Rare, Full-Color Photos from WWII

March 8th is International Women's Day, so we figured it was a good time to show some rare, color images from WWII...where women played an incredibly important role and came out in droves to support both the war effort and the economy. These were taken by Alfred T. Palmer, who was an Office of War Information (OWI) photographer for the United States from 1941 to 1943. It was during this time that he, along with other photographers working for the government, captured some 1,600 images.

Palmer was most known for his portraits of men and women working in the war industry - most of which were taken on 35mm or 4x5 inch color transparency film. Palmer was partial to 4x5 giving his images a tremendous amount of detail. Notably, his images were also lit with artificial light, hence the almost cinematic quality to them.






















Images from the Library of Congress via Lifehacker
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Cygni's picture

They build together machines that their boyfriends will be killed in!

David Silverman's picture

They united in an effort to fight against tyrannic and oppressive forces. They built machines that their boyfriends, husbands and perfect strangers fought in. Some died, many more came home alive because of these machines. These women and the men who fought in these machines are heroes. It is thanks to them that I am alive and can enjoy all the wonderful things in this world.

Cygni's picture

If everyone refuses to go to war no one needed to die.

Jon McGuffin's picture

When somebody decides to "go to war" on your house or your loved ones and you call the police for help, let me know and I'll call and tell them "no need, don't put yourself in danger, they'll be fine as they beleive there really isn't such a thing as an aggressor or an injustice"

Dana Rouleau's picture

If a perfect world existed, that could be the case. Sadly, we don't live in a perfect world, and we never will as long as more than 2 people have differing opinions.  There will always be conflict, and it's been that way as long as we've been on this planet.

William Cavender's picture

I'm all about turning the other cheek.  However, to think we live in a world where there may be a possibility of "everyone refusing to go to war" is naive and borderline ignorant.  You were disrespectful in your initial post, but it's your freedom to be disrespectful...and that's a freedom that might not be here without those boyfriends who were killed.


So long as these things exist, wars will exist.

So, the next time you want to insult people because they fought for your freedom to insult them, maybe put on "Heal The World" by MJ and fix another tofu sandwich instead.  Thanks.

Jon McGuffin's picture

David, thank you so much for saying this for me and everybody else who feels the same way. Couldn't have been said any better.

Parker Fitzgerald's picture

 You're an idiot.

Cygni's picture

Thank you! I hope you're not!

Brandon Bandy's picture

Way to be disrespectful. 

tompano1's picture

Funny. I tipped you guys about exactly these pictures about a year and a half ago and got no reply.

Still amazing images though.

Michael Miller's picture

LOL that's why I stopped sending in stuff. But to their credit, they probably get busy. Now they have like 3,000 people posting for them but they still don't produce as much awesome content like they did a year ago with a smaller staff. Hmmm.

Mike Kelley's picture

Ouch. I think that our content has improved many times over, personally! 

WhamBamPhotoMa_am's picture

 Well, the sad truth, is that only one of you is right, Mike.

"A cognitive bias is the human tendency to make systematic decisions in certain circumstances based on cognitive factors rather than evidence"

Debbie Davies's picture

Or if you are not happy with the service you could always ask for you subscription costs back. . . . .Oh, wait a minute, It's all done for free by a bunch of people who try their best and produce some of the best content on line.

Michael Miller's picture

It's just my observation. Obviously I still visit the site so it's not terrible and still entertaining. In my opinion the content has slowed down and there are repeat posts now where as prior Lee would personally respond to emails saying thanks for the clip but we posted that on XYZ date. Some contributors are doing a great job. I would have hoped with the increase of help, there would be more content but I feel that is not the case. Again it's one man's observation. 

adam james's picture


Morgan Glassco's picture

Absolutely love some of these images! Unique lighting given the setting is a factory. 

Michael Miller's picture

Glad I was not born then. Not hot girls at all in these shots. At least they are good at making stuff. 

Stuart Holden's picture

They probably would think the same thing about you. Then again, you wouldn't be making ignorant comments behind a keyboard, at their age you would have been down on the beaches fighting lol

Michael Miller's picture

I bet you would be a terrible audience member at a comedy show. Just call it a hunch. 

You're not a comedian, nor are you funny. 

WhamBamPhotoMa_am's picture

Unfortunate you weren't born ridiculously close to a propeller or nuclear radiation.

Mbutu Namubu's picture

If I remember correctly, Susan Sontag remarked in "On Photography" that women were depicted as helpless victims (like Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother") during the 1930s when Roosevelt wanted to push through the  Socialist New Deal for the international bankers.

Then in the 1940s, as international banker-controlled Communist Russia was in danger of being liberated by Nationalist Germany, the media started to depict women as strong industrial workers for Roosevelt's European war effort.

It's good for photographers to know the lessons of history. In the span of less than a decade, the medium of photography was able to alter the public's perception of women from helpless and weak to courageous and strong.

Vadim Bobkovsky's picture

>international banker-controlled Communist Russia was in danger of being liberated by Nationalist Germany

Oh, you're just trolling. Of course Nazis were liberators hell yeah, tell that to the jews.

Marc Ilford's picture

"cinematic quality" indeed! I don't know whether it is just the lighting
or also the type/brand slide used be these images just have some
magical color/tones I wish I knew how to reproduce. Vibrant colours but
not typical oversatured, the skintones also have some effect I can not
describe but just admire. 

tompano1's picture

 They didn't mention this in the article but it's shot with kodachrome. Hence the stunning tones.

Laura Vanderwel's picture

Great share, thanks! I love how they all have painted nails and perfectly coiffed hair. do we know if they were posed shots (ie they got dolled up) or if that was just the way of it back then?

Doug Logan's picture

Amazing photos detailing an amazing absence of PPE! How times have changed with anything related to manufacturing. Thanks for sharing!