1. General Werner von Blomberg, the German Defence Minister, in discussion with the newly elected Chancellor Adolf Hitler at Ulm in September 1933. The Pact made between these two men aboard the battleship Deutschland the following April cemented Hitler’s power in the Reich and set Germany on the path to war.
2. The Nazi–Soviet Pact was signed in the Kremlin at 2 a.m. on Thursday, 24 August 1939, by the two men on either side of Joseph Stalin, the German Foreign Minister Joachim Ribbentrop (left) and his Russian counterpart V. M. Molotov (right). Friedrich Gaus (extreme left), head of the legal department of the Reich Foreign Ministry, drafted the agreement. It gave Hitler the diplomatic initiative and was Stalin’s greatest blunder.
3. The Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Hitler, Major-General Alfred Jodl and Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel confer at Hitler’s headquarters in East Prussia, the Wolfsschanze, on 25 August 1941, three days after Hitler had diverted troops southwards from the attack on Moscow towards Kiev.
4. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, Keitel and SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler confer with Hitler on 10 April 1942.
5. The outspoken Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt was appointed and sacked by Hitler four times in his career. On 18 April 1944 he was inspecting the Atlantic Wall as commander-in-chief west.
6. Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, the man responsible for the ‘Sickle Cut’ manoeuvre that led to the fall of France and the capture of the Crimea and Kharkov, was the greatest German strategist of the war, but even he could not relieve Stalingrad.
7. General Heinz Guderian, Germany’s most talented tank commander, in December 1940.
8. Field Marshal Walter Model overseeing a German and Hungarian counter-attack on the southern Russian front. He was sent to rescue difficult situations so often that he was nicknamed Hitler’s Fireman.
9. A French tank about to receive the full force of Blitzkrieg, as a Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dives to bomb it in northern France in 1940.
10. Refugees flee Paris in June 1940.
11. Operation Dynamo: Allied troops queuing along the evacuation beaches of Dunkirk in late May 1940, hoping for what Churchill was to call ‘a miracle of deliverance’.
12. Huge quantities of Allied vehicles, arms, stores and ammunition had to be disabled and left behind in France. This was the scene on 27 May 1940.
13. A terrible beauty: vapour trails from RAF and Luftwaffe planes battling over Kent on 3 September 1940. ‘Both life and death had lost their importance,’ wrote one British fighter ace. ‘Desire sharpened to a single, savage purpose – to grab the enemy and claw him down from the sky’.
14. ‘Scramble!’ Pilots of 87 Squadron rush to their Hurricanes.
15. Hitler and Goebbels confer privately by a roaring fire in his Alpine retreat, the Berghof, in 1940.
16. Operation Barbarossa: the Wehrmacht in the Ukraine in the summer of 1941. Note the commandeered bus bringing up supplies.
17. Operation Typhoon, the German assault on Moscow, gets stuck in atrocious mud in October 1941. This assault gun is about to be abandoned.
18. Exhausted, freezing and demoralized, German soldiers start to surrender to winter-clad Russians as 1941 comes to a close.
19. US Navy Douglas Dauntless dive-bombers during the attack that crippled the Japanese fleet at the battle of Midway. Note the Japanese ship on fire below.
20. The aircraft carrier USS Yorktown burns after being hit by Aichi D34 ‘Val’ dive-bombers at Midway shortly after 13.30 hours on 4 June 1942.
21. Generals Sir Claude Auchinleck and Sir Archibald Wavell confer in Egypt in 1941. Churchill removed both men from their commands in his quest for more aggressive leadership.
22. General Sir Harold Alexander speaking to soldiers of the 18th Army Group in Tunisia in early 1943.
23. General Erwin Rommel, the ‘Desert Fox’, at the scene of his greatest triumph, when he captured Tobruk and almost all its defenders and stores in June 1942.
24. The battle of El Alamein: soldiers of the 9th Australian Division firing a captured Italian 47mm Breda anti-tank gun on a beach in the northern sector.
25. The Holocaust: Jews from sub-Carpathian Rus undergoing ‘selection’ for work details (for those queuing on the left) or immediate gassing (for those on the right), after disembarking onto the ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in late May 1944.
26. A fraction of the corpses discovered by the US Seventh Army at the Dachau concentration camp on 1 May 1945.
27. A scene from Stalingrad in late 1942, where desperate and often hand-to-hand fighting over several months saw areas of the factory district change hands many times.
28. Russian artillery at the Red October Factory in Stalingrad, early 1943.
29. Victory by committee: behind President Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 stand the Combined Chiefs of Staff: (left to right) Admiral Ernest J. King, General George C. Marshall, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles Portal, General Sir Alan Brooke, Field Marshal Sir John Dill, Vice-Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten and General Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold.
30. General Charles de Gaulle (centre), self-proclaimed saviour of France, takes the salute of a guard of honour on arrival in Algiers on 30 May 1943. The next day he and General Henri Giraud (left) assumed the joint presidency of the Committee of National Liberation, without letting it affect their mutual detestation.
31. The battle of the Atlantic: a destroyer, the smaller ship alone in the rear (right), shepherds a convoy of merchantmen across the ocean in June 1943.
32. The captain of a U-boat at his periscope.
33. The battle of Kursk, July 1943. The crack 3rd SS Panzer Totenkopf (Death’s Head) Division advances to fight the largest tank battle in history. This attack was part of what was later dubbed ‘the Death Ride of the Fourth Panzer Army’.
34. Russian soldiers pass a burning Soviet T-34/76 tank during the battle.
35. General Sir William Slim inspects a captured Japanese sword in Burma in 1944.
36. Major General Orde Wingate, whom Slim described as a ‘strange, excitable, moody creature, but he had a fire in him. He could ignite other men’.
37. General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the brutal but brilliant conqueror of Malaya.
38. General George S. ‘Old Blood and Guts’ Patton Jr: tough and crude, but curiously sensitive too, on occasion.
39. General Mark Clark (front seat, left) got his day of glory liberating Rome on 5 June 1944, but at great strategic cost.
40. D-Day: Piper Bill Millin of the 1st Special Service Brigade of the British Second Army prepares to disembark on Sword Beach at 08.40 hours on 6 June. Their commander, Brigadier Lord Lovat DSO MC, can be seen wading through the water to the right of his column of men.
41. The longest day: American troops pinned down behind anti-tank obstacles on Omaha Beach.
42. Mussolini takes his leave of Hitler, Göring and Ribbentrop two days after Colonel von Stauffenberg’s 20 July 1944 Bomb Plot explosion at the Wolfsschanze in East Prussia. Hitler’s right arm had been slightly injured in the blast, hence his shaking the Duce’s hand with his left.
43. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, pointing the way forward to an American officer and General Montgomery in 1944. ‘Ike’ was loved by his men, but could also keep his commanders’ egos under control.
44· Over the top: Russian infantry charge out of a trench in Belorussia during Operation Bagration, the massive Soviet assault launched on 22 June 1944 which resulted in 381,000 Germans killed, 158,000 captured and the destruction of Army Group Centre.
45. The Ardennes Offensive: American troops crouching in snowy woods near Amonines in Belgium in December 1944 during the great German counter-attack they dubbed the Battle of the Bulge.
46. The aftermath of the Allied bombing of Dresden, on the night of 13/14 February 1945.
47. Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff (behind the gun), General Sir Miles Dempsey, commander of the 2nd Army, and an ebullient Winston Churchill cross the Rhine in an amphibious vehicle on 25 March 1945.
48. Red Army troops ride on a T-34/85 tank towards Berlin, April 1945.
49. Marshal Georgi Zhukov – ‘the man who beat Hitler’ – enters Berlin in May 1945.
50. Marshal Ivan Konev: tough peasant soldier and fanatical Communist who became one of the great commanders of the war.
51. The city obliterated: Nagasaki after the atomic bomb dropped on 9 August 1945. Note the bridge that lay directly under the epicentre of the blast.
52. Japan’s Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and General Yoshijiro Umezu, the Chief of the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff, finally surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri on 2 September 1945, six years and a day after the outbreak of the second world war.