While researching World War Two for the Shadows of War series, I’m coming across quite a few fun, little known (at least to me) facts about the war. Some of them will make it into the books, but most will not. I couldn’t just let them fade back into the history books, though. So the real gems are added here, for the continued enrichment of all. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did! I’ll be adding more as I come across them, so check back often! Who says history is boring???



April 1, 1940 BBC Broadcast

Throughout Hitler’s reign over Nazi Germany, Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry was infamous not only in Nazi Germany, but all across Europe and the United States. Broadcasting across the globe, figures like US-born British National William Joyce, also known as Lord Haw-Haw, spread fear and misinformation in support of the Nazi cause. However, Germany wasn’t the only country engaged in using the radio to convince foreign nationals to turn to their way of thinking. The BBC was also actively engaged in broadcasting German-speaking programs across Europe with the aim to convince the German people that the Nazi’s would lose the war, and their best hope was to support the Allies in dethroning Hitler.


While the BBC took the approach of broadcasting fact-based and largely objective views that they hoped would be in direct contrast to Germany’s distorted and hate-filled media content, they were also sure to include humor wherever possible. This often took the form of funny songs and skits making fun of the Nazi leaders.


On April 1, 1940, they broadcast a speech given by Adolf Hitler. The Führer reminded the listeners that Columbus had discovered America only with the help of German science and technology. Therefore, he said, Germany had a right to “some share in the achievements brought about by this voyage of discovery.” He went on to say that the German, Polish and Czech immigrants living in the United States wanted, and were entitled to, the protection of the Protectorate of the Greater Reich. After thanking President Roosevelt for the interest he showed in European affairs, Hitler then announced that as thanks for that interest, he was bringing the United States under the Protectorate of the Reich.


As part of the Protectorate, the entire landscape of New York City would be changed. The Statue of Liberty, which disrupted naval traffic, would be removed and “thrown onto the scrap heap.” He also announced his intention of replacing Roosevelt in the White House, and changing the name of the building to the Brown House. Before the broadcast had even finished, the BBC received calls from CBS in a panic, trying to learn more about the origin of the broadcast.


The entire broadcast was an April Fools’ Day prank.


Austrian actor Martin Miller was called into the BBC. He proceeded to deliver the first of what would become many parodies transmitted by the German Service section of the BBC. His knack for perfectly imitating not only Hitler’s voice, but also his cadence and penchant for over-the-top, warped logic incorporated into his speeches, fooled CBS completely.


The gullibility of the American news outlet can possibly be forgiven, considering what was happening in Europe at the time. Hitler was amassing a military build-up in preparation for the invasion of Belgium and France, and there were also indications of a massive naval build-up in northern Germany. This would, of course, turn into the invasion of Norway and Denmark on April 9th. Given the extreme unrest and anticipation all over the world of the next aggressive moves by Hitler, perhaps it wasn’t such a stretch to believe that Hitler really had announced his intention to take over the United States as well.


But this has to be one of the best April Fools’ Day jokes in history!


If you want to read more about this, here are some links to get you started:


White House to become Brown House: the April Fool Führer

Broadcasting to the Enemy: The BBC German Service during the Second World War



German ‘Superdrug’ Created ‘Super Soldiers’

During the invasion of France in the Spring of 1940, the world was stunned by the speed with which the German army overran France. The offensive began on May 10, and on May 26, the British Expeditionary Force was pinned down in Dunkirk, completely surrounded. By June 14, the French Army was defeated and German forces entered Paris. In six short weeks, the German army had done the unthinkable: it defeated the Allied armies and marched through Belgium, the Netherlands and France without pause. Their troops seemed superhuman, marching for days without stopping. But how did they do it? How did ordinary men go days without sleep? The answer wasn’t that the Germans were a superior race, regardless of what Hitler liked to think. The answer was much more simple than that.



Introduced by a pharmaceutical company in Berlin in 1939, Pervitin was initially marketed to increase alertness and combat depression. It was even briefly available to purchase over the counter. Then a German military doctor got a hold of it, testing it on students. His findings convinced him that this drug could ensure German victory in the war. Soldiers who used Pervitin were capable of remaining awake for days while fighting and marching continuously. How? What was this miracle drug? Well, it was methamphetamine – but you may know it as crystal meth.


I first heard about this while watching the Netflix documentary “World War Two in Color.” After the episode, of course I had to look into it further. Sure enough. Pervitin not only was crystal meth, but it was issued in huge amounts to the soldiers and pilots of the German forces to keep them awake and alert. In April of 1940, over 35 million tablets of Pervitin were sent to the front lines to fuel the Nazi’s Blitzkrieg through the Ardennes and across France. And it worked. Men were able to fight for up to ten consecutive days without rest, enabling them to push through the Allied defenses. The drug had the added ‘benefit’ of creating a truly fearless fighter, one who believed that he was invincible. One who was, of course, as high as a kite. A very effective kite.


So now you know. But just in case you think the use of PEDs was confined to the German forces, think again. Upon discovering the use of Pervitin among the Germans, the Allies also issued drugs to their pilots and soldiers in the form of Benzedrine. Not quite as infamous as crystal meth, but just as damaging in its own way. They did briefly test methamphetamines, but quickly discarded it after observing the side effects.


If you want to read more about this, here are some links to get you started:

Inside the Drug that Fueled Nazi Germany

Nazis Dosed Soldiers with Performance Boosting Superdrug

How Methamphetamine Became Part of Nazi Military Strategy