10 World War II (Seldom Remembered) Interesting Facts

Because of my four World War II books, I am often invited to address veterans and civic groups and for the last twenty-five years have done several such appearances annually.

Naturally I have put together several lists of topics from the more than a thousand interesting, little-known, odd, and unusual items which appear in my various books.

However, the ten items listed below all come from my Harper & Row tome “The World War II Quiz & Fact Book” and are among the lesser known facts from the World War II years. If you as a reader want more of this material, just encourage me by sending an email ([email protected]) and I’ll make the next article twice the size of this one. So, heat up some spam, put on a Dorsey, Miller or Shaw record, and prepare for some World War II nostalgia. To wit:

The only U.S. Navy ship sunk by enemy gunfire on D-Day was the destroyer USS Corry (DD-463), by gunfire from German gun batteries on Utah Beach. Thirteen members of her 294-man crew died.

Approximately 700 journalists followed U.S. forces in all theaters of the war. Over 450 participated in the Normandy invasion on D-Day alone.

The Messerschmitt BF-109E, was produced in larger numbers than any other aircraft in World War II. Germany made nearly 36,000.

Entertainer Joe E. Brown traveled over 150,000 miles to entertain troops during World War II, more than Bob Hope, and was named ‘Father to All Men Overseas’ by the National Father’s Day Committee in 1944.

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The flag that flew aboard the battleship USS Missouri during the surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, was the same flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on December 7, 1941, the day Japan attacked U.S. military installations in Hawaii and thrust America into World War II.

The first U.S. Navy ship ever named in honor of a black happened in World War II. The ship was the destroyer escort USS Harmon (DE-678). Leonard Roy Harmon was mess attendant killed saving a shipmate’s life during the Guadalcanal campaign in 1942. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and was the first black to have a ship named in his honor. His mother christened the destroyer escort USS Harmon on July 25, 1943.

The 130-ton white plaster cast model of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial remained in sculptor Felix de Weldon’s Warwick, Rhode Island, studio from 1954 until October 1981. The actual bronze sculpture was unveiled at Arlington National Cemetery in 1954, but no home for the plaster original was found until de Weldon donated it to the Marine Military Academy. Valued at $3.5 million, the 108-piece model takes four months to assemble. It was delivered to the MMA in Harlingen, Texas, by nine eighteen-wheel flatbed trucks. Dedication was on February 19, 1982, the thirty-seventh anniversary of the World War II assault on Iwo Jima.

For a time during the Battle of Britain in World War II, RAF pilots were ordered to destroy German air-sea rescue seaplanes marked with the Red Cross, to prevent the rescued German pilots from righting another day. The order met stiff resistance among RAF pilots.

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Which tank do you think was produced in greater numbers than any other in World War II? The German Panther? The.
British Churchill? Or the American Sherman?

There were only 384 Panthers built and 5,640 Churchill’s. Of the twenty-six different tank models used by both Allies and Axis powers in World War II, the Sherman, with 49,000 units made, was by far the leader. Russia produced 40,000 T34/76 tanks for number two position. Despite its high production numbers, the Sherman got low grades as a weapon. Some 3rd Armored Division commanders called them “deathtraps.”

The first British air raid in World War II was on September 6, 1939. It resulted from a disastrous false alarm. British Spitfires mistakenly shot down two British Hurricanes. There were no German aircraft over England.


  • Copyright (c) 1982 by Timothy B. Benford