These were compiled by historian Colonel D. G. Swinford, USMC, retired. Many thanks to my US friend Robb Lamb for forwarding them to me.
1. The first German serviceman killed in WW II was killed by the Japanese (China, 1937), The first American serviceman killed was killed by the Russians (Finland 1940). The highest ranking American killed was Lt General Lesley McNair, killed by the US Army Air Corps.
2. The youngest US serviceman was 12-year-old Calvin Graham, USN. Awarded a Bronze medal and a Purple Heart for courage when his vessel was attacked by the Japanese and he was seriously wounded. Despite this, when the truth came out – his mother wrote to the Navy after seeing him on the newsreel, Calvin was jailed for three months and received a Dishonourable Discharge for lying about his age. His benefits were later restored by act of Congress.
Calvin Graham, aged 12, showed great courage when his ship was attacked by the Japanese. Despite serious injuries he rescued and comforted his comrades.
3. At the time of Pearl Harbour, the top US Navy command was called CINCUS (pronounced ‘sink us’). The shoulder patch of the US Army’s 45th Infantry division was the swastika. Hitler’s private train was named ‘Amerika.’ All three were soon changed for PR purposes.
4. More US servicemen died in the Air Corps than the Marine Corps. While completing the required 30 missions, an airman’s chance of being killed was 71%.
5. Generally speaking, there was no such thing as an average fighter pilot. You were either an ace or a target. For instance, Japanese Ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down over 80 planes. He died while a passenger on a cargo plane.
Fighter pilot ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa
6. It was common practice on fighter planes to load every 5th round with a tracer round to aid in aiming. This was a big mistake. Tracers had different ballistics so (at long range) if your tracers were hitting the target 80% of your rounds were missing. Worse yet tracers instantly told your enemy he was under fire and from which direction. Worst of all was the practice of loading a string of tracers at the end of the belt to tell you that you were out of ammo. This was definitely not something you wanted to tell the enemy. Units that stopped using tracers saw their success rate nearly double and their loss rate go down.
7. When Allied armies reached the Rhine, the first thing men did was pee in it. This was pretty universal from the lowest private to Winston Churchill (who made a big show of it) and General Patton (who had himself photographed in the act).
General Patton peeing in the Rhine for a publicity shot.
9. German submarine U-120 was sunk by a malfunctioning toilet.
10. Among the first ’Germans’ captured at Normandy were several Koreans. They had been forced to fight for the Japanese Army until they were captured by the Russians and forced to fight for the Russian Army until they were captured by the Germans and forced to fight for the German Army until they were captured by the US Army.
11. Following a massive naval bombardment, 35,000 United States and Canadian troops stormed ashore at Kiska, in the Aleutian Islands. Twenty-one soldiers were killed in the assault on the island, but casualties would have been a lot higher had any Japanese been on the island.
12. The last marine to die in WW2 was killed by a can of spam. He was on the ground as a POW in Japan when rescue flights dropping food and supplies came over. A package split apart in the air and a stray can of spam hit and killed him outright.