Many students learn about World War II in school during history class, but it is not uncommon for them to forget everything they have learned once those lectures are over. Instead, much of what we know and understand about war comes from various media outlets.
There’s a good chance you’ve seen something about World War II outside of your history classes, whether it’s the famous movie Saving Private Ryan or the popular video game Call of Duty.
However, there are a number of strange facts and anecdotes that people simply do not comment on.
Here are five of the most fascinating and little-known facts about World War II that you probably didn’t know:
1. It was in 1974 when the last Japanese soldier surrendered.
It is not uncommon for troops to fight for a cause after their country has surrendered. This is simply the reality of fighting a combat that spans numerous continents and countries.
But when the last soldier fighting surrenders some thirty years after the combat ends, the situation becomes peculiar. This is what happened to Teruo Nakamura, a native Taiwanese soldier who enlisted in the Japanese forces at the beginning of the war.
As his squad escaped into an Indonesian forest, he assumed the fighting was still going on. He managed to subsist on his own, hunting whatever food he could find, until he was discovered in December 1974.
2. During World War II, strange weapons were used, such as the German cannon, which could fire over the sea.
World War II is known for having really interesting weaponry. The V-3 cannon, a massive weapon capable of launching missiles from Germany over the sea to England, was one of the most ambitious undertakings.
Instead of rockets, the V-3 would be a fixed cannon capable of firing projectiles up to 100 miles over the sea from continental Europe to the United Kingdom. Fortunately, the weapon was never built due to bombing raids that destroyed it before it was finished.
3. A bear served in the army in Poland.
A company of Polish troops was evacuated from the Soviet Union and headed to Iran in 1942. During the trip they befriended a Syrian brown bear named Wojtek. He was officially enrolled as a private in the unit.
From 1943 to 1944, the boys were in Italy, bringing the bear with them. It was useful for transporting large ammunition and immediately became a star among troops. Wojtek was eventually discharged after the war and lived contentedly at Edinburgh Zoo until his death in 1963.
4. Gandhi tried to send Hitler a message of peace.
Mahatma Gandhi was one of the world’s greatest peacemakers, although most people are unaware that he was alive during World War II.
Gandhi was so committed to peace that he attempted to write a letter to Hitler, addressing him as a “dear friend” and praying for an end to the war. However, it is unknown if the messages reached Hitler.
5. A stressed German commander left his post and went to a spa.
Heinrich Himmler was one of Hitler’s initial supporters, eventually becoming head of the Schutzstaffel (SS) and taking command of the Vistula Military Force, a force of 500,000 men tasked with protecting Berlin.
Unfortunately, Himmler, who needed daily naps and massages and only worked a few hours a day, found this task too difficult. Army Group Vistula was eventually invaded and Himmler resigned.
He sought solace at the Hohenlychen sanatorium and even attempted to negotiate a peace agreement with the advancing Allied armies.
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