5 Things You Didn't Know About World War II

On September 1, 1939, World War II began as an estimated 1.5 million German troops crossed Germany's shared border with Poland. Here are 5 things you never knew about the turbulent years that shook the entire world...


Adolf Hitler Had a Nephew in the U.S. Navy William Patrick Hitler was the Fuhrer’s nephew and son of his half-brother Alois Hitler. William and his mother moved to Germany after being abandoned by Alois. The young man’s uncle found him several jobs, but they had a falling out when the younger Hitler reportedly tried to blackmail his uncle. William Hitler moved to America, became a citizen and served in the U.S. Navy during the war, following which he legally changed his name to William Patrick Stuart-Houston.

The Russians Lost the Highest Number of Soldiers The Battle of Stalingrad not only had the largest number of casualties during the war, but the Soviet Union had far more losses than the other countries involved. The Battle of Stalingrad continued from July 1942 through to February 1943 as the Germans attempted and failed to capture the city. The final death toll for Soviet military and civilian casualties caused by the war is estimated at around 24 million, while German casualties are estimated at up to 8.8 million.


One Battle Lasted the Entire War Even history buffs may not realize that the Battle of the Atlantic was ongoing from September 1939 to May 1945, which was the entire length of the war. For the whole six-year period, the Germans battled against the British Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and merchant ships in an attempt to disrupt the transport of goods and destroy Allied ships. The battle did not end until Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945.

The Last American Serviceman to Die Did so in His Parent’s Homeland Charley Havlat was a private first class from Nebraska whose parents were Czech immigrants. He was shipped to Czechoslovakia and was serving there on May 7, 1945, when he was killed as his platoon faced enemy fire from a machine gun. The German officer leading the ambush and the Allied platoon did not know that just nine minutes prior, a ceasefire had begun, effectively ending the war.

Around 425,000 Soldiers Died or Were Wounded on D-Day D-Day marked the Allied invasion in Europe on June 6, 1944, and is still the biggest land, air and naval operation that was ever conducted. At Normandy, more than 104,000 troops arrived at the beachheads, while 20,000 paratroopers landed in France, which was Nazi-occupied. Although hundreds of thousands of both Allied and German soldiers were killed or wounded during the D-Day invasion, it was the turning point that led to an Allied victory.