The Great War – World War I – raged through Europe and the Middle East 100 years ago. These are some of the most unbelievable photos of troops and tech from the “War to End All Wars.”
Losing incredible photos to history could happen for any reason. Perhaps there were so many, these were rejected by publications, locked away in a box for us to find a century later. Or maybe they were just the personal keepsakes of those who fought the war. Whatever the reason, we can marvel at what wartime life was like, both in and out of the trenches.
Soldiers on all sides are more than just cannon fodder. These photos show people’s hearts, souls, and personal beliefs. They show the innovation on the battlefield – the gruesome killing power of the world’s first industrialized war. They also show the efforts made to improve technology that could save lives by ending the war.
Most of all, it shows that we who fight wars are still human, no matter which side of the line we maintain.
1. This listening device.
Before the advent of radar, aircraft had to be located by hearing the direction from which the aircraft approached. The horns amplified sound and the tech would wear headphones to try to pinpoint the location of the incoming enemy.
2. Holy rolling.
German infantryman Kurt Geiler was carrying his bible when a four centimeter piece of shrapnel embedded itself in the book, likely making a lifelong Christian out out of Geiler.
3. Lady Liberty takes 18,000 soldiers.
This depiction of the Statue of Liberty was made to drive war bonds and is made up of 18,000 troops – 12,000 just for the torch, which is a half mile away.
4. Realities of war.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affected troops even 100 years ago. Called “shell shock” at the time, up to 65,000 troops were treated for it, while thousands of others were charged with cowardice for it. Blasts from shells would leave lesions on the brain, resulting in symptoms similar to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) experienced by post-9/11 veterans.
5. This Austro-Hungarian war face.
This war face would make Gunnery Sergeant Hartman proud. It looks like William Fichtner’s great-grandfather.
6. These Italian troops mummified by the cold.
The next time you complain about being in formation in the winter, remember it could always be worse. These Italians froze in the Alps, fighting Austrians.
7. This gay couple flaunting DADT before it was controversial.
Proof that DADT was garbage in the first place.
8. This pigeon is ready for your close up.
Both sides used animals for reconnaissance and communication. Pigeons were especially useful for their homing ability and attitude.
9. This woman looks ready to take the whole German Army.
There’s so much so-called “great man history,” that we often forget about women’s contributions. Women worked in many industrial areas during the Great War. Look at this photo and realize most of you couldn’t chop wood all day on your best day.
10. This incredibly brave little girl.
Where are this girl’s parents? This is 1916, and child rearing was slightly tougher back then, but that’s still unexploded ordnance. (Europeans still find unexploded bombs from both world wars.)
11. This is the “Ideal Soldier.”
This propaganda photo depicts what the French public thought the ideal French soldier looked like.
12. These Vietnamese troops who did not fit #11’s profile.
A total of 92,411 Vietnamese men from what was then called French Indochina were in the service of France and were distributed around Europe, of which around 30,000 died.