Skip to comments.World War Two aerial photographs on the Internet
Posted on 01/18/2004 8:19:33 AM PST by knighthawk
LONDON: More than five million detailed aerial photographs from World War Two go onto the Internet from Monday, giving the public their first views of some of the most dramatic and grisly moments of the conflict.
From the smoke billowing from the incinerator of the Auschwitz concentration camp in which millions of Jews were murdered by the Nazis, to the US landings on Omaha beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944 , the pictures tell dramatic stories.
"These images allow us to see the real war at first hand," project head Allan William said. "It is like a live action replay."
"They were declassified years ago, but it takes days to find an individual image. Now they have been digitised and will be on the Internet, it takes seconds," he told Reuters.
Wartime planners depended heavily on aerial photography -- and in particular the specialist photographic interpreters who spent hours after each sortie pouring over the pictures seeking evidence and clues -- to pick their targets.
"The pictures were vital to the war effort. For example for years before the final choice of beaches was made for the D-Day landings, photographic interpreters had been watching the whole shoreline of northern France ," Williams said.
The pilots who took the highly detailed pictures were some of the most daring in the skies, flying unarmed, unprotected and alone often at very low level to fulfil their missions. Hundreds never returned from their perilous missions.
In the Auschwitz pictures, prisoners can be seen queuing up for roll call, and in the D-Day pictures bodies can be seen floating in the sea.
Apart from these gripping images -- some of more than 40 million taken over the years and lodged in the National Archives -- there are also pictures of the German battleship Bismarck hiding in a Norwegian fjord.
Seven days after the picture was taken in May 1941, a combination of Royal Navy bombardment and Royal Air Force attacks had sunk the most feared German surface raider of the war.
There is also a picture showing in stark detail the devastation wrought by the mass bombing raids on the German city of Cologne.
Other pictures show gliders next to Pegasus Bridge , stormed by British airborne troops before dawn on the morning of D-Day in the first action of the Allied invasion to liberate France .
But the images are not just of historic interest. They are still used in the frequent discovery of unexploded bombs left over as deadly mementos of the war.
"We are often contacted when an unexploded bomb is found. We see if we have aerial reconnaissance photographs of the area and send them over so they can see if there may be any more," Williams said.
The images will be available on the Internet from Monday, January 19 at www.evidenceincamera.co.uk, but Williams said the Web site was already under siege.
(Click "open - in pictures")
This is another picture of Auschwitz. Prisoners lining up for roll call can be seen in the photograph's centre.
The most moving image in the archives is a recently discovered picture of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.
The smoke on the left-hand side of the picture is being produced by the mass burning of bodies in funeral pits.
During the war's closing stages the camp's crematoriums were unable to burn all the people murdered by the Nazis.
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