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World War II, also known as the Second World War, involved almost every major nation in the world, including all the great powers, who eventually formed two opposing military alliances, the Allies and the Axis. In a state of “total war,” participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities into the effort, erasing the lines between military and civilian. There were mass civilian casualties, highlighted by The Holocaust and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With an estimated 50 – 85 million people killed, World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history.

Here are a few things you might not know about the Last Great War.


77. Kamikaze Woes

Most kamikaze pilots died in vain. Only 1 in 9 kamikaze pilots hit their targets during WW2

76. Beast of the East

For every five German soldiers who died in the war, four died on the Eastern Front.

WW2 Facts

75. A Bad Year

Eighty percent of all the Russian males born in 1923 did not survive the war. And Millennials think they have it tough…

WW2 Facts

74. Business is Booming

Between 1939 and 1945, Allied forces dropped 3.4 million tons of bombs, which is an average of 27,700 tons per month.

WW2 Facts

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73. Russian Casualties

The country that suffered the most casualties during WWII was Russia with over 21 million, which is roughly the entire population of Sri Lanka.

WW2 Facts

72. Long Live the Queen

Queen Elizabeth II served as a mechanic and driver in World War II.

WW2 Facts

71. The War Continues… Technically.

Japan and Russia still haven’t signed a peace treaty to end World War II due to the Kuril Islands dispute.

WW2 Facts

Kuril Islands.

70. Atomic Destruction

America dropped atomic bombs on Japan on Aug. 6, 1945, which ended the war in the Pacific theater. The bombs killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 in Nagasaki.

WW2 Facts

69. Planes, Trains, and Death

The planes that dropped the nuclear bombs were the Enola Gay and Bock’s Car, the latter named after Frederick Bock, the plane’s commander.

WW2 Facts

68. Fresh Out

If it was necessary to drop a third atomic bomb on Japan, the target would have been Tokyo. Luckily, the Japanese surrendered. That and the Americans actually didn’t have any more bombs to drop.

WW2 Facts

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67. Fire and Blood

Five months before the atomic bombs hit Japan, more than 300 U.S. B-29 bombers launched one of the most devastating air raids in history. By dawn, more than 100,000 people were dead, a million were homeless, and 40 square kilometers of Tokyo were burned to the ground. More people were killed in the Tokyo firebombing than in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

WW2 Facts

66. Survivor

A Japanese man, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, survived both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings during WW2.

WW2 Facts

65. Survivors

WW2 Flight Sergeant Nicholas Alkemade survived a fall from 18,000 feet (5,500 m) without a parachute. He suffered only a sprained leg.

WW2 Facts

64. Battle of the Bulge

The Battle of the Bulge, last major German offensive campaign of World War II, was one of the deadliest conflicts for America during the war, costing the lives of over 80,000 Americans.

WW2 Facts

63. Nasos Much

The original abbreviation of the National Socialist Party was Nasos. The word “Nazi” comes from the Bavarian word that means “simple minded” and was meant as a derogatory term.

WW2 Facts

62. The Hunger Games

More Russians lost their lives during the Siege of Leningrad than American and British soldiers combined in all of WWII. The 872 day German-led siege caused extreme famine in the Leningrad region, which resulted in the deaths of up to 1,500,000 people.

WW2 Facts

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61. Water Guns

The longest battle of the conflict was the Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. The Battle of the Atlantic pitted U-boats and warships of the Kriegsmarine (German navy) and aircrafts of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) against the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Navy, the United States Navy, and Allied merchant shipping.

WW2 Facts

60. Inglorious

Approximately 600,000 Jews served in the United States armed forces during WWII. More than 35,000 of those Jews were killed, wounded, captured, or otherwise went missing. Approximately 8,000 died in combat. Only two Jewish soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor.

WW2 Facts

59. Unforgiveable

The Nazis murdered over 12 million people, with 6 million of those being Jews who were killed during the Holocaust.

WW2 Facts

Liberation of Auschwitz.

58. Holocaust

The word “Holocaust” means “whole burnt.”

WW2 Facts

57. The Tides of War

In WW2, the U.S. and New Zealand secretly tested 3,700 “tsunami bombs” designed to destroy coastal cities.

WW2 Facts

56. Protecting Human Life

The Mosque of Paris helped Jews escape the Nazis by giving them Muslim IDs during WW2.

WW2 Facts

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55. Japan’s Refugees

During WW2, Japan received Jewish refugees and rejected the resulting Nazi German protests.

WW2 Facts

54. The Spy that Got Medals

Spaniard double agent Joan Pujol Garcia had the rare distinction of receiving an Iron Cross from the Germans and an MBE from the British during WW2.

WW2 Facts

53. Poor Problem-Solving

The architect of “The Final Solution” was Heinrich Himmler, and the decision was made at the 1942 Wannsee Conference in Berlin to go ahead with the plan.

WW2 Facts

52. The Alternate Solution

Before deciding to kill all the Jews, one of the proposed “solutions” was sending all of them to Madagascar. Unfortunately, Nazi studies showed that Madgascar simply would not have been big enough and, furthermore, access was blocked by a British naval blockade.

WW2 Facts

51. Worst Memo Ever

The earliest use of the phrase “Final solution to the Jewish problem” was actually used in an 1899 memo to Russian Tzar Nicholas about Zionism.

WW2 Facts

50. Close to Salvation

Anne Frank died one month before the liberation of her concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen.

WW2 Facts

49. Disease Control

After the camp was liberated, the Allied forces burned it down to prevent the spread of typhus.

WW2 Facts

48. Typhus Heroism

During WW2, two polish doctors saved 8,000 Jews from the Holocaust by faking a typhus epidemic that stopped the Nazis entering their town.

WW2 Facts

47. I Can Be Your Hero

Despite the risks, many people worked to save the Jews. The entire country of Denmark saved their whole Jewish community while individuals such as Oskar Schindler made significant differences.

WW2 Facts

46. Dying Free

Even after the Allied forces liberated the concentration camp prisoners, many were beyond help with 13,000 prisoners in Bergen-Belsen dying after being saved.

WW2 Facts

45. Nazi Experiments

Many of the Jewish prisoners were used for horrible medical experiments, including bombarding testicles and ovaries with x-rays to see when sterility occurred, breaking bones to see how many times they could be broken before they no longer healed, and amputating limbs for testing transplantation.

WW2 Facts

44. Dr. Horrible

Dr. Josef Mengele performed many terrible experiments using twins. Of over 3,000 twins he used as test subjects, only 200 survived.

WW2 Facts

43. Give ‘em the Hook

The swastika is an ancient religious symbol derived from the Sanskrit name for a hooked cross, which was used by ancient civilizations as a symbol of fertility and good fortune.

World War 2 Facts - Nazi Flag

42. Flagged as Inappropriate

Hitler designed the Nazi flag. The red represented the social idea of Nazism, the white represented nationalism, and the black Swastika represented the struggle of the Aryan man.

WW2 Facts

41. Balloon Fight

During WWII, Japanese launched “wind ship weapons,” paper and rubberized silk balloons that carried incendiary and anti-personnel bombs to the US. Reaching as far as Michigan, more than 1,000 balloons hit their targets. Only 6 Americans were killed, while they were on a picnic in Oregon.

WW2 Facts

40. Cable Network

Getting in on the balloon game, the British used balloons as part of their air defense. Before air raids, they would send up balloons, setting up a network of steel cables. This forced bombers to fly high in order to avoid being entangled, which reduced their accuracy.

WW2 Facts

39. Horror Museum

Hitler planned to collect thousands of Jewish artifacts to build a “Museum of An Extinct Race” after the war.

WW2 Facts

38. Horror Lake

Hitler’s plan for Moscow was to kill all its residents and cover it with an artificial lake.

37. Suicide Squad

The Kamikaze attack, suggested by Vice-Admiral Onishi in 1944, was meant to combat the superior technological advantage that the Americans had. Though the numbers may not be accurate, it is estimated that 2,800 Kamikaze pilots died while sinking 34 US ships, damaging 368 others, and killing 4,900 sailors whilst injuring 4,800 more.

WW2 Facts

36. The Wind beneath Their Wings

Kamikaze means “divine wind” in Japanese.

Kamikaze Pilots - WW2

35. Pearl Harbour

The attack at Pearl Harbor sunk or damaged 18 of the 96 ships that were anchored there, including 8 battleships. They also destroyed at least 350 aircrafts and killed 2,402 men.

WW2 Facts

34. Canada, Eh?

After the attack on Pearl Harbor during WW2, Canada declared war on Japan before the United States did.

WW2 Facts

33. Priorities

During WW2, the Oscars’ statuettes were made of painted plaster due to a metal shortage.

WW2 Facts

32. Unfair Trade

German U-Boats sunk 2,000 Allied ships at a cost of 781 U-Boats.

WW2 Facts

31. Life Isn’t Better Where It’s Wetter

Of the 40,000 men who served on U-Boats in the war, only 10,000 of them made it home.

WW2 Facts

30. Danger Pay

In 1941, a private in the US Army earned $21/month. In 1942, he earned $50/month.

WW2 Facts

29. Bring out the Death Ray

In 1935, British engineer Robert Watson-Watt worked on a “death ray” using radio waves. The “death ray” never worked, but it eventually became radar, which rumor has it, ended up being pretty useful.

WW2 Facts

28. Blonds Have More Fun

The most successful fighter ace of any nation was German fighter pilot Erich Hartmann, also known as the “Blond Knight.” In his career, he racked up 352 kills. By contrast, the famed Red Baron, also German, racked up only 80 kills.

WW2 Facts

27. Too Little Too Late

The first jet fighters to be employed in combat were invented by the Germans. However, they were introduced a little too late to turn the tide in the war.

WW2 Facts

26. Message in a Bottle? Try Coconuts.

After John F. Kennedy’s WW2 PT boat was sunk, he wrote a message on a coconut asking for help. It worked. Kennedy kept the coconut and it became a Presidential paperweight.

WW2 Facts

25. Gun Show

The most powerful artillery gun used in WWII was named Karl after its creator Karl Becker. The massive gun could fire a 2.5 ton shell over 3 miles, was capable of penetrating up to nine feet of concrete.

WW2 Facts

24. Taking the Stairs

During WW2, when Hitler visited Paris, the French cut the lift cables on the Eiffel Tower so that Hitler would have to climb the steps if he wanted to reach the top.

WW2 Facts

23. BAM

Women serving in the US Marine Corp were referred to as BAMs, which stood for “Broad-Assed Marines.”  They called the men HAMs, which stood for “Hairy-Assed Marines.”

WW2 Facts

22. Never Trust a Brothel

The SS ran a brothel called “The Kitty Salon” for foreign diplomats and other VIPs in Berlin. The brothel was wiretapped, and the prostitutes all underwent rigorous spy training to be able to extract information via seemingly innocuous conversation.

WW2 Facts

21. Does a Burger by any Other Name…

During WWII, hamburgers were renamed “Liberty Steaks” to avoid having a name that sounded too German. This set off a long tradition of renaming American foods to avoid unsavory national associations. Freedom Fries anyone?

WW2 Facts

20. Mrs. Hitler

The American secret service tried to spike Hitler’s food with female hormones to feminize him.

Agents planned to smuggle doses of oestrogen into his food to make him less aggressive and more like his docile younger sister Paula, who worked as a secretary.

Spies working for the British were close enough to Hitler to access his food, and oestrogen was chosen because it was tasteless and would have a slow and subtle effect, meaning it would pass Hitler’s food testers unnoticed.

WW2 Facts

19. Nazi Pirates

The Nazis pirated the Harvard “fight song” to compose their Sieg Heil march.

WW2 Facts

18. Ancestry

The Nazis killed millions of Polish people, but some of the babies and children looked German, they kidnapped 50,000 of them to be adopted to German parents for “Germanization.”

WW2 Facts

17. Built Ford Tough

Hitler kept a framed photo of Henry Ford, of the Ford Motor Company, on his desk. Hitler regarded Ford as an inspiration and said that he would do his “best to put his theories into practice in Germany.”

WW2 Facts

16. Runaway Baby

On January 31st, 1945, US Army Private Eddie Slovik was shot for desertion, the first American to be executed for the crime since the Civil War and the only one to receive this punishment in WWII.

WW2 Facts

15. Musta Had Great Fake ID

Calvin Graham was the youngest serviceman to ever serve in the military, enlisting at the age of 12. He won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart before it was discovered how old he was. He was discharged from service and, as punishment, was later played by Ricky Shroder in TV movie called Too Young the Hero.

WW2 Facts

14. To the Victors Go the Spoils

After being defeated in WWI, the Germans were forced to sign the 1919 Treaty of Versailles that resulted in Germany losing all its overseas empires, land to its neighbors, and restrictions on the size of their army. The economic damage and humiliation that the treaty caused Germany has been partially blamed for pushing Germany into WWII.

WW2 Facts

13. Choose Your Friends Wisely

Japan fought on the side of Britain, France, and the US during WWI, but they felt they got cheated out of territory after the peace treaty was negotiated.

WW2 Facts

12. Horticultural Assimilation

One of the editors of the magazine Better Homes and Gardens, Norvell Gillespie, designed the camouflage pattern printed on US Army uniforms.

WW2 Facts

11. World of Tanks

The greatest tank battle in history occurred between the Germans and Russians in 1943. It went on for 18 days and involved 3,600 tanks.

WW2 Facts

10. A Dubious Distinction

Rudolf Hess, Adolf’s deputy in the Nazi party, was the last person to ever have been imprisoned in the Tower of London.

WW2 Facts

9. Mean Names and Bigotry

Hess was referred to by other members of the Nazi party as “Fraulein Anna” as it was frequently rumored that he was a homosexual.

WW2 Facts

8. Crazy is as Crazy Does

In what was widely regarded as a “bizarre” move, Hess parachuted into Scotland on May 10th, 1941 to negotiate a peace treaty. The British concluded that he was mentally unstable and locked him away for life, until his death via suicide.

WW2 Facts

7. The Reich

The Nazis referred to their rule as the Third Reich. The First Reich was the Holy Roman Empire, which lasted 844 years. The Second Reich was the German Empire, which lasted 47 years. The Third Reich only lasted 12 years. Based on that trend, the Fourth Reich should last a few months at most.

WW2 Facts

6. In The End

In one of the last battles of WW2, American and German soldiers fought together as allies against an SS division to defend an Austrian castle.

WW2 Facts

5. So Gangsta

Following the attack at Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt requested a bulletproof car but, due to a spending limit of $750, the only car within their budget was Al Capone’s limo, which had been seized by the Treasury Department following Capone’s arrest for tax evasion.

WW2 Facts

4. Radioactive Land?

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are not radioactive anymore mostly because the bombs didn’t touch the ground but were detonated in the air.

Hiroshima - WW2 Facts

Modern Hiroshima

3. Giving Himself a Bad Name

Norwegian leader Vidkun Quisling actively collaborated with the Nazis after the occupation, and, as a result, his name is now a Norwegian word for “traitor.”

WW2 Facts

2. Smoke Signals

From 1942 onwards, the US Marines in the Pacific used the Navajo language as their secret code. Over 400 Navajo Indians (Code Talkers) were trained to use the code, and the Japanese never figured it out.

1. Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

A Japanese soldier named Hiroo Onoda hid in the jungle on the Pacific island of Lubang where he held out for 29 years, refusing to believe that the war was over. The man who found him, Norio Suzuki, was traveling around the world to look for, “Lieutenant Onoda, a panda, and the Abominable Snowman, in that order.” Suzuki returned to Japan with Onoda’s story and the Japanese government located Onoda’s commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, who had since become a bookseller.  Taniguchi flew to Lubang and relieved Onoda of his duties, much to the relief of the locals who Onoda had been harassing for the last thirty years as part of his misguided effort to help Japan win the war.

WW2 Facts

Onoda, left, accepts a pack of cigarettes from a member of a Japanese team.

Sources: 1 2 3 4

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