about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Steve Cole ponders a few things most people did not know about World War II.

1. There were over 50,000 Indian soldiers (of the British Army, who got taken prisoner in the early going) who enlisted in the German and Japanese armies. The Indians were so serious about getting rid of the British that they went that far. There were two units of Indians in the German SS that fought in France, but the British made sure they were kept out of the news. (About 100 of them were parachuted into Iran by German aircraft in an effort to infiltrate to India.) Fortunately, the Germans never formed them into a unified Indian-SS division or they'd be hard to keep out of the history books. (There are dozens of books about the SS divisions but very few about the dozen or so independent units.) Most of the British-Indian troops who surrendered at Singapore joined the Japanese Army (reinforced by thousands of civilians of Indian heritage in Japanese-held areas of Indo-China) and fought in Malaya right up until 1945. These were all handed over to the British, who had planned massive show trials and executions for the traitors, but in the end the British realized that their time in India was over. Knowing that they could never again trust Indian soldiers, they just forgot the whole thing and released them.

2. The Germans had problems keeping their tank strength up to what they wanted for many reasons, combat losses and the bombing of factories being well known. What is not realized is that the Germans starved the spare parts system to build new tanks, and did not field a tank recovery vehicle until 1944. They would have had to reduce tank production to make the number of spare parts needed, but would have had more tanks in the field because of it. The Americans were constantly repairing their Shermans, some of which were knocked out by German fire five or six times.

3. The Germans spent the modern equivalent of $180 million making a movie about the Titanic, with a script that blamed the sinking on greedy British business people who wanted to make a fast crossing to manipulate the stock market. When finished, the war was going so badly that Goebbels would not allow the film to be shown in Germany as it was too depressing to watch ships sink (as most of the German Navy was on the bottom by then). The movie was shown in Germany in 1950 and was a smash hit.

4. Most people believe the myth that Polish cavalry charged German tanks. A few people who have actually read some history books know that the Polish cavalry repeatedly charged German infantry, but only once (after hacking up the infantry unit) accidentally ran into some armored cars which shot up the cavalry with machineguns. Few know that the day after this unique incident the Germans parked a few tanks around the dead cavalrymen and horses and brought in foreign journalists to show them the staged scene, and their reporting sparked the myth.

5. The infamous Nazi Salute did not come from ancient Rome. (There is no evidence that the Romans even had saluting.) It came from an American named Bellamy who thought it a smart way to say the pledge of allegiance (and Americans did it that way from 1890 into the 1920s). The original Bellamy Salute started with the hand over the heart, but as the pledge went on, the hand would be extended out and up to end in the position of the Nazi Salute. An American fascist took the salute with him when he went to Italian in 1920, and Mussolini saw it (when fascists in Trieste rioted) and adopted it as the "Roman Salute" for his fascist party. Hitler copied Mussolini. Hollywood heard about it and used it in Roman epic movies in the 1920s and 1930s but dropped it (replacing it in movies about Rome with the right fist over the heart) during World War II and since then.

6. Rene Duchez was a French interior decorator hired to redecorate the offices of the German Organization Todt in Caen. These offices were responsible for all fortification construction in Normandy. One day, Rene saw a map detailing all of the fortifications, stole it, and handed it off to the French resistance, who spirited the map to England. The British assumed that the Germans would realize the maps were gone and change the plans, but instead, the German engineers just printed up a new set of maps and kept going on the original plan. Admitting that they had mislaid the maps would have caused uncomfortable questions from the Gestapo.