5 Things You Didn't Know About World War II

On September 1, 1939, World War II began when an estimated 1.5 million German troops crossed Germany's shared border with Poland.  Here are 5 lesser known facts you never knew about World War II...


One U.S. Division Wore a Swastika on Their Uniforms The 45th Infantry Division wore on their uniform a traditional Native American symbol of good luck: a pair of angled bars intersecting at the middle that we would today recognize as a swastika. For 15 years this adorned the uniforms of the division's members, which contained members from Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico (areas with a rich Native American tradition). However, as the Nazis rose to power, the group ditched the symbol an swapped in a Thunderbird design.

Hitler Executed 84 of His Own Generals There were numerous plots to kill Hitler after he rose to power, and he executed at least 84 of his own generals during the war. Most of the executions were due to the discovery that the men were plotting against him, including a bomb plot designed to assassinate him on July 20, 1944. It was called Operation Valkyrie when a German military officer placed a bomb under Hitler’s desk but failed to kill him, resulting in the executions of 4,980 military officers and civilians in retaliation.


Nazis Considered Fighting England With Potato Beetles The Nazis considered dropping millions of potato beetles along England’s east coast, which was believed to be the location of hundreds of thousands of hectares of potato fields. The aim of the Nazis was to cause widespread famine in England by destroying this essential food crop. Although several million of the pesky bugs had already been stockpiled, it would have taken nearly 40 million to do the job, so the idea was abandoned.

A 12-Year-Old Boy Was in the U.S. Navy A Texas lad, Calvin Graham, was only 12 when he borrowed clothing from an older brother, forged his mother’s name and joined the U.S. Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The boy served as a gunner on the USS South Dakota and was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his heroism. Graham's mother spotted him on newsreel footage and alerted the military of her son's duplicity. He was dishonorably discharged but hailed as a hero by his hometown.

Two-Thirds of Soviet Men Born in 1923 Didn't Survive the War An economics professor at the University of Warwick, Mark Harrison, claims that 68 percent of males born in the Soviet Union in 1923 did not survive World War II. However, he says nearly half of that number died before the war started because of civil war, famine, disease, and lack of sanitation and antibiotics. When Germany first attacked their country, they were just 18.