Almost 70 years after WW2 ended, it still makes the news – whether it’s unexploded bombs or Nazi war criminals. Here are 10 of WW2’s more unusual leftovers that were still making an impact decades later.
1. Drink Fanta, stay Bamboocha!
Fanta, the globally branded fizzy pop made by The Coca-Cola Company, originated in Nazi Germany in 1941. When Germany could no longer import Coca-Cola syrup from the USA due to the wartime trade embargo, the head of Coca-Cola Deutschland created a new product for the German market using only ingredients left over from German food production at the time. After the war, the Coca Cola corporation regained control of the plant, formula and the trademarks to the new Fanta product.
2. Wreck of USS Arizona still leaking oil into Pearl Harbor
On 6 December 1941 the USS Arizona was fully loaded with nearly 1.5 million gallons of fuel in preparation for a scheduled trip from its base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to the mainland. It never made the trip, being destroyed the next day in the infamous surprise attack by bombers from the Imperial Japanese Navy. Despite the raging fires fed by the oil, around 500,000 gallons still lingers in the ship’s submerged wreckage and, over 70 years later, it is still seeping out into the harbour at a rate of 9 quarts (10 litres) per day. Despite environmental concerns, US government agencies are reluctant to perform extensive repairs to the Arizona due to its role as a war grave. The oil that still coats the surface of the water surrounding the ship is referred to as the ‘tears of the Arizona’.
3. Ship that survived Pearl Harbor sunk by a British nuclear-powered submarine 40 years later
The light cruiser USS Phoenix was launched in 1938 and was later based at Pearl Harbor. On the morning of 7 December 1941 she was anchored southeast of Ford Island when observers on board sighted the rising sun of Japan on aircraft coming in low and a few seconds later the ship’s guns took them under fire. The Phoenix escaped the surprise attack unharmed and operated in the Pacific for the rest of the war.
She was decommissioned in 1946 and sold to the Argentine Navy in 1951. In 1982 she was torpedoed and sunk by the British nuclear-powered submarine HMS Conqueror in the South Atlantic during the Falklands War. She had by then been renamed the General Belgrano.
4. Purple Hearts made in WW2 are still being issued to soldiers today
In early 1945 the US government, anticipating a land invasion of Japan, ordered a surge in the production of Purple Heart medals to cope with the mass casualties expected through to 1947. Over 1.5 million were produced for the war effort during WW2. The dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the subsequent Japanese surrender meant that they weren’t needed by that generation of soldiers – they were issued instead to their sons, grandsons and great-grandsons in the wars which followed in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan.
5. WW2’s last POW released after 55 years in captivity
Hungarian soldier Andras Toma was 19 years old when he was captured by the Red Army in the autumn of 1944. With Hungary allied to Germany during WW2, Toma spent his 20th birthday as a prisoner of war in a camp east of Leningrad, where Soviet medical records first mentioned him in January 1945. In 1947, when the camp closed, he was transferred to a psychiatric hospital where he stayed for the next 53 years.
As Toma knew barely any Russian and nobody at the hospital spoke Hungarian, he did not have a meaningful conversation with his captors in all that time. Furthermore, his admission to hospital removed him from the lists of prisoners of war, so he was lost to the Hungarian authorities and declared dead in 1954.
It wasn’t until a Czech linguist happened upon him that he was identified as Hungarian and repatriated in August 2000 at the age of 74. His remaining family was traced in his small home village and he moved in with his half-sister Anna who cared for him until his death in March 2004. He lived off his 55 years’ worth of army backpay, which the Hungarian government paid in full.
6. ABBA’s hottest singer
ABBA’s Frida Lyngstad was one of thousands of children who grew up in Scandinavia shunned and persecuted as Tyskerbarnas or ‘German children’, because they were the offspring of Norwegian mothers and occupying German soldier fathers.
Born in a small village in northern Norway in November 1945, Frida was the result of a liaison between her mother, Synni, and a German sergeant, Alfred Haase. Frida’s mother and grandmother were branded as traitors by their community and were forced to emigrate to Sweden in 1947, where Frida’s mother died of kidney failure a short time later at the age of 21.
Frida was brought up by her grandmother in Sweden believing that her father had died during the war on his way back to Germany as his ship was reported to have sunk. However, at the height of ABBA’s fame in 1977 a German teen magazine published Frida’s complete biography, where it was seen by her half-brother, Peter Haase, who asked his father if he had been in Frida’s village during the war. A few months later, Frida met her father in Stockholm for the first time.
Frida is now formally a German princess, having married a German prince of the former sovereign House of Reuss in 1992 (he died in 1999).
7. The anti-smoking campaign
German doctors were the first to identify the link between smoking and lung cancer, and it was Nazi Germany which led the first public anti-smoking campaign in modern history. The Nazi regime conducted much research on the effects of smoking on health and introduced measures such as banning smoking on public transport, regulating it in public places, limiting cigarette rations to the Wehrmacht, raising tobacco taxes, and imposing restrictions on tobacco advertising. It also coined the term “passive smoking” (“Passivrauchen“).
Germany’s anti-tobacco campaign was driven by Adolf Hitler’s personal distaste for tobacco. He had been a heavy smoker in his early life (smoking 25 to 40 cigarettes daily) but gave up the habit, concluding that it was a waste of money. He later viewed smoking as “decadent”. The German anti-smoking campaign collapsed along with the Third Reich in 1945 when American cigarette manufacturers quickly entered the German black market. Later, as part of the Marshall Plan, the US sent tobacco to Germany free of charge.
8. Nazi weather station in North America
The installation of an automatic weather station by a U-boat crew in Northern Labrador, Newfoundland in October 1943 was the only known armed German military operation on land in North America during WW2.
Weather Station Kurt, as it was known, was designed to counter the Allies’ advantage in accurately forecasting weather systems in the North Atlantic thanks to their network of weather stations in North America, Greenland and Iceland. It was one of 20 stations that the Germans deployed in Arctic regions and around the Barents Sea.
The mission to install the sophisticated meteorological equipment in Northern Labrador’s Martin Bay was a dangerous one, involving rowing it ashore from the U-Boat by rubber dinghy, carrying it ¼ of a mile inland and installing it by hand in a little over 24 hours, mostly in near darkness. The station was camouflaged, marked as the property of the non-existent ‘Canadian Meteor Service’ and surrounded with empty American cigarette packets to deceive anyone who chanced upon it.
It remained forgotten until 1977 when Peter Johnson, a geomorphologist, stumbled upon it and believed it to be a Canadian military installation. It was eventually recovered in 1981 and is now on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottowa.
9. Forest Swastika
For a few weeks every year in autumn and spring, the leaves on a patch of larch trees within a pine forest in Brandenburg, northeastern Germany would change colour. The yellow larch leaves would contrast with the deep green of the pines and create the distinct shape of a swastika. From the end of the war the ‘forest swastika’ went largely unnoticed until 1992, when the reunified German government ordered aerial surveys of all state-owned land. It is thought a forester may have invited local Hitler Youth members to plant the trees in commemoration of Adolf Hitler’s birthday. The Brandenburg state authorities, concerned that the site might become a place of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis, eventually obscured the design in 2000 with the judicious felling of a number of the larch trees.
10. The American ‘mile-a-minute’ vine still invading the Pacific
Bittervine (also known variously as ‘mile-a-minute’ and ‘American rope’) is a creeping perennial vine that reproduces rapidly in tropical climates. It can grow up to 27 millimetres a day and a single plant can cover over 25 square meters within a few months. In many of the Pacific Islands it is considered a noxious and invasive weed, and its presence there is largely thanks to the US Army in WW2 which introduced and cultivated it for camouflage. Once established, it spread at an alarming rate, damaging or killing other plants by cutting out their light or smothering them. It has led to serious problems with coconut, oil palm, banana, cacao and forestry crops.
Sources: Wikipedia and History News Network