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World War Two - Facts and Firsts

The largest, most terrible conflict the world has ever seen

1939 - 1945, Allies (USA, USSR, Great Britain, China, France, etc.) versus Axis (Germany, Italy, Japan)

By , Sept. 2002. Updated June 27, 2011.

Who was the most successful fighter pilot?

The highest scoring ace of all time was the great German Luftwaffe experte Erich Hartmann with 352 aerial kills on the Eastern Front.

The top American ace of all time was Richard Ira Bong. He shot down 40 Japanese planes in the Pacific.

Albert Magnus' comprehensive Air Aces Homepage lists all fighter aces from WWI to the Gulf War.

Who were the Flying Tigers?

A group of American volunteer pilots that fought for China against Japan in 1942.

What was the Battle of Britain?

The aerial defense of Great Britain in 1940, by the RAF fighter pilots against the attacking German Luftwaffe.

Who was the first American ace of WW2?

The first Ace was 1st Lt. Boyd David "Buzz" Wagner of Johnstown Pa. who recorded eight kills, starting in December, 1941 during the defense of the Philippines. He was quickly promoted to Captain and a few weeks later skipped Major and was promoted to Lt. Colonel. He at age 26 then became the youngest American ever to attain the rank of Lt. Colonel. He was so valuable to the design of the P-40 that he was soon assigned to Australia where he worked on design improvements and the training of combat pilots. He later was assigned to Eglin Field, Florida designing and test-piloting new P-40 designs. He was lost over Alabama on a test flight and his plane and body not found for five or six weeks, buried in the sea marsh of Alabama's Gulf Coast.

Buzz Wagner was also a hero in the 1936 Johnstown Flood having rescued one or more youngsters from the flood and possible drowning.

How many casualties were there in World War Two?

About 50 million people lost their lives in WW2! The Soviet Union alone lost 20 million in what they call "The Great Patriotic War". The Nazis executed about 12 million civilians, including 6 million Jews. Poland suffered more than any other country, losing an unbelievable 18% of its pre-war population, almost 7 million. Chinese dead totalled over 11 million, Japanese 2 million, and German 5 million. About 300,000 Americans died in the war.

Prisoners of war (POWs) suffered extremely callous treatment, and a criminal percentage of them died. 5 million Russian soldiers were captured by the Germans; 3 million died at the hands of their captors. Incredibly another million died after the war while in Soviet labor camps. Their crime? Being captured.

Without a doubt, the most horrifying aspect of WWII was the Holocaust, the Nazi "Final Solution" to exterminate Jews, Gypsies/Romani, homosexuals, the mentally ill, Bolsheviks, Soviet prisoners of war, Polish and Soviet civilians, and other "undesirables." By this definition, the total number of Holocaust victims would be between 11 million and 17 million people. The Holocaust happened; do not permit Holocaust deniers to get away with their lies.

Why did the United States drop the atomic bomb?

To save lives, both American and Japanese. On August 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay, piloted by Capt. Paul Tibbets dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. An estimated 140,000 men, women, and children died. Three-quarters of the city (about 5 square miles) ceased to exist. 3 days later, the Americans dropped another bomb on Nagasaki. On August 15, the Japanese surrendered.

The alternative? An Allied invasion of Japan, with estimated Allied casualties exceeding one million and Japanese casualties certainly higher than that.

What was the most expensive weapon developed by United States?

Surprisingly, not the atomic bomb. At a contemporary cost of $3 billion dollars, the B-29 bomber cost more than the Manhattan project!