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Guide to the World War II Photograph Collection
(Bulk 1941-1945)
  PR 76

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Jenny Gotwals

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on March 21, 2017
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Title: World War II Photograph Collection
Dates [inclusive]: 1921-1963 (Bulk 1941-1945)
Abstract: The World War II Photograph Collection includes promotional material from the United States War Department, the vast majority from the U.S. Navy.
Quantity: 2.7 Linear feet (7 boxes)
Location note: Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections
Call Phrase: PR 76

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Scope and Content Note

The World War II Photograph Collection spans the period from 1941 to 1948 and includes promotional material from the United States War Department, the vast majority from the U.S. Navy. Photos are arranged alphabetically by creating agency and thereunder by subject. The collection includes approximately 2,000 black and white, 8 x 10" photographs and several smaller prints.

During processing, this material was removed from the Subject File. Members and equipment of the U. S. Navy, U.S. Army Air Force, and U. S. Coast Guard are shown. American pluck is a key feature of the photographs. Most photos have press information or narrative detail on the verso or on papers attached to the photo. The photos and their accompanying text give an idea of the breadth and message of the public relations campaign in America to encourage support for the war. Dates listed are the release date of the photos which, in the case of battles, was often several months after the event. In some instances groups of photos were released to commemorate important events. For example, a group of pictures showing the recovered ships sunk at Pearl Harbor was released in December 1942 for the one-year anniversary of the attack.

United States troops are seen in many different situations. Battle scenes mainly focus on bombing raids and burning ships in the Pacific arena. Italian POWS at a camp in New Jersey are shown. Both the German and Japanese surrenders are shown. Photos also include many U.S. ships involved in the war. The launching of battleships and aircraft carriers are well documented, as is the salvage of the cruise ship Normandie and its subsequent refitting as the U.S.S. Lafayette. Sailor life on board several ships, including the U.S.S. Missouri, is also shown. Some aerial views, once considered confidential, of ships in New York Harbor are contained in the U.S. Army Eastern Defense Command folders. Several New York area Naval Commandants are pictured, as well as many enlisted men at several different training facilities.

Women are displayed at work in many of these photos. Navy WAVES are shown readying themselves for battle as well as enjoying leisure activities. Photos of the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn highlight women working as machinists and welders.

Throughout the collection, named subjects are filed first, and then miscellaneous photos are filed by date. In some cases, miscellaneous photos may complement the subjects in named series or folders; in these cases "see also" references have been given in the container listing.


Throughout the collection, named subjects are filed first, and then miscellaneous photos are filed by date. In some cases, miscellaneous photos may complement the subjects in named series or folders; in these cases "see also" references have been given in the container listing.

  1. Series I: United States Army Photographs (1941-1945)
  2. Series II: United States Coast Guard Photographs (1941-1945)
  3. Series III: United States Navy Photographs (1921-1963)
  4. Series IV: Other Photographs (1942-[1945])

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • 'Abd al-Ilah, Prince, 1913-1958
  • Chiang, May-ling Soong, 1897-
  • Plye, Ernie, 1900-1945
  • Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962

Document Type

  • Gelatin silver prints
  • Snapshots

Subject Organizations

  • Aaron Ward (Destroyer : DD-483)
  • Buchenwald (Concentration camp)
  • Civilian Defense Volunteer Organization
  • Dachau (Concentration camp)
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (Aircraft Carrier : CV42)
  • Missouri (Battleship : BB 63)
  • New York Naval Shipyard
  • Normandie (Steamship)
  • United States. Army Air Forces
  • United States. Army
  • United States. Coast Guard
  • United States. Navy

Subject Topics

  • World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--New Guinea
  • World War, 1939-1945--Campaigns--Pacific Area
  • World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--Germany
  • World War, 1939-1945--New York (State)--New York
  • World War, 1939-1945–Pictorial Works
  • World War, 1939-1945–Propaganda
  • World War, 1939-1945–War work
  • World War, 1939-1945–Women

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Administrative Information


Gifts, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1957, 1959.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 30 photocopies per day per person. Suitability of the original for photocopying is at the discretion of the staff. Neither blueprints nor tracings can be copied under any circumstances. Duplication of large-format items will be done by the house photographer. See Print Room guidelines for details.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from

Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
Two West 77th Street
New York, NY 10024

Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282
Fax: (212) 579-8794

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as World War II Photograph Collection, PR 76, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, New-York Historical Society.

Related Material at The New-York Historical Society

Other World War II-era material in the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections includes WWII Recruiting and Civilian Defense Posters in the Poster File (PR 55), prints in the Subject File (PR 68), and photographs in the John Albok Photograph Collection (PR 1) and the Radio Entertainers and Announcers Collection (PR 95).

Separated Material

Two published volumes were removed from the collection and cataloged in the New-York Historical Society library. These volumes are "Patchogue family album: Christmas greetings to our boys and girls in the Armed Forces, who by their gallant efforts won a victorious peace" and the program from the New York Retirement Federation of Civil Service Employees' 31st Entertainment and Reception (with a picture of the U.S.S. Missouri on the cover.)

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Container List

Series I: United States Army Photographs

Scope and Contents note

A folder of Air Force "tear sheets" promotes the air forces' actions in Europe. U.S. Army Air Force pictures show men and women in training and combat. Photographs highlighting the Eastern Defense Command publicize how the Army defended the physical space of the United States: tracking ships, stationing anti aircraft guns. U.S. Army Signal Corps are shown at Watervliet Arsenal, in training camps, and as paratroopers.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1-2 Eastern Defense Command
1942, 1944, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 3-8 U.S. Army Air Force -- Airmen and women
Box: 1 Folder : 9 U.S. Army Air Force - Combat
Box: 1 Folder : 10-11 U.S. Army Air Force -- Planes, aloft
Box: 1 Folder : 12 U.S. Army Air Force - Planes, grounded
Box: 1 Folder : 13 U. S. Army Air Force Tear Sheets
Box: 1 Folder : 14 U.S. Army Signal Corps
1941-1943, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 15 U.S. Army Signal Corps -- Editor's Day on Governor's Island
1942 Apr. 18
Box: 1 Folder : 16 U.S. Army Signal Corps -- Gen. Drum Inspecting Fort Hancock
1943 Apr. 14
Box: 1 Folder : 17 U.S. Army Signal Corps -- German Surrender, Rheims, France
1945 May 5-7

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Series II: United States Coast Guard Photographs

Scope and Contents note

Series II shows many New York-area locations of Coast Guard actions; the Hudson River, the Manhattan Beach USCG Station, a USCG Mooring Base on Travers Island in Pelham, NY, and the Statue of Liberty are all pictured. Photographs also highlight the Coast Guard Pharmacists Mates School at Columbia College of Pharmacy, the Coast Guard Hospital Corps, and the Coast Guard Training Academy in New London, CT. Implements such as lighthouses, ice cutters, and fireboats are common scenes in the photos. A photo of journalist Ernie Pyle is in Folder 19.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 18 Manned Convoys
Box: 1 Folder : 19 New York
Box: 1 Folder : 20 Queen Mary & Elizabeth
Box: 1 Folder : 21 Ships
Box: 1 Folder : 22-25 Miscellaneous Photos
1941-1945, undated

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Series III: United States Navy Photographs

Scope and Contents note

Folder titles are those used by the Navy Public Relations Department; folder titles in brackets were assigned by N-YHS Staff during processing. Often, the Navy-assigned titles sound ready for newspaper headlines. Some titles may seem to have no relationship to the photos to those unfamiliar with military terminology. "Baby Flat Top -- The Navy's Child Prodigy" is the title of a photo series showing life aboard an aircraft carrier. In "Shakedown," new recruits are taken on a practice mission in order to learn how to take care of a ship and to "get their sea legs."

Most of the photographs highlight the Pacific theatre of war. Battles shown or highlighted (sometimes including the aftermath) include: the invasion of Borneo, Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Guadalcanal, the Makin Island Raid, the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of the Solomon Islands, the Battle of Santa Cruz Island, and the Battle of the Philippine Sea. Navy troops are shown in Borneo, the Philippines (the subject of many photos taken throughout 1944 and 1945), Formosa, New Zealand, Guam, Saipan, New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, and the Solomon Islands. Other photographs show Navy Combat Troops landing at Attu in the Aleutian Islands.

Photos showing the European front are mainly of Italy and North Africa, including "Operation Bootstrap" to liberate Italy. Photographs of Italy, including several titled "British fighting in Sicily" (folder 96), show "Naples in Ruins,"( folder 98) and troops landing in Anzio, Italy. Other European photographs include "U.S. Navy Crosses the Rhine" (folder 106), and others showing Le Havre, Brest, (folder 103), and beachheads throughout France (folder 102).

Women are the subject of many photographs and photographic series. Women at work in the New York Navy Yard get much attention, as do the WAVES, the Navy's Auxiliary force for women. WAVES are seen in church, on deck of a ship (sunbathing, while sailors look on), "at chow," and in their summer uniforms. Folder 95 contains a photo of Madame Chiang Kai Chek reviewing WAVES at a New York training academy. Folder 102 shows Eleanor Roosevelt reviewing a group of WAVES.

The New York Navy Yard (also known popularly as Brooklyn Navy Yard) is prominently featured in many photographs. The Navy Yard's activities peaked around October of 1944, with employment of over 70,000 workers working around the clock to build and repair ships for the United States Navy. The yard was made up of 6 dry docks, 2 building ways, 8 piers, 270 buildings, 19 miles of paved streets, and 30 miles of railroad tracks. Many ships launched from the Navy Yard are shown here, and several photo series show employees hard at work. One interesting photograph shows a visit by the Regent of Iraq to the New York Navy Yard (Folder 107.)

Military technology and weaponry dominate the Naval photographs. Many photos of the U.S. Ships were taken up to 20 years after the end of the war. A large number of these photographs are not marked with the name of the ship. However, ships shown during wartime are well-documented and described on the verso of the photographs. Aircraft carriers are pictured in Folders 95, 98, 99, and 108. A model aircraft carrier is shown on display at Rockefeller Center in New York in Folder 107. "Helldivers," or bombing planes, are shown in folders 98. "Avengers," torpedo bombers, are shown in Folders 98, 101, and 105. "Hellcats," another bombing plane, appear in Folder 97.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 26 [Aerial Views of New York Harbor]
1944 Nov. 7
Box: 2 Folder : 27 Allies Seize Green Islands
1944 Mar. 13
Box: 2 Folder : 28-29 Baby Flat Top -- The Navy's Child Prodigy
See also Folder 105

1944 Apr. 30
Box: 2 Folder : 30 Battle of Midway
1942 Jun.
Box: 2 Folder : 31 [Commissioning Ceremonies and Launchings]
Box: 2 Folder : 32 [Convoys]
Box: 2 Folder : 33 [D-Day]
1944 Jun.
Box: 2 Folder : 34 Fall of Ustica
1943 Sep.
Box: 2 Folder : 35 Floating Dry Docks -- "Field Hospitals" for Navy Ships
See also Folder 107

1945 Jun. 15
Box: 2 Folder : 36 Helldiver Flight Deck Crash Recorded Step by Step
1945 Jun. 11
Box: 2 Folder : 37 Iwo Jima: Bloody Milestone on the Tokyo Road
1945 Mar. 13
Box: 2 Folder : 38 Kiska Island Landing
1943 Aug.
Box: 2 Folder : 39 [Motor Torpedo Boat]
Box: 2 Folder : 40 "Mulberry"--the Secret Floating Harbor, Normandy Landings
1944 Oct. 23
Box: 2 Folder : 41 Naval Officer Training at Fort Schuyler, Bronx, New York
Box: 2 Folder : 42 [Naval Training]
See also Folders 92 and 105

Box: 2 Folder : 43 Naval Training Station, Samson, New York
1942 Oct., undated
Box: 2 Folder : 44 Navy Advance Base Unit Hits the Beach at Lido
1944 Sep. 19
Box: 2 Folder : 45 Navy Day in New York
1945 Oct. 27
Box: 2 Folder : 46 Navy Testing New Uniforms for Enlisted Men
1946 Jan. 4
Box: 2 Folder : 47 New York Celebrates "Waves and Spars" Day
1943 Feb. 8
Box: 2 Folder : 48 New York Welcomes Nimitz
1945 Oct. 9
Box: 2 Folder : 49-51 [New York Navy Yard]
See also Folders 91, 96, 101, 104, 106, 107, and 109

1944, 1945, undated
Box: 2 Folder : 52 New York Navy Yard Calls Women to Work
Box: 2 Folder : 53 [Planes]
See also Folders 99 and 101

Box: 2 Folder : 54 [Plotting Ship Movements]
Box: 2 Folder : 55 Poster Designs
Box: 3 Folder : 56-57 "Power in the Pacific" exhibit prints
Box: 3 Folder : 58 PT's Maneuver in Off-Shore Waters of an East Coast Port
Box: 3 Folder : 59-60 Shakedown
1944 Jan. 31
Box: 3 Folder : 61 [Submarines]
See also Folders 100 and 107

Box: 3 Folder : 62 Take Off for Tokyo
1943 Apr. 20
Box: 3 Folder : 63 Torpedo Testing Range, Montauk Point, Long Island
1944 Feb. 21
Box: 3 Folder : 64 [U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School]
Box: 3 Folder : 65 U.S. Navy Destroyer Escorts a United Nations Convoy
Box: 3 Folder : 66-68 A U.S. Navy Transport Completes Mission
Box: 4 Folder : 69 U.S.S. Aaron Ward
1945 Aug. 24
Box: 4 Folder : 70 [U.S.S. Bon Homme Richard Launching]
See also Folder 100

1944 Apr.
Box: 4 Folder : 71 [U.S.S. Enterprise]
1943 May
Box: 4 Folder : 72 [U.S.S. Franklin D. Roosevelt Launching]
1945 Apr. 29
Box: 4 Folder : 73 U.S.S. Iowa Launching
1942 Aug.
Box: 4 Folder : 74 [U.S.S. Kearsarge Launching]
1945 May
Box: 4 Folder : 75-79 [U.S.S. Lafayette/Normandie Salvage]
1943, undated
Box: 4 Folder : 80 A U.S.S. LST Joins a United Nations Convoy
Box: 4 Folder : 81-84 U.S.S. Missouri Launching
See also Folder 107

Box: 4 Folder : 85-87 [U.S. Ships]
See also Folders 93, 94, 98, 104, 108, and 109

1921-1963, undated
Box: 5 Folder : 88-90 [U.S. Ships]
Box: 5 Folder : 91 Wake Island Attack
1942 Feb. 24
Box: 5 Folder : 92 Navy WAVES at Floyd Bennett Field, New York
1943 Jul.
Box: 5 Folder : 93 [WAVES at U.S. Naval Hospital]
See also Folders 94- 98, 100, and 102-104

1945 Jul. 20
Box: 5 Folder : 94 Wartime Commandants
Box: 5 Folder : 95-103 Miscellaneous Photos
1941-1943 Oct.
Box: 6 Folder : 104-115 Miscellaneous Photos
1943 Nov.-1945
Box: 6 Folder : 116-117 Miscellaneous Photos

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Series IV: Other Photographs

Scope and Contents note

Two folders of photos are from the Civilian Defence Volunteer Organization, and show war volunteers (often from the American Red Cross) relieving professionals for war duty and performing other important wartime tasks. Several folders of personal photographs are included in the collection. Sixteen snapshots of the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps were taken by a veteran who was present at the freeing of those camps in April 1945. Nine snapshots show Gerhardt Walter, the photographs' donor, in New Guinea in 1945. Eleven snapshots show New York City "dressed for war" with victory banners and flags hung from buildings and across streets, displays of unrationed food, and people in uniform.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 7 Folder : 118-119 Civilian Defense Volunteer Organization
Box: 7 Folder : 120 German Concentration Camps
[1945 Apr.]
Box: 7 Folder : 121 Italian POW's
Box: 7 Folder : 122 Japanese Surrender
Box: 7 Folder : 123-124 Miscellaneous Photos
Box: 7 Folder : 125-127 Miscellaneous--Snapshots
1942-1945, undated

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