Seeing the War

David P. Colley

The dramatic stories behind some of the war's best-known photos
Publication date:
November 2015
Publisher :
ForeEdge from University Press of New England

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ISBN : 9781611687262

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The faces in photographs of World War II - both the famous pictures from Life magazine and the seldom-seen snapshots of individual soldiers, sailors, and correspondents - have a unique capacity to induce awe, respect, and wonder. Who were these men and women? Did they survive the war? And, if so, what were their lives like? Author and Vietnam-era veteran David P. Colley has been researching the subjects of World War II photographs for more than twenty years. As he explains, "I find the pursuit of the soldiers in World War II photographs illuminating. We never stop and ask about the toll of war or what happened to the men afterward. Many were killed or wounded or suffered deep psychological scars. The year 2015 marks the seventieth anniversary of the end of that war. It will undoubtedly be one of the last times this nation honors its living World War II veterans. Soon they will be no more and the war mostly forgotten. It already is ancient history to the majority of Americans. But the images of those veterans, depicted in photographs, bring alive those momentous years and enshrine the soldiers in our history and our imaginations." In Seeing the War, Colley revisits more than a hundred of the most revealing photographs of the "last good war."


When we look at the millions of photographs of serving men and women who took part in the various theatres of the Second World War (or any modern war, for that matter), it's easy to forget that there was a photographer there to take the shots. Colley's book redresses the balance and puts the whole thing into a different perspective, reminding us that these men were also present when the shots were taken. Colley's choice of 100 telling photographs from WWII is inspired and illuminating.
Military History Monthly

I don't think the book is perfect, however much the tales selected become interesting and well worth your time, and however expertly Colley can pen his short essays. It's in chapters for quite meaningless reasons, and too often the picture is a straight portrait and it's the back story that is of interest. Turn to these pages for a summary of wartime imagery and you might feel bereft - there is actually no instance of the Iwo Jima image I referred to.
The Bookbag

It certainly makes for fascinating reading, especially if you like your historical biographies with a splash of investigative journalism.
History of War Magazine