17 Unbelievable Facts You Never Knew About World War II

17 Amazing facts from World War II that you never thought possible, but they are true!


The first U.S. service member killed in the European theater was killed in Norway in 1940 during a battle against the Germans


The highest ranking U.S. service member killed in action was Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair who died during a bombing raid by the U.S. Army Air Corps.


The youngest American service member to serve was 12-year old Calvin Graham who was in the Navy. Graham fought and was wounded in combat. He was later given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age. Years later he would see his benefits restored by act of Congress.

45th Infantry Patch before it was changed

At the time Pearl Harbor happened the U.S. Navy command was called CINCUS (pronounced ‘sink us’), the 45th Infantry for the U.S. Army used the Swastika as their shoulder patch and Hitler’s private train was named “Amerika.” All three were changed shortly thereafter for PR purposes.


More U.S. service members died in the Air Corps than the Marine Corps. Air Corps members were required to complete 30 missions and had a 71% of being killed. Despite the high likelihood of death, B-17 bombers were far from helpless. They carried 4 tons of bombs and 1.5 tons of machine gun ammo. Throughout the war the U.S. 8th Air Force shot down 6,098 planes – 1 for every 12,700 shots fired.

Hiroyoshi Nishizawa in his Mitsubishi Zero A6M3 Model 22 (tail code UI-105)

There was no such things as an “average fighter pilot” – you were either an ace or you were a target. As an example, Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 American planes. Ironically he met his maker while a passenger on a cargo plane of all things.


During the war it was a common practice on fighter planes to load a tracer with every 5th round to assist with aiming. This was a very costly mistake. Tracers have different ballistics. For every tracer that hit a target, 80% of regular rounds were missing. Most alarmingly, the tracers instantly tipped off an enemy that they were under attack and from where. In addition to fighter planes, soldiers loaded a string of tracers at the end of their belts to warn themselves they were out of ammo. Eventually units learned of their folly, those that discontinued using tracers saw their success rate double and losses go down.


A universal act of the Allied armies was peeing in the Rhine River upon arrival at it. Everyone from the lowest of privates to men no less than Winston Churchill (who made a big show of it) or General Patton (who had himself photographed in the act) did it.

Me 264 V 1, Fernbomber, Aufklärer. Werkfoto Messerschmitt (MBB) 6/264

The German Me-264 bomber was capable of bombing New York City, but the Germans felt it was not worth the effort.



Ironically, the US Army had more ships that the US Navy.


The Red Army fought “all-in.” Similar to the Japanese kamikaze pilots, the Russians destroyed over 500 German aircraft by ramming them in the air. The Russians also often cleared minefields by actually marching over them. Joseph Stalin proudly said of his troops, “It takes a brave man not to be a hero in the Red Army.”


The U.S. Army deployed in style. Upon landing in North Africa they set-up 3 Coca-Cola bottling plants.

Un homme de la Engineer Special Brigade 5th ou 6th (arc blanc sur le casque) inscrit les noms de prisonniers de la Wehrmacht. L'un d'eux très jeune est de type asiatique. En fait il s'agit d'un Coréen Yang Kyoung-Jong né à Shin Euijoo en Corée le 3 mars 1920. Enrôlé dans l'armée japonaise du Kwantung en 1938, il est capturé par l'armée soviétique à Nomohan, enrôlé de force ou non puis recapturé par les Allemands à la bataille de Kharkov en 1943 puis enfin par les Américains à Utah. Libéré d'un camp de prisonniers en Angleterre en mai 45, il part s'établir en Amérique où il mènera une vie paisible sans jamais parler de son odyssée (on le comprend !). Il y meurt e 7 avril 1992. Voir ici : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yang_Kyoungjong http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_Away_:_Les_soldats_de_l%E2%80%99espoir Information fournie par Stephen Ambrose dans son livre D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of WWII. Simon & Schuster, 1994. "Stephen Ambrose, an executive producer on the television mini-series that was based on his work, Band of Brothers, interviewed Robert Brewer(correct spelling?), who was a member of the first platoon of 'Easy Company' of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which parachuted near Vierville on June 6, 1944. According to this interview, on June 7, his platoon attacked and occupied a German bunker near the beach and captured four Asians in German uniform who spoke a strange language. They told him that they are Koreans and was conscripted to the Japanese army in 1938 and captured by the red army in 1939 in Nomonhan and again captured by Germans in the defense of Moscow in the winter of 1941. " Et : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2153688/Second-World-War--German-Japanese-soldier-stories-change-perception-ever.html Et : "In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, members of E Company of the U.S. 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment dropped into and around Vierville and fought for several days with units attached to the German 709th Infantry Division and, once again, despite heavy casualties, four Koreans were captured and marched down to Utah beach. The photograph at the top was taken as one 24 year old Kyoungjong Yang was being processed as a German POW by the Americans there on the beach." extrait de: http://euroranger.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/ Et : http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/antony-beevor/book-excerpt_b_1619999.html Lire ici la légende américaine d'époque "Japanese in nazi uniform" http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlq/6245617155/in/photostream Vous noterez la date 21 juin ce qui peut expliquer que le prisonnier qui a été capturé à Utah le 7 juin se trouve en compagnie d'un Engineer de la zone Omaha (arc blanc sur le casque) transfert de prisonnier ou déplacement de troupes US, voir en p011594 un Engineer Omaha à Sainte Marie du Mont : http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=58897785@N00&q=p011594 Cette information a été réactivée par un article de Stéphane Jacquet dans le N°305, novembre 2012, de 39-45 Magazine, mais en fait connue depuis 2002 : http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=82819 Pour les prisonniers en uniforme allemand d'origine asiatique : Osttruppen ou Hiwis, voir les : http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlq/8186996935/in/photostream

When they took Normandy, the first “German” soldiers captured by the Allies were actually Koreans! These poor soldiers were originally captured by the Japanese Imperial Army and forced to fight for Japan until they were captured by the Russian army who conscripted them to fight on their behalf. They were later captured by the Germans and forced to fight for them as well until they were captured and freed by the Americans.


The infamous Graf Spee never did sink. The scuttling failed, and the ship was boarded by the British Navy. Germany’s newest radar system was on board.


After an initial massive naval bombardment, 35,000 American and Canadian troops stormed the shores of Kiska. Only 21 troops were killed in the firefight. Casualties would have been heavier had there been Japanese on the island.


MISS ME was an unarmed Piper Cub. While on a spotting mission for the U.S. artillery her pilot noticed a German plane on a similar mission. MISS ME dived on the German plane, and the pilot and co-pilot opened fire on the German plane with their service pistols damaging it enough to force a landing. They quickly followed up landing and capturing the German pilots as prisoners. Where exactly they put the Germans remains a mystery as the MISS ME only had two seats.


Most Waffen SS members were not German.

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.

@joris1944 facebook.com/joris.nieuwint