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Little Known Facts You've Never Heard About WWII

We see WWII as a tapestry seen from afar. We see the big picture, but not the smaller threads weaving through it all, crafting the cohesive whole.

Everyone knows about World War II - from the battles, to the leaders, to the Holocaust. We know WWII far more than its predecessor, WWI. But fewer people know the finer details. We see WWII as a tapestry seen from afar. We see the big picture, but not the smaller threads weaving through it all, crafting the cohesive whole.

When you look throughout the whole of WWII, one uncovers a complicated, nuanced conflict full of noble heroes, wretched maniacs, and acts of cruelty too vast and nightmarish to grasp. The facts below may make you rethink what you know about this era - and the people who lived during this time.

  • Hitler and Henry Ford (founder of Ford Motor Company) kept framed photos of one another on their desks.

  • Private Eddie Slovik was shot for desertion. He was the first American since the Civil War to be executed for the crime.

  • Though Japan fought with the Allied Forces during WWI, it felt cheated that it never amassed any territory following the conflict.

  •  Nationalists rose to power within the Japanese government, and invaded Manchuria in 1931, years before the official start of WWII.

  • One of every four men to serve on a German U-Boat returned home. 40,000 soldiers served on them.

  • The 442nd regimental combat team consisted of Japanese-American volunteers. They collectively won 4,667 awards. They are the most highly decorated combat unit in US History. None of them ever deserted.

  • 85 percent of Russia's Prisoners of War died.
  • After Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered for a bullet-proof car. The only one available, as it were, was Al Capone's limo, seized by the IRS for Capone's tax evasion.

  • The Nazi Party modeled itself after the Italian Fascist Party. Mussolini, head of the Italian Fascists, would ally himself with Hitler.

  • The British launched massive balloons with iron wires linked between them to entangle bomber jets during the Blitz. The balloons were lifted over major cities.

  • Many Europeans collaborated with the Germans when the Nazis occupied their country. These Nazi-friendly people were executed or murdered by the people they lorded over. Most notable of them? Mussolini himself.

  • Hiroo Onoda was a Japanese soldier who hid in the jungles of Lubang (a Pacific Island) for 29 years. When he reemerged in the 70s, he had no idea that WWII had ended.

  • Only Japan and Italy used chemical gases as a weapon, and only in China and Ethiopia, respectfully.
  • During the war, Americans renamed "hamburgers" as "liberty steaks."

  • Adolf Hitler's inner circle called Rudolf Hess, Hitler's Deputy Fuhrer, "Fraulein Anna," because it was rumored he was a homosexual. He was also referred to as "the Brown Mouse."

  • Joseph Kramer ran the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, the same camp that Anne Frank would later perish within. He never expressed any guilt watching countless men, women, and children die, and justified his actions by stating how "he was only following orders." He was executed for war crimes.

  • William Hitler was Adolf Hitler's nephew. He served in the US Navy, and, after the war, changed his name.

  • Einsatzgruppen were SS Task Forces that would scout out Jews, and force them to dig pits. Once they dug a deep enough pit, the SS officers would unload bullets into their tired bodies. Over 1.4 million Jews were forced to dig their own mass graves.

  • Famous actors decorated during the war include Henry Fonda (a Bronze Star in the Pacific), Walter Matthau (six battle stars serving on a B-17), David Niven (US Legion of Merit), and Christopher Lee (a pilot in the Royal Air Force, winner of countless awards, and secretly a vampiric Sith Lord).
  • Many Nazis thought, rather than kill all the Jews, they should just ship them to Madagascar.

  • Had Japan not surrendered after the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki, target number three was Tokyo.

  • Very few people saw Rosie the Riveter posters during WWII. The image was appropriated in the 80s by feminists as a call for equality.

  • Calvin Graham won a Bronze Star and Purple Heart in the US Navy. However, it was only after this that the Navy realized Calvin had enlisted when he was 12 years old.

  • Rudolf Hess was the last person to be imprisoned in the Tower of London.

  • The US is the only nation Germany formally declared war upon.
  • Anne Frank and her sister died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945. Only one month later, the Allied Forced liberated the camp, and burned it to the ground. 50,000 people died within the camp during its lifetime.

  • Thousands of people in German territory fought to save the Jews. The entire country of Denmark served as a haven for Jewish refugees. Raoul Wallenberg, Oscar Schindler, and Chiune Suighara - among countless others - risked their lives, and, in doing so, saved thousands upon thousands of lives.

  • Many historians, such as David Wyman, claim that the US Government's refusal to bomb concentration camps was an expression of American's utter indifference to the Holocaust. 

  • Hitler refused to commission fighter jets for the war until its final years, insisting instead on using bomber planes. This decision cost him and the Nazis dearly when the Allied Air Force decimated Germany's air force, as the bombers were incapable of defending themselves.

  • The SS Brothel "The Kitty Salon" was used by the Nazis to gather information and intelligence on political parties. Escorts were given extensive training in order to manipulate clients through innocuous conversation.

  • WWII decimated Europe's role as a World Power, leaving the whole continent bankrupt. The stage was set for America and Russia to direct international policy from then to the present.
  • British scientist Robert Watson-Watt tried to create a "death-ray" that would roast legions of soldiers using radio waves. He accidentally created radar.

  • Joseph Mengele performed countless acts of insane cruelty on Jewish children. He would pluck eyeballs out, and try to attach them to the back of children's heads. He would inject dyes into their eyes to forcibly change the colors. One infamous experiment involved him sewing twins together in the mad hope that their flesh would fuse together. Mengele was never apprehended.

  • The Nazis in concentration camps performed cruel medical experiments. They bombarded the Jews' genitals with X-Rays to observe the effects, would break bones over and over again to see how long it took before they stopped healing, beat skulls with more and more force to see how long it took before they splintered inward, inject countless diseases and chemicals into the body, and alter the atmospheric pressure to see what happened to a body when all the air was sucked out around them.

  • The earliest use of the term "The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem" predates Heinrich Himmler's declarations of "The Final Solution." The Tzar Nicholas of Russia used it in 1899 in reference to the Zionists.

  • The Battle of Stalingrad is often regarded as the bloodiest conflict of the war, with over 1,600,000 soldiers dying in the battle over one Russian city. It is often regarded as the turning point of the war.

  • The Battle of Stalingrad only lasted for as many months as it did because Hitler refused to withdraw or attack a more strategic location.
  • The Nazis stole tons of gold from Jewish people, and stored it under a bank account. The name the account was held under? Max Heiliger.

  • The original name given to the National Socialist Party was Nasos, not Nazi. The name "Nazi" derives from the Bavarian word for "simple minded." It was coined by journalist Konrad Heiden to dismiss the Nasos as fools. 

  • The Battle of the Bulge proved the deadliest battle for American soldiers. 80,000 Americans lost their lives over the course of the battle.

  • Japan would send balloons carrying incendiary weapons to American shores. While 8,000 of them exploded on American soil (some going as far as Michigan), only six people in Oregon were slain. One of them was a pregnant woman.

  • The swastika is a religious icon dating back for thousands of years. Hitler, upon appropriating it, reversed it. 

  • 2,800 Japanese kamikaze soldiers died, and, in the process, sunk 34 US ship, damaged 368, slew 4,900 sailors, and injured 4,600 more.
  • The country that suffered the highest casualties in WWII was actually Russia. They lost 21 million soldiers in the ensuing battles on the Eastern Front. 80 percent of Russians born in 1922 did not survive the war.

  • Four out of five German casualties occurred on the Eastern Front, proving that it really was Russia that helped win the war for the Allies.

  • Russian soldiers were accused of countless war crimes. It is believed that over 2 million women were thrown to the wall and raped by the Red Army as it plowed through German forces. 

  • When Allied Soldiers found the Concentration Camps, they often arrived too late. Many thousands of people died even after liberation, as the torture they endured had left their bodies broken and starved.

  • 600,000 Jews enlisted in America's armies. Over 35,000 died or went missing. Despite the brave sacrifices of these soldiers, only two won the Medal of Honor.
  • Unit 731 was a Japanese camp that experimented on prisoners of war.

  • The majority of prisoners were Chinese.

  • Among the numerous atrocities committed at Unit 731, the Japanese would forcibly rape people, giving them syphillis, and then cut them open to see how the virus affected their insides while the victim was still alive.

  • When the Allied forces uncovered the camp, they demanded that the Japanese turn over all medical findings uncovered during the camp's lifetime. Not one scientist was arrested.

  • Hirohito, Emperor of Japan during WWII, was never removed from power. However, he possessed little power following Japan's defeat.

  • It is debated to this day whether Hirohito or General Hideki Tojo was the mastermind behind Japan's WWII role.
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