WW II History

WW II History - pay attention, class...
(Can anyone provide reliable information to verify, refute or expand upon this info?
-- if so, please email me. Thanks, jw

  1. The first German serviceman killed in the war was killed by the Japanese (China, 1937), the first American serviceman killed was killed by the Russians (Finland 1940), the highest ranking American killed was Lt. General Lesley McNair, killed by the US Army Air Corps. So much for the allies.

    From John Arterbury. Lt. General Lesley McNair was killed by accidental Allied bombing in France (ie: 'friendly fire'). Cite: Crusade by Rick Atkinson

    Further, from Captain Robert A. Lynn, The highest ranking U.S. general killed by enemy fire was Lt. General Simon Bolivar, Jr. He was junior to Lt. General Lesley J. McNair, who was killed by U.S. bombers.

    Rodney writes: "Highest-Ranking US Army officer killed in WW2 was Simon Bolivar Buckner, a 4-star General. He certainly outranked 3-star Lieutenant-General Lesley J. McNair, highest-ranking US Army officer who died in the ETO. Anyway, being bumped off by your own side doesn't really count; Buckner was actually killed by Japanese shellfire."

    David M adds: "The USMC general killed on Okinawa was Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner. He was killed by artillery shrapnel while observing from a forward position."

  2. The youngest US serviceman was 12 year old Calvin Graham, USN. He was wounded in combat and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age. (His benefits were later restored by act of Congress.)

    The item above was confirmed by a note from Richard Graham of Canton, TX who says: The story about Calvin Graham enlisted in the navy at the age of 12 is a true story. he was a cousin of mine. The last time I talked to Calvin was at a family reunion several years before his death.

  3. At the time of Pearl Harbor the top US Navy command was called CINCUS (pronounced "sink us"), the shoulder patch of the US Army's 45th Infantry division was the Swastika, and Hitler's private train was named "Amerika." All three were soon changed for PR purposes.

    Dave Walker writes: Insignia of the 45th Infantry Division. The 45th Infantry Division gained its nickname, "Thunderbird" division, from the gold thunderbird. This Native American symbol became the division's insignia in 1939. It replaced another previously used Native American symbol, a swastika, that was withdrawn when it became closely associated with the Nazi party.

  4. More US servicemen died in the Air Corps than the Marine Corps. While completing the required 30 missions, your chance of being killed was 71%.
    David M adds: "About the 30 mission tour that the Army Air Corps flyers had to fly during WW2. It had been 25 missions until late in the war when the tour was lengthened to 30. Flyers were "grandfathered" based on their enlistment/draft dates."
  5. Not that bombers were helpless. A B-17 carried 4 tons of bombs and 1.5 tons of machine gun ammo. The US 8th Air Force shot down 6,098 fighter planes, 1 for every 12,700 shots fired.
    Bill Talbott, Major, USMC (Ret) offers some interesting Discussion of Aircraft Kill Claims.
  6. Germany's power grid was much more vulnerable than realized. One estimate is that if just 1% of the bombs dropped on German industry had instead been dropped on power plants German industry would have collapsed.
  7. Generally speaking there was no such thing as an average fighter pilot. You were either an ace or a target. For instance Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 planes. He died while a passenger on a cargo plane.
  8. It was a common practice on fighter planes to load every 5th round with a tracer round to aid in aiming. This was a mistake. The tracers had different ballistics so (at long range) if your tracers were hitting the target 80% of your rounds were missing. Worse yet the tracers instantly told your enemy he was under fire and from which direction. Worst of all was the practice of loading a string of tracers at the end of the belt to tell you that you were out of ammo. This was definitely not something you wanted to tell the enemy. Units that stopped using tracers saw their success rate nearly double and their loss rate go down.
  9. When allied armies reached the Rhine the first thing men did was pee in it. This was pretty universal from the lowest private to Winston Churchill (who made a big show of it) and Gen Patton (who had himself photographed in the act).
  10. German Me-264 bombers were capable of bombing New York City but it wasn't worth the effort.

    According to Bill Douglas, the Me-264 was a prototype that never went into production. Although the design was theoretically possible of a mission to New York, there was never an operational aircraft to test the theory. One reason for canceling the project was that Hitler felt the isolated bombing of New York would do more to rile the US public against Germany than any damage that was achieved.

    According to Captain Robert A. Lynn, the Me-264 V-1 DID FLY on 23 December 1942 but the Me-264 V-2 was destroyed in an air raid. The Ju-290 was the designated mid-air refueler for the Me-264. There was no loss of effort on the Germans part but the project suffered from the following: shortage of design and construction capacity, personal rivalries between Goring, Milch, and Messerschmitt, and shortage of production capacity. An air raid on 18 July 144 on Memmingen destroyed the Me-254 V-1 as well as parts of the V-3 and V-4. (cite: Hitler's Miracle Weapons-Volume 1: The Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine by Friedrich George)

  11. A number of air crewman died of farts (ascending to 20,000 ft. in an unpressurized aircraft causes intestinal gas to expand 300%).
  12. The Russians destroyed over 500 German aircraft by ramming them in mid-air (they also sometimes cleared mine fields by marching over them). "It takes a brave man not to be a hero in the Red Army" - Joseph Stalin
  13. The US Army had more ships than the US Navy.
  14. The German Air Force had 22 infantry divisions, 2 armor divisions and 11 paratroop divisions. None of them were capable of airborne operations. The German Army had paratroops that WERE capable of airborne operations. Go figure.
  15. When the US Army landed in North Africa, among the equipment brought ashore were 3 complete Coca-Cola bottling plants.
  16. Among the first "Germans" captured at Normandy were several Koreans. They had been forced to fight for the Japanese Army until they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for The German Army until the US Army captured them.
  17. A malfunctioning toilet sank German submarine U-120.

    The U-120 was scuttled by her own crew on 2 May 1945 at Bremerhaven, Germany during Operation REGENBOGEN. Info from Captain Robert A. Lynn, Robert Bogash and uboat.net: U-120.

    According to this thread, it wasn't U-120 that was lost this way, it was uboat.net: U-1206 (KL Karl-Adolf Schlitt), though there were other issues involved too. The story and more details of this incident and of U-boat toilets are included below.

  18. The Graf Spee never sank. The scuttling attempt failed and the ship was bought as scrap by the British. On board was Germany's newest radar system.

    The Graf Spee did sink when scuttled, but only in waters less than 25 ft deep. It was not bought as scrap by the British, and in fact lay in the silt in the River Plate estuary in Uruguay. An effort is being made to raise her to turn her into a ship museum. See "Salvage Team Prepares to Raise WWII Ship" for more details of her sinking and the recovery effort. (Thanks to Lewis Perelman for the info)

  19. One of Japan's methods of destroying tanks was to bury a very large artillery shell with only the nose exposed. When a tank came near enough a soldier would whack the shell with a hammer. "Lack of weapons is no excuse for defeat." - LtGen Mutaguchi
  20. Following a massive naval bombardment 35,000 US and Canadian troops stormed ashore at Kiska. 32 troops (28 Americans and 4 Canadian) were killed in the fire fight and over 50 wounded. It would have been worse if there had been Japanese on the island.

    From John Arterbury. Invasion of Kiska deaths were all due to friendly fire. The correct numbers are 28 Americans dead and four Canadian dead. Cite: Canadian Heroes - The Battle for Kiska. Note: this article is fascinating, and says "It was the Battle of Kiska that would lead Time magazine to create the acronym, JANFU (joint army-navy foul-up)."

    According to Captain Robert A. Lynn, PAO, Florida Guard, in addition to the men KIA by friendly fire, 50 men were WIA from friendly fire while another 130 suffered trench foot.

  21. The MISS ME was an unarmed Piper Cub. While spotting for the US artillery her pilot saw a similar German plane doing the same thing. He dove on the German plane and he and his co-pilot fired their pistols damaging the German plane enough that it had to make a forced landing. Whereupon they landed and took the Germans prisoner. I don't know where they put them since the MISS ME only had 2 seats.

    Mark Anderson wrote: "In regards to the duel of two spotter aircraft doing battle during the last days of WW2, Cornelius Ryan wrote of the incident in his book Last Battle. While enroute to scout the area around Berlin Lts. Duane Francies and William Martin, in the last "dogfight" between Americans and Germans in WW2, took on a Fieseler "Storch" under pistolfire from their L-4 Cub, forced the Storch to crash land and its two occupants to be captured by an American troop convoy which had watched the action from below. The above account was also verified to me by correspondence from Mr. Martin in 2003."

  22. Most members of the Waffen SS were not German.
  23. The only nation that Germany declared war on was the USA.
  24. During the Japanese attack on Hong Kong British officers objected to Canadian infantrymen taking up positions in the officer's mess. No enlisted men allowed you know.
  25. Nuclear physicist Niels Bohr was rescued in the nick of time from German occupied Denmark. While Danish resistance fighters provided covering fire he ran out the back door of his home stopping momentarily to grab a beer bottle full of precious "Heavy Water." He finally reached England still clutching the bottle. Which contained beer. I suppose some German drank the Heavy Water.

Verification Notes: