A new book published by the Imperial War Museum features a rare collection of color photos from World War II, some of which haven’t been seen in over 70 years. From P-51D Mustangs and Flying Fortresses through to anti-aircraft spotters and flame hurling tanks, these images cast the war in a vibrant new light.
During the war, Britain’s Ministry of Information had control over which photos could be shared with the press, color images included. The vast majority of photos taken during the war were in black and white, but between 1942 and 1945, British photographers managed to snap around 3,000 color images. Those which survived became part of the IWM archives in 1949. All of the color photos in this stunning new collection, The Second World War in Colour, were pulled from this invaluable collection.
The majority of people living today imagine the Second World War without color. This has the unfortunate effect of making the war seem like it’s more ancient than it really is, while giving the conflict an otherworldly quality. Black and white photos are great, it’s just that they make things seem a little less real. The photos shown in this new book allow us to travel back in time and see things as they really were, even if many of the images were staged and clearly shot for propaganda purposes.
“The images in this book show the vivid hues of the flames and fabrics, the intense blue skies, the sun-tanned faces and the myriad of colours of military camouflage,” said author and senior IWM curator Ian Carter in a release. “Black and white photography puts a barrier between the subject and the viewer, colour photography restores that missing clarity and impact. As the most destructive war in history gradually fades from living memory, it becomes more important to take away the remoteness and bring the Second World War to life.”
These color images and others are featured in a new Imperial War Museums publication The Second World War in Colour which is now available here.