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10 Strange Things You Might Not Know About World War II

10 Strange Things You Might Not Know About World War II


1. On May 5, 1945, Elsie Mitchell took five children on an outing to Gearhart Mountain, Ore., where they encountered a strange object. One of them touched it, and suddenly all six were dead. It was one of at least 6,000 "balloon bombs" launched by the Japanese to drift toward the U.S., and that single bomb caused the only known American war deaths on the U.S. mainland.

2. U.S. Gen. George Patton was nearly sent stateside because he slapped a hospitalized soldier suffering from shell shock in Sicily. But another action by Patton -- unreported at the time -- was far worse. Before the Sicily fighting, Patton told his troops that enemy soldiers who continued to fight as Allied forces drew within 200 yards of them should not be taken prisoner and should instead be killed even if they surrendered. This, of course, was a violation of international law, but such killings happened several times in areas of Sicily controlled by Patton.

3. According to British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the biggest quarrel he ever had with Prime Minister Winston Churchill was over two dentist chairs delivered to Normandy shortly after D-Day. Churchill thought the delivery was frivolous; Monty believed that a soldier with a toothache could not fight effectively.

4. After the Germans were driven from Paris, French authorities detained fashion diva Coco Chanel because of her affair with a German official a dozen years younger than her. Chanel, in her early 60s, told a French interrogator, "Really, sir, a woman of my age cannot be expected to look at his passport if she has a chance of a lover." She was freed.

5. The German 6th Army, encircled by the Russians at Stalingrad, was starving and freezing to death in the winter of 1942-43. Food, clothing and fuel were desperately needed. But an airlift was badly disorganized. Thousands of right shoes arrived without left shoes. Four tons of spices were delivered. And when soldiers opened one shipment, they were stunned to discover millions of condoms.

6. The British showed impressive courage and common purpose, but there were exceptions. In 1943, a stampede at a London air-raid shelter killed 173 people in 90 seconds.

7. Poison gas is associated with World War I. But during World War II, neither side trusted the other to resist using gas, so both kept stockpiles. When German bombers attacked the port of Bari, Italy, in December 1943, they struck an Allied ship loaded with 100 tons of mustard gas, fatally poisoning scores if not hundreds of Allied troops. Doctors who treated victims of the gas noticed it had a specific effect on white blood cells, and they realized it might be useful to treat some cancers. After the war, doctors at the University of Chicago and two other universities produced the world's first cancer chemotherapy, based on mustard gas.

8. Alan Magee was a ball turret gunner on an American B-17 bomber that was shot up and began spinning out of control over France on Jan. 3, 1943. Magee's parachute was unusable, but he jumped anyway, losing consciousness as he fell about 20,000 feet. He crashed through the glass skylight of the St. Nazaire train station and suffered severe injuries. Yet Magee recovered, enjoying backpacking until his death at age 84. Magee's 4-mile plunge was well-documented, but it's not clear how he survived. Some believe the angle of the skylight deflected his fall.

9. Few human beings saw as much history as Mitsuo Fuchida. The Japanese flight commander led the first wave at Pearl Harbor and sent the signal "Tora! Tora! Tora!" that indicated his pilots had achieved complete surprise. Six months later, before the battle of Midway, Fuchida underwent an emergency appendectomy aboard the carrier Akagi. Unable to fly, he was on the ship when U.S. planes attacked. An explosion broke his legs, and the Akagi was so badly damaged that it had to be sunk. Later in the war, Fuchida visited Hiroshima but left the city a day before the atomic bomb fell. After the war, he raised chickens, supplying eggs for a U.S. artillery unit that was part of the force occupying Japan.

10. An American-Canadian force attacked the Aleutian island of Kiska in 1943 to root out Japanese occupiers. Amid confused combat in the fog, at least 28 Allied troops were killed and 50 wounded. But the attackers later realized that every casualty was caused by booby traps or friendly fire. The Japanese had left the island weeks earlier.

Submitted by Henry T.
 







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