Lesser Known WWII facts-Part 7

Some of these facts are probably well enough known with older generations but I don’t think the younger generations will know them.

The most intensive Holocaust killing took place in September 1941 at the Babi Yar Ravine just outside of Kiev, Ukraine, where more than 33,000 Jews were killed in just two days. Jews were forced to undress and walk to the ravine’s edge. When German troops shot them, they fell into the abyss. The Nazis then pushed the wall of the ravine over, burying the dead and the living. Police grabbed children and threw them into the ravine as well.


Hitler’s unusual medical remedies included enemas and leeches.


The “Little Boy” that detonated over Hiroshima destroyed two-thirds of the city and instantly killed 80,000 people (40 percent of the city’s population). In addition to this destruction, there’s a really troubling tale of the less fortunate survivors. The hibakusha had it good compared to these other survivors, who were described as horrors left behind by the atomic bomb.

Known as the “ant-walking alligators,” these people survived the atomic bomb but looked nothing like humans. Their skin seared from their skulls, leaving them with no eyes and only a small hole where their mouths once used to be. Worse still, they were usually avoided by their fellow survivors, the hibakusha. They could neither speak nor scream, but the sound they made was said to be more horrifying than any scream. They were said to murmur continuously—a sound likened to that of locusts. Ant-walking alligators did not survive for too long and died shortly after the bomb blast.

Grunge bank vault


When the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, it obliterated everything in its path . . . except the vault of the Teikoku Bank. The vault doors were made from steel-reinforced concrete and were allegedly as strong as a bomb shelter. They were made by the Mosler Safe Company in Ohio. The doors’ reputation led to a rush of foreigners and tourists to see the vault.In a letter dated May 22, 1950, the manager of the Teikoku Bank wrote a letter to the Mosler Safe Company. In the letter, the manager reminded Mosler that the vault doors for Teikoku were made in 1925. He stated that the atomic bomb only damaged the surface of the vault doors, leaving cash and important documents in perfect condition. According to the letter, five years later, the damaged vault doors had been repaired. Along with the letter, the manager sent souvenirs from the bank with his sincere appreciation.

Several famous actors were decorated during WWII. For example, Henry Fonda won a Bronze Star in the Pacific, Walter Matthau was awarded six battle stars while serving on a B-17, and David Niven was awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit. Christopher Lee was a pilot in the Royal Air Force and also won a number of awardS.

Dr. Bloch, the Jewish physician who cared for Hitler’s mother, noted that in nearly 50 years of his career as a doctor, he had never seen a young man as broken with grief as Adolf Hitler was at the death of his mother. He had carried her picture with him down to the last days in the bunker.

Author Ian Fleming based his character “007” on the Yugoslavian-born spy Dusko Popov (1912-1980). Popov spoke at least five languages and came up with his own formula for invisible ink. He was the first spy to use microdots, or photos shrunk down to the size of dots. He obtained information that the Japanese were planning an air strike on Pearl Harbor, but the FBI did not act on his warning. Popov later lived in the U.S. in a penthouse and created a reputation as a playboy. He wrote an account of his wartime activities.



Operation Frankton



In December 1942, 10 British special forces soldiers were secretly sent to a French port to destroy things and otherwise cause mayhem. Their mode of transport? Canoes. Having realized that valuable war materials were flowing from Asia to Germany through the port of Bordeaux, the British decided that this choke point had to be stemmed. As more destructive ways of destroying the ships in the port could have caused civilian casualties, the British decided on a commando surgical strike. A royal marine came up with the insane plan of commandos paddling canoes into the port and sticking explosives onto the ships.


A British submarine surfaced off the French coast and launched five canoes, each carrying two commandos, for the strike. The port was hundreds of miles inland up a river, and the commandos had to paddle the whole way, taking several days to make the journey and hiding on the shore during the day. Only two of the boats managed to reach the safety of inland waters; two others capsized, and one disappeared. After reaching the harbor, the four remaining commandos blew up six ships.

Two of the commandos were captured and executed, but the other two were smuggled out of France and into Spain by French resistance members. The strike was a huge propaganda boost for the struggling Allies, and the Germans were forced to guard their ships more closely from then on, an increased expenditure of resources.


The Kreipe Operation



Probably one of the craziest operations ever conducted by Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the war, the operation to kidnap General Kreipe, the commander of the German garrison on Crete, was designed to engender resistance on the occupied island. Having been secretly inserted onto the island months before the kidnapping would take place, the two commandos tasked with the operation put their plan into action in April 1944.

Dressing as German troops, the two commandos, with the help of the Cretan resistance, hailed the general’s car and then surprised and killed the general’s bodyguards. Stuffing Kreipe in the back of the car, the commandos, now disguised as the general and his driver, drove past more than 20 German checkpoints without the Germans knowing that anything was amiss. After abandoning the car and moving the general, the two commandos had to hide from German patrols while waiting to be extracted by a submarine.The operation was a huge embarrassment to the Germans and a massive morale boost to the Cretan resistance and population.


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