As 8th May marks VE (or Victory in Europe) Day which marked the formal end of WWII following the unconditional surrender of the Nazis, it seemed appropriate to share some of the lesser known facts from our most talked about war.

Though 8th May marks VE Day and is the official end of the war in Europe in the Eastern Front, did you know that wasn’t the end of the war?  America and Japan continued to fight in the Pacific and the last known shots fired in Europe took place on 11th May, a few days after the official surrender.

How many of these things did you know?

Did you know…
It wasn’t just humans serving in the military? A Polish regiment also included a brown bear that they had befriended after being evacuated from the Soviet Union. They named him Wojtek and made him a private, he ended up travelling with them to Italy with the regiment and became a bit of a celeb among the troops.

It wasn’t just the Polish who had animals in their regiments. The Soviet army had anti-tank dogs that they would send to run under German tanks and leave bombs which would then detonate. Sadly, this wasn’t all that efficient, so they started using bombs that detonated on impact, which meant the dogs did not emerge from the other side of the tank.

The US also had a plan involving animals, they planned to use “bat” bombs on Japan. Basically, they wanted to release hundreds of bats attached to timed devices, the bats would fly off and roost and would then explode. It was an idea to help them attack buildings that bombers wouldn’t be able to get to.

Did you know…
We were after the animals too. At one point the British Government came up with Operation Vegetarian, a mission which planned to drop linseed cakes laced with anthrax onto farms in an effort to kill off Germany’s sheep, pigs and cattle. Thankfully, Operation Vegetarian never got off the ground.

Another of our schemes was slightly more successful. We developed the Rat Bomb, basically, we would put dead rats full of explosives in the Nazi coal bunkers. The hope was that the rats would be found and thrown into a furnace which would then trigger a massive explosion. The Nazis discovered the plan however and then wasted months searching their coal supplies for bomb filled rats. So mildly successful if the plan was to irritate the enemy.

Did you know…The last surrender didn’t happen until the 1970s.

Yep, Teruo Nakamura, was enlisted into the Japanese military and his unit ended up having to flee into an Indonesian jungle. He was separated from the rest of the unit and survived on his own before he was finally discovered in 1974. Being cut off from the world for so long, he didn’t realise the war was over and so officially surrendered in 1974.

Did you know… Being a commander was very stressful.

Well this isn’t much of a stretch, but you probably didn’t expect one of Hitler’s top men to find his post so stressfully that he ran off to a spa and tried to negotiate a peace treaty. That actually did happen though, Heinrich Himmler was a founding member of Hitler’s Nazi parry, he was head of the SS and was eventually put in charge of a group that was assigned to protect Berlin, should the allies invade.

Himmler wasn’t really cut out for such an import job though, he required daily naps and massages and being in charge of a unit made this a bit difficult. When the Soviet army invaded Berlin, he abandoned his post and ran off to a spa, while there he attempted to negotiate a treaty with the invading army.

Did you know…The allies and the Nazis weren’t always on the opposite sides.

Yep, contrary to everything we know about WWII, there was a battle where the American GIs joined forces with the German army to defend some prisoners of war. It happened during the Battle of Castle Itter, which was under attack by the Waffen-SS. The castle was a Prisoner of War camp that hosted several prominent inmates, including two former French prime ministers, tennis players and the sister of General Charles de Gaulle.

Did you know…Mirrors were almost the death of us.

The Nazis were known for their inventions during the war but one of them was a little ahead of its time. They tried to create a sun gun, basically, a giant mirror that they wanted to launch into space which they then would use much like a magnifying glass is to attack ants. The idea was that they would then direct the sun’s rays to reduce the enemy to ash. Luckily for us, the technology to do so wasn’t available at the time.

Did you know…The US had a ghost army.

Not ghosts as you might think, but basically, there was a US army unit with the sole job of misleading the Nazis about the location and size of the allied forces, hence the name, Ghost Army. They carried out several operations including creating fake radio transmissions and even putting inflatable tanks into a field to confuse Nazi spies and air units.

 Did you know…The British army trolled German civilians. Operation Cornflakes was a mission where mailbags full of fake letters addressed to real people were dropped near bombed mail trains. The mail was picked up and delivered to the recipients by the German postal service. Each letter was full of sad news that was meant to lower morale.

How many of these little known facts did you already know about WWII?

Find out more about Britain at war here.




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