25 Interesting Things You Didn’t Know About World War II

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From the Nazis stealing the Harvard fight song to a 12 year old soldier who won a purple heart here are 25 interesting things you didn’t know about World War II.

25. World War II was the most destructive conflict in history. It cost more money, damaged more property, and killed more people than any other war ever

24. For every five German soldiers who died in WWII, four of them died on the Eastern Front

23. Eighty percent of Soviet males born in 1923 didn’t survive the war

22. Max Heiliger was the fictitious name the SS used to establish a bank account in which they deposited money, gold, and jewels taken from European Jews.

21. The original abbreviation of the National Socialist Party was Nasos. The word “Nazi” derives from a Bavarian word that means “simple minded” and was first used as a term of derision by journalist Konrad Heiden

20. In 1935, British engineer Robert Watson-Watt was working on a “death ray” that would destroy enemy aircraft using radio waves. His “death ray” instead evolved into radar—or “radio detection and ranging.

19. Out of the 40,000 men who served on U-boats during WWII, only 10,000 returned.

18. More Russians (military and civilians) lost their lives during the Siege of Leningrad than did American and British soldiers combined in all of WWII.

17. From 1940-1945, the U.S. defense budget increased from $1.9 billion to $59.8 billion.

16. The Air Force was part of the Army in WWII and didn’t become a separate branch of the military until after the war.

15. In 1941, a private earned $21 a month. In 1942, a private earned $50 a month.

14. More than 650,000 Jeeps were built during WWII. American factories also produced 300,000 military aircraft; 89,000 tanks; 3 million machine guns; and 7 million rifles

13. During WWII, hamburgers in the U.S. were dubbed “Liberty Steaks” to avoid the German-sounding name

12. The Nazis pirated the Harvard “fight song” to compose their Sieg Heil march

11. William Hitler, a nephew of Adolf Hitler, was in the U.S. Navy during WWII. He changed his name after the war

10. The Nazis killed millions of Poles. But they thought that some Polish babies and children looked German and kidnapped about 50,000 of them to be adopted by German parents

9. The greatest tank battle in history occurred between the Germans and Russians at the Kursk salient in Russia from July 4-22, 1943. More than 3,600 tanks were involved.

8. The largest Japanese spy ring during WWII was not in the U.S. but in Mexico, where it spied on the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

7. The vast majority of German war criminals passed themselves off as refugees at displaced persons camps when the war ended, thereby gaining freedom.

6. Before Nazi Germany decided to eliminate the Jews by gassing them, it had considered sending them to the island of Madagascar.

5. If it became necessary to drop a third atom bomb on Japan, the city that would have been the target was Tokyo

4. Calvin Graham was only 12 years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart before the Navy found out how old he was.

3. Most historians agree that WWII began when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939.

2. Others say it started when Japan invaded Manchuria on September 18, 1931.

1. And some scholars suggest WWII is actually a continuation of WWI, with a break in between.

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