As we watch North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump verbally joust these days, we can’t help but ponder the possibility of war and, in the end, hope that it is something we all avoid.
In 1941 my dad was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps and shipped to England to prepare for D-Day. Afterward, he ended up in France, Belgium and Germany.
Like most World War II veterans he has never really talked about it, so we know little about his experiences except that he was in Paris the day after the liberation and had a little visit with actor Mickey Rooney at a celebration in Germany with some Russians shortly after the war was won.
My dad’s involvement in that war generated my interest in it and as a result I acquired a fairly deep knowledge. But still there are a few things about that war that I was surprised to learn.
For example, did you know that the nephew of Adolph Hitler served in the U.S. Navy in WWII?
That’s right. William Patrick Hitler, who was actually born in England, had moved to Germany before WWII because his uncle, Adolph, the German Chancellor, had the power to get him a job, first at a bank and then at a car factory.
Eventually Adolph offered him a position high up in the Nazi Party. All that his uncle required of him was to renounce his British citizenship. But he refused to do so, and instead, he decided to blackmail his uncle by confirming a rumor that Adolf was the illegitimate grandson of a Jewish merchant.
That didn’t sit too well with the Nazi leader and as a result William Patrick Hitler was either forced to leave Germany or was paid handsomely to do so. No one seems to know for sure.
He moved back to London, and then, at the request of American newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, came to America to participate in a lecture tour entitled “My Uncle Adolph.”
Afterward he joined the U.S. Navy and served as a hospital corpsman for three years until 1947. He settled in Long Island, changing his name to William Patrick Houston-Stuart.
A few other interesting, WWII facts include the following:
- A Polish Catholic midwife delivered 3,000 babies at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust in occupied Poland.
- Four out of every five German soldiers killed were on the eastern, Russian front.
- Only 20 percent of Russian men born in 1923 survived the war, and only one of out of four German soldiers serving on German U-Boat submarines survived the war.
- The largest Japanese spy ring was located in Mexico and the mortality rate for prisoners kept in Russian prison camps was 85 percent.
Worst of all, 70 million people died, with 28 million of them being civilian women and children. That’s probably what led former Allied commander and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower to say that he hated war as only a soldier who has lived it can.
It might also have been what led writer Leo Tolstoy to say that the two most powerful warriors are patience and time.