Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Archive for February, 2014


The London sky following a bombing and dogfight between British and German planes during World War II; 1940.


Nagasaki, 20 minutes after the atomic bombing in 1945.


I can’t even imagine what I would feel if I saw this over my city, especially if this was something no one had had seen before. Just thing how unbelievable it must have been to the average person that this was one bomb! Seriously, go look outside right now and imagine half the sky covered by this giant dark mushroom cloud where a city used to lay.

Children practice the “Duck and Cover” drill, to protect themselves against the effects of a nuclear explosion, 1950s



Duck and Cover is a method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear explosion, which the United States government taught to generations of United States school children from the early 1950s until the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s. It was intended to protect them in the event of both an unexpected nuclear attack, which, they were told, might come at any time without warning and in the event sufficient warning is given.

Under the conditions of a surprise attack, immediately after they saw a flash they had to stop what they were doing and get on the ground under some cover—such as a table, or at least next to a wall—and assume a prone like position, lying face-down and covering their exposed skin and back of their heads with their clothes, or if no excess clothes such as a coat was available, to cover the back of their heads with their hands. Similar instructions were given in 1964 in the United Kingdom by Civil Defence Information Bulletin No. 5. and, in the 1980s, by the Protect and Survive series. Under the conditions where sufficient warning is given, they were told to find the nearest Civil Defense shelter, or if one could not be found, any well built building to stay and shelter in. From Wikipedia

Ack-Ack fire during a German air raid on Algiers; 1943.

Those are the light trails that result from long-exposure photography of gunfire. Ack-ack is shorthand for anti-aircraft.

Those are the light trails that result from long-exposure photography of gunfire. Ack-ack is shorthand for anti-aircraft.


A charred body of a woman in the air-raid shelter – Dresden, February 1945.


This bombing was so complete that most people died not from the bombs but from suffocation as the city-wide fire used up all the oxygen from the air.

“…one of the air raid precautions the city had taken was to remove the thick cellar walls between rows of buildings, and replace them with thin partitions that could be knocked through in an emergency. The idea was that, as one building collapsed or filled with smoke, those using the basement as a shelter could knock the walls down and run into adjoining buildings. With the city on fire everywhere, those fleeing from one burning cellar simply ran into another, with the result that thousands of bodies were found piled up in houses at the end of city blocks…” (Source)

People so often forget Dresden when they discuss the horrors of WWII. I guess with the horror of the atomic bomb and the Holocaust the simple firebombing of a town is somewhat less horrific to discuss but the devastation caused there was nearly unimaginable.

“It is not possible to describe! Explosion after explosion. It was beyond belief, worse than the blackest nightmare. So many people were horribly burnt and injured. It became more and more difficult to breathe …

… fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from.”

— Lothar Metzger, survivor.



A girl and her dog view the destruction inflicted by German air raids during the siege of Warsaw, September 1939.



Searchlights pierce the night sky during an air-raid practice on Gibraltar, 20 November 1942.



World War II Air Raid Shelter Tunnel.



German air raid on Moscow in 1941.



Convair Model 118 ConvAirCar takes a test flight in California in November 1947.


The handling dynamics in the air would be interesting to say the least…

“The Convair Model 118 ConvAirCar (also known as the Hall Flying Automobile) was a prototype flying car of which two were built. Intended for mainstream consumers, two prototypes were built and flown. The first prototype was lost after a safe, but damaging, low fuel incident. Subsequently, the second prototype was rebuilt from the damaged aircraft and flown. By that time, little enthusiasm remained for the project and the program ended shortly thereafter.” (Source)

Anatomical machine by Giuseppe Salerno

An early anatomical machine made by Giuseppe Salerno, built a on real human skeleton. This fleshless body represents the veins, arteries and musculature in amazing detail. Long thought to be made by an early form of plastination, it was recently discovered to be made – with the exception of the human skeletons – of beeswax, iron wire, and silk.


British 6-inch Naval gun firing over Vimy Ridge, behind Canadian lines at night. Vimy, Pas-de-Calais, France – May, 1917.

Charles Minard’s Flow Map of Napoleon’s Campaign into Russia

… is generally considered one of the greatest infographics of all time. Although it is in French, it should be easily decipherable to the viewer in its portrayal of the size of the army as it traveled into, and the out of, Russia.


The image is simple, but conveys a wealth of information. Beginning with a force of 422,000 men, Minard shows it slowly winnowed down to a force of 100,000 in Moscow, and then the brutal retreat with a mere 10,000 reaching the Niemen river. Rivers and major locations are depicted to provide geographical context, and with the retreat, the corresponding temperature is shown as well (although it is in the Réaumur scale, whatever that is…) to give a sense of the Russian winter.

R.I.P. Alice Herz Sommer

…whose music saved countless lives during her two years at the Terezin-Theresienstadt concentration camp.



Belle the hippo during the siege of Leningrad, 1943.


“Belle survived the war thanks to her caretaker, Yevdokia Dashina. In 1941 water was turned off throughout the city and Belle’s pool was empty, so her skin began to dry out and crack. Every day, Dashina would drag a 40-liter barrel of water from the Neva river and rub the suffering hippo with camphor oil. Eventually, Belle’s skin healed and she was able to hide underwater through the air raids.” (Source)

*In this case, none of the zoo animals were eaten, but some, like Betty the elephant, died during the air strikes (sad picture warning!) Most of the cats and rats were indeed eaten, unfortunately.

*An adult hippo night should receive from 36 to 40 kg of feed. But during the blockade she ate 4-6 kg of a mixture of herbs, vegetables and press cake, adding there 30 kg filings, just to fill her stomach. (The zoo workers also shared their rations with the animals.) If you see this picture of Belle from 1935 you can tell that she lost a lot of weight. So she probably didn’t have “enough to eat”, but enough not to starve to death.

Mosaic image of the sail of the USS Thresher (SSN-593) on the seabed at 2,600m. The USS Thresher was the first nuclear submarine lost at sea. Photo taken between 1963 and 1966.


The USS Thresher was undertaking dive trials when it encountered trouble. It’s not clear what exactly happened, but it is thought that either a pipe joint failed, flooding the engine room, or an electrical bus failed. Either way, it is thought that the reactor shut down and that ice blocked the air pipes while trying to blow the ballast tanks. The Thresher sank until water pressure caused it to implode, ripping it to pieces.

The picture is a mosaic made from smaller pictures which shows the sail, or “conning tower”. Not the dive plane is completely reversed.


Jewish prisoners at the moment of liberation from an internment camp “death train”; 1945.


The only color photo’s of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake

Sutter St. Looking East from Top of Majestic Hall, Oct. 1906, Frederick Eugene Ives, courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

Market St. Flood Bldg., 1906, by Frederick Eugene Ives, courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
Fr. Van Ness Ave. City Hall R., 1906, by Frederick Eugene Ives, courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
Fr. near City Hall looking NE, by Frederick Eugene Ives, courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

This is a series of four recently discovered color photographs of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. These photographs are thought to be the only color photographs of the event.


Hiroshima atom bomb cloud, believed to have been taken about 30 seconds after detonation about 10km (6 miles) east of the hypocenter

Hiroshima_10km“Picture found in Honkawa Elementary School in 2013 of the Hiroshima atom bomb cloud, believed to have been taken about 30 min after detonation of about 10km (6 miles) east of the hypocentre.”

I’d never seen this one before. Amazing to see it from a different angle.

Here’s an article about the discovery of the photograph


An Austro-Hungarian trench on the Ortler, 1917. At 3850 metres it was the highest trench ever.

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I can narrow down the event in my life that humanized history for me, and led me to study it.

Sierra Destini

When I was 8 years old, my uncle was driving me and my cousins around; and he began telling me about our family’s upcoming summer vacation. We were going to Hawaii in a few months, and he was telling us what to expect: the culture, the natural beauty, and the rich history of the islands.

His excitement began to build, and finally he could barely contain himself when he said “you know, your grandmother is even planning a special trip, so we can take you kids to go see Pearl Harbor.” He looked at me, and I was expressionless; I had absolutely no idea what Pearl Harbor even was. He was shocked.

The next night after dinner, I went to Blockbuster (ya’ll remember those???) and rented “Tora Tora Tora” and stayed up past my bedtime so I could see what it was all about.


I was hooked.

By the time we visited Pearl Harbor that summer, I was all over it. I knew names, dates, times of attack, casualty statistics, battleship/aircraft silhouettes, etc. I remember looking at a 3-D topographical map of Oahu, and outlining the different flight paths of the first and seconds attack waves.

There was an older woman who was also standing on the opposite side of the table, and after finishing my explanation, she looked at my grandmother and said “ma’am, your granddaughter is absolutely correct.”

I may have grown up in a household that didn’t really understand my love for History, but at least I was given every opportunity to experience it firsthand.

Franz von Papen,Hjalmar Schacht, and Hans Fritzsche after their acquittal at Nuremberg; 1946.

Ah, the ol' "not getting executed" smoke.

Ah, the ol’ “not getting executed” smoke.

This is the most European thing I’ve ever seen.

The actual flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner”, 1873

Way back then they added a star AND a stripe for every state. Good thing that changed, or the flag would be corduroy by now.

Way back then they added a star AND a stripe for every state. Good thing that changed, or the flag would be corduroy by now.  

More info

The last photo taken of Adolf Hitler as he overlooks the damage in Berlin,1945.


Depending on who you believe, he was pretty much completely off his rocker by this point. The look on his face may be intense concentration as he works out how to maneuver his non-existent troops to counterattack, drive back the Russians, and be in Moscow by autumn.