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The Lexington before the Battle of Coral Sea

The Lexington after the Battle of Coral Sea.
Stalin's original name was Josif Djugashvili. In 1913 he began using the pseudonym Stalin meaning "Man of Steel".

Benito Mussolini, during the First World War, was an editor for an Italian newspaper partly financed by the British and French. At that time he was an opponent of the Germanic Central Powers (he also served in the Italian army until wounded).

Heinrich Himmler, the evil head of the Nazi SS, was once a chicken farmer. 

You've heard of suicide or kamikaze bombers - but how about suicide battleships!? On 7th April 1945 off the island of Okinawa the Japanese battleship Yamato, which had not been given fuel for its return journey home, arrived with several other ships to attack the American fleet. The Yamato, which was one of the two largest battleships ever built, and her accompanying ships, were sunk by American aircraft before they reached their target.

Adolf Hitler was a teetotaler, vegetarian and non-smoker. 

Although many people refer to the Allied D-Day landings in Normandy as "Operation Overlord", the operation was actually called "Operation Neptune". The landings were originally known as Overlord, but in September 1943 the codename was changed to Neptune, and Overlord from then on was used to refer to the general Allied strategy in northwestern Europe.

Despite what you might see in the movies, the regular German Army (Wehrmacht) did not usually use the Nazi salute. Only after the July 1944 attempt on Hitler's life were they forced to use the Nazi salute as standard.

Virtually everybody knows the name of the B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima - the Enola Gay - but how about the one that dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki 3 days later? This B-29 was known as "Bock's Car", and Nagasaki was not its original target - the intended target city was Kokura, which escaped as the bomber was under orders to attack only a clear target and the city was shrouded in smog at the time. Nagasaki was the first alternative target city.

After suffering heavy losses during the airborne assault and capture of Crete, Hitler never again committed his airborne troops to large-scale operations and they were instead used as ground infantry.

On January 17th 1942 Churchill was nearly shot down by the enemy and then his own air force. During a return trip from the United States, his flying boat veered off course and came close to German anti-aircraft guns in France, after this error was noticed and corrected, his aircraft then appeared to British radar operators to be an enemy bomber. Six RAF fighters were scrambled to shoot him down, but fortunately for Churchill they failed to find him.

One of the American light cruisers anchored at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack of December 1941 was the Phoenix. The Phoenix survived the attack virtually unscathed, however, more than 40 years later she was torpedoed and sunk by the British submarine Conqueror in the South Atlantic. The Phoenix, at the time of her demise, was of course known then as the General Belgrano. 

Amongst the methods of transport used by the 2nd Polish Corps fighting the battle of Monte Cassino was a brown bear called Wojtek who helped to move boxes of ammunition. 

The Soviet Red Army once trained dogs to destroy enemy tanks. The dogs were trained to associate the underside of tanks with food and were fitted with a 26lb explosive device strapped to their backs. Once the dogs crawled under the tanks, the device was triggered and exploded destroying the tank (and of course the dog). Unfortunately this didn't always work as planned as the dogs were trained using Soviet tanks so were more likely to run under these than the German tanks. As many as 25 German tanks were put out of action this way during the battles for Stalingrad and Kursk.
Copyright 2000 [Matt Wilhelm]. All rights reserved.
This page was last updated on 07/25/00.