Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII

Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII

Jacob Miller - October 17, 2017

The military use of children can take three distinct forms: children can take a direct part in conflict as child soldiers; they can be used in support roles such as porters, spies, messengers, and lookouts; or they can be used for political advantage and propaganda.

Children have always been easy targets for indoctrination for military purposes because of their vulnerability to influence. Children have also been historically seized and recruited by force or join voluntarily to escape current circumstances.

Throughout history, children have been extensively involved in military campaigns even when such practices went against cultural morals. In World War I, in Great Britain, 250,000 boys under the age of 18 were able to join the army. In World War II, child soldiers fought throughout Europe, in the Warsaw uprising, in the Jewish resistance, for the Nazi army, and for the Soviet Red Army.

Following World War I, in 1924 the League of Nations adopted the Geneva Declarations of the Rights of the Child. Despite this attempt, World War II left millions of children unprotected from indoctrination, war, and murder. The lack of legal protection for children in times of war, which allows for their exploitation, can be linked to the lack of a universally recognized definition of a child during World War II.

The youngest known soldier of World War I was Momčilo Gavrić, who joined the 6 Artillery Division of the Serbian Army at the age of 8, after the Austro-Hungarian troops killed his entire family in August 1916.

The youngest member of the United States Military in World War II was 12-year-old Calvin Grahm who lied about his age when he enlisted in the US Navy. His real age came out after he was wounded.

The Hitler Youth was established as an organization in Nazi Germany that physically trained children and indoctrinated them with Nazi ideologies. At the onset of war, Hitler Youth totaled 8.8 million children. Hitler Youth children first saw conflict following the British Air Raids in Berlin in 1940. Huge numbers of Hitler Youth soldiers were removed from school in early 1945 and sent to war.

Many child soldiers served in the Soviet Union’s armed forces during World War II. Orphans often voluntarily, unofficially joined the Red Army. Children were often affectionately known as “sons of the regiment.”

The Japanese Imperial Army training started in schools. Military drills were a staple in physical education classes. Children between the ages of 14-17 were conscripted to fight in the Battle of Okinawa.

Currently, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) defines a child soldier as “any child – boy or girl – under eighteen years of age, who is part of any kind of regular or irregular armed force or armed group in any capacity” The age limit of 18 was introduced in 2002 under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of a Child. Prior to 2002, the 1949 Geneva Convention set 15 years old as the minimum age to participate in armed conflict.

Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Two young German soldiers armed with Panzerfausts (anti-tank weapons) and Mauser rifles, march along Bankowa street in Lubań (Lauban), Lower Silesia. There was fierce fighting there and it was the site of pretty much the last successful German operation of the war. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
20 March 1945: Adolf Hitler decorates his last tranche of boy soldiers for fighting to the bitter end. Artur Axmann, a leader of Hitler Youth, is behind Hitler; Otto Günsche is in the background on left, then Hermann Fegelein in the center and Heinz Linge on the right. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
1944 – Ten-year-old German boy soldier poses with his Major after their capture in Antwerp, Belgium. Hundreds of other prisoners taken with them march past in the background. Since Antwerp was in Allied hands by October 1944, this is proof that child soldiers were serving well before the Reich’s last days. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
11-year-old soldier killed during the Warsaw uprising 1944. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
13-year-old boy soldier, captured by United States Army in Martinszell-Waltenhofen, 1945. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
15-year-old boy soldier of Legion of French Volunteers Against Bolshevism, 1941. Bundesarchiv
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
15-year-old Misha Petrov with captured German MP-38 and Soviet grenade RGD-33 in his boot. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
A Chinese Nationalist soldier, age 10, member of a Chinese division from the X-Force, boarding planes in Burma bound for China, May 1944. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
A soldier of the 94th Infantry Division searching two young anti-aircraft gunners who surrendered in Frankenthal, 23 March 1945. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Admiral Giulio Graziani and X Flottiglia MAS. The boy on the picture is Franco Grechi. Italy, 1943. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Seaman First Class Calvin Graham in 1942 was the youngest U.S. serviceman to serve and fight during World War II at the age of 12. Wikipedia
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
B. Mussolini during a review of a youth organization, Rome, 1940. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Boy soldier from Hitlerjugend, at the age of 16, Berlin, Germany, 1945. Soon after this picture was taken, Soviets entered the city. Bundesarchiv
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Chinese boy hired to assist troops of Chinese 39th Division during the Salween Offensive, Yunnan Province, China, 1944. The United States Army Signal Corps
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
German boy soldier after his capture, Italy, 1944. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Hitler Youth being awarded medals, 1943. worldwartwo

Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Japanese youth during military training, 1916. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Lviv Eaglets, young defenders from Polish-Ukrainian War and Polish-Soviet War, 1918-1920. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Momčilo Gavrić joined Serbian Army at the age of 8, 1914. The youngest soldier in the First World War. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Momčilo Gavrić, Korfu, 1916. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Momčilo Gavrić and another soldier reporting to major Stevan Tucović, 1916. Wikipedia
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Onni Kokko, a Finnish boy soldier, died in 1918 after Battle of Tampere. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Serbian young partisans, Yugoslavia, 1945. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Hart H. Spiegel tries to communicate with two Japanese child soldiers captured during the Battle of Okinawa. June 17, 1945. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Unknown young German anti-aircraft gunner ‘flakhelfer’ on position with devyatikilogrammovym projectile antiaircraft gun 8.8 cm FlaK 18:41 in the German city of Hagen. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Volodya Tarnowski puts an autograph on a column of Reichstag, Berlin, 1945. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Volodya Tarnowski with comrades in Berlin, 1945. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Young Polish resistance fighters in Warsaw during Uprising, Poland, 1944. warhistoryonline
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
German youth in uniform surrender to Allied troops in Snamont, Belgium. New Years, 1945. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
Child “soldiers” caught during the Battle of Berlin, April-May 1945. Most of them were ordered to ditch the uniform and go home. Behind them appears to be a column of their elders headed toward a processing center, these boys have been pulled out. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
A teenage German soldier, who served with the Hitlerjugend division, is taken prisoner by US troops near Forbach (Alsace), March 1945. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
A Red Army child soldier serving in a front-line line unit, 1942. The presence of children as young as 12 in Soviet army units was routine. They all received the same weapons and kit as adult soldiers, slightly adjusted for size. This boy is carrying the standard issue PpsH SMG and anti-personnel grenades. Worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
16-year-old Wilhelm Hübner proudly accepts the Iron Cross Second Class from Joseph Goebbels. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
A 13-year-old POW from a Hitler Youth unit captured by the US Army in Martinszell-Waltenhofen, May 1945. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
A child soldier in China during the 1930s. worldwartwo
Heartbreaking Photographs of Child Soldiers from WWI and WWII
As many as 250,000 boys under the age of 18 served in the British Army during World War One. BBC

You May Also Interested: The Tragic History of the American Child Warriors.

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