Unusual WWII Facts, Part 12.

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“Last Kiss”, With the onset of World War Two, millions of young men were forced apart from their loved ones. And, as this poignant yet heartbreaking photo shows, the sacrifices made by these soldiers extended to their loved ones.

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A shell shocked reindeer looks on as World War II planes drop bombs. Many forget the impact war has on nature as well as human beings, a truth that is timely captured by this photographer when Russian planes bombed an unknown location taken by Yevgeny Khaldei.

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Two Calgary Highlanders stand by the banks of the Bow River, Calgary, before departing for the war. They are humourously depicting Canada’s equipment shortages at the beginning of the war… too many volunteers, not enough uniforms!

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The British people never lost their sense of humour during the war. Even during the worst bombardments they kept the morale high.

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This photo was taken shortly after the end of WWII and was one of the first to capture the bunkers interior, where it is believed Nazi founder Adolf Hitler spent his final weeks before committing suicide.

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This is one of the most famous mysterious incidents of all time. It technically happened a few months after the war had ended, but it involved the U.S. military and aircraft used during World War II. The basic story is quite simple: Lieutenant Charles Taylor lead a flight of five TBM Avenger planes on a training exercise from a Naval air station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Over the radio, Taylor complained that his compasses weren’t working and that he didn’t know where he was. After flying around in confusion for several hours, the planes ran out of gas. None of them have been seen since, and all 14 men on board were presumed dead.

The Navy’s inquiry was pretty clear-cut as well. Taylor had a history of getting lost while flying, and several radio operators and even junior members of Flight 19 seemed to know where they were, but following Taylor’s faulty leadership, they flew far into the Atlantic instead of back to Florida. Much of the mystery surrounding the incident stems from the Navy’s efforts to assuage Taylor’s mother, who complained when the inquiry blamed her son without hard evidence. They changed it to, “cause unkown.”

Later writers would wrap supernatural elements around the story, creating the legend of the Bermuda Triangle and inventing details out of whole cloth, such as pilots having premonitions of tragedy that prevented them from joining the doomed flight, and mysterioso radio transmissions like, “the sky is all wrong here.”

 It’s a creepy enough story on its own – five planes lost over open sea with night falling and bad weather moving in, the encroaching certainty of their own deaths looming over them. The actual final radio transmission was a faint, garbled message. Radio operators could only make out the flight’s call sign, “FT…FT…FT…”

Since the planes have still never been recovered, the true fate of Flight 19 technically remains a mystery.

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The Baffling Battle of Los AngelesA few months after Pearl Harbor, America was pretty on-edge, especially along the west coast. Everyone was scanning sky and sea in fear of another Japanese attack. In fact, a Japanese submarine had shelled the Ellwood oilfield near Santa Barbara in February of 1942. Later that month, the mounting tension exploded into full-blown hysteria. An AWOL weather balloon triggered the initial panic. After that, flares were fired into the night sky, either to illuminate potential threats or signal danger. People saw the flares as more attackers, and a barrage of anti-aircraft fire soon filled the night.

The activity continued for several nights. In the end, the only casualties from the whole affair were three heart attack victims and three dead due to friendly fire. No Japanese aircraft were found, and the Japanese later denied having anything in the air near L.A. at the time.

That’s the official story, at least. At the time, there were claims of a coverup and a bunch of wild theories. The incident was five years prior to the Kenneth Arnold flying saucer report that sparked the U.S. UFO craze, but this is sometimes retroactively described as one of the first major UFO sightings. Newspapers at the time thought the whole thing was orchestrated to drum up support for the war effort by inducing panic. Tight-lipped military reports did little to alleviate concerns – a full public investigation wasn’t performed until 40 years later.

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Owen John Baggett (August 29, 1920 – July 27, 2006) was a second lieutenant in the United States 7th Bomb Group based at Pandaveswar, in India, during the Second World War.

On March 31, 1943, while stationed in British India, Baggett’s squadron was ordered to destroy a bridge at Pyinmana, Burma.Before reaching their target, the B-24 bombers were intercepted by Japanese fighter planes. Baggett’s plane was badly hit, and the crew were ordered to bail out. The Japanese pilots then attacked U.S. airmen as they parachuted to earth. Two of Baggett’s crew members were killed. Baggett, though wounded, played dead, hoping the Japanese would ignore him. One Zero approached within several feet of Baggett. The pilot then nosed up, almost stalling, and opened his canopy. Baggett shot at the pilot with his .45 caliber pistol. The plane stalled and plunged to the earth, and Baggett became legendary as the only person to shoot down a Japanese airplane with an M1911 pistol.

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He survived and was captured by the Japanese. This account is not consistent with Japanese records.

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