June 21 marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Children and adults look forward to the beginning of the season and to beating its heat with rites of summer such as swimming and eating ice cream. The date on which the season commences, the summer solstice, is the longest day of the year and the moment when the perceived pattern of the sun is farthest from the equator.

Man and Woman Floating on Their Backs in Water. [between 1900 and 1915]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

‘Tis pleasant in the summertime,
To feel a cooling breeze,
And hear the songsters sing so fine,
From bush and bough and trees….

Summer Breezes.” Leonard Marshall, composer; New York: Ditson, C.H. & Co., 1885. Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, ca. 1870 to 1885. Music Division

Swimming Pool Created by CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) Dam, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Edwin Rosskam, photographer, July 1941. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-And-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division
Homemade Swimming Pool for Steelworkers’ Children, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Arthur Rothstein, photographer, July 1938. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-And-White Negatives. Prints & Photographs Division
Calhoun Beach, Minneapolis. C.J. Hibbard, c1915. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division

The collection, American Life Histories, Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940 abounds with summer recollections:

On hot summer days we’d have fights, arguing over who’d claim the pool for the day, the boys or the girls. The boys used to go without their suits…

“Living on the Hill.” Ann, interviewee; Mari Tomasi, interviewer; Vermont, 1940. American Life Histories, Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

No, I does not swim. I goes to beach to maka meditations. How you thinka I look in swim suit? Hah! I am no longer so young and handsome. De childrens woulda think I was de little whale.

“Interview with Vito Cacciola #29.” Merton R. Lovett, interviewer; Connecticut, Feb 28, 1939. American Life Histories, Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at the pier in Pismo Beach, California. Carol M. Highsmith, photographer, 2013. Highsmith (Carol M.) Archive. Prints & Photographs Division

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Japanese Troops Defeated on Okinawa

On June 21, 1945, Japanese troops were defeated on the Pacific island of Okinawa after one of the longest and bloodiest battles of World War II. Having seized the Ryukyu Islands from Japanese control, the United States next prepared to launch an onslaught against the Japanese mainland.

[Two Japanese soldiers on guard with the barrel of large gun in the foreground]. United States. Army. Signal Corps, photographer, [1942]. Prints & Photographs Division

In September 1940, Japan allied itself with Germany and Italy to form the Axis powers and established a base in French Indochina. One year later, Japan moved troops to southern French Indochina and was poised to move against the Netherlands Indies, seeking to acquire an oil source.

When the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands placed an embargo on oil exports to Japan, that country responded quickly with an attack against the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. Japanese military forces occupied the Philippines, the Netherlands Indies, Malaya, and Singapore in rapid succession, and invaded Burma and Thailand, achieving its goal of complete control of the South Pacific.

We’ll Lick ‘Em—Just Give Us the Stuff!” U.S. Government Printing Office, 1943. Prints & Photographs Division

In the meantime, the United States had mobilized its industrial and economic resources. The Office of War Information, created in June 1942, generated a propaganda campaign to mobilize the manpower and the womanpower of the United States in support of the war effort.

During its offensive in the Pacific, Japan had captured many American and Filipino prisoners, who were enduring forced marches and cruelty in prisoner of war camps. Reports of these atrocities fueled American resolve to defeat Japan. The tide turned with the Battle of Midway in June 1942, at the northern tip of the Hawaiian islands, where the United States began its counteroffensive by air and sea, successfully crippling the Japanese fleet.

The U.S. strategy for conquering Japan was to capture a succession of weaker Japanese outposts, “island-hopping” toward the Japanese mainland. Slowly, in many bloody battles in the Pacific jungle, at Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands, the Philippines, and Iwo Jima, the U.S. forces wrested Pacific territory from the Japanese, island by island.

LSM’s Sending Rockets at Shores of Pokishi Shima, near Okinawa, Five Days Before Invasion. U.S. Navy photograph, May 21, 1945. Joseph J. Spagnola Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Okinawa was the last critical outpost the United States needed to reclaim before launching an attack on the Japanese home islands. As in the progressive invasion of the other Pacific Islands, the U.S. began the onslaught with a series of air attacks on Okinawa and islands nearby, from October 1944 to March 1945.

From this time until the end of the war, the Japanese responded with an intense and desperate effort, increasing the kamikaze attacks on American ships and other targets and introducing to these suicide missions a new weapon, the baka, a piloted missile. In these guided missiles, the pilot reached more than 600 miles per hour in his final dive, and crashed into his target with more than a ton of explosives built into the nose of the aircraft.

On April 1, 1945, some 60,000 U.S. troops landed on the beaches, where they met with little resistance. However, more than 77,000 Japanese troops of the 32d Army were on the island under the command of Lieutenant General Mitsuru Ushijima, who withdrew his soldiers to the southern section of the island where the Japanese held out for nearly three months—hiding in the jungle and in caves, and engaging the Americans in intense guerilla warfare. Some 12,000 American lives and 110,000 Japanese lives were lost in the campaign. To avoid the dishonor of enemy capture, General Ushijima committed ritual suicide on June 23 as approaching U.S. forces were mopping up pockets of Japanese resistance.

Crew Members of a Marine Torpedo Squadron Lugging Their Own Bags Across the Okinawa Airstrip… Official U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Corporal William Beall, photographer, [1945]. Prints & Photographs Division
Marines Wait at Entrance to Cave in Which Japanese Soldiers Are Hiding. U.S. Marine Corps photo, 1945. Prints & Photographs Division
Major General Lemuel C. Shepherd…Seated on Shore, Studying Map of Okinawa. June 28, 1945. Prints & Photographs Division

Japan still refused to concede that World War II was over even after their defeat on Okinawa. The ultimate surrender of Japan to the Allies would be, according to Japanese cultural norms, an unthinkable dishonor. However, Japan was able to hold out less than two more months. Emperor Hirohito was forced into an unconditional surrender in August 1945 after the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were decimated by the United States’ new weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb.

Emperor Hirohito is crowned in the traditional robes of his ancestors. Underwood & Underwood, photographer, [1926]. Prints & Photographs Division
Japanese POW at Guam…. U.S. Navy photo, Aug. 15, 1945. Prints & Photographs Division

Learn More

  • Search Today in History on World War II to find more related features, such as the Lend-Lease Act, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the landing of Allied Expeditionary Forces in North Africa, D-Day, and the Marshall Plan.
  • The Office of War Information (OWI), created on June 13, 1942, assigned its staff of photographers the task of documenting the nation’s mobilization for war. Search the collection Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives on Japanese to find photographs of the evacuation of Japanese Americans from their homes on the West Coast by U.S. Army war emergency order, and of life in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. Search on tank, plane, truck, bomber, army, food, or supplies to find more images related to the war effort on the home front.
  • Ansel Adams’s Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar document the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California and the Japanese Americans interned there during World War II.
  • After the Day of Infamy: “Man-on-the-Street” Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor presents approximately twelve hours of opinions recorded in the days and months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor from more than two hundred individuals in cities and towns across the United States.
  • Frontline Diplomacy: The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training presents a window into the lives of American diplomats. Transcripts of interviews with U.S. diplomatic personnel capture their experiences, motivations, critiques, personal analyses, and private thoughts. Search, for example, on Okinawa.
  • Search the pictorial collections on the phrase war posters combined with a year, such as 1942, 1944, and so on, to find examples of posters from the war years urging American soldiers and civilians to persevere in their contribution to the fight.
  • The 442nd Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army was comprised of second-generation Japanese Americans (nisei). Search the pictorial collections on the term 442nd to view four photographs of soldiers of the unit at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, dancing with Japanese-American girls from a nearby relocation camp. Find out more about the 442nd Regiment by visiting the exhibition, A People at War, provided on the National Archives website.
  • Visit the exhibition Women Come to the Front. The section on Dorothea Lange includes an account of her photographs of the forced relocation of Japanese-Americans, as does the Today in History feature on Lange.
  • Bound for Glory: America in Color, color images taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, has vivid scenes and portraits that capture the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations, the nation’s subsequent economic recovery and industrial growth, and the country’s mobilization efforts for World War II.
  • Churchill and the Great Republic, an interactive exhibit, examines the life and career of Winston Spencer Churchill and emphasizes his lifelong links with the United States. The exhibit commemorates both the D-Day allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France during World War II and the death of Churchill.
  • For European Recovery: The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Marshall Plan is another online exhibit. This presentation includes links to key dates, texts, and drawings relating to the plan.
  • From the Home Front and the Front Lines, an exhibition of original materials and oral histories drawn from the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress, emphasizes World War I (1914-18), World War II (1939-45), the Korean War (1950-53), the Vietnam War (1965-75), and the Persian Gulf War (1991), and includes photographs, diaries, correspondence, and maps.
  • World War II from American Treasures of the Library of Congress includes a variety of images relating to the war.
  • World War II: A Resource Guide provides links to World War II-related resources in the Library of Congress as well as to external sites.
  • Learn more about the history and political, economic and social systems of Japan. Read the online version of Japan: a country study. Browse the table of contents of the book or search on terms such as World War II or Pacific War to find more on this topic. The book also includes a bibliography on Japan. The Country Studies/Area Handbooks Series, prepared by the Library’s Federal Research Division, includes extensive coverage of 101 countries and regions.

Samuel Herman Gottscho and William Schleisner

On June 21, 1934, Samuel Herman Gottscho snapped this photograph of the north facade of the Nebraska state capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska. Born in 1875, Gottscho acquired his first camera in 1896. For many years he focused his camera on nature, but eventually he concentrated on formal architectural photography. Gottscho took pictures part-time until, after twenty-three years as a traveling salesman, he became a professional photographer at the age of fifty. Gottscho believed that he created some of his best work when he was seventy years old.

Nebraska State Capitol, Lincoln, Nebraska… Samuel H. Gottscho, photographer, June 21-26, 1934. Gottscho-Schleisner Collection. Prints & Photographs Division
New York city views. View through loggia of Barbizon Hotel. Samuel H. Gottscho, photographer, June 11, 1932. Gottscho-Schleisner Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

William Schleisner (1912-62) joined Gottscho—his father-in-law–in his photography business in 1935; they worked together for many years. The Gottscho-Schleisner Collection consists of more than 29,000 online negatives and photo transparencies (out of 45,000 items) taken by Gottscho and Schleisner and housed in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division. The images, primarily of architectural subjects, include interiors and exteriors of homes, stores, offices, factories, and historic buildings, located chiefly in the northeastern United States.

Learn More

  • Search Today in History on photographer to find features on Dorothea Lange, Mathew Brady, Gordon Parks, Walker Evans, and Louis Daguerre.
  • Many photographic collections held by the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division represent the work of one or two particular artists. Several of these collections, besides the work of Gottscho and Schleisner, are represented in the digital collections, among them:
  • The pictorial collections contain item records and digital images representing a rich cross-section of still pictures held by the Prints & Photographs Division and other units of the Library with new materials continuously added. Search by Subject, Contributor, or a specific collection.
  • Search in the Gottscho-Schleisner Collection on the name of any of these presidents to find images of their homes: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Polk, Franklin Pierce, Martin Van Buren, Andrew Johnson, John Tyler, William Henry Harrison, Grover Cleveland, Teddy Roosevelt, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower.
  • To see images of Nebraska that contrast with those in the Gottscho-Schleisner collection both in artistic style and photographic medium, search on Nebraska in Panoramic Photographs. Another way to find images from a particular state is to browse the Locations index in this collection.