This year marks the 70th anniversary of World War II, a war that took more than 55 million lives in conflict, including over 10 million Jews, Gypsies, and other minorities murdered by Nazis in the Holocaust. Regarded as the most destructive war in history, World War II cost more in material damage than all other wars in history combined.
To prepare for and remember the landmark anniversary, here are 10 amazing facts about World War II:
- The biggest naval battle ever was at Leyte Gulf (October 22–27, 1944) in the Pacific, with 166 Allied and 75 Japanese ships, and more than 2,000 aircraft.
- Nadya Popova was one of the Soviet Union’s female pilots and she flew with the “Night Witches.” She once flew 18 attacks in one night!
- A .50-caliber machine gun could fire no longer than 10 seconds, or it got so hot that the barrel bent.
- On September 1, 1939, at 4:45 a.m., Hitler ordered a German attack on Poland. Two days later, on September 3, Britain and France—Poland’s allies—declared war on Germany.
- The heaviest tank was the German Maus II. It weighed 215 tons, but never went into battle.
- More than 90,000 Germans were captured at Stalingrad.
- There were 4,066 landing crafts in the Allied invasion fleet on D-Day (June 6, 1944).
- At Pearl Harbor, 4 out of 8 US battleships were sunk, 21 ships were wrecked or damaged, and 300 aircraft were destroyed.
- The heaviest WWII bomb was the RAF’s “Grand Slam” at 22,000 pounds.
- The Japanese signed their surrender that ended World War II on the USS Missouri’s deck. It is now a museum ship at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
These facts and more can be found in DK’s new book, World War II: Visual Encyclopedia. Interested readers can learn more about World War II’s key players, battles, technology, and weapons in this new addition to DK’s award-winning Visual Encyclopedia format.