World War II was a terrible conflict that continues to have repercussions on world events to this day. Most people know a great deal about this war. However, there are plenty of stories about World War II that your teachers never told you about. Here are seven little-known facts that the average person doesn’t know about World War II.
1. The German submarine that was sunk by a toilet – Strange but true! This German U-Boat (U-1206 to be precise) was built late in the war, and was fitted with a new style of toilet that allowed the crew to use the boat at a greater depth was than was previously possible. On April 14th, 1945, U-1206 was cruising off the British coast. The sub’s commander, Schlitt, used the toilet without consulting the specialist (the new underwater toilet technology was VERY complicated!). Long story short, the wrong valve was opened, and seawater flooded the U-boat. When the submarine reached the surface, a passing aircraft bombed the boat, rendering it unable to dive. The commander was forced to abandon ship.
2. Family matters – Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were not only Allies during the war, they were also cousins. Through his mother’s side of the family, FDR was Churchill’s 7th cousin once removed. Speaking of family ties, not many people know that all of Roosevelt’s 4 sons –James, Elliot, John, and Franklin, Jr.– served in the military during World War II.
3. An unfortunate acronym – Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States naval fleet was referred to by the acronym CINCUS, pronounced “Sink-us”. Literally days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Executive Order 8984 changed the name, since a “Sink-us” wasn’t exactly a name that was going to boost morale.
4. Swastikas: Not just for Germans! – Originally a symbol of good luck, the swastika was adopted as the emblem on the Nazi Party. But the Germans weren’t the only ones who used the swastika. The 45th Infantry division of the US Army featured a yellow swastika on a red background as it’s insignia up until the 1930’s. In the United Kingdom, the swastika could be found on the front page of many books by Rudyard Kipling, as well as on Boy Scout paraphernalia.
5. Does that seems young to you? – The average US Infantry Captain was only twenty-six years old. By contrast, Tom Hanks was 41 when he was filming the movie Saving Private Ryan, in which he portrayed an infantry captain.
6. Condoms helped us win the war – It’s true! On D-Day, soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy placed condoms over the barrels of their rifles in order to keep water out of the barrel, and also to keep the salt water from damaging the exterior of the gun.
7. Women played a vital role in World War II – Few people remember the role that women played in winning the war. Women saw nearly as much action as their male counterparts. Two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, five Navy nurses on Guam were seized by the Japanese. Leona Jackson, Lorraine Christiansen, Virginia Fogerty and Doris Yetter, and Marion Olds were held for three months in Zentsuji Prison on Shikoku Island, and then moved to another POW camp in Kobe. They were repatriated in August of 1942.
Nurses received 1,619 medals, citations, and commendations during the war. Sixteen medals were awarded posthumously to nurses who died as a result of enemy fire. Sixteen women received the Purple Heart. The Bronze Star was awarded to 565 women for meritorious service overseas.
So the next time you are at a dinner party or other social function, you can astound your friends and colleagues with these wacky facts about World War II.