From the horrors of the Blitz to kamikaze attacks in the Pacific, World War II inflicted terrible suffering on troops and civilians alike.
But as these photos reveal, soldiers fighting the war, whether in the Far East or Europe, did enjoy some more light-hearted moments.
The photos, which appear in a new book, My Buddy: World War II Laid Bare, are drawn from an archive created by Los Angeles based photographer, Michael Stokes, which contains more than 500 images of off-duty World War II soldiers.
PHOTOS AFTER THE STORY
His extensive collection includes snapshots of soldiers and sailors from Australia, the UK, France, Italy, Poland, Russia, and the USA, cavorting on the sand in the South Pacific, shivering in the snow of Eastern Europe, posing solo in the barracks, and in great happy groups.
Many are barely out of boyhood, at their physical peak and are responding to the reality of battle by living each day to the fullest.
What’s more, as the photographs reveal, ‘buddy’ relationships enjoyed by troops from all nations were an essential part of life on the front line – and even boosted soldiers’ ability to fight.
According to Stokes, commanders encouraged troops to form close relationships with one another, gaining, in the process, an important form of emotional support.
Many of these friendships survived the end of the war, with men forging close bonds as they fought – and relaxed – side by side.
While some of the more risque photos might come as a shock, they do offer a glimpse of the lighter side of life on the front line.
Sadly, for many of the men enjoying a lazy day on the beach or macho fun in the barracks, these would be the last joyful moments of a life about to be cut short.
My Buddy: World War II Laid Bare, edited by Dian Hanson, is published by Taschen and costs £44.99