Bet you didn’t know…
Here’s a list of little known curious facts about the Second World War. Why not read and find out how much of a history buff you are, see how many of them you knew beforehand?
Curious Fact 1: Which is which?
Most historians agree that the Second World War began on September 1, 1939 – Germany’s invasion of Poland. However, there are historians who argue that the second global-scale conflict started on September 18, 1931, the day Japan invaded Manchuria. Still, there are those who maintained that WWII was just a continuation of WWI with a break of a couple of years in between.
So, which is which really?
Curious Fact 2: Stealing Nazis
To make their Sieg Heil March, the Nazis pirated Harvard’s “fight song”. Now, you be the judge. Did or didn’t they?
Curious Fact 3: Calvin Graham of the US Navy was only 12 when he became the recipient of a Purple Heart
Calvin Graham enlisted in the US Navy when he was just a mere 12–year-old lad though his superiors did not know that. When he got wounded and his bravery noted during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, he became the recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart Medal. However, he was stripped of these honors when his real age was revealed.
He also had to fight to receive full medical benefits rightfully his for serving in the war as well as clearing out his military record throughout his life. His Purple Heart was eventually reinstated almost two years after his death.
Curious Fact 4: Too many armies, too many wars
Yang Kyoungjong was a Korean soldier who served in the Japanese Imperial Army in 1938 in Manchuria. He was eventually captured by the Soviets and was interred in a labor camp. However, manpower shortage in the Soviets’ side had Yang fighting for the Red Army in the Eastern Front against the Nazis in 1942. The Wehrmacht captured him in 1943 and was then fitted with a German uniform to serve in the Eastern Battalion, a unit composed of Russian POWs.
When June 1944 rolled in, Yang was captured by the American troops. That ended his career as a military man of three armies — that of the Japanese, the Soviet and the German armies.
Legendary Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart went through a, more or less, same plight as Yang. But instead of serving multiple armies, he served in multiple wars. He was at the Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War. He was able to go through a plane crash alive, survived shots on multiple parts of his body and even tunnelled his way out of a POW camp. He summed up his war experiences with these words: “Frankly, I have enjoyed the war.”
Another soldier who served multiple times was Finnish Lauri Allan Törni, also known by his American name as Larry Thorne. He served in the Finnish Army as a captain during the Finnish Winter and Continuation Wars. He was also able to serve in the German army during the Second World War and fought against the Russians. When WWII ended, he immigrated to the US where he became a Green Beret and a highly decorated one at that. He served and died in Vietnam. In fact, he was John Wayne’s inspiration in the 1968 American war film Green Berets.
Curious Fact 5: Japanese cannibalism during WWII
Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, a non-fiction book authored by James Bradley, recounted how nine American crewmen survived after their plane crashed during the Second World War. Out of this number, only one man was plucked up alive when he was saved by a passing submarine — he was Lieutenant George H. W. Bush who went on to become US’ forty-first president.
Unfortunately, the rest of the gang weren’t so fortunate. They were captured by the Japanese, taken in as POWs and were eventually executed or partially eaten by their captors.
Curious Fact 6: The gremlins were a WWII invention
Accordingly, the notion about this havoc-creating little monsters was first developed during the Second World War; they were jokingly blamed for the little mechanical problems WWII-era planes ran into.
The concept grew and…the rest is history.
Curious Fact 7: The witches of WWII
Night Witches was a group of Soviet women, an all-female bomber regiment, who did bombing missions throughout the Second World War.
These women pilots would do their campaigns in the dead of the night turning off their engines then glide and drop their explosive loads to their German targets. This was their tactic to avoid being detected by the enemy. The Night Witches were able to drop a total of 3,000 tons of bombs above German lines and were so successful at what they did that German pilots were promised to receive the coveted Iron Cross if they could shoot down even a single Night Witch.
Curious Fact 8: Magic number 139
During the Second World War, American factories were all busy supporting the war efforts by making and supplying war materials that the country was only able to build 139 cars throughout the WWII years.
Curious Fact 9: And then, there were only 10,000
There were about 40,000 men who served in U-boats during WWII. However, after the conflict ended, only 10,000 of those men were able to return to their respective homes.
Curious Fact 10: Totality
All in all, the number of casualties from America, Britain and France during WWII, if put together, would roughly go in par with the number of casualties the Soviets had during the decisive battle of Leningrad only. The Soviet Union suffered 26 times more when it came to lives lost compared to the other country members of the Allies during the Second World War.