To date, World War II is the biggest war in history. The war began in 1939 and lasted until 1945 and was the deadliest war in history. The war featured nearly every nation on the planet being involved in some way, including all the major powers of the time. Many people today simply don’t know just how major this conflict was, and how it blurred the lines between civilian and military resources. This war changed the lives of nearly everyone on the planet in one way or another. Here are 18 unbelievable facts about World War II that will leave you speechless, especially number 15.
#18 Dachau Actually Opened Years Before the War Started
The concentration camp named Dachau was actually created in 1933, many years before the war even began and grew to over 100 subcamps. And while a ton of people were killed here, it is not even close to the deadliest concentration camp out there, which we talk about in slide #9. I bet you had no idea about this next WWII fact…
#17 Hitler Actually Only Declared War on One Country
In this war, there were very few countries on the planet that weren’t involved in some way, including pretty much every single super power in the world. But despite all this involvement, the only country that Hitler ever declared war on was the United States, despite the fact Germany ended up battling a ton of different countries.
#16 More People Died in the Air Than You Would Have Expected
In a fact that not many people would believe, more people actually died in the U.S Air Cops than in the Marines. In fact, you had 30 required missions, and the odds of surviving these was only about 30%. For another unbelievable fact about the U.S Air Force, check out the 16th entry on this list.
#15 The Amount of Polish Individuals That Died is Staggering
Pretty much every country involved in the war took significant losses in terms of casualties in the war. Millions of people from dozens of countries perished. But no country was harder hit than Poland. In fact, almost 20% of the entire Polish population died during World War II, the highest of any country involved in the war.
#14 Leningrad Was Perhaps the Biggest and Costliest Siege of the War
This was an amazingly long and brutal siege and was one of the biggest events of the war. This siege lasted nearly two and a half years (lasting between September 8, 1941 – January 27, 1944) and had millions of casualties, the most of any siege in the war. Check out slide #7 to see another major siege in the conflict.
#13 Hitler Committed Suicide Before the War Was Over
The Battle of Berlin basically spelled the end of the war. The battle itself was crazy, this battle is best known for being the battle that led Hitler to commit suicide. While this conflict was brutal, it does not come in as the biggest of World War II, that goes to the battle featured in the 14th entry.
#12 The U.S Army Built Three Coca-Cola Plants in North Africa
Coca-Cola was an extremely popular drink in the USA at the time and continues to be to this day. If you needed any proof of this, the U.S Army built three Coca-Cola plants in the North of Africa to satisfy the needs of American soldiers who wanted their favorite sugary drink. An interesting way to keep soldiers away and attentive during the war.
#11 There Was Once a 12 Year Old American Serviceman
While the Army is usually pretty good at checking the age and identity of new servicemen, Calvin Graham somehow passed through without notice. He was only 12 years-old but lied about his age to get in. He was actually given various awards for his bravery, even though he broke the rules to get it. And to think, 12-year-olds fight a war in video games nowadays instead.
#10 The Finnish Were Amongst the Most Deadly Soldiers in the War
While the nation of Finland is fairly small and wasn’t known for their military dominance, they turned a lot of heads in this war. The Soviet Union invaded Finland, thinking it would be easy but they were wrong. Finnish snipers were very effective and for every Finn that died, the USSR lost 44 soldiers. I guess big things do come in small packages!
#9 Over 1 Million People Were Killed at Auschwitz
This goes down as the biggest and deadliest of all the concentration camps during the war. It was staffed by 7,000 people and was responsible for the death of about 1.1 Million people. Jews would come to Auschwitz by train, where they were put into gas chambers and killed. The Auschwitz camp is definitely one of the most famous and horrific locations in all the war.
#8 Penicillin Was Actually Recycled During the War
Penicillin was a lifesaver for many soldiers during the war, but obviously, they experienced some shortages of it due to the popularity and amount the used it. To combat this, they began to recycle the drug. They actually would extract the drug from the urine of soldiers in order to reuse it. I would probably rather bleed than have urine penicillin injected into me.
#7 The Siege of Budapest Was Extremely Violent in a Small Period of Time
Arguably one of the most vicious events in the entire war was the Siege of Budapest. This siege lasted for 50 days in late 1944 and early 1945 . There were about 125,000 deaths in that month and a half, of which about 30% were civilians. Many people died from starvation or contracting deadly diseases from each other.
#6 Hitler’s Nephew Actually Served in the U.S Navy
While Hitler was obviously the leader of Nazi Germany during the war, his own nephew was actually his enemy. His nephew was named William and was born in England, moved to Europe and then eventually to the USA, where he decided to serve in the Navy and fight against his uncle. Talk about an awkward family reunion party!
#5 The Battle of Stalingrad is the Bloodiest Battle in the History of Warfare
While the war itself was obviously extremely bloody and horrific, one battle sticks out as the deadliest, and that is the Battle of Stalingrad. The battle took place over the period of about six months, and about 2 million people were reported as casualties during that time. Much of the fighting was close quarters combat and deadly assaults on civilians by air raids.
#4 The Sheer Amount of Deaths in the War Was Staggering
Of all the conflicts and battles in the history of the world, none were as big as World War II. In the 6 years that this war was waged, tens of millions of people died. The number of people who died is dispute but was at least 50 million and could have been up to 85,000, which would be around 2-5% of the total world population of the time.
#3 Thousands of American Pilots Died on Home Soil
While the major battles and conflicts took place over in Europe, there was still a lot of death happening in the United States. In fact, over 14,000 pilots died on U.S soil, and most of them were preventable and had to do with mechanical issues or other preventable issues. But it just goes to show you the impact the war had both overseas and domestically.
#2 Konstanz Survived the Entire Conflict
Throughout the war, most places in Europe were damaged at least a little bit from the conflict. But one place that managed to escape the war unscathed was Konstanz. This German city borders Switzerland and was able to escape conflict by leaving their lights on all the time, making people believe they were a part of Switzerland.
#1 Erich Hartmann is the Deadliest Ace of All Time
Of all the soldiers and fighters in the army, perhaps none were deadlier than German fighter pilot Erich Hartmann. Hartmann flew 1,404 combat missions and has been credited with shooting down 352 aircraft, more than anyone else recorded in the war. He also managed to survive 14 crash landings and never took any actual damage from enemy fire.
As you could see, there were some pretty mind-blowing statistics and facts about World War II. There has never been a conflict like this in over half a century, and many would argue that there will never be one like it again. The world essentially stopped for over half a decade for the world, with every country involved pooling all of their resources and power into the war efforts. And while these 18 facts are mind-blowing and have likely left you speechless, there is an endless supply of resources out there about World War II and many are interesting reads that will increase your knowledge on the biggest conflict in history.