Below is a list of interesting facts about World War II:
1. World War II, to date, caused more destruction and cost more money than any other conflict. Russia alone suffered more than 21 million casualties – more than any other country involved in the war.
2. Four of every five German soldiers killed in the war, died on the Eastern Front.
3. Only 20% of the males born in the Soviet Union in 1923 survived the war.
4. An average of 27,700 tons of bombs was dropped per month by the Allies from 1939 to 1945 for a total of 3.4 million tons.
5. Facts about Pearl Harbor:
b. 18 of the ships were sunk or seriously damaged – this included eight battleships
c. A total of 2,402 American men were killed with another 1,280 being injured
d. A total of 350 aircraft were either damaged or destroyed
e. President Roosevelt used Al Capons’ bullet proof car (which had been seized by the US Treasury in 1931 and was the only bulletproof vehicle available) as a means of safe transportation to deliver his infamous Pearl Harbor speech.
6. Back in 1942, the radio DJs in the United States were forbidden to accept listener requests as officials feared enemy spies could imbed secret messages.
7. In World War II, the youngest serviceman in the United States military was Calvin Graham – age 12. Graham lied about his age when he enlisted in the US Navy. His real age was not discovered after he was wounded.
8. A number of historians credit the Battle at Stalingrad as the turning point of the war in Europe.
9. The Battle of the Atlantic is the longest battle of the war, lasting from 1939 to 1945.
10. Only one out of every four men serving on U-boats survived.
11. The Japanese use the term ‘niju hibakusha’ to refer to survivors of the atomic bombings. Literally translated, the word means ‘explosion-affected people’.
12. The earnings of a private jumped from $21/month in 1941 to $50/month in 1942.
13. German U-Boats are credited with sinking 2,000 Allied ships. A total of 781 U-Boats were destroyed in the process.
14. Production of war related items soared in the United States during World War II, including the following:
b. 300,000 military aircraft
c. 89,000 tanks
d. 3 million machine guns
e. 7 million rifles
15. More than 80,000 US soldiers died in the Battle of the Bulge, making it the largest and deadliest battle for United States troops to date.
16. Hard to believe, but the Siege of Stalingrad resulted in more Russian deaths (military and civilian) then the United States and Britain sustained (combined) in all of World War II.
17. During WWII, the Japanese launched more than 9,000 ‘balloon’ weapons at the United States. These ‘wind ship weapons’ carried combustible bombs over the states with 1,000 of them actually hitting their intended target. Some reached as far as Michigan. The only deaths reported as a result of these bombs were in Oregon – five children and one pregnant woman who found a bomb that had not detonated, but did so after they moved it.
18. The use of Kamakaze (divine wind) pilots was proposed in October of 1944 by Vice Admiral Onishi. Onishi felt the tactic would help to balance the technological advantages of the advancing US forces. It is believed that as many as 2,000 pilots died while sinking 34 US ships, damaging 368, killing 4,900 sailors and wounding an additional 4,800.
19. The United States’ defense budget during the war (1940-45) increased from $1.9 billion to a staggering $59.8 billion.
20. Jet fighters were first used during World War II by the Germans. Their late development made their impact insignificant, however, in changing the course of the war.
21. During World War II, General Karl Becker designed the most powerful artillery gun. The Karl – as it was appropriately named – was mainly used against the Russians. This artillery piece was capable of shooting a 2.5 ton shell over three miles. Each shell was 24 inches wide and had the capacity to pierce through 8 or 9 feet of concrete.
22. To avoid using the German sounding name ‘hamburger’ during World War II, Americans used the name ‘Liberty Steak’.
23. The top ace fighter of all nations involved in WWII is Germany’s pilot Erich Hartmann – known as the Blond Knight. Hartmann is credited with 352 ‘kills’.
24. Adolf Hitler’s nephew, William Hitler, served in the US Navy during World War II. It wasn’t until after the war that he changed his name.
a. Henry Fonda – Bronze Star in the Pacific
b. Walter Matthau – 6 Battle Stars
c. David Niven – US Legion of Merit
26. Though infamous for starring in more than a dozen World War II movies, actor John Wayne was unable to serve during the war due to a football injury.
27. Oddly enough, both Adolph Hitler and Henry Ford each kept a framed picture of each other on their desk.
28. Private Eddie Slovik was the only deserter of WWII shot for this crime. He was executed in January of 1945, the first since the Civil War.
29. During WWI, Japan fought with Britain, France and the US. Minimal territory gain from the peace treaty and a change of government in 1920 (fanatical nationalists) eventually provoked Japan to side with the Germans.
30. Germany also had a number of grievances after its defeat in WWI. First, it was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles. They lost all their overseas empires and even land mass to its neighbors. Germany was further prevented from maintaining a large army. The resentment that followed eventually nullified the settlement and led to World War II.
31. The 442nd regimental Combat Team was (and continues to be to date) the most decorated unit in United States history. Their motto for this Japanese-American volunteer group during the war was ‘Go for Broke’. They received a total of 4,667 medals and citations which included the following:
b. 4,000 Bronze Stars
c. 52 Distinguished Service Crosses
d. One Medal of Honor
This unit is also noted as never having a case of desertion.
32. The United States camouflage print for the service uniforms used during World War II was designed by Norvell Gillespie. Gillespie was the garden editor for the Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.
33. From July 4-22, 1943, more than 3,600 tanks took part in the Battle at Kursk. This tank battle between the Germans and the Russians is the greatest tank battle in the history of warfare.
34. During World War II, the largest Japanese spy ring was actually located in Mexico. Here, they could spy on the United States Atlantic Fleet.
35. The mortality rate for POWs in Russian camps was 85%.
36. During WWII, Germany lost twice as many generals than the United States. Germany lost 3,363 while the United States lost just over 1,500.
37. When the war was over, the majority of German war criminals gained their freedom by claiming to be refugees at various displaced persons camps.
38. Had it been necessary for a third atom bomb, the city targeted would have been Tokyo, Japan.
39. The United States is the only country that Germany formally declared war on in World War II.
40. A new weapon – the Katyusha – was introduced by the Soviets in July of 1941. This weapon is capable of firing 320 rockets in as little as 25 seconds and is still considered an effective weapon today.
41. A little trick used by Britain during the war was the use of inflatable barrage balloons. These balloons would be launched around major towns and cities just before a raid. Beneath each balloon was a network of steel cables, which forced bombers to fly high in order to avoid entanglement within the cables. As a result, their accuracy was greatly reduced.
42. Many attribute the success of the Blitzkreig to the use of dive-bombers. These bombers – such as the Stuka (Junkers Ju87) -would support the tank units. They were fitted with sirens which made a screaming sound that terrified the population.
43. A Norwegian leader – Vidkun Quisling who held office from 1942 to 1945 – was found guilty of collaborating with the Germans after its occupation. During World War II, the word quisling in the Norwegian language became a synonym for traitor.
44. Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier, emerged from the jungle of the Pacific Island Lubang in 1974. Unaware that Japan had surrendered, he remained hidden in the jungle for 29 years.
45. Russia and Japan have never signed an official peace treaty. An attempt – as recent as 2000 – failed when Russia refused to return four offshore islands they had taken from Japan after the war.
46. During WWII, the Navajo Code Talkers were able to devise a code using their native language. The code allowed for quick sending and deciphering. Unlike earlier codes, which required far more time, the Japanese were never able to break the Navajo Code.
47. The first Allied paratroopers did not appear until 1940, five years after the Russians.
48. Newly developed blood transfusion proved to be the most important medical advancement credited with saving lives of soldiers.
49. During WWII, all major powers had chemical weapons, such as poison gas that was first used in WWI to break the trench war stalemate. However, only two countries actually used them:
a. Japan – in China
b. Italy – in Ethiopia
50. Total casualties for World War II totaled between 50 – 70 million people. A staggering 80% of this total came from only four countries – Russia, China, Germany and Poland. Over 50% of the casualties were civilians, with the majority of those being women and children.
These interesting facts about World War II are just some of the little known facts regarding the war.