World War II Database

Wednesday, 9 May 2012


American female aircraft worker working at the Vega Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, California, United States, June 1942.


American woman working on an aircraft engine at a North American Aviation plant in California, United States, June 1942.


A female North American Aviation employee working on a section of the leading edge of an aircraft horizontal stabilizer, Inglewood, California, United States, October 1942.


American women working in the interior of the tail section of a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant, Long Beach, California, United States, October 1942.


WAVES Aviation Machinist's Mates Bernice Snasburg and Violet Falkum working on the Pratt & Whitney radial engine of SNJ-4 aircraft, Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, United States, 30 November 1943.


WAVES Airman 1st Class (Aviation Metalsmith) Barbara Stroud drilling and riveting aircraft structure in the Assembly and Repair Department at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida, United States.


Frances Wills and Harriet Ida Pickens being sworn in as WAVES apprentice seamen by Lieutenant Rosamond D. Selle, New York City, New York, United States, November 1944.


WAVES aircraft mechanics working on the port outboard Pratt & Whitney R-2000 engine of a R5D Skymaster aircraft, Naval Air Station, Oakland, California, United States, mid-1945.


Carrier pigeon trainer WAVES Specialist 2nd Class Marcelle Whiteman holding a carrier pigeon, Naval Air Station, Santa Ana, California, United States, June 1945.


Pilot Nancy Harkness Love and WAF co-pilot Betty Huyler Gillies, the first women to fly the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, circa 1943-1945.

Bild 146-1983-009-09A

Polish Jew Marcel Rayman, member of the French resistance, after being arrested by Germans, 1943-1944.


Resistance fighters in La Tresorerie near Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, 14 September 1944.

Bild 146-1983-077-13A

French resistance fighter being arrested, France, July 1944.

I've been going through so many photos on the World War II database, thinking how important sites such as this one are. Looking at each photo is like a small history lesson. I'm particularly drawn to the images of women working throughout the war and the contribution they made, as well as the images of resistance fighters. I don't approach these photos romantically, but with a sense that I'd love to know more about them. Although I've studied World War II quite a bit, there's a gap in my knowledge about women's roles and the various forms of resistance throughout the war. I do warn you though that once you start digging through the database, you might not be able to stop - it's so fascinating.


Rambling Tart said...

I am drawn to these stories too, Hila. Very much so. My grandparents were in the Resistance in Denmark during WWII and I have vivid memories of the stories they shared. Last night I watched a story about an Indian woman who was a radio operator for the SOE in France during WWII. She was incredibly brave and strong, but was murdered by the Nazi's. Her family only learned one happened to her recently.

Hila said...

Krista, I so wish we could meet in person and talk over coffee about this - I'd love to hear some of your family stories. I saw that that documentary last night too! It was on Noor Inayat Khan/Nora Baker. I did some reading on her before I saw this, so I had a vague idea who she was. But I was amazed last night by all the details I didn't know. How can anyone be so brave? I felt so sorry for her family when they learned how she died, it was brutal. I cried when I heard what that SS Nazi officer did to her in Dachau, and that her last word was "Liberté". Truly astonishing, I had chills.

Ballad of Seasons said...

wow! a website to get lost in it "" thanks for sharing Hila! xxx

Blue Eyed Night Owl said...

Before this year I never felt the need to learn more about WWII, we had a lot in school and I was just done with it. But now, all of a sudden I'm so fascinated by how this possibly could've happened.

Thanks these pictures are very interesting indeed!

Gracia said...

From a purely visual point, what a fantastical collection of images you have assembled from said database. I'm with you, digging about in history is fascinating stuff. At present I am reading books that are set or were written in the lead up to or just after WWII.

Off to explore...

Chuck said...

Most Shallow Reaction Ever: Gosh, they're all so lovely and glamorous. I don't look that nice in peacetime let alone working in an armaments factory in the middle of a world war... Fascinating. x

Naomi Bulger said...

It is so difficult to imagine their lives, so separate from what we know as 'normal'. What must it have been like, I wonder. War dominates, even a long way from the front.

rooth said...

These pictures are really awesome - I've never really looked at them in a collection like this. And I am totally romanticizing about them...

Stephanie said...

These photos are amazing. My grandfather fought in Africa and France during World War II, and I love reading about that time in our history.

Sophia said...

Clearly those images above have a higher artistc value and art direction but you are right Hila that there are some real stories behind this portayed beauty that describe at least -to my knowledge great sorrow, even great horor. I can't forget my father's aunt saying that while she was walking her way to her state job at the general treasury she would daily pass dying people every. single. day at the side of road because of the german occupation. The war was holding strong and many fighters were dying every day but somehow the notion of civilians falling on a daily basis is incomprehesible to me. A sacrifice of lives while trying to make possible the ultimate cause we have in this world, to live.

Rambling Tart said...

I would absolutely love to meet up with you, Hila! :-) If I ever make it to your side of the country, you're the first person I'm contacting for coffee and a good, long talk. :-)

T C said...

i always feel sad that day, both my grandparents passed away recently, both survived after the world war II. for many people that day is connected with personal family history

Debie Grace said...

I love digging old stuff! It's surprising to know women actually helped. Wow... Amazing!

hungryandfrozen said...

What incredible photos, especially the colour ones- perhaps because of their unfamiliarity, I'm more used to seeing that era in black and white.

I always find myself staring at their faces and wondering who were they? What were they thinking? What happened to them?

Linda said...

Thanks, Hila, for this link. I never knew about this database. I am particularly interested in the resistance movements. The world still has not recovered from this war. Thanks for posting these amazing photos.

Patricia Sands said...

What powerful stories these photos tell. It's so very important to learn the stories and keep them alive. Many of us still have elderly relatives who lived these stories and I urge everyone to record them before they are lost. I'm going to google the Indian woman you mention. I found you through a link in my friend Naomi Bulger's blog and am so pleased I did!

Hila said...

Ballad of Seasons: yes, you can get totally lost in it.

Blue eyed night owl: sometimes the way it's taught in school can really turn people off history. It's a shame.

Gracia: you know what, I think the visually appealing aspect of the photos is what captures the eye, and then, when you learn about each image, it captures your mind. So they work together.

Chuck: yep, neither do I!

Naomi: that's what I was thinking too.

Rooth: I saw some of them floating around on tumblr, so I thought it would be a good idea to place them in a context and show where they were from.

Stephanie: I think because of strong family links, that's why this war fascinates me too.

Sophia: some of the stories from my own family from that period seem incomprehensible to me too.

Krista: me too!

TC: oh I'm sorry to hear that. Yes, this war is so tied up with personal family histories.

Debie: women seem to be forgotten in historical accounts of war, this always angers me.

hungryandfrozen: yes, those are the questions that go through your mind looking at these images.

Linda: I doubt it ever will recover from this war.

Patricia: Noor's story is amazing, I hope you find out more about her.

Siubhan said...

I find photographs like this (and this subject in general) endlessly fascinating – I've worked on quite a few books on women's war work, including a biography of the incredible Noor Inayat Khan, actually. I'm always so amazed by what they did, especially given the climate in which they did it. That's a great database - thank you for the link.

Hila said...

Siubhan: I'm amazed by what they did too, I try to put myself in their positions and imagine what I would do - would I be that brave? Noor's story is so fascinating, how lucky that you got to work on a book about her. What's the book called?