Soldiers In The Midst Of Battle Via The Atlantic

Soldiers In The Midst Of Battle Via The Atlantic

 

World War II is arguably the most studied and talked about war in our history. It captures our imaginations, when war was between the good and bad guys, the lack of grey. Now we look at wars as question marks. Vietnam was a war where we were the good guys that had to step in, correct? That is a point of heated debate.

This war was a dark time for our world. Fear, savagery, hate and death surrounded the world. But there was also a human element. There were people working together towards a common cause. Enemies that didn’t stay enemies as soon as the war was over. There was humor, fun, relief. We will try to keep this article on the lighter side, but, as it is about one of the most horrific moments in the worlds history, some stories won’t leave you speechless because of the wonder they bring, but because of the darkness that surrounds them. Keep in mind, this was the last time there were good and bad guys in a war, at least clearly so, and it depends on which side you fought that you viewed those individuals. These are stories of a time when people honestly fought for what they felt was right but respected the individuals. This was a time we should learn from.

As an aside, I am not saying Hitler was doing right by his people, but the individuals that fought were simply doing what they felt was right. Our view is in hindsight and that makes it much more clear as to who was in the wrong. There are stories that show the German soldiers, Nazis, seeing what they were fighting for, for the first time and breaking down in tears. Try not to hate those that fought against your ideals, but understand that they were fighting for something they believed was right: misinformation, brainwashing, whatever it was be damned.

Regardless, we look at World War II with some romanticism and seem to think we know everything there is to know about it, but it seems that with some regularity we learn something new, something shocking, something that leaves us speechless. Read on to find out about some of the lesser known and shocking facts including a man that continued the war until the 70’s, a monster or the Norwegian countryside and a question of whether WWII actually ever happened.

20. Hiroo Onoda

Hiroo Onoda

Hiroo Onoda via The Mirror

Hiroo Onoda was a Japanese Army intel officer that missed the memo that the war was over. When the surrender came about in 1945 he was stationed in the Philippines and stayed active duty. Almost 30 years later, his former commanding officer traveled from Japan to issue orders to relieve him of his duty.

19. WWII Didn’t Happen

Donkey Gas

World War I Soldiers With Gas Masks via Pinterest

There is a strong argument that World War II is just an extension of World War I. This is predicated on the fact that Hitler violated the Treaty of Versailles by invading Poland and expanding the German military. In addition, Japan sought to continue their battle because they felt cheated during the first World War.

Many scholars argue that World War I never ended, it just took a break that lead to more fighting, which we then named World War II. We will continue to refer to it as World War II throughout this article though, for the sake of clarity.

18. The Last Calvary Charge

A Recreation Of The Final Charge Via Baltimore Sun

In 1942 around 600 Italian cavalrymen charged without fear towards 2,000 Soviet foot soldiers armed to the teeth. In late August, the last cavalry charge ended exactly the opposite of what you would expect. The Italians armed with nothing more than sabers overthrew the Soviet forces, losing 40 men and 100 horses, but killing 150 Soviets and taking 500 prisoners. To the best of histories knowledge, this was last cavalry charge in a major battle.

17. Lt. Col “Mad” Jack Churchill a.k.a. The Arrow

"Mad Jack" or Oliver Queen? via Daily Mail

“Mad Jack” or Oliver Queen? via Daily Mail 

Not to be confused with Winston Churchill, “Mad Jack” was a monster on the battlefield equipped with a bow, arrows and a sword. Obviously, he wasn’t going to be known for long. Arrows are slightly less powerful than good old grenades, tanks, bombers and guns. But among his many accomplishments, Jack is credited with the last archery kill in war, taking out a Nazi, which led his men to attack their patrol.

To make him an even more bad ass, “Mad Jack” would charge into battle wearing a kilt, and carrying a dirk, bow and arrow and playing the bagpipes at the worst possible moments. This gained him nothing but respect from his men and a place in history as a legend.

16. The Youngest Soldier Was Twelve

 

calvin-graham

Calvin Graham at an Unspecified Age via Wikipedia

Calvin Graham was only 12 when he enlisted in the US Navy, lying about his age (they didn’t care all that much at that point I would imagine.) It wasn’t until he was wounded that his true age was learned. He died in 1992 at the age of 62 in Fort Worth, Texas.

15. Shooting Down Planes With Pistols

parachute-assault-on-crete

Parachute Assault on Crete, Not the Scene of Col. Baggett Via WW2Today

Col. Own J. Baggett of the US Air Force brought down a Japanese aircraft. Not all that interesting, right? Well, he did this while parachuting, with his M1911 pistol by hitting the pilot in the head. Not much left to say here. That is some serious nerves of steel, or one of the luckiest shots in history.

14. 720 Polish Troops Stopped 40,000 Attacking Germans for Three Days

Not a Historically Accurate Photo of The Battle of Winza via The Independent

Not a Historically Accurate Photo of The Battle of Winza via The Independent

The Battle of Winza took place between September 7 and 10 of 1939 in which a force of around 40,000 German troops descended on a defensive Polish encampment. Reports vary the actual Polish count from 350 to 720 in total. Called the Polish Thermopylae (named after the battle made famous by the movie 300), the biggest shock was probably on the commanding officers faces in Germany when they realized that it took them more than 72 hours to get through such a small number of troops. The Poles lost in the end, but not before slowing the advance of the Germans, helping prevent some operations from coming to fruition on time.

13. World War II (Or I) If You Are Paying Attention May End Soon

These Guys Could End World War II, Finally via The LA Times

These Guys Could End World War II, Finally via The LA Times

It would seem that Japan and Russia are not done with World War II yet. Neither has signed a peace treaty because of a disagreement about who will own the Kuril Islands. Sure, we aren’t still fighting the war, but technically, two enemies have yet to sign a peace treaty to end the war.

12. Die Another Day

Die, Resurrect, Kill via Japan Times

Die, Resurrect, Kill via Japan Times

Hideki Tojo was a war criminal that did not take the victory of the Allies too well. During his arrest for war crimes, he committed suicide (almost), was resuscitated and then shortly thereafter hanged. While the war crimes make him seem like a horrible person, his final speech before his hanging showed that during war, people do things out of character.

He asked that the Japanese people not be held responsible for their actions during the war and that the American’s show them mercy going forward. He felt that they had paid more than enough after the two bombings that essentially ended the war.

11. War On The Pitch

Nothing Like a Good Old Soccer Truce that Ends in Death via PadreSteve

Nothing Like a Good Old Soccer Truce that Ends in Death via PadreSteve

While Nazis occupied Ukraine, a football (soccer) match was held between the Nazis and a group of Ukrainian Players from club FC Dynamo Kyiv. While this seems like a human thing to do during times of atrocities, the Gestapo could not let the sport be a sport. At least not when they lost 8 – 0.

The Ukrainian players were arrested and tortured and while one player did die in their hands, the rest were sent to work camps and were executed before the end of the war.

10. Canada Is So Nice POWs Don’t Want To Leave

Better than War. Fact. via RacingLife

Reportedly, the treatment in Canadian POW camps was so good that when they were released from the camps they had no intention of leaving America’s northern sibling.

Related to the previous slide, just one of the activities these prisoners of war were allowed to participate in was soccer in the camp. The largest camp could hold 12,500 prisoners and had 3,00-man recreation halls. Workshops, education huts and a wide array of other amenities.

9. The Norwegian Mountain Troll

This is Fake Right? It Has to Be... via Reddit

This is Fake Right? It Has to Be… via Reddit

This photo was taken by a recon aircraft over the Norwegian countryside. While this photo has quickly become a big part of WWII trivia, it would seem that this is a hoax and that the photo is actually a fake from the movie Troll Hunter. There is some convincing evidence, but considering that many report that the image was taken in 1942, it still leaves some room to speculate. Time travel. Has to be time travel.

8. India Shows That Grudges Aren’t Held

To Cheer Japan Up India Sent Two of these Majestic Animals via YouTube

To Cheer Japan Up India Sent Two of these Majestic Animals via YouTube

While India and Japan may not have seen eye to eye on the whole end of the world due to a massive war, India did extend a gift in 1949. To help cheer up the Japanese, India sent two elephants to their zoo.

This says more about how individuals act after a war than anything else. During war, all bets are off, but that is understood. After it is all over though, humans can be humane.

7. The Dutch War Island

When You See It... via History Daily

When You See It… via History Daily

A Dutch Minesweeper dodged enemy bombers and aircraft by disguising itself as an island. The crew was stranded, so they covered the ship in trees and bushes and painted the rest of the ship to look like rock.

While other ships were being hit by Japanese planes and a local destroyer the Crijnssen (the name of this ship) survived it all. Over eight days they traveled at night and anchored during the day near islands until they reaches Australia and reunited with Allied forces.

6. Franz Von Werra

Franz von Werra, The Escape Artist via Pintrest

Franz von Werra, The Escape Artist via Pinterest

Franz von Werra was a German pilot that had escaped multiple captures only to be captured again and again. To try to deter him, he was placed in Canada (which was pretty swanky as we discussed earlier) but he couldn’t even handle being there for more than a month.

His escape took him through the US, Mexico, Brazil, Spain and Italy which lead him back into combat. A unique honor only he holds. In October of 1941 he took off for a practice flight which suffered engine failure causing him to crash into the ocean never to be seen again.

5. The Nuclear Man

Lucky or Unlucky? via History

Lucky or Unlucky? via History

It is difficult to say if Tsutomu Yamaguchi is the luckiest or unluckiest man alive. He survived the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings with little physical damage to speak of.

That isn’t to say this man hasn’t had a tough go at life, seeing everything he knew destroyed by, what must have seemed to the world at the time, magic. The atomic bombs were more powerful than all the bombs dropped in the war combined up to that point, and this unassuming man survived both.

4. Double Agent Overachiever

Some People Just Find Their Calling via Alchetron

Some People Just Find Their Calling via Alchetron

As a Spanish double agent, Joan Pujol Garcia excelled at what he did. Working with the British and the Germans, he was a wealth of information if his recognition says anything about his talents.

The Germans awarded him with the Eisernes Kreuz II. Klasse while the British gave him the Member of the Order of the British Empire honor during World War II.

3. Hitler Planned to Build a Museum

No Caption Needed for this Guy via The Independent

No Caption Needed for this Guy via The Independent

Hitler did not go into the war with any expectation of losing. And as history shows, there was no guarantee that the Allies had any chance. It is often argued that without an attack on Russia and Pearl Harbor bringing the Americans into the war, things would have been too far along once the US did join.

Just a few simple mistakes kept the world safe from Hitler’s plans. One of which was to build a “Museum of an Extinct Race” in which he would showcase artifacts from Jewish culture. He even worked to ensure he had remains of Jews and artifacts of interest to show off after he had won the war. A scary thought to say the least.

2. Lake Moscow

Obviously We Don't Share the Same Sense of Humor via Pinterest

Obviously We Don’t Share the Same Sense of Humor via Pinterest

Hitler did not just have his eyes on building museums, he also considered changing the very face of the world. So confident was he in his ability to defeat the Russians that he declared that Moscow would be an administrative capital in 1941.

After the war, he would open the dame structures on the Moscow-Volga canal to kill the 4 million inhabitants of Moscow and create a man made lake removing the city from the face of the Earth.

1. The Allies Had A Hitler As Well – A Good One

The Hitler Name May Carry Bad Connotations, but the Whole Family Wasn't Evil via WW2Gravestone

The Hitler Name May Carry Bad Connotations, but the Whole Family Wasn’t Evil via WW2Gravestone

William Patrick Stuart-Houston, born William Hitler on March 12, 1911, was the nephew of Adolf. He was born in Liverpool, moved to Germany then immigrated to the US to join the US Navy in 1944.

To be allowed to join, he had to write to President Roosevelt asking for a reconsideration. His letter changed Roosevelts mind and it is easy to see why:

“All my relatives and friends soon will be marching for freedom and decency under the Stars and Stripes … I am respectfully submitting this petition to you to enquire as to whether I may be allowed to join them in their struggle against tyranny and oppression?”

He also mentioned that he had tried to stop his uncle’s plans early on without success. He may have saved many lives though, just by informing others of his uncle’s machinations:

“As a fugitive from the Gestapo I warned France through the press that Hitler would invade her that year. The people of England I warned by the same means that the so-called “solution” of Munich was a myth that would bring terrible consequences.”

While Adolph is one of the most misguided and arguably evil individuals in history, his nephew seems to have taken a different path. For that, he is number one on this list.

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