The World War 2 Obscure Trivia Thread


#1

Or the Battle of the History Nerds. Post your obscure, random or downright bizarre bits of WW2 trivia on this thread.

Here’s one to start. Which aircraft served in the air forces of the USA, USSR, UK, Germany, Italy and Japan?


#2

Lovely thread idea!

I’ll contribute this one:
The head of the Hitlerjugend, and top echelon Nazi during the war, Baldur von Schirach’s mother Emma Middleton Lynah Tillou was American. English was his first language and he didn’t learn German until he was five years old. He was the descendant of no less than two signatories of the US Declaration of Independence, in a straight line from Arthur Middleton and an indirect descendant of Thomas Heyward, Jr.


#3

Please develop this great thread idea.
I think in years to come it could be a significantly entertaining, longform indulgence, to sit with a beer and read through, digging deeper on topics which interest people.


#4

I know that the Douglas DC-3/C-47 was lend/leased to the UK and USSR and Japan and the USSR built license built copies but I don’t know about Germany and Italy. I know all of them were using them after the war, but I’m not sure about during.


#5

We have a winner. Italy and Germany also operated small numbers of DC-2/3s either from pressing civilian airliners into service or from captured stocks.

On a vaguely related note, all air forces operated small numbers of captured aircraft. Sometimes this was from overrunning an airfield or taking aircraft from a conquered nation. Sometimes though crashed aircraft were only lightly damaged and could be returned to service and IIRC one of the first good looks the RAF got at the FW-190 was when a pilot got lost over the Channel and landed on an airfield in Britain instead.

Usually, the captured aircraft were used for training and evaluation purposes although the Germans weren’t above using captured aircraft for more sneaky purposes. See Kampfgeshwader 200.

Here’s a B-17 in German markings.

P-51.

Here’s a Spitfire with a DB-605 engine.

For good measure, here’s a Zero in US markings.

The Soviets went as far as to reverse engineer a copy of the B-29 known in the West as the Tu-4 Bull based on 3 captured aircraft which had made emergency landings in the USSR after bombing Japan.


#6

Next up. Which top Nazi had a family member who helped Jews escape from concentration camps?


#7

Since @adamsnook is gracious enough to handle the European trivia theatre, let me start off the Pacific theatre.

First off, the Japanese Imperial Army conquered and occupied many East Asian and South East Asian countries during World War 2. But which South East Asian country actually allied itself with Japan after Japan’s initial aggression?


#8

Thailand? Surely a case of strategic bombing gone wrong.


#9

Hermann Göring had a brother that helped jews if I recall correctly. Hermann routinely got him out of trouble as well.

Yup, just checked. I remembered right. The bro’s name was Albert.


#10

It is indeed Thailand who opted to cooperate with Japan instead of taking side with the allied forces. At first they took the neutrality stance, letting Japan use Thailand as a springboard for future invasion of Malaya. After Japan rolled into Malaya and Singapore, then Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram chose to sign a military alliance pact with Japan and thus making it the only South East Asian country to willingly sign a military alliance pact with the Axis Powers. Phibunsongkhram went as far as declaring war on the United States and Britain in order to appease the Japanese.

After the war, Phibunsongkhram was put on trial and accused of committing war crimes. However, since the public deemed that Phibunsongkhram was only taking sides with the Japanese to protect Thai citizens, he was acquitted and managed to become the Prime Minister for the second time in the post war period. This was a farcry from what happened to Japanese collaborators in other Asian countries, such as Wang Jingwei (Leader of the Japanese controlled Reorganized Republic of China), who was branded as a traitor in the post war period. As a result, Wang Jingwei’s name is now synonymous with “Quisling” and “Benedict Arnold”, as traitors of their country.

To all other members of the forum, don’t be shy to share a piece of trivia or two. There may be stuff that we don’t know and won’t know if you don’t share it with us :smiley:


#11

Just wanted to jump in and say I’m loving this…

Oh what the hell here’s another one:
WW2 saw some amazing technical developments, but some were more weird than practical. One of them was Pykrete. What was it and for what was it intended?

Now, don’t be a cheat and google before someone that knows has a chance… (@Indy, not you)


#12

Pykrete was as I understand it a development out of Britain. It was sawdust and ice mixture from which there where plans to build a unsinkable aircraft carrier to cover mid Atlantic convey air cover. Thank heavens they didn’t have to resort to its use.


#13

Yes! I believe the Mythbusters had an episode where they successfully made seaworthy pykrete boats.


#14

You - developed by Nathaniel Pyke - the essence of the nutty professor. He was in charge of special projects for the British Command for a while. Churchill thought he was great. He had some whacky ideas other than Pykrete, such as sending German speaking students to Germany to poll Hitler’s popularity - suggested disguise: Golfers. It is said that for long times he wouldn’t get out of bed, because it was too inefficient, so he would receive generals and officials in his bedroom and tell them of his whacky plans and inventions.

The idea behind Pykrete was not that it was un-destroyable, but that you could make unsinkable boats that way and transport troops for the D-Day landing in a safer way. Pyke understood that with a few grenades it would still be destroyed, but it would take more grenades and give the troops a better chance.

When he presented Pykrete, Churchill was present, the story has it that Churchill surprised everyone by pulling out his Colt 45 (yup he had one) and fired a shot into a Pykrete block, with the ricochet almost hitting another bystanders (I’ve never been able to verify that tale, but it’s too good to not share).

In any case, one way or another they were satisfied that Pykrete had potential, they proceeded with tests and actually built a 1/4 scale troop transporter out of Pykrete on a lake in Canada. Many ‘just for fun’ tests have been made of Pykrete, including on Mythbusters, and it does prove very hard to destroy, plus it melts really, really slow. But the test in Canada showed that it was not very practical as a construction material, so the whole thing was abandoned and the Pykrete boat left to slowly melt away, if I remember correctly it took 18 months for it to disappear.


#15

That’s right. His exploits included forging his brother’s signature on official documents to have Jews loaded onto trains, taken from concentration camps and let go in the middle of nowhere. He also co-operated with Czech resistance fighters.


#16

Some more random factoids about pykrete.

One problem was that unless the pykrete was cooled to -16C or it would sag and bend. so HMS Habakuk, as the pykrete aircraft carrier was to be known, had to include a refrigeration plant to keep the pykrete cooled to the required temperature.

The Wikipedia article on HMS Habakuk also includes this story.

According to some accounts, at the Quebec Conference in 1943 Lord Mountbatten brought a block of pykrete along to demonstrate its potential to the admirals and generals who accompanied Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mountbatten entered the project meeting with two blocks and placed them on the ground. One was a normal ice block and the other was pykrete. He then drew his service pistol and shot at the first block. It shattered and splintered. Next he fired at the pykrete to give an idea of the resistance of that kind of ice to projectiles. The bullet ricocheted off the block, grazing the trouser leg of Admiral Ernest King, and ended up in the wall.


#17

Right then. Excluding examples held in private collections, which WW2 fighter made its maiden flight with a Rolls Royce Kestrel engine and its last flight with a Merlin?


#18

The Mountbatten version sounds more credible than the Churchill version.


#19

I think it might be time for a clue on this one.

It’s not a British plane.


#21

Right then. Excluding examples held in private collections, which WW2 fighter made its maiden flight with a Rolls Royce Kestrel engine and its last flight with a Merlin?

I think it might be time for a clue on this one.

It’s not a British plane.

The Bf/Me 109. The prototype had a Kestrel in the nose (as did the Ju 87 prototype), while the last variants, built in Spain post-war, were powered by Merlins.