40 Historical Facts About World War 2 You Probably Didn't Know

40 Historical Facts About World War 2 You Probably Didn't Know

World War II, one of the most defining and devastating periods of the 20th century, is a vast tapestry of stories, strategies, and significant moments. While many of its events are extensively studied in history classes and documented in films, there exists a myriad of lesser-known tales and tidbits that remain in the shadows. In this article, we delve into 40 lesser-known facts about this global conflict, offering readers a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the many facets of World War II.

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1. Operation Vegetarian

The British developed plans to drop anthrax-infected cattle cakes over Germany to kill their livestock.

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2. Bat Bombs

The U.S. considered using bats to carry incendiary devices into Japanese buildings.

flying-dogs-2237209_1280.jpgImage by Simon Berstecher from Pixabay

3. Ni’ihau Incident

A Japanese pilot crash-landed on the Hawaiian island of Ni'ihau. The events that followed would influence the internment of Japanese-Americans.

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4. Ghost Army

The Allies had a deception unit that simulated military operations with inflatable tanks and sound effects.

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5. Ice Aircraft Carriers

The British considered building aircraft carriers out of pykrete (a mixture of wood pulp and ice).

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6. Fu-Go Balloon Bombs

Japan launched over 9,000 balloon bombs towards North America; some landed as far inland as Michigan.

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7. Hitler’s Nephew

William Patrick Hitler moved to the U.S. before WWII and joined the U.S. Navy during the war.

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8. Unsinkable Sam

A cat named "Sam" survived the sinking of three warships in both the German and British navies.

cat-1192026_1280.jpgImage by Chiemsee2016 from Pixabay

9. Jewish Soldiers in the German Army

There were Jewish soldiers in Hitler’s army, especially in the earlier years of the war.

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10. War Pigeons

The UK used over 250,000 messenger pigeons during WWII.

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11. Polar Bear Units

Britain’s 49th Infantry Division was stationed in Iceland and known for its polar bear emblem.

polar-bear-7955893_1280.jpgImage by Markus Kammermann from Pixabay

12. Bear Soldier

A bear named Wojtek was enlisted in the Polish army, helping to carry ammunition.

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13. Operation Mincemeat

The Allies tricked the Nazis with a corpse dressed as a Royal Marine officer carrying fake war plans.

reconnoiter-60779_1280.jpgImage by Amber Clay from Pixabay

14. Piggyback Ride

During the Battle of Okinawa, an American pilot carried his injured friend on his back while flying his plane.

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15. Audie Murphy

One of the most decorated American combat soldiers in WWII, Murphy was only 5’5” and weighed 110 lbs at enlistment.

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16. The Double Agent

Joan Pujol Garcia was a double agent for the British who managed to deceive the Germans throughout the war.

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17. Jelly Bomb

The British developed an explosive using gelignite that was malleable and waterproof.

jello-238230_1280.jpgImage by Lynn Greyling from Pixabay

18. Night Witches

Soviet female pilots in wooden biplanes carried out nighttime bombing raids against the Germans.

retro-48034791280-1.jpgImage by Vlad Min from Pixabay

19. Asian Participation

Over 2.5 million Indians fought for the Allies.

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20. Foxl

A small dog found in the Australian bushes became the mascot for the Australian Air Force in Papua New Guinea.

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21. Oskar Schindler

Though well-known from Spielberg's film, many don't realize he was a member of the Nazi party and initially sought to profit from the war.

oskar-schindler-402330_1280.jpgImage by Ron Porter from Pixabay

22. Russian Liberator

The first foreign officer to enter the liberated Auschwitz was Anatoly Shapiro, a Jewish officer in the Red Army.

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23. German King of England

King George VI of the UK was also the last Emperor of India and the last King of Ireland.

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24. Mussolini’s Rescue

Otto Skorzeny, an Austrian SS officer, led the mission to rescue Mussolini from imprisonment.

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25. Kamikaze Torpedoes

Apart from planes, Japan also had suicide torpedoes called "Kaiten."

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26. Fake Paris

The French built a fake Paris to confuse German bombers.

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27. Japanese Holdout

Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier, didn't surrender until 1974 because he didn’t know the war was over.

soldier-60762_1280.jpgImage by Amber Clay from Pixabay

28. The Candy Bomber

During the Berlin Airlift, an American pilot named Gail Halvorsen dropped candy for the children of Berlin.

candies-7036390_1280.jpgImage by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

29. Oldest Paratrooper

James "Maggie" Megellas is the most decorated officer in the history of the 82nd Airborne Division, serving at the age of 46.

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30. Operation Long Jump

There was a German plan to simultaneously assassinate Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin during the Tehran Conference.

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31. Bagpipes on the Beach

A Scottish soldier named Bill Millin played the bagpipes during the Normandy invasion.

bagpipe-349717_1280.jpgImage by PublicDomainArchive from Pixabay

32. Jewish Avengers

A group of Holocaust survivors plotted to poison six million Germans as revenge.

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33. Switzerland

Often seen as purely neutral, Switzerland actually had plans to resist a Nazi invasion.

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34. Vatican Radio

Broadcasted coded messages to assist the Allies.

tiber-river-4529605_1280.jpgImage by Nimrod Oren from Pixabay

35. Leningrad Symphony

Despite a brutal siege, the Leningrad Philharmonic performed Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony.

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36. German Jet Fighters

The Germans developed the world’s first operational jet-powered fighter aircraft, the Messerschmitt Me 262.

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37. Haberdashery Spy

Roald Dahl, the famed children’s author, was a British spy in the U.S. during WWII.

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38. The First Kamikaze

The first official kamikaze mission took place on October 25, 1944.

nuclear-2136244_1280.jpgImage by Alexander Antropov from Pixabay

39. Penicillin

WWII saw the first widespread use of penicillin.

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40. Deafness Weapon

The U.S. had a project to create a bomb that would deafen people.

the-statue-of-liberty-2602636_1280.jpgImage by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

These facts provide a more intricate look into the many facets and stories that are part of World War II, reminding us of the immense complexity of this global conflict.