TIME remembrance

Read TIME’s 1945 Report on the Horrors of Dachau

Hitler TIME cover
The May 7, 1945, cover of TIME Cover Credit: BORIS ARTZYBASHEFF

Jan. 27 is the U.N.-designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holocaust Memorial Day is observed in many nations on the day of the liberation of Auschwitz — 70 years ago, on Jan. 27, 1945 — but it is designed to also encourage remembrance of those killed by Nazis elsewhere. (Some nations observe days of remembrance on other dates.)

When the May 7, 1945, issue of TIME was published, those memories were still fresh. The magazine’s correspondent Sidney Olson had just accompanied the U.S. Army during the liberation of Dachau, and the report he filed would have shocked even readers who were aware of the Nazis’ crimes.

This is what he wrote:

Beside the highway into Dachau there runs a spur line off the Munich railroad. Here a soldier stopped us and said: “I think you better take a look at these box-cars.” The cars were filled with dead men. Most of them were naked. On their bony, emaciated backs and rumps were whip marks. Most of the cars were open-top cars like American coal cars. I walked along these cars and counted 39 of them which were filled with these dead. The smell was very heavy. I cannot estimate with any reasonable accuracy the number of dead we saw here, but I counted bodies in two cars and there were 53 in one and 64 in another.

The main entry road runs past several largish buildings. These had been cleared; and now we began to meet the liberated. Several hundred Russians, French, Yugoslavs, Italians and Poles were here, frantically, hysterically happy. They began to kiss us, and there is nothing you can do when a lot of hysterical, unshaven, lice-bitten, half-drunk, typhus-infected men want to kiss you. Nothing at all. You cannot hit them, and besides, they all kiss you at the same time. It is no good trying to explain that you are only a correspondent. A half-dozen of them were especially happy and it turned out they were very proud: they had killed two German soldiers themselves.

…We went on, and the great size of the establishment of Dachau began to open before us. Buildings and barracks spread on and on. Outside one building, half covered by a brown tarpaulin, was a stack about five feet high and about 20 feet wide of naked dead bodies, all of them emaciated. We went on around this building and came to the central crematory. The rooms here, in order, were: 1) the office where the living and the dead were passed through and where all their clothing was stripped from them; 2) the Brausebad (shower) room, where the victims were gassed; and 3) the crematory. In the crematory were two large furnaces. Before the two furnaces were hooks and pulleys on rafters above them. Here, according to a number of Frenchmen, the SS men often hanged prisoners by the necks or by the thumbs or whatever their fancy dictated. From here the victims could watch while being whipped and tortured as their comrades were slid into the furnace.

Each of these pitiful, happy, starved, hysterical men wanted to tell us his home country, his home city, and ask us news and beg for cigarets. The eyes of these men defy my powers of description. They are the eyes of men who have lived in a super-hell of horrors for many years, and are now driven half-crazy by the liberation they have prayed so hopelessly for.

Read the full story here in the TIME Vault: Dachau

TIME movies

Forgotten Alfred Hitchcock Holocaust Documentary Gets New Life

See an exclusive clip from HBO's new film about a 1945 concentration-camp documentary

It was 70 years ago next week, on Jan. 27, 1945, that the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz was liberated. That day is now marked as Holocaust Memorial Day, with observations dedicated to preserving the memory of what happened there, and elsewhere, during World War II.

But one way of preserving that memory was, for decades, mostly lost.

When Auschwitz and several other camps, like Bergen-Belsen, were liberated, the British army sent along a film unit. Under the aegis of Sidney Bernstein, and with the help of supervising director Alfred Hitchcock, the grisly and shocking footage was meant for a documentary called German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. However, as the war came to a close, the governments that had once supported exposing German crimes had a new interest in reconciliation. So plans for the film were scrapped, and most of the footage was archived at Britain’s Imperial War Museum until the 1980s.

A new documentary, Night Will Fall, tells the story of how the footage came to be, and what happened to it. In the exclusive clip above, some of that footage is shown and Branko Lustig — an award-winning film producer who was in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen as a child — describes what it was like to be there. Though the clip shows mostly recovering patients after the liberation, Night Will Fall also includes terrifying and uncensored video from the camps, images that, as is appropriate for Holocaust Memorial Day, no viewer is likely to be able to forget.

The new HBO documentary film, Night Will Fall, will debut Jan. 26 on HBO, with an encore on HBO2 the following day.

TIME People

How ‘Tokyo Rose’ Was Convicted of Treason—And Then Pardoned

Tokyo Rose a Nationalist Chinese radio b
Tokyo Rose, a Nationalist Chinese radio broadcaster, at work John Dominis—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

Jan. 19, 1977: President Ford pardons Iva Toguri d’Aquino, the Japanese-American woman known as Tokyo Rose

Was Tokyo Rose a charming radio host or a vicious propagandist who committed treason from the DJ booth? Historians still haven’t settled the matter. She was convicted in 1949 but received an official pardon on this day, Jan. 19, in 1977, when the case for treason appeared less clear-cut than it had in the bitter years after World War II.

Iva Toguri d’Aquino was born in the U.S. to Japanese parents and, by all early accounts, she grew up as a devoted patriot. She earned a degree in zoology from UCLA in 1940 and had begun doing graduate work there when her life took a fateful turn. She visited Japan — either to visit a sick aunt or to study medicine, depending on whether you believed her account or the government’s — and became stuck there when war broke out.

The trouble began when she took a job as a wartime DJ for Radio Tokyo, playing popular, if sappy, American music, punctuated by banter that was either playfully entertaining or a deliberate attempt to undermine the morale of U.S. troops — again, depending on whose version you believe. Although she broadcast by the name of “Orphan Ann,” d’Aquino was more popularly known as “Tokyo Rose.”

The U.S. Army’s own analysis of her program found that it had never hurt morale — if anything, according to the FBI, it might have boosted soldiers’ spirits. But when the war ended and d’Aquino sought permission to return to the U.S., the public outcry was so strong, and so many soldiers reported memories of damning statements she’d made, that she was tried for treason and found guilty on one count, for “[speaking] into a microphone concerning the loss of ships,” per the FBI. She served just over six years of a 10-year sentence.

The key problem with her treason case is that the nickname “Tokyo Rose” may in fact have signified someone or something other than d’Aquino herself, according to Ann Elizabeth Pfau, the author of Miss Yourlovin: GIs, Gender, and Domesticity During World War II. It may have been the conflation of multiple English-speaking women on Japanese radio, some of whom were more subversive than others, or, Pfau asserts, it may have been entirely the invention of American servicemen who channeled their own fears and anger into the disembodied voice on the radio. Pfau writes:

Like all legends, Tokyo Rose has basis in historical fact. Toguri’s “Orphan Ann” segments were sandwiched between propaganda-tinged news, skits, and commentary. However, the bare facts of Japanese broadcasts do not account for the radio personality so many servicemen talked about, wrote about, and still remember. Rather, this legend was born of emotions, like anger, alienation, and anxiety — feelings about the war, the military, and American civilians that soldiers were otherwise unable or unwilling to acknowledge.

While one veteran testified that d’Aquino told American forces in Saipan that the island was heavily mined and they would be “blown sky high” unless they evacuated, the worst threat in the extant recordings and transcripts of her broadcasts was — per Pfau — that she would “ ‘creep up and annihilate them with [her] nail file’ while she ‘lull[ed] their senses’ with a Victor Herbert waltz, ‘Kiss Me Again.’ ”

Read a 1976 account of the petition for her pardon, here in TIME’s archives: By Any Other Name

Read a 1944 report on Tokyo Rose’s popularity among soldiers, here in TIME’s archives: By Any Other Name

TIME Japan

Japan’s PM Abe to Express Remorse on 70th Anniversary of WWII Surrender

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, and his Cabinet members visit the Ise shrine in Ise, in central Japan, on Jan. 5, 2015 Jiji Press—AFP/Getty

The 60-year-old vowed to emphasize Japan's efforts toward future world peace

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will express remorse for his country’s role in World War II in a statement on the 70th anniversary of his nation’s surrender in August.

“I would like to write of Japan’s remorse over the war, its postwar history as a pacifist nation and how it will contribute to the Asia-Pacific region and the world,” Abe said at a press conference on Monday, reports Kyodo news agency.

Japan’s relations with South Korea and China have long been deeply impacted by the country’s attitude toward its wartime actions. The East Asian neighbors will pay particularly close attention to whether Abe will uphold his predecessor Tomiichi Murayama’s 1995 apology for the “tremendous damage and suffering” Japan caused to people across Asia during the Pacific war.

Asked about Murayama’s statement, Abe said that he “has and will uphold statements issued by past administrations.”


TIME photography

Celebrating 80 Years of Associated Press’ Wirephoto

Exactly 80 years ago today, on Jan. 1, 1935, the Associated Press sent its very first photograph over the organization’s brand new Wirephoto service: an aerial photo of a plane crash in upstate New York. The photo was delivered across the country to 47 newspapers in 25 states.

In an article published that day in The Bulletin newspaper, AP president Frank B. Noyes named each of the papers that had opted into the service saying, “These are the pioneers of wirephoto, which outstrips other messengers in conveying the news in pictures just as, a century ago, the telegraph came to outstrip the carrier pigeon and the pony express, and, a little more than a generation ago, the typewriter relegated the stylus to oblivion.”

Photos up to that point were largely delivered by mail, train or airplane, taking up to 85 hours in transit. AP Wirephoto could transmit a photo in minutes.

The first AP Wirephoto with original caption affixed: The wreckage of a small plane lies in a wooded area near Morehousville, N.Y., on Dec. 31, 1934. AP

AT&T had made a previous attempt at their own photo wire service. In 1926, the telephone company had succeeded in setting up eight sending and receiving centers across the nation, which AP and other outlets had put to use. It was, however, a hugely expensive endeavor for the company and its users; after spending over $3m dollars with comparatively small returns, the service was shut down in 1933.

Before AT&T closed down its service, AP General Manager Kent Cooper had made it his mission to develop such a service in house. “KC was the father of the AP Newsphoto Service,” former AP executive photo editor Al Resch was quoted as saying in the company magazine The AP World in 1969. “He was deeply dedicated to the proposition that the day’s news should be just as thoroughly and competently covered in pictures as in words.”

Cooper prevailed, despite hefty internal opposition (the service posed a threat to Hearst and Scripps-Howard, AP member organizations that owned competing photo services) and under the spectre of the Great Depression. The story is well documented in AP’s annual report for 1934: “After discussion it was voted that Mr. Howard be informed that the Board and Executive Committee would be glad to confer with representatives of the Scripps-Howard and Hearst member newspapers, on the basis that the Board was always willing to consider any problem affecting its members and in which there was any mutuality of interest.”

Photographer Bill Allen uses the trunk of his car as a darkroom to develop film coverage of a 1938 Virginia mine explosion. Associated Press Corporate Archives

The system was comprised of three main elements: transmitters, receivers, and 10,000 miles of leased telephone lines – the wires. The transmitters required first a print – AP photographers would either send in their film to be developed and printed at an AP darkroom, or develop and print it themselves using portable darkrooms. At that time, they worked mainly with Speed Graphic cameras and 4×5 film.

Once the print was made and ready to be sent, it would be wrapped around a cylinder on the transmitter. At the push of a button, the cylinder, which could hold up to 11 x 17-inch prints, would spin at one hundred revolutions per minute underneath an optical scanner. The optical scanner would shine a very thin beam of light onto the spinning print, which would then reflect light back into a photoelectric cell, which, in turn, would translate the reflections of light and dark tones into signals that would be carried across the wires.

The receiver on the other end had a similar spinning cylinder with a negative on it. As the transmission came in, the signals would be converted back into light, which was then recorded onto the negative, reproducing the original image.

AP stationed a network monitor in their New York bureau to control the sending and receiving of images. It was his job to listen to daily offerings from the member papers who would call in descriptions of the best images each outlet had to send, and then to decide which of those photos would be transmitted to which member papers at what time. Each transmission could take from 10 to 17 minutes depending on the size of the print, so the network monitor’s challenge was to decide, within the time constraints of a given day, which photos the world would see. See a dramatization of this process in the video below.

A man carries AP’s portable WirePhoto transmitter. AP

Over the next 20 years, AP Wirephoto technology would be continually streamlined as the network grew. By 1936, AP technicians had made available portable transmitters that came in two 40-pound suitcases. They were bulky and required trained technicians to run them. By the end of 1937, the stationary transmitters and receivers at the AP bureaus and newspapers were replaced with ones that were smaller, lighter, and could be plugged into a wall socket instead of taking power from a wet cell battery. By 1939, the portable transmitters were made more compact and AP had 35 units ready for use. Color transmissions, which took three times as long as black and white due to color separation, became available that same year.

Picture quality on the receiving end was continually improved and fine tuned. More newspapers signed on for the service, the network continued to enlarge. As America entered WWII, the demand for pictures – and for picture delivery – forced advances in Radiophoto transmissions. Wirephoto had also transmitted maps and charts from its inception, but these became especially valuable during war time.

Postwar, the transmitters and receivers became yet again smaller, picture quality and transmission of tonality improved, and AP developed receivers that were capable of producing positives as well as negatives, again cutting down time-to-market. By 1951, over 20,000 pictures were transmitted via Wirephoto annually.

By 1963, North America and Europe were connected via a leased circuit. In the same time period, as AP began its historic coverage of the Vietnam war, its photographers were making the transition from shooting 4×5 and 120mm film to 35mm film.

Between the 1960s and the 90s there were three major leaps in technology, ultimately leading to digital transmission. The first big jump was the establishment of the Electronic Darkroom in 1978 which digitized the signals coming through on the wires. It featured computers that could crop, tone, and sharpen images as they came through. It was in a way an early, crude version of Photoshop. Operators could receive an image, edit it, and send it back out to the network without the added delay of developing a negative or making prints.

Promotional brochure announcing the AP Leafax 35, a picture transmitter that requires only a negative to transmit photographic images. 1988
Promotional brochure announcing the AP Leafax 35, a picture transmitter that requires only a negative to transmit photographic images, from 1988. Associated Press Corporate Archives

Negative scanning was the next push forward in the mid-80s with AP’s procurement of the Leafax, a compact and portable picture transmitter held in a briefcase-sized case. AP photographers could take color or black-and-white negatives, scan them into the Leafax, tone, sharpen, crop and add captions, then send them through to the network. With the exception of developing film, the Leafax eliminated darkroom work and printmaking for photographers and again cut the amount of time it took for the picture to travel from the camera to the news consumer.

President George H. W. Bush raises his hand as he takes the oath of office as President of the United States outside the Capitol on Jan. 20, 1989, Washington, D.C. Ron Edmonds—AP

“That was the first step,” Hal Buell, AP’s former head of photography, tells TIME. “The next thing was to set up a digital network which we called Photostream.” Photostream was announced in 1989, and offered all digital transmission via satellite. It reduced transmission time from 10 minutes to 60 seconds, and offered a method of delivering higher quality color pictures. AP supplied every U.S. newspaper with a Leafdesk to receive the new digital transmissions.

“We had to send a representative into every newspaper in the U.S. that took photos and show them how the digital system worked with incoming wire pictures,” says Buell. “We put these desks in every newspaper, and that not only changed the way AP handled pictures, but it changed the way newspapers handled pictures.”

AP’s first digital news photo was made and transmitted earlier in 1989 at George H.W. Bush’s inauguration by Ron Edmonds using a Nikon QV-1000c. The advent of ever more powerful computers and laptops, portable satellites, improvements in image compression, and the lightning fast evolution of digital cameras, now with possibility of in-camera transmission and video, has continued to accelerate and increase AP’s delivery of images from the late 1990s to the present. Whereas in 1951 the service transmitted 22,000 images annually, AP now transmits over 3,000 images daily.

In that early 1935 Bulletin article, Noyes touched on something that was, and continues to be, essential to the news: speed, the need for which has driven the evolution of communication technology to this day. This may seem self-evident; however, as these technologies have evolved, they directly affect how news is created and how it is digested, and thus, in very profound, sometimes imperceptible ways, how we conceive of the world around us.

The launch of AP’s Photowire service initiated just that sort of weighty paradigm shift. “From Jan. 1, 1935 on, you could say that as far as the news goes, the visual had become newsworthy and capable of carrying the news, of being news,” Valerie Komor, Director of AP’s Corporate Archives, tells TIME. “Photography could be news.”

Photography is now indeed news, as is, increasingly, video. If we think of the way in which we – as news consumers – receive and read news images today, the experience feels instantaneous. Our understanding of the world is a constant, and rapid distillation of an ever increasing number of images spread over innumerable platforms. We are offered ever more perspectives, and a wealth of information. The responsibility now often falls on the reader to pace their intake of information.

“In the same way that a story can be read at the viewer’s leisure, a photograph can be contemplated at the viewer’s leisure,” says Santiago Lyon, the Vice President and Director of Photography at AP. “You are able to consider it and you’re able to have an opinion about it. And the discerning viewer won’t just look at a photograph, they’ll read a photograph, and they’ll look at all of the details in the picture and they’ll notice things and they’ll spend some time looking at a picture.”

TIME conflict

The Year Britain Celebrated ‘Blitzmas’

Gas Mask Kiss
A couple kissing under the mistletoe, wearing gas masks, in 1940 Fox Photos / Getty Images

How TIME reported on Britain's wartime Christmas in 1940

Year after year, preparing for Christmas is largely the same: people send cards, attend holiday events and sort out a big, Christmas Day meal.

Surprisingly, the same was true for Britons 74 years ago, when the country was under heavy fire from German bombs. By December 1940, the U.K. was in the middle of the Blitz, as a series of devastating air raids from German forces destroyed huge sections of British cities, including London, Birmingham and Bristol, and claimed tens of thousands of lives.

But although the country was under heavy fire, people across Britain did their best to carry on regardless as far as Christmas was concerned — in a wartime festive season that came to be known as “Blitzmas.”

TIME reported on Dec. 30, 1940, that despite the bombs, “life in the big London air-raid shelters, where over 1,000,000 people regularly spend the night, had become so standardized that many shelter Christmas parties were elaborate communal affairs with mass harmony singing, skits and dancing.”

Other British holiday traditions were observed, although often with an understandable twist. King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth still sent out their annual Christmas card, though it included a photograph of them “standing in front of the bombed portion of Buckingham Palace,” TIME reported.

The rest of the royal family’s celebration was largely routine, as they were known to keep their holiday simple. Yet the royals were forced to spend the holiday at a location “kept rigidly secret lest Nazi airmen bomb George VI while the King was reading his scheduled Christmas broadcast.”

Not that the war didn’t interfere with some of the cherished traditions of the British Christmas. Streetside caroling was canceled in London due to the bombings and black-outs, while many families had to make do with “cheap Empire beef or mutton” for Christmas dinner, rather than the traditional, pricey goose and turkey. And for the first time in Britain, shop and heavy industry workers were sent to work to keep up the war effort on Dec. 26 — Boxing Day, as it’s known in the U.K. — even though the day has been a holiday in the country since 1871.

But Britons were determined to keep Blitzmas as festive as possible, even in the face of danger. London theaters carried on with the tradition of staging family-friendly musical theater productions, known as “Christmas Pantomimes.” As TIME noted in 1940, “This year, more than ever, adult Britons went with their moppets to these children’s entertainments, seemed to evoke Christmas memories of better, bygone times.”

Read TIME’s 1940 story: Blitzmas

TIME conflict

How TIME Covered the ‘Date Which Will Live in Infamy’

Franklin D. Roosevelt
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (wearing black armband) signing declaration of war as others look on, following Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor Thomas D. McAvoy—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

It was on Dec. 8, 1941, that the U.S. declared war on Japan

President Franklin Roosevelt’s words to Congress at what would be the start of the U.S.’s entry into World War II turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: “”Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy…”

On that date, the U.S. had been attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor — and on this date, Dec. 8, the U.S. declared war. The news came, as TIME noted in the next issue of the magazine, “after 22 years and 25 days of peace.”

Here’s what TIME had to say about FDR’s speech:

When he said: “Always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us,” the room roared with a cry of vengeance. “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion,” continued the President, “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” At this, the biggest cheers of the day. “We will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us. . . . We will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God. I ask that the Congress declare . . . a state of war. . . .” The President left the House. Members began roaring impatiently: “Vote! Vote! Vote!” The Speaker gaveled for order. The Senate left.

The President had arrived at 12:12 p.m. At 1 p.m. exactly the Senate passed the declaration of war, 82-to-0. (There were 13 absentees, Washington-bound by train and plane, and one vacancy.)

The House, listening with marked impatience to get-right speeches by the G.O.P.’s Leader Joe Martin and Ham Fish, received with a whoop the identical Senate bill, adopted it as a substitute. The vote: 388-to-1.

Read the full article here, in the TIME Vault: National Ordeal

TIME conflict

This Vintage Map Shows What Happened After Pearl Harbor

A look at the first issue of TIME published after the World War II attack


On a desktop, roll over to zoom. On mobile, click.

The Dec. 15, 1941, issue of TIME must have gone to press just a day or two after the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, and the task facing those who had to write about the event was, in some ways, the same task facing the rest of the nation: figuring out how to understand what had happened. “In every part of the U.S. the terse, inadequate words gave outward and visible signs of the unfinished emotions within,” as TIME put it.

The issue goes on to describe President Franklin Roosevelt’s speech of Dec. 8, 1941, about that “date which will live in infamy,” and the details of what had happened in Hawaii. But it also looks at what happened in the days after the attack. The map above will remind modern readers that while Pearl Harbor was the target we remember, it was not alone. Locations throughout the South Pacific were involved in the events of early December 1941 — and, as TIME’s editors couldn’t have yet known, those of the weeks and months and years to follow.

Read the full issue here, in the TIME Vault: Dec. 15, 1941

Photos from LIFE: After Pearl Harbor

TIME human behavior

New Google Doodle Honors Renowned Psychoanalyst Anna Freud

Anna Freud Ergy Landau/Photo Researchers—Getty Images/Photo Researchers

Freud, the youngest child of "father of psychoanalysis" Sigmund Freud, pioneered the field of child psychology

Google’s latest Doodle celebrates the 119th anniversary of the birth of Anna Freud, whom TIME once referred to as “that pioneering lady of psychoanalysis.”

She was the youngest child of Sigmund Freud, the modern day architect of psychoanalysis, and the only one of his six children to follow in his footsteps.

Born in Vienna in 1895, Freud’s tryst with psychology began at the early age of 13, when she would take part in her father’s weekly discussions on psychoanalytic ideas.

She went on to become one of the founders of the field of child psychoanalysis, having been drawn to it when she taught at an elementary school in the early 1900s.

The Freud family fled Austria during the Nazi occupation in 1938 out of fear of persecution, and emigrated to London where Anna established the Hampstead War Nurseries for children rendered homeless during World War II. She applied her training and knowledge to the children at the institution, which was renamed the Hampstead Child Therapy Course and Clinic after being granted charity status in 1952.

Following her death in 1982, it was renamed the Anna Freud Centre and continues to be one of the major global institutions for the mental health of young children.

TIME photography

The Best of LIFE: 37 Years in Pictures

A selection of photos from LIFE magazine's storied archives: a photo a year from four decades of unparalleled excellence

Over several decades spanning the heart of the 20th century, one American magazine ― calling itself, plainly and boldly, LIFE ― published many of the most memorable photographs ever made. Driven by the certainty that the art of photojournalism could tell stories and move people in ways that traditional reporting simply could not, LIFE pursued a grand vision, articulated by the magazine’s co-founder, Henry Luce, that not only acknowledged the primacy of the picture, but enshrined it.

“To see life,” Luce wrote in a now-famous 1936 mission statement, delineating both his new venture’s workmanlike method and its lofty aims. “To see the world; to eyewitness great events . . . to see and be amazed.”

The roster of talent associated with Luce’s audacious publishing gamble is, in a word, staggering: W. Eugene Smith, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Carl Mydans, Andreas Feininger, John Loengard, Gordon Parks, John Dominis, Hansel Mieth, Grey Villet, David Douglas Duncan, Bill Ray, Paul Schutzer, Ralph Morse, Michael Rougier, Eliot Elisofon, Nina Leen, Larry Burrows, Gjon Mili and dozens of other groundbreaking photojournalists not only shot for LIFE, but were on staff at the magazine.

“In the course of a week,” Luce noted in 1936, “the U.S. citizen sees many pictures. He may see travel pictures in travel magazines, art pictures in art digests, cinema pictures in cinemagazines, scientific pictures in scientific journals. But nowhere can he see the cream of all the world’s pictures brought together for him to enjoy and study in one sitting.”

The cream of all the world’s pictures. A nervy assertion ― but an assertion repeatedly affirmed by LIFE’s tireless, innovative photographers and the work they produced, issue by issue, week after week, year upon year. World war and peaceful revolutions; Hollywood icons and history-shaping villains; the Space Race and civil rights; Ernest Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea published ― in its entirety ― in one issue, and a breathless cover story on a now-long-forgotten Hollywood ingénue in the next: however momentous the event, however legendary, notorious or simply of-the-moment the person, LIFE was there.

Today, those breathtaking pictures live here, on LIFE.com. Resurrected through trailblazing photo essays, lighthearted features, and previously unpublished photographs of the century’s leading figures and most pivotal, meaningful moments, Henry Luce’s vision (to see life, to eyewitness great events, to see and be amazed) remains as relevant and thrilling today as it was 75 years ago.

This gallery ― featuring one picture a year from 1936, when the magazine premiered, to 1972, when LIFE ceased publishing as a weekly ― serves as an introduction to, and a celebration of, the treasures of a storied archive: a tightly focused glimpse into the breadth and excellence of one publication’s iconic photography.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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