Tallest Soldier in World War 2: 7ft 3in (2.21m) Jakob Nacken

The tallest soldier to fight in World War 2, Jakob Nacken wearing his military uniform talking with a Canadian soldier wearing a trench coat in September 1944. The photograph is colorized
The tallest soldier to fight in World War 2, German soldier Jakob Nacken, after being captured in Calais France, speaking to a Canadian soldier, circa August 1944. This photo has been colorized. Credit: Richard White

Jakob Nacken is believed to have been the tallest soldier to have fought in World War II on the western front. At 7 foot 3 inches (2.21m), he was the tallest soldier in the German Army when he was drafted at the age of 36 in 1939.

In August 1944, Jakob Nacken was a part of a gun crew of 250 German soldiers that were captured by a troop of seven Canadian Army soldiers led by Corporal Bob Roberts in Calais, France. Nacken spent the rest of the Second World War in England as a Prisoner of War.

Before the war, Nacken was considered the world’s tallest man, and he traveled around the world performing in circuses and events, including the 1939 New York World’s Fair. He would often perform under the names the “Giant from the Rhineland” and “Uranus.”

The world tallest man, Jakob Nacken in a tuxedo and top hat posing for a photograph with a small boy also wearing a tuxedo and top hat for the circus in 1924. Nacken went on to become the tallest soldier in the German Army and World War 2
A 17-year-old Jakob Nacken posing for a photograph for Schaefer’s Circus with a small boy who also worked in the show. Taken in 1924. Credit: Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After the war, the tallest soldier of World War 2 emigrated from post-war Germany to the United States to live in Paterson, New Jersey, and became a citizen of the United States on the 16th of December 1955. He would often work as a tall Santa at Christmas and would also perform at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! shows as the World’s Tallest Man, with his final appearance coming in 1959. Later in life, Jakob Nacken returned to Germany and died in Europe at the age of 81 in March 1987.


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