military conflicts 30 'Facts' About World War II That Just Aren't True  

Mike Rothschild
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A conflict as wide-ranging and destructive as World War II naturally gives birth to a number of urban legends and myths that become "common knowledge" - despite not actually being true. Many have been refuted numerous times, and some exist only as rumors or fringe conspiracies held to by a few outsider scholars. World War II was a complex global struggle, that took the lives of many, and it can be hard to know what legends about this war and this period of history are actually true, and which are completely false.

These myths and urban legends about World War II, range from Hitler's jubilant jig to the conspiracy theories that say FDR knew Pearl Harbor was about to be bombed. First we look at what the WW2 myth is, then at the reality - which sometimes is stranger than the myth itself. These World War Two facts and fictions will surprise and enlighten you.

Need more World War 2 information? Check out the war's pivotal battles, most influential people, and the many films telling the stories of WWII.

France Surrendered without a Fight


France Surrendered without a F... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 30 'Facts' About World War II That Just Aren't True
Photo: via Imgur

THE MYTH:
France rolled over to Germany in 1940 without resisting because the French are cowards.

THE REALITY:
The fact that Germany did in six weeks during World War II what they couldn't do in four years in World War I is grossly oversimplified. While it's true that France surrendered quickly to Germany, French troops fought hard in the Battle of France, inflicting over 150,000 casualties and destroying over German 800 tanks. The French army was let down by indecisive leadership, poor tactics, bad logistics, and commanders trying to fight a defensive war and avoid the high casualties of World War I.

Hitler Let the British Escape at Dunkirk


Hitler Let the British Escape ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 30 'Facts' About World War II That Just Aren't True
Photo: via Reddit

THE MYTH:
Adolf Hitler allowed 330,000 British troops to escape destruction on the beaches at Dunkirk in 1940 as a sporting gesture, or because they were fellow white people.

THE REALITY:
The Dunkirk "halt order" would prove to be one of the most controversial military actions of the war. German tanks were ordered to halt and regroup for two days at the exact same time as British troops were being evacuated from France. Some have alleged Hitler did this on purpose, and Hitler himself, late in his life, said it was a "sporting gesture" to Churchill.

But the historical record doesn't bear this out. There's no military reason Hitler would have wanted Britain's army to escape intact, and German armored units did need a break to rest and rearm. Such a break was actually requested by the German panzer commander in France - an order rubber stamped by Hitler. Hitler was also convinced that his air force could destroy the British troops on the beaches. He was wrong, and those men would later return to France to liberate it.

Returning GIs Abandoned Thousands of Cars in Belgium


Returning GIs Abandoned Thousa... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 30 'Facts' About World War II That Just Aren't True
Photo: via Pinterest

THE MYTH:
Unable to bring them home, US soldiers abandoned thousands of vintage cars that had been plundered from Nazi Germany, leaving them to rot in a Belgian forest.

THE REALITY:
The pictures of this Belgian car graveyard, abandoned for 70 years, are indeed haunting. But as to who left the cars there and why - that's a mystery. Urban legend says the cars were dumped there by US GIs, but locals say it's just a car boneyard, no different from any dumping ground anywhere else.

It's obvious from looking at the pictures you'll find online that the urban legend isn't true. Most of these cars are clearly from after the war, with some from the '60s and '70s. In any case, the car graveyard was a source of stolen spare parts for decades, until being permanently cleared in 2010.

The Death Match


The Death Match is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 30 'Facts' About World War II That Just Aren't True
Photo: via Wikimedia

THE MYTH:
A soccer team made up of Ukrainian players was shot after beating a Nazi team.

THE REALITY:
The so-called "death match" between the ad-hoc Ukrainian team Start FC and German occupier team Flakelf did take place. But the players weren't executed en masse afterwards, and no research has found proof that any German official told the Ukrainians to lose or die, as many historical accounts of the time claim.

What's probable is that several of the players, all of whom were on a work detail, were shot as a reprisal for a resistance act. Those players are immortalized in a statue outside the stadium of Dynamo Kiev, the most popular soccer team in Ukraine.