World War I - Facts, figures and Trivia

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Every year on November 11 we remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice during the two World Wars and other wars.

Yet just how much do we really know about those conflicts? Hopefully this article will give you a slightly better knowledge of World War II.


Largest armed forces of World War II

1. USSR - 12,500,000

2. USA - 12,364,000

3. Germany - 10,000,000

4. Japan - 6,095,000

5. France - 5,700,000

6. UK - 4,683,000

7. Italy - 4,500,000

8. China - 3,800,000

9. India - 2,150,000

10. Poland - 1,000,000


Allowing for deaths and casualties, the total forces mobilised during the course of the war is, of course, greater than the peak strength figures: that of the USSR, for example, has been put as high as 20 000 000, the USA 16,354,000, Germany 17,900,000, Japan 9,100,000 and the UK 5,896,000.


Smallest armed forces of World War II

1. Costa Rica - 400

2. Liberia - 1,000

3. El Salvador - 3,000,

 Honduras - 3,000

 Nicaragua - 3,000

6. Haiti - 3,500

7. Dominican Rep. - 4,000

8. Guatemala - 5,000

9. Bolivia - 8,000

 Paraguay - 8,000

 Uruguay - 8,000

The smallest European armed forces was that of Denmark, with a maximum strength of 15 000, just 13 of whom were killed during the one-day German invasion on 9 April 1940.

Several South American countries did not declare war until the closing stages, in order to become eligible to join the fledgling United Nations.

Great strategy. “You say the war is ending tomorrow. Who’s losing? Okay, let’s declare war on them. Let’s start printing victory medals for our brave troops.”


Greatest military losses of World War II

1. USSR - 13,600,000

2. Germany - 3,300,000

3. China - 1,324,516

4. Japan - 1,140,429

5. British Empire - 357,116

6. Romania - 350,000

7. Poland - 320,000

8. Yugoslavia - 305,000

9. USA - 292,131

10. Italy - 279,800


The actual numbers killed in World War II have been the subject of intense argument for the past 70 years.

The immense level of the military casualty rate of the USSR, in particular, is hard to comprehend. Most authorities now reckon that of the 30 million Soviets who bore arms, there were 13.6 million military deaths.

This includes a battlefield death toll of approximately 7.8 million, plus up to 2.5 million who died later of wounds received in battle and disease and, of the 5.8 million who were taken prisoner, as many as 3.3 million who died in captivity.

It should also be borne in mind that these were military losses: to these should be added many untold millions of civilian war deaths, while recent estimates have suggested an additional figure of up to 25 million civilian deaths as a result of Stalinist purges, which began just before the outbreak of war.


Greatest civilian losses of World War II

1. China - 8,000,000

2. USSR - 6,500,000

3. Poland - 5,300,000

4. Germany - 2,350,000

5. Yugoslavia - 1,500,000

6. France - 470,000

7. Greece - 415,000

8. Japan - 393,400

9. Romania - 340,000

10. Hungary - 300,000


During World War II, many deaths among civilians, especially in China and the USSR, resulted from famine and internal purges. In fact Stalin killed more of his own people than the Germans did.


Worst military ship losses of World War II

Wilhelm Gustloff (Germany) - 7,800 lives lost

Goya (Germany) - 6,202

Cap Arcona (Germany) - 6,000

Junyo Maru (Japan) - 5,620

Toyama Maru (Japan) - 5,400

Arcona (Germany) - 5,000

Lancastria (Great Britian) - 3,050

Steuben (Germany) - 3,000

Thielbeck (Germany) - 2,750

Yamato (Japan) - 2,498


While many ship losses resulted from sea battles, some of the highest death tolls were caused by the bombing or torpedoing of vessels carrying refugees and other civilians.

The German liner Wilhelm Gustloff, laden with civilian refugees and wounded German soldiers and sailors, was torpedoed off the coast of Poland by a Soviet submarine, S-13, on 30 January 1945. Although imprecise, some sources even suggest a figure as high a 9,400, the probable death toll being some five times as great as that of the Titanic.


Top British and Commonwealth Air Aces of World War II

1. Sqd Ldr Marmaduke Thomas St John Prattle (South African) - 40+

2. Gp Captain James Edgar ‘Johnny’ Johnson (British) - 33.91

3. Wing Cdr Brendan ‘Paddy’ Finucane (Irish) - 32

4. Flt Lt George Frederick Beurling (Canadian) - 31.33

5. Wing Cdr John Randall Daniel Braham (British) - 29

6. Gp Capt Adolf Gysbert ‘Sailor’ Malan (South Africa) - 28.66

7. Wing Cdr Clive Robert Caldwell (Australian) - 28.5

8. Sqd Ldr James Harry ‘Ginger’ Lacey (British) - 28

9. Sqd Ldr Neville Frederick Duke (British - 27.83

10. Wing Cdr Colin F. Gray (New Zealander) - 27.7


Uniquely to Western air forces in World War II, kills that are expressed as fractions refer to those that were shared with others, the number of fighters involved and the extent of each pilot’s participation determining the proportion allocated to him.

Ivan Kozhedub was the top Soviet ace with 62 kills and Richard I. Bong was the top American with 40 kills.

Tetsuzo Iwamoto of the Japanese Imperial Air Force was the top Japanese ace with 87 kills.

A total of 104 German Luftwaffe (Air Force) pilots claimed over 100 kills. The top German ace, and top ace of the war, was Erich “Bubi” Hartmann with a remarkable 352, most of them over the Eastern Front.

TOP GUN: German Luftwaffe ace Erich Hartmann was the top ace of World War II with 352 kills.

World War II Trivia

HIGH PRICE TO PAY: Only 20% of the males born in the Soviet Union in 1923 survived the war.

HIGH ATTRITION RATE: Only one out of every four men serving on U-boats survived the war.

PACKING A PUNCH: The most powerful artillery gun created by any nation and used in WWII was named Karl by its designer General Karl Becker. Used mostly against the Russians, the huge gun could shoot a 2.5 ton shell over three miles. The shells were almost 61 cm wide and could go through three metres of concrete.

STALIN ORGAN: On July 14, 1941, the Soviets introduced a new weapon, the Katyusha, which could fire 320 rockets in 25 seconds. More than 70 years later, the Katyusha remains an effective weapon.

BOCK’S CAR: The Enola Gay became well known for dropping the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, but few people know the name of the B-29 that bombed Nagasaki. It was Bock’s Car, named after the plane’s usual commander, Frederick Bock.

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