Author Ian Fleming based his character “007” on the Yugoslavian-born spy Dusko Popov (1912-1980). Popov spoke at least five languages and came up with his own formula for invisible ink. He was the first spy to use microdots, or photos shrunk down to the size of dots. He obtained information that the Japanese were planning an air strike on Pearl Harbour, but the FBI did not act on his warning. Popov later lived in the S. in a penthouse and created a reputation as a playboy. He wrote an account of his wartime activities in his novelSpy, Counterspy (1974).
From 1942, U.S. Marines in the Pacific used the Navajo language as their secret code. The language didn’t have the vocabulary for existing WWII technology, so existing words had to be given new meanings. For example, the word for “hummingbird” (da-he-ti-hi) became code for fighter plane. Around 400 Navajo Indians (Code Talkers) were trained to use the code, and the Japanese never cracked it.
The Russians were the first to have paratroopers, which they exhibited in 1935. The Allies did not catch up until 1940, when the Central Landing School opened near Manchester.
The most important medical advance that saved soldiers’ lives during WWII was the blood transfusion.
In 1939, the Nazis began a “euthanasia” program in which 80,000 to 100,000 Germans who were disabled, mentally retarded, or insane were murdered. The program was based in Berlin at No. 4 Tiergartenstrasse and became known as the T-4 program.
The Auschwitz Concentration Camp Complex was the only place where prisoners were given identification number tattoos. The practice began in 1941 when Russian POWs were stamped on the upper-left breast. Jews started receiving tattoos (on their forearms) in 1942.
Poison gas was first used in WWI to break the trench warfare stalemate. Though all powers had chemical weapons, only Japan (in China) and Italy (in Ethiopia) used them during WWII.
Formed as a personal protection service for Hitler, “SS” is an abbreviation of Schuftzstaffel(“Protective Echelon”). Virtually a state within a state, the SS was headed by Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945) and carried out massive executions of political opponents and ethnic minorities. It was divided into two groups, the Allgemeine-SS (General SS) and the Waffen-SS (Armed SS).
WWII casualties total between 50 and 70 million people. More than 80% of this total came from four countries: Russia, China, Germany, and Poland. More than half of these casualties were civilians, most of whom were women and children.