21 Things You Didn’t Know About World War II

The Monuments Men
The Monuments Men

1. There was a special team of experts — many of whom weren’t even soldiers — who were assembled to go into the front lines of battle to rescue precious works of art from the Nazis.

2. Brazil was an active participant in the war, taking over 20,000 Axis prisoners in its time in battle.

3. A cat, nicknamed Unsinkable Sam, managed to survive the sinking of three different vessels over the course of the war.

4. German U-boats managed to land a total of eight English-speaking Germans to invade American soil, coming in through Long Island and Florida, though the four from Long Island were eventually captured.

5. Many of the MFAA officers — or Monuments Men — went on to work in some of the most prestigious museums in the world, such as the National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, or MoMa.

6. During the war, American airplane factories were made to look like little towns so they wouldn’t be targets of bombings.

7. There were Nazi soldiers from many countries aside from Germany, including 27 troops of British Nazis.

8. Coco Chanel was an active Nazi collaborator, and was even dating a high-ranking SS officer.

9. You could join a special group to avoid combat if your religious beliefs prevented you from fighting in the war.

10. Scientists briefly considered bombing Japanese volcanoes to trigger eruptions.

11. Calvin Graham, a serviceman who enlisted after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was the youngest in the entire military — at 12 years old!

12. Japan launched “fire balloons” at the U.S., a sort of explosive hot air balloon intended to float over to the States and explode over American soil. (They did not work very well.)

13. Prominent British writers, such as Roald Dahl and Ian Fleming, were enlisted to spy on the Nazis. Other writers, both famous and little-known, kept diaries of their experiences during the war.

14. There was a German brothel that catered to foreign diplomats, called the Salon Kitty, where the prostitutes were trained to get information from their johns.

15. The Stalag Luft III was a German POW camp where 600 prisoners planned an elaborate escape but, after a botched attempt, only three of them ended up getting free. (And 50 were executed on Hitler’s personal orders.)

16. There was a soccer match in 1942 between the Soviets and the Germans — often called The Death Match — in which the Soviets were punished for their win through torture and even execution.

17. The Soviet Union was the country with the most significant casualties, estimated at over 21 million people.

18. For every five German soldiers who died in WWII, four of them were killed on the Eastern Front.

19. There was a single battle — The Battle of the Atlantic — that lasted from 1939 to 1945.

20. Russia and Japan are technically still at war.

21. Adolf Hitler’s nephew William Hitler served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and changed his name shortly after the war and lived a normal life as a medical professional. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

This post brought to you by Sony Pictures’ The Monuments Men – directed by and starring George Clooney. Based on a true story, it features a WWII platoon tasked with saving art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners. See it in theaters on February 7th.



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