World War II was one of the most haunting wars ever fought. Over 60 million people died in the war which is estimated to be 3% of the world population in 1940, and more than 70 countries of the world were involved in the war either directly or indirectly.
What started as one man’s obsession to prove superiority ended up as a calamity not only for himself but also for the rest of the world.
While we must have all grown up reading about the Great War and Adolf Hitler in our school textbooks, here are 15 facts about that probably did not find space in those textbooks.
1. There was a ‘battle of birds’ going on in WWII.
During WWII, Nazi Germany trained homing pigeons to convey information and spy on allies which had become a headache for them. Thus the allies, as a counter measure, trained peregrine falcons to feed on the pigeons and capture them. At least two pigeons thus became prisoners of war.
2. Hitler wanted to build a museum of Jews after killing them all.
The Jewish town of Prague was left entirely untouched during the WWII just because Hitler had the intention of setting up an exotic museum of an extinct race there. (No prizes for guessing the name of the race.) He was confident that Jews would be wiped out from Europe in case of another war.
3. Only seven American civilians died in WWII on American soil.
Though USA was directly involved in the Second World War, only seven mainland Americans were ever recorded to be killed during the war. They were from a single family and killed by a drifted balloon bomb from Japan.
4. The British created the myth of carrot improving vision to keep secret a new technology.
The British had developed a new radar technology with the help of which they were able to pinpoint Nazi planes in the dark and shoot them down. To keep this a secret, the British intelligence invented a propaganda that eating carrots were improving the eyesight of British soldiers and thus a myth was born.
5. Hitler ran a state sponsored program to breed master race of Aryans.
The Nazis aspired to take over the world and ran a state sponsored program to breed master race to inherit the world. Under the Lebensborn program, unmarried girls were encouraged to give birth to racially superior children by having sex with racially pure Aryans and bear blonde, blue-eyed children. About 20,000 children were born under the program. The surviving children today have no clue who their parents were.
6. The last WWII soldier to surrender did so almost 30 years after the war ended.
Hiroo Onoda, a WWII Japanese intelligence officer, remained in hiding in the jungles of Philippines for about 30 years after the end of the war, unaware that Japan had surrendered and war had ended. Onoda killed everyone who tried to pursue him out of the jungle thinking it was a US propaganda. He was finally convinced to emerge out of the jungle by a former Imperial Japanese soldier in 1972.
7. Hitler had a nephew who served in the US Navy during the WWII.
Hitler had a nephew, William Hitler, who actually fought on behalf of the allies against Hitler in the WWII. William Hitler was in the US Navy. His father Alois Hitler was the half brother of the Fuhrer. In a 1939 article titled ‘Why I hate my uncle’ William gave a curious insight about the life of Hitler and exposed that it was a general knowledge that Hitler and his own niece were having an intimate relationship, and she was expecting a child before her suicide.
8. The Nazis didn’t shoot an enemy because they thought he had gone mad.
During the D-Day landings in Normandy, one of the bloodiest events of the WWII, 21-year-old Scottish piper Bill Millin walked up and down the Sword beach playing bagpipe and attracting enough attention of the enemies to pinpoint and shoot him down. However, he was not shot and Nazi forces which occupied Normandy were defeated. Later, the captured German snipers claimed they didn’t shoot him because they thought he had gone crazy. He died on August 17, 2010.
9. Japanese heard their emperor’s voice for first time after the war.
When Japanese Emperor Hirohito surrendered and gave a recorded speech, it was the first time that the commoners in Japan had heard the voice of their emperor in their entire history.
10. Poland had a solider who was an actual bear.
Poland had a brown bear named Wojtek in its army during the WWII who served as a private and was eventually promoted to the rank of a corporal. The name means ‘he who enjoys war’ or a ‘joyful warrior’. In the official documents, the bear was named as Wojciech Perski. After its retirement (or after the war), Wojtek spent most of its time in Edinburgh Zoo and died on December 2, 1963, at the age of 21.
11. Soviets trained dogs to destroy Nazi tanks that backfired.
In order to destroy or disable tanks of the Nazi forces, the Soviets came up with an idea of strapping dogs with explosives and send them under the tanks of the Germans. Once the dogs were where they ought to be, the bombs would be triggered, killing the dogs and destroying the tanks. Sadly, this great plan didn’t work because the dogs were trained with the soviet tanks and thus when the dogs would be released, they would run under the Soviet tanks instead of the Nazi.
12. Yang Kyoungjong, the person who served in three different armies in the single war.
Yang Kyoungjong is probably the only person on record to have served in three different armies of the world. Kyoungjong was a Korean who was forced into the Japanese Army because Korea was then ruled by the Japanese. Fighting for Japan, he was captured by Soviets and was forcefully enlisted into the Red Army to fight for Russia. Fighting for Russia, he was captured by the Nazis and forced to fight for Germany in the WWII. He was finally captured by US troops after the D-Day and was taken as prisoner of war, ending his adventure.
His story inspired the 2011 Korean film ‘My Way’.
13. The US had the plan of dropping 12 more atomic bombs on Japan.
Experts had warned US president Harry S. Truman that a war against Japan would result in much casualty of American citizens, so the US wanted to not prolong the war and end it as soon as possible and nuclear weapon seemed like the best option they had for the purpose. What’s more alarming is the fact that the US had the intention of dropping 12 more atomic bombs on Japan if they hadn’t surrendered. We can only wonder if Japan could recover from 14 atomic bombs!
14. Badass Jack Churchill fought with swords and bows.
While WWII brought about some serious progress in technology, there was this British soldier named Jack Churchill who couldn’t care less about the new weapons and preferred to fight the enemies with swords and bows. He single-handedly captured 42 Germans in one night using just his sword and claimed later that Germans could be easily scared if spoken in a loud voice. He was captured twice by the Nazis, but escaped easily. His unbelievable adventures earned him the name ‘Mad Jack’ among his colleagues.