World War I and World War II Photographs in the National Archives
The first and second World Wars are by far the most heavily covered subject matter within the holdings of the Still Picture Branch. Millions of photographs were created by American military photographers, foreign militaries, and private sources documenting personnel, combat, training, facilities, equipment and the homefront. In addition to photographs, thousands of posters were generated
Photographic formats include glass plate negatives, black-and-white acetate film negatives, color negatives, color transparencies, black-and-white prints, and color prints. In addition to the original format, a large percentage of the World War I photographs have been digitized along with a small percentage of World War II images.
Photographs can be found in the various Record Groups assigned to each military branch as well as the War Department. Below is just a sample of series available.
World War I Photographs
American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs
Series 165-WW. This series consists of black-and-white photographs collected from private sources, the U.S. Army Signal Corps, and other Federal and State agencies. Subjects include A.E.F. activities, wartime industries and other activities on the homefront.
Photographs of American Military Activities
Series 111-SC. The World War I section of this series consists of black-and-white photographs taken by official U.S. Military photographers or accumulated from other government sources, foreign countries and private sources. Subjects include American Expeditionary Forces, soldiers of Allies and Central powers, battles, battlefield areas, havocs of war, and personalities. The vast majority of the World War I section has been digitized. See the guide to A.E.F. photographs.
World War II Photographs
General Photographic File of the Department of Navy
Series 80-G. This series consists of black-and-white photographs of naval ships, shipboard activities, naval aircraft, military and civilian personalities, and naval engagement.
Color images can be in series 80-GK.
Photographs of American Military Activities
Series 111-SC. The World War II section of this series consists of photographs documenting U.S. military activities at home and abroad, Allies and Axis forces, major battles, destruction, the war effort on the homefront, and significant events, including the Holocaust, war crimes trials, and prisoner of war exchanges.
- Corresponding photographic albums can be found in the series 111-SCA.
- Color images can be found in 111-C.
- An online personality index can be found in the series 111-PX.
Photographs of the Allies and Axis
Series 208-AA. Photographs in this series were taken by OWI Domestic Branch and Overseas Branch photographers, U.S. military photographers, and private sources. Subjects cover all aspects of U.S. ground, air and sea operations as well as activities on the homefront.
Black and White and Color Photographs of U.S. Air Force and Predecessor Agencies Activities, Facilities and Personnel - World War II and Korean War
Series 342-FH. This series consists of photographs documenting activities of the U.S. Army Air Forces. Subjects include aircraft; crews and units; fields and installations; aircraft maintenance; transportation; reconnaissance; bombing and strafing; prisons and prisoners; captured materiel; medical care; and combat action. A large portion of the World War II section has been digitized by FOLD3 and is available for free through their website.
Photographs of World War II and Post World War II Marine Corps Activities
Series 127-GW. This series consists of photographs documenting combat and non-combat activities of the Marine Corps, mostly during WWII.
Construction and Launchings of Ships
Series 19-LCM. This series consists of black-and-white photographs taken by shipbuilders, the Bureau of Ships, and the Bureau of Aeronautics, and document the construction, repair, and sea trials of ships of the United States Navy. The photographs were taken prior to, during and after World War II.
Activities, Facilities, and Personalities
Series 26-G. This series consists of U.S. Coast Guard photographs documenting activities prior to, during and after WWII. The WWII section covers combat, in the Atlantic and Pacific, including some famous views of the Normandy invasion.
World War I and II Posters
World War I Posters
Series 4-P. This series consists of posters relating to agriculture, conservation, education, fuel efficiency, patriotism, war production, recruitment, and security.
World War II Posters
Series 44-PA. Posters from various federal agencies, assembled by the Division of Public Inquiries, Office of War Information, and used to promote the war effort.
War Production Board
Series 179-WP. Posters used in various production drives instituted by the War Production Board.
To Request Information about Records
For further information about the photographs and graphic works held in the Still Picture unit at College Park, contact:
Mail: Still Picture Reference
Special Media Archives Services Division
National Archives at College Park
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, Maryland 20740-6001
If you’d like to use an image from the Still Picture Branch holdings, please see our Copyright and Permissions page.