I've found that most folks enjoy trivia, and the information in this column about little known things that happened in WW II is about as trivial as you can find, so some readers will be happy. For those who are not, there is always the next column.
These gems are attributed to a Col. D.G. Swinford, a retired Marine officer and history buff. They came via email and I have no further ID for the unknown colonel. Hope you enjoy what's below.
The first German soldier killed in the war was killed by Japanese troops in China in 1937.
The first American serviceman killed was by the Russians in Finland, 1940. The highest rated American killed was Lt. Gen. Leslie McNair, killed in a bombing raid by the U.S. Army Air Corps.
The last U.S. Marine killed was a POW in Japan. He died when rescue flights dropped food and supplies, and a package came open during descent, its contents fell out, and he was killed by a can of Spam that hit him in the head.
Following a massive bombardment, 35,000 U.S. and Canadian troops stormed ashore on Kiska in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands. Twenty-one troops were killed during the operation, and it would probably have been worse had there been any Japanese troops on Kiska.
The youngest U.S. serviceman of record was Calvin Graham, 12, U.S. Navy. He was wounded and given a dishonorable discharge for lying about his age, but his status was later changed by an act of Congress.
More U.S. servicemen died in the Army Air Corps than did Marines. While completing the required 30 missions over enemy territory, an airman's chance of being killed was 71 percent.
Airmen led a different life. Japanese ace Hiroyoshi Nishizawa shot down more than 80 enemy aircraft, and died while a passenger in a cargo plane that was shot down.
German Me-264 bombers were capable of reaching and bombing New York City, but leaders decided it wasn't worth the effort.
German submarine U-120 was sunk because of a malfunctioning toilet.
Among the first soldiers wearing German uniforms captured at Normandy, France, were several Koreans. They had been forced to fight for the Japanese until captured by Russian troops, then captured by German troops who sent them to Normandy, where Americans captured them. No, they didn't have to learn a fourth language.
When Allied troops reached the Rhine River in 1945, a popular thing to do was to "pee" in it. There is no documentation of how many soldiers did, but it is believed to have been many. The two most prominent persons were Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who made a big show of it, and U.S. General George Patton, who had himself photographed in the act. Both Churchill and Patton had been officers in France during WW I.
Page 2 of 2 - Fighter planes generally had every fifth round loaded as a tracer round as an aid to aiming. This proved to be a mistake, as tracers have different ballistics, so if at long-range tracers are hitting the target, 80 percent of bullets are not. Worse, tracers told the enemy he was under fire, and from which direction. Worse yet, several tracer rounds were loaded at the end of a belt of ammunition so the pilot would know he was out of ammo. But the enemy was not dumb, and quickly learned that little tip also.
Units that stopped using tracers had their success rate nearly double, and their loss rate drop significantly. It makes a difference when you don't tip your hand to the enemy.
Well you should now know much more about The Big War than you did a few minutes ago. Just think how you'll be able to regale folks at the next social event. I can hardly wait.
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and retired Department of the Army civilian employee.