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Some great discoveries from WWII

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We think of the world as a crowded place — in an era when even Mt. Everest has cell phone coverage, you wouldn’t think that anything could go undiscovered for long. But you’d be surprised — for instance, nearly seven decades after World War II ended, stuff is still turning up — and we’re not talking about an old rusty Luger here or a set of dog tags there. We’re talking about stuff like…

1. A Bunker for Goebbels and Hitler’s Bodyguards Discovered in the 90s

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Just as Godwin’s Law states that every argument approaches the mention of Nazis the longer it drags on, so too does every construction project in Berlin approach Nazi bunkers the deeper it digs. Even today, it seems like the city can’t put a shovel to ground without accidentally unearthing another cement time capsule of evil from the 1940s.

For instance, while trying to build a Holocaust memorial in 1998, construction workers stumbled across Joseph Goebbles’ bunker. It somehow survived devastating munitions attacks at the end of the war, was sealed up and then just…forgotten about. Goebbles, if you aren’t familiar, was the man who led the political charge for Nazism as the Minister of Propaganda and was the strongest advocate of Jewish genocide, so finding his underground fortress in the exact spot dedicated to a holocaust memorial was, well, a bit awkward.

175996dpa via Berliner Kurier

But really, they’re used to it by now over there. Just eight years earlier, right after the Berlin Wall came down, Germany wanted to celebrate its reunification by having Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters perform The Wall: Live in Berlin, in the exact spot where the wall used to stand. But before they could build the stage, they had to sweep the area for mines since that’s the kind of thing you have to do in an area that’s affectionately been nicknamed the “Death Strip” for thirty years. Sure enough, while searching for munitions, workers accidentally found something much, much bigger: a secret bunker belonging to “SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler,” Hitler’s aptly named Personal Bodyguard Division. It was filled with helmets, a few weapons and huge, intricate wall murals because Hitler was, after all, an artist first and a crazy murderer second…chronologically anyway.

Despite this being a monumental discovery for historians, Berlin sealed off the SS bunker almost as soon as they found it, because they didn’t want anyone turning it into a shrine to Hitler. Sadly, we don’t have any descriptions or photographs of the murals. To this day the complex is only marked by an innocuous sign. However, if you know where to dig, don’t mind illegality, and you have a good jack-hammer guy then there’s always the chance you can see them for yourself.

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2. A Nazi surveillance Post in North America Discovered in 1981

176008Canadian War Museum via The Weather Network

While German U boats would occasionally shoot holes in ships off the coast of North Carolina during WWII, we generally think of fighting Nazis as an away game for Canada and the United States. So you can imagine how surprising it was when Canada found out in the early 80s that Germans once mounted a fully armed expedition into their country without anyone even noticing.

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In 1943, Germany was hoping to get a heads up on weather patterns originating in the west by dispatching a U boat to set up an Automated Weather Station in Newfoundland. Knowing weather patterns was a crucial advantage to the allies and the Germans knew that if they were going to stand a chance, they absolutely needed to be able to predict storms. So to keep this invaluable station safe in an enemy country they went to extraordinary lengths to disguise it. Specifically, they marked it as property of the “Canadian Weather Service,” and that’s it. Apparently this complex camouflaging strategy was more than enough because they fooled every Mountie that ever encountered the station for almost forty years.

It wasn’t until the late 70’s that a retired engineer stumbled onto evidence of its existence while working on a book about, we shit you not, Nazi weather stations. Even though the book somehow never gained cultural traction, this single discovery certainly did. The Canadian authorities located the station in 1981 based on his evidence, almost 40 years after it was erected and the whole thing has become a highlight of the Canadian War Museum, which we also promise totally exists.

176007Canadian War Museum via uboat.net

3. A Forest Swastika Remained Unnoticed Until 1992

175999_v1Reuters via Wikipedia

Every once in a while, a nightly news show will try to terrify their audience by bringing a black light to a rundown motel and then using it to reveal all the horrific things that have been coated on the bed sheets and walls for years. Well each year, Mother Nature does more or less the same thing just outside Zernikow, Germany using the magic of fall colors to reveal a goddamned 40,000 square-foot swastika in the middle of a pine forest. And no, it’s not just a cruel accident of nature.

The formation was only discovered in 1992, when a pilot happened to spot it (presumably thinking he’d been zapped through a time portal). No one in Zernikow is eager to admit that they know who is responsible for planting it (some say it was villagers in the area pledging loyalty to the Nazis, while others claim it was a Hitler Youth project). Regardless, it’s hard not to be impressed by the magnitude of the endeavor. Keep in mind that there wasn’t a lot of commercial airline traffic in Germany in the late 1930s and certainly none in that particular area, so the creators of the swastika had to have the foresight to predict future airline travel, or else they did it with the hope that a giant symbol of hatred might be the first things aliens would see when they visit (which of course is why it went undiscovered for about 40 years).

And while there are a lot of ways to show your allegiance to a fascist regime, none are so subtle 10 months of the year, and staggeringly flamboyant for two. The swastika is made up of deciduous larch trees in a coniferous forest, so it’s not until their leaves yellow in the fall that the swastika even shows up, but for that brief window of time, it’s so bright it can probably be seen from space.

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Locals cut down some of the trees once they discovered it to avoid embarrassment, though most of the larches grew back and it was still clearly a swastika right up through 2000 when they finally removed enough of the trees to obscure the image. Clearly there was some synchronicity among allegiant Nazi villagers during the time because in 2006 another forest Swastika popped up in Tash-Bashat, Kyrgyzstan. This time, the symbol was made out of around 600 Fir trees, and still stands to this day. Either this was a pet project for whatever Germany’s equivalent for a Parks and Rec Department is or there was one serial swastika tree planter gallivanting around Europe, like a Nazi Johnny Appleseed. We sort of prefer to imagine the latter.

4. An Untouched Battlefield Discovered in 2010

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Battle of the Bulge:

After a major war, people in cities and towns are usually pretty eager to start picking up the pieces so that life can continue, or at the very least, so the bodies don’t stink. But what about the major battles fought in the middle of nowhere? The wild animals that live around there can’t clean up mortars and bullet casings, they don’t even have opposable thumbs. In those cases, the battlefield can sometimes sit just as it was, like a display in a museum, for decades.

Such was the case with Eora Creek, the site of one of the deadliest battles between Australian and Japanese soldiers, deep in the jungles of Papa New Guinea. Brian Freeman, a former Australian Army Captain and trekker, was researching WWII era diaries and maps in 2010 when he found references to a large-scale battle in a remote region of Papa New Guinea. In the battle, 79 Australian servicemen died and another 145 were wounded. Hoping to discover a few remnants of the troop presence, Freeman made his way to the site, only to discover that no one had stepped foot there or disturbed anything since the last bullet was fired in 1942. Spent ammunition casings, canteens, helmets, and remains of bodies littered the jungle, including one body still leaning against a tree.

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The site of the battle is around 60 miles off the road through harsh jungle, which explains why it stayed hidden. Helmets were still perched on staffs in traditional soldier burials which means the area was even protected from the horrendous storms that are known to sweep through. The local native population, the Alola people, were aware of the battlefield, but they had didn’t want to go near it, partially because of fear regarding soldier spirits, and mostly because they aren’t stupid enough to poke around an area with live rounds and grenades scattered everywhere.

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5. Color Photo of One of the Most Important Moments of the 20th Century Found in 2009

176004_v1Ronald Playforth via The Guardian

In 2009, a blurry photograph showed up at an auction house in England. The picture looked unremarkable, featuring a group of men who are likely soldiers over 20 yards away and obscured by bushes. All in all, it’s not great composition and the lighting is bad, in fact, it’s hard to tell what’s going on in the picture at all, except, hang on, that scene looks familiar.

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Ah yes, it’s only the most significant German army surrender in World War II and one of the most pivotal moments in modern history. The picture, it turns out, is the only color photo in existence documenting German command giving up Northwest Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark to the allies. Not even the Imperial War Museum in London has a color photograph of the occasion. Apparently Ronald Playforth, who was a clerk for Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery (aka the badass accepting the surrender) took the picture from the bushes even though no one was supposed to be photographing the event. Then he tucked it away for 64 years and didn’t tell anyone about it except his family. It wasn’t until 2009 when his family finally decided to share the photo with the world, or more specifically, sell it to the highest bidder.

Oh, and it wasn’t the only rare color photo that popped up long after the war. Hugo Jaeger, one of Hitler’s personal photographers, took thousands of photographs during his time with the Fuhrer. He was also one of the few photographers that regularly used color film at that time. At the end of the war, Jaeger buried his photographs near Munich and didn’t show them to anyone until 1965, when he sold them to Life Magazine. In 2009 they were published on an online gallery. Despite all the footage and photographs that exist of Hitler and a swastika adorned Germany, it’s still shocking to suddenly see them all in color.

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176003Hugo Jaeger via Life

Battle of the Bulge:

6. A Top Secret Carrier Pigeon Message Discovered in 2012

176005Lee Sanders via The Telegraph

In November of 2012, Englishman David Martin of Surrey discovered the skeleton of a pigeon in his chimney. That part is pretty routine — birds fly into chimneys all the time, because they are stupid. But this bird skeleton had a small red capsule attached to its leg. Holy shit, it’s probably full of tiny gifts! It’s the bird Santa Claus! The truth was almost as strange: Inside was a coded WWII era message that had been sealed ever since it was written 70 some years ago (needless to say, this particular pigeon was a spectacular failure at its job). The letter contained 27 groups of 5 letters and was signed by a Sergeant W. Stott. After David Martin contacted the local media, the Government Communications Headquarters took a crack at decoding what was likely one of their own codes…and failed miserably. Seriously, they couldn’t even get close to breaking it. After weeks, the code crackers had made no progress and the news media claimed that the code was unbreakable. 176006_v3
But in December of the same year, Canadian Gordon Young claimed to have partially cracked the code. Using a WWI era codebook, Young deciphered some of the message in less than 20 minutes. According to him, some of the message read:

“Hit Jerry’s Right or Reserve Battery Here. Already know electrical engineers headquarters. Troops, panzers, batteries, engineers, here.”

Sergeant Stott turned out to be a 27 year old paratrooper who had dropped into Normandy behind enemy lines to evaluate the size of the German Army in the area. Young claims that the rest of the code may be either unsolvable, or possibly fake to try and fool any Germans stationed inside the chimneys of cottages.

Chris Sansone is a New York City based writer and television production freelancer. Check out his website at www.clichedcoincidence.com or email him at sansone.cracked@gmail.com

BATTLE OF THE BULGE

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