Incredible World War II Facts That Will Open Your Eyes

World War II was a global war that persisted from 1939 to 1945. It included the huge majority of the world’s countries, including all of the great powers and ultimately forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis.

It was the most widespread war in history and directly affected more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. Identified by mass deaths of civilians, including the Holocaust where approximately 11 million people were killed and the strategic bombing of industrial and population hubs where approximately one million were killed, which included the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It produced an estimated 50 million to 85 million fatalities. These grim facts made World War II the deadliest conflict in human history.

But there are still other unknown facts about the world war II that will shock you and open your eyes. Read on to find out the truth.

12. Schwerer Gustav

The Schwerer Gustav or Heavy Gustaf in English was the name of a German 80 cm (31.5 in.) railway gun. It was developed in the late 1930s by Krupp as siege artillery for the explicit purpose of destroying the main forts of the French Maginot Line, the strongest fortifications then in existence. The fully assembled gun weighed nearly 1,350 tons and could fire shells weighing seven tons to a range of 47 kilometers (29 mi).

It was the largest-calibre rifled weapon ever used in combat, the heaviest mobile artillery piece ever built in terms of overall weight, and fired the heaviest shells of any artillery piece.

11. Man of the Year, 1938

In 1938, Hitler was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year because he had not only re-armed Germany but had stolen Austria. The whole world was watching and waiting for what Hitler would do next and what the world would do in response.

Time has a thing for dictators. Hitler was named Man of the Year in 1938, on the eve of World War II. Hitler was the dictator of Nazi Germany when he won. In November 1938, Nazi’s destroyed Jewish-owned buildings on Kristallnacht and sent at least 30,000 Jewish Germans to concentration camps, foreshadowing the horrors of the Holocaust to come.

10. Women in Factories

With men off on the battlefield, women left their domestic jobs to take the factory jobs left by the men. They did so not only out of a patriotic duty but also for the fact that factory work paid 40% more than the domestic jobs most women could get at the time.

Women then were badly needed to fill many traditionally male jobs and roles during the war and several advertisements were used to encourage women to take on these jobs and roles. Aside from factory jobs, women commonly joined the nurse corps and the armed forces so that more men could be sent into combat.

9. Hermann Wilhelm Göring Hoard

Hermann Wilhelm Göring was a German politician, military leader, and leading member of the Nazi Party. After helping Adolf Hitler take power in 1933, he became the second-most powerful man in Germany and he founded the Gestapo the same year.

During the war, Hermann Göring looted, seized and took a large amount of art and treasures from Europe. Some 15,000 treasures were found in his collection which was valued at $200 million.

When informed about Hitler’s intended to commit suicide, Göring sent a telegram to Hitler requesting permission to assume control of the Reich. Considering it an act of treason, Hitler removed Göring from all his positions, expelled him from the party, and ordered his arrest.

After World War II, Göring was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg trials. He was sentenced to death by hanging but committed suicide by drinking cyanide the night before his sentence.

8. Berghof

From 1935 until 1945 Berghof was Hitler’s personal retreat. It was bombed by the British in April 1945, then it was set on fire by retreating SS troops and finally, it was looted by Allied soldiers.

Other than the Wolfsschanze (“Wolf’s Lair”), his headquarters in East Prussia for the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler spent more time at the Berghof than anywhere else during World War II. It was also one of the most widely known of his headquarters, which were located throughout Europe.

Rebuilt, much expanded and renamed in 1935, the Berghof was Hitler’s vacation residence for ten years. In late April 1945, the house was damaged by British aerial bombs, set on fire by retreating SS troops in early May, and plundered after Allied troops reached the area. The Bavarian government demolished the burnt shell in 1952.

7. Youngest U.S. Serviceman

Calvin Graham was the youngest U.S. serviceman to serve and fight during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined in the United States Navy from Houston, Texas on August 15, 1942, at the tender age of 12.

He was born in Canton, Texas and was in elementary in Houston before he decided to join the Navy after his father died and his mother remarried. Cavin Graham was wounded at the Battle of Guadalcanal where his true age was later discovered and was given a dishonorable discharge, but the Congress later restore his benefits.

6. Kamikaze

Kamikaze were Japanese suicide pilots who attacked Allied warships in the Pacific Ocean during the Second World War. The name means “divine wind” and refers to a typhoon that destroyed an enemy fleet in the 13th century.

The Japanese forces were already getting weak, because of this, the Japanese emperor decided to form a special attack unit. 24 pilots volunteered for the mission. It was their job to crash into Allied ships and kill as many sailors as possible.

The kamikaze attacks were successful at first and many pilots were trained to become kamikaze. The Japanese built cheap planes with older engines for these missions. Pilots usually dropped their landing gear after takeoff so that it could be used by other planes.

The Allied troops were afraid of these kamikaze attacks because they could not defend themselves against them. While Japanese Kamikaze pilots were well known, the Russians also had pilots who would sacrifice themselves by crashing German planes in midair.

Some Russian pilots were quick enough to eject and survive. This strategy was able to bring down hundreds of German planes, but usually at the cost of a Russian pilot. Near the end of the war, Germany adopted this strategy as well.

5. Babies

Stanislawa Leszczyńska was a Polish midwife who was detained at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, where she delivered over 3,000 babies.

After interrogation by the Gestapo, Stanisława was relegated to women’s camp maternity ward along with her daughter, who had been a medical student before the war broke out. Stanisława met Dr. Mengele and was advised to euthanize the newborns she delivered but she did not comply.

She did not kill a single child, and whenever possible, would wrap them up in scraps of fabric or paper and put them under the mother’s rough blankets. Of the 3,000 she delivered, some 2,500 newborns perished; a few hundred others with blue eyes were sent away to be Germanized.

Only about 30 infants survived in the care of their mothers. Expectant mothers did not realize what was going to happen to their babies and many traded their meager rations for fabric to be used for diapers after the birth.

4. Hitler’s Nephew

William Hitler was the nephew of Adolf Hitler. He was born to Adolf’s brother, Alois Hitler, Jr. and his first wife, Bridget Dowling, in Liverpool, England. William Hitler later moved to Germany, but eventually emigrated to the United States where he served in the U.S. Navy in World War II.

In 1933, William Hitler returned to Germany in an attempt to benefit from his uncle’s rise to power. His uncle found him a job at the Reichskreditbank in Berlin and later then worked at an Opel automobile factory, and later still as a car salesman. But still not satisfied with these jobs, William continued in asking his uncle for a better job, writing to him with blackmail threats that he would sell embarrassing stories about the family to the newspapers unless his “personal circumstances” improved.

In 1938, Adolf asked William to abandon his British citizenship in exchange for a high-ranking job. Expecting a trap, William fled Nazi Germany and he again tried to blackmail his uncle with threats. This time, William threatened to tell the press that Hitler’s assumed paternal grandfather was actually a Jewish merchant. Returning to London he wrote an article for Look magazine titled “Why I Hate my Uncle.” 

3. Invincible Man

Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Paul Ghislain Carton de Wiart or commonly known as Adrian Carton de Wiart was a British Army officer born of Belgian and Irish parents, and recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration awarded for valor “in the face of the enemy” in various Commonwealth countries.

He served in the Boer War, First World War, and Second World War. He was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear. He also survived two plane crashes, tunneled out of a prisoner-of-war camp and tore off his own fingers when a doctor declined to amputate them.

Describing his experiences in the First World War, he wrote, “Frankly I had enjoyed the war.” The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography described him consequently, “With his black eyepatch and empty sleeve, Carton de Wiart looked like an elegant pirate, and became a figure of legend.”

2. Penicillin

Tha antibiotic Penicillin was in such high demand during the war that it would actually be recycled. Penicillin is actively excreted, and about 80% of a penicillin dose is cleared from the body within three to four hours of administration. So in order to make up for the shortage, the drug would be extracted from the urine of soldiers who were already taking it and then the penicillin in the urine could be isolated and reused.

So in order to make up for the shortage, the drug would be extracted from the urine of soldiers who were already taking it and then the penicillin in the urine could be isolated and reused.

It wasn’t the most satisfactory solution but it helped saved a lot of lives. Sometimes, in times of crisis resourcefulness can get you a long way. Thankfully, we don’t need to do this anymore.

1. World’s Favorite Spread

Nutella is probably one of the world’s favorite chocolatey spread. Pietro Ferrero, who owned a bakery in an area known for the abundance of hazelnuts, sold an initial batch of 300 kilograms (660 lb) of “Pasta Gianduja” in 1946.

At that time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II. Pietro Ferrero instead used hazelnuts, which are abundant in the area to extend the inadequate chocolate supply. He called this product, “Pasta Gianduja” which was originally sold as a solid block, but Ferrero started to sell a creamy version in 1951 as “Supercrema”.

These photos tell the forgotten stories of the civilians, soldiers and lesser known places of the war. Some of them are a peek into what life was like for those that lived through one of the darkest moment in history and for those responsible for it. One thing is for sure, these closer look into the war will definitely give you a new understanding of the war that affected the entire world.

Although World War 2 was a depressing moment in history, there were some inspiring people and circumstances that rose above the darkness. It only proves that evil will never prevail. It is always and will always be temporary. Kindness and heroic acts will always spring up no matter how bleak the situation is.


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