99 Most Important Events in WWII

  From: Greg Kottis (via Gail Bowers)

Here are 99 points that cover the most important events in World War  II.
This is well done historical material. (In item 61 I added a personal note)

61.The most decorated unit ever in U.S. history is the 442nd Regimental
Combat Team, whose motto was “Go for Broke” It consisted of
Japanese-American volunteers. Together they won 4,667 major medals,
awards, and citations, including 560 Silver Stars (28 of which had
oak-leaf clusters), 4,000 Bronze Stars, 52 Distinguished Service  Crosses,
and one Medal of Honor, plus 54 other decorations. It also held
the distinction of never having a case of desertion.

Personal note, my father-in-law George Inada (Joji George Inada) was an American soldier in WWII.   Born on the island of Maui, educated in Japan and returned home on the last ship to leave Japan for the States before the outbreak of war.  While the brave men of the 442nd Regiment served in Europe partly due to the reason that the army was afraid that having American soldiers that looked the same as the enemy could result in accidents and partly due to the sure knowledge that any Nisei (American born) that fell into the hands of the Japanese would surely suffer horribly at their hands.   Nevertheless,  my father-in-law served in the Pacific.  His fluent Japanese and education enabled him work near the front translating the tactical radio transmissions of the Japanese units, who at the start of the war often spoke in the clear convinced that no American could speak their language.  This was very hazardous work for which he was decorated.
Today he is buried in the Veterans Cemetery on Maui.


1. World War II was the most destructive conflict in history. It cost  more
money, damaged more property, killed more people, and caused more
far-reaching changes than any other war in history.

2. The country with the largest number of WWII causalities was Russia ,
with over 21 million.

3. For every five German soldiers who died in WWII, four of them died on
the Eastern Front.

4. It is estimated that 1.5 million children died during the Holocaust.
Approximately 1.2 million of them were Jewish and tens of thousands were

5. Eighty percent of Soviet males born in 1923 didn’t survive WWII.

6. Between 1939 and 1945, the Allies dropped 3.4 million tons of bombs,
which averaged to 27,700 tons per month.

7. Russia and the Red Army were accused of several war crimes, including
systematic mass rape (over 2 million German women aged 13-70 were
allegedly raped by the Red Army) and genocide.

8. Many historians believe that the Battle at Stalingrad (1942-1943) is
not only arguably the bloodiest battle in history (800,000-1,600,000
casualties), but also the turning point of WWII in Europe .

9. Even after the Allies arrived, many concentration camp prisoners were
beyond help. In Bergen-Belsen , for example, 13,000 prisoners died after
liberation. Nearly 2,500 of the 33,000 survivors of Dachau died within  six
weeks of liberation.

10. Max Heiliger was the fictitious name the SS used to establish a bank
account in which they deposited money, gold, and jewels taken from
European Jews.

11. The longest battle of WWII was the Battle of the Atlantic , which
lasted from 1939-1945.

12. The original abbreviation of the National Socialist Party was Nasos.
The word “Nazi” derives from a Bavarian word that means “simple minded”
and was first used as a term of derision by journalist Konrad Heiden

13. The swastika is an ancient religious symbol. It derives from the
Sanskrit name for a hooked cross, which was used by ancient
civilizations as a symbol of fertility and good fortune. It has been  found
in the ruins of Greece , Egypt , China , India , and Hindu temples.

14. In 1935, British engineer Robert Watson-Watt was working on a “death
ray” that would destroy enemy aircraft using radio waves. His “death
ray” instead evolved into radar-or “radio detection and ranging.

15. Out of the 40,000 men who served on U-boats during WWII, only 10,000

16. Survivors of both atomic bombings in Japan are called niju  hibakusha,
which literally means “explosion-affected people”

17. Approximately 600,000 Jews served in the United States armed forces
during WWII. More than 35,000 were killed, wounded, captured, or
missing. Approximately 8,000 died in combat. However, only two Jewish
soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor in WWII.

18. The Battle of the Bulge is the largest and deadliest battle for U.S.
troops to date, with more than 80,000 American deaths.

19. The Enola Gay became well known for dropping the first atomic bomb  on
Hiroshima , but few people know the name of the B-29 that bombed
Nagasaki . It was “Bocks Car”, named after the plane’s usual commander,
Frederick Bock.

20. More Russians (military and civilians) lost their lives during the
Siege of Leningrad than did American and British soldiers combined in
all of WWII.

21. The Nazis murdered approximately 12 million people, nearly 6 million
of those being Jews killed in the Holocaust (whole burnt).

22. During WWII, the Japanese launched 9,000 “wind ship weapons” of  paper
and rubberized-silk balloons that carried incendiary and
anti-personnel bombs to the U.S. More than 1,000 balloons hit their
targets and they reached as far east as Michigan . The only deaths
resulting from a balloon bomb were six Americans (including five  children
and a pregnant woman) on a picnic in Oregon .

23. The Japanese Kamikaze (“divine wind”) tactic was suggested on  October
19, 1944, by Vice-Admiral Onishi in an attempt to balance the
technological advantage of invading American forces. Though the numbers
are disputed, approximately 2,800 kamikaze pilots died. They sunk 34 U.S.
ships, damaged 368, killed 4,900 sailors, and wounded 4,800.

24. Many Jews were subject to gruesome medical experiments. For example,
doctors would bombard the testicles of men and the ovaries of women with
X-rays to see the impact of different doses on sterility. Nazi doctors
would break bones repeatedly to see how many times it could be done
before a bone could not heal. They hit people’s heads with hammers to  see
what their skulls could withstand. Experiments were conducted to
determine the effects of atmospheric pressure on the body. Prisoners  were
injected with different drugs and diseases, and limbs were
amputated and muscles cut for transplantation experiments. Today  reference
to or use of the Nazi research is considered unethical.

25. Dr. Josef Mengele (the “Angel of Death”) used about 3,000 twins,
mostly Romany and Jewish children, for his painful genetic experiments.
Only about 200 survived. His experiments included taking one twin’s
eyeball and attaching it on the back of the other twin’s head or
changing the eye color of children by injecting dye. In one instance,  two
Romany twins were sewn together in an attempt to create conjoined

26. In addition to Jews and gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses were also
persecuted and murdered in German concentration camps.

27. The decision to implement the “Final Solution” or Die Endlosung was
made at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin on January 20, 1942. Heinrich
Himmler was its chief architect. The earliest use of the phrase “Final
Solution to the Jewish Problem” was actually used in an 1899 memo to
Russian Tzar Nicholas about Zionism.

28. WWII ended on September 2, 1945, when Japan signed a surrender
agreement on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay .

29. Anne Frank and her sister died at Bergen-Belsen in March 1945, one
month before the camp was liberated in April 1945. During its existence,
nearly 50,000 people died. After evacuating the camp, British soldiers
burned  it to the ground to prevent the spread of typhus.

30. In his book The Abandonment of the Jews, David Wyman (1929- ) argued
that the failure to bomb concentration camps was a result of the Allies’
indifference to the fate of the Jews rather than the practical
impossibility of the operation.

31.Despite the risks, thousands of people helped save the Jews. For
example, the country of Denmark saved its entire community. And
individuals such as Raoul Wallenberg (1912-1947), Oscar Schindler
(1908-1974), and Chiune Sugihara (1900-1986) saved thousands of lives.

32. From 1940-1945, the U.S. defense budget increased form $1.9 billion  to
$59.8 billion.

33. At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, there were 96 ships  anchored.
During the attack, 18 were sunk or seriously damaged,
including eight battleships. There were 2,402 American men killed and
1,280 injured. Three hundred and fifty aircraft were destroyed or

34. The Air Force was part of the Army in WWII and didn’t become a  separate
branch of the military until after the war.

35. In 1941, a private earned $21 a month. In 1942, a private earned $50  a

36. German U-boats sunk 2,000 Allied ships at a cost of 781 U-boats

37. More than 650,000 Jeeps were built during WWII. American factories
also produced 300,000 military aircraft; 89,000 tanks; 3 million machine
guns; and 7 million rifles.

38. The Germans used the first jet fighters in World War II, among them  the
Messerschmitt ME-262. However, they were developed too late to
change the course of the war.

39. The most powerful artillery gun created by any nation and used in  WWII
was named Karl by its designer General Karl Becker. Used mostly
against the Russians, the huge gun could shoot a 2.5 ton shell over  three
miles. The shells were 24 inches wide and could go through eight
to nine feet of concrete.

40. During WWII, the acronym BAM stood for “Broad-Assed Marines,” or  women
soldiers in the U.S. Marine Corp. The women, however, called the
men HAMs, for “Hairy-Assed Marines”

41.The SS ran a brothel named “The Kitty Salon” for foreign diplomats and
other VIPs in Berlin . It was wiretapped, and 20 prostitutes
underwent several weeks of intense indoctrination and training. They  were
specifically trained to glean information from clients through
seemingly innocuous conversations.

42. WWII resulted in the downfall of Europe as a center of world power  and
led to the rise of the U.S. and Russia as super powers. This set up
conditions for both the US-USSR cold war and the nuclear age.

43. Most historians agree that WWII began when Germany invaded Poland on
September 1, 1939. Others say it started when Japan invaded Manchuria on
September 18, 1931. And some scholars suggest WWII is actually a
continuation of WWI, with only a break in between.

44. During WWII, hamburgers in the U.S. were dubbed ” Liberty Steaks” to
avoid the German-sounding name.

45. The Nazis pirated the Harvard “fight song” to compose their Sieg  Heil

46. Joseph Kramer (1906-1945), a commander of Bergen-Belsen , was known  as
the “Beast of Belsen” When asked if he ‘felt anything’ as he watched
and participated in the deaths of thousands of men, women, and children,
Kramer said he didn’t feel anything because he was following orders. He
was later executed for crimes against humanity.

47. The ace of all fighter aces of all nations is German fighter pilot
Erich Hartmann (the Blond Knight) with 352 kills

48. Members of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle allegedly called Rudolf Hess
“Fraulein Anna” because he was reportedly a homosexual. He was also
known as the “Brown Mouse.”

49. William Hitler, a nephew of Adolf Hitler, was in the U.S. Navy  during
WWII. He changed his name after the war.

50. Italian Fascists took as their symbol the “fasces,” a bundle of  bound
rods that symbolized the power of ancient Rome .

51.The Nazis killed millions of Poles. But they thought that some Polish
babies and children looked German and kidnapped about 50,000 of them to
be adopted by German parents to become “Germanized.”

52. Special units run by the SS called Einsatzgruppen (task forces)
followed the German army’s invasion of countries. They would force Jews
to dig a pit and then shoot them so they would fall into an open grave.  It
is estimated that the Einsatzgruppen killed 1.4 million Jews.

53. Prisoners called Sonderkommando were forced to bury corpses or burn
them in ovens. Fewer than 20 of the thousands of Sonderkommando
survived, though buried and hidden accounts of some were found later at

54. 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.

55. John Wayne (Marion Robert Morrison) starred in 14 WWII movies;
however, due to a football injury, he never actually served in the war.

56. Hitler kept a framed photo of Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor
Company, on his desk. Henry Ford also kept a framed photo of the Nazi
leader on his desk in Dearborn , Michigan . In Mein Kampf, Hitler included
some anti- Semitic views attributed to Ford.

57. On January 31, 1945, Private Eddie Slovik was shot for desertion,  the
first American executed for the crime since the Civil War and the
only one to suffer this punishment during WWII.

58. Although Japan fought on the side of Britain , France , and the U.S.
during WWI, it felt cheated by its failure to gain much territory when
the peace treaty was composed. Additionally, in the 1920s, its  government
came under control of fanatical nationalists and allied with
the army, which eventually prompted Japan to side with Germany .

59. After its defeat in WWI, Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of
Versailles in 1919. Germany lost all its overseas empires as well as
land to its neighbors, and it was prevented from maintaining a large  army.
Most Germans opposed the treaty, and their resentment would
eventually undo the settlement, leading to WWII.

60. The Great Depression had a ripple effect throughout the world. It
prevented Germany from paying WWI reparations, which forced Great
Britain and France to default on their debts to the U.S. which, in turn,
sowed discontent throughout the globe.62. Norvell Gillespie, the garden editor of Better Homes and Gardens,
designed the camouflage print for U.S. service uniforms in WWII.

63. The greatest tank battle in history occurred between the Germans and
Russians at the Kursk salient in Russia from July 4-22, 1943. More than
3,600 tanks were involved.

64. The largest Japanese spy ring during WWII was not in the U.S. but in
Mexico , where it spied on the U.S. Atlantic Fleet.

65. Prisoners of war in Russian camps experienced an 85% mortality rate.

66. Germany had a total of 3,363 generals during the war while the U.S.
had just over 1,500.

67. The vast majority of German war criminals passed themselves off as
refugees at displaced persons camps when the war ended, thereby gaining

68. Before Nazi Germany decided to eliminate the Jews by gassing them,  it
had considered sending them to the island of Madagascar .

69. If it became necessary to drop a third atom bomb on Japan , the city
that would have been the target was Tokyo .

70. The greatest loss of life ever sustained by the U.S. Navy occurred  on
July 30, 1945. The USS Indianapolis was shot by Japanese submarine
I-58. Captain Charles McVay, commanding officer of the cruiser, was the
only U.S. Navy officer ever to be court-martialed for losing a ship in

71. Calvin Graham was only 12 years old when he enlisted in the U.S.  Navy.
He won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart before the Navy found out
how old he was.

72. Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler’s deputy in the Nazi party, was the last
person to have been incarcerated in the Tower of London .

73. While in prison, Hitler envisioned the development of a ‘people’s  car”
or Volkswagen, from the word volk, meaning ‘people’ or ‘nation’

74. On December 8, 1941, Britain and the U.S. declared war on Japan . On
December 11, Germany declared war on the U.S. The U.S. is the only
nation Germany formally declared war on.

75. The Nazis called their rule the Third Reich (1933-1945). The First
Reich was the Holy Roman Empire (962-1806). The Second Reich was the
German Empire of 1871-1918. The Weimar Republic was from 1919-1933.

76. At the behest of the Nazi regime, book-burning campaigns took place  in
Berlin and other German cities between March and June 1933, with
senior academics and university students incinerating books deemed to
contain ‘un- German’ ideas. Authors targeted by the book-burning
campaign included Jack London, H.G. Wells, Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud,  and
Albert Einstein. A century before Hitler, the German poet Heinrich
Heine (1797-1856) predicted: “Where one burns books, one will, in the  end,
burn people.”

77. In the 1930s, the U.S. Army had only about 130,000 soldiers, making  it
the sixteenth largest force in the world, smaller than
Czechoslovakia , Poland , Turkey , Spain , and Romania .

78. In a bizarre move, Hitler’s deputy and confidant Rudolf Hess  parachuted
into Scotland on May 10, 1941, to negotiate a peace
agreement. The British concluded he was mentally unstable. He was kept as a
POW and given a life sentence at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial.

79. On July 14, 1941, the Soviets introduced a new weapon, the Katyusha,
which could fire 320 rockets in 25 seconds. More than 50 years later,
the Katyusha remains an effective weapon.

80. After the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor , President Roosevelt searched
for a bulletproof car. However, because government regulation prohibited
spending more than $750 to buy a car, the only one they could find was  Al
Capone’s limo, which had been seized by the Treasury Department after
he was arrested for tax evasion. FDR said, “I hope Mr. Capone won’t

81. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement
toward Hitler is generally thought to have been a mistake, but his
defenders claimed that it bought Britain time to prepare for war.

82. In the 1928 elections, less than 3% of Germans voted for the Nazi
party. In 1938, Hitler was Time magazine’s man of the year.

83. That Nazi salute was modeled on the salute of Italian Fascists, the
ancient Romans, as well as ancient Germans. The raised arm resembles a
raised spear.

84. Hitler designed the Nazi flag. Red stood for the social idea of  Nazism,
white for nationalism, and the black swastika for the struggle
of the Aryan man.

85. Large, inflatable barrage balloons were used to protect major towns  and
cities in Britain from air raids. The balloons were launched before
a raid and trailed a network of steel cables beneath them. Bombers had  to
fly high to avoid becoming tangled in the cables, thus reducing their

86. The main success of the Blitzkreig or “lightening war” was due to  tank
units supported from the air by dive-bombers, such as the Junkers
Ju87 (Stuka). The Stukas were fitted with sirens, which sounded like
screaming to terrify the population.

87. Because the Norway leader Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945) actively
collaborated with Germany after its occupation, his name has entered the
Norwegian language as a word for traitor

88. Throughout occupied Europe , many people actively collaborated with
the Germans. As their countries were liberated, some locals took revenge
against the collaborators by beating or shooting them or by shaving the
female traitors heads.

89. In 1974, a Japanese soldier named Hiroo Onoda (1922- ) came out of  the
jungle of the Pacific island of Lubang . He had been hiding there for
29 years, unaware that his country had surrendered.

90. Japan and Russia never formally ended hostilities after WWII. Plans
for them to sign an official peace treaty in 2000 failed because Japan
wanted Russia to return four offshore islands it had taken after the war.

91. 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 in his novel Spy, Counterspy (1974).

92. From 1942, U.S. Marines in the Pacific used the Navajo language as
their secret code. The language didn’t have the vocabulary for existing
WWII technology, so existing words had to be given new meanings. For
example, the word for ‘hummingbird’ (da-he-ti-hi) became code for
fighter plane. Around 400 Navajo Indians (Code Talkers) were trained to
use the code, and the Japanese never cracked it.’

93. The Russians were the first to have paratroopers, which they  exhibited
in  1935. The Allies did not catch up until 1940, when the Central Landing
School opened near Manchester .

94. The most important medical advance that saved soldiers’ lives during
WWII was the blood transfusion.

95. In 1939, the Nazis began an euthanasia’ program in which 80,000 to
100,000 Germans who were disabled, mentally retarded, or insane were
murdered. The program was based in Berlin at No. 4 Tiergartenstrasse and
became known as the T-4 program.

96. The Auschwitz Concentration Camp Complex was the only place where
prisoners were given identification number tattoos. The practice began
in 1941 when Russian POWs were stamped on the upper-left breast. Jews
started receiving tattoos (on their forearms) in 1942.

97. Poison gas was first used in WWI to break the trench warfare  stalemate.
Though all powers had chemical weapons, only Japan (in China )
and Italy (in Ethiopia ) used them during WWII.

98. Formed as a personal protection service for Hitler, ‘SS’ is an
abbreviation of Schuftzstaffel (Protective Echelon). Virtually a state
within a state, the SS was headed by Heinrich Luitopold Himmler
(1900-1945) and carried out massive executions of political opponents
and ethnic minorities. It was divided into two groups, the Allgemeine-SS
(General SS) and the Waffen-SS (Armed SS).

99. WWII casualties totaled between 50 and 70 million people. More than
80% of this total came from four countries: Russia , China , Germany , and
Poland . More than half of these casualties were civilians, most of whom
were women and children.


About On the North River

Forty years toiled in the Tel-com industry, married for 36 years widowed at sixty-one. Tea Party supporter. Do like to kayak, cook, take photos, bike, watch old movies and read.
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