Here is part 33 of Interesting Historical Photos series. For part 32, click here.
01. Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens salutes during the presentation of his gold medal for the long jump, after defeating Germany’s Lutz Long during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
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 USA presidents. 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.
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.
02. Buzz Bomb
A V-1, “buzz bomb”, plunging toward central London, 1945.
This bomb landed on a side road off Drury Lane blasted several buildings, including the office of the Daily Herald. Known as the Flying bomb, Buzz bomb or Doodlebug, V-1 was the first modern guided missile used in wartime and the forerunner of today’s cruise missile. The V-1 (and later V-2 ) added a new terror to an already terrible war – robot missiles. Once launched, these weapons flew without human intervention to strike distant targets.
The British used to destroy these bombs using a fighter plane, which were faster than the V1’s and could fly above the weapon before descending to attack it. The pilots usually slipping a wing of the plane under the wing of the missile, then they would flip their wing up which would throw off the stabilizing gyros in the missile and make it crash. This was more preferable than simply shooting V-1’s due to their tendency to explode in your face when they were shot.
Stalin in an off-record photo captured by his bodyguard Vlasik. The year is unknown.
Vlasik’s off-the-record photos of Stalin caused a sensation in the early 1960s when an enterprising Soviet journalist spirited some out, selling them to newspapers and magazines worldwide. This photo shows how human this “monster” was, like Hitler with his German Shepherd or smiling with his maniac cohorts.
Beginning in 1931, Vlasik was chief of Stalin’s personal protective service in Kremlin. He also became, in essence, a member of the family. But that not saved him from the Stalin’s purge in connection with the Doctors’ plot (in 1952). After Stalin died in 1953, he was released from a gulag.
German soldier dives for cover as shell explodes. Western Front, 1917.
Many wartime photos of dramatic explosions, especially those with action like this one, are in fact staged after the fact. Maybe this one was as well. It may also be from a postwar film. Cameras were not light and handy like today, typically had slow exposure times and needed to be set up beforehand on tripods. Anyway this photo is probably not faked. Keep in mind the shrapnel has already dispersed by the time you actually see the explosion and dust. So if this soldier got hit by that shell, the metal has already gone through his body when this photo was taken.
Shrapnel shells were anti-personnel artillery munitions which carried a large number of individual bullets close to the target and then ejected them to allow them to continue along the shell’s trajectory and strike the target individually. The munition has been obsolete since the end of World War I for anti-personnel use, when it was superseded by high-explosive shells for that role.
Shrapnel is named after Major-General Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842), an English artillery officer, whose experiments, initially conducted in his own time and at his own expense, culminated in the design and development of this new type of artillery shell.
German troops raising the swastika over the Acropolis, 1941.
After the German 2nd Panzer Division captured Athens, they raised the Nazi German flag above the Acropolis as a sign of victory. This flag, the symbol of Greece’s occupation, would be taken down one month later in one of the first acts of the Greek Resistance. Two 19 year old students secretly climbed the northwest face of the Acropolis and tore down the swastika banner. When looking at the photo from a philosophical view, it’s somewhat of a statement on where Western civilization had arrived in 1941, in the midst of a takeover by a regime based on racial ideology, genocide, and domination.
06. Gas Masks
Gas masks for babies tested at an English hospital, 1940.
The hospital is running a drill to make sure that they can implement the procedures for poison gas, the nurses are testing out infant gas-masks. The photo is part of the Imperial War Museum in London and the original caption reads: “Three nurses carry babies cocooned in baby gas respirators down the corridor of a London hospital during a gas drill. Note the carrying handle on the respirator used to carry the baby by the nurse in the foreground“. This gas mask was for children up to two years old. The design covered the whole of the baby except for its legs.
During demonstrations there were reports that babies fell asleep and became unnaturally still inside the masks. It is likely that the pump didn’t push enough air into the mask and the babies came close to suffocating. Luckily, they were never put to the test in a real situation.
07. Chlorine Cylinders
Russian soldiers prepare chlorine cylinders for a gas attack against German positions near Ilukste, 1916.
The soldiers are part of the Russian Fifth Army of World War One. They are preparing a chemical attack against the German positions in Ilukste area (modern Latvia). Chlorine was first introduced in the battlefield by the German Army in 1915. As described by the soldiers it had a distinctive smell of a mixture between pepper and pineapple. It also tasted metallic and stung the back of the throat and chest. Chlorine can react with water in the mucosa of the lungs to form hydrochloric acid, an irritant that can be lethal.
The damage done by chlorine gas can be prevented by the activated charcoal commonly found in gas masks, or other filtration methods, which makes the overall chance of death by chlorine gas much lower than those of other chemical weapons. Chlorine gas was pioneered by a German scientist later to be a Nobel laureate, Fritz Haber of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, in collaboration with the German chemical conglomerate IG Farben, who developed methods for discharging chlorine gas against an entrenched enemy.
08. Messerschmitt Me 264
Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika bomber, its objective: being able to strike continental USA from Germany, 1942.
The Me 264 was designed from the beginning as part of the “Amerika bomber” project. It’s goal was to be able to carry a small load to the United States but also to support U-boat operations far into the Atlantic. In total 3 prototypes were built. This first prototype was not fitted with weapons or armour, but of the following two prototypes, the Me 264 V2 had armour for the engines, crew and gun positions. Late in 1943, the second prototype, Me 264 V2, was destroyed in a bombing attack. On 18 July 1944, the first prototype, which had entered service with Transportstaffel 5, was damaged during an Allied bombing raid and was not repaired. The third prototype, which had not been fully completed, was destroyed during the same raid.
09. Mobile Shield
A Russian adjustable mobile shield captured by the Germans, 1914.
The immobility of the trench warfare characterizing the First World War led to a need for a device that would protect soldiers from enemy fire and could help them move on the extremely irregular terrain of battlefields. Apart from a few exceptional cases, these mobile personnel shields proved too cumbersome and heavy for the strength of an individual under fire, and would only work on short distances and on favorable ground. The primary killer on WWI battlefields was artillery, not rifles or machine guns. While the men are carrying their shields to protect them against rifle and machine gun fire, a 15cm shell bursts over their heads and shreds their brains with shrapnel. In order to stop high power rifle rounds, they had to be rather heavy weight steel plate. This made them difficult to move and carry, usually by horses
U-118, a World War One submarine washed ashore on the beach at Hastings, England.
When the people of the town of Hastings awoke one morning to see one of the Kaiser’s U-boats on their beach, it caused some shock. Thousands of visitors flocked to see the beached submarine. The Admiralty allowed the town clerk to charge a fee for people to climb on the deck. Two members of the coastguard were tasked with showing important visitors around inside the submarine. The visits were curtailed when both men became severely ill, they both died shortly after. It was a mystery what killed the men at the time and so all trips into the sub were stopped, it was later discovered that chlorine gas which had been escaping from SM U-118′s batteries had caused severe abscesses on the lungs and brains of the unfortunate men.
SM U-118 was commissioned on 8 May 1918, following construction at the AG Vulcan Stettin shipyard in Hamburg. It was commanded by Herbert Stohwasser and joined the I Flotilla operating in the eastern Atlantic.