Fun Facts and Stories of World War 2

Fun Facts and Stories of World War 2

  • The Germans built a plane that could reach Mach 2.6 and was fueled by… coal. As foolish as it sounds, a designer named Lippisch designed a delta winged fighter that used coal as its main fuel source. The plane never got beyond the stage where it was an unpowered glider but the engines were in the development stage and actually worked.
  • The little-known Battle for Velikiye Luki was the linchpin for German victory in WW2 against the Soviets. The Germans were desperately fighting to capture Moscow and Rhzev was the key city where a massive battle was fought but the key to Rhzev and Moscow was a tiny rail junction called Velikiye Luki. The Germans absolutely had to have it to supply their armies because there were no roads in winter. By the time they figured out how important it was, it was too late. They flew in all the supplies and men they could and the fighting was vicious but in the end the Russians won and 11,000 crack German troops surrendered. The German commander and his entire staff was hung in the town square. Of the 11,000 Germans who surrendered, 11 made it home again after the war, a worse rate than even Stalingrad. With the loss of this battle, the German supply situation in the East faltered. The rest is history.
  • The Japanese built the I-400 submarine, the biggest sub in the world til the nuclear powered USS Nautilus showed up on the scene. It contained 3 fighter-bombers. The plan was to amass a fleet of these subs and bomb the west coast, but only three were completed. Their plan was to bomb the Panama Canal, then bomb New York City but the war ended before it could be executed. Two of the subs were sunk and the third surrendered to the Americans, who learned all they could then scuttled it to keep it out of the hands of the Russians
  • A fairly large group of British prisoners held by the Germans chose to fight for the Germans as they retreated from the Russians after they were liberated and mistreated by the Russians towards the end of the war. When the Germans pulled out they left the British to be liberated but the Russians had no plans to return them so a group of about 50 prisoners escaped from the Russians, contacted the Germans and offered to fight with them rather than surrender to the Russians again. This happened more than once. When the German 17th Armee was pulling out around Lenigrad and abandoned their PoW camps because they had insufficient transport for the Russian soldiers imprisoned there, the prisoners volunteered to go with the Germans. Many offered to fight on the German side because they knew they would be executed and/or punished severely when “liberated” by their own side
  • The Americans invented the GE Minigun multibarrel machine gun in the 1950s but the Germans had a similar gun in production (but never reached true operational status) by the end of the war. The problem was that it took 13 30mm cannon hits to take down a B-17 or other bomber and there was too much weight and difficulty to do that so the Germans designed the MK139, a relatively lightweight gun where the cylinder turned rapidly, rather than having multiple barrels. It could fire 4000 rounds per minute and in the few real tests, would cut the wing off an American plane in a single pass. Unfortunately, the firing wore out the barrel after one use and the ammunition was expended so quickly that it was good for one pass. The Germans never worked the bugs out — the Americans did.
  • The ship that saw the most gunnery action in WW2 was the German Cruiser Prinze Eugen. It fired its guns at Russian shore targets so much near the end of the war that the barells had to be replaced three times. The PE was a key warship in Operation Hannibal, the biggest sea extraction of soldiers and civilians in History, enacted in secret by Karl Doenitz and hidden from Hitler. It moved 1.5 million men and civilians out of the reach of the Russians. The PE survived the war and was towed to Bikini where it was used in the A-bomb tests. It survived every test but capsized in a storm being towed back to base. A propellor was liberated and is in Kiel, Germany as a memorial now.
  • The Germans implemented night vision tank fighting near the end of the war. Tanks had weak vision during the day but were useless at night so there were few, if any, night time tank action. However the Germans invented a night vision capability that allowed them to fight at night. In the last days of the war they destroyed a Canadian tank unit at night without a single loss. Of course it was too little, too late.
  • The last major air offensive of the Luftwaffe in WW2 was on April 18, 1945 and included hundreds of suicide-fighters, Messchershmidts filled with explosives whose goal was to use their props to cut off the wings of American bombers. Although it counted for something like 18 planes, it was completely ineffective and the Americans didn’t even know it was happening til after the war. Before the Germans could launch another attempt the war ended.
  • One of the last battles of the war pit American and German forces fighting together against the SS at Ibben Castle. The castle was being used as a prison for political prisoners and the SS wanted to get the prisoners either as hostages or to execute them. The Germans teamed up with the Americans to fight off the SS.
  • The most descorated soldier in the entire German military organization was Hans Ulrich Rudell, a fighter pilot who specialized in ground attack. He destroyed many hundreds of tanks, thousands of vehicles and even sank a battleship. He was so proficient in his abilities that after the war he contributed to the American A-10 “Warthog” development
  • Fighting in the East continued until well into August, 1945 because many fanatical German units refused to surrender. It took concerted Russian effort to hunt down the final German guerilla units in Courland and execute them without trial or mercy.
  • The Germans built a single aircraft carrier called the “Graf Zeppelin” but it was never completed. It was similar in size and capability to American carriers of the time with extensive attention paid to “survivability”. After the war the Russians used it as a practice platform to learn how to sink American carriers. Despite repeated attempts to sink it, the Russians finally had to land a team on board to put bombs in and blow out the bottom.
  • The Germans had a special squadron called KG 200 that contained a fairly large number of captured American aircraft that the Germans used for various spy missions. No evidence exists that they were used in combat but they were often used to transport troops and supplies, particularly on the Eastern Front.
  • Hugo Boss designed the uniforms of SS officers. They wanted to look stylish.
  • An American statistician was employed to help cut Allied bomber  losses by figuring out how to armor bombers without impacting their ability to carry bombs. After looking at all the planes that returned home with damage, he instructed the builders to put pieces of armor where the damage WASN’T because he surmised where there was no damage was where the planes that didn’t make it home were hit. Bomber losses fell dramatically.
  • The weight of the fuel in the bombers was greater than the weight of the bomb load.
  • The Americans made a big deal about the “Norden Bombsight” and how valuable it was but even with the sight, bombs missed their targets almost 90 percent of the time. The Germans had an equivalent sight called the “Lufte”, It was a bigger secret than Norden.
  • In order to confuse the Germans the Allies called one of their biggest anti-sub weapons ASDIC, which stood for Anti Sub Detection and Investigation Committee, which made the Germans think it was a bureaucracy, not a weapon, for a long time. The Germans never caught up with the Allies in Radar (Radio Detection and Ranging) technology.
  • In order to confuse the Allies, the Germans called their newest rocket technology weapon the “Nebelwerfer”. It was a six barrell rocket cannon that could be made for next to nothing, weighed nothing, was fired using a modified dynamite plunger — and almost won the war in the East. “Nebelwerfer” means “smoke thrower” so the Germans wanted to convince the Allies the weapon was nothing more than a nuisance. When encountered in battle, many enemy soldiers just shit themselves and surrendered. It was so efffective that Stalin demanded the Germans stop using it or he would resort to Chemical Warfare.
  • When the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa, which was named for the German Holy Roman Emperor of 11ooAD, Stalin was so shaken he disappeared for three days and got drunk. The entire Soviet front fell apart without leadership. He expected to be overthrown by his own generals and shot but instead they demanded he “buck up” and lead, which he did — with a vengeance.
  • The Germans lost more men to frostbite in 1941 on the Eastern Front than to combat but they learned. Their handbook on cold weather survival and combat was so effective after 1941 that it is still the standard NATO handbook for cold weather fighting.
  • The last major battle in the West was at Heilbronn where an intact SS Grenadier Division reinforced by four or five other burned out divisions held up the Americans 100th Division for 10 days. The fighting was vicious and destructive, was pointless and achieved absolutely nothing. Over 1500 Germans and 100 Americans were killed in this final, pointless battle
  • In the East the last major battle was the Battle of the Halbe where the German 9th Armee was surrounded by three Russian army groups after having lost a major engagement. Hitler wanted them to attack and relieve Berlin but that was impossible. After a desperate, all out battle, the Germans were able to break out, link up with the 12th Armee and surrender to the Americans. The Americans were not going to let the Germans surrender until the Russians shelled them, killing three American soldiers, then the American commander said, “Fuck it, come on over.” and tens of thousands of Germans were saved.
  • Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t the first choice for the Supreme Leader of Allied Forces in Europe. That honor went to Lt Gen Will Andrews, but he was killed in a plane crash in Iceland before he could assume command.
  • The British commander of the critical Italian supply port of Bari, Italy declared that he would take it as a personal insult if the Germans were able to send a single plane and bomb the port. German Gen. Kesselring took him at his word and with great difficulty assembled 183 planes and bombed the harbor into submission, also blowing up an American supply ship that was secretly carrying poison gas. Not only did 1000s die but the port was out of action, harming the attack on Monte Cassino.
  • Kesselring, one of the smartest men in Nazi Germany, was Hitler’s chosen successor. Only at the end, when it seemed Kesselring was about to be captured by the Allies did Hitler change his will to make Karl Doenitz his successor.
  • The biggest plane of the war was the BV 238 German flying boat. This massive beast was designed to carry supplies to the Eastern Front and only one of three was completed, but it was sunk at its mooring before it could achieve a single mission.
  • Despite repeated Allied bombings Albert Speer boasted that he could still fully outfit 100 German combat divisions right up to Sept 1944. After that, all bets were off. It was food and fuel that would end the German empire, Speer said. No matter what, the Germans would starve to death during the winter of 1946, he predicted. There was no men, tractors, gasoline or horses to plant, grow, or harvest food.
  • Towards the end of the war in Jan 1945 the German High Command assembled 1000 fighters and bombers to attack the Soviets and re-establish contact with the German Army trapped in Kourland. When Hitler found out, he commandeered the force to support the Ardennes offensive and help take Antwerp. Called “Operation Bodenplatte” the  mission failed miserably. Although both sides lost about 275 planes, it was the pilots and fuel the Germans couldn’t afford to lose and never again would they be able to assemble such a force and their squdrons would fight and die piecemeal in useless offensives around Budapest and in Silesia, sucking up fuel from abandoned civilian gas stations in order to fly.
  • The Fritz X was the first precision-guided  missile, developed by the Germans as an anti-ship weapon. It struck horror into the hearts of the Allies as, unlike an iron bomb, it followed the target to destruction. It sank the Italian battleship Roma and an American troop ship with much loss of life. Eventually the Germans put tv cameras on it to guide it to tanks but  it was too little too late. Eventually the Germans developed powerful air to air missiles like the R4M that could be used to destroy bombers but the war ended before they achieved full production, though even in prototype state there is evidence they counted for as many as 500 Allied planes shot down.
  • The Americans produced more than 10 times the number of trucks the Germans produced and all the American trucks were four wheel drive: only a single class of German truck had four wheel drive. America made over a million 2 1/2 ton trucks, giving almost 400,000 to the Russians alone. The  Germans made about 100,000 of the equivalent truck, the Opel Blitz, and about 25,000 of the 4-wheel drive version but even if they had the trucks they wouldn’t have had the fuel to run them. It’s believed that lack of trucking is a major cause for German failure in WW2.
  • Hitler had a sister named Ruth Hitler but he made her change her last name to Wolff for her own protection: she survived the war and was captured by the Americans. Himmler had two brothers who were killed in the war, one was a Colonel in the SS and was quite brave and killed in Berlin fighting the Russians.
  • The Germans executed a plan called “Operation Long Jump” where they attempted to infiltrate and kill the Big 3 in Tehran but they were sold out by a traitor almost as soon as they landed in Iran.
  • Otto Skorzeny organized an assassination attempt on Stalin in late 1944, outfitting a team and having them fly in a specially equipped Arado AR-232 cargo plane almost 2000 miles to Moscow. The plane crashed 100 miles short of its objective and most of the crew and team were killed but 9 men managed to get back to German lines on foot — a trek of almost 1900 miles behind enemy lines. The Ar-232 later provided the basic design for the American C-130 Hercules.
  • The German Type 21 submarine launched at the end of the war was the most advanced sub in the world. Only a handful ever made it to operational status by the time the war ended and just one made an attack on a British ship — while surrounded by other British ships, it was never detected and simulated a torpedo run. After that it surrendered. The Type 21 provided much of the basic design for the American USS Nautilus, the first nuclear powered submarine.