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Pictures of the 20th Century


Although we try to grasp the full meaning of the past, sometimes we can understand just a snapshot in history. Pictures help us do that. Through pictures, we can be in the room with Franklin D. Roosevelt or on the battlefield with a soldier during the Vietnam War. We can observe an unemployed man standing in line at a soup kitchen during the Great Depression or witness a pile of dead bodies in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Pictures capture a single fleeting moment, which we hope will illustrate so much more. Browse through these collections of pictures to better understand the history of the 20th century.


Landing Craft
Keystone / Stringer/ Hulton Archives/ Getty Images
This collection of D-Day pictures includes images capturing the preparation needed for the operation, the actual crossing of the English Channel, soldiers and supplies landing on the beaches at Normandy, the many wounded during the fighting, and men and women on the homefront supporting the troops.

Great Depression

The most famous picture of the Great Depression - a mother of seven children by Dorthea Lange.
Picture from the FDR, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Through pictures, you can be a witness to the devastation caused by such a severe economic crisis as the Great Depression. This collection of Great Depression pictures includes images of the dust storms, farm foreclosures, migrant workers, families on the road, soup kitchens, and workers in the CCC.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler poses with a group of Nazis soon after his appointment as Chancellor.
Picture courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.)
A large collection of pictures of Hitler, including pictures of Hitler giving the Nazi salute, as a soldier in World War I, official portraits, standing with other Nazi officials, wielding an axe, attending Nazi Party rallies, and much more.

The Holocaust

Prisoners from Buchenwald stare out from the wooden bunks in which they slept.
Picture from the National Archives, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.
The horrors of the Holocaust were so immense that many have found them to be nearly unbelievable. Can there really be that much evil in the world? Discover for yourself as you witness some of the atrocities committed by the Nazis through these pictures of the Holocaust, including pictures of the concentration camps, death camps, prisoners, children, ghettos, displaced persons, Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing squads), Hitler, and other Nazi officials.

Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor, taken by surprise, during the Japanese aerial attack.
Picture courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
On the morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The surprise attack destroyed much of the United States' fleet, especially the battleships. This collection of pictures captures the attack on Pearl Harbor, including pictures of planes caught on the ground, battleships burning and sinking, explosions, and bomb damage.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan in an official portrait at the White House.
Picture from the Ronald Reagan Library.
Have you ever wondered what President Ronald Reagan looked like as a child? Or been interested in seeing his engagement picture with Nancy? Or have been curious to see pictures of the assassination attempt on him? You will see all this and more in this collection of pictures of Ronald Reagan, which captures Reagan from his youth to his later years.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt in a black dress with a long necklace.
Picture from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.
Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was an amazing and fascinating woman in her own right. Learn more through these pictures of Eleanor Roosevelt as a young girl, in her wedding dress, sitting with Franklin, visiting troops, and so much more.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt in New York.
Picture from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States and the only U.S. President elected to more than two terms, overcame the handicap of being paralyzed from a bout of polio to become one of the most popular U.S. Presidents in history. Learn more about this charismatic man through this large collection of pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt, which includes pictures of FDR as a young boy, on a boat, spending time with Eleanor, sitting at his desk, giving speeches, and talking with Winston Churchill.

Vietnam War

A young Marine private waits on the beach during the Marine landing in Vietnam.
Picture courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
The Vietnam War (1959-1975) was bloody, dirty, and very unpopular. In Vietnam, U.S. soldiers found themselves fighting against an enemy they rarely saw, in a jungle they couldn't master, for a cause they barely understood. These pictures of the Vietnam War offer a brief glimpse into life during the war.

World War I

A tank in World War I going over the top in 1918.
Picture from the National Archives and Records Administration.
World War I, originally called the Great War, raged from 1914 to 1918. Mostly fought in western Europe in muddy, bloody trenches, WWI saw the introduction of the machine gun and poison gas into battle. Learn more about the war through these pictures of World War I, which include pictures of soldiers in combat, destruction, and injured soldiers.

World War II Posters

World War II Poster: Button Your Lip, Loose Talk Can Cost Lives (1941-1945)
Picture courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
In many ways, propaganda is an essential part of every war. Propaganda during wartime is used to garner public support for one side and to turn public support away from the other. Oftentimes this turns into extremes such as ours vs. yours, friend vs. enemy, good vs. evil. During World War II, propaganda posters urged the average American citizen to do all sorts of things, like not to talk about military secrets, volunteer to serve in the military, conserve supplies, learn to spot the enemy, buy war bonds, don't get sick, and so much more. Learn more about propaganda through this collection of World War II posters.
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