The main battles, dates, victims and atrocities of World War II are well known. But there were also many curious incidents, most of which were not important enough to become part of a school curriculum. Here are a few.
And the War ended…
World War II began on September 1st, 1939. But when did it end? In Europe, May 8th, 1945 is known as the last day of the war. But news of Germany’s capitulation didn’t reach Russia until the 9th, so they consider this day the day of victory.
But Japan only signed their capitulation on September 2nd, making that the date World War II ended for many.
Technically, the war is still going on
Russia and Japan, despite many failed attempts, have never signed a peace treaty and are thus technically still at war.
They still disagree about the Kuril Islands.
Konstanz Was Never Bombed
The German city of Konstanz lies so close to Switzerland that they evaded bombardment by the Allies. Contrary to most German cities they would not turn off all the lights, and instead kept the city alight.
This made the Allies think it was actually a Swiss city and so they didn’t drop any bombs.
Zoos Were Not Safe
Many thousands of animals were killed in German zoos when they were hit by bombs. Of the 3715 animals in the Berlin zoo only 91 animals survived the war.
But other zoos were dangerous too. In Britain, many poisonous animals were put to death out of fear that they might escape should the zoo be hit by bombs.
A Korean fought for Japan, Russia and Germany
Yang Kyoungjong was conscripted by the Japanese Army and later captured by the Red Army. They forced him to fight Germany and he was later captured by the Wehrmacht.
They, in turn, forced him to fight for them in France, where he was captured by the U.S. Army and he was sent to prison camps in Britain and then the U.S. He lived in Illinois until his death.
A Cat Was Awarded Service Ribbons
Pooli, a cat, was considered a veteran of World War II and received medals for her participation. She was born in Pearl Harbor and was taken onto the USS Fremont.
She made it all the way to Iwo Jima and back. She even had a uniform that held her medals.
And A Dog’s Medals Were Revoked
Chips, a mixed dog, was donated to the Army by his owner. He served in North Africa, Italy, France and Germany as a sentry dog.
Amongst other awards he was given the Purple Heart for his service, but it was later revoked, as the army doesn’t actually allow awards to animals.
The German and British Spy
Joan Pujol Garcia didn’t like the Germans and offered his service as a spy to Britain. When they didn’t want him he approached the Germans and managed to convince them to take him on as a spy, despite never having been to Britain or speaking English.
He created a fictional spy network of 27 agents and finally the British took him on, and he continued to feed false information to Germany. He received decorations from Germany and from Britain.
Playing Cards Containing Maps
The Bicycle Playing Cards company developed playing cards that would reveal a map when soaked in water. These were given to American prisoners of war so that they would have maps should they manage to escape.
The company worked with the U.S. government in later wars as well.
World War II gave rise to a tulip festival
Ottawa has a yearly tulip festival, possibly the biggest one in the world. They came into possession of nearly 200,000 tulip bulbs for their support of the Netherlands during the war and for sheltering Princess Juliana of the Netherlands after the German occupation.
The Netherlands still send 20,000 tulip bulbs annually.
World War II Continues On Twitter
The Twitter account @RealTimeWWII live tweets the events and battles of World War II, only decades later.
The account has been active since August 2011 and so far covers the years from 1944 onwards.
A Bear Served in the Polish Army
Wojtek was a Syrian Brown Bear who was found as a cub in Iran. For a long time he was merely a mascot of the Polish Anders Army, but was made a Private in the army so as to be allowed on a British ship.
He helped carrying artillery and was later chosen to become the emblem of the 22nd Artillery Supply Company.
A Cemetery for Rapists and Murderers
The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery Plot E is a cemetery for American soldiers in France.
That alone isn’t that special, but the 94 soldiers buried here were all military prisoners that were executed for rape or murder of civilians and the murder of 26 American soldiers.
Japan Possibly Used Fleas as a Weapon
A lawsuit from 1999 claims that Japan dropped fleas carrying the bubonic plague on China in 1940.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that the cases of bubonic plague that occurred were the result of bombings by the Japanese Unit 731.
Muslims Saved Jews in France
Si Kaddour Benghabrit helped save Jews and other members of the French resistance from the Nazis by issuing them with fake Muslim IDs and letting them hide in the underground of the Grand Mosque of Paris.
At least 1,700 people were saved by hiding in the caverns.
At Least 160 People Survived Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki
The most famous person to survive both atomic bombings is Tsutomu Yamaguchi. He is the only hibakusha (survivor of the bombs) to be recognized by the Japanese government as a dual survivor.
He lived in Nagasaki and was in Hiroshima for business when the bomb dropped. After his return to Nagasaki he experienced the second bomb as well.
Fanta was Developed During World War II
Due to a trade embargo, the German Coca-Cola plant had problems getting the syrup for Coca-Cola. Thus they came up with a new drink, Fanta, for the German market.
After the war, Fanta was discontinued but was revived in 1955 because of similar drinks sold by Pepsi.
Germany Still Finds Unexploded Bombs
Over 5000 unexploded bombs are found in Germany each year.
Most of them are small and can be detonated easily, but some of them weigh more than a few hundred pounds and their detonation requires large scale evacuations in the area.
In One City, Typhus Saved Lives
A Polish doctor, Dr. Eugene Lazowski, managed to save around 8,000 Jews from deportation.
He pretended that his town Rozwadow had a huge typhus epidemic and the Nazis put the city under quarantine.
For Two Japanese Soldiers, the War Ended in 1974
Two Japanese Soldiers only surrendered in 1974. Hiroo Onoda held out on the Lubang Island in the Philippines, refusing to believe the war was over until he was relieved of his duties by a superior in March 1974.
Teruo Nakamura, the less known soldier, stayed on the Indonesian Morotai Island until December 1974.
Max Heiliger’s Disturbing Bank Accounts
Max Heiliger was a fictional character created by the Nazis.
Bank accounts under his name were set up under his name and the gold and money stolen from killed Jews were deposited in them.
War Games Made of Wood
The Germans would build wooden airfields in order to confuse the Allies.
There is evidence that some British pilots that knew the airfields were decoys attacked the fake airfields with fake wooden bombs. Some of the bombs bore the inscription “Wood for wood.”
One European Country Saved All its Jewish Citizens
When World War II broke out, Albania had an estimated 200 Jewish citizens. By the end of the war that population had increased tenfold.
The Muslim population of Albania didn’t only save its fellow citizens, but provided a safe haven for many more.
The British military occupied Iceland from 1940 until 1941. From 1942 until 1945, Iceland was occupied by the United States.
Officially, Iceland was a neutral country.
Brazilian Expeditionary Force
Brazil was the only country in South America that sent ground troops to fight in Europe. Brazil declared war on Germany and Italy, after Germany had gunned down many of its ships.
Out of the roughly 25,000 troops around 500 died. There were even Brazilian prisoners of war.
The Canadian city Winnipeg planned and executed a fundraising event called If Day. On that day, they staged the invasion of Winnipeg by Nazi troops, complete with firefights, harassments and more.
They made three million Canadian dollars.
Carrots Make Your Eyesight Better
Carrots don’t actually help with someone’s eyesight. Instead, this is a rumour that the British military spread to help explain why they were so good at night raids.
They didn’t want the Germans to find out about the radar they had invented.