It is unarguable that World War 2, in fact, both of the World Wars, were totally devastating and had terrible consequences on all walks of humanity. Each one of us has a rough idea of the how’s and why’s of the entire story, but there was a lot more than that going on besides that. These anecdotes are not so popular but certainly interesting and surprising to know. Here is the collection of 10 lesser-known stories from World War 2 that you’ll find enthralling.
1. The soldiers in the war kept photos of their loved ones under clear grips on their pistols. The grips were known as “sweetheart grips,” and in fact, the soldiers made these grips themselves using Plexiglas salvaged from downed aircraft.
The technique of plastic Plexiglas was invented back in 1928 and was made use of widely in World War 2, largely in windows in planes. However, they were also used as the replacement for the wooden grips for their Colt M1911 pistols by the war soldiers.
They used to personalize these handmade, transparent grips by placing a picture of their sweetheart on them, hence the name “sweetheart girls.”
The picture was often placed on the right of the pistol and the left side was left adorned so that the user could look into the magazines and find out how many rounds he had left.
These particular pistols with pictures of their loved ones were very dear to the soldiers. They were really sentimental about them. Some of the survivors kept these pistols close to them even after the war. (1, 2, 3)
2. America recruited 29 Navajo-speaking men during World War 2 who were later known as the “Navajo Code Talkers.” The crew had created a new set of codes in their Navajo language which, even if intercepted, could not be translated by the enemy forces.
The Navajo code talkers were recruited by the US Marines, and the code was used by them all across the Pacific during World War 2.
These mates exchanged messages in their native language via telephone and radio, and the messages were never even once deciphered by the Japanese.
This actually proved very useful to the military since the enemy forces were decoding every message before the advent of Navajo code talkers.
The idea of taking help from the Navajo natives and their skills first came to a World War 1 veteran, Philip Johnston. After a few practice trials, the Marine chiefs were convinced of the usability of the idea.
The men were given the training to use their Navajo language and find their application in military phrases.
They were so successful in executing their plans that 400 more Navajo men were appointed as code talkers later during the war.
3. The most successful of all the Nazi interrogators, Hanns Scharff, never physically harmed any enemy soldier. He instead treated them with kindness, took them for walks, let them visit their comrades in hospitals, and everybody apparently talked to him.
Scharff was originally a businessman in Johannesburg and was never meant to be involved in the Nazi Military.
Schraff was simply vacationing in his native Germany when the war broke out and he didn’t get to leave the country. He was eventually recruited into the military and was lined upfront in the forces to fight in Russia. His wife somehow managed to talk her way to the general’s office, and Scharff was then transferred to a unit of interpreters.
Because of multiple coincidences including his two superiors dying in a plane crash, he rose to the top of interrogators for pilot fighters.
He once saw a prisoner being mistreated, which made him vow to do things another way.
Scharff’s technique of interrogation was marked by four basic components that involved a friendly approach, not pressing too much for the information, the illusion of knowing everything, and lastly, either the confirmation or the disconfirmation tactic.
Multiple psychological studies on Scarff’s technique revealed that it gathered more information than the traditional, direct approach.
4. Franz Stigler, a German ace fighter pilot, risked his life to spare and save the lives of nine American soldiers by escorting their injured B-17 bomber out of Germany. This little episode was later known as “the most incredible encounter between enemies in World War 2.”
It was five days before Christmas of 1943 when the pilot of a broken B-17 plane, Charles Brown, and his co-pilot saw a German fighter plane hovering just above their heads.
They were stuck in the middle with no help since their crewmates were all severely wounded and the tail-gunner was dead. They just expected the German fighter to pull the trigger and get rid of them instantly.
Stigler decided to attack the bomber crew from behind, and when he was just going to pull the trigger, he hesitated. He was extremely moved by the conditions in which the American soldiers were suffering.
Stigler then spared the entire crew, escorted the bomber in a perfect formation so that the on-ground gunner wouldn’t shoot at them, and then he delivered the enemies to the North Sea. Before leaving, Stigler gave a salute to Brown and returned to Germany.
He was sure to be executed in Nazi Germany if somebody had reported him but was later only honored with medals. Brown also later fled to England.
5. A Dutch minesweeper evaded Japan for eight days by disguising herself as an island. The crew of the minesweeper covered the decks in cut trees and painted the exposed surfaces such that they appear like rocks. The crew only moved at night and used to anchor close to shore by day. She eventually escaped to Australia.
The HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, the minesweeper, was the last of Dutch warships and she evaded in 1942. The original plan was to escape along with the other two warships to Australia, but the three of them had to slip away on their own.
Crijnssen was out of ammunition. She was just left with a single gun and two cannons while the Japanese bombers patrolled from above.
The 45 members, after brainstorming an escape plan, concluded it would be best to disguise their ship as an island. So, the crewmates went to a nearby island, cut down as many trees as possible, and covered the minesweeper. The leftover part was painted to look like stones.
So they would remain unnoticed, they only moved at night, and they actually met up with the allied forces in Australia after the eight-day, night-only journey. During the journey, they avoided all the Japanese planes and warships that sank the other two Dutch warships. (source)