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Military Photographs: Finding Images in the Prints & Photographs Division at the Library of Congress

Korean War

The Korean War began in 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea. The United States supported South Korea, and an armistice ended the active military conflict in 1953. Relatively few photos of the Korean War are in the collections of the Prints & Photographs Division. Some of the photos come from the US Army Signal Corps or the Department of Defense, so they are free of copyright restrictions. The rest come from other sources, and you would need to investigate the rights status before publishing them. Searching the online catalog for “Korean War” will bring up many of the scanned images and collections, but you should also try more specific terms.

New York World-Telegram & Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection

Three US soldiers huddled behind a rock, a cloud of dust from an explosion in the distance.
US Army Signal Corps. Men of the 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, covering up behind rocks to shield themselves from exploding mortar shells, near the Hantan River in central Korea. 1951. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The bulk of the Korean War photos can be found in the SUBJ/GEOG section under War--Korea. Other photos taken during the war can be found in other SUBJ/GEOG folder headings, especially those for US military branches: United States--[Service Branch]. Images of individuals involved in the war can be found in the BIOG section filed under their last name. This includes military leaders, political leaders, POWs, Medal of Honor recipients, etc. The collection is stored off site, so you should contact the Prints & Photographs Reading Room in advance to request specific folders to see.

LOOK Magazine Collection

Two photo assignments (called LOOK Jobs) contain photos taken in Korea during the war, Job 52-1728 and Job 52-6. A few other jobs show such related topics as Korea after the armistice, soldiers who served in the Korean War outside of Korea, war orphans, etc. Search the LOOK collection for either of the Job numbers or more broadly for Korea to see descriptions of the photographs. Most of the LOOK Magazine Collection is not digitized. You need to come to the Prints & Photographs Division Reading Room to see most of the images.

LOOK Magazine Picture Research File

The bulk of the Korean War photos in the Look Picture Research File collection are in Box 157, under the subject heading “Wars--Korean Civil.” There are a little over 300 photos divided among 16 subject headings. A few photos of people or topics related to the war are in other areas of this collection, e.g., one portrait photo of Syngman Rhee and one photo of Kim Il Sung. Most of the collection is not scanned, and the collection is stored off-site. Please contact the Prints & Photographs Reading Room in advance of a visit to ensure that the material in which you are interested is brought on site.

Selected pictures of the Korean conflict

Among the most requested Korean War scenes is a set of 10 photos showing various facets of the Korean War. The US government published these photographs, so they have no rights restrictions. Most have been scanned, and you can see them in the online catalog.

Pictorial evidence of communist savagery

Another frequently requested group of images is an album of 45 photos entitled "Pictorial Evidence of Communist Savagery" (title from original album cover) created by the National Police Headquarters in Seoul. The image quality of the photos varies a lot. They show atrocities committed by the Army or supporters of North Korea. Some images have been scanned, but they can viewed in full size only at the Library because the right status is unknown.