15 Things You Should Know About World War II
Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, had just a few years prior to his term been a general in World War Two. When in Germany, he learned of the extermination camp in Ohrdruf, Germany.
Upon discovering it, he arranged to meet other generals there, as that area of Germany had been captured by the Allies already. Eisenhower led a tour through the extermination camp and was so appalled that he ordered every American soldier there not on the front lines to visit Ohrdruf. This was so they would know exactly what they’re fighting against.
Eisenhower said that the atrocities there were “beyond the American mind to comprehend.” As a result, he ordered every citizen of the town of Gotha to tour the camp.
After the mayor and his wife toured the camp, they were so disturbed and ashamed that they went home and hanged themselves. Commenting on the atrocities, Eisenhower later said “I never dreamed that such cruelty bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world.”
The pilot guided the torpedo to its destination, effectively committing suicide on impact. Kaiten meaning “Return to the sky” was a manned torpedo designed by the Japanese in World War II. In 1943 the Japanese began reviewing suicide crafts since they were struggling in the war. At first, they were deemed too extreme, but later were reviewed and said to be necessary.
They began developing various crafts. The navy developed kamikaze airplanes. They developed shinyo suicide boats, fukuryu suicide divers, also known as human mines, and the kaiten submarines. The kamikaze planes were somewhat effective, and the kaiten subs were second most effective.
The kaiten were developed to deploy from the surface deck of a submarine. They were basically a torpedo with a cockpit attached to it. Specially equipped subs could hold two to six kaiten at a time. Kaitens, however, had very minimal diving depth and for this, many submarines ended up sinking.
Men volunteered to be Kaiten pilots and their families were told they’d be compensated 10,000 yen if their pilot was killed.
When Emperor Hirohito broadcast his surrender order to the Japanese people on August 14, 1945, almost no one could understand his dialect.
The “Jewel Voice Broadcast” was the radio broadcast during World War II in which Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced to the Japanese people that the government had decided to surrender. The announcement came following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the declaration of war against Japan by the Soviet Union.
The speech was notable for a few reasons, one being that it was the first time in history that an Emperor of Japan had spoken directly to the common people.
The problem was that almost none of them could understand it. The reason why is because he was speaking in a style of Classical Japanese that few ordinary people knew. In addition, he didn’t outright say “Japan has surrendered,” but that the government was accepting the terms of the Potsdam Declaration.
This made many people unsure if Japan had surrendered or not. The poor audio quality also added to the confusion. In the end, someone had to translate for the emperor to make it clear.
It's one of the landmarks events in modern history. Germany surrendering sparked massive celebrations around the world, including one in Times Square where they took the now famous picture of the sailor kissing a nurse. However, none may have been as wild as the one in Moscow.
Reports say thousands of people took the streets, and turned the city into a sea of vodka. They say that by the time Stalin addressed the nation 22 hours later, the entire city had been drunk dry!
A reporter said "he was lucky to buy a liter of vodka at the train station, because later it was impossible to buy one." Check out the source for that and other awesome parties in history.
Lieutenant Colonel John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill, or more commonly known as “Fighting Jack” was a British soldier renowned for his outlandish battle techniques in World War II. Routinely called mad, Churchill would go into every battle with a Scottish broadsword slung across his back, bagpipes under his arms, a longbow, and a quiver with arrows.
Churchill joined the army relatively early in his life. He joined the Commandos because it “sounded dangerous,” unsure of what his duties would be. Churchill was put in charge of raiding several German garrisons and became famous for his strategies. While in Poland, Churchill would give the signal to attack by shooting at the enemy commander with his longbow. This marks him as the only known British soldier to have killed an enemy with a longbow throughout the entire war.
Churchill also became famous for his routine attack style while trying to capture different enemy territories. He would jump from his position while playing a tune on his bagpipes. As he did this he would throw a grenade and sprint into the midst of the fighting, attempting to fell as many men as possible with his broadsword!
The whole fake neighborhood was built atop a Boeing factory south of downtown Seattle, and was the cumulative size of eight football fields. Houses, streets, and plants were assembled out of ply wood, cardboard, etc. to act as props and give the town the most convincing appearance possible.
The thought was that if any Japanese bombers made it this far east, they would confuse the plant for a quiet residential neighborhood, and as a result, not bomb it.
The workers at the plant had to use secret underground tunnels to reach nearby and also disguised cafeterias, classrooms, etc. Just another example of how war changes the landscape of a country.
In the January 1944 issue of Popular Science, the piece titled “Can We Blast Japan From Below?” presents the argument. The author, Professor Harold O. Whitnall of Colgate University, said that “[the Japanese] have made gods of [volcanoes],” and “fear of volcanoes is thoroughly ingrained in the minds of the Japanese.”
He went on to say that fear of volcanoes is so great that the act of bombing them would cause “cataclysmic terror.” The point was to not only use psychological warfare, but to turn the volcanoes into weapons of war by inducing eruptions.
Whitnall said that after Pearl Harbor, an all out attack on the Japanese homeland should have been accompanied by bombing raids on Japan’s volcanoes to hasten surrender. Obviously, it never materialized. But was it possible? Theoretically, yes.
In short, if a volcano is near its time to erupt, a bomb can be enough force to set it off. The proposal reached President Roosevelt, but was never seriously considered. Perhaps it was a good thing, because had such measures been taken, the tragic events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might not have been the only ones.
The military discovered that the North American free-tailed bat, which can carry 3 times its own weight, could be trained to drop small bombs in mass quantity over the Japanese.
After months of testing and training, the project was cancelled.
The tipping point: the bats caused a hangar to catch fire and even started a fire on a general\'s car!
How\'s that for an honorable discharge?
Read the full story here.
The pass of Thermopylae is a real place that the 300 greeks used to mount their heroic stand against the invading Persian armies. The pass is thought to have been only 100 meters wide and provides a natural defensive opportunity against invading forces.
While the area doesn't look the same as it used to (in the movie it shows how it used to be near a sea, now the sea has retreated), it is still a great natural place to make a defensive stand. In World War II, British Commonwealth forces were able to make a successful defensive stand against Nazi forces just a few feet from the original battlefield!
In 1941, Australian and New Zealander brigades were ordered to hold the pass, allowing other brigades to evacuate the area safely. The end result was a success: Nazi forces lost many people, and 15 tanks. The maneuver was a success, with all brigades, including the two left behind, being able to evacuate the area.
Read more on it here.
Shoichi Yokoi, a Japanese sergeant in World War II, returned to Japan in 1972, 27 years after World War II ended. Two American hunters discovered Yokoi in the jungle in Guam. They turned him over to the police, and he was sent back home. He had been hiding in the jungle rather than surrender to U.S. forces at the end of the war.
Yoichi was living in a cave, eating fish and rats, and made clothes out of tree bark. Like other Japanese troops, he was trained to fight to the death and told that surrendering was shameful. Upon returning to Japan he discovered that he had been declared dead in 1944.
The Japan that he came back to was very different than the one he left. He had never heard of jet planes, television, or the atomic bomb. \'\'I am ashamed that I have returned alive,\'\' he said.
Shoichi Yokoi wasn\'t the only Japanese WWII vet to hide out that long, either. Two years later, a lieutenant named Hiroo Onoda was discovered hiding out in the Philippine jungle. (source)
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States recognized that a Japanese invasion of Hawaii was possible.
If this happened, the Japanese would have access to a large amount of U.S. currency.
To avoid this possibility, the U.S. Army recalled $200 million worth of U.S. currency in Hawaii and set them on fire.
The Federal Reserve replaced all that money with special bills with the word “Hawaii” on them.
In case of a Japanese invasion, these special notes would become worthless, preventing the Japanese from holding millions of American dollars.
The special currency was in use until 1944.
In 2008, the U.S. military confirmed that Ernest G. Munn, who had been missing for over 50 years, was frozen in the glacier! He disappeared in the Sierra Nevada mountain range at the age of 23, back in 1942. Two hikers in 2005 discovered his frozen remains decades later, still wearing a sweater near an unopened parachute.
The part of the plane was found back in 1947, along with the rest of its passengers. The rest of the plane is supposedly still frozen, and preserved in a glacier.
(Sources: 1, 2)
A Polish WWII doctor saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust by creating a fake Typhus epidemic which played on racist German phobias about hygiene.
Just to preface this, this man was so influential that he was called “the Polish Schindler.” His name was Dr. Eugene Lazowski, and was a Polish doctor who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust with an ingenious scheme.
He created a fake epidemic that played on German phobias to help save people. With the help of a friend, he created a fake outbreak of Typhus, a dangerous infectious disease. The Germans reacted by quarantining the area he had “designated” the outbreak to be at.
In total, the quarantine saved around 8,000 Polish Jews from death in concentration camps. In doing so, Lazowski had risked the death penalty. Despite this, it was a great success, and he went on to live many more years. He died back in 2006.
They’re called paradummies and were first used during World War II. Their purpose was to make an air invasion seem much more daunting than it actually was, and they were extremely successful. While both sides used the dummies, the British were the ones who perfected the technique.
The most famous time paradummies were used was on June 6, 1944 called Operation Titanic. In the early hours of the morning 500 dummies were dropped in four different locations. Attached to the dummies were rifle fire simulators and two teams of Special Air Service soldiers who carried loud battle noise recordings.
Their intent was to push German troops away from the Allies actual drop zones, which they accomplished. Unfortunately, only two of the soldiers that were not dummies escaped when the Germans rushed at who they assumed were enemy soldiers.