1. The first German serviceman killed in WW II was killed by the Japanese (China, 1937); the first American serviceman killed was killed by the Russians (Finland 1940); and the highest ranking American killed was Lt. Gen. Lesley McNair, killed by the U.S. Army Air Corps.
2. The youngest U.S. serviceman was 12 year old Calvin Graham, U.S.N. He was wounded and given a Dishonorable Discharge for lying about his age. His benefits were later restored by act of Congress.
3. At the time of Pearl Harbor, the top U.S. Navy command was called CINCUS (pronounced 'sink us'), the shoulder patch of the U.S. Army's 45th Infantry division was the Swastika, and Hitler's private train was named 'Amerika'. All three were soon changed for public relations purposes.
4. More U.S. servicemen died in the Air Corps than in the Marine Corps. While completing the required 30 missions, one’s chance of being killed was 71%.
5. Generally speaking, there was no such thing as an average fighter pilot. One was either an ace or a target. For instance, Japanese Fighter Ace, Hiroyoshi Nishizawa, shot down over 80 planes. Yet, he died while a passenger on a cargo plane.
6. It was a common practice on fighter planes to load every fifth round with a tracer round to aid in aiming. This was a mistake. Tracers had different ballistics, so (at long- range) if one’s tracers were hitting the target, then 80% of one’s rounds were missing. Worse yet, tracers instantly told the 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 one that he was out of ammo. This was definitely not something one wanted to tell the enemy. Units that stopped using tracers saw their success rate nearly double and their loss rate go down.
7. When Allied armies reached the Rhine, the first thing men did was to urinate in it. This was a pretty universal practice, from the lowest private up to Winston Churchill (who made a big show of it) and even Gen. Patton (who had himself photographed in the act).
8. German Me-264 long-range bombers were actually capable of bombing New York City; but the Germans decided it was not worth the effort.
9. A German submarine, U-120, was actually sunk by a malfunctioning toilet.
10. Among the first 'Germans' captured at Normandy were several Koreans. They had been (1) forced to fight for the Japanese Army until (2) they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until (3) they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for the German Army until (4) they were captured by the US Army.
11. Following a massive naval bombardment, 35,000 United States and Canadian troops stormed ashore on Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands. 21 troops were killed in the assault on the island. It could have been worse, if there had actually been any Japanese on the island.*
Wow! It is often amazing what we do not know about the history of warfare. It strikes me that it also amazing what all we do not know about our veterans who fought those wars.
I have personally had the experience of having known someone for years without ever having known about his or her service to our country. This is especially true as so many of our veterans are quite modest in regard to discussing what all they went through.
I encourage everyone to take a little time this Veteran’s Day weekend and spend it with a veteran or two. As you do, be sure to thank them for their service and for their sacrifice. I am quite sure that it will mean a lot to them.
By the way. While talking to them, you might just be amazed to find out what all they have been through. And you might just discover some personal stories “not commonly known”. Believe me; the reward will be well worth the effort.