The forgotten WWII massacre

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Although this blog is about a massacre which killed 750,000 victims within a week, not everyone reading this will be shocked about it.

At the beginning of World War II, a government pamphlet led to a massive cull of British pets. As many as 750,000 British pets were killed in just one week.

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In 1939 the British government formed the National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee (NARPAC) to decide what to do with pets before war breaks out. The committee was worried that when the government needed to ration food, pet owners would decide to split their rations with their pets or leave their pets to starve. In response to that fear, NARPAC published a pamphlet titled “Advice to Animal Owners.” The pamphlet suggested moving pets from the big cities and into the countryside. It concluded with the statement that “If you cannot place them in the care of neighbours, it really is kindest to have them destroyed.” The pamphlet also contained an advertisement for a pistol that could be used to humanely kill pets.

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The advice was printed in almost every newspaper and announced on the BBC.After war was declared on 3 September 1939, pet owners thronged to vets’ surgeries and animal homes._70434803_wj_historical_107

Animal charities, the PDSA, the RSPCA and vets were all opposed to the killing of pets and very concerned about people just dumping animals on their doorsteps at the start of the war.

 

Battersea actually advised against taking such drastic measures and the then manager Edward Healey-Tutt wrote to people asking them not to be too hasty.

In the first few days of war, PDSA hospitals and dispensaries were overwhelmed by owners bringing their pets for destruction. It was estimated that 750,000 pets were killed.

Many pet owners, after getting over the fear of bombings and lack of food, regretted killing their pets and blamed the government for starting the hysteria.

When World War II began, the United Kingdom imported two-thirds of its food, all of which had to be shipped over oceans teeming with German U-boats. The Ministry of Food did not want to risk the lives of sailors for food that would be wasted, and reducing imports also saved money for armaments. Surprisingly, 60 per cent of Britons told government pollsters that they wanted rationing to be introduced, with many believing that it would guarantee everyone a fair share of food.

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I plead “oink oink”: when pigs and other animals were put on trial.

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In the Middle Ages, animals who committed crimes were subject to the same legal proceedings as humans.

Famously, in 1457, seven pigs in Savigny, France were tried for the murder of a five-year-old boy. The proceedings were complete with a defense attorney for the pigs and a judge, who ultimately ruled that because people witnessed one of the seven pigs attack the boy, only that one would sentenced to death by hanging, and the rest would go free.

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Animals, including insects, faced the possibility of criminal charges for several centuries across many parts of Europe. The earliest extant record of an animal trial is the execution of a pig in 1266 at Fontenay-aux-Roses.

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Such trials remained part of several legal systems until the 18th century. Animal defendants appeared before both church and secular courts, and the offences alleged against them ranged from murder to criminal damage. Human witnesses were often heard and in Ecclesiastical courts they were routinely provided with lawyers (this was not the case in secular courts, but for most of the period concerned, neither were human defendants). If convicted, it was usual for an animal to be executed, or exiled. However, in 1750, a female donkey was acquitted of charges of bestiality due to witnesses to the animal’s virtue and good behaviour while her human co-accused were sentenced to death.

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Animals put on trial were almost invariably either domesticated ones (most often pigs, but also bulls, horses, and cows) or pests such as rats and weevils. Creatures that were suspected of being familiar spirits or complicit in acts of bestiality were also subjected to judicial punishment, such as burning at the stake, though few, if any, ever faced trial

According to Johannis Gross in Kurze Basler Chronik (1624), in 1474 a rooster was put on trial  in Basel ,Switzerland for “the heinous and unnatural crime of laying an egg,” which the townspeople were concerned was spawned by Satan and contained a cockatrice.

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Scholars and historians who study the middle ages have cited numerous possible explanations for why such proceedings took place. The greater mentality of medieval societies was characterized by strong superstitions and a rigid hierarchy of humanity rooted in faith a divine God. Some academics hypothesized that, because of the importance of this belief system, any event that represented a departure in the hierarchy of nature, where a God had placed humans at the top, needed to be formally addressed in order to restore proper order. Another possible explanation for the trials was that because they were so public and conspicuous, they were able to serve as warnings directed at owners whose animals were causing mischief in communities.

The animals of WWII

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Like most other war WWII was not only fought by humans, animals also took part in the war. It was in a variety of roles how animals partook in the war efforts,sometimes for transport ,like the picture above of a soldier with a pack Reindeer, on slippery ice, near the tiny village of Nautsi, in northern Lapland, Finland, on October 26, 1941.

Other times as mascottes or just as pets, and occasionally as combatants and even served as food. Just like their human counterparts they also became victims.

Below are some examples of the animal of WWII.

Army Pfc. Raymond Gasiorowski takes Leipzig, his company s pet puppy, for a walk in Leipzig, Germany. April 19, 1945

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Marine Cpl. Edward Burckhardt found this kitten at the base of Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, the scene of some of the most brutal fighting of the war. February 1945.

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Russia, 1941. German soldier and his horse. In two months, December 1941 and January 1942, the German Army on the Eastern Front lost 179,000 horses.

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Cpl. William Wende brushes GI Jenny, the burro mascot of an Army unit in North Africa. The interested terrier is named Pito. Ca. 1943.

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Two women collect the remains of a dead horse for food, Siege of Leningrad, 1941

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Poland, 1939. German horsemen cross the Polish border.

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G.I Joe is one of the most famous pigeons in history, most noted for saving a thousand American and Allied soldiers during WWII.

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The reindeer of Murmansk

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I sentence you to death by Elephant

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Execution by elephant was a common method of capital punishment in South and Southeast Asia, particularly in India, where Asian elephants were used to crush, dismember, or torture captives in public executions. The animals were trained and versatile, able to kill victims immediately or to torture them slowly over a prolonged period. Most commonly employed by royalty, the elephants were used to signify both the ruler’s absolute power and his ability to control wild animals.

 

The sight of elephants executing captives both horrified and attracted the interest of European travelers, and was recorded in numerous contemporary journals and accounts of life in Asia. The practice was eventually suppressed by the European empires that colonised the region in the 18th and 19th centuries. While primarily confined to Asia, the practice was occasionally adopted by Western powers, such as Ancient Rome and Carthage, particularly to deal with mutinous soldiers.

Elephants have played a number of important roles in human history. In some cultures, the elephant is a revered creature. In Buddhism, for example, the vivid dream of Buddha’s mother which foretold her pregnancy had a white elephant in it.  Other cultures used the elephant’s great strength and power in battle, or for huge construction projects. There are many examples of these activities – ranging from Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with his 34 African elephants in 218 BC, to the use of these creatures in the construction of Angkor Wat in the 12th century AD. However, it is perhaps less well-known that elephants were also used as deadly executioners.

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Execution by elephant was a form of capital punishment and a weapon of war for certain societies of the past. This method of punishment was occasionally used in the Western world, as several examples can be found in the ancient sources. For example, in the Historiae Alexandri Magni , the Roman historian Quintus Rufus Curtius wrote:

“Then Perdiccas, seeing them paralyzed and in his power, separated from the rest about thirty who had followed Meleager when he rushed forth from the first assembly which was held after the death of Alexander, and in the sight of the whole army cast them before the elephants. All were trampled to death by the feet of the beasts…”

Nevertheless, this was not a common method of execution in the West. On the other hand, execution by elephant was more frequently used in South and Southeast Asia, especially in India. This form of capital punishment is known also as gunga rao , and has been used since the Middle Ages.

The popularity of this mode of execution continued into the 19th century, and it was only with the increasing presence of the British in India that the popularity of this brutal penalty went into decline

The most common way that the execution by elephant was carried out was for the beasts to crush its victim to death with brute force. Apart from enemy soldiers, civilians who commit certain crimes could also be punished in this way. These crimes included theft, tax evasion and rebellion. There are many wild beasts that could be used to kill a criminal – tigers, lions, crocodiles, snakes, etc. Yet, the choice of the elephant shows that there was something unique about this creature.

Compared to many other wild animals, the elephant is considered to be a smart and easily trainable. In addition, elephants could also be taught to torture criminals, or to execute them slowly. As an example, an elephant could be commanded to break a criminal’s limbs before ending his suffering by crushing his skull.

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Another example can be found in the account of François Bernier, a French traveler who witnessed an execution by elephant in Delhi during the reign of the Mughals. According to the Frenchman, the elephants were trained to slice criminals to pieces with “pointed blades fitted to their tusks”. Furthermore, the training of elephants could be used as a means of demonstrating a ruler’s control over the forces of nature.

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Apart from India, execution by elephant was also practiced in some other Asian countries. Like India, it was the elephant’s intelligence and brute force that were exploited to execute criminals. Yet, there were some variations in the method of execution. In neighboring Sri Lanka, for instance, elephants used during these events were said to have been fitted with sharp tips on their tusks. Instead of slicing their victims, the elephant would stab its victim, and then ‘rearrange’ its victim’s internal organs.

In the former Kingdom of Siam (now Thailand), elephants were trained to toss their victims into the air before crushing them to death. In the Kingdom of Cochinchina (southern Vietnam), on the other hand, criminals were tied to a stake, whilst an elephant would charge into them, and crush them to death.

 

Canine WWII Warriors

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In the late summer of 1942, the Marine Corps decided to experiment with the use of dogs in war, which may have been a new departure for the Corps, but not a new idea in warfare. Since ancient times, dogs have served fighting men in various ways. The Romans, for instance, used heavy mastiffs with armored collars to attack the legs of their enemies, thus forcing them to lower their shields. On Guam, First Lieutenant William R. Putney commanded the 1st Dog Platoon and was the veterinarian for all war dogs on Guam.

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First Lieutenant William T. Taylor commanded the 2d Platoon. Both landed on the Asan-Adelup beach on Guam, while the 1st Platoon under Gunnery Sergeant L. C. Christmore landed with the 1st Provisional Brigade at Agat.

Man and dog searched out the enemy, awaited his coming, and caught him by surprise around the Marine perimeter or while on patrol. In addition, they found snipers, routed stragglers, searched out caves and pillboxes, ran messages, and protected the Marines’ foxholes as they would private homes. The dogs ate, slept, walked, and otherwise lived with their masters. The presence of dogs on the line could promise the Marines there a night’s sleep, for they alerted their handlers when the enemy came near. Overall, some 350 war dogs served in the Guam operation.

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Early on in the Guam operations, some dogs were wounded or killed by machine gun and rifle fire, and incoming mortars were as devastating to the dogs as they were to the Marines. When the dogs were wounded, the Marines made a point of getting them to the rear, to the veterinarian, as quickly as possible. In the liberation of Guam, 20 dogs were wounded and 25 killed.

From the end of the campaign to the end of the war in the Pacific, Guam served as a staging area for war dogs, of which 465 served in combat operations. Of the Marine Corps war dogs, 85 percent were Doberman Pinschers, and the rest mainly German Shepherds. At the end of the Pacific War, the Marine Corps had 510 war dogs.

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Part 6 of Little Know WWII facts

The US Ghost Army.

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The Ghost Army was a United States Army tactical deception unit during World War II officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops.The 1,100-man unit was given a unique mission within the U.S Army: to impersonate other U.S. Army units to deceive the enemy. From a few weeks after D-Day, when they landed in France, until the end of the war, they put on a “traveling road show” utilizing inflatable tanks, sound trucks, fake radio transmissions and pretence. They staged more than 20 battlefield deceptions, often operating very close to the front lines. Their story was kept secret for more than 40 years after the war, and elements of it remain classified.

Corporal Wojtek

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During World War II, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the 2nd Polish Corps had an unusual soldier among its ranks, a 440-pound Syrian bear named Wojtek.

Wojtek first came to the company as a cub, but over the course of the war he matured and was given the rank of corporal in the Polish army.

The bear became a major morale boost to the troops.

Everyone knows that some of the last fighting men in Berlin were SS troops who knew death was certain upon surrender. What everyone doesn’t know is that the last fighting troops in Berlin were…..French and Norwegian. Around 350 men of the SS Charlemagne as well as the surviving members of the SS Norland division were fighting in the basement of the Reichstag as long as possible.

Eventually the 12.8cm guns from the nearby Flak tower fired on the Reichstag collapsing part of the building and killing some of the SS men. From this though, the surviving members were able to escape and disappear into the city. Although fewer then 50 French SS members were ever found it is believed that many ditched their uniforms for regular Wehrmacht ones. Of the ones that were found they were turned over to the French army and executed. When the French General asked the soldIers what they were doing in a foreign uniform, one soldier quipped back why are you in one? (the general was wearing an American uniform at the time).

On the 14th of April 1945, U-1206 eventually sank due to a malfunctioning toilet on the submarine.

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During the Winter War the Soviets attempted to use paratroopers without parachutes. The idea was the plane would slow down to 100mph and the soldiers were to jump from 100 feet off the ground. The Soviets believed they would land safely in the large snow covered fields in northern Finland. The idea was scrapped when testing “volunteers” took roughly 30% casualties between fatalities and other injuries.

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The German city of Konstanz (at the German-Swiss border) was never bombed by the Allied Forces as it left all its lights on at night. Allied bombers thought it was a city in Switzerland.

Dogs were used in World War II to find where the enemy was hiding.The Marine Corps found they were crucial in preventing ambushes by the other side.

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Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel peace price in 1939.The Nazi dictator was nominated in 1939 by Swedish lawmaker EGC Brandt for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is meant to promote “fraternity between nations” and global disarmament. Brandt later withdrew the nomination, saying it was meant as satire. This just shows that anyone can be nominated — it doesn’t say anything about their chances of actually winning

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In the last moments before the end of World War I, Private Henry Tandey fought in a battle near the French town of Marcoing, when a wounded enemy soldier entered his line of fire.The battle weary man never raised his rifle and just stared at Tandey resigned to the inevitable.  “I took aim but couldn’t shoot a wounded man,” said Tandey, “so I let him go.”

The young German soldier nodded in thanks and the two men took diverging paths, that day and in history, that young German soldier was Adolf Hitler.

 

In 1945 Stalin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Halvdant Koht, a historian and former foreign minister. He was also in the Nobel committee.

In 1948 Stalin was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Professor Wladislav Rieger of Charles University, Prague.

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Unsinkable Sam

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Well among the heart wrenching stories that flood World War II, this particular one is quite the opposite. Sam, the cat, first served on a German war ship to rid of it of rats but soon the ship was torpedoed. He was found on a floating plank and served on two other British ships all receiving the same treatment and Sam did the regular of floating on planks till found. This Veteran Cat soon retired after the war in Belfast

Forced sex

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In order to expand his “master race”, that of Aryan blood, Hitler ordered all women, even unmarried girls who were as old as 15 to get impregnated. He forbade contraception and offered medals and incentives to those women who had more children. Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels even produced magazines, posters and nudie flicks promoting “healthy eroticism” to support this desperate cause.