Powerful World War 2 Photos That Most People Haven’t Seen

Published December 6, 2016
Updated April 6, 2020

From Pearl Harbor to D-Day to the momentous events you may not know so well, these World War 2 photos bring history's worst cataclysm to life.

World War 2 Photos Wounded Soldiers
World War 2 Photos Pearl Harbor
World War 2 Photos Normandy
Woman Walking By Bodies WW2 Photos
Powerful World War 2 Photos That Most People Haven’t Seen
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Both during and soon after World War 1, politicians and pundits began referring to the devastating conflict as "the war to end all wars."

One can hardly blame them for such a grandiose name. The West had never seen anything like World War 1 before. Between 1914 and 1918, approximately 17 million soldiers and civilians died while another 20 million lay seriously wounded.

Yet even this was not in fact "the war to end all wars." Just two decades later, most of the same countries waged war on much of the same ground. This time, however, the casualties were more than four times worse.

With combined civilian and military death toll estimates ranging as high as 85 million, World War 2 remains the single deadliest cataclysm in human history.

Between 1939 and 1945, the world endured not only its bloodiest and most far-reaching military campaigns, but also some of its deadliest famines, civilian exterminations, and epidemics. In Nazi concentration camps across Eastern Europe, those years saw the worst genocide ever on record.

Yet, today, the devastation of any one of these facets of World War 2 -- let alone all of them taken together -- is so vast that it becomes unfathomable.

As the famous quote widely misattributed to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, one of World War 2's most important figures, goes: "One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic."

Perhaps, however, the best way to attempt to drag World War 2's 85 million deaths out of the realm of statistics and back into the realm of tragedy is not with words, but images.

From the battlefields to the faces of the civilians who never set foot on one but whose lives were shattered all the same, the World War 2 photos above bring history's greatest catastrophe to life.

After viewing these World War 2 photos, check out 31 of the most illuminating World War II facts, and 21 of the most surprising World War II myths. Then, read up on the worst war crimes that U.S. forces committed during World War II.

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 for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.