Spotlight: US Air Force World War II Photography

Photograph of Members of the Tokyo Raid
Photograph of Members of the Tokyo Raid; Local Identifier: 342-FH-3A-48559-59885AC; NAID: 148728204

If you’re searching for World War II-era United States Air Force photography, look no further! Earlier this year, scans were added to our online catalog for nearly all of the World War II, US Air Force photography. Originally, the military branch was known as the United States Army Air Forces before becoming the United States Air Force we know today in 1947. The scans were created by our partner, Ancestry’s Fold3, and can still be found on their website. The photographs are located within the holdings of the Still Picture Branch in the series titled 342-FH: Black and White and Color Photographs of U.S. Air Force and Predecessor Agencies Activities, Facilities and Personnel – World War II and Korean War, ca. 1940 – ca. 1980

Previously in 1983, the photographs within 342-FH were loaned by the US Air Force to the National Air and Space Museum, a Smithsonian institution. The loan allowed the museum to create videodiscs of the images, which served as an early method of digitization and cataloging. The records remained at the National Air and Space Museum until their final transfer to the Still Picture Branch at the National Archives in 1998.

While not all of the photos found within 342-FH are digitized, you can now find nearly all of the World War II related photographs on our online catalog. The World War II images cover a variety of subjects including aircraft, crews and units, fields and installations, aircraft maintenance, transportation, reconnaissance, bombing and strafing, prisons and prisoners, captured material, medical care, and combat action. The photos not yet digitized include pre-1940 domestic photos, pre-1954 domestic photos, non-domestic photos, Korean War photos, and additional color/miscellaneous photos. 

The scans are keyword searchable due to Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software. This means that while the transcribed metadata is currently incomplete, you can still find terminology written directly on the scanned image. OCR is not perfect and may return incorrect results, however, it helps to quickly search a large body of records. We encourage Researchers to transcribe and tag our records to help with searching the catalog.

For a search of all the images available from 342-FH, view this link to our online catalog.

WASPs Stationed at the Enid AAF, Oklahoma
WASPs Stationed at the Enid AAF, Oklahoma; Local Identifier: 342-FH-4A5658-114751AC; NAID: 176250910
Photograph of a Bombing Attack
Photograph of a Bombing Attack; Local Identifier: 342-FH-3A25412-50210AC; NAID: 193779438
WASPs Around a Curtis A-25A
WASPs Around a Curtis A-25A; Local Identifier: 342-FH-4A5353-34184AC; NAID: 176250894

The photographs included in this post have no known copyright restrictions. If you have any questions about the images in this post or the holdings of the Still Picture Branch, please contact us at


Generally, copies of photographic records held by the National Archives may be published without special permission or additional fees. The National Archives does not grant exclusive or non-exclusive publication privileges. Copies of Federal records, as part of the public domain, are equally available to all. A small percentage of photographs in our holdings are or may be subject to copyright restrictions. The National Archives does not confirm the copyright status of photographs but will provide any information known about said status. It is the user’s responsibility to obtain all necessary clearances. Any use of these items is made at the researcher’s or purchaser’s own risk.

Proper credit lines are encouraged in the interest of good documentation. They also help inform the public about government photographic resources that are available.

*Because so many of our requests for information cite credits and captions that appear in published works, the inclusion of a photo number in hard copy and electronic publications is of great assistance to both us and the public.

Examples of preferred credit lines are as follows:

  • National Archives photo no. 342-FH-3A-48559-59885AC
  • Credit National Archives (photo no. 342-FH-4A5602-B29661AC)
  • Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 342-FH-3A42794-57792AC
  • National Archives (342-FH-3A30124-58634AC)

If using a large number of our images, the National Archives will appreciate receiving copies of publications that contain our photographs. Such copies can be sent to the Still Picture Branch or the Library, National Archives and Records Administration.

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