Since the advent of photography, cameras have been there for the majority of humanity’s most important events. As a result, there is a long list of photographs that have become world famous and immediately come to mind when thinking of events that we’ve all come to know. The image of a lone man standing in defiance of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square is one such image. A sailor passionately kissing a woman in the streets as people all around them celebrate V-J Day is another. South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing a Viet Cong captain in Saigon is yet another that comes to mind.
As many photographs as there are that the world can never forget because they shine a light on some of our greatest triumphs and darkest days. However, there are several others that somehow never took hold. For instance, a photo that exists of one of the primates that traveled to space clutching a newspaper in front of it that reads Space Chimp Lives on the front page never really made a long-lasting mark. Somehow, a photo that of a woman walking her baby in a carriage that is fortified to be gas-resistant while sporting a mask herself in 1938, which shows how scary the world was back then, seems to have already been forgotten. Reflecting on these pictures and many more that deserve much more attention, inspired us to put together this list of fifteen photos of important historical moments you’ve never seen.
In order for a photo to be considered for inclusion here, it first needs to capture a moment of some kind of historical or societal importance. It could focus on a movement that changed the way society looks at itself or give us a new way of looking at a major world event like war, famine, particularly horrific natural disasters, or something of that nature. Finally, it has to have been forgotten by most people or never received the level of attention we feel it deserved. It should be said that we can’t say with total certainty that every one of our readers will be unaware of each of the images that follow, of course, as everyone’s knowledge base is different. It should also be said that we are by no means attempting to say that what follows will encapsulate the most important moments in history.
15. D-Day Destruction
One of the most discussed events in World War II, The Invasion of Normandy was the largest amphibious assault on land in the history of the world. With the Allies eventually able to prevail after the deaths of many of their soldiers as well as Germans, the destruction was far from limited to the beach as is typically focused on. Normandy itself was a French region that was under the control of the Germans at the time and as you can see here suffered greatly during the period. A picture that shows a shell of a society where a proud one previously stood, seeing a pair of children observing the many decimated buildings shows the personal cost the innocent locals felt.
14. Kathrine Switzer’s Groundbreaking Run
Who knew that someone could think that something as basic as running was ever reserved strictly for men? Of course, anyone with even a passing notion of history will know that there is a long history of sexism and racism that kept large portions of society from activities enjoyed by white men. Obviously an awful chapter in our history, we were fully aware that these types of things happened but this image shows that it went deeper than we ever knew. An image from 1967 in which Boston Marathon organizer Jock Semple attempted to forcibly stop Kathrine Switzer from running in it strictly due to her gender, this photo simply amazes us. At least, we are happy to see that some of the other participants that day kept her safe from his efforts.
13. The MGM Lion
While this photo has nothing to do with a groundbreaking moment in the history of the world, it is connected to one of the most recognized intros in film history. The moment where a footage of the MGM Lion was taken, the resulting images have been a mainstay of the film world ever since. In fact, we’re guessing that you can probably hear the roar that accompanies it at the beginning of more movies than we could ever attempt to list here at this very moment. As a result, we find it incredible that so few people have seen this picture that shows how they put the famed images on film, to begin with.
12. Walmart’s Relatively Inauspicious Beginning
One of the biggest corporations today and an absolute behemoth of the retail world, Walmart, whether you love it or hate it, has done a lot to drive North American society for years now. If another company is fortunate enough to have their product put in some of their stores, it can make or break them which means that they have a large hand in the items that are available to the public. On top of that, they are responsible for employing an incredible workforce which makes a difference in millions of lives. However, there were times when they’ve been demonized for their treatment of their workers. Finally, their incredible negotiating ability has allowed them to undercut the prices offered by many of their competitors which has resulted in lots of thriving businesses disappearing. Keeping that in mind, it is truly extraordinary to think that it all started in this rather unassuming building.
11. Che & Fidel’s Fishing Trip
Two of the most recognizable faces of the twentieth century, these friends and fighters arguably are most responsible for shaping the Cuba we know today. On the one hand, you have Fidel Castro, the man that served as the President of the country from 1976 to 2008 and has been compared to some of the world’s worst modern dictators. Then, there is Che Guevara, an armed Marxist Revolutionary that led a coalition of guerrillas up until his execution and while the ignorant know him from just his T-Shirts, his legacy is extremely polarizing. Seeing these two men that are responsible for the deaths of many and forcibly took control of a country lounging around and fishing like old pals, puts their shared history into a whole new perspective.
10. Sweden Switches Lanes
Alright, this is just a fun one since we weren’t there to feel the incredible frustration that those present on this day must have. A picture that was taken in Sweden on September 3rd in 1967, it shows the confusion and traffic that resulted from the country’s decision to switch the side of the road people drive on. If you think about how this would play out if one day this was switched to where you live now, it will probably allow you to understand why this played out the way it did. Modern society relies on a set of agreed-upon rules that most of us abide by and it fascinates us to see how the slightest change can cause mayhem.
9. Granada Relocation Center Closes
There is no doubt in our minds that World War II is one of the most interesting and horrifying events in the history of the world. As a result, much has been written about it, especially when it comes to the horrible things that the Axis Powers did to millions of innocent people particularly when it comes to the Holocaust. One aspect of the war that a surprising amount of people are unaware of, is America’s decision to forcibly place many Japanese people in internment camps strictly due to their ethnicity. One of the most powerful photos of that decision in our minds is this one where the Granada Relocation Center, one of many locations used to house and deport Japanese people, was closed. It was good that it came to an end but the fact that Shuichi Yamamoto, the last occupant, is shown shaking the hand of Project Director James G. Lindley, blows us away. It may have been an attempt to show respect to those that were forced to live there by James but as one of those responsible, he deserved no such showing in return.
8. Shocked German Soldiers
Speaking of camps used during World War II to house innocents that were wrongly named as enemies of the state, as we have mentioned, the Nazi Death Camps are talked about the most for a good reason. As a result, it may be easily forgotten that aside from those involved in the running of them and housed there, much of the world was totally ignorant of what was taking place.
Nazi soldiers have been cast as the enemies of everything just in the world in all forms of fiction. But in reality, there were millions of them that had no affinity for their leaders or their evil deeds. That is even truer when it comes to those pressed into service during the war’s latter days, in all likelihood, just like the men you see pictured above. Fighting on behalf of those responsible, however, once the war came to an end, in many cases, Allied forces showed footage of concentration camps to them against their wills. Seeing men that may not have supported their leaders but were compelled to do their bidding disgusted by the actions of those that commended them, speaks to their humanity in a rather powerful way.
7. Hiroo Onoda’s War Ends
Another one of the Axis Powers, Japan fought tooth and nail against the Allies right up until the decision was made to surrender in 1945. One thing that may shock many, however, is that for a select few Japanese soldiers, their battle lasted decades longer. Instructed by their superiors to hide out on south Pacific Islands and await further commands, they spent years in hiding and fighting a guerrilla war. The man that held out the longest, Hiroo Onoda, kept his efforts up for just short of twenty-nine years due to his disbelief in those that attempted to inform him the war was over. It took the arrival of his commanding officer in person several years later for him to trust his orders to stand out and return to his homeland. Pictured here as he leaves the jungles he called home for all of those years, it is an astounding story of undying loyalty to his country above all else.
6. Amon Goeth And The Balcony
A man that became world famous for his disgusting deeds due to his portrayal in the Steven Spielberg movie Schindler’s List, Amon Goeth was a real-life man that did reprehensible things. For those that saw the film, one of the most affecting moments came when the concentration camp commander goes out on his balcony and starts using prisoners as target practice. Shocking as it shows how casually he saw the taking of another person’s life, he seemed to see his actions as almost a mundane act based on the disinterested posture he took after. We thought we may be able to chalk that up to creative license but it turns out that the real-life man seems to have actually done this as evidenced by this picture of him apparently doing so.
5. Himmler And His Daughter
Of course, Adolf Hitler is the man most identified with the Nazis and their crimes but there were others involved at a very high level. Arguably, the next guiltiest individual in the Nazi hierarchy is none other than Heinrich Himmler. The head of the SS and one of the men most responsible for carrying out the Holocaust, he used his superior organization skills to turn his country into an efficient murder machine.
He was also a family man with a loyal wife. He was a father who seems to have adored his children. Pictured here with one of his daughters, if it weren’t for the swastika and our knowledge of the man, this looks like a cute photo of a loving parent and his child. That is what truly astounds us about it; the fact that a man who spent his days creating the machine that carried out such incredible villainy also had a kind streak within him. That puts into perspective the fact that the Nazis were not the mindless evil that they are often portrayed as. Instead, they were human beings that decided to bring about the near destruction of a race of people and millions more.
4. Children For Sale
Almost any parent would be able to tell you about the bond they feel with their children and the pain that permanently losing them would cause. That is why it is so shocking to see a photo of a mother that has put her four children up for sale. Taken in 1948’s Chicago, you may think the photo was a put-on, as her family accused at the time. But it turned out to be very serious. We say that because within two years of this picture being taken, all of the kids pictured were indeed sold, as was the one that she was carrying inside of her at the time. Facing eviction and an inability to find work, this image is proof positive of true poverty and desperation in a country we associate with a great deal of stability.
3. Georges Blind’s Continued Resistance
If you are like us and have lived your life without ever having to worry that government forces are going to rip you out of your world and make you face a firing line, then the idea of this scene is unfathomable. What makes this image all the more unbelievable is the story behind it. The man you see with a smile on his face is a French resistance fighter by the name of Georges Blind.
Captured and informed that he was going to be shot and killed if he did not provide information about the resistance, he faced his death with a smile on his face only to learn that it was all a tactic. Intended to scare him into giving up his cohorts, the mock execution is something we can’t even imagine facing. But a man with the strength of character that Georges had didn’t seem to wilt in the slightest. Although he was ultimately sent to a concentration camp and killed upon arrival in late November of 1944, his willingness to pay the ultimate price for his allies and cause should be an inspiration to us all.
2. Chernobyl’s Elephant Foot
An event that resulted in untold destruction, at least forty-nine direct deaths and (according to a study) around four thousand people that died due to the radiation, Chernobyl should never be forgotten. An instance in which a nuclear reactor had its safety systems deliberately turned off; that and other errors resulted in a massive steam explosion and “open-air graphite fire.” A blast powerful enough to thrust the two thousand ton upper plate of the reactor through the roof of the building that housed it, that was actually the lesser of evils as the resulting radiation was more dangerous.
The nuclear materials involved resulted in the creation of what’s known as the elephant’s foot. Comprised of something called corium, it is one of the most toxic substances ever created and being in its presence immediately after the fact, was enough to give you lethal radiation poisoning in a matter of minutes. Still dangerous enough a decade later (when this photo was taken) to warp the film, this photo remained something that a more sane man would fear and avoid at all costs. Instead, Artur Korneyev, the man pictured here visited the area more than anyone else in history and is considered to have been exposed to more radiation than anyone else in the history of the world.
1. Monson Motor Lodge
An event that is credited with the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the standoff between demonstrators and the Monson Motor Lodge hotel manager Jimmy Brock shocked the world into action. Yet somehow, the event as a whole and this picture of it taking place, has largely been forgotten in modern society. When the aforementioned hotelier wouldn’t allow Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his guests to dine in his restaurant, it resulted in activists choosing to fight for their rights at the establishment. Opting to enter a segregated pool, it enraged Jimmy and his response was extreme, to say the least. Opting to pour acid into the pool to force them out, it was witnessed by journalists and galvanized a community and resulted in substantive changes.