When it comes to warfare, death and destruction are usually what comes to mind. Millions of people have lost their lives and cities have been damaged beyond repair for centuries as various wars have ravaged the world. But in the midst of all the casualties, plenty of people have found silver linings along the way – even if it was usually once the war was over. From children befriending foreign soldiers in World War I to soldiers feeding newborn kittens on the field in the Korean War, someone was in the right place at the right time to capture these heartwarming moments.
WWII: Finding Life-Long Salvation
This lovely couple is Edith Steiner and John McKay. During World War II, Steiner was a Jewish woman who survived Auschwitz. She was saved by McKay who was a Scottish soldier at the time. The top photo shows the couple in their early 20s, just after having met in 1944. They met at a local dance put together by Allied troops for the soldiers and Holocaust survivors.
They married in 1946 and moved to Scotland, where they raised two children together. In 2017, the couple celebrated their 71st Valentine’s Day together.
Cold War: Going Against Orders
During the Cold War, the Berlin Wall divided eastern and western Germany for what would be over 20 years. In this photo from 1961, a German soldier is seen helping a little boy cross over the wall after he was found on the opposite side of his family.
You can see the fear in this soldier’s eyes since all of them were given strict orders not to let anyone pass. Soviets put down more than 100 miles of barbed wire along the wall on the eastern side as many Germans attempted to flee to West Germany for a better life.
WWII: D-Day Veterans Sit Across Their Younger Selves
D-Day goes down in history as the largest amphibious wartime invasion. In what was known as “Operation Neptune,” Allied forces descended on the beaches of Normandy in German-occupied France on June 6, 1944. U.S., British, and Canadian troops enacted an airborne assault on Nazi forces which was one of the cornerstones of the Allied victories along the Western Front.
These British paratroopers remember that fateful day. Months after D-Day, they were on their way to the Battle of Arnhem after making it through France and Belgium. They sit across their younger selves in remembrance of those important battles.
Korean War: Nurturing The Defenseless
Tensions of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States resulted in North and South Korea splitting into two separate entities. U.S. troops were shipped overseas to support South Korea against Soviet-backed North Korea.
Combat correspondent Frank Praytor was working with the 1st Marine Division in 1952 when he was captured nursing a newborn kitten in the trenches. The photo of Praytor and the kitten, named “Mis Hap,” gained international attention. His fifteen minutes of fame saved him from being court-martialed for publishing a different photo that wasn’t cleared by wartime censors.
WWI: Remembering All Fallen Heroes
When it comes to honoring those who’ve been lost in battle, soldiers never forget anyone – animals included. Cats and dogs have long served alongside men and women during wars. Some units even had bears as members!
This photo from 1915 depicts around 650 soldiers in a formation that resembles a horse’s head, neck, and bridle. It was taken by officers of the Auxiliary Remount Dept. No 326 at Camp Cody in New Mexico. They are honoring the fallen horses, donkeys, and mules that have been sacrificed to combat during World War I.
WWII: Whispering The Last Words
When one goes off to war, there’s little time to mull over whether you should tell loved ones everything you need to tell them. Many soldiers likely felt that way, as there was no guarantee they would return home.
This British soldier whispers in the ear of a loved one just moments before he and his unit leave for the front on September 24, 1939. At the start of the second world war, the British Army was a volunteer army who attempted to stop Germany on their own. They went to full conscription by the time Britain fully declared war.
WWII: Give Me A Kiss Goodbye
Actress Martha O’Driscoll was captured kissing a U.S. military officer in Los Angeles in 1941. O’Driscoll was a Hollywood actress during the late ’30s and starred in The Lady Eve and Reap the Wild Wind. During World War II, she toured with Errol Flynn and the USO to perform for troops in various countries.
She likely met her first husband on one of these tours, as she married Lieutenant Commander Richard D. Adams of the U.S. Navy in 1943. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last a year but clearly this actress had a thing for men in uniform.
WWII: Forbidden In Plain Sight
Following Japan’s defeat at the end of World War II, the U.S. occupied Japan with support from other Allied Powers. Under General Douglas MacArthur, the U.S. military arrived in Tokyo in 1945 and began the country’s reformation and reconstruction.
American soldiers, of course, intermingled with locals but there were strict rules that were often broken. Giving away cigarettes was forbidden, as well as public displays of affection that went beyond hand-holding. Solider Robert Gray shares Hershey’s chocolate and cigarettes with Tokyo actress Hariko Wakaru in this photo taken for a December 1946 issue of LIFE magazine.
WWI: Fighting For The Future
During World War I, Indian troops joined the front lines alongside British and French troops to fight against the German Empire. In this photo taken on September 30, 1914, a young French boy introduces himself to an Indian soldier who just arrived in Marseilles six weeks after the declaration of war.
According to records, more than a million Indian troops left their home country to fight overseas. Over 74,000 Indian soldiers lost their lives during the first world war while in allegiance to the British Empire at the time.
WWII: The Long-Awaited Return
This soldier arrived home to a warm welcome by a loved one whose excitement radiates from this photo. Many wives, girlfriends, sisters, and moms said goodbye to their loved ones with an uncertainty that they’d be able to see them again once the war was finally over.
World War II lasted for six long years and caused worldwide anxiety once it was clear that it had become a global war. Once Germany and then Japan surrendered to Allied Powers in 1945, the world breathed a collective sigh of relief.
WWII: A Thank You Kiss
This photo was taken on February 14, 1945, as a little French girl gives a peck on the cheek of a U.S. soldier near Aboncourt, France. This soldier was a member of the 3rd Armored Division of the United States Army. The "Third Herd," as they were known, were first activated in 1941 and sent to the European Theater during WWII.
The Third Herd arrived in England and swiftly departed for France to take part in the operations at Normandy. Following WWII, this infantry was stationed in West Germany during the Cold War.
WWII: The Kiss Seen Around The World
This photo of a Navy sailor kissing a nurse in the middle of Times Square became an iconic representation over the excitement felt upon the official end of the second world war. LIFE magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt titled this infamous photo V-J Day in Times Square.
The sailor in the photo is George Mendonsa, who grabbed a woman in a nurse’s uniform and planted a kiss right on her lips. The woman is Greta Zimmer Friedman, who was working as a dental assistant when this happened. They had no relationship to each other otherwise.
WWII: Making Unlikely Friends
While global war is not anything to take lightly, it did thrust many soldiers into countries and places they probably never dreamed of visiting beforehand. In this photo from 1942, photographer John Earl McNeil captured this American soldier shaking hands with a joey – a baby kangaroo – at an Advanced Allied base in Australia.
Australia joined the second world war after their government accepted the United Kingdom’s declaration of war on Nazi Germany. The southern continent joined the Allied forces, sending almost a million of their citizens into the armed forces in Europe, North Africa, and the South West Pacific theater.
WWII: Small Things Bring Great Joy
During World War II, many countries had to ration even some of the most basic necessities in order to support military and governmental efforts to thwart the rise of Nazi Germany. This six-year-old Austrian boy, named Werfel, was captured in this joyful photograph after receiving a fresh pair of shoes from the Junior Red Cross in the U.S.
Taken by photographer Gerald Waller, the photo was first published in LIFE magazine in December 1946. Wefel was among many children brought to the United States after being deported from Israel, where they arrived after being freed from concentration camps.
WWII: Paris Has Been Liberated
The Nazis occupied Paris for four years during the second world war. Once the French capital was finally liberated of their control, everyone in the streets was celebrating. This American soldier, for one, was so excited that he kissed a French woman who was riding a bicycle nearby.
On August 25, 1944, the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division successfully took down German forces. They faced little resistance at that point, especially after German General Dietrich von Choltitz defied Hitler’s orders to blow up famous Parisian landmarks and held back.
WWII: Sleeping Soundly
Being in a constant state of combat ought to be undeniably exhausting. Soldiers in any war likely cherish the few instances in which they get to close their eyes for a moment without having to worry about an attack. These Russian soldiers and their adorably furry comrade are no exception.
They rest their heads in Prague in this photo from May 1945, at the end of World War II. The Prague Offensive was the last major military operation in Europe of WWII. The U.S.S.R. liberated the city of Prague, killing or capturing any remaining German troops who hadn’t fallen into the hands of the Allies.
Korean War: One More To Remember Me By
These soldiers assist one of their own to hang out of a train window so he can kiss a loved one goodbye in Los Angeles on September 6, 1950. On June 25th of that year, 75,000 North Korean People’s Army soldiers crossed the 38th parallel in what was seen as the first military action of the Cold War. Soviet-backed North Korea then went head-to-head with the pro-Western Republic of Korea.
The U.S. got involved by July, so many American soldiers were shipped off again with no certainty that they’d be able to see their loved ones in the future.
WWII: Public Displays Of Affection
This American soldier and a young French woman got incredibly cozy on the hood of a half-track military vehicle in this photo from 1944. It was first featured in LIFE magazine much to the surprise of many readers.
At the end of WWII, many U.S. military members didn’t make it back home right away. Like in Japan, fraternization rules were inflicted upon soldiers in other countries. Obviously, soldiers didn’t care. They were probably just happy that the war was finally over and they could let their guard down for once.
WWII: Caring For All Lives
This U.S. medic from the 45th Medical Battalion during World War II found time to feed some birds in the midst of caring for injured soldiers. The Medical Battalion provided medical support for the Infantry Division, conducting evaluations and care for soldiers’ casualties.
The Medical Battalion set up temporary installations throughout fields of battle, so they could be prepared to head out to anyone that needed their immediate attention. Being a first responder in the midst of warfare is one of the most grueling jobs in a war when you’re tasked with saving lives.
WWII: Coming Home From Dunkirk
This British Expeditionary Force soldier hadn’t even disembarked his train when he received quite a warm welcome from his girlfriend. She was likely relieved to see that he had made it back after the Battle of Dunkirk.
The Battle of Dunkirk was nearly disastrous, as German troops were closing in on Dunkirk in northern France. French forces had to hold off German troops while British and other Allied forces were evacuated from the beach. More than 198,000 men were able to escape between May 26 and June 4, leaving behind equipment, vehicles, and weapons.