World War II ushered in the most extended peace the world has ever known. Not that people can no longer fight, no, the cost of war was too much. A close look at the losses sustained globally as a result of the Second World War revealed only one fact – there was no winner, everyone lost. The ambition of one crazy tyrant turned humans into killing machines, and his ultimate supporters and opposers both died in near equal measure. As the world struggles to forget these dark years, there are facts about the war that are just too hard to ignore.
1. Al Capone’s Car Was the President’s Last Resort
The three men ever named the by the Chicago Crime Commission as the most dangerous criminals are Al Capone, Pablo Escobar, and lately El Chapo. In a time of war, a slice of bread from a hated neighbor may be welcome as well, and this was Al Capone’s gift to the state. When Japan hit Pearl Harbor, the president was supposed to give a speech at capitol hill, and his car was not necessarily prepared for the evil times. His limo was being fitted with bulletproof protection, the law restricted presidential vehicle budgets to $750, and there was no armored vehicle at that price except the impounded armored Cadillac of the worst criminal in the US at the time, Al Capone. Franklin D Roosevelt said “I hope Mr. Capone won’t mind,” when he was told about the source of the car. He continued o use it until his car was ready to carry him during the sad war.
2. Hitler Wanted to Turn Moscow Into a Lake
Hitler’s invasion on the Kremlin was bold but also his worst move because he was beaten and had an army too strained to fight the British. Today Moscow is home to 14 million people thanks to the Soviet defeat of the Reich invasion. During WWII, only 4 million people lived in Moscow, and most of the men were out at war while Hitler had sent 4 million soldiers to take Moscow. Many victories greeted the invasion, Hitler had plans set for the city, and they were not chocolates. Hitler had ordered his aides to draw a plan for the Volga dams to fill up Moscow after grounding it if he defeated Stalin. It was an over-ambitious plan because winter was coming and the Russians came with it. Hitler’s further advances during the winter were greatly haunted by the disadvantage to his men who did not understand the landscape leading to a severe thrashing that is still celebrated in Russia today.
3. 50% of the Casualties Were Civilians
The number of civilian casualties was mounting at a high pace with thousands dying per day on both allied and axis sides. The number of Indian civilians was surprisingly almost equal to that of Germans. China also lost more than 10 million civilians to the war. Many people think that enlisting in a fight is dangerous, but World War II confirmed that the danger is almost equal whether you engage of stay. Nazis were not mindful of civilian lives, and so were the bombs.
The five nations that lost most civilians are Russia, China, Poland, Germany and India which recorded at least 2 million civilian deaths. The sad bit is that more focus was placed on the loss of soldiers as opposed to civilian deaths during the war. The concentration camps were the worst for children with a record 1.5 million children lost in Germany alone. The mounting casualty numbers did not, however, prompt the end of the war until the axis were too maimed to fight. It seems military decisions don’t consider non-combatants after all.
4. Hiroshima and Nagasaki Were Not Top Military Targets
The deadliest bomb to ever hit any nation came in 1945 when the two nukes were downed killing 80,000 in Nagasaki and 146,000 in Hiroshima. The US planned to bomb Japan right, but not the way it happened, it was something else altogether. Tokyo was considered first, but the firestorms had burnt most of the city to ruins making it an insignificant target. Kyoto the cultural heritage center of Japan then home to over 1 million people was the prime target because the war had not hit it and it was believed to be able to affect the Japanese morale. The committee considered striking the emperor’s palace, Yokohama, Kokura, and Niigata but somehow all of them ended up giving way for Nagasaki which was never on the list. Hiroshima was a target, but at a lower level, it was only taken as the best target that would not anger the Russians.
5. The Nazis Solely Murdered More Than 12 Million Innocents
While the starvation and rot in Nazi concentration camps became the actual face of the dirty side of the war, they accounted for just about half of the Nazi civilian murders. The plight of Jews in the war can never be quantified; the figures still bounce up to 20 million if the Jews killed outside the camps and the babies killed after being born are included. Nazi concentration camps had over 80% mortality rate, Russian civilians were also massacred in appalling numbers bringing every part of this war to shame. Most of the people died in the gas chambers; others were beaten to death or directly shot at close range. Starvation turned prisoners to cannibalism and Typhus also spread fast killing even some Nazi guards. Every County the Nazis conquered paid a very steep price.
The numbers hardly caught the deaths from related causes, but direct deaths from the camp were initially stopped at 6 million. Further research proved there were more. The other country that paid heavily was the Soviet Union with over 7 million including another 1.3 million Jews counted in the initial figure killed in cold blood. There was nothing Hitler would spare in his mission, not even the Germans themselves. He did not surrender, even after 1 million German civilians died in firestorms. Sad!
6. Russia Paid the Highest Price
The numbers on the Soviet Union losses stood at 25 million, but the actual impact of the war on Russia was something else. Of the men born in Russia in 1923, only 20% survived the war. These were children taken to war. The deaths mounted in the initial invasions due to Stalin’s confusion and military disorganization. The Germans considered Communism in equal low as Jewish, and the soldiers had no room for holding the 5.7 million Soviet POWs.
The mortality rate in the Soviet POW prisons reached 85%. Apart from being shot, gassed or starved, the prisoners died from disease and forced labor. It was part of the Nazi policy to do away with inferior Slavs, a deranged racial degradation. While less than 30% of Soviet POWs made it back home, British and American soldiers had a 96% survival rate because they were considered racial equals. China equally suffered huge losses with more than 15 million deaths, but Japan mostly did this. Quite interesting how nations can come back from persecution considering the state of these two countries now.
7. William Patrick Hitler Served in the US Army During the War
It is probably the only known good Hitler in history, well, after the Adolf Hitler. The nephew of the evilest man in the world was serving with the US Navy to help end his tyrant uncle and end him he did. He had a very complicated history too. He was born to Alois Hitler, Adolf’s half-brother and Bridget Dowling a Briton from Liverpool. He had a fallout with his uncle after writing about him to a paper in London leading to a very strained relationship. His father advised him to leave Germany for his safety, he later returned and worked for Opel Automotive in 1935 before later getting arrested for stealing cars and being forced to go back to Britain.
There was no job for someone with his surname. He needed a life with his mother, so he joined Randolph Hearst, a US paper publisher on tours to talk about his uncle. His attempt to join the Navy was initially thwarted when the recruiting office dismissed him sarcastically saying he wasn’t Hess, the then Deputy Fuhrer (Hitler’s top-ranking deputy). He wrote to President Roosevelt who ordered an FBI investigation allowing young Hitler, later changed to Stuart Houston, to join the navy and even earn a purple heart. Today, while Hitler is not a name anyone would want to hear, this was definitely a good Hitler.
8. Tsutomu Yamaguchi Survived Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Tsutomu Yamaguchi was the undoubtedly the luckiest man in the whole war. He was an engineer for Mitsubishi, the Hiroshima bombing found him in the shipyard. Tsutomu jumped into a trench before the boom and survived only with shattered eardrums; his burns were also severe because he was within 2 miles of the blast. He took a train, the only available means on August 6 and went to his home to Nagasaki where his doctor could not recognize him because he was all black.
He still went to work on 9th anyway, while reporting to his boss that could not understand how a single bomb could clear a whole city, an even bigger bomb landed. He ducked under the table, but a hill and reinforced stairs absorbed the blast and saved him a second time. His wife and son also escaped because of his predicament. She was out looking for burn cream for him when the bomb dropped. He later lived to be an activist against nuclear weapons and even got recognition in 2009 as the Survivor of 2 nuclear bombs. Some sweet story from a bloody war he had to tell there!
9. Calvin Graham Lied His Way to the Army
When an evil man wreaks havoc, even children want to do something to stop it. The 12-year-old Calvin Leon Graham was born in Texas to poor farmers, and his very abusive stepfather reminded him of Hitler. He just wanted to do something about it. So Calvin tried to shave in a bid to encourage facial hair growth, but that was too long a shot for an 11-year-old. He later decided to forge his mother’s signature and use a fake parental consent form to enlist. The officers knew he was 12, but the navy needed men. Apart from discouraging him by extra miles and heavier weights at training, they didn’t send him away. He was commissioned as a gunner on USS South Dakota which was later renamed, Battleship X. He was hit by shrapnel breaking a jaw and losing several teeth during the massive firefight in the Guadalcanal war in 1942.
The army imprisoned him when his mother reported his actual age to the navy prompting a threat to go public from his sister. They released him and revoked his bronze medal and purple heart, but President Reagan in 1988 signed a bill that allowed him to get all his medals back making him the youngest decorated serviceman in the US army. He was astonishing. Despite his injuries; Calvin helped injured soldier on the ship. His bravery was only recognized after he complained about having been treated worse than the deserters of the Vietnam war. He was a hero, even if he had to lie to become one.
10. The Last Soldier Left the Field 30 Years Late
When hell fire dropped on Japan, Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender on 15th August 1945 but his country’s intelligence officers in the Philippines refused to believe until 30 years later. Hiroo Onada held onto his orders on Lubanga Island for the three decades after the war ended. Initially, he was assigned with three fellow soldiers, one emerged in 1950 from the forest and went to Japan. In 1972 when the Philippines military reacted to their sporadic attacks on the locals, 2 of his comrades were shot but he refused to surrender.
He believed a pro-US government in Tokyo was attempting to flush him out, so he continued surveying military facilities and killing up to 30 locals whom he thought to be enemy combatants. He was only holding onto his orders even after they were passed by time and might. He was later relieved of duty by his former commanding officer who had retired and was working as a bookkeeper. He was probably the most loyal soldier ever recruited into the imperial army.