil storage depots, repair shops, shipyards and submarine docks – intact. As a result, the U.S. Navy was able to rebound relatively quickly from the attack.
Events leading to the attack
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is located near the center of the Pacific Ocean, roughly 2,000 miles from the U.S. mainland and about 4,000 miles from Japan. Therefore, no one in the U.S. believed that the Japanese would start a war with an attack on the distant islands of Hawaii. Additionally, American intelligence officials were confident that any Japanese attack would take place in one of the (relatively) nearby European colonies in the South Pacific: the Dutch East Indies, Singapore or Indochina.
Because American military leaders were not expecting an attack so close to home, the naval facilities at Pearl Harbor were relatively undefended. Almost the entire Pacific Fleet was moored around Ford Island in the harbor, and hundreds of airplanes were squeezed onto adjacent airfields.
The Japanese plan was simple: Destroy the Pacific Fleet. That way, the Americans would not be able to fight back as Japan’s armed forces spread across the South Pacific. Adm. Yamamoto Isoroku, the commander in chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet, had planned the attack against the U.S. Pacific Fleet with great care. Once the U.S. fleet was out of action, the way for the unhindered Japanese conquest of all of Southeast Asia and the Indonesian Archipelago would be open.
On 26-Nov-1941, as US officials presented the Japanese with a 10-point statement reiterating their long-standing position, a Japanese fleet, under Vice Adm. Nagumo Chuichi and including 6 aircraft carriers, 2 battleships, 3 cruisers, and 11 destroyers, sailed to a point some 275 miles (440 km) north of Hawaii. From there, about 360 planes in total were launched.
To catch the Americans by surprise, the ships maintained strict radio silence throughout their 3,500- mile trek from Hitokappu Bay to a predetermined launch sector 230 miles north of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. At 6:00 hours on Sunday, December 7, a first wave of Japanese planes lifted off from the carriers, followed by a second wave an hour later.
Several factors contributes to Japan’s great success
- In Washington, a decrypted message had alerted officials that an attack was imminent moments before the first Japanese plane took to the skies. But a communications delay prevented a warning from reaching Pearl Harbor in time.
- A U.S. Army private who noticed a large flight of planes on his radar screen reported the fact to the communication center, but the inexperience lieutenant here told him to ignore them, since a flight of B-17s from the United States was expected at that time.
- The anchored ships in the harbour made perfect targets for the Japanese bombers, and since it was Sunday morning (a time chosen by the Japanese for maximum surprise) they were not fully manned.
- Similarly, the U.S. military aircraft were lined up on the airfields of the Naval Air Station on Ford Island and adjoining Wheeler and Hickam Fields to guard against sabotage, and many were destroyed on the ground by Japanese strafing.
The Pearl Harbor attack severely crippled U.S. naval and air strength in the Pacific. However, the three aircraft carriers attached to the Pacific Fleet were not at Pearl Harbor at the time and thus escaped.
The day after the attack, Roosevelt delivered his famous “Infamy Speech” to a Joint Session of Congress, calling for a formal declaration of war on the Empire of Japan. Congress obliged his request less than an hour later.
The day after the attack, Roosevelt delivered his famous “Infamy Speech” to a Joint Session of Congress, calling for a formal declaration of war on the Empire of Japan. Congress obliged his request less than an hour later.
On December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States, even though theỉ Tripartite Pact did not require it. Congress issued a declaration of war against Germany and Italy later that same day. The UK actually declared war on Japan nine hours before the U.S. did, partially due to Japanese attacks on Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong, and partially due to Winston Churchill’s promise to declare war “within the hour” of a Japanese attack on the United States.
Photo: The USS Arizona Memorial is built over the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, the final resting place for many of the 1,177 crewmen killed. This loss of life represents over half of the Americans killed during the worst naval disaster in American history.
Adolf Hitler declared war on the USA, 1941
Several days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States declaration of war against the Japanese Empire, Nazi Germany declared war on the United States, in response to what was claimed to be a series of provocations by the United States government when the US was formally neutral during World War II.
The decision to declare war was made almost entirely by Adolf Hitler, without consultation. Hitler had received no advance notice from the Japanese about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Although he and his Foreign Minister Ribbentrop had verbally indicated a willingness to join Japan in war against America however it broke out, Hitler had absolutely no formal treaty obligation to declare war on the United States. Such a treaty had in fact been drafted and circulated in the weeks prior to Pearl Harbor, but it remained unsigned.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany. Although Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a war against the United States, he was uncertain as to how the war would be engaged. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor answered that question. On December 8, Japanese Ambassador Oshima went to German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop to nail the Germans down on a formal declaration of war against America. Von Ribbentrop stalled for time; he knew that Germany was under no obligation to do this under the terms of the Tripartite Pact, which promised help if Japan was attacked, but not if Japan was the aggressor. Von Ribbentrop feared that the addition of another antagonist, the United States, would overwhelm the German war effort.
Hitler assumed that war with the United States was inevitable. He was completely right. The US was neutral in name only at that point and was going to join the war on Britain’s side sooner or later. So Hitler decided that the best move would be to declare war on the USA in December 1941 both to show solidarity with the Japanese/strengthen the ties of the Axis and to hit the US right after their Pacific fleet had been dealt a massive (though crucially not a crippling) blow. What Hitler got wrong (which was the exact same thing that the Japanese High Command got wrong) was he completely underestimated the production power of the United States as well as the country’s willingness to shift the vast majority of that production over to wartime needs.
Regardless of Hitler’s reasons for the declaration, the decision is generally seen as an enormous strategic blunder on his part, as it allowed the United States to enter the European war in support of the United Kingdom and the Allies without much public opposition, while still facing the Japanese threat in the Pacific.
The speech to the Reichstag was originally planned for December 10, but it was delayed for a day so the German and Italian Embassies in Washington had time to burn their cables.
Hitler’s declaration of war came as a great relief to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who feared the possibility of two parallel disconnected wars (UK and Soviet Union versus Germany in Europe, US versus Japan in the Pacific). With Nazi Germany’s declaration against the United States in force, American assistance for Britain in both theaters of war as a full ally was assured.
The reason Herman Göring’s chair is bigger is because he was president of the Reichstag. In this position it was his duty to overwatch discussions and such, that’s why he’s sitting above the others. It is similar to how the US House is set up during State of the Union, with the Speaker and Vice-President (who serves as President of the Senate) sitting behind the President, and in normal days whoever is presiding officer would be seated there. It’s a standard for Parliaments and Congresses.
The eagle background is quite a feat, its sharp edges and predatory posture impose power, discipline, order and fear. Everything Nazi was basically made to impress and especially to intimidate. Selling an image is easier than selling an ideology, especially in the environment Germany was in during that time.
The Big Three at the Tehran Conference, 1943
The Tehran was a strategy meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill from 28-Nov to 01-Dec-1943. It was held in the Soviet Union’s embassy in Tehran, Iran. It was the first of the World War II conferences of the “Big Three” Allied leaders (the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom).
The conference was to convene at 16:00 hours on 28-Nov-1943. Stalin arrived well before, followed by Roosevelt, brought in his wheelchair from his accommodation adjacent to the venue. Roosevelt, who had traveled 7,000 miles (11,000 km) to attend and whose health was already deteriorating, was met by Stalin. This was the first time that they met. Churchill, walking with his General Staff from their accommodations nearby, arrived half an hour later.
The U.S. and Great Britain wanted to secure the cooperation of the Soviet Union in defeating Germany. Stalin agreed, but at a price: the U.S. and Britain would accept Soviet domination of eastern Europe, support the Yugoslav Partisans, and agree to a westward shift of the border between Poland and the Soviet Union.
The leaders then turned to the conditions under which the Western Allies would open a new front by invading northern France (Operation Overlord), as Stalin had pressed them to do since 1941. Up to this point Churchill had advocated the expansion of joint operations of British, American, and Commonwealth forces in the Mediterranean, as Overlord in 1943 was physically impossible due to a lack of shipping, which left the Mediterranean and Italy as viable goals for 1943. It was agreed Overlord would occur by May 1944; Stalin agreed to support it by launching a concurrent major offensive on Germany’s eastern front to divert German forces from northern France.
In addition, the Soviet Union was required to pledge support to Turkey if that country entered the war. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin agreed that it would also be most desirable if Turkey entered on the Allies’ side before the year was out.
Despite accepting the above arrangements, Stalin dominated the conference. He used the prestige of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Kursk to get his way. Roosevelt attempted to cope with Stalin’s onslaught of demands, but was able to do little except appease Stalin. Churchill proposed to Stalin a moving westwards of Poland, which Stalin accepted, which gave the Poles industrialized German land to the west and gave up marshlands to the east, while providing a territorial buffer to the Soviet Union against invasion.
Photo – From left to right: Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill on the portico of the Russian Embassy during the Tehran.
News of the conference was not released until three days after its completion, when it was announced by Moscow radio. The Dec. 4 New York Times reported that “Moscow radio had not indicated the nature of political and military discussions that took place in the Iranian capital, but it was generally assumed they dealt with the coordination of military plans for the final assault on Nazi Germany and with the unification of political plans for making peace with Germany on the basis of ‘unconditional surrender.’”
Stalin proposed executing 50,000–100,000 German officers so that Germany could not plan another war. Roosevelt, believing Stalin was not serious, joked that “maybe 49,000 would be enough”. Churchill, however, was outraged and denounced “the cold blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their country”. He said that only war criminals should be put on trial in accordance with the Moscow Document, which he himself had written. He stormed out of the room, but was brought back in by Stalin who said he was joking. Churchill was glad Stalin had relented, but thought Stalin was testing the waters.
Note on the pictures that each of the leaders is sitting on a different type of chair. It’s heavily documented especially during that era how important chairs were to their leaders. So all three most likely took their favorite chairs with them wherever they went in case they had to sit down. That’s probably why there are 3 different chairs in the photo.
Roosevelt was the only one not to have an actual military rank. Stalin never wore military uniform prior to 1943, when he got military rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union. He wears regular uniform of the Marshal on this picture. Churchill ended his army career as a lieutenant-colonel in the Territorial Army (which is like the Army Reserve). The uniform he’s wearing there is that of an RAF Air Commodore, which is the equivalent to an U.S. one-star rank. He was often seen wearing that uniform in WWII, as he had been awarded an honorary rank by an RAF squadron in 1939.
Normandy landing, 1944
The D-Day landing operation was the largest single-day amphibious invasion of all time, with 160,000 troops, 195,700 naval and merchant navy personnel and 5,000 ships being transplanted from the other side of the English Channel. Large concrete blocks, nicknamed Mulberry harbors, were sailed across the channel and used as portable docks. The landings took place along a 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast between Caen and Valognes, divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The fighting on D-Day was so fierce that even today as much as 4% of the sand on Normandy beaches is magnetic shrapnel that has been broken down over the decades into sand-sized chunks.
“The Face in the Surf”
The story behind Robert Capa’s iconic shot of a soldier in the surf at Normandy, one of the most celebrated pictures of the Second World War, is nearly as complex as it is incredible. In 1944, Capa, later a co-founder of the photography collective Magnum, was assigned to cover the Allied invasion of Normandy by LIFE picture editor John G. Morris. Capa, then 30 years old, was one of only 18 American photographers given credentials from the U.S. Armed Forces to cover the preparation for the invasion, and one of only four credentialed to land on the beaches of Normandy alongside American troops.
Dropped nearly 100 yards from the beach during the first wave of the invasion, Capa waded through waist-deep water dodging heavy fire and carrying three cameras. He managed through careful maneuvering to make it to land, where he alternated between taking cover and making pictures as troops made the same deadly journey to shore. In the 90 minutes that he spent on the beach, Capa witnessed men shot, blown up and set on fire all around him.
At nearly the same time, a young GI, now known to be Huston Riley, disembarked from his landing craft into water over his head — and sank straight to the bottom, weighed down by his gear. Riley activated his flotation device and quickly became a sitting duck for German machine gun fire as he bobbed on the surface. Over the course of 30 minutes, Riley made his way to shore while bullets ricocheted off his shoes and pack. Just as he hit land and began to run, Riley caught four bullets in his right shoulder, two of which stayed lodged in his body. Two men quickly came and helped him reach cover, one of whom, Riley later recalled, had a camera around his neck. The photographer was Capa, and somewhere between the moment when Riley reached the surf and when he was being lifted, wounded, out of the water, Capa made the photo that for generations has defined the chaos and the courage witnessed on D-Day.
The journey of Capa’s film that followed was almost equally as perilous. Capa’s film survived only because he carried it off the beach himself. His colleague Bob Landry’s film, along with the film of nine other photographers and cinematographers, was lost, having been handed off to a colonel who dropped the whole pack in the ocean while boarding a transport ship. And although Capa shot approximately 106 frames on the beach, only a handful have survived.
Owing to the urgency in viewing prints of pictures from the Normandy beaches, one of the developers set the drying oven temperature too high. Almost all negatives were ruined when the emulsion became too hot and ran. Only eight blurry pictures, including the close-up of the unidentified GI in the surf, were usable.
Though the exact number of surviving frames is uncertain, the actual negative of the picture known as The Face in the Surf, along with another from the set, was lost sometime after the photo’s publication in the June 19, 1944 issue of LIFE. It is, in a sense, a testament to the incalculable hardship and violence of the Longest Day that the only surviving photographic record of the Omaha Beach landing from the beach itself are nine hard-won, fragile, immensely powerful negatives.
Capa’s last photo
In Thai Binh Province in Vietnam, the world famous war photographer Robert Capa covered the fighting between the Viet Minh and the French army. Here is his last photo taken before he stepped on a mine and died.
On the agency website his biography says this about his death: “On 25 May 1954 he was photographing for Life in Thai-Binh, Indochina, when he stepped on a landmine and was killed.”
Time has a more detailed article on him as well as an interesting quote: “This is going to be a beautiful story,” he said as he set out from the village of Nam Dinh, in Vietnam’s Red River delta, on May 25, the last morning of his life. “I will be on my good behavior today. I will not insult my colleagues, and I will not once mention the excellence of my work.” Eight hours — and 30 km — later, Capa was dead.
The French army awarded him the Croix de Guerre with Palm posthumously. The Robert Capa Gold Medal Award was established in 1955 to reward exceptional professional merit.
MacArthur landing, 1944
Iconic photos often have their own stories – some real, some myth.
For more than 70 years, questions have swirled around the famous photo of General Douglas MacArthur’s beach landings on Leyte, as American troops returned to liberate the Philippines. Stories persist that MacArthur, no stranger to controversy or drama, staged the photos by coming ashore several times until the cameraman got the perfect shot, or that the photos were posed days after the actual landings. Those who were present say neither of these oft-repeated stories is true. But what really happened is even stranger than these misguided rumors.
MacArthur’s return was the high point of his war. In July 1941 he had been named commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, including all American and Filipino troops in the Philippines. In March 1942, with Japanese forces tightening their grip around the Philippines, MacArthur was ordered out of the islands for Australia. After reaching his destination, he vowed to liberate the Philippines, famously proclaiming, “I shall return.”
By April 1942, Japanese units advancing across the Philippines forced beleaguered Allied troops there to surrender. From then on, the Philippines “constituted the main object of my planning,” MacArthur said. By late 1944 he was poised to fulfill his promise – until an interservice battle threatened to derail his plans.
The U.S. Navy led by Nimitz wanted American forces to bypass the Philippines and invade Formosa (now Taiwan) instead. MacArthur objected strenuously, both on strategic grounds and upon his belief that the United States had a moral duty to the people of the Philippines. The dispute went all the way up to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ultimately sided with MacArthur.
Finally, on 20-Oct-1944, MacArthur made his long-anticipated return. At 10:00 hours his troops stormed ashore on Leyte, an island in the central Philippines. The heaviest fighting took place on Red Beach, but by early afternoon, MacArthur’s men had secured the area. Secured, however, did not mean safe. Japanese snipers remained active while small-arms and mortar fire continued throughout the day. Hundreds of small landing craft clogged the beaches, but the water was too shallow for larger landing craft to reach dry land.
Aboard the USS Nashville two miles offshore, a restless MacArthur could not wait to put his feet back on Philippine soil. At 13:00 hours, he and his staff left the cruiser to take the two-mile landing craft ride to Red Beach. MacArthur intended to step out onto dry land, but soon realized their vessel was too large to advance through the shallow depths near the coastline. An aide radioed the navy beachmaster and asked that a smaller craft be sent to bring them in. The beachmaster, whose word was law on the invasion beach, was too busy with the chaos of the overall invasion to be bothered with a general, no matter how many stars he wore. “Walk in – the water’s fine,” he growled.
The bow of the landing craft dropped and MacArthur and his entourage waded 50 yards through knee-deep water to reach land.
Photo: Gen. Douglas MacArthur, center, is accompanied by his officers and Sergio Osmena, president of the Philippines in exile, extreme left, as he wades ashore during landing operations at Leyte, Philippines, on 20-Oct-1944, after U.S. forces recaptured the beach of the Japanese-occupied island.
Major Gaetano Faillace, an army photographer assigned to MacArthur, took photos of the general wading ashore. The result was an image of a scowling MacArthur, jaw set firmly, with a steel-eyed look as he approached the beach. But what may have appeared as determination was, in reality, anger. MacArthur was fuming. As he sloshed through the water, he stared daggers at the impudent beachmaster, who had treated the general as he probably had not been treated since his days as a plebe at West Point. However, when MacArthur saw the photo, his anger quickly dissipated. A master at public relations, he knew a good photo when he saw one.
Still, rumors persisted that MacArthur had staged the Leyte photo. CBS radio correspondent William J. Dunn, who was on Red Beach that day, hotly disputed these rumors, calling them “one of the most ludicrous misconceptions to come out of the war.” The photo was “a one-time shot” taken within hours of the initial landing, Dunn said, not something repeated sometime later for the perfect picture. MacArthur biographer D. Clayton James agreed, noting that MacArthur’s “plans for the drama at Red Beach certainly did not include stepping off in knee-deep water.”
Potsdam Conference, 1945
In the five months since the Yalta Conference, a number of changes had taken place which would greatly affect the relationships between the leaders.
Firstly, the Soviet Union was occupying Central and Eastern Europe. By July, the Red Army effectively controlled the Baltic states, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, and fearing a Stalinist takeover, refugees were fleeing from these countries. Stalin had set up a puppet communist government in Poland. He insisted that his control of Eastern Europe was a defensive measure against possible future attacks and claimed that it was a legitimate sphere of Soviet influence.
Secondly, Britain had a new Prime Minister. Before VE Day, Conservative Party leader Winston Churchill had served as Prime Minister in a coalition government; his Soviet policy since the early 1940s had differed considerably from former US President Roosevelt’s, with Churchill believing Stalin to be a “devil”-like tyrant leading a vile system. A general election was held in the UK on 5 July, the results of which became known during the conference: with a Labour Party majority, Labour leader Clement Attlee became the new Prime Minister.
Thirdly, President Roosevelt had died on 12 April 1945, and Vice President Harry Truman assumed the presidency; his succession saw VE Day (Victory in Europe) within a month and VJ Day (Victory in Japan) on the horizon. During the war and in the name of Allied unity, Roosevelt had brushed off warnings of a potential domination by a Stalin dictatorship in part of Europe. He explained that “I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man” and reasoned, “I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, ‘noblesse oblige’, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.”
The Potsdam Conference (German: Potsdamer Konferenz) was held at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm, in Potsdam, occupied Germany, from 17 July to 2 August 1945. The participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, represented by Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin, Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and, later, Clement Attlee, and President Harry S. Truman.
Stalin, Churchill, and Truman – as well as Attlee, who participated alongside Churchill while awaiting the outcome of the 1945 general election, and then replaced Churchill as Prime Minister after the Labour Party’s defeat of the Conservatives – gathered to decide how to administer the defeated Nazi Germany, which had agreed to unconditional surrender nine weeks earlier, on 8 May (V-E Day). The goals of the conference also included the establishment of postwar order, peace treaty issues, and countering the effects of the war.
Photo – Sitting (from left): Clement Attlee, Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin, and behind: Fleet Admiral William Daniel Leahy, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, and Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov.
At the Yalta Conference, France had been granted an occupation zone within Germany, France had been a participant in the Berlin Declaration, and France was to be an equal member of the Allied Control Council. Nevertheless, at the insistence of the Americans, General de Gaulle was not invited to Potsdam; a diplomatic slight which was a cause of deep and lasting resentment. Reasons for the omission included the longstanding personal mutual antagonism between Roosevelt and De Gaulle, ongoing disputes over the French and American occupation zones, and anticipated conflicts of interest over French Indochina; but also reflected the judgement of both the British and Americans that French aims in respect of many items on the Conference agenda were likely to be at variance with Anglo/American agreed objectives.
On July 26, the leaders issued a declaration demanding ‘unconditional surrender’ from Japan, concealing the fact that they had privately agreed to let Japan retain its emperor. Otherwise, the conference centered on postwar Europe. A Council of Foreign Ministers was agreed upon, with membership from the Big Three plus China and France. Military administration of Germany was established, with a central Allied Control Council (the requirement that all decisions be unanimous would later prove to be crippling).
The leaders arrived at various agreements on the German economy, placing primary emphasis on the development of agriculture and nonmilitary industry. The institutions that had controlled the economy under the Nazis were to be decentralized, but all of Germany would be treated as a single economic unit. War criminals would be brought to trial.
Stalin’s request to define the Polish-German border was put off till the peace treaty, but the conference accepted his transfer of the land east of the Oder and Neisse rivers from Germany to Poland. Regarding reparations, a compromise was worked out, based on an exchange of capital equipment from the Western zone for raw materials from the East. It resolved a dispute but set the precedent of managing the German economy by zone rather than comprehensively as the Western powers had hoped.
Although postwar Europe dominated the Potsdam agenda, the war in the Pacific lurked offstage. Truman received word of the successful atomic bomb test soon after he arrived at Potsdam; he told Churchill the news but mentioned ‘a new weapon’ only casually to Stalin. Truman continued to solicit Stalin’s assistance against Japan, but he knew that if the bomb succeeded, Russian help would not be needed. Indeed, the bomb would give the United States unprecedented power in the postwar world.
Raising the flag on Iwo Jima, 1945
The iconic photo Raising the flag on Iwo Jima was first published in Sunday newspapers on 25-Feb-1945. It was extremely popular and was reprinted in thousands of publications. Later, it became the only photograph to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in the same year as its publication, and came to be regarded in the United States as one of the most significant and recognizable images of the war.
On 19-Feb-1945, the United States invaded Iwo Jima as part of its island-hopping strategy to defeat Japan. Iwo Jima is located halfway between Japan and the Mariana Islands, where American long-range bombers were based, and was used by the Japanese as an early warning station, radioing warnings of incoming American bombers to the Japanese homeland. The Americans, after capturing the island, weakened the Japanese early warning system, and used it as an emergency landing strip for damaged bombers.
Iwo Jima was heavily fortified, and the invading Marines suffered high casualties. Politically, the island is part of the prefecture of Tokyo. It would be the first Japanese homeland soil to be captured by the Americans, and it was a matter of honor for the Japanese to prevent its capture.
The island is dominated by Mount Suribachi, a 546-foot (166 m) dormant volcanic cone at the southern tip of the island. Tactically, the top of Suribachi was one of the most important locations on the island. From that vantage point, the Japanese defenders were able to spot artillery accurately onto the Americans – particularly the landing beaches.
The Japanese fought most of the battle from underground bunkers and pillboxes. It was common for Marines to knock out one pillbox using grenades or a flamethrower, only to come under renewed fire from it a few minutes later, after more Japanese infantry slipped into the pillbox using a tunnel. The American effort concentrated on isolating and capturing Suribachi first, a goal that was achieved on February 23, four days after the battle began.
The confusion around the iconic photo is that 2 flags were raised, the second replacing the first.
There were two American flags raised on top of Mount Suribachi, on February 23, 1945. The famous photo Rosenthal took was actually of the second flag-raising in which a larger replacement flag was raised by Marines who did not raise the first flag.
Raising the first flag
By order of Lieutenant Colonel Chandler Johnson (commander of the 2nd Battalion, 28th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division), First Lieutenant Harold G. Schrier volunteered to lead a 40-man combat patrol to seize and occupy the crest of Mount Suribachi. Johnson had taken a small flag (1.4 x 0.7-m) from the battalion’s transport ship, USS Missoula, and handed the flag to Schrier. He said to Schrier, “If you get to the top, put it up.”
Despite the large numbers of Japanese troops in the immediate vicinity, Schrier’s patrol made it to the rim of the crater at about 10:15 hours, having come under little or no enemy fire, as the Japanese were being bombarded at the time. The flag was attached to a Japanese iron water pipe found on top. The raising of the national colors immediately caused a loud cheering reaction from the Marines, sailors, and coast guardsmen on the beach below and from the men on the ships near the beach. The loud noise made by the servicemen and blasts of the ship horns alerted the Japanese, who up to this point had stayed in their cave bunkers. Schrier and his men near the flagstaff then came under fire from Japanese troops, but the Marines quickly eliminated the threat. Schrier was later awarded the Navy Cross for volunteering to take the patrol up Mount Suribachi, raising the American flag and defeating the Japanese attack.
Photos of the first flag flown on Mount Suribachi were taken by Staff Sergeant Louis R. Lowery of Leatherneck magazine, who accompanied the patrol up the mountain, and other photographers.
Now entered the second flag. The Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, had decided the previous night that he wanted to go ashore and witness the final stage of the fight for the mountain. He was so taken with fervor of the moment that he decided he wanted the flag flying on Mt. Suribachi as a souvenir. The news of this wish did not sit well with Chandler Johnson. “To hell with that!” he spat when the message reached him. The flag belonged to the battalion, as far as Johnson was concerned. He decided to secure it as soon as possible, and dispatched his assistant operations officer, Lieutenant Ted Tuttle, to the beach to obtain a replacement flag. As an afterthought, Johnson called after Tuttle: “And make it a bigger one.”
Raising the second flag
Tuttle had found a large (2.4 x 1.2 m) flag in nearby Tank Landing Ship USS LST-779. The official Marine Corps history of the event is that Tuttle received the flag from Navy Ensign Alan Wood of USS LST-779, who in turn had received the flag from a supply depot in Pearl Harbor.
Sergeant Michael Strank, one of Second Platoon’s squad leaders, took three members of his rifle squad (Corporal Harlon H. Block and Privates First Class Franklin R. Sousley and Ira H. Hayes) and climb up Mount Suribachi to raise the replacement flag on top; the three also took supplies or laid telephone wire on the way up to the top. Private First Class Rene A. Gagnon, the battalion runner (messenger) for Easy Company, was also dispatched to take fresh walkie-talkie batteries to the top.
Strank with his three Marines, and Gagnon, reached the top of the mountain around noon without being fired upon. Rosenthal, along with Marine photographers Sergeant Bill Genaust (who was killed in action after the flag-raising) and Private First Class Bob Campbell were also climbing Suribachi at this time. On the way up, the trio met Lowery, who had photographed the first flag-raising, coming down. They considered turning around, but Lowery told them that the summit was an excellent vantage point from which to take photos. The three photographers reached the summit as the Marines were attaching the flag to an old Japanese water pipe.
Rosenthal put his Speed Graphic camera on the ground so he could pile rocks to stand on for a better vantage point. In doing so, he nearly missed the shot. The Marines began raising the flag. Realizing he was about to miss the action, Rosenthal quickly swung his camera up and snapped the photo without using the viewfinder. Ten years after the flag-raising, Rosenthal wrote:
“Out of the corner of my eye, I had seen the men start the flag up. I swung my camera and shot the scene. That is how the picture was taken, and when you take a picture like that, you don’t come away saying you got a great shot. You don’t know.”
Following the second flag-raising, Rosenthal sent his film to Guam to be developed and printed. Upon seeing it, AP photograph editor John Bodkin exclaimed “Here’s one for all time!” and immediately transmitted the image to the AP headquarters in New York City at 7:00 am, Eastern War Time. The photo was quickly picked up off the wire by hundreds of newspapers. It was distributed by AP within 17 and one-half hours after Rosenthal shot it – an astonishingly fast turnaround time in those days.
Three Marines in the photo, Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal Harlon Block (misidentified as Sergeant Hank Hansen until January 1947), and Private First Class Franklin Sousley were killed in action over the next few days. The three surviving flag-raisers in the photograph were Corporals (then Private First Class) Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, and Harold Schultz (misidentified as John Bradley until June 2016). Both men originally misidentified as flag raisers had helped raise the smaller flag about 90 minutes earlier, and were both still on the mountaintop and witnessed – but were not part of – the specific moment of raising the larger flag that was captured in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo.
The photo was not without controversy. Following the second flag-raising, Rosenthal had the Marines pose for a group shot, the “gung-ho” shot. A few days after the photo was taken, Rosenthal – back on Guam – was asked if he had posed the photo. Thinking the questioner was referring to the “gung-ho” photo, he replied “Sure.” As a result, Rosenthal was repeatedly accused of staging the photo or covering up the first flag-raising. In the following decades, Rosenthal repeatedly and vociferously denied claims that the flag-raising was staged. Genaust’s film also shows that the flag-raising was not staged.
And two years after the image was taken, one of the men identified as being in it hitchhiked to Texas from Arizona – a distance of nearly 2.100 km – to tell the family of a man who died on Iwo Jima that the man had been incorrectly named as one of those depicted. That spurred a congressional investigation that led the military to acknowledge that it had misidentified one of the men.
President Harry S. Truman used the photo to sell bonds to fund the war.
The image was later used by Felix de Weldon to sculpt the Marine Corps War Memorial, which was dedicated in 1954 to all Marines who died for their country and is located in Arlington Ridge Park, near the Ord-Weitzel Gate to Arlington National Cemetery and the Netherlands Carillon.
The image is shown in a post stamp and a silver dollar.
Sands of Iwo Jima featuring John Wayne is the first film on the flag raising. All three surviving flag-raisers played themselves in the film: John Bradley (mis-identified), Ira Hayes, and Rene Gagnon. Per John Wayne’s wish, his footprints in front of the Grauman’s Theater in Hollywood were made into cement mixed with black sand from Iwo Jima.
James Bradley, the son of John Bradley, a Navy corpsman identified among the six persons to raise the flag, wrote a book entitled Flags of Our Fathers, first published in 2000, which was on best-seller lists for nearly a year and which chronicled how his father and five Marines came together to lift the flag in the famous photo. It was later made into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood. This is the fourth time the flag-raising story is shown in the silver screen.
All of the men identified in the photo are dead.
Navy corpsman John Bradley was incorrectly identified in the Rosenthal flag-raising photo. In June 2016, a Marine Corps inquiry found that Harold Schultz was one of the six men in the Raising the flag on Iwo Jima photo. And it determined that John Bradley was not in the image.
James Bradley now believes his father is not actually in it. His father, he said, probably thought that the first flag-raising was the one that was captured in the famous picture taken by Joe Rosenthal. Mr. Bradley’s doubts tell a story about the fog of war, the efforts of a son to memorialize his father and the apparent willingness of the Marines to at first brush aside questions about one of their most historic moments.
Mr. Bradley said he had become convinced that his father was not in the photo after studying evidence that was published in a 2014 article in The Omaha World-Herald, which described doubts raised by amateur historians who compared that photo to images of the first flag-raising. They found that the pants, headgear and cartridge belt on the Navy corpsman identified as John Bradley were different from the gear he wore that day.
Mr. Bradley said he had waited a year to examine the evidence in the newspaper article because he was working on a new book in Vietnam, and then became ill. He did not come forward with his belief that his father was not in the photo, he said, because there was little interest from the news media and the Marines.
“It wasn’t top of mind,” Mr. Bradley said in the interview. “It wasn’t a priority. I was overseas, and this past fall I was recovering from a disease I got in New Guinea that almost killed me. Now there’s interest in this, and I’m talking about it. I didn’t have the energy to carry the water all by myself.”
Flags of our fathers (2000), James Bradley & Ron Powers
Soviet flag over Reichstag, 1945
The Soviet flag over Reichstag photo is full of symbolism and represents a historic moment. Erected in 1894, the Reichstag’s architecture was magnificent for its time. The building contributed much to German history and was considered by the Red Army the symbol of their enemy.
Next to Joe Rosenthal’s photo of raising the flag on Iwo Jima, Yevgeny Khaldei’s photo of Soviet soldiers raising a flag on top of the Reichstag building in Berlin is perhaps the most famous photo of World War II. But unlike the Iwo Jima photo, Khaldei’s Reichstag photo was both staged and doctored.
Khaldei’s photo was directly inspired by Rosenthal’s Iwo Jima photo. Noting the publicity the Iwo Jima photo had received, Soviet officials (perhaps Stalin himself) ordered Khaldei to fly from Moscow to Berlin in order to take a similar photo that would symbolize the Soviet victory over Germany. Khaldei carried with him a large flag, sewn from three tablecloths for this very purpose, by his uncle.
When Khaldei arrived in Berlin, he considered a number of settings for the photo, including the Brandenburg Gate and Tempelhof Airport, but he decided on the Reichstag, even though Soviet soldiers had already succeeded in raising a flag over this building a few days earlier. Khaldei recruited a small group of soldiers and, on 02-May-1945, proceeded to recreate the scene.
Back in Moscow, Soviet censors who examined the photo noticed that one of the soldiers had a wristwatch on each arm, indicating he had been looting. They did not want to impose that image on their country. They asked Khaldei to remove one of the watches. Khaldei not only did so, but also darkened the smoke in the background. The resulting picture was published soon after in the magazine Ogonjok. It became the version that achieved worldwide fame.
Subsequently, the photo continued to be altered. The flag was made to appear to be billowing more dramatically in the wind. The photo was also colorized. Throughout his life, Khaldei remained unrepentant about having manipulated his most famous photograph. Whenever asked about it, he responded: “It is a good photograph and historically significant. Next question please”.
Later some Soviet sources claimed that the extra wrist watches were actually Adrianov compasses and that the Soviet Army touched out of the picture because they knew that this would be mistaken as a watch acquired by looting corpse rather than a piece of standard equipment. The Adrianov compass was a military compass designed by Russian Imperial Army topographist Vladimir Adrianov in 1907. Wrist-worn versions of the compass were then adopted and widely used by the Red and Soviet Army.
German magazine Der Spiegel wrote: “Khaldei saw himself as a propagandist for a just cause, the war against Hitler and the German invaders of his homeland. In the years before his death in October 1997 he liked to say: ‘I forgive the Germans, but I cannot forget’. His father and three of his four sisters were murdered by the Germans”.
The ruins of Dresden, 1945
At the end of World War II the city of Dresden was in ruins, all its buildings destroyed and thousands of civilians dead. The scale of the death and destruction, coming so late in the war, along with significant questions about the legitimacy of the targets destroyed have led to years of debate about whether the attack was justified, or whether it should be labeled a war crime. The bombing of Dresden has become one of the most controversial decisions made in the European theater.
Before World War II, Dresden was called “the Florence of the Elbe” and was regarded as one the world’s most beautiful cities for its architecture and museums, it had numerous beautiful baroque and rococo style buildings, palaces and cathedrals. Although no German city remained isolated from Hitler’s war machine, Dresden’s contribution to the war effort was minimal compared with other German cities. As Hitler had thrown much of his surviving forces into a defense of Berlin in the north, city defenses were minimal, and the Russians would have had little trouble capturing Dresden. It seemed an unlikely target for a major Allied air attack.
An important aspect of the Allied air war against Germany involved what is known as “area” or “saturation” bombing. In area bombing, all enemy industry – not just war munitions – is targeted, and civilian portions of cities are obliterated along with troop areas. Before the advent of the atomic bomb, cities were most effectively destroyed through the use of incendiary bombs that caused unnaturally fierce fires in the enemy cities. Such attacks, Allied command reasoned, would ravage the German economy, break the morale of the German people and force an early surrender.
On the night of February 13, 1945, hundreds of RAF bombers descended on Dresden in two waves, dropping their lethal cargo indiscriminately over the city. The city’s air defenses were so weak that only six Lancaster bombers were shot down. By the morning, some 800 British bombers had dropped more than 1,400 tons of high-explosive bombs and more than 1,100 tons of incendiaries on Dresden, creating a great firestorm that destroyed most of the city and killed numerous civilians.
Later that day, as survivors made their way out of the smoldering city, more than 300 U.S. bombers began bombing Dresden’s railways, bridges and transportation facilities, killing thousands more. On February 15, another 200 U.S. bombers continued their assault on the city’s infrastructure. All told, the bombers of the U.S. Eighth Air Force dropped more than 950 tons of high-explosive bombs and more than 290 tons of incendiaries on Dresden. Later, the Eighth Air Force would drop 2,800 more tons of bombs on Dresden in three other attacks before the war’s end.
After the war, investigators from various countries, and with varying political motives, calculated the number of civilians killed to be as little as 8,000 to more than 200,000. Estimates today range from 35,000 to 135,000. Looking at photographs of Dresden after the attack, in which the few buildings still standing are completely gutted, it seems improbable that only 35,000 of the million or so people in Dresden at the time were killed.
At the end of the war, Dresden was so badly damaged that the city was basically leveled. A handful of historic buildings – the Zwinger Palace, the Dresden State Opera House and several fine churches – were carefully reconstructed out of the rubble, but the rest of the city was rebuilt with plain modern buildings. American author Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), who was a prisoner of war in Dresden during the Allied attack and tackled the controversial event in his book Slaughterhouse-Five, said of postwar Dresden: “It looked a lot like Dayton, Ohio, more open spaces than Dayton has. There must be tons of human bone meal in the ground”.
The destruction of the city provoked unease in intellectual circles in Britain. According to Max Hastings, by February 1945, attacks upon German cities had become largely irrelevant to the outcome of the war and the name of Dresden resonated with cultured people all over Europe.
The destruction of the city provoked unease in intellectual circles in Britain. According to Max Hastings, by February 1945, attacks upon German cities had become largely irrelevant to the outcome of the war and the name of Dresden resonated with cultured people all over Europe.
Of 28,410 houses in central Dresden, 24,866 were destroyed. 15 sq km totally demolished—of which there were: 14,000 homes, 72 schools, 22 hospitals, 19 churches, 5 theaters, 50 banks, 31 dept stores, 31 hotels, 62 administrative buildings.
First atomic bomb used, 1945
A mushroom cloud billows into the sky about one hour after an atomic bomb was dropped by American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, detonating above Hiroshima, Japan. Six planes of the 509th Composite Group participated in this mission: one to carry the bomb (Enola Gay), one to take scientific measurements of the blast (The Great Artiste), the third to take photographs (Necessary Evil), while the others flew approximately an hour ahead to act as weather scouts (08/06/1945). Bad weather would disqualify a target as the scientists insisted on a visual delivery.
Nearly 80,000 people are believed to have been killed immediately, with possibly another 60,000 survivors dying of injuries and radiation exposure by 1950.
On 06-Aug-1945, Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves sent a top secret cable to his superiors in Washington, D.C.
In the now declassified cable, Groves, who was in charge of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, described what had happened.
“First there was a ball of fire, changing in a few seconds to purple clouds and flames boiling and swirling upward,” he wrote. “Entire city except outmost ends of dock areas was covered with a dark grey dust layer which joined the cloud column.”
The results, Groves told Washington, were “clearcut, successful in all respects.”
On 27-Apr-1945, as Germany was about to surrender, ending the war in Europe, U.S. military brass and nuclear scientists met in Washington for the first time to discuss the atomic bombing of Japan. Though the weapon was still under development, the meeting’s purpose was to discuss how, when and especially where it should first be dropped.
In a top-secret memo of the meeting, eight possible targets – Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Yawata (a steel works area in Kitakyushu) and Nagasaki – were listed, and four – Hiroshima, Yawata, Yokohama and Tokyo – were commented upon.
“Hiroshima is the largest untouched target on the 21st Bomber Command priority list. Consideration should be given to this city. Yawata is an area that should be considered… and is on the A priority list (steel industry). Yokohama is lower on the priority list of targets,” the memo said.
“Tokyo is a possibility but it is now practically all bombed and burned out, and is practically all rubble with only the palace grounds left standing,” it said, referring to the March 1945 firebombing of Tokyo that killed more than 100,000 people.
On July 24, a secret U.S. War Department cable said the Army Air Forces “will deliver the first special bomb as soon as the weather will permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the targets: Hiroshima, Kokura (in Fukuoka Prefecture), Niigata and Nagasaki.”
Just under two weeks later on Aug. 6, the decision was made. A top-secret memorandum Groves sent after the bombing stipulated the reason for the choice of location:
“The target used was Hiroshima, the one reserved target where there was no indication of any POW camp.”
The atomic bomb was then dropped.
One of the few buildings left standing in Hiroshima was the Genbaku Dome of the Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce, which stood very close to the epicenter of the atomic bomb blast on Aug. 6, 1945. Today it is preserved as a peace memorial and is a UNESCO world heritage site. See photo.
The kiss, 1945
The kiss is easily one of the most celebrated and contested photos in America’s historical album. Taken by Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, the iconic shot of young a sailor kissing a nurse all in white in the middle of Times Square captured the nation’s collective relief and elation on the day Japan’s surrender ended World War II.
But who were the sailor and the nurse? We don’t know. Many people have come out over the years claiming to be the famous kissing strangers. While there are credible stories, there’s no consensus. The couple who gets the most credit for their story is George Mendonsa and Greta (Zimmer) Friedman.
The photo, published in LIFE, caught the U.S. at a moment of pure relief and represented people letting go of their inhibitions. An examination of that day, 14-Aug-945, reveals how people celebrated:
Booze flowed; inhibitions were cast off; there were probably as many fists thrown as kisses planted: in other words, once the inconceivable had actually been confirmed and it was clear that the century’s deadliest, most devastating war was finally over, Americans who for years had become accustomed to almost ceaseless news of death and loss were not quite ready for a somber, restrained reaction to the surrender. That response would come, of course. In time, there would be a more considered, reflective take on the war and on the enemies America had fought so brutally, and at such cost, for so long.
The 2012 book The Kissing Sailor, by Lawrence Verria and George Galdorisi, is based on Mendonsa and Friedman’s story. It holds that he was coming out of a 1:05 p.m. movie at Radio City Music Hall that was interrupted only minutes into the film by rumor of the impending Japanese surrender, and that she was on a late lunch break from her job as a dental assistant. It puts the kiss at just around 2 p.m.
Friedman was a 21-year-old dental assistant, out in Times Square when news of the war’s end broke. She died in 2016 at the age of 92.
Among the other characters laying claim to “Kiss” fame were Edith Shain, who died at 91 in 2010 and Glenn McDuffie, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 86. McDuffie, who was 18 in 1945, was positively identified in the photo at the age of 80 by a forensic artist. McDuffie said he remembered Shain and the magic moment.
“I was so happy. I ran out in the street,” he told the Associated Press. “And then I saw that nurse. She saw me hollering and with a big smile on my face…. I just went right to her and kissed her.”
But Carl Muscarello, a former police office, also said he remembers kissing Shain that day.
While there are credible stories, there’s no consensus. Now, to add a new wrinkle to the mystery, researchers in Texas have poked a massive hole in the leading theory.
“I can tell you some things about the picture, and I can rule some people out based on the time of day,” said Texas State University astrophysicist Donald Olson. “We can show that some of the accounts are entirely inconsistent with the astronomical evidence.”
Olson, along with his Texas State colleague Russell Doescher and Iowa State University astrophysicist Steven D. Kawaler, analyzed the angle of shadows in the picture and, using Manhattan’s buildings as de facto sundials, calculated the precise time of day it was taken. Their results, published in Sky & Telescope, put the timestamp at 5:51 p.m. — which makes some stories suspect at best.
“The widely-accepted scenario of ‘The Kissing Sailor’ book, with George Mendonsa kissing Greta Zimmer near 2 p.m., is ruled out by the astronomical analysis,” Olson said.
No matter who were really involved, the photo is truly unforgetable.
Signing surrender documents, 1945
On 02-Sep-1945, representatives from the Japanese government and Allied forces assembled aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay to sign the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, which effectively ended World War II.
Photo: The scene aboard the battleship Missouri as the Japanese surrender documents were signed in Tokyo Bay, on September 2, 1945. Here, General Yoshijiro Umezu signs the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of the Armed Forces of Japan, Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu (behind him, in top hat) had earlier signed on behalf of the government. Both men were later tried and convicted of war crimes. Umezu died while in prison, Shigemitsu was paroled in 1950, and served in the Japanese government until his death in 1957.
The document was prepared by the U.S. War Department and approved by President Harry S. Truman. Eight short paragraphs formalized the “unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese armed forces and all armed forces under Japanese control wherever situated.” The Japanese signatories of the surrender were Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, and acting as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces General Douglas MacArthur accepted their surrender. The formal ceremony was witnessed by delegates from the other Allied nations, including China, the United Kingdom, the USSR, France, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
The surrender came after almost two years of continuous defeats for the Imperial Japanese Army, compounded by the devastating atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945. Word of the Japanese surrender became public on August 14, when President Truman addressed the nation, and August 15 was marked by victory celebrations across the world.
Photo: Dozens of F4U Corsair and F6F Hellcat fighter planes fly in formation over the USS Missouri, while the surrender ceremonies to end World War II take place aboard the U.S. Navy battleship
On September 7, the Japanese Surrender Instruments were presented to President Truman in Washington, DC, and in less than a week later, they were put on public display in the Rotunda of the National Archives, where the the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights reside today.
Hirohito and MacArthur meeting for the first time, 1945
After the Japanese surrender in 1945 the Americans took on the task of occupying Japan and reforming the militaristic nation into a modern country that would never again threaten its neighbors. On 29 August 1945, MacArthur was ordered to exercise authority through the Japanese government machinery, including the Emperor Hirohito. Unlike in Germany, where the Allies had in May 1945 abolished the German state, the Americans chose to allow the Japanese state to continue to exist, albeit under their ultimate control. Unlike Germany, there was a certain partnership between the occupiers and occupied as MacArthur decided to rule Japan via the Emperor and the most of the rest of the Japanese elite. The Emperor was a living god to the Japanese people, and MacArthur found that ruling via the Emperor made his job in running Japan much easier than it otherwise would have been.
On 27-Sep-1945, Emperor Hirohito paid a visit to General Douglas MacArthur at the United States Embassy in Tokyo. Arriving at 10:00 AM in his custom made Rolls Royce, the Emperor and his entourage of Imperial guards and advisers were greeted by American officials Faubion Bowers and Bonner Fellers. The Americans saluted the Emperor and he first bowed to them and then shook their hands. Bowers then took the Emperor’s top hat which seemed to alarm Hirohito who, as the God Emperor of the Japanese people, was not used to be people taking things from him.
As the American officer was taking the hat MacArthur burst into the room: “…in that stentorian voice of burnished gold that thrilled everyone who heard it: You are very, very welcome, sir”. It was the first time Bowers had ever heard the general say ‘sir’ to anyone. The supreme commander reached out to clasp the Emperor’s hand, and the emperor simultaneously bowed so deeply that the handshake ended up taking place above his head.
MacArthur then took Hirohito into a private room with just the Imperial translator, Okumura Katsuzo. The Supreme Commander and the Emperor, through his translator, spent forty minutes together and swore to keep the contents of their conversation secret. Although over the years some details leaked out. According to the Americans, Emperor Hirohito offered to take responsibility for the war, unaware that MacArthur, over the objections of Stalin and the British, had removed his name from the list of war criminals, fearing guerrilla actions if he were to stand trial. This is contrasted by the Japanese. Thirty years after the meeting the Imperial translator, Okumura Katsuzo, released his memoirs which claimed that MacArthur was “a fawning courtier awed by his proximity to ‘You Majesty’ and extraordinarily solicitous in his comments”.
Photo: Many Japanese were extremely offended by this picture because of how casual MacArthur is looking and standing while next to the Emperor, who was supposed to be a god.
In all three photos were taken. In one Supreme commander’s eyes were closed and the Emperor’s mouth gaping open, Hirohito’s gaping open also ruined the second. The third is the one that was published.
The impact on the Japanese public was electric as the Japanese people for the first time saw the Emperor as a mere man overshadowed by the much taller MacArthur instead of the living god he had always been portrayed as.
Up to 1945, the Emperor had been a remote, mysterious figure to his people, rarely seen in public and always silent, whose photos were always taken from a certain angle to make him look taller and more impressive than he really was. No Japanese photographer would had taken such a photo of the Emperor being overshadowed by MacArthur.
The Japanese government immediately banned the photo of the Emperor with MacArthur under the grounds that it damaged the imperial mystique, but MacArthur rescinded the ban and ordered all of the Japanese newspapers to print it.
The next day, the photo was run in newspapers in Japan and the United States. A faction of the Japanese people believed Hirohito was forced into the meeting, but the Emperor asked MacArthur for the meeting. Hirohito was key to the smooth transition from militaristic autocratic government into a Western-style democracy. MacArthur said after the meeting that Hirohito was “a sincere man and a genuine liberal,” high praise from the General. Hirohito’s evaluation of MacArthur remain unclear, but he published poems in newspapers subtly encouraging the Japanese public to cooperate with the occupation. Hirohito visited MacArthur twice per year until MacArthur’s retirement. His endorsement of Supreme Command Allied Powers (SCAP) directives afforded the Americans the stamp of legitimacy in a country conditioned to Imperial deference.
The Nuremberg Trials, 1945-1949
Held for the purpose of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, the Nuremberg trials were a series of 13 trials carried out in Nuremberg, Germany, between 1945 and 1949. The defendants, who included Nazi Party officials and high-ranking military officers along with German industrialists, lawyers and doctors, were indicted on such charges as crimes against peace and crimes against humanity. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) committed suicide and was never brought to trial.
Although the legal justifications for the trials and their procedural innovations were controversial at the time, the Nuremberg trials are now regarded as a milestone toward the establishment of a permanent international court, and an important precedent for dealing with later instances of genocide and other crimes against humanity.
One photo can show all: key defendants and verdicts
There were many legal and procedural difficulties to overcome in setting up the Nuremberg trials. First, there was no precedent for an international trial of war criminals. There were earlier instances of prosecution for war crimes, but they were conducted according to the laws of a single nation rather than, as in the case of the Nuremberg trials, a group of four powers (France, Britain, the Soviet Union and the U.S.) with different legal traditions and practices.
The Allies eventually established the laws and procedures for the Nuremberg trials with the London Charter of the International Military Tribunal (IMT), issued on August 8, 1945. Among other things, the charter defined three categories of crimes: crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It was determined that civilian officials as well as military officers could be accused of war crimes.
The city of Nuremberg in the German state of Bavaria was selected as the location for the trials because its Palace of Justice was relatively undamaged by the war and included a large prison area. Additionally, Nuremberg had been the site of annual Nazi propaganda rallies; holding the postwar trials there marked the symbolic end of Hitler’s government, the Third Reich.
The major war criminals’ trial: 1945-46
The best-known of the Nuremberg trials was the Trial of Major War Criminals, held from November 20, 1945, to October 1, 1946. The format of the trial was a mix of legal traditions: There were prosecutors and defense attorneys according to British and American law, but the decisions and sentences were imposed by a tribunal (panel of judges) rather than a single judge and a jury.
Twenty-four individuals were indicted, along with six Nazi organizations determined to be criminal (such as the “Gestapo,” or secret state police). Hitler and two of his top associates, Heinrich Himmler (1900-45) and Joseph Goebbels (1897-45), had each committed suicide in the spring of 1945 before they could be brought to trial. The defendants were allowed to choose their own lawyers, and the most common defense strategy was that the crimes defined in the London Charter were examples of ex post facto law; that is, they were laws that criminalized actions committed before the laws were drafted.
In the end, the international tribunal found all but three of the defendants guilty. Twelve were sentenced to death, one in absentia, and the rest were given prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life behind bars. Ten of the condemned were executed by hanging on October 16, 1946. Hermann Göring (1893-1946), Hitler’s designated successor and head of the “Luftwaffe” (German air force), committed suicide the night before his execution with a cyanide capsule he had hidden in a jar of skin medication.
Subsequent trials: 1946-49
Following the Trial of Major War Criminals, there were 12 additional trials held at Nuremberg. These proceedings, lasting from December 1946 to April 1949, are grouped together as the Subsequent Nuremberg Proceedings. They differed from the first trial in that they were conducted before U.S. military tribunals rather than the international tribunal that decided the fate of the major Nazi leaders. The reason for the change was that growing differences among the four Allied powers had made other joint trials impossible. The subsequent trials were held in the same location at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg.
These proceedings included the Doctors Trial (December 9, 1946-August 20, 1947), in which 23 defendants were accused of crimes against humanity, including medical experiments on prisoners of war. In the Judges Trial (March 5-December 4, 1947), 16 lawyers and judges were charged with furthering the Nazi plan for racial purity by implementing the eugenics laws of the Third Reich. Other subsequent trials dealt with German industrialists accused of using slave labor and plundering occupied countries; high-ranking army officers accused of atrocities against prisoners of war; and SS officers accused of violence against concentration camp inmates. Of the 185 people indicted in the subsequent Nuremberg trials, 12 defendants received death sentences, 8 others were given life in prison and an additional 77 people received prison terms of varying lengths, according to the USHMM. Authorities later reduced a number of the sentences.
The Nuremberg trials were controversial even among those who wanted the major criminals punished. Harlan Stone (1872-1946), chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the time, described the proceedings as a “sanctimonious fraud” and a “high-grade lynching party.” William O. Douglas (1898-1980), then an associate U.S. Supreme Court justice, said the Allies “substituted power for principle” at Nuremberg.
Nonetheless, most observers considered the trials a step forward for the establishment of international law. The findings at Nuremberg led directly to the United Nations Genocide Convention (1948) and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), as well as the Geneva Convention on the Laws and Customs of War (1949). In addition, the International Military Tribunal supplied a useful precedent for the trials of Japanese war criminals in Tokyo (1946-48); the 1961 trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann (1906-62); and the establishment of tribunals for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia (1993) and in Rwanda (1994).
Gandhi and the spinning wheel, 1946
When the British held Mohandas Gandhi prisoner at Yeravda prison in Pune, India, from 1932 to 1933, the nationalist leader made his own thread with a charkha, a portable spinning wheel. The practice evolved from a source of personal comfort during captivity into a touchstone of the campaign for independence, with Gandhi encouraging his countrymen to make their own homespun cloth instead of buying British goods.
By the time Margaret Bourke-White came to Gandhi’s compound for a life article on India’s leaders, spinning was so bound up with Gandhi’s identity that his secretary, Pyarelal Nayyar, told Bourke-White that she had to learn the craft before photographing the leader. Bourke-White’s picture of Gandhi reading the news alongside his charkha never appeared in the article for which it was taken, but less than two years later life featured the photo prominently in a tribute published after Gandhi’s assassination.
It soon became an indelible image, the slain civil – disobedience crusader with his most potent symbol, and helped solidify the perception of Gandhi outside the subcontinent as a saintly man of peace.
Einstein sticking his tongue out, 1951
A celebration was being held on the night of 14-Mar-1951 at the Princeton Club by friends and colleagues of Dr. Einstein. It was the latter’s 72nd birthday. Photographers from all over the United States were there to cover the event much to the chagrin of the unassuming professor.
Dr Frank Aydelotte, the former head of the Institute for Advanced Study, and his wife offered to drive Einstein home to 112 Mercer Street. As he entered the auto, the cameramen rushed to make ‘just one more’ picture.
UPI photographer Arthur Sasse let the crowd of reporters to take their pictures, and when the crowd had dispersed walked up close to the car and said: “Ya, Professor, smile for your birthday picture, Ya?” Einstein thinking the photographer wouldn’t be fast enough stuck his tongue out and quickly turned his head away. Probably the reason why Einstein did the gesture was to try to ruin the photo. But his plan backfired. Arthur Sasse made the iconic shot, but the other photographers surrounding the car missed it.
The editors debated heavily on whether or not to use the picture and Sasse remembers that “Caveo Sileo, assignment editor, liked it, but the chief editor didn’t. So they had a conference with the big chiefs upstairs. The picture got okayed, and we used it”. So, the photo was published on International News Photos Network.
Since Einstein already had the reputation for being a bit bizarre, the photo was seen as another example of his charm and established a public image of Einstein as the nutty professor. The photo became one of the most popular ever taken of Einstein, often used in merchandise depicting him in a lighthearted sense. It was emblematic of a man who wore his hair long, a funny leather jacket, no socks, no suspenders, no collar, no tie.
The original image included the faces of Dr. and Mrs. Aydelotte in the car, but it was cropped by Einstein himself, who liked it so much that he sent his friends greeting cards decorated with the image. He requested UPI to give him nine copies for personal use, one of which he signed for a reporter. On June 19, 2009, the original signed photo was sold at auction for $74,324, a record for an Einstein picture.
Che Guevara, 1960
The day before Alberto Korda took his iconic photo of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, on 04-Mar-1960 the French freighter La Coubre had exploded in Havana Harbor. Casualties may have been as high as 100, and many more were injured. Covering the funeral for the newspaper Revolución, Korda focused on Fidel Castro, who in a fiery oration accused the U.S. of causing the explosion. (The United States, which denied any involvement.)
The two frames that Korda shot of Castro’s young ally were a seeming afterthought, and they went unpublished by the newspaper.
But after Guevara was killed leading a guerrilla movement in Bolivia nearly seven years later, the Cuban regime embraced him as a martyr for the movement, and Korda’s image of the beret-clad revolutionary soon became its most enduring symbol. In short order, Guerrillero Heroico was appropriated by artists, causes and admen around the world, appearing on everything from protest art to underwear to soft drinks. It has become the cultural shorthand for rebellion and one of the most recognizable and reproduced images of all time, with its influence long since transcending its steely-eyed subject.
Guevara has evolved into a quintessential icon of various leftist movements. Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, and Guerrillero Heroico was cited by the Maryland Institute College of Art as “the most famous photograph in the world”.
Thích Quảng Đức self-immolating, 1963
On 10-Jun-1963, U.S. correspondents were informed that “something important” would happen the following morning on the road outside the Cambodian embassy in Saigon. Most of the reporters disregarded the message, since the Buddhist crisis had at that point been going on for more than a month and so the next day only a few journalists turned up, including David Halberstam of The New York Times and Malcolm Browne, the Saigon bureau chief for the Associated Press.
Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức arrived as part of a procession that had begun at a nearby pagoda. Around 350 monks and nuns marched carrying denouncing the Diem government and its policy towards Buddhists.
Buddhist discontent erupted following a ban in early May on flying the Buddhist flag in Huế on Vesak, the birthday of Gautama Buddha. A large crowd of Buddhists protested the ban, defying the government by flying Buddhist flags on Vesak and marching on the government broadcasting station. Government forces fired into the crowd of protesters, killing nine people.
Thích Quảng Đức’s self-immolation was to protest to the South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diệm regime’s pro-catholic policies and discriminatory Buddhist laws. In particular this was a response to the banning of the Buddhist flag, just 2 days after Diệm had held a very public ceremony displaying crosses.
The act occurred at the busy intersection of Phan Đình Phùng Boulevard and Lê Văn Duyệt Street, a few blocks Southwest of the Presidential Palace (now the Reunification Palace). Duc emerged from the car along with two other monks. One placed a cushion on the road while the second opened the trunk and took out a five-gallon petrol can. As the marchers formed a circle around him, Quảng Đức calmly sat down in the traditional Buddhist meditative lotus position on the cushion. A colleague emptied the contents of the petrol container over Quảng Đức head. Duc rotated a string of wooden prayer beads and recited the words Nam mô A di đà Phật (“homage to Amitābha Buddha”) before striking a match and dropping it on himself. Flames consumed his robes and flesh, and black oily smoke emanated from his burning body.
Many of the monks and nuns, as well as some shocked passersby, prostrated themselves before the burning monk.
The spectators were mostly stunned into silence, but some wailed and several began praying. Many of the monks and nuns, as well as some shocked passersby, prostrated themselves before the burning monk. In English and Vietnamese, a monk repeated into a microphone: ”A Buddhist priest burns himself to death. A Buddhist priest becomes a martyr”.
Once the fire subsided, a group of monks covered the smoking corpse with yellow robes.
After approximately ten minutes, Quảng Đức’s body was fully immolated and it eventually toppled backwards onto its back. Once the fire subsided, a group of monks covered the smoking corpse with yellow robes, picked it up and tried to fit it into a coffin, but the limbs could not be straightened and one of the arms protruded from the wooden box as he was carried to the nearby pagoda in central Saigon.
Photographer Malcolm Browne captured the scene in Saigon for the Associated Press, and the stark black and white image quickly became an iconic visual of the turbulent 1960s. John F. Kennedy said in reference to a photograph of Duc on fire: “No news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one”.
Thích Quảng Đức’s last words before his self-immolation were documented in a letter he had left:
“Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngô Đình Diệm to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally. I call the venerables, reverends, members of the sangha and the lay Buddhists to organize in solidarity to make sacrifices to protect Buddhism”.
David Halberstam wrote:
“I was to see that sight again, but once was enough. Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think… As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him”.
Quảng Đức’s body was re-cremated during the funeral, but his heart remained intact and did not burn. It was considered to be holy and placed in a glass chalice at Xá Lợi Pagoda. The intact heart relic is regarded as a symbol of compassion.
Despite the shock of the Western public, the practice of Vietnamese monks self-immolating was not unprecedented. Instances of self-immolations in Vietnam had been recorded for centuries, usually carried out to honor Gautama Buddha.
Photographs taken by Malcolm Browne of the self-immolation quickly spread across the wire services and were featured on the front pages of newspapers worldwide. The self-immolation was later regarded as a turning point in the Buddhist crisis and a critical point in the collapse of the Diem regime.
Both Malcolm Browne and David Halberstam received the Pulitzer Prize.
The growing resentment of Buddhists under Ngô Đình Diệm was one of the underlying issues of South Vietnam, and eventually led to a coup to put in place a leader, General Dương Văn Minh, who would not alienate Buddhists making up some 80% of Vietnam’s population.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr.’s final salute, 1963
John F. Kennedy Jr. was the first child ever born to a President-elect of the United States.
On 22-Nov-1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. People around the world mourned and tried to come to terms with his death. Many found solace in the stoic Kennedy clan. Lead by the dignified and unbreakable Jackie Kennedy following the family adage of “Kennedy’s don’t cry”, people ached for her as she and the Kennedy family refused to break down.
The youngest member of the Kennedy family three-year old, John F Kennedy Jr. or John-John was no exception. As the casket left St. Matthew’s Cathedral on its way to the President’s final resting place JFK Jr. stepped forward and raised his small hand in salute, an image that broke the hearts of millions. Photographer Dan Farrell, who took the photo, called it “the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life”.
Photo: John F. Kennedy Jr., who turns three today, salutes. Widow Jacqueline Kennedy (center), and daughter Caroline Kennedy are accompanied by the late president’s brothers Sen. Edward Kennedy (left), and Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
Why is John-John dressed like his sister? Kids used to be dressed the same until they reached the age of 8. The tradition, called breeching, was the occasion when a small boy was first dressed in breeches or trousers. From the mid-16th century until the late 19th or early 20th century, young boys in the Western world were unbreeched and wore gowns or dresses until an age that varied between two and eight. The main reason for keeping boys in dresses was toilet training, or the lack thereof. The change was probably made once boys had reached the age when they could easily undo the rather complicated fastenings of many early modern breeches and trousers. Breeching was an important rite of passage in the life of a boy, looked forward to with much excitement, and often celebrated with a small party.
Small guerrilla girl capturing air man, 1965
Photo: The longest Surviving POW in Vietnam William Andrew Robinson being held by an armed NVA guard. This was taken by press photographer Phan Thoan at the beginning of his captivity.
Public records do not indicate the precise nature of the mission undertaken on 20-Sep-1965, but the HH43B went down near the city of Hương Khê, Hà Tĩnh, and all four personnel aboard the aircraft were captured. It is not clear if the four were captured by North Vietnamese or Pathet Lao troops or a combination of the two. Duane W. Martin was taken to a camp controlled by Pathet Lao. Curtis, Robinson and Black were released in 1973 by the North Vietnamese, and were in the Hanoi prison system as early as 1967.
The girl is Nguyễn Thị Kim Lai 17 years old, 1.47 m high, and 37 kg weight, and Robinson 22 years old, 2.2 m high and 125 kg weight.
In 1967, the picture is shown on a postage stamps which were sent to 167 countries including the U.S.
In 1995, the story was made into a movie showing Kim Lai and Robinson met again. Mrs Kim Lai said that when Robinson just saw her 30 years ago, he did not shoot her as she reminded him of his sister at home. She said: “If Robinson had shot me then, I could not have survived and he in turn would have been killed by Vietnamese soldiers.”
Near the end of their meeting, according to Kim Lai, Robinson said: “Both of us should wish that there will be no second photo like that”, and she replly: “Me too, I don’t want to see bombs and bullets, nor family separation”.
Human rights salute, 1968
The 1968 Olympics human rights salute – also known as the black power salute – was a political demonstration conducted by African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the Summer Olympics in the Olympic Stadium in Mexico City.
On the morning of 16-Oct-1968, U.S. athlete Tommie Smith won the 200 meter race with a world-record time of 19.83 seconds. Australia’s Peter Norman finished second, and the US’s John Carlos won third place. After the race was completed, the three went to the podium for medal presentation. The two US athletes received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent black pride, Carlos had his tracksuit top unzipped to show solidarity with all blue-collar workers in the U.S. and wore a necklace of beads which he described “were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred.” In addition, Smith, Carlos, and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman all wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges on their jackets. Just before The Star-Spangled Banner began to play, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads, raised black-gloved fists in the air, and kept them raised until the anthem had finished.
The so-called “black power salute” became front page news around the world as a symbol of the struggle for civil rights. The event is regarded as one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games.
Norman agreed to wear one of the buttons during the ceremony as a sign of solidarity. According to media accounts years later, Norman recalled the incident this way: “I couldn’t see what was happening, (but) I had known (Carlos and Smith) had gone through with their plans when a voice in the crowd sang the American anthem but then faded to nothing. The stadium went quiet.”
In his autobiography, Silent Gesture, Smith stated that the gesture was not a “black power salute”, but a “human rights salute”.
Carlos and Smith faced a storm of controversy for their actions. They were kicked out of the Olympic village and suspended from the American squad. They faced death threats.
These days, the former athletes are widely considered heroic for the stand they took. A statue of them stands at San Jose State University, where Carlos and Smith were students.
Norman returned to Australia to face his critics after Mexico City. In an interview years later, John Carlos said: “If we were getting beat up, Peter was facing an entire country and suffering alone.”
According to published reports, Norman was left off Australia’s team in the 1972 Olympics in Munich despite running times that would have qualified him. He was also left out of any role in the 2000 Sydney Games.
After he died in October 2006 of an apparent heart attack, at age 64, Carlos and Smith were pallbearers at the funeral.
Norman never backed down from what he did in Mexico City, and was unyielding in his support for the actions of Smith and Carlos.
In 2012, Australia formally apologized to Norman, with one MP telling Parliament that Norman’s gesture “was a moment of heroism and humility that advanced international awareness for racial inequality.”
On the day of the apology, Carlos was quoted as saying that Norman was “hurt” by the way he was treated in Australia, and never recovered from that.
On Christmas Eve, 1968, none of the astronauts aboard Apollo 8 was prepared for the spellbinding moment when they would first see their home planet rise from behind the desolate lunar horizon. The vision of Earth provided them the first spot of color as they floated in the blackness of space, orbiting the lunar surface.
Apollo 8 was launched from Cape Kennedy, Fla., at 7:50 hours, on 21-Dec-1968. It achieved many other firsts, including becoming the first manned mission launched on the Saturn V rocket and from NASA’s new Moonport, taking the first pictures of the Earth from deep space by humans and enabling the first live television coverage from the lunar surface. During the months of training preceding the mission, no one thought to condition the crew to encounter the view of Earth from lunar orbit.
Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit on Christmas Eve. That evening, the astronauts – Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders – held a live broadcast from lunar orbit, in which they showed pictures of the Earth and moon as seen from their spacecraft. Said Lovell, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” They ended the broadcast with the crew taking turns reading from the book of Genesis.
For years, Frank Borman and Bill Anders of the Apollo 8 mission each thought that he was the one who took the Earthrise photo. An investigation of two rolls of film seemed to prove Borman had taken an earlier, black-and-white frame, and the iconic color photograph, which later graced a U.S. postage stamp and several book covers, was by Anders.
Many have seen and admired the Earthrise photo as the grandfather of all the modern space images seen today, but how many actually know the history behind Earthrise? In February, Anders visited Johnson Space Center for a BBC documentary interview in which he talked about the Apollo 8 mission, its historical significance, his personal experiences during launch and lunar orbit and how he managed to shoot the unforgettable Earthrise photo. During his visit, Anders also paid a rare visit to the Apollo photo lab to open the storage vault where the negative of the Earthrise photo is kept.
The execution of a Viet Cong guerilla, 1968
There were a lot of pictures taken during the Vietnam War – those of burning monks, fallen soldiers and whirling helicopters. But this picture by Eddie Adams on 01-Feb-1968 is the one that defined the conflict and changed history.
Adams remembered: “He was a small barefooted man in civilian clothes with his hands tied behind his back. I ran up just to be close by in case something happened.”
It is almost dehumanizing to personally witness the execution, no matter what the victim had done. It mattered a little that the person about to be executed was Viet Cong commando Captain Nguyễn Văn Lém or Bảy Lốp responsible for killing twelve only that fateful morning. (Another source says he was responsible for killing the mother, the wife and five children of a South Vietnamese military Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Tuan.) It mattered a little that his group of guerillas had slaughtered the family of his executioner’s best friend in a house just up the road. America – a nation that still supports death penalty by overwhelming numbers (for various reasons) – was shocked to its core. In the picture, its framing, its lighting and its depth mattered little. For instance, picture was cropped again and again just to display the general and his victim. However, the act, ‘the thing itself’ spoke directly – the general is the personification of America’s hidden hand and her dirty involvement in the Vietnam Quagmire. The fact that the executioner was American-educated and trained Brig. General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan (then South Vietnam’s National Chief of Police) did not help either.
In Adams’s photograph, we see Loan firing a bullet point blank into Lem’s head; Lém, wincing, appears to be receiving the bullet. Ironically enough, it has been argued that Ngoc Loan was only interested in publicly assassinating the Viet Cong prisoner because there were AP press corps there to capture the image. After Loan shot Lém, he walked over to the reporters and told them that: “These guys kill a lot of our people, and I think Buddha will forgive me”.
Captured on NBC TV cameras and by AP photographer Eddie Adams, the picture and film footage flashed around the world and quickly became a symbol of the Vietnam War’s brutality. Eddie Adams’ picture was especially striking, as the moment frozen is one almost at the instant of death. Taken a split second after the trigger was pulled, Lém’s final expression is one of pain as the bullet rips through his head. A closer look of the photo actually reveals the bullet exiting his skull.
Although the above photo was not as graphically violent an ending as shown by the television footage of the same incident, for many viewers, the picture was a climactic moment, proclaiming the horror and immorality of the war, signifying its barbarity and its incoherence. Within two months, President Johnson would be announcing his desire not to pursue a second term.
Adams later regretted the impact of the Pulitzer Prize-winning image. The photographer said he had a lot of sympathy for the shooter and his family, and wished he had never published the picture. He felt so bad for Loan that he apologized for having taken the photo at all. Adams wrote in Time magazine in 1998:
Two people died in that photograph: the recipient of the bullet and General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan. The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapons in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths… I’m not saying what he did was right, but you have to put yourself in his position… What the photograph didn’t say was, ‘What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?’… This picture really messed up his life. He never blamed me. He told me if I hadn’t taken the picture, someone else would have, but I’ve felt bad for him and his family for a long time… I sent flowers when I heard that he had died and wrote, “I’m sorry. There are tears in my eyes”.
What happened to General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan after the war? Sadly, the photograph’s legacy would haunt Loan for the rest of his life. A few months after the execution picture was taken, Loan was seriously wounded by machine gun fire that led to the amputation of his leg. Following the war, he was reviled wherever he went. After an Australian hospital refused to treat him, he was transferred to the United States, where he was met with a massive (though unsuccessful) campaign to deport him.
He opened a pizza restaurant in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Burke, Virginia at Rolling Valley Mall called “Les Trois Continents”. In 1991, he was forced into retirement when he was recognized and his identity publicly disclosed. Photographer Eddie Adams recalled that on his last visit to the pizza parlor, he had seen written on a toilet wall, “We know who you are, fucker”. Nguyen Ngọc Loan died of cancer in 1998, aged 67.
Did Loan’s action violate the Geneva Conventions for treatment of prisoners of war? He executed the partisan after he had stumbled upon the bodies of his men and even their families that were killed by the Vietcong. The Vietcong were indiscriminately killing people. Summary execution of partisans is allowable under Geneva.
According to Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, irregular forces are entitled to prisoner of war status provided that they are commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates, have a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance, carry arms openly, and conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. If they do not do meet all of these, they may be considered francs-tireurs (in the original sense of “illegal combatant”) and punished as criminals in a military jurisdiction, which may include summary execution. The guy shot was an “illegal combatant”, a francs-tireurs.
However, if soldiers remove their disguises and put on proper insignia before the start of combat in such an operation, they are considered legal combatants and must be treated as prisoners-of-war if captured. This distinction was settled in the post-WWII trial of Otto Skorzeny, who led Operation Greif, an infiltration mission in which German commandos wore US uniforms to infiltrate US lines but removed them before actual combat.
Colonel Nguyễn Từ Huấn of U.S. Navy was promoted on 10-Oct-2019 to rear admiral. Mr Huan was the first U.S. Navy general of Vietnamese origin.
Mr Huan confirmed that his father was South Vietnamese Armor Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyễn Tuấn (post-humously promoted to colonel), and his mother was Từ Thị Như Tùng. Both his parents and five siplings (one source adds Mr Tuấn’s 80-year-old mother) were killed in their barrack Phu Dong during 1968 upprising. His father was decapacitated, the children (including the 2-year-old youngest) were machinegunned. Only Mr Huấn survived but seriously injured. He was 10-year old then.
Captain Nguyễn Văn Lém or Bảy Lốp was said to have commanded the killing and others, during Tet of Mau Than. Previously, Lém demand Tuấn to show him how to use the tank left in the barrack, but Tuấn refused.
A man on the Moon, 1969
At 10:39 pm on 20-Jul-1969, Neil Armstrong opened the hatch of the lunar module. As he made his way down the lunar module’s ladder, a television camera attached to the craft recorded his progress and beamed the signal back to Earth, where hundreds of millions watched in great anticipation. At 10:56 pm, Armstrong spoke his famous quote, which he later contended was slightly garbled by his microphone and meant to be that’s “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. He then planted his left foot on the gray, powdery surface, took a cautious step forward, and humanity had walked on the moon.
Somewhere in the Sea of Tranquillity, the little depression in which Buzz Aldrin stood, is still there – one of billions of pits and craters and pockmarks on the moon’s ancient surface. But it may not be the astronaut’s most indelible mark.
Aldrin never cared for being the second man on the moon – to come so far and miss the epochal first-man designation Neil Armstrong earned by a mere matter of inches and minutes. But Aldrin earned a different kind of immortality. Since it was Armstrong who was carrying the crew’s 70-millimeter Hasselblad, he took all of the pictures – meaning the only moon man earthlings would see clearly would be the one who took the second steps. That this image endured the way it has was not likely. It has none of the action of the shots of Aldrin climbing down the ladder of the lunar module, none of the patriotic resonance of his saluting the American flag. He’s just standing in place, a small, fragile man on a distant world – a world that would be happy to kill him if he removed so much as a single article of his exceedingly complex clothing. His arm is bent awkwardly – perhaps, he has speculated, because he was glancing at the checklist on his wrist. And Armstrong, looking even smaller and more spectral, is reflected in his visor.
It’s a picture that in some ways did everything wrong if it was striving for heroism. As a result, it did everything right.
Napalm Girl photo, 1972
Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Nick Út is best known for his 1972 Vietnam War photograph known as Napalm Girl.
It was while Út was on assignment on 08-Jun-1972, that he captured the now-famous image of 9-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc screaming and running down the road naked after what the Associated Press called a “misdirected napalm attack” by South Vietnamese military in then Trãng Bàng, South Vietnam.
“I looked in my camera’s viewfinder [and] I saw the girl running from black smoke,” Út recalled. I say ‘Why isn’t she wearing clothes?’ And I run and take a lot of pictures of her.”
After seeing the burns on Phúc’s back and arms, Út says he poured water on her wounds and carried her to his car. It was only when he showed hospital officials his press pass that he was able to get Phúc and the other children injured that day treated.
“They worry and bring her in and help her right away. Then after that, I go back to Saigon to AP to work on my film with the picture that day.”
Kim Phúc was burned on over 65 percent of her body and stayed in the hospital for 14 months, enduring 17 surgeries.
After the Vietnam War ended, Út relocated to Los Angeles, where he continued to work for the Associated Press and covered events including the O.J. Simpson trial and Paris Hilton’s 2007 arrest. Some of his recent work include photographs of snow monkeys in hot springs, whales breaching, Hollywood movie stars, and President Barack Obama walking off of Air Force One.
But it is the photo of a young Kim Phúc, Ut is primarily remembered for. The photographer said he visited her family a week after the attack and that Phúc, who now lives in Canada with her family, affectionately calls him ‘Uncle Nick.’
“We become like family. Her mom and daddy always say ‘Oh, thank you,’” he said. “‘You helped my daughter’.”
Ut was just 15 years old when he jumped into the world of photojournalism at the height of the Vietnam War. He was following in the footsteps of his older brother, who was working on assignment when he was killed by the Viet Cong in 1965. His brother’s memory would impact the rest of his career.
Phan Thị Kim Phúc is now a wife, mother, Canadian citizen and UN Ambassador for Peace.
Kim Phúc knows first-hand about the horrors of war. But now she is turning her pain and suffering into a path to peace.
“I don’t believe in war. I work for peace and joys and the people who need them,” Kim Phúc said during a recent visit to Minneapolis.
Ut keeps in regular contact with Phuc, who lives in Canada. They were together recently in June 2016 when he received the Los Angeles Press Club’s 2016 Quinn Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Nick Út retired in Mar-2017 after working for the Associated Press for 51 years.
The most powerful news image of the last 50 years
In October 2019, the Napalm girl photo was voted the most powerful news image of the last 50 years. The survey was commissioned by TV channel History to launch their new landmark factual series “Photos That Changed the World”, and also probed our reactions to seeing the images.
Burst of joy, 1973
After spending more than five years in a North Vietnamese camp, Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm is reunited with his family at Travis AFB, 13-Mar-1973. Burst of ioy is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by Associated Press photographer Slava “Sal” Veder. The photograph came to symbolize the end of United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and the prevailing sentiment that military personnel and their families could begin a process of healing after enduring the horrors of war.
Prisoners of war freed from the prison camps in North Vietnam landed at Travis Air Force Base in California. Even though there were only 20 POWs aboard the plane almost 400 family members turned up for the homecoming. Veder was part of big press showing and remembers that: “You could feel the energy and the raw emotion in the air”. The photograph depicts United States Air Force Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm being reunited with his family, after spending more than five years in captivity as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. The centerpiece of the photograph is Stirm’s 15-year-old daughter Lorrie, who is excitedly greeting her father with outstretched arms, as the rest of the family approaches directly behind her.
Despite outward appearances, the reunion was an unhappy one for Stirm. It is depressing to read that three days before the picture was taken Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm received a letter from his wife that she wanted a divorce. His wife took 140,000 of his pay while he was a POW, took his two younger kids, house, car, 40% of his future pension, and $300 a month in child support. She had to pay back only $1500 of his money used on trips with other men. He fought and lost against her in court. He then had to live with his mom in San Francisco taking care of his older kids. It looks more like Prisoner of Wife.
Three decades after the Stirm reunion, the scene, having appeared in countless books, anthologies and exhibitions, remains part of the nation’s collective consciousness, often serving as an uplifting postscript to Vietnam. About the picture and its legacy, Lorrie Stirm Kitching once noted, “We have this very nice picture of a very happy moment, but every time I look at it, I remember the families that weren’t reunited, and the ones that aren’t being reunited today – many, many families – and I think, I’m one of the lucky ones”.
Another account about this story (taken from a newspaper):
But there was more to the story than was captured on film. Three days before Stirm landed at Travis, a chaplain had handed him a Dear John letter from his wife. “I can’t help but feel ambivalent about it,” Stirm says today of the photograph. “I was very pleased to see my children – I loved them all and still do, and I know they had a difficult time – but there was a lot to deal with.” Lorrie says, “So much had happened – there was so much that my dad missed out on – and it took a while to let him back into our lives and accept his authority.” Her parents were divorced within a year of his return. Her mother remarried in 1974 and lives in Texas with her husband. Robert retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1977 and worked as a corporate pilot and businessman. He married and was divorced again.
Evacuation from Saigon, 1975
On 23-Apr-1975, President Gerald Ford announced the Vietnam War was “finished as far as America is concerned.” Military involvement had come to an end, but the U.S. still faced a crucial task: the safe evacuation of Americans who remained in Saigon, including the then-U.S. ambassador, Graham Martin.
After Tân Sơn Nhất Airport was bombed heavily on 29-Apr-1974, and the last two Americans were killed in action, the evacuation had to continue with helicopters. “It was an absolute mess,” Colin Broussard, a marine assigned to Martin’s personal security detail, told the Chicago Tribune in 2005. “We knew immediately when we saw the airfield that the fixed-wing operation was done.”
Over the course of April 29 and into the following morning, Operation Frequent Wind transported more than 1,000 Americans and more than 5,000 Vietnamese out of the city. The 19-hour operation involved 81 helicopters and is often called the largest helicopter evacuation on record.
At about 2:30 hours, 41-year-old Caron unintentionally starred in one of the most famous photographs of the Vietnam War. It happened because CIA air officer Oren “O.B.” Harnage asked Caron and co-pilot Jack “Pogo” Hunter to pick up “the deputy prime minister and his family.”
United Press International’s Hugh van Es photographed Caron and Hunter’s chopper perched atop Saigon’s Pittman Building, about a half-mile from the embassy. In the picture, Harnage is seen standing on the roof, helping evacuees climb a ladder to get on board. The iconic photograph has come to symbolize the chaos and desperation of that day.
Photo: An Air America helicopter crew member helps evacuees up a ladder on the roof of 18 Gia Long (now Lý Tự Trọng) Street on 29-Apr-1975, shortly before the city fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops.
“I remember looking out there at the people coming up the ladder,” Caron told CNN. “And I turned to Pogo and said, ‘I tell you what, this prime minister has a pretty damned big family!’ It was 50 people. As you can imagine, as word spread, everyone they knew suddenly became ‘family’.”
A starving boy and a missionary in Uganda, 1980
In 1980 Mike Wells took this powerful photograph of a Catholic missionary holding the hand of a starving Ugandan boy. In so many ways it almost looks like the hand is not human. It’s almost the hand of a space alien, a different species, or anything but the hand of a human being. Unfortunately it can’t be ‘willed’ into being something else; it is the hand of a human being. A starving human being.
Freelance photojournalist Mike Wells explained to Holland Herald magazine, in an interview after winning the World Press Photo of the Year award, that in 1980 he was in Africa working for the Save the Children Fund of the United Kingdom, covering their anti-polio campaign in Swaziland and Malawi. Wells made this image while on a side-trip to Uganda, at a seminary where the Verona Fathers were distributing food during the early days of the famine. One of the monks described the situation to Wells and told him that the Karamojong boy was around four years old.
Food shortages in Karamoja began in July 1978, after drought, crop failure, and plant disease. Not being a region of great economic or political significance for the Ugandan government, President Idi Amin’s administration took no action after being alerted to the situation that year. Following the overthrow of Amin and the flight of his soldiers in 1979, Karamojong warriors acquired a large quantity of guns and ammunition. The influx of firearms drastically shifted regional power balances and cultural traditions around raiding. It became dangerous to move in and out of Karamoja with cattle or grain.
In addition, national insecurity caused a complete breakdown of trade. Families started to run out of food in early 1980. The situation became critical in May and the famine reached its peak in July and August of the same year. In July, the Verona Fathers in Karamoja appealed to the World Food Program in Rome for urgent assistance. Catholic missionary activities had begun in the region in 1933, with the Catholic Church providing relief assistance during periods of famine since the 1960s.
The photographer Mike Wells, who would later win the World Press Photo Award for this photo, admitted that he was ashamed to take the photo. The same publication that sat on his picture for five months without publishing it entered it into a competition. He was embarrassed to win as he never entered the competition himself, and was against winning prizes with pictures of people starving to death.
John Lennon signs an autograph for his murderer, 1980
Chapman waited outside the Dakota (the apartments John and Yoko lived in) beginning in the afternoon. Around 5:00 p.m., Lennon and Yoko walked outside for a recording session. As they walked toward their limousine, Chapman shook hands with Lennon and asked for him to sign a copy of his album, Double Fantasy. Photographer Paul Goresh took a photo of Lennon signing Chapman’s album. After Lennon signed the record he asked Chapman “Is that all?” Basically asking if Chapman wanted anything else signed, to which Chapman replied “No”.
Chapman then waited outside of Lennon’s apartment for Lennon to return. He spent some of the time waiting reading The Catcher in The Rye (a book he was infatuated with).
Around 10:49 p.m., the Lennons’ limousine returned to the Dakota. Lennon and Ono got out, passed Chapman and walked toward the archway entrance of the building. From the street behind them, Chapman fired five shots from a .38 special revolver, four of which hit Lennon in the back and left shoulder.
Chapman then read more of his book while waiting for the police to come. The first to respond after the shooting was a security guard from The Dakotas who approached Chapman as he sat reading. Apparently all the security guard could do was sob and kept asking Chapman “Do you know what you did?”
Hand of God goal, 1986
Argentina’s 2-1 victory over England in front of 115,000 fans on 22-Jun-1986 is remembered entirely for the two moments from Maradona which would ultimately settle a contest simmering with political overtones. Four years earlier, Britain and Argentina had fought a bitter conflict in the South Atlantic over the Falkland Islands, which ended in defeat for the South American nation’s military junta.
Diego Armando Maradona, Argentina’s greatest-ever player, scored both his side’s goals in the 2-1 victory. Six minutes into the second half, Maradona cut inside from the left and played a diagonal low pass to the edge of the area to team-mate Jorge Valdano and continued his run in the hope of a one-two movement. Maradona’s pass was played slightly behind Valdano and reached England’s Steve Hodge, the left midfielder who had dropped back to defend.
Hodge tried to hook the ball clear but miscued it. The ball screwed off his foot and into the penalty area, toward Maradona, who had continued his run. England goalkeeper Peter Shilton came out of his goal to punch the ball clear. Maradona, despite being 8 inches (20 cm) shorter than the 6-foot-1 (1.85 m) Shilton, reached it first with his outside left hand. The ball went into the goal. Referee Ali Bin Nasser of Tunisia claimed he did not see the infringement and allowed the goal, much to the chagrin of the English players and management.
England complained vociferously to the referee, but the goal stood.
At the post-game press conference, Maradona facetiously commented that the goal was scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”, after which it became known as the “Hand of God” goal. The goal helped intensify the footballing rivalry between the two nations: the English now felt that they had been cheated out of a possible World Cup victory, while the Argentines enjoyed the manner in which they had taken the lead.
Just four minutes after the Hand of God goal, however, came The Goal of the Century, so called because it is often claimed to be the greatest individual goal of all time. Later on the game Gary Lineker scored for England but they were unable to score an equalizer and Argentina won the match 2–1.
Following the game, Maradona stated: “Although we had said before the game that football had nothing to do with the Malvinas war, we knew they had killed a lot of Argentine boys there, killed them like little birds. And this was revenge”.
A teenager landing on Red Square, 1987
It all began in 28-May-1987. Mathias Rust was fed up with the Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union so he planned to create an “imaginary bridge” to the East. He left Uetersen in his rented Reims Cessna F172P D-ECJB, which was modified by removing some of the seats and replacing them with auxiliary fuel tanks. He spent the next two weeks traveling across Northern Europe, visiting the Faroe islands, spending a week in Iceland, and then visiting Bergen on his way back. He was later quoted as saying that he had the idea of attempting to reach Moscow even before the departure, and he saw the trip to Iceland (where he visited Hofdi House, the site of unsuccessful talks between the United States and the Soviet Union in October 1986) as a way to test his piloting skills.
In the morning of 28 May 1987, Rust refueled at Helsinki-Malmi Airport. He told air traffic control that he was going to Stockholm, and took off at 12:21 p.m. However, immediately after his final communication with traffic control he turned his plane to the east. Air controllers tried to contact him as he was moving around the busy Helsinki–Moscow route, but Rust turned off all communications equipment aboard.
Rust crossed the Baltic coastline over Estonia and turned towards Moscow. At 14:29 he appeared on Soviet Air Defense (PVO) radar; the “object” that did not answer the call sign of “friend or foe”; it was assigned a number 8255. Three missile battalions were set in alertness, but there was no order to defeat the object. Two interceptors were sent to investigate and at 14:48 near the city of Gdov one of the pilots observed a white sport plane and asked for permission to engage, but was denied.
Air defense re-established contact with Rust’s plane several times but confusion followed all of these events. Luckily for Rust that day the local air regiment near Pskov was on maneuvers and, due to inexperienced pilots’ tendency to forget correct IFF designator settings (foe or friendly settings), local control officers assigned all traffic in the area friendly status, including Rust. Near Torzhok there was a similar situation, as increased air traffic was created by a rescue effort for an air crash the previous day. Rust, flying a slow propeller-driven aircraft, was confused with one of the helicopters taking part in the rescue.
Around 7:00 p.m. Rust appeared above downtown Moscow. He had initially intended to land in the Kremlin, but changed his mind: he reasoned that landing inside, hidden by the Kremlin walls, would have allowed the KGB to simply arrest him and deny the incident. Therefore, he changed his landing spot to Red Square. Heavy pedestrian traffic did not allow him to land there either, so after circling about the square one more time, he was able to land on a bridge by St. Basil’s Cathedral. After taxiing past the cathedral he stopped about 100 metres (330 ft) from the square, where he was greeted by curious passersby and was asked for autographs. When asked where he was from, he replied “Germany” making the bystanders think he was from East Germany; but when he said West Germany, they were surprised.
Photo: Rust’s Cessna 172, resting near Red Square some time after his landing. Rust is standing on the right in the photo, wearing colored overalls.
Rust was arrested two hours later. He was charged with several violations, the most serious being that he had illegally entered Soviet airspace. Rust argued that he was merely trying to promote world peace. He carried with him copies of a plan he had developed for a worldwide democracy, which he referred to as “Iagonia”. Rust’s trial began in Moscow on 2 September 1987. He was sentenced to four years in a general-regime labor camp for hooliganism, for disregard of aviation laws, and for breaching the Soviet border.
Two months later, Reagan and Gorbachev agreed to sign a treaty to eliminate intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe, and the Supreme Soviet ordered Rust to be released in August 1988 as a goodwill gesture to the West. After his release, Rust enjoyed a short period of fame before he retreated from the public eye and became involved with several utopian and religious groups.
William E. Odom, former director of the U.S. National Security Agency and author of The Collapse of the Soviet Military, says that Rust’s flight irreparably damaged the reputation of the Soviet military. This enabled Gorbachev to remove many of the strongest opponents to his reforms. Minister of Defense Sergei Sokolov and the head of the Soviet Air Defence Forces Alexander Koldunov were dismissed along with hundreds of other officers. This was the biggest turnover in the Soviet military since Stalin’s purges 50 years earlier.
Rust’s rented Reims Cessna F172P was sold to Japan where it was exhibited for several years. In 2008 it was returned to Germany and was placed in the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin.
Video and interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wue02Y0lS38; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2xpQFEcumE
Tank Man, 1989
The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 culminating in the Tiananmen Square Massacre were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) between 15-Apr and 04-Jun-1989. They were mainly led by Beijing students and intellectuals.
By the spring of 1989 there was growing sentiment among university students and others in China for political and economic reform. The country had experienced a decade of remarkable economic growth and liberalization, and many Chinese had been exposed to foreign ideas and standards of living. In addition, although the economic advances in China had brought new prosperity to many citizens, it was accompanied by price inflation and opportunities for corruption by government officials.
In the mid-1980s the central government had encouraged some people (notably scientists and intellectuals) to assume a more active political role, but hard-liners in the government and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) want suppress what they termed “bourgeois liberalism.” One casualty of this tougher stance was Hu Yaobang, who had been the CCP General Secretary since 1980 and who had encouraged democratic reforms; in January 1987 he was forced to resign his post.
The catalyst for the chain of events in the spring of 1989 was the death of Hu in mid-April; Hu was transformed into a martyr for the cause of political liberalization. On the day of his funeral (April 22), tens of thousands of students gathered in Tiananmen Square demanding democratic and other reforms. For the next several weeks, students in crowds of varying sizes – eventually joined by a wide variety of individuals seeking political, social, and economic reforms – gathered in the square.
The initial government response was to issue stern warnings but take no action against the mounting crowds in Tiananmen Square. A large number of Western journalists had gathered to report on the visit to China by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in mid-May. Shortly after his arrival, a demonstration in the square drew some one million participants and was widely broadcast overseas.
Meanwhile, an intense debate ensued among government and party officials on how to handle the mounting protests. Moderates, such as Zhao Ziyang (Hu Yaobang’s successor as party General Secretary), advocated negotiating with the demonstrators and offering concessions. However, they were overruled by hard-liners led by Chinese premier Li Peng and supported by paramount elder statesman Deng Xiaoping, who, fearing anarchy, insisted on forcibly suppressing the protests.
During the last two weeks of May, martial law was declared in Beijing, and army troops were stationed around the city. However, an attempt by the troops to reach Tiananmen Square was thwarted when Beijing citizens flooded the streets and blocked their way. Protesters remained in large numbers in Tiananmen Square, centering themselves around a plaster statue called “Goddess of Democracy,” near the northern end of the square. Western journalists also maintained a presence there, often providing live coverage of the events.
By the beginning of June, the government was ready to act again. On the night of June 3–4, tanks and heavily armed troops advanced toward Tiananmen Square, opening fire on or crushing those who again tried to block their way. Once the soldiers reached the square, a number of the few thousand remaining demonstrators there chose to leave rather than face a continuation of the confrontation.
Tank Man is the nickname of an unidentified man who stood in front of a column of tanks on the morning after the Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests by force. As the lead tank maneuvered to pass by the man, he repeatedly shifted his position in order to obstruct the tank’s attempted path around him. The incident was filmed and seen worldwide. There were only a few sources who caught the incident on tape.
The incident took place at the north edge of Tiananmen Square, along Chang’an Avenue, on 05-Jun-1989, one day after the Chinese government’s violent crackdown on the Tiananmen protests. The man stood in the middle of the wide avenue, directly in the path of a column of approaching Type 59 tanks. He wore a white shirt and black trousers, and he held two shopping bags.
At least five photographers captured the event, which became a symbol of defiance in the face of oppression. Charlie Cole, working for Newsweek, won a World Press Photo Award for his version of the image.
More than 28 years after the incident, there is no reliable information about the identity or fate of the man; the story of what happened to the tank crew is also unknown. At least one witness has stated that Tank Man was not the only person who had opposed the tanks during the protest. Shao Jiang, who was a student leader, said: “I witnessed a lot of the people standing up, blocking the tanks.” Tank Man is unique in that he is the only one who was photographed and recorded on video.
Video footage shows two figures in blue pulling the man away and disappearing with him into a nearby crowd; the tanks continued on their way. Eyewitnesses are unsure who pulled him aside. Charlie Cole said it was the Chinese government PSB (the police), while Jan Wong, who was there for The Globe and Mail, thought that the men who pulled him away were concerned bystanders.
In April 1998, Time included the “Unknown Rebel” in a feature titled “Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century”. In November 2016, Time included Jeff Widener’s photograph in “Time 100: The Most Influential Images of All Time”.
The fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989
The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that physically and ideologically divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. The Wall cut off (by land) West Berlin from virtually all of surrounding East Germany and East Berlin.
On 12 June 1987, US President Ronald Reagan, commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin, addresses the people of West Berlin at the base of the Brandenburg Gate. “Tear down this wall!” was the famous command from Reagan to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
In 1989 a series of revolutions in nearby Eastern Bloc countries—Poland and Hungary in particular—caused a chain reaction in East Germany that ultimately resulted in the demise of the Wall. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government announced on 9 November 1989 that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. Crowds of East Germans crossed and climbed onto the Wall, joined by West Germans on the other side in a celebratory atmosphere.
Photo: West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall early 11 November 1989 as they watch East German border guards demolishing a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin, near the Potsdamer Square.
Over the next few weeks, euphoric people and souvenir hunters chipped away parts of the Wall; the governments later used industrial equipment to remove most of what was left. The fall of the Berlin Wall paved the way for German reunification, which formally took place on 3 October 1990.
Starving child and vulture, 1993
Kevin Carter knew the stench of death. As a member of the Bang-Bang Club, a quartet of brave photographers who chronicled apartheid-era South Africa, he had seen more than his share of heartbreak.
In 1993 he flew to Sudan to photograph the famine racking that land. Exhausted after a day of taking pictures in the village of Ayod, he headed out into the open bush. There he heard whimpering and came across an emaciated toddler who had collapsed on the way to a feeding center. As he took the child’s picture, a plump vulture landed nearby. Carter had reportedly been advised not to touch the victims because of disease, so instead of helping, he spent 20 minutes waiting in the hope that the stalking bird would open its wings.
It did not. Carter scared the creature away and watched as the child continued toward the center. He then lit a cigarette, talked to God and wept. The New York Times ran the photo, and readers were eager to find out what happened to the child – and to criticize Carter for not coming to his subject’s aid. His image quickly became a wrenching case study in the debate over when photographers should intervene. Subsequent research seemed to reveal that the child did survive yet died 14 years later from malarial fever.
Carter won a Pulitzer for his image, but the darkness of that bright day never lifted from him. In July 1994 he took his own life, writing, “I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain.”
Pillars of Creation, 1995
The Hubble Space Telescope almost didn’t make it. Carried aloft in 1990 aboard the space shuttle Atlantis, it was over-budget, years behind schedule and, when it finally reached orbit, nearsighted, its 8-foot mirror distorted as a result of a manufacturing flaw. It would not be until 1993 that a repair mission would bring Hubble online. Finally, on 01-Apr-1995, the telescope delivered the goods, capturing an image of the universe so clear and deep that it has come to be known as Pillars of Creation.
What Hubble photographed is the Eagle Nebula, a star-forming patch of space 6,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Serpens Cauda. The great smokestacks are vast clouds of interstellar dust, shaped by the high-energy winds blowing out from nearby stars (the black portion in the top right is from the magnification of one of Hubble’s four cameras). But the science of the pillars has been the lesser part of their significance. Both the oddness and the enormousness of the formation – the pillars are 5 light-years, or 30 trillion miles (48 trillion km), long – awed, thrilled and humbled in equal measure. One image achieved what a thousand astronomy symposia never could.
Oklahoma bombing, 1995
Aspiring photojournalist Charles Porter was working near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on 19-May-1995 when “there was just a huge, huge explosion.” He rushed to the scene and saw firefighter Chris Fields emerge from the rubble holding a dying infant, 1-year-old Baylee Almon. Porter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the moment became a symbol of the Oklahoma City bombing, which claimed 168 lives.
Aren Almon-Kok, then a 23-year-old single mother, saw the picture of her lifeless daughter on the front page of the local paper the next day. A day later it was on the cover of newspapers across the world.
Aren said she learns to deal with the grief but the milestones get more difficult every year. Baylee had just turned one when Aren dropped her off at a daycare center before going to work.
Four days after the Oklahoma bombing, Bill Clinton attended a memorial service for the 168 victims. He stated that “one thing we owe those who have sacrificed is the duty to purge ourselves of the dark forces which gave rise to this evil”.
Aren and her family throw a party for Baylee on her birthday every year.
The day a computer beat a chess world champion, 1997
It’s 1997, and Garry Kasparov is hunched over a chessboard, visibly frustrated. He’s fidgeting in between turns and shaking his head in disbelief as he waits for his opponent to put the final touches on an inevitable victory. Finally, Kasparov makes his move, stands up and races away from the board. He raises his arms, astounded that he was beaten by a machine.
His opponent was the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue, a machine that was capable of imagining an average of 200,000,000 positions per second. But going into the match, Kasparov was confident. He had been beating chess-playing computers since the ‘80s (he’ll remind you that he defeated an earlier version of Deep Blue in 1996) and was considered nearly unbeatable.
Photo: Spectators watch a broadcast of the final, decisive game in the rematch between Garry Kasparov and the IBM computer Deep Blue. 11-May-1997.
So when Kasparov, one of the greatest chess players of all time, lost to a computer in front of a global audience, people began to wonder whether it was just a matter of time before machines surpassed humans in other aspects of life.
Immediately after the match, Kasparov was bitter. In December 2016, discussing the match in a podcast with neuroscientist Sam Harris, Kasparov advised of a change of heart in his views of this match. Stated Kasparov: “While writing the book I did a lot of research – analysing the games with modern computers, also soul-searching – and I changed my conclusions. I am not writing any love letters to IBM, but my respect for the Deep Blue team went up, and my opinion of my own play, and Deep Blue’s play, went down. Today you can buy a chess engine for your laptop that will beat Deep Blue quite easily”.
This particular game was the first in a match of six held in Philadelphia. Kasparov rebounded in the following five games, fighting the computer to two draws and three victories, winning the overall match. Deep Blue’s win was seen as very symbolically significant, a sign that artificial intelligence was catching up to human intelligence, and could defeat one of humanity’s great intellectual champions. Later analysis tended to play down Kasparov’s loss as a result of uncharacteristically bad play on Kasparov’s part, and play down the intellectual value of chess as a game which can be defeated by brute force.
99 cent, 1999
It may seem ironic that a photograph of cheap goods would set a record for the most expensive contemporary photograph ever sold, but Andreas Gursky’s 99 cent is far more than a visual inventory. In a single large-scale image digitally stitched together from multiple images taken in a 99 cents Only store in Los Angeles, the seemingly endless rows of stuff, with shoppers’ heads floating anonymously above the merchandise, more closely resemble abstract or Impressionist painting than contemporary photography. Which was precisely Gursky’s point. From the Tokyo stock exchange to a Mexico City landfill, the German architect and photographer uses digital manipulation and a distinct sense of composition to turn everyday experiences into art.
As the curator Peter Galassi wrote in the catalog for a 2001 retrospective of Gursky’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, “High art versus commerce, conceptual rigor versus spontaneous observation, photography versus painting… for Gursky they are all givens – not opponents but companions.” That ability to render the man-made and mundane with fresh eyes has helped modern photography enter the art world’s elite.
In 2006, in the heady days before the Great Recession, the photo 99 cent sold for $2.3 million at an auction. The record for a contemporary photograph has since been surpassed, but the sale did more than any other to catapult modern photography into the pages of auction catalogs alongside the oil paintings and marble sculptures by old masters.
The moment Bush was informed of the World Trade Center attack, 2001
White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card is, famously, the man who break the news of the full enormity of the Sept. 11 attacks to President Bush.
At that time, president George W. Bush was participating in a reading demonstration at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida.
After six years in one of the toughest jobs in politics, he talked to msnbc.com’s Afsin Yurdakul about his experiences on that fateful day eight years ago. Excerpts from their conversation follow.
… We loaded into limousines and went over to the school. There was a buzz as we were getting to the school. Some people said, “Anybody hear about the plane crash in New York City?” but still not a lot of information. And the president, the principal of the school and I were standing at the door when one of the staffers for the National Security Council came up and said, “Sir, it appears there’s been a small twin-engine plane crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.” And the reaction, kind of unspoken, was “Oh, it’s a horrible accident. The pilot must have had a heart attack or something.” And the principal then opened the door of the classroom and escorted the president in and the door shut.
Then that staffer came back to me and said, “Sir, it looks like it wasn’t a small twin-engine plane, it was a commercial jetliner.” My mind flashed… and I can’t explain why, but my mind flashed to the fear that must have been experienced by the passengers on the plane. I just thought “Gee, they must have known the plane is going up, it must have been a horrible experience.” I still thought, I guess, that it could have been an accident, a mechanical failure or something.
And then – it seems like a nanosecond later – that staffer came to me and said, “Oh my gosh” – he used another word – and said another plane hit the other tower at the World Trade Center. And I knew that it was not an accident, and it couldn’t have been a coincidence.
My mind focused on the al-Qaida network, because I knew that they had attacked the World Trade Center before. I don’t know why I thought that but I did and I just presumed that it was an Osama bin Laden or and al-Qaida attack, and I knew I had to tell the president.
I wrestled with that. You know, one of the tough jobs for the chief of staff is to try to decide what to tell the president needs to know. This was relatively easy – yes, the president needs to know. But what do I tell him?
I made the decision that I would pass on two facts, make one editorial comment and do nothing to invite a question or start a dialogue.
I opened the door to the classroom and the press pool was gathered at the back of the classroom. I walked up to the president and leaned over and whispered into his right ear: “A second plane” – I was very very succinct, very purposeful with my diction – “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.” And I stood back from the president so that he couldn’t ask me a question and then I inched my way back to the door. I was all business. I was all business.
White House watching the raid, 2011
On 1 May 2011, Pete Souza was inside the Situation Room as U.S. forces raided Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound and killed the terrorist leader. Yet Souza’s picture includes neither the raid nor bin Laden. Instead he captured those watching the secret operation in real time. President Barack Obama made the decision to launch the attack, but like everyone else in the room, he is a mere spectator to its execution. He stares, brow furrowed, at the raid unfolding on monitors. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton covers her mouth, waiting to see its outcome.
In a national address that evening from the White House, Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed. Photographs of the dead body have never been released, leaving Souza’s photo and the tension it captured as the only public image of the moment the war on terror notched its most important victory.
A small Syrian boy washed up on a beach, 2015
Alan Kurdi was a three-year-old Syrian boy of Kurdish ethnic background whose image made global headlines after he drowned on 2 September 2015 in the Mediterranean Sea. He and his family were Syrian refugees trying to reach Europe amid the European refugee crisis. Photographs of his body were taken by Turkish journalist Nilüfer Demir and quickly spread around the world, prompting international responses. Because Kurdi’s family had reportedly been trying to reach Canada, his death and the wider refugee crisis immediately became an issue in the 2015 Canadian federal election.
Photo: A young Syrian boy, who drowned in his family’s attempt to reach Greece from Turkey, lies in the surf near Bodrum, Turkey
Surviving family members of Aylan Kurdi have revealed their story.
Aylan’s distraught father, Abdullah Kurdi, tried and failed to hold on to his wife and two sons after their boat to the Greek island of Kos capsized. He has reportedly now said his only wish is to return their bodies to their home town of Kobani and then “be buried alongside them”. The family had been making the treacherous journey across Turkey to Europe in the hope of joining Abdullah’s sister, Teema Kurdi, a hairdresser who has lived in Vancouver, Canada for more than 20 years.
The Independent has taken the decision to publish the image, which some may find offensive, lower down in this article because among the often glib words about the “ongoing migrant crisis”, it is all too easy to forget the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees.
Speaking to the National Post’s Terry Glavin, Ms Kurdi said she had learned of Aylan’s death, as well as that of his brother Galip and mother Rihan, at 5am on Wednesday morning. The images of Aylan emerged in Turkish media at around midday, and have since sparked international outrage over the refugee crisis.
Glavin told BBC Radio 5 live on Thursday that Ms Kurdi had heard from family members about Abdullah’s desperate battle to save his family in the sea. “There’s a terrible story he told about swimming from one to the other, finding one [son] who seemed to be alright and then going to another, finding him drowned… and then going back to the first boy and finding him drowned,” he said. “He made it, but his wife didn’t.”
Jenan Moussa, a journalist with Dubai’s Al Aan TV, said she had confirmed with sources in Kobani that the Kurdish family hailed from the recently-embattled Syrian city. She said Abdullah was a barber originally from Damascus, who fled from Kobani to Turkey but “dreamed of a future in Canada” for his family. “Abdullah paid €4000 (£2900) for his family to get on a 5m-long dinghy from Bodrum to Greece. He borrowed money. This was not their first attempt to get to Greece.
When in the dinghy, the sea got rough. Turkish smuggler abandoned boat, left passengers struggling. Boat capsized after one hour. “After it capsized, the family clung to the boat. Mr Abdullah tried to hold his two children and wife with his arm, but one by one they were washed away by waves.”
Compiled by Diep Minh Tam – 04-Feb-2019