The most destructive conflict in human history enveloped the world from 1939 to 1945 and caused tens of millions of casualties. During the war, there were many interesting, unusual, and downright bizarre events that actually occurred. What follows are 20 of the strangest events that happened during World War II.
20. A number of air crewman died from not farting. Ascending to 20,000 feet in an unpressurised cabin can cause intestinal gas to expand rapidly, which can be fatal.
19. While completing the required 30 missions, US Air Corps servicemen had an estimated 71% chance of dying.
18. More US servicemen died while serving in the Air Corps as opposed to the Marine Corps.
17. The fictitious name Max Heiliger was used by the SS to create a bank account where they stashed gold, money and jewels taken from Jews in Europe. Some historians estimate the hoard to be worth US$238 million.
16. 80% of men born in Russia during the year 1923 did not survive the war.
15. Stanislawa Leszczynska, a Polish Catholic midwife, delivered over 3,000 babies at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during the Holocaust.
14. The term “Nazi” actually derives from a Bavarian word that means “simple minded”. The original acronym for the National Socialist Party was “NASOS” which was meant to avoid this term. The journalist Konrad Heiden is credited with labeling them as “Nazis” which was derisive in nature.
13. British soldiers were rationed a total of three sheets of toilet paper every day as compared to the Americans who got 22.
12. Robert Watson-Watt, a British engineer was developing a “death ray” in 1935 that was designed to destroy aircraft. His work evolved into radio detection and a ranging unit that became radar.
11. In 1941, American industry manufactured 3 million cars. From the beginning of 1942 until the end of the war, they would only produce 139 more.
10. More Russians lost their lives during the siege of Leningrad than all the American and British soldiers during World War II combined.
9. Calvin Graham was the youngest man to serve in the US military. He was only 12 years old. He lied about his age which was not discovered until he was wounded.
8. The defense budget for the US went from $1.9 billion in 1940 up to $59.8 billion during the height of the war effort.
7. Americans renamed the “Hamburger” which sounded too German to “Liberty Steak”, something repeated in later years with the advent of “Freedom Fries” over “French Fries”.
6. More than 650,000 Jeeps were produced during WWII.
5. William Hitler, the nephew of Adolf Hitler, served in the US Navy during World War II.
4. The Sieg Heil March used by the Nazis was actually a pirated version of the fight song from Harvard University.
3. The largest ring of Japanese spies was located in Mexico during World War II.
2. Hiroo Onoda was the last Japanese soldier to surrender. For nearly 30 years after the war, he maintained his position in the Philippines convinced the war was still ongoing until his old, retired commander travelled from Japan in 1974 to issue the orders relieving him from duty.
1. Owen J Baggett, a second lieutenant in the United States 7th Bomb Group, became legendary for downing a Japanese fighter plane with a hand gun. During a bombing run in Burma, Baggett’s B-24 Bomber was intercepted by Japanese fighter planes. His plane was badly hit, forcing him to bail out. As Baggett parachuted to the ground he fired four shots from his M1911 pistol at the approaching Japanese fighter plane. The plane stalled and crashed to earth. Baggett could never be certain that he’d taken the plane down with just his pistol, although one source claims to have discovered the debris of the Japanese plane. The pilot had been thrown from the wreckage, found with one bullet in his head.
So there’s our countdown of just a selection of bizarre World War 2 facts. What do you think, did this top 20 list miss anything? Have you heard any other crazy World War 2 stats or facts? If so, let us know on Twitter and Facebook.