What do you remember the most from WWII? Adolf Hitler causing mayhem? What about the bombing of Hiroshima? There are plenty of terrible moments that will stay ingrained in some people's heads. Even though we know a lot about what happened on both sides during wartime, there's also a lot of information that's slipped through the cracks. Brace yourself, as you're about to learn some strange and interesting facts about WWII.
Keeping An Eye On The Enemy?
For reasons beyond our realm of understanding, Henry Ford and Adolf Hitler admired each other. What exactly do we mean by that? Well, Ford, the founder of The Ford Motor Company kept a framed picture of Hitler on his desk.
As if that isn't strange enough, Hitler kept a picture of the democrat Ford on his desk also! There isn't much information about their relationship, but history writes that Ford was anti-semitic. His fears and views were the same as many Americans during that time.
One Man Almost Gave Us The "Death Ray"
A "death ray" almost became a reality in 1935. A British engineer by the name of Robert Watson-Watt had been developing the device. It had the capabilities to destroy an aircraft with only radio waves.
That invention didn't pan out but instead transformed into something more useful. The death ray became what we call 'radar' or 'radio detection and ranging.' The former invention might have been helpful during the time, but radar helped everyone and still does.
Nazi Wasn't Always The Word
The word Nazi wouldn't have come to existence if it weren't for a particular journalist. The National Socialist Party used to don the abbreviation of Nasos. Which, in many cases, doesn't sound as intimidating as Nazi does.
Then came along journalist Konrad Heiden. The German-American writer became most noted for his biographies about Hitler. Little did he know that he would create one of the most polarizing words in history. Nazi stems from a Bavarian word meaning "simple-minded." Heiden first used the word as a term of mockery.
Committing Fraud For Treasures
As if everything Nazi Germany wasn't bad enough, they did more we didn't know a thing about. When the innocent Jewish folks had their liberty stripped from them, they also had their belongings robbed. Their gold, money, and jewels were all taken.
The SS falsely created the fake name, Max Heiliger. They used this name to create a bank account for all of the materials stolen. In the picture you see above, American soldiers found crates of these precious items.
Changing Names For The Sake Of War
During a time of war, you can't be friends with the enemy. If they fall to the ground, don't help them up. Things are to stay fierce at all times, until the war has ended. America might have taken things to the extreme, however, with their treatment of the hamburger.
Claiming the name sounded too "German," the U.S. decided to change the name of the burger during the war. Americans began to use the name "Liberty Steak" instead of hamburger. Up next, one boy did the unthinkable and lived to tell the tale.
Even A 12-Year-Old Can Do It
Some people are highly passionate about their country. A person might go to great lengths to show their support for their nation. Going to war and risking their life is one example. For one boy, he was ready for battle before he even became a teenager.
Calvin Graham was only 12 when he enlisted in the U.S. military. There is no way you could do that nowadays and you couldn't really do it back then. Graham lied about his age and his actual age wasn't revealed until he sustained an injury. This next fact is something that will have you baffled.
A Nation's Conflict Of Interest
Talk about conflict of interest! Can you believe that the nephew of one of the illest tyrants was allowed to serve for the U.S. military? We're not making this up either. William Patrick Hitler was a hospital corpsman until 1947.
After moving from England, he tried to join the British forces, but they turned him down (he thinks it was because of his last name). After that failed, he somehow convinced President Roosevelt to let him come aboard.
Bombs Away, Japan
During WWII, America dropped atomic bombs like they were regular water balloons. Those weapons of mass destruction cause turmoil and destruction for many years to come after the initial bombing. Hiroshima and Nagasaki know this very well.
As if two bombings weren't enough, had a third one been necessary America already knew where it was going. Many people's favorite tourist destination, Toyko would have taken the strike. Japan would have been in even more confusion had that happened.
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The total amount of casualties from WWII range between 50 and 70 million. With that high of a number, you'd be surprised to learn the majority of the deaths derived from only four countries. Around 80 percent of those millions came from China, Russia, Germany, and Poland.
To make things even sadder, 50 percent of those casualties came from civilians. Of those civilians, the vast majority were either women or children. No more world wars, please.
Hiro Onoda Stayed Committed
JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty ImagesAn army intelligence officer for the Imperial Japanese didn't know when to call it quits. We don't mean that phrase figuratively either. Hiroo Onoda fought in WWII but didn't surrender in 1945.
As the story goes, Onoda held his position in the Philippines for nearly 30 years! It wasn't until his former commander flew over there from Japan to personally relieve him of his duties. That's a level of dedication that you don't see every day.
The Berlin Zoo Was Bombed, and Only One Elephant Survived
When the RAF Bomber Command and the USAAF Eighth Air Force bombed Berlin in 1943, the city's zoo was right in the path of destruction. Sadly, many of the zoo's iconic animals became casualties of the war, including seven of the eight elephants.
Sadly, out of the 3,715 animals that lived there, only 90 survived the war. Siam would live for another four years. Siam was the only elephant at the Berlin Zoo to survive the bombing. He died of Enteritis at the age of 26.
Allied Troops Peed in the Rhine River Before Germany Surrendered
The war was nearing the end in 1945 when Allied troops reached Western Germany. They were expecting to be met with opposing enemy forces when they reached the German town of Oppenheim. Miraculously, no one was there to attack them, and the troops quickly built a bridge and crossed the Rhine River.
When they successfully made it across, George S. Patton reenacted William the Conqueror's entrance into England by pissing into the Rhine River. He reportedly said, "I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time," as an Army photographer snapped a photo.
Russian Pilots Resorted to Ramming
When they weren't able to knock German plane out of the sky with firepower, Russian pilots resorted to a ramming technique. Aerial ramming is ultimately the last tactic a pilot would want to use. Soviets called it taran, and would intentionally collide their aircraft with the enemy's, hoping to cause them to lose control, or potentially damaging a propeller or wing.
Russian pilots were able to take down at least 270 airborne Germany planes this way during WWII. Unlike Japanese pilots, however, their intention was not to commit suicide in the process, and many of them survived.
A Flooded Toilet Led to the Sinking of a German Submarine
Just 24 days before the end of WWII, the German submarine U-1206 was sunk. Oddly enough, a malfunctioning toilet led to the demise of the submarine. According to a German commander's report, on April 14, 1945, a toilet in the forward section of the submarine was clogged and water began to overflow.
The water flooded the submarine's batteries, which caused them to leak chlorine gas. The crew brought the submarine to the surface to evacuate and were bombed by British forces. One man died in the attack and three men drowned.
57% of Soviet POW Died at the Camps
While prisoners of war from other countries also suffered and died during the war, Soviet POWs experienced extreme loss. A devastating 57% of the people Nazi forces held at the camps would end up dying. Most of them, due to famine. The estimated 3.5 million Soviets who died were deliberately deprived of food, although there were supplies on site.
Other POWs were treated along the guidelines of the 1929 Geneva Convention of Prisoners of War, but Nazis had it out for the Soviets, who they decided would be the exception.
Operation Fortitude Made Hitler Look Like a Dummy
While Allied forces prepared for D-Day, they needed a distraction to keep Germans off-guard. That's when Operation Fortitude came into play. With both a 'north' and 'south' component to the plan, Fortitude was designed to fool Nazi Germany into thinking they would be attacked from Norway and north-east of Normandy.
Allied forces placed dummy tanks that were actually inflatable, as well as dummy landing craft. This made their invasion forces look bigger than they were, and fool them into thinking they needed to focus their attention at these points of entry.
More Dummy Operations Played Out And Were a Success
RAF used several dummy operations leading up to D-Day. In an effort to confuse German radar, the RAF performed Operation Glimmer. This strategy dropped 'windows' aka metal strips, along the French coastline to interfere with enemy radar.
Operation Titanic involved the RAF dropping dummy parachutists to imitate an airborne operation. These dummy operations were a huge success, as Nazi Germany fell into the trap of overestimating the size and the strength of the invasions and sent their troops to the wrong areas, diverting them from Normandy on D-Day.
The Moon and Tide Played a Huge Role in D-Day
The number of elements that came into play in order for D-Day to be a success was incredible. When deciding which day invading troops would carry out the Normandy landing operations, the Allies consulted with meteorologists. They needed to select a day in which the tide would be low enough for troops to land on the beach.
This meant they needed to carry out the operations with there was a full moon, creating the most dramatic tide swings. British Mathematician Arthur Thomas Doodson created tide-prediction machines during this time to support the troops. Doodson recommended the troops carry out the landing operations between June 5th and 7th, during what he called "H-Hour."
Allied Forces Deliberately Sunk Their Ships To Create a Breakwater
After D-Day, Allied troops needed to quickly offload a ton of cargo around the English Channel. After much debate, they decided to "scuttle" ships in order to create a breakwater to safely navigate ships and unload cargo. This meant they would intentionally sink their ships to create the temporary, portable harbors.
The harbor structures were called "Mulberry A and Mulberry B" and the ships that were sunk were named "corncobs." They only used these harbors for around six months, until they were able to capture the port of Antwerp and use that to offload troops and supplies.
Balloons Had A Role in WWII
While you might attribute balloons with child's play, that wasn't the case during WWII. The balloons used weren't colorful and cute, instead, Allied forces, especially the British, used giant barrage balloons tethered by steel cables to disrupt German air strikes during the war.
These balloons were seen all over London, but they also caused their share of problems. Sometimes the giant balloons would pop, and the resulting blast of air would cause windows to blow out. There were also a few of these barrage balloons on U.S. soil, protecting the Soo Locks along Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
Ships In The Sunken Place
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a devastating one. No preparations were in place for it and the damage the U.S. took from it shows. The Japanese capitalized on with their sneak attack, drastically reducing American convoy.
When the onslaught happened, America had 96 ships anchored. 18 boats sank or became harmed. A whopping 2,402 American men ended up killed while 1,280 left injured. On top of all that, 350 aircrafts suffered damage as well.
Saving Lives At A Risk
Being Jewish during WWII wasn't the greatest. Associating with Jewish people also wasn't a very bright idea. However, there are a few in this world who aren't afraid of peril. The risk of helping lives was more than likely losing your own life.
Despite that, there were still thousands willing to help the helpless. The whole country of Denmark saved the entire community. And people like Oscar Schindler and Chiune Sugihara helped thousands of people as well.
Mass Production Numbers
We know where some of our tax dollars went during WWII. War items needed to be mass produced and that they were. If you had to guess how many jeeps they built total, what would you say? America almost produced a million jeeps alone but settled for 650,000.
The factories also made 300,000 military aircraft, 3,000,000 machine guns, 89,000 tanks, and 7,000,000 rifles. That's a whole lot of ammunition and burnt rubber! You wouldn't want to go up against that type of firepower.
The Angel Of Death
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During WWII, there was a doctor they called the Angel of Death. His real name was Dr. Josef Mengele, but he earned his nickname through his twisted experiments. He would test these experiments on the Romany and Jewish children.
Some of these trials included taking an eyeball out and attaching it to the back of another kid's head. He worked mostly on twins (around 3,000), and only 200 survived. One time, he sewed together twins trying to create conjoined twins.
Remember those Kamikaze tactics? The act of sacrificing your aircraft to take out another vessel is Kamikaze, and the Japanese used the tactic like it was the greatest thing ever. It came about thanks to a suggestion from Vice-Admiral Onishi.
He wanted to attempt to balance out the playing field because of the technological advances the Americans had. The statistics are not final, but 34 sinks got sunk, 4,900 sailors died, and 4,800 became injured.
Death Before Liberation
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Anne Frank was a German Jew that emigrated to the Netherlands during the time of the Nazi's. She and her sister ended up separated from the rest of the family and ended up at the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.
The two had typhoid and ended up passing away in March of 1945. Their untimely death came one month before the camp's liberation happened in April 1945. The camp ended up getting burned down after liberation to avoid the spread of typhus.
To Bomb Or Not To
Concentration camps were horrible places. Lethal experiments took place and death was an everyday thing. To have anyone held against their will like that is already bad enough. Things could have been way worse according to David Wyman.
In Wyman's book The Abandonment of Jews, he reveals how the Americans could have bombed the camps. The reason this didn't happen is due to the Allies' indifference to the fate of the Jewish people. Not because it couldn't happen.
Many people are already fully aware of the all the details that surround the first atomic bomb dropping on Hiroshima. The Enola Gay was the first carrier to drop the weapon, but what about the second bomb?
The B-29 that struck Nagasaki got its name from Frederick Bock. They named it Bock's Car, after the plane's ordinary commander. We wonder if Mr. Bock is comfortable with having his name go down in history in such a violent manner.
The Kitty Salon
The SS were up to some serious tricks. They came up with an idea to have a wiretapped brothel called The Kitty Salon. It was for foreign diplomats and VIPs in Berlin. Around 20 prostitutes had to go through extensive training for this.
As you could figure, their training included making people feel comfortable. Their goal was to get sensitive information from foreign diplomats through seemingly harmless conversation. A man might reveal anything to a seducing woman.
We Can Do It Didn't Blow Up Right Away
The now super popular "We Can Do It" mantra and poster didn't start out as popular. In fact, it the intention wasn't for public use, and only a few bits of people had the chance to see it back in 1942.
When the feminist movement came around in the '80s, that's when "We Can Do It" started to gain momentum. It makes sense that's when it grew, and there wasn't anything that helped it during the war.