75 Interesting Facts About World War 2

  1. World War 2 was the deadliest conflict in world history, which took the lives of around 75 million people worldwide.
  2. World War 2 was fought in the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and the oceans of the Pacific and Atlantic. The combatants were the Allies (UK, USA, France, USSR) and the Axis (Nazi Germany, Italy, Japan).
  3. The European front of World War 2 started on 1st September 1939 with the German invasion of Poland. It is considered the start of WW2.
  4. But the Asian front of the war started two years earlier in July 1937, with the Japanese invasion of China. This conflict continued throughout WW2.
  5. More than 120,000 Japanese Americans faced forced confinement in the USA during WWII. Even then, over 33,000 of them fought for the USA. More than 800 Japanese Americans lost their lives battling for the USA. (Source)
  6. In 1942, the USA used 29 Navajo (a Native American language) speakers to produce a secret code language. The Japanese failed to break the code till the end of the Second World War. (Source)
  7. During World War 1, Germany could not capture France despite fighting for years. However, Nazi Germany overpowered France during World War 2 in just 45 days (10th May to 25th June 1940).
  8. Allies had far more military personnel, tanks, and industrial resources than Germany at the start of WW2. But Germans were superior to them based on their discipline, training, and fighting spirit. (Source)
  9. Germany used Blitzkrieg (lightning war) warfare technique during WW2. It assisted them in occupying large areas in less time and destroying a large number of enemy troops and weapons. (Source)
  10. During the Blitzkrieg (lightning war), Germans bombed the UK for eight consecutive months (autumn 1940 to spring 1941). These also include the bombing of London for 57 nights in a row. These bombings killed 43,000 people across the UK. (Source)
  11. A Polish midwife delivered 3,000 babies for two years at a Nazi extermination camp. Only 30 of these babies survived the camp. About 500 were sent to other families, while the remaining were either killed or died due to cold or starvation. (Source)
  12. The US halted the production of civilian cars after entering WWII in 1941. The production of civilian automobiles resumed in 1945 after the end of the war. (Source)
  13. In the initial stages of WW2, the Soviet Union had a pact with Germany. But Hitler later invaded USSR in 1941 to end any potential threat from the east and to eliminate Communism.
  14. Eastern Front (Axis invasion of USSR) was the largest war theatre during World War 2. The length of this front was more than 1,000 miles, where over 400 divisions from both sides participated. 
    German tanks during invasion of USSR in WW2
    Eastern Front was the largest war theatre in WW2

  15. The Battle of Kursk is known as the largest tank battle in history. More than 6,000 tanks from Germany and USSR took part in this battle, which ended with Soviet victory. (Source)
  16. Germans were the first to produce and fly jet fighters. Messerschmitt Me 262 made its initial flight on 25th March 1942. (Source)
  17. Japan and Italy were the only countries that used poisonous gas during WW2 in China and Ethiopia, respectively. (Source)
  18. Allied aircraft dropped more than 1 ton of bombs on Germany during WW2 that demolished industrial infrastructure and cities. 10% of this ammunition failed to explode. Every year, around 2,000 tons of this explosive have been recovering until now. A ground clearance certificate is necessary in Germany before starting any construction project. (Source)
  19. Rudolf Hess was Hitler’s deputy in Nazi Party. In 1941, he flew to Scotland to negotiate a peace deal between Germany and Britain. But Hitler rejected his action, and he was kept as a prisoner of war in Britain. (Source)
  20. Russia lost around 27 million civilians and military personnel during WW2, the highest of any nation.
  21. Two countries (USSR and China) suffered more than half of the total (civilian and military) deaths during WW2.
  22. Most of the military deaths during World War 2 were suffered by four countries: USSR, Germany, China, and Japan.
  23. Soviet soldiers raped many Polish, German, and even Soviet women after their capture of Poland and Germany. (Source)
  24. The famous Hollywood character 007 was based on a Serbian spy, Dusko Popov, who worked for British MI5 and MI6 during WW2. (Source)
  25. During and after WW2, there were more than 11 million German POWs (prisoners of war) in Allied and Soviet camps. Many of these prisoners died due to overwork, malnutrition, mistreatment, and harsh weather. About 80,000 perished in Yugoslavia, 40,000 under US captivity, more than 21,000 in France, and about 10,000 in Poland. The official figure for German POWs deaths in USSR is not more than 400,000. But at least 1.1 million prisoners died in Soviet captivity, around 33% of total German POWs under Soviet control. (Source)
  26. After the end of WW2, thousands of Nazi officers, party members, and other war criminals escaped to South America and lived as refugees in Argentina, Chile, and Brazil. (Source)
  27. The Second World War destroyed more cities than any other conflict. Famous cities that faced destruction or extensive damage during the war include London, Coventry, Hull (Britain), Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki (Japan), Berlin, Dresden, Julich (Germany), Ypres (Belgium), and Warsaw (Poland). (Source)
    Warsaw in 1944
    Nazi Germany demolished Warsaw (Poland) after 1944 uprising
  28. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was their reply to the US embargo of oil and steel and the freezing of Japanese assets.
  29. Germans were close to making plutonium bombs during WW2 after their capture of a nuclear plant in Norway. But a successful daring mission by Norwegian commandoes destroyed the plant. (Source)
  30. Vidkin Quisling was a Norwegian military and political leader who served as Prime Minister of Norway under German occupation in WW2. His name is a synonym for “traitor” in the English language. (Source)
  31. In September 1940, the USA gave 50 destroyers to Britain in exchange for naval and air bases in 8 British colonies. (Source)
  32. Adolf Hitler’s nephew served in US Navy during WW2. William P. Hitler joined USN in March 1944 and served the country for three years. He also received a Purple Heart medal. (Source)
  33. Oleander flowers and camphor trees were the first plants to bloom in Hiroshima after the nuclear blasts. These are the official flower and tree of Hiroshima. (Source)
  34. Around 200,000 Japanese (mostly civilians) lost their lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These cities were hit by the nuclear weapons of the USA respectively on 6th August and 9th August 1945.
  35. Nagasaki was not among the possible cities for dropping the nuclear bomb in the initial plan. It was added to the list of potential targets on 24th July 1945 in place of Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital. But even then, the original target for the 2nd nuclear weapon was Kokura. Poor visibility saved this city and Nagasaki became the victim of an atomic bomb on 9th July. (Source)
  36. Tens of thousands of Koreans also died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombings. (Source)
  37. Russia and Japan have not signed a truce after WW2. The dispute between these counties is based on the Kuril Islands, captured by the Soviet Union during the Second World War. (Source) 
  38. Majdanek was the first major German concentration camp liberated by the Soviets in July 1944. (Source)
  39. Japanese and British tried to use Tesla’s idea of the “death ray” to invent new weapons. British effort resulted in the invention of radar while the Japanese failed. (Source)
  40. World War 2 resulted in the fall of Nazi Germany, the Japanese Empire, and the Italian Empire.
  41. World War 2 also immensely harmed UK and France financially. As a result, they became unable to play the role of superpowers after losing their occupied areas in Asia and Africa.
  42. USA and USSR emerged as two new superpowers after the end of WW2. It started the era of the cold war.
  43. Apart from several million Jews in Holocaust, Nazi Germany also killed millions of Slavs and Romani people during World War 2.
  44. German extermination camps played a significant role in the Holocaust. Millions of Jews, Roma, Slavs, homosexuals, and defectors were kept and exterminated in these camps. Most of these camps were in German-occupied Poland. The majority of the detainees were killed in poison gas chambers. The most notorious camp was Auschwitz, with more than 1.1 million executions. (Source)
  45. During the Battle of Ramree Island in 1945, saltwater crocodiles killed and ate around half of 1000 Japanese soldiers when they entered the mangrove swamp populated by these crocodiles. (Source)
  46. A Japanese soldier fought the WW2 till 1974. He remained in the jungles of the Philippines during these 29 years and laid down his weapons after receiving orders from his wartime commander. (Source)
  47. Japanese used the first kamikaze suicide bombers against American warships on 25th October 1944. (Source)
  48. Most of the missions of Japanese Kamikaze (suicide) pilots failed. The success rate for nearly 4,000 Kamikaze pilots was only 10%. (Source)
    A Japanese kamikaze plane in action
    Most of the Japanese kamikaze missions remained unsuccessful

  49. Japanese Kamikaze pilots were given large doses of the stimulant drug "Methamphetamine" before their suicide missions. (Source)
  50. During the last stages of WW2, the Japanese used rocket-powered aircraft instead of general jet fighters for kamikaze attacks. These man-carrying Ohka (Cherry blossom) missiles were cheaper, faster, and deadlier than ordinary jets. But this tactic also proved largely unsuccessful as it could only sink or damage seven ships at the cost of hundreds of missiles and pilots. (Source)
  51. In 1942, the Japanese started to construct a railway line connecting Thailand and Burma for their Burma Campaign. This construction took over one year to complete, during which thousands of POWs (prisoners of war) and forced laborers perished. This railway line is commonly known as the “Death Railway.” (Source)
  52. Japan used balloon bombs to target the USA during WW2. These bombs were the first intercontinental weapons that used air currents to travel long distances at a height of 30,000 feet. Out of 9,000 of those launched, around 1,000 could reach North America. Only one of these bombs achieved its purpose by killing 6 Americans (5 children and a woman). It was the only casualty in the US mainland during WW2. (Source)
  53. There were 3,715 animals in the Berlin zoo during WWII. Only 90 of them survived the Allied aerial bombing. In contrast to a myth, there were seven elephants in the Berlin zoo, and just 1 (an Asian elephant Siam) survived the war.
  54. During WW2, the USA worked on two different plans to use bats and pigeons as suicide bombers. Both these plans failed to materialize. (Source)
    A flying bat
    USA planned to use bats as suicide bombers

  55. German pilots during WW2 scored the most flying aces in the history of aerial warfare. Eric Hartmann had the most kills during the Second World War, as he destroyed 352 enemy planes. The top Allied pilot was Lev Shestakov, with 66 kills. (Source) 
  56. The youngest soldier of WW2 was a Soviet boy born in 1934 or 1936 and fought against Germany in 1942. Sergei Aleshkov also received a medal for his participation in the war.
  57. The earliest known use of the swastika was discovered from a 15,000-year-old ivory mammoth tusk. This symbol has a positive connotation in Hinduism, Buddhism, and several other cultures. But the Nazi Party used it to represent the superiority of the Aryan race. (Source)
  58. Nazi salute was initially seen in a painting of 1784 depicting Roman soldiers. Later, it was adopted by the Italian Fascist party before its usage by Nazi Party. (Source)
  59. The battle of the Atlantic lasted for six years, from 1939 to 1945. It was the longest continuous battle of World War 2.
  60. Queen (then Princess) Elizabeth served as a mechanic during the Second World War. She is the only woman in the royal family that has served in the military. (Source
  61. United Nations was established after the end of World War 2 to prevent any such war in the future. It replaced the former League of Nations that remained unsuccessful in the prevention of WW2.
  62. Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, was one of the best American friends of Hitler as both were anti-Semitic. Ford’s rival company, General Motors, also had business interests in Germany and manufactured aircraft parts for Luftwaffe. (Source)
  63. A Korean soldier, Yang Kyoungjong, fought for three different countries during WWII. He fought for Japan, the Soviet Union, and Germany as a prisoner of war without his will. (Source)
  64. More than 35,000 German WW2 Prisoners of War (POW) were present in Canada. Due to a nice treatment by the hosts, over 6,000 of them preferred to stay there after the war. (Source)
  65. The Last prisoner of WWII was a Hungarian soldier, Andras Toma. He was released in 2000 by Russia. (Source)
  66. There is a misconception that 80% of Soviet males born in 1923 died during WW2. But in fact, the wartime mortality rate is far less. Out of the total 3,400 male births in the USSR in 1923, only around 700 died during wartime, effectively starting in USSR in 1941. (Source)
  67. An RAF air gunner survived after falling from 18,000 feet without a parachute. He, fortunately, landed on snow while his fall was slowed by small pines. (Source) 
  68. A Spanish double agent worked for rivals Germany and Britain during World War 2. After the war, he faked his death for nearly four decades due to fear of Nazi revenge. (Source
    Chinese soldiers preparing for suicide attack
    Chinese were the first to use suicide bombing during WW2

  69. Contrary to a popular belief, suicide bombing during World War 2 was initiated by the Chinese, not the Japanese. These Chinese suicide bombers started their mission in 1938 (even before the regular start of WW2) against the Japanese tanks.
  70. V-2 (developed by Nazi Germany) was the first ballistic missile, initially used by Germany in 1942. During WW2, Germans launched around 3,000 V-2s against Britain, Belgium, and France. (Source)
  71. In 1942, Japan captured two remote US-owned islands west of Alaska. America retook both these islands in 1943. (Source)
  72. In 1942, a Dutch warship camouflaged Tropical Island and thus saved itself from the Japanese Navy. (Source)
  73. President of Czechoslovakia, Emil Hacha, suffered a minor heart attack after getting knowledge of the German plan to invade his country. (Source)
  74. Like World War 1, the German U-boats (submarines) played an important role during WW2. These submarines proved effective in the initial stages of the war. But their effectiveness diminished later due to the arrival of Allied bombers and radars. Out of 1,162 U-boats, they lost 785 during WW2. (Source)
  75. Large barrage balloons played a significant role in saving London from destruction by German air raids. It was three times the size of a cricket pitch. (Source)


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