The world after war: Aerial photos reveal the apocalyptic devastation of Europe in weeks following VE Day
VE Day may have been a time of global celebration at the end of the Second World War, but it also laid bare the scale of devastation across the war zone that was Europe.
These photographs from May 1945 show how the landscape of Germany was scarred with bomb craters and ruined buildings, with huge refugee camps set up across the countryside.
The astonishing images are the product of the Allied 'trolley missions', attempts to catalogue the damage done by British bombers over the previous six years.
Destruction: This picture of Cologne around the time of VE Day shows how most of the city was nearly flattened apart from its iconic cathedral
Raid: The main bridge in the town of Remagen, which was disabled by Allied bombing missions earlier in the Second World War
Attack: A unique photograph of Cologne taken from the side of a bomber during a 'trolley mission' at the end of the War
Suffering: One of the areas photographed by the trolley missions was the prisoner-of-war camp in Germany
Craters: The landscape around this factory came under heavy bombardment, leading to pockmarks all across it
The missions were initially restricted to Allied-controlled areas, as they began before the official end of the War, but soon extended out to Eastern Europe.
The B-17 and B-24 bombers which conducted the missions carried official photographers as well as RAF ground crew who had been instrumental in planning earlier bombing missions.
For many of the crew it was the first time they had flown in the aircraft they had been working on for years.
Target: This railyard shows how inaccurate 1940s bombing techniques were, with few missiles striking the facility itself and most landing nearby
Soldiers of the Chinese communist Eighth Route Army on the drill field at Yanan, capital of a huge area in North China which is governed by the Chinese Communist Party, seen on March 26, 1946. These soldiers are members of the "Night Tiger" battalion. The Chinese Communist Party (CPC) had waged war against the ruling Kuomintang (KMT or Chinese Nationalist Party) since 1927, vying for control of China. Japanese invasions during World War II forced the two sides to put most of their struggles aside to fight a common foreign foe -- though they did still fight each other from time to time. After World War II ended, and the Soviet Union pulled out of Manchuria, full scale civil war erupted in China in June of 1946. The KMT eventually was defeated, with millions retreating to Taiwan, as CPC leader Mao Zedong established the People's Republic of China in 1949. (AP Photo) #
This 1946 photograph shows ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), the first general purpose electronic computer - a 30-ton machine housed at the University of Pennsylvania. Developed in secret starting in 1943, ENIAC was designed to calculate artillery firing tables for the United States Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory. The completed machine was announced to the public on February 14, 1946. The inventors of ENIAC promoted the spread of the new technologies through a series of influential lectures on the construction of electronic digital computers at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946, known as the Moore School Lectures. (AP Photo) #
A test nuclear explosion codenamed "Baker", part of Operation Crossroads, at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, on July 25, 1946. The 40 kiloton atomic bomb was detonated by the U.S. at a depth of 27 meters below the ocean surface, 3.5 miles from the atoll. The purpose of the tests was to study the effects of nuclear explosions on ships. 73 ships were gathered to the spot -- both obsolete American and captured ships, including the Japanese battleship "Nagato". (NARA) #
Northrop's Flying Wing Bomber known as the XB-35 in flight in 1946. The XB-35 was an experimental heavy bomber developed for the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. The project was terminated shortly after the war, due to its technical difficulties. (AP Photo) #
Japanese ammunition being dumped into the sea on September 21, 1945. During the U.S. occupation, almost all of the Japanese war industry and existing armament was dismantled. (U.S. Army) #
These unidentified German workers in Decontamination clothing destroy toxic bombs on June 28, 1946, at the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service Depot, at St. Georgen, Germany. The destruction and disposal of 65,000 dead weight tons of German toxics, including mustard gas, was accomplished in one of two ways: Burning or dumping the empty shells and bombs into the North Sea. (AP Photo)#
U.S. military authorities prepare to hang Dr. Klaus Karl Schilling, 74, at Landsberg, Germany, on May 28, 1946. In a Dachau war crimes trial he was convicted of using 1,200 concentration camp prisoners for malaria experimentation. Thirty died directly from the inoculations and 300 to 400 died later from complications of the disease. His experiments, all with unwilling subjects, began in 1942. (AP Photo/Robert Clover) #
The new cemetery at Belsen, Germany on March 28, 1946, where 13,000 people who died after Belsen Concentration Camp was liberated are buried. (AP Photo) #
Jewish survivors of the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp, some still in their camp clothing, stand on the deck of the refugee immigration ship Mataroa, on July 15, 1945 at Haifa port, during the British Mandate of Palestine, in what would later become the State of Israel. During World War II, millions of Jews were fleeing Germany and its occupied territories, many attempting to enter the British Mandate of Palestine, despite tight restrictions on Jewish immigration established by the British in 1939. Many of these would-be immigrants were caught and rounded up into detention camps. In 1947, Britain announced plans to withdraw from the territory, and the United Nations approved the Partition Plan for Palestine, establishing a Jewish and a Palestinian state in the country. On May 14, 1948, Israel declared independence and was immediately attacked by neighboring Arab states, beginning the Arab-Israeli conflict which continues to this day. (Zoltan Kluger/GPO via Getty Images) #
Some of Poland's thousands of war orphans at the Catholic Orphanage in Lublin, on September 11, 1946, where they are being cared for by the Polish Red Cross. Most of the clothing, as well as vitamins and medicines, are provided by the American Red Cross. (AP Photo) #
The Empress of Japan visits a Catholic Orphanage staffed by Japanese Nuns for children who have lost their parents in the war and air raids over Tokyo. The Empress inspected the grounds and paid a visit to the chapel. Children wave Japanese flags to greet the Empress during her visit in Fujisawa in Tokyo, on April 13, 1946. (AP Photo) #
New buildings (right) rise out of the ruins of Hiroshima, Japan, on March 11, 1946. These single story homes built along a hard-surfaced highway are part of the program by the Japanese government to rebuild devastated sections of the country. At left background are damaged buildings whose masonry withstood the effects of the first atomic bomb ever detonated as a weapon. (AP Photo/Charles P. Gorry) #
Clocks are being readied for export to Allied countries, shown as collateral for imported goods needed by Japan. Thirty-four Japanese factories produced 123,000 clocks during April of 1946. Photo taken on June 25, 1946. (AP Photo/Charles Gorry) #
U.S. General George S. Patton acknowledges the cheers of thousands during a parade through downtown Los Angeles, California, on June 9, 1945. Shortly thereafter, Patton returned to Germany and controversy, as he advocated the employment of ex-Nazis in administrative positions in Bavaria; he was relieved of command of the 3rd Army and died of injuries from a traffic accident in December, after his return home. Joe Rosenthal's famous Iwo Jima flag-raising photograph is visible on the war bonds billboard. (AP Photo) #
This 1945 photo shows German women clearing up the debris on Berlin's Tauentzienstrasse, with the ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Church in the background. The absence of able bodied men meant that the responsibility for clearing the wreckage fell mainly to civilian women, which were called "Truemmerfrauen," or rubble ladies. The signs on the left mark the border between the British-occupied sector and the U.S. sector of the city. (AP Photo) #
The scene in Berlin's Republic Square, before the ruined Reichstag Building, on September 9, 1948, as Anti-Communists, estimated at a quarter of a million, scream their opposition to Communism. At the time, the Soviet Union was enforcing the Berlin Blockade, blocking Allied access to the parts of Berlin under Allied control. In response, Allies began the Berlin Airlift until the Soviets lifted the blockade in 1949, and East Germany and West Germany were established. When the meeting pictured here broke up, a series of incidents between Anti-Red Germans and Soviet troops brought tension to a fever pitch as shootings took place, resulting in the deaths of two Germans. (AP-Photo) #
In March of 1974, some 29 years after the official end of World War II, Hiroo Onoda, a former Japanese Army intelligence officer, walks out of the jungle of Lubang Island in the Philippines, where he was finally relieved of duty. He handed over his sword (hanging from his hip in photo), his rifle, ammunition and several hand grenades. Onoda had been sent to Lubang Island in December of 1944 to join an existing group of soldiers and hamper any enemy attacks. Allied forces overtook the island just a few months later, capturing or killing all but Onoda and three other Japanese soldiers. The four ran into the hills and began a decades-long insurgency extending well past the end of the war. Several times they found or were handed leaflets notifying them that the war had ended, but they refused to believe it. In 1950, one of the soldiers turned himself in to Philippine authorities. By 1972, Onoda's two other compatriots were dead, killed during guerrilla activities, leaving Onoda alone. In 1974, Onoda met a Japanese college dropout, Norio Suzuki, who was traveling the world, and through their friendship, Onoda's former commanding officer was located and flew to Lubang Island to formally relieve Onoda of duty, and bring him home to Japan. Over the years, the small group had killed some 30 Filipinos in various attacks, but Onoda ended up going free, after he received a pardon from President Ferdinand Marcos. (AP Photo) #
Russians and their neighbors celebrated the end of World War II (or the Great Patriotic War, as it is known in Russia). Twenty thousand members of Russia's military marched through Moscow's Red Square alongside over 100 pieces of mobile military hardware, while veterans dressed in their medal-festooned uniforms gathered in the streets. The parade was the centerpiece of Russia's most solemn secular holiday, commemorating the Soviet Union's enormous sacrifices in the war -- an estimated 25 million dead -- while asserting the strength of Russia's modern military. Here is a look at this year's commemorations across several countries.
Fireworks explode above the Poklonnaya Gora War Memorial Park during celebrations for Victory Day in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2011. Russia is celebrating the 66th anniversary of the World War Two victory over Nazi Germany. (Reuters/Nikolay Korchekov)
Moscow commemorates the 66th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany with fireworks near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze) #
A close column of Russian Naval Infantry march wearing their distinctive uniform during a rehearsal of the Victory Day Parade in Alabino, outside Moscow, on April 20, 2011. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images) #
Russian military vehicles make their way down a road during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade which will take place at Moscow's Red Square on May 9 in central Moscow, Russia, late Tuesday, May 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #
A boy dressed in a Soviet-era uniform looks up at the thousands of names on the memorial as he pays tribute at the Remembrance Wall at a War museum in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, May 9, 2011. Victory Day, marking Nazi Germany's defeat, is celebrated in Ukraine on May 9. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #
War veteran Fyodor Bortsov, 85, poses for a picture as he takes part in the celebrations for the Victory Day in Moscow May 9, 2011. (Reuters/Denis Sinyakov) #
Knostantin Pronin, 86, World War II veteran from Belarus sits on a bench as he waits in a hope to find other men from his unit at Gorky park during Victory Day in Moscow, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr) #
Russian World War II veteran Victor Shepelyov, 84, dances as he celebrates Victory Day of the 66th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany at Gorky park in Moscow, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) #
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lays wreath at the Eternal Flame while visiting the Battle of Stalingrad memorial, ahead of May 9 Victory Day, in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, about 900 kilometers (550 miles) southeast of Moscow, Russia, on Friday, May 6, 2011. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky) #
A girl is seen at the World War II memorial as she takes part in the celebrations for the Victory Day in Kiev May 9, 2011. (Reuters/Konstantin Chernichkin) #
A young couple goes down a a hill in front of the some 100-meter Motherland monument, an open-air World War II museum, in Kiev during Victory Day celebrating on May 9, 2011. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #
A member of an excavation team sorts the recently-discovered remains of Soviet soldiers killed during World War II and places them in a coffin in the village of Sinyavino, 50 km (31 miles) east of St.Petersburg, Russia, on May 5, 2011. The remains of over 500 soldiers killed in heavy battles during World War II near Leningrad, now named St. Petersburg, in 1942-1944, were being buried at a ceremony in Sinyavino ahead of Victory Day. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky) #
Members of one of the search teams which looked for the remains of Soviet soldiers killed while fighting against Nazi Germany's forces, bury coffins during a funeral ceremony at a cemetery at Myasnoy Bor village, some 40 km from Velikiy Novgorod on May 7, 2011. The remains of 337 soldiers killed during World War II were buried here in a ceremony on the eve of the Victory Day. (Mikhail Mordasov/AFP/Getty Images) #
Russian soldiers stand on guard near the empty tribunes during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade which will take place at Moscow's Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, late Tuesday, May 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #
Kyrgyz brides and grooms lay flowers at the Eternal Flame, ahead of the Victory Day, before a mass wedding ceremony in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Saturday, May 7, 2011. Twenty young couples from impoverished families whose weddings were paid for by the government took part in a mass wedding held for the first time in the Kyrgyz capital. (AP Photo/Maxim Shubovich) #
Russian soldiers march during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade late Tuesday, May 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev addresses during the Victory Day military parade at the Red Square in Moscow. Russia, on Monday, May 9, 2011. St. Basil Cathedral is seen at the background. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev) #
Russian military tanks move along Red Square during a military parade on Victory Day in Moscow, on May 9, 2011. (Reuters/Alexander Natruskin) #
Moldovan soldiers march in front of the Victory Memorial in Chisinau, Moldova, on Victory Day, Monday May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/John McConnico) #
Russian police cadets march during the nation's Victory Day military parade on Dvortsovaya Square in St. Petersburg, on May 9, 2011. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images) #
Russian military vehicles drive through the Red Square during the Victory Day Parade on Monday, May 9, 2011, with a display depicting the Order of the Victory in the background. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) #
Russian marines march along Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev) #
Russian soldiers march through Red Square after the nation's Victory Day military parade in Moscow, on May 9, 2011. (Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images) #
Russian Police academy cadets march during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade at Dvortsovaya Square in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky) #
A Russian WWII veteran walks through Red Square after the nation's Victory Day military parade in Moscow, on May 9, 2011. (Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images) #
People arrange flowers during Victory Day celebrations in Riga, Latvia, on Victory Day, May 9, 2011. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins) #
Nationalist and pro-Russian groups clash during ceremonies celebrating victory over Nazi Germany in Lviv, Ukraine, on Monday, May 9, 2011. Some 50 members of a nationalist organization in the western city of Lviv attacked a small group of pro-Russian activists who were headed to a Soviet-era war memorial. (AP Photo/Pavlo Palamarchuk) #
An unidentified man, 2nd right, points a weapon towards the photographer as nationalist and pro-Russian groups clash while celebrating Victory Day in Lviv, Ukraine, on Monday, May 9, 2011. Members of a nationalist organization in the western city of Lviv attacked a small group of pro-Russian activists who were headed to a Soviet-era war memorial, prompting one of the activists to fire at the attackers with a pneumatic gun. The nationalists then chased down the activists and started beating them until someone yelled that the police were coming, prompting them to flee. The nationalist group, Svoboda, said on its Web site that one of its members was wounded in the leg in the incident. (AP Photo/Pavlo Palamarchuk) #
Supporters of nationalist parties throw a lit flare into ranks of riot police during a protest in Lviv, Ukraine, during Victory Day on May 9, 2011. (Yurko Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images) #
World War II veteran and mortar-man Leonard Abrarov, 85, seen during the Victory Day celebrations in downtown Moscow, Russia, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)#
A Russian WWII veteran, frontier guards Sergeant (center), follows naval cadets at a WWII memorial in Moscow, on May 6, 2011. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Russian war veteran dances during Victory Day celebrations in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, on May 9, 2011. (Reuters/Yuri Maltsev) #
Russian WWII veterans stand side-by-side in Red Square after the Victory Day Parade, in Moscow, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) #
Russian WWII veteran Evgeny Ermolayev, 84, dances with a young girl wearing a Red army uniform celebrating Victory Day, the 66th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany at Gorky park in Moscow, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr) #
WWII veteran Lyudmila Anosova, 85, a so-called daughter of the regiment, reacts as she tells war stories during the Victory Day celebrations in downtown Moscow, Russia, Monday, on May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #
Strategic: The railroad bridge running across the centre of Cologne collapsed into the river thanks to Allied bombing attacks
Flattened: The RAF's bombing raids in German were intended to flatten the country's infrastructure and demoralise its people
Evocative: While most of Europe was happily celebrating VE Day, areas which were bombed out were still lamenting the destruction
Rural: The scene on the outskirts of Bremen - a hint at the economic damage which would require years of rebuilding in Germany
Excitement: The missions were designed as a way for RAF ground crew to see the effects of their efforts throughout the War
The missions were intended to allow both pilots and ground crew to survey the work they had done and take a close look at the effect of the bombing raids which had forced Germany into submission by 1945.
Thankfully for later generations, the photographers on board took their duties seriously and captured dozens of images of German cities pocked with craters.
The human cost of warfare is also shown by vistas of prisoner-of-war camps made up of hundreds of tents housing those who were captured while fighting.
Wasteland: Parts of Germany were left almost uninhabitable in the wake of frequent RAF raids
Shells: Whole neighbourhoods were devastated and abandoned in the aftermath of the fighting
Trouble: In some urban areas the RAF planes had stones thrown at them by angry German youths
City: Dortmund shown after the end of the Second World War on another 'trolley mission' launched by Allied troops
Damage: Part of the city of Cologne including a public park which became a bomb site and a centuries-old Prussian fort, top right
Camp: Another POW area, where conditions in the damp weather could get so bad that many inmates who had survived the fighting died there instead
In total, more than 30,000 people were invited on trolley missions to survey post-War Germany.
While most of the expeditions went off without a hitch, some airmen reported their planes being pelted by stones by German children, while others were disciplined for 'buzzing' people on the ground.
One landmark which especially stuck in the mind of the personnel who carried out the mission was Cologne Cathedral, which stood out in the middle of a ruined landscape.
Striking: Many of the Allied troops were particularly moved by the sight of Cologne Cathedral, which was mostly unharmed
Surveillance: A photograph of post-War Hamburg taken from an RAF plane surveying the damage
Neutral: This image shows Belgium, which was officially out of the firing line but became caught up in the effects of the Second World War
Industrial: Factories in the Ruhr Valley, which were targeted because of their importance to the German war effort
Defence: This picture shows the Westwall, a line of anti-tank defences snaking across the border between Germany and France