Rarely Seen Photos Taken Just After History Was Made

Published February 6, 2017
Updated July 25, 2019

You've seen iconic moments as they've happened, but rarely do you see what life's like just after history's been made.

Moments After Historical Moments: The Moon Landing

Neil Armstrong Historical Moments
Neil Armstrong sits inside the lunar module just after returning from history's first-ever human moonwalk on July 21, 1969.Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr./NASA via Wikimedia Commons

The Assassination Of John F. Kennedy

Historical Moments JFK Assassination
Secret Service agent Clint Hill jumps aboard the presidential limo to act as a protective shield for President John F. Kennedy and the first lady moments after the gunshot that took the president's life on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.Justin Newman/AP via Wikimedia Commons

The Saigon Execution

After The Saigon Execution
Moments after the execution depicted in Eddie Adams' immortal photo, South Vietnamese General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan holsters the weapon he'd just used to kill suspected Viet Cong insurgent Nguyễn Văn Lém in Saigon on February 1, 1968.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of the execution helped wake America up to the brutal realities of the Vietnam War.
Eddie Adams/Library of Congress

"Tank Man"

Tank Man On Top
Immediately after stopping four tanks by standing in their path (as depicted in Jeff Widener's famous photo), the unidentified protestor commonly known as "Tank Man" continues his protest by mounting the lead vehicle during the Tiananmen Square protests for democratic reform in Beijing, China on June 5, 1989.CNN/YouTube

The Sinking Of The Titanic

Titanic Lifeboat
The last lifeboat to leave the Titanic approaches the rescue ship Carpathia soon after the sinking of the former on April 15, 1912.Wikimedia Commons

The Assassination Of Martin Luther King Jr.

Assassination Of MLK
On April 4, 1968, civil rights leader Andrew Young (left) and others standing on the balcony of Memphis' Lorraine Motel point in the direction of the then unknown assailant whose bullet had just fatally struck Martin Luther King Jr., who is lying at their feet.Joseph Louw/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

"Napalm Girl"

Napalm Girl
Phan Thi Kim Phuc -- commonly known as "Napalm Girl" -- recovers mere moments after enduring a South Vietnamese napalm attack (as captured in Nick Ut's famous photo) in Trang Bang during the Vietnam War on June 8, 1972.ITN/YouTube

September 11th

Woman After September 11th
World Trade Center employee Marcy Borders takes refuge inside a nearby office building following the collapse of the South Tower, which left her covered in dust. Borders had been working on the 81st floor of the North Tower when the attack commenced and had managed to escape with her life.STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

The Battle Of Gettysburg

Gettysburg Battle
Partially titled "A Harvest Of Death," this photo reveals just a tiny fraction of the casualties of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), the deadliest battle ever fought in the U.S. and the turning point of the Civil War.Timothy H. O'Sullivan/Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

Adolf Hitler Takes Power

Hitler's Inauguration
On January 30, 1933 at the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, crowds applaud Adolf Hitler (standing in spotlight at center window) immediately following his inauguration as chancellor.

From this point until his death, Hitler ruled as Germany's supreme leader.
Robert Sennecke/German Federal Archives

The Hindenburg Disaster

Hindenburg Wreckage
On May 7, 1937, the morning after the fateful crash, the wreckage of the Hindenburg lies on the ground, surrounded by people, in Lakehurst, New Jersey.Wide World Photos/Wikimedia Commons

Raising The Flag On Iwo Jima

Battle Of Iwo Jima
An American flag sits atop Mount Suribachi soon after being raised there by six U.S. Marines -- as depicted in Joe Rosenthal's iconic photo -- during the Battle of Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945.Wikimedia Commons

The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall Collapses
West Berliners crowd in front of the Berlin Wall as they watch East German border guards demolish a section of the wall in order to open a new crossing point between East and West Berlin on November 11, 1989.GERARD MALIE/AFP/Getty Images

The 2015 Paris Attacks

Paris Terror Attacks
People flee after hearing gunshots near the Place de la République square, within a short distance of two of the shootings that made up the Paris terror attacks ultimately responsible for the deaths of 130 people on November 13, 2015.DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images

The Death Of Rasputin

Rasputin Body
The dead body of Grigori Rasputin, professed mystical healer and advisor to Russian Tsar Nicholas II, lies on the ground soon after his mysteriously unsolved murder in Petrograd on December 30, 1916.Wikimedia Commons

The Repeal Of Prohibition

Prohibition Effigy
"Old Man Prohibition" hangs in effigy above the streets of New York just after the repeal of prohibition on December 5, 1933.New York Public Library

The Bombing Of Hiroshima

Hiroshima Cloud
The mushroom cloud rises over Hiroshima, Japan just two to three minutes after the atomic bombing that devastated the city on August 6, 1945.

This long-lost photo, uncovered in a nearby school in 2013, is one of just two or three photos of the event taken from the ground and is perhaps the ground-level photo taken soonest after the explosion.
Honkawa Elementary School/Hiroshima Peace Media Center via Wikimedia Commons

The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing

Historical Moments In Photographs
A man suffering from smoke inhalation stands outside the World Trade Center in New York just after the terrorist bombing that killed six and injured more than 1,000 on February 26, 1993.TIM CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

The Wright Brothers' First Flight

Wright First Flight
Orville Wright pilots the Wright Flyer I as Wilbur Wright runs alongside just after takeoff of what would be the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft on December 17, 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.John T. Daniels/Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

The Brussels Attacks

Brussels Airport Attack
Two injured women recover immediately following the twin bombings carried out by ISIS militants at Brussels Airport on March 22, 2016.

The coordinated attacks at the airport and Maalbeek metro station left 32 victims dead and 340 injured.
KETEVAN KARDAVA/AFP/Getty Images

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

Challenger Launch Control
At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, NASA Flight Director Jay Greene reacts just after noting that the Space Shuttle Challenger had begun to disintegrate upon its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on January 28, 1986. The explosion of the shuttle, which killed all seven crew members while being broadcast live, marked the deadliest disaster in the history of spaceflight.NASA via Wikimedia Commons

The Shot That Started World War I

Gavrilo Princip Captured
Police subdue Gavrilo Princip, the man who assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and thus launched World War I, just after the shooting in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914.

(Some scholars say that this photo actually depicts the arrest of an immediate bystander initially mistaken for Princip.)
Wikimedia Commons

The Assassination Of Malcolm X

Malcolm X Assassination
Police circles mark the bullet holes behind the stage where Malcolm X had just been shot at New York's Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965.Stanley Wolfson/Library of Congress

The Benghazi Attack

Chris Stevens After Benghazi Attack
Libyan civilians help an unconscious man -- identified by eyewitnesses as U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens -- at the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi in the early hours of September 12, 2012, immediately following an overnight attack on the building by Islamist extremists that left four Americans dead, including Stevens.AFP/Getty Images

The Wounded Knee Massacre

Wounded Knee Mass Grave
U.S. soldiers bury Native American victims of the Wounded Knee Massacre in a mass grave soon after the attack that left as many as 300 Lakota dead on December 29, 1890.Northwestern Photo Co./Library of Congress

The Boston Marathon Bombing

Marathon Bombing
Victims lay wounded as emergency workers respond three minutes after the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013.Aaron Tang/Flickr

The Attempted Assassination Of Ronald Reagan

Assassination Attempt On Ronald Reagan
Police and Secret Service agents react moments after the failed assassination attempt that seriously injured President Ronald Reagan, police officer Thomas Delahanty (foreground), and Press Secretary James Brady (behind) in Washington, D.C. on March 30, 1981.MIKE EVENS/AFP/Getty Images

The Death Of Osama bin Laden

Bin Laden Compound
Pakistani media personnel and local residents gather outside the once-secret hideout of Osama bin Laden soon after his death inside the compound at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011 in Abbottabad, Pakistan.AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images

The London Bombings

Face Bandage
One survivor helps another to safety following the terrorist bombings that killed 56 and injured nearly 800 in London on July 7, 2005.Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

The San Francisco Earthquake Of 1906

San Francisco Earthquake Street
On April 18, 1906, locals survey the damage on Sacramento St. soon after the San Francisco earthquake that killed 3,000, left 225,000 homeless, destroyed 90 percent of the city, and remains the second deadliest disaster in American history.Arnold Genthe/Library of Congress

The Attempted Assassination Of President Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Secret Service agents rush President Gerald Ford (center, just over left shoulder of man in vest) toward the California State Capitol immediately after the failed attempt on his life in Sacramento on September 5, 1975.

Charles Manson Family cult member Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme drew her gun on Ford, but the attempt failed when the gun misfired. Although Secret Service agents then rushed Ford from the scene, he insisted on going on with his day, meeting with California Governor Jerry Brown immediately afterward without even mentioning the assassination attempt.
Ricardo Thomas/Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum via Wikimedia Commons

The Start Of The Civil War

Fort Sumter Flag
The Confederate flag flies over South Carolina's Fort Sumter on the morning of April 15, 1861, just after the historic battle there that marked the beginning of the Civil War.Alma A. Pelot/Wikimedia Commons

The Assassination Of Robert F. Kennedy

Robert Kennedy Wounded Floor
Clutching his rosary beads, Senator Robert F. Kennedy lies mortally wounded on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, just after being shot by Sirhan Sirhan — a Jordanian man who disagreed with Kennedy's backing of Israeli actions in Palestine — on June 5, 1968.Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images

There are no good photos of Neil Armstrong on the moon. Few realize it and fewer still believe it when they first hear it, but it's true.

Any image you can call to mind of an Apollo 11 astronaut standing proudly on the lunar surface -- facing front, in focus, saluting the flag, and so on -- is almost certainly among the many photos that depict Buzz Aldrin, the second person to ever set foot on the moon.

Still, the most poignant photo of the whole affair was taken just after Armstrong's iconic moment. Back in the lunar module immediately following the historic moonwalk, Aldrin snapped a photo of Armstrong's beaming smile -- with all the awe, joy, and consequence of the moment written right across his face.

And so it is with countless other momentous historical episodes: Sometimes we find the truth and the full weight of the moment not in images of the moment itself, but in images of its immediate aftermath, whether it's hours, minutes, or mere seconds later.

You've undoubtedly seen many photos of the JFK assassination, September 11th, "Tank Man" at Tiananmen Square, and on and on. But now, it's what came right after those pivotal historical moments -- and many others -- that you really need to see.


Fascinated by these photos taken in the immediate aftermath of iconic historical moments? Next, check out 31 historical photos taken just before history was made. Then, have a look at 31 rare historical photos of landmark historical moments you didn't even know were photographed in the first place.

John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society of history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.