25 Interesting Facts About World War II

The Second World War (WWII) was a worldwide military conflict that lasted from September 1939 until September 1945. The war involved all of the major powers of the early 20th century, and fighting occurred on multiple continents. In this article, we will list 25 interesting facts about World War 2 that you may not have known.

1. Over 70 nations and territories were involved in WW2 from 1939 to 1945
2. Deaths in World War II are estimated at between 75 and 85 million people, with 26 million in the military and 59 million civilians
3. 473 people received the Medal of Honor due to their actions during World War 2
President Harry Truman awarding the Medal of Honor to conscientious objector Desmond Doss
Desmond Doss receiving the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman, October 1945
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
4. The first victim of the Second World War was a Polish man named Franciszek Honiok
5. Jeannette Rankin was the only member of Congress to vote against the United States’ declaration of war on Japan following the attack on Pearl Harbor
6. It is estimated that 17.6 million people were murdered in the Holocaust era

This included:

  • 6 million Jewish people
  • 5.7 million non-Jewish Soviet civilians
  • 3 million Soviet Prisoners of War
  • 1.8 million non-Jewish Polish civilians
  • 500 thousand Romani people
  • 300 thousand Serbian civilians
  • 250 thousand people with disabilities
7. The youngest member of the British Armed Forces to die in WWII was Reginald Earnshaw, who was 14 years and 152 days old when he was killed on July 6th, 1941
8. The Battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle of WWII. Over 200,000 military personnel and over 300 ships were involved in the battle (also considered by some historians as the naval battle in history)
9. Hiroo Onoda, the last Japanese soldier of World War II, came out of hiding in the Philippine jungle and surrendered in 1974, almost 30 years after the war ended
10. The deadliest battle of World War II was the Battle of Stalingrad, which had an estimated 2 million casualties in the 5 months that the battle took place (August, 23rd 1942 to February 2nd, 1943)
Soviet troops during the Battle of Stalingrad, January 1943 during World War II
Soviet troops during the Battle of Stalingrad, January 1943
Credit: German Federal Archives // CC-BY-SA 3.0 DE 
11. The oldest known soldier of the Second World War was Nikolai Alexandrovich Morozov, who served in the Red Army as a sniper at age 88 in 1942
12. The total financial cost of World War II is estimated at $1.3 trillion (equivalent to $21 trillion in 2022), making it the most expensive war in history.
13. William Hitler, the half-nephew of Adolf Hitler, served in the United States Navy against his uncle during World War II. William changed his surname to “Stuart-Houston” after leaving the Navy
14. M&Ms were first sold exclusively to the US Army for soldiers during WWII, and they were not allowed to sell the candy to the public until after the war
15. The United States was the highest spender in World War 2, spending an estimated $285 billion (equivalent to $4.6 trillion in 2022) on the war
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower gives the order of the Day. 'Full victory-nothing less' to paratroopers in England, just before they board their airplanes to participate in the first assault in the invasion of the continent of Europe." Eisenhower is meeting with US Co. E, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment (Strike) of the 101st Airborne Division, photo taken at Greenham Common Airfield in England about 8:30 p.m. on June 5, 1944. The General was talking about fly fishing with his men as he always did before a stressful operation
General Dwight D. Eisenhower with members of the 101st Airborne Division, June 1944.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
16. The Soviet Union had the largest army of World War II, mobilizing 21 million troops throughout the war with a peak strength of 13.2 million
17. Over 10% of the total pre-war population of the Soviet Union was lost due to WW2
18. The United States has had 8 Presidents that were veterans of the Second World War

These are:

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Richard Nixon
  • Gerald Ford
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Ronald Reagan
  • George H.W. Bush
19. The Second World War in Africa ended with the surrender of the Axis forces in Tunisia in May 1943
20. 182 Victoria Cross medals were awarded to British and Commonwealth soldiers for valor “in the presence of the enemy” during WW2
21. The last American soldier to be killed in action in Europe during World War 2 was 34-year-old Pfc. Charley Havlat on May 7th, 1945
Charley Havlat, last American soldier killed in Europe at combat in the WW2
Pfc. Charley Havlat
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
22. There were no land combat operations on the Western Front from June 1940 until 4 years later, with the Normandy landings in June 1944
23. President Franklin D. Roosevelt popularized labeling the conflict the “Second World War,” using the term publicly in 1941.
United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the declaration of war against Japan, December 1941
Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
24. Nearly a quarter of the population of Nazi Germany served in the Armed Forces during World War 2
25. American military officials discussed dropping a third atomic bomb on Japan, with Tokyo the target on August 19th, 1945, but President Harry S. Truman ordered no more to be dropped without his direct approval

RELATED ARTICLE: 32 Interesting Facts about World War I


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