30 Color Photographs of (mostly) Male Workers During WWII

When men in WWII are thought of, the image that most comes to mind is of soldiers on the beach at Normandy or pilots in B-17 bombers over Germany. But many men worked back at the home front both in military and non-military roles: building the bombers, defending the homeland, and improving the country’s infrastructure so needed to support the war effort.

One interesting social effect of so many young men going overseas was that women started working in the fields and factories, places that had previously been dominated by male workers. These female workers labored alongside their male counterparts, learning from them and then later teaching the new male employees.

From 1939-1944 the Office of War Information (OWI) sent a few photographers, armed with 35mm Kodachrome slides, to capture in brilliant color the work these men and women were doing. These photographs, some of the only color shots taken during WWII, were then documented and preserved by the Library of Congress. All 1600 of them are available both through their online catalog and flickr photostream.

A good job in the air cleaner of an army truck, Fort Knox, Ky. This Negro soldier, who serves as truckdriver and mechanic, plays an important part in keeping army transport fleets in operation

A good job in the air cleaner of an army truck, Fort Knox, Ky. This Negro soldier, who serves as truckdriver and mechanic, plays an important part in keeping army transport fleets in operation by Alfred T. Palmer

Hitler would like this man to go home and forget about the war. A good American non-com at the side machine gun of a huge YB-17 bomber is a man who knows his business and works hard at it

Hitler would like this man to go home and forget about the war. A good American non-com at the side machine gun of a huge YB-17 bomber is a man who knows his business and works hard at it by Alfred T. Palmer

Servicing [an] A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.

Servicing [an] A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va. by Alfred T. Palmer

This husky member of a construction crew building a new 33,000-volt electric power line into Fort Knox is performing an important war service. Thousands of soldiers are in training there, and the new line from a hydroelectric plant at Louisville is needed to supplement the existing power supply. Fort Knox, Ky.

This husky member of a construction crew building a new 33,000-volt electric power line into Fort Knox is performing an important war service. Thousands of soldiers are in training there, and the new line from a hydroelectric plant at Louisville is needed to supplement the existing power supply. Fort Knox, Ky. by Alfred T. Palmer

Man of the Fort Story, Va. coastal defense

Man of the Fort Story, Va. coastal defense by Alfred T. Palmer

Working inside the nose of a PBY, Elmer J. Pace is learning the construction of Navy planes, Corpus Christi, Texas. As an NYA trainee at the Naval Air Base, he gets practical experience. After about eight weeks, he will go into civil service as a sheet metal worker

Working inside the nose of a PBY, Elmer J. Pace is learning the construction of Navy planes, Corpus Christi, Texas. As an NYA trainee at the Naval Air Base, he gets practical experience. After about eight weeks, he will go into civil service as a sheet metal worker by Howard Hollem

A sailor mechanic refueling a plane at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas

A sailor mechanic refueling a plane at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas by Howard Hollem

Tank crew standing in front of an M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Ky.

Tank crew standing in front of an M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Ky. by Alfred T. Palmer

Sailor mechanic inspecting a PBY plane at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas

Sailor mechanic inspecting a PBY plane at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas by Howard Hollem

Flexible performance of C-47 transport planes is due in part to their two 1,200 horsepower radial engines and to their three-blade variable-pitch propellers, Long Beach, Calif. Picture taken at the Douglas Aircraft Company. The versatile C-47 performs many important tasks for the army. It ferries men and cargo across oceans and mountains, tows gliders and brings paratroopers and their equipment to scenes of action

Flexible performance of C-47 transport planes is due in part to their two 1,200 horsepower radial engines and to their three-blade variable-pitch propellers, Long Beach, Calif. Picture taken at the Douglas Aircraft Company. The versatile C-47 performs many important tasks for the army. It ferries men and cargo across oceans and mountains, tows gliders and brings paratroopers and their equipment to scenes of action by Alfred T. Palmer

An employee in the drill-press section of North American's huge machine shop runs mounting holes in a large dural casting, Inglewood, Calif. This plant produces the battle-tested B-25 ("Billy Mitchell") bomber, used in General Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, and the P-51 ("Mustang") fighter plane which was first brought into prominence by the British raid on Dieppe

An employee in the drill-press section of North American’s huge machine shop runs mounting holes in a large dural casting, Inglewood, Calif. This plant produces the battle-tested B-25 (“Billy Mitchell”) bomber, used in General Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo, and the P-51 (“Mustang”) fighter plane which was first brought into prominence by the British raid on Dieppe by Alfred T. Palmer

A wing brace assembly for a B-25 bomber is prepared for the assembly line of an aircraft plant, North American Aviation, Inc., Calif. With plenty of speed, a 1,700-mile cruising range and a ceiling of 25,000 feet, it has performed as a medium bomber and as an escort plane

A wing brace assembly for a B-25 bomber is prepared for the assembly line of an aircraft plant, North American Aviation, Inc., Calif. With plenty of speed, a 1,700-mile cruising range and a ceiling of 25,000 feet, it has performed as a medium bomber and as an escort plane by Alfred T. Palmer

Employees on the "Sunshine" assembly line at North American's plant put the finishing touches on another B-25 bomber, Inglewood, Calif. In addition to the battle-tested B-25 ("Billy Mitchell") bomber, used in General Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, this plant produces the P-51 ("Mustang") fighter plane which was first brought into prominence by the British raid on Dieppe

Employees on the “Sunshine” assembly line at North American’s plant put the finishing touches on another B-25 bomber, Inglewood, Calif. In addition to the battle-tested B-25 (“Billy Mitchell”) bomber, used in General Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo, this plant produces the P-51 (“Mustang”) fighter plane which was first brought into prominence by the British raid on Dieppe by Alfred T. Palmer

Member[s] of the experimental staff at the North American Aviation, Inc., plant, observe wind tunnel tests on an accurate scale model of the B-25 ("Billy Mitchell") bomber, Inglewood, Calif. This plant produces the battle-tested B-25 bomber, used in General Doolittle's raid on Tokyo, and the P-51 Mustang fighter plane which was first brought into prominence by the British raid on Dieppe

Member[s] of the experimental staff at the North American Aviation, Inc., plant, observe wind tunnel tests on an accurate scale model of the B-25 (“Billy Mitchell”) bomber, Inglewood, Calif. This plant produces the battle-tested B-25 bomber, used in General Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo, and the P-51 Mustang fighter plane which was first brought into prominence by the British raid on Dieppe by Alfred T. Palmer

Riveter at work at the Douglas Aircraft Corporation plant in Long Beach, Calif.

Riveter at work at the Douglas Aircraft Corporation plant in Long Beach, Calif. by Alfred T. Palmer

It's an intricate operation - installing a 30-calibre machine gun in a Navy PBY plane, but not too tricky for Jesse Rhodes Waller, Corpus Christi, Texas. He's a Georgia man who's been in the Navy 5-1/2 years. At the Naval Air Base he sees that the flying ships are kept in tip-top shape. Waller is an aviation ordnance mate

It’s an intricate operation – installing a 30-calibre machine gun in a Navy PBY plane, but not too tricky for Jesse Rhodes Waller, Corpus Christi, Texas. He’s a Georgia man who’s been in the Navy 5-1/2 years. At the Naval Air Base he sees that the flying ships are kept in tip-top shape. Waller is an aviation ordnance mate by Howard Hollem

NYA employees receiving training in the Assembly and Repair Dept., U.S. Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas

NYA employees receiving training in the Assembly and Repair Dept., U.S. Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas by Howard Hollem

Welder making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn.

Welder making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn. by Alfred T. Palmer

Workers on the Liberator Bombers, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas

Workers on the Liberator Bombers, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas by Howard Hollem

Inspecting of landing wheel of the transport planes at Willow Run

Inspecting of landing wheel of the transport planes at Willow Run by Howard Hollem

Mechanical operator on boiler parts, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn.

Mechanical operator on boiler parts, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn. by Alfred T. Palmer

Driver of Marine truck at New River, N.C.

Driver of Marine truck at New River, N.C. by Alfred T. Palmer

Welders making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn.

Welders making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn. by Alfred T. Palmer

Welder making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn.

Welder making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn. by Alfred T. Palmer

Assembling Liberator Bomber, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas

Assembling Liberator Bomber, Consolidated Aircraft Corp., Fort Worth, Texas by Howard Hollem

Lowering an engine in place in assembling a C-87 transport plane at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas

Lowering an engine in place in assembling a C-87 transport plane at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, Texas by Howard Hollem

Employees at North American Aviation, Incorporated, assembling the cowling on Allison motors for the P-51 fighter planes, Inglewood, Calif.

Employees at North American Aviation, Incorporated, assembling the cowling on Allison motors for the P-51 fighter planes, Inglewood, Calif. by Alfred T. Palmer

Learning to work a cutting machine, these two NYA employees receive training to fit them for important work, Corpus Christi, Texas. After eight weeks they will be eligible for civil service jobs at the Naval Air Base

Learning to work a cutting machine, these two NYA employees receive training to fit them for important work, Corpus Christi, Texas. After eight weeks they will be eligible for civil service jobs at the Naval Air Base by Howard Hollem

Drill press operator, Allegheny Ludlum Steel[e] Corp., Brackenridge, Pa.

Drill press operator, Allegheny Ludlum Steel[e] Corp., Brackenridge, Pa. by Alfred T. Palmer

The utmost precision is required of these operators who are cutting and drilling parachute packs in an eastern factory, Manchester, Conn. Their work is under constant close supervision. Pioneer Parchute Company

The utmost precision is required of these operators who are cutting and drilling parachute packs in an eastern factory, Manchester, Conn. Their work is under constant close supervision. Pioneer Parchute Company by William Rittase




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6 Comments on "30 Color Photographs of (mostly) Male Workers During WWII"

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Chris
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Many great photos there, but for some reason there is something about the light in the first one that makes it stand out for me.

Blake Murphy
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Awesome photos!

Rick Mckay
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When these photographs were being taken I was about five years old and cowering under the stairs in a bid to escape Hitler’s bombing raids on London E4. The Battle of Britain was in full swing! Now aged 75 I can appreciate these photo’s and the skill it took to produce them.
A lot of water under the bridge, but what lessons have been learned ?

Chris
Guest

Rick, as someone with your life experience surely knows better than me, an answer to your (rhetorical) question could be: “‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’, wrote Santayana, but it is equally true that those who can remember the past are condemned to watch it repeated by those who can not.”

Jeremy Merriam
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Great photography. I would love to see more from this series.

maria thereza de barros camargo from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
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maria thereza de barros camargo from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

History was well served in this selection of WWII photos of peole working. workers and military mechanics doing their jobs well done so war could be faught in victory. We don’t want to fight no more wars, amd we pray the Lord to make us be happy, and in peace, always. God help us.

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