During World War II, reconnaissance units of the US Army Air Forces captured over 3,600 aerial photographs of England, primarily focusing on the American bases in the south of the country. The black and white images, taken in 1943 and 1944, are now available online for the first time through Historic England’s free, searchable map. These photographs not only show the military presence, but also the impact of the war on towns and cities, and the preparations for D-Day in 1944. The collection serves as a vital historical resource illustrating the role of aerial reconnaissance in the war.
- Aerial Reconnaissance in WWII: The U.S. Army Air Forces took over 3,600 black and white aerial reconnaissance photographs of England, mostly around American bases in the south, during 1943 and 1944.
- Online Archive: The images are now accessible online through a searchable map, available via the Historic England archive, allowing the public to view the images and gain insight into the war period.
- Diverse Content: The collection includes various subjects, from U.S. military personnel playing baseball to ancient monuments surrounded by anti-tank defenses, airfields, military camps, and even bomb damage at Old Trafford stadium.
- Importance of Aerial Photography: The photographs were vital for intelligence and planning, as the U.S. military used them for experience and preparation for missions over Nazi-occupied Europe. The aircraft used for these missions were specifically adapted to carry cameras and additional fuel.
- Historical Significance: The images highlight the essential role aerial reconnaissance played in the Second World War and stand as a tribute to the pilots who risked their lives for intelligence purposes, many of whom were killed in the line of duty.