Photos capture so many things. The moment in time they are taken is a stamp on history, capturing that single moment and telling a thousand words. Photos can speak volumes. Some are incredibly impactful while others are extraordinary in nature. Many of these photos are phenomenal historical tools that capture humanity at its purest and unaltered form. The key with many historical photos is to make sure they haven’t been completely doctored and altered to change the political viewpoint of the image. When push comes to shove, the photos are unmatchable when they’re authentic. The photos are treasures of time; sometimes they’re sad and dramatic, but they’re treasures nonetheless.
One of the certainties with regard to historical photos is that many of the most important ones were concealed and previously unreleased. There are a variety of reasons why some photos hadn’t reached the light of day for decades, and in some cases, a century or more. The impact of such images was too much for the general public, or so the various governments thought. Some of the images were so traumatic that they were purposely concealed out of concern over what people may think of the content. The photos took years upon years to unearth and display humanity, oftentimes, at its worst. These photos are beyond dramatic and truly make you think about our history and the journey we’ve taken. It’s also a sad display, at times, of who and what we are. Enjoy 15 amazing photos and events that were initially buried in the past.
15. Suspended Kitty
First off, yes, that is a little kitty floating inside the cockpit of an F-94C jet. This isn’t exactly what PETA wants to see, but back in 1958, this was part of efforts to try and understand some of the medical specificities of weightlessness in planes. Personally, knowing how a cat’s claws work, I would honestly say this isn’t the best animal to throw up there with the claw factor and all. But scientists just wanted to study the various theories in weightlessness. And at 25,000 feet, this feline certainly found out exactly how you float in space. Captain Drury P. Parks is the pilot accompanying this little flying kitty. The cat was used in lieu of a human being for this test. Seems quite successful with the floating Garfield, and all was good.
We aren’t talking about the movie The Matrix and its the awesome lead character, Trinity, here. Nope. We’re talking about the first ever atomic bomb that received the nickname “The Gadget.” This bomb was the first ever made, and it got tested at the Trinity Site in New Mexico in the United States. The date of the test was July 16th, 1945. This incredible force of this bomb was the first detonation initiated by the famed Manhattan Project. J. Robert Oppenheimer coined the name “Trinity,” based on a line from Jon Donne poetry. The design was nearly identical to “Fat Man,” the infamous bomb that leveled the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Make no mistake about it: you didn’t want to be the guy standing next to this weapon, which was rife with any number of issues.
Some photos are so incredible that it took years upon years to secure their release. Oftentimes, military archives take the longest to release such photos to the public. Rarely will you see pictures of war from the military itself unless they want you to. This photo is one in a series of previously unreleased gems that show the totality of war and its impact. The incredible number of bombs that are being dropped here is frightening, almost certainly a declaration of death for many on the ground. The bombs were dropped by the United States upon Kobe in Japan on March 16 and 17, 1945. Targets were both military and civilian targets with hundreds of bombs blanketing the land. The constant bombing of all kinds of Japanese targets left the country in virtual ruins with estimates of as much as 900,000 killed.
Easily one of the most embarrassing times in the history of man is the active slave trade that occurred across many nations. This is particularly true concerning the United States and the country’s infancy. North America proved to be a huge world importer of a singular commodity that seemed to have in endless supply and was delivered by the boatload across the Atlantic Ocean: slaves. These slaves mainly came from the western coastline of Africa. Some slaves were rounded up and brought from various points in Africa to be shipped across the ocean for sale. In this picture, you see a British sailor removing leg irons off a slave prior to the slave being sold. British traders moved over 3 million Africans across the Atlantic for sale during the 245 chronicled years of the slave trade.
11. Nuclear Bikini
When people think of nuclear bombs, we immediately head to World War II. And that’s a perfect place to begin the discussion. These days, the threat of nuclear weaponry seems to get quite a bit of coverage as 3rd world countries across the globe scramble to get their hands on the most powerful man-made weapons ever created. The tests to see the power and reliability of this incredible and dangerous weapon were captured with photos. Among these said tests occurred during the Bikini Atoll program where a series of 23 various nuclear devices were detonated from 1946-1958. The Atoll is located on one of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The view of the bomb being tested in the ocean is an incredible display of power and grace. It was meant to be a message sent at the same time for the world to realize exactly what the United States had. There were so many unknowns with regard to what kind of damage this massive weapon could do and a tremendous amount of secrecy in its development.
10. German Submarine
Well, if we know anything about Germany in the early-mid 1900s, it would be that they led the Axis Powers on one side of the fence. Germany often sided against the rest of the Western World when they attempted to expand their empire and take over as much territory in Europe as possible. This is an actual photo from back in 1918. The photo represents the bowels of a German sub during the World War I era. This SM UB-110 was one of the most dangerous oceanic vessels around: a German U-Boat. The U-Boats initially were able to roll through the Atlantic Ocean to patrol the high seas and down many of the allies’ ships. These were brutal to sink and locate early on in their advent. And this photo is a VERY rare look inside one of these infamous subs.
9. Nuclear Families
If it looks like these nuclear tests may be far too close to civilization, then you are correct. There were many people who lived throughout the deserts of Nevada who thought it was fun to step out onto their porch and watch the nuclear tests going on in the desert just a few miles away. Of course, they weren’t next door to the testing, but they were within eyeshot of seeing these majestic explosions. For years, the United States government didn’t alert people about or even completely know of the effects of nuclear testing on surrounding communities. In fact, many of the scientists and men working on the various nuclear programs lived nearby. The effects of nuclear testing turned out to be devastating for some, with radiation poisoning causing terrible deaths for large numbers of families who lived near the testing sites in the New Mexico and Nevada deserts.
8. One Last Time
When you think about public executions, your mind immediately wanders to Europe and centuries upon centuries of public hangings and beheadings. The crowds thirsted for blood as the mob mentality seemed to take over. But that public executions took place in the United States as late as 1936 is almost shocking. This particular one in the picture occurred on August 14, 1936. Thankfully, this was the last public execution in the United States, Rainey Bethea the man being hung before a bloodthirsty crowd. The old West was rife with public hangings to try to teach criminals a lesson and let those criminals know that it wasn’t okay to break the law. Bethea was hanged for raping a 70-year-old woman, which he admitted, so maybe his demise was truly due.
7. German Firing Squad
Obviously, Germany was a brutal place in the early 1900s. There are many reasons why such extreme things happened there. Germany was a country in flux. In this photograph, a German Communist is supposedly being sized up by a firing squad. The young man stands seems to stand defiant as he awaits the 5 soldiers aiming rifles at him to fire. This was commonplace in Germany during the early 1900s. There were numerous random firing squads that popped up in Germany throughout the early part of the century. The squads were called the Freikorps (Free Corps), and they roamed around with the specific purpose of killing. However, if you dig deeper into the photo, you can tell that the Nazi propaganda machine was hard at work. First, the soldiers wouldn’t have stood quite so close to the walls because from that distance, shrapnel could bounce back and hit them. Secondly, the defiance of the victim obviously isn’t real. And lastly, the soldiers themselves aren’t exactly holding the rifles correctly. These photos were unearthed gems showcasing the Nazi propaganda war machine hard at work.
6. Space Dog
There were a lot of unknowns in the race to the moon. Both the United States and the Soviet Union were trying to push their scientists to get into space. Launching a craft into space and circling the earth was a big part of the 1950s. The Soviet Union, on November 3rd, 1957, launched Laika into orbit. Laika was the first ever animal to be sent up into space. The stray dog went up in Sputnik 2 and wasn’t expected to live. Unfortunately, the stray pooch from Moscow didn’t survive the journey. The doggie Cosmonaut helped advance the Russian space program to the point where they’ve actually erected a statue of a rocket to honor her achievement. It’s believed that Laika died from overheating at first, but Russian officials then leaked information that she died from oxygen deprivation at around day 6 although Russian officials denied that the dog suffocated and claimed they had humanely euthanized it during the journey (which is almost impossible, by the way).
Ham was THE space chimp who went high up into the sky and miraculously survived. Both the United States and Russia were working on their space journeys and wanted to use animals to figure out if manned missions would be safe. The last thing the two nations wanted to do was lose an Astronaut or a Cosmonaut. That’s how Ham the Astrochimp came to be. Ham got his name from the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center in New Mexico. Ham went up into space on January 31st, 1961 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Amazingly, Ham returned with simply a bruised nose, and that was it. The trip was celebrated as a huge success and set the stage for manned space flight.
4. Cathedral of Amiens
War brings things home. No matter what or where, a structure in the middle of a warzone is often taken over for a variety of reasons. Paris, France was a massive warzone during a good chunk of World War II. When Hitler’s Germany rolled right through the country, they took hold of every and any assets to aid their expansion. This incredible display of bunkers showcases how soldiers used the camouflage of a church to fight from. This is where the Germans could hide in and effectively keep somewhat secured, being that very few people wanted to fire at and destroy a church. This famous church was the Cathedral of Amiens. The cathedral is a famous landmark in France to this very day, but this picture of how it looked on the inside during World War II truly makes an incredible impact.
3. Testing Football Helmets
Football is the biggest American sport by far. The NFL is a monster; teams worth billions a piece. The NFL has been recently criticized to the point of lawsuits from former players. The NFL has undergone an avalanche of recent criticism as former players are coming down with CTE, which stands for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which focuses on repeated trauma to the brain. The issues surrounding the players start out back when they are little tykes playing peewee football. The NFL and the United States have gone to great lengths to start to pull back physical contact with tackling and heads for as long as possible. But even players who don’t make the NFL and burn out in the college years are showing signs of CTE. The disease is terrible, and as the NFL still attempts to only partially accept brain trauma findings, further findings and testings are occurring. The picture above shows the first tests that occurred way back in 1912 to see if helmets of the time would work.
2. Beheaded Nun
This image is disturbing, to say the least. The well-preserved head is that of a former nun from long, long ago. The belief is that this is the first ever possessed nun. Because the nun was so disturbed, they cut off her head for good measure. Her head was boxed up like the head from the movie Seven and preserved. They sent her off with her rosary beads to help her on the journey to the other side. The beliefs long ago were more toward possession as opposed to dissecting mental illnesses, which wasn’t something the medical profession had a good grasp of centuries ago. The cross and well-preserved head are an eerie reminder of yesteryears and how things were brutally taken care of when people had little education and lacked factual knowledge.
1. Getting Mental
Is there anything more horrifying than an abandoned mental ward? Long ago, these institutions were bastions of hell for those who were mentally ill. There were varying levels of mental illnesses and varying degrees of sickness inside the walls of these institutions. In all likelihood, anyone who was sane prior to entering one of these horrifying facilities would become insane shortly thereafter. When you see the words etched on the various walls of these facilities, you get just a little taste of the madness. The facilities were also in terrible condition, hidden away from family members who may have been concerned that their relatives were being treated like crazy trash. Often times, fingernail scrapings would be found in the walls as the madness and horrible conditions often overtook any level of humanity inside these dark, dirty and dingy places. Madness and sadness ruled inside these hidden and often tragic places where crimes against humanity were concealed for decades upon decades.
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