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World War II is the story of the 20th Century. The war officially lasted from 1939 until 1945, but the causes of the conflict and its horrible aftermath echoed for decades in both directions. While feats of bravery and technological breakthroughs still inspire awe today, the majority of the war was dominated by unimaginable misery and destruction. In the late 1930s, the global population stood at approximately 2 billion. In less than a decade, the war between the nations of the Axis Powers and the Allies resulted in some 80 million deaths -- killing off about 4 percent of the whole world.

This series of entries was published weekly on TheAtlantic.com from June 19 through October 30, 2011, running every Sunday morning for 20 weeks. In this collection of 900 photos spread over 20 essays, I tried to explore the events of the war, the lives of the people fighting at the front and working back home, and the effects of the trauma on everyday activity. These images still give us glimpses into the experiences of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents, moments that shaped the world as it is today.


Before the War

The Invasion of Poland and the Winter War

Axis Invasions and the Fall of France

The Battle of Britain

Conflict Spreads Around the Globe

Operation Barbarossa

Pearl Harbor

The American Home Front in Color

Daring Raids and Brutal Reprisals

Internment of Japanese Americans

Battle of Midway and the Aleutian Campaign

The North African Campaign

Women at War

The Eastern Front

The Pacific Islands

The Allied Invasion of Europe

The Fall of Nazi Germany

The Holocaust

The Fall of Imperial Japan

After the War