20 Historical Facts They Probably Didn't Teach You At School
Big Bertha was a german super weapon meant to help Germany win World War II.
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At school we are taught basic facts about the history of mankind. How we have developed, who fought against whom, who won, and who ended up on the losing side. History classes at elementary schools or high schools are usually scheduled only once a week, hence most of us have only lightly touched upon these historical events.
Nowadays, thanks to the internet, we know that history offers millions of interesting facts and stories we could hardly learn about at school. We have put together several facts from the time of the First and Second World War you probably did not know about.
Dogs were placing bombs under tanks
During World War II, various means of defeating the enemy were used. Russian soldiers were training dogs to run under German tanks with bombs attached to their backs. However, they did not quite think it through.
Since the dogs were trained to run under Russian tanks, they often did it on the battlefield as well. Hence, instead of destroying enemy vehicles, Russians took the fall themselves. This form of training has been abandoned in 1966. Nonetheless, our four-legged friends were also used for smarter tasks than suicide missions.
During World War I, they were used as „mail carriers “. They carried messages and commands in capsules attached to their bodies to front lines. It is worth to mention sergeant Stubby (his actual rank), who joined the forces in 1944. He located the wounded and took part in 17 battles.
Amputation as a cure-all
Bombarding, mines, grenades. Wars bring about devastating injuries which often lead to amputation. Due to shortage of medical supplies, time and personnel, cutting off a body part has often been the easiest solution.
Amputation was a frequent, fast and effective “treatment” for severely injured dogs during the war. Time-consuming procedures would have kept doctors busy, therefore severing of the limb has become the most effective solution.
During World War I, approximately 100 000 amputations were carried out, mostly as a result of partial severing of a limb. The process was not particularly enjoyable, as anesthesia was scarce on the battlefield. They used any means available – chloroform, a few shots of whisky, or biting into anything handy.
Unit 731 and chemical attacks
During the First and Second World War, the powers were willing to try anything to tilt the scales towards their side. Some of the worst weapons were, with no doubt, the chemical and biological ones. Unit 731 was a covert biological and chemical warfare research of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
Their experiments were conducted on 10 000 people, 95% of whom were Chinese and Korean. The Unit has infected them with various diseases and subsequently performed a vivisect, as the scientists feared a change in organs after death.
They performed many perverse experiments, such as freezing and defrosting limbs or cutting off a hand and transplanting it to the opposite side of the body. Chemical and biological bombs were also tested on people.
During the war, innocent Germans also became victims
During World War I, Germans living in other parts of the world did not have it easy. Considering that Germany was one of the growing geopolitical powers, anti-German ideology and propaganda depicting all Germans as cruel and violent began to spread.
In the USA, violent and often nearly unlawful riots against citizens with German origin were organized on a regular basis.
German books were burned, German shepherds were killed. One of the protests even resulted in a murder of a German-American citizen. Propaganda caused the spread of fear and violence – every German was generally considered a spy.
Tanks against horses
The understanding and development of the war was changed by “heavy-duty vehicles” and armaments in general. The first tank was built in 1915 and could fit 3 people. However, its speed was limited to a maximum of 4.8 kilometers per hour. Its name was Little Willie.
A tank was first used in the battle of Flers-Courcelette in 1916. The vehicle was then called “landship”, with “tank” being used as a code name.
Motorized units have come to existence as huge armies began to modernize. A story still known today depicts the Polish fighting against the Germans, on horseback. It is only partially true. It is true that the Polish army had retrograde equipment, compared to other military superpowers. Nonetheless, they have not launched an attack against tanks using horses.
The Polish have accidentally stumbled upon a German unit. They attacked them when they were not prepared for battle. At first, it seemed a victory, but suddenly German panzers appeared on the battlefield and decimated a significant part of the Polish army. On the next day, a journalist was provided embellished information by the German army. Thus, a story coming from unconfirmed sources has come to light.
Big Bertha as a German super weapon
Germans were resourceful. As a result, countless stories about their attempts and inventions can be found on the internet. Among the true ones is that of Big Bertha. It was a giant siege gun and the Germans had 13 of them.
Invented in 1913 in Essen, it was used in World War I. The super heavy weapon was named after the wife of the industrialist Gustav Krupp. The official name of the weapon was L/12 42-cm Type Gerät 14 Kurze Marine-Kanone.
Gamma-Gerät, Bertha's predecessor.
The siege gun was 6.6 meters long with the range of 12.5 kilometers (some sources even mention 15 kilometers), and it had to be operated by 6 men who could only reload the weapon 6 times in an hour. 200 men worked on the construction of one Big Bertha.
Russians were plentiful, but average soldiers
Russia has mobilized 12 million soldiers during World War II, becoming the biggest army in the war. However, they have lost ¾ of its soldiers during the war, who were either killed, wounded or captured. Russia has mainly fought against Germany, on the Eastern front.
Russians were an underdeveloped power with a low living standard, which showed on the battlefield. It has not improved by the beginning of Second World War. Only 20% of men born in the Soviet Union in 1923 survived World War II.
Hitler had a nephew who fought against him during the war
Children only learn about Adolf Hitler, his family is hardly mentioned. Therefore, a few people know he had a nephew, William Hitler, who was born in 1911 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. His father was Adolf Hitler’s step-brother – Alois. Later, he has left the family and moved to Germany where he found a new partner.
However, William did not end contact with him and continued visiting him. When Adolf Hitler became famous, William wrote an article about him. His uncle then forbade him to further write about him. After it became clear who Hitler truly was, William lost his job. He moved to Germany, where he was not exactly popular either, his uncle was not too fond of him. He later received an offer from an American newspaper publishing house and has moved to the USA.
Living in the USA was not easy, everyone around feared espionage. They did not want to accept him to the army either. It has only changed after a letter he wrote to President Roosevelt. In 1944, he was finally accepted to a medical unit of US marines. Nonetheless, the Hitler name continued to haunt him and he later changed it to Stuart-Houston. His sons continue to live in the USA to this day. They have sworn off having children to prevent the “Hitler bloodline” from continuing.
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