Rare, Full-Color Photos from WWII

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.


A_girl_riveting_machine_operator_at_the_Douglas_Aircraft_Company_plant_joins_sections_of_wing_ribs

A_young_woman_employee_of_North_American_Aviation,_Incorporated,_working_over_the_landing_gear_mechanism_of_a_P-51_fighter_plane,_Inglewood,_Calif

American_mothers_and_sisters,_like_these_women_at_the_Douglas_Aircraft_Company,_give_important_help_in_producing_dependable_planes_for_their_men_at_the_front,_Long_Beach,_Calif

Annette_del_Sur_publicizing_salvage_campaign_in_yard_of_Douglas_Aircraft_Company,_Long_Beach,_Calif

B17F_-_Woman_workers_at_the_Douglas_Aircraft_Company_plant,_Long_Beach,_Calif

Manufacture_of_self-sealing_gas_tanks,_Goodyear_Tire_and_Rubber_Co

Operating_a_hand_drill_at_North_American_Aviation,_Inc,_a_woman_is_working_in_the_control_surface_department_assembling_a_section_of_the_leading_edge_for_the_horizontal_stabilizer_of_a_plane,_Inglewood,_Calif

Operating_a_hand_drill_this_woman_worker_is_shown_working_on_the_horizontal_stabilizer

Part_of_the_cowling_for_one_of_the_motors_for_a_B-25_bomber_is_assembled_in_the_engine_department_of_North_American_Aviation

Punching_rivet_holes_in_a_frame_member_for_a_B-25_bomber,_the_plant_of_North_American_Aviation,_Inc,_Calif

Rosie_the_Riveter_(Vultee)_DS

Sheet_metal_parts_are_numbered_with_this_pneumatic_numbering_machine_in_North_American's_sheet_metal_department,_North_American_Aviation,_Inc,_Inglewood,_Calif

Students_at_Washington_High_School_at_class,_training_for_specific_contributions_to_the_war_effort,_Los_Angeles,_Calif

Switch_boxes_on_the_firewalls_of_B-25_bombers_are_assembled_by_women_workers_at_North_American_Aviation_Inc's,_Inglewood,_Calif,_plant

This_woman_worker_at_the_Vultee-Nashville_is_shown_making_final_adjustments_in_the_wheel_well_of_an_inner_wing_before_the_installation_of_the_landing_gear

Two_women_employees_of_North_American_Aviation,_Incorporated,_assembling_a_section_of_a_wing_for_a_P-51_fighter_plane

Two_women_workers_are_shown_capping_and_inspecting_tubing_which_goes_into_the_manufacture_of_the_Vengeance_(A-31)_dive_bomber_made_at_Vultee's_Nashville_division,_Tennessee

Woman_working_on_an_airplane_motor_at_North_American_Aviation,_Inc.,_plant_in_Calif

Women_war_workers

With_careful_Douglas_training,_women_do_accurate_electrical_assembly_and_installation_work,_Douglas_Aircraft_Company,_Long_Beach,_Ca

Woman_worker_in_the_Douglas_Aircraft_Company_plant1942


Images from the Library of Congress via Lifehacker
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29 Comments

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

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.

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.

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.

Money.
Religion.
Land.

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.

 You're an idiot.

Thank you! I hope you're not!

Brandon Bandy's picture

Way to be disrespectful. 

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

Still amazing images though.

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! 

 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"

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.

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

fake

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

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

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. 

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

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. 

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

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?

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