Tag Archives: WWII


11 Historical Misconceptions!

1.Was the Red Square really named after the Red Army?


Red Square in Moscow

In contrast with the widely prevalent misconception, the Red Square(Krásnaya Plóshchad), was called Red Square long before the October Revolution(which actually happened in November) started in Moscow.

2.Was the Star of David really an ancient Jewish symbol?


Hexagram on the  gateway to Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi, built in 16.th century

The Star of David, generally recognized symbol of Judaism, has become the symbol of Judaism as we know it only recently. Only after the end of 17.th century, the Jews started to use the hexagram as a symbol of their faith and identity. During much of the history, there was no special connection between the hexagram and Judaism, it was used all over the world as one of the many other magical symbols.

3.Did Einstein get his Nobel Prize for the Teory of Relativity?

Albert Einstein did not get his Nobel Prize in Physics of 1921 for his famous Theory of Relativity, first published in 1905, but especially for his works about the photoelectric effect.


Albert Einstein

By the way, he didn’t acquire his prize in 1921, but rather during the ceremony which took place one year later, together with Danish physicist Niels Bohr, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics 1922.

4.Did Hitler really declare war to England and France?

When hitler attacked Poland on the 1.st of September, he hoped to the last moment that the Allies would tolerate his campaign in the same manner as they did after the remilitarization of the Rhineland(1936), the annexation of Austria(1938), and the annexation of Czechoslovakia(1939). Although the Nazis calculated with the possibility of war with England and France, they generally thought that the invasion of Poland would only lead to another diplomatic crisis.


German Invasion to Poland

After Hitler continued the military campaign on 3.rd of September 1939, England and France declared war on Germany. The other countries joined as follows: Australia and Morocco on 5.th of September, Iraq on 6.th of September, South Africa on 8.th of September and Canada on 10.th of September

5.Were the Bagpipes really invented in Scotland?

Bagpipes don’t orginally come from Scotland, they were already known in the ancient Greece. People also used musical instruments similar to bagpipe in ancient Persia, China and Rome(as ”Tibia Utricularis”). In the Middle Ages, they were known as ”Cornemuse” in France, ”Cornamusa” in Italy, and ”Sackpfeife” in Germany.


Man playing bagpipes(17.th century, Dutch Republic)

They are even mentioned in the Bible: “that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.”(Daniel 3:5)

According to available evidence, bagpipes were brought to the island of Great Britain by ancient Romans, where they have become very popular musical instrument, used to the present day. But the Scots never invented them.

6.Did human ancestors really live in caves?

Because a lot of evidence about the human ancestors comes from caves, it often makes us think that majority of these so-called ”cavemen” actually lived in caves during much of their lifetime. In reality, caves served only as temporary habitats for prehistoric humans.


Artistic depiction of a prehistoric human camp.

First people lived, hunted, worked and slept mostly on open air, and inhabited caves only during the harshest of winters. Due to nomadic lifestyle of our ancestors, they couldn’t use the caves as permanent dwellings, but only as night shelters during their travels.

7.Were the Canary Islands really named after Canary Birds?


Map of the Spanish Canary Islands(Islas Canarias)

Name of the Canary Islands was doesn’t come from the Canary birds, in fact, opposite is true. The name ”Canary Islands” is derived from the Latin name ”Islas Canarias”, which means ”The Islands of Dogs”. According to Roman historians, the Canary Islands have been named that way because they contained ”vast amounts of dogs of large size”.

8.Did Romans really kill christians in the Coloseum?

Although many novels, theatrical plays and folktales (such as ”Androcles and the Lion”) suggest otherwise, Coloseum was never used for throwing the Christians to the lions or similar hungry beasts.


Christian martyrs in Collosseum(Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1883)

Christians, who died in ancient Rome as martyrs, were never executed by imperial authorities, but rather by authorities of local community on a sporadic basis. During Roman Imperial period, only dangerous criminals, murderers and bandits were regularly executed in the arena as part of a unforgettable public spectacle.

9.Was the sinking of Lusitania really an act of terrorism?

On 7.th of May 1915, RMS Lusitania, world’s largest ship at the time, was torpedoad by a German U-Boat. In following minutes, more than 1000 passengers drowned in the sea, including 128 citizens of the United States. The sinking, often interpreted as an act of terrorism, strongly influenced the decision by the US to declare war on Germany in April 1917.

File:Bundesarchiv DVM 10 Bild-23-61-17, Untergang der "Lusitania".jpg

Sinking of RMS Lusitania(1915 painting)

Contrary to American propaganda during the First World War, Lusitania was not completely a civil vessel. During its final trip, RMS Lusitania was allegedly loaded with large amount of military ammunition. Its unusually fast sinking was probably caused by violent explosions of dynamite, which was being transported by the ship at the time. For that, it should have been regarded as a military ship according to the international law.

10.Did Martin Luther really nail his 95 theses to church door?

‘Only few pillars of the Western education seem as solid as the nailing of Martin Luther’s 95 theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. However, it’s very possible that it didn’t happen the way we all have been taught it did.


Martin Luther(1526)

According to available evidence, this memorable event did never happen. There were no eyewitnesses, and even Martin Luther himself never said anything about him nailing his theses to the church door. Of course, Luther did publish his 95 theses in year 1517. However, they were not hung on the church door, but rather handed out straight to the bishop of Brandenburg.

11.Was the Pompeii really buried in lava?

Contrary to popular belief, ancient Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were never buried under the hot lava, but rather under the volcanic ash and pyroclastic material from the Mount Vesuvius.


79 explosion of Vesuvius(artistic depiction)

Inhabitants of the cities didn’t die from the direct volcanic explosion, but instead they suffocated from the sheer amounts of volcanic ash and toxic gases released before the pyroclastic eruption itself.



4 Deadliest Chemical Weapons

During the World War I, a new, deadly type of weapon was used for the first time; toxic gas. Considered uncivilised prior to the war, the development and military usage of poisonous gas grenades was soon called for by the demands of both sides to find a new way to overcome the stalemate of unforeseen trench warfare.

First used at the Second Battle of Ypres on 22 April 1915, cylinders filled with toxic gas soon became one of the most devastating and effective weapons used in the entire Great War, killing more than 90,000 soldiers and injuring about 1.25 million. In this article, we are going to explore the 4 of most deadly chemical weapons ever conceived, their history, usage, and effects on the human beings.

4.Mustard Gas(Yperite)

While Germans were releasing the mustard gas in year 1917 near the Belgian city of Ypres for the first time, chemist Frederic Guthrie was most likely turning in his grave. In year 1860, this British professor discovered the mustard gas, and also experienced its toxic effects first-hand for the first time. 57 years later, after its first military usage at Ypres, it got its infamous nickname, Yperite.

In the beginning, Germans planned to use the mustard gas only as a paralyzing agent. However, they soon found out, that when in sufficient concentrations, this gas could be easily lethal to the majority of the enemy soldiers.


Soldiers after the mustard gas attack

Due to its dangerous properties, mustard gas soon became a popular chemical weapon, used in WWII, during the North Yemen Civil War, and even by Saddam Husein in year 1988. Even 150 years after its discovery, antidote is still to be discovered.

Pure mustard gas is colourless, oily liquid at room temperature. When used in its impure form, as warfare agent, it is usually green-brown in color and has an specific odor resembling mustard or garlic, hence the name. Yperite fumes are more than 6 times heavier than air, staying near the ground for several hours, effectively filling and contaminating enemy’s trenches, and killing everyone without proper protection.


Mustard gas shells

Lethal dose for an adult man weighing 160 lbs is approximately 7,5 g of liquid mustard gas, when in contact with his skin for several minutes. However, when used in its gaseous form, lethality greatly depends on its concentration and on the length of exposure. Gas mask is usually not enough to be protected from this gas; it can easily penetrate the skin and kill the victim from inside. It easily passes through most of the clothes, shoes or other materials. For instance, standard rubber gloves could protect the skin for only about ten minutes.

4 or 6 hours after exposure, burning sensation appears in the affected areas, followed by reddening of the skin. After next 16 hours, large blisters appear on the affected skin, subsequently causing severe scarring and sometimes even necrosis. If the eyes were affected, temporary or permanent blindness typically occurs after few days.


Soldier with mustard gas burns

When inhaled, first symptoms start to manifest themselves after several hours, starting with chest pain, bloody coughing and vomiting, followed by muscle spasms. Death usually occurs within 3 days, caused either by lung edema or heart failure.


In year 1812, 22-year old British amateur chemist John Davy syntetized the phosgene gas for the first time. However, it didn’t contain any phosphorus, its name was derived from greek words phos(light) and gennesis(birth). John Davy probably assumed that his invention would be used in a more sensible way, however, on 9.th of December, 88 tons of phosgene were released during the trench warfare in France, killing 69 men and seriously injuring more then 1,200.


U.S. Army phosgene identification poster(WWII)

Germans were satisfied by the results, so they soon started using grenades filled by phosgene in combat. It accounts for more than 60% of all deaths caused by the chemical warfare during the First World War, more than chlorine and mustard gas combined.

During the Second World War, most soldiers were well-prepared for the possible use of this deadly gas, so the casualties were nowhere that high. However, phosgene-filled grenades used during the 1942 Battle of Kerch by Nazi Germany allegedly injured at least 10,000 Soviet soldiers.


British casualties after German phosgene attack

Which deadly properties does this gas possess? At low temperatures, it is a colourless liquid. However, when heated to more than 8 degrees celsius, it evaporates quickly. Its odor has been often described by the survivors as pleasant, similar to newly mown hay or wet grass. After release, it contaminates the area for about 10 minutes, double the time in the winter. When compared to chlorine, phosgene has a major advantage; first symptoms start to manifest themselves after much longer time period, usually after more than five minutes, allowing more phosgene to be inhaled.

After one inhales high concentrations of this lethal gas, his chances of survival are very mild. After few minutes, he is likely to die of suffocation, because phosgene aggresively disrupts the blood-air barrier in the lungs.


Australian soldiers wearing gas masks(WWI)

After inhaling less concentrated phosgene, you might be little bit better off. One hour after exposure, first symptoms include strong burning sensation in pharynx and trachea, severe headache and vomiting, followed by pulmonary edema(swelling and fluid buildup), which often leads to suffocation.

To this day, phosgene remains one of the most dangerous chemical weapons in the world. Although not as deadly as sarin or nerve gas, it is very easy to manufacture; no wonder it’s often used during terrorist attacks. Homemade phosgene grenade can be easily created by exposing a bottle of chloroform to UV-light source for a few days.


If previous two chemicals weren’t dangerous enough, here comes the sarin, often known as the most powerful of all nerve agents.

Sarin was developed back in 1938 by a group of 4 German scientists, Scharder, Ambros, Rudiger and van der Linde, during their research of pesticides. During the WWII, this deadly gas was first used by the Nazi Germany in June 1942. At the end of the war, Germany allegedly possessed more than 10 tons of sarin.


Japanese firemen decontaminating the Tokyo subway after sarin attack

However, it is most famous for being used during the 1995 terrorist attack on the Tokio subway by a Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo, killing 13 people and allegedly injuring more than 5,000. It was also used back in August 2013 by al-Assad’s forces in Ghouta, Syria, killing more than 1,700 people.

Sarin belongs to the group of nerve gasses, the deadliest of all toxic gasses used in chemical warfare. It is highly toxic; a single drop of sarin the size of the head of a pin is enough to kill an adult human. In addition, most of the victims usually die few minutes after contamination.

It usually enters the organism via respiration, but it can also penetrate the skin or be ingested. In home temperature, sarin is a colourless liquid without significant odor, similar to water. However, when exposed to higher temperatures, it starts to evaporate, being still odorless. After release, it often remains deadly for more than 24 hours.


Missile filled with sarin containers

Immediately after exposure, first symptoms include strong headaches, increased salivation and lacrimation(secretion of tears), followed by gradual paralysis of the muscles. Death is caused by asphyxiation or heart failure.

According to some sources, Sarin is 500 times more deadly than kyanide, with its lethal dose being only about 800 micrograms. Only 5 tons of sarin, obiviously properly dosed, would be enough to wipe out entire humanity.

1.Agent Orange

This mixture of two herbicides, most famous for its usage in Vietnam War, is not a chemical weapon in the true sense of the word. It was discovered in year 1943 by American botanic Arthur Galston. In year 1951, further research started by the scientific team in the military base of Detrick, Maryland.


Barrel of ”Agent Orange”

During the War of Vietnam, it was widely used for deforestation of the large areas covered by thick jungle, to enable easier and more effective bombing of enemy bases and supply routes. Although designed as herbicide, the Agent Orange also contained large amounts of dioxin, a highly toxic compound, making it one of the most deadly chemical weapons ever deployed.

In years 1962-1971, military operation with codenames ”Ranch Hand” or ”Trail Dust” took place in Southern Vietnam. During this operation, jungles in the region were heavily showered by this herbicide, primarily in the areas of Mekong delta. Mixture was storaged in orange barrels, hence the name ”Agent Orange”. During the operation, more than 20 million gallons of this dangerous chemical were used, destroying large areas of jungle, contaminating air, water and food sources.


Vietnamese babies born with severe birth defects

In high concentrations, dioxin causes severe inflammation of skin, lungs and mucous tissues, sometimes resulting in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary edema, or even death, however, it also affects eyes, liver and kidneys. It is also highly effective carcinogen, known for causing laryngeal and lung cancer.

It is estimated, that the usage of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War led to more than 400,000 people being killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with mild to severe birth defects as a result of contamination. Agent Orange alone killed 10 times more people than all other chemical weapons combined.