Weird and wonderful true stories about World War II

Imperial War Museum releases bizarre list of myths and facts

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Weird, but true, stories about WWII

Stoned pigeons guiding bombs, German-eating sharks and a chocolate plot to kill Churchill.

They sound like something out of a wartime comedy film – but these were actually among the more weird plots thought up in a bid for victory.

See also: Missing World War II plane found in sea in Cornwall

See also: Woman foraging for seaweed on UK beach finds WWII mines

And you can find them in a new book called Weird War Two, from the ­Imperial War Museum.

Here are a few more gems:

1: The US military trained pigeons to sit inside bombs and steer them by pecking at a target on a screen. This unnerved them, so they were fed cannabis before the mission. The project was cancelled because it was so bird-brained.

Weird, but true, stories about WWII

2: Even in the countryside the blackout held hazards, and some farmers took to painting their cows to prevent car accidents.

Credits: Imperial War Museum

A farmer paints her black cows

3: The Germans created exploding chocolate bars, which they aimed to smuggle into a dining room used by Winston Churchill and his war cabinet. Churchill also had cigars sent from Cuba tested for poison. But they were fine.

4: No photograph of Hitler wearing glasses was allowed. In another ruse to disguise Hitler's shortsightedness, his speeches and official documents were written with a special largeprint typewriter with 12mm high characters.

Credits: Mirrorpix

Adolf Hitler hid his need of glasses

5: Britain's Ministry of Information pumped out false rumours via the Underground Propaganda Committee. It was the source of some pretty sneaky stuff, particularly those exaggerating our military strength as the German invasion loomed in 1940. The strangest was that the Australian government had supplied 200 sharks to roam the English Channel and eat any Germans who fell in.

6: Bizarre plots planned against Hitler included lacing his vegetables with female hormones to make him less aggressive, and driving him mad by dropping pornography on his bunker (he was supposedly very prudish). Given that he was taking a vast number of drugs, from cocaine to extract of Bulgarian peasants' faeces (for his chronic flatulence), these plots seem almost redundant.

7: Ever the multitasker, Churchill didn't let his love of long baths interrupt his workflow, even holding meetings from the tub.

When President Roosevelt visited Churchill's room during a stay at the White House, he discovered him pacing about naked after a bath, dictating. Churchill's deadpan response: 'You see, Mr President, I have nothing to hide from you.'

8: Soviet leader Josef Stalin was a huge fan of American cowboy movies. He used to criticise their capitalist ideology – then order another bunch.

Weird, but true, stories about WWII

Joseph Stalin loved a Western

But when he drunkenly declared at the end of one screening that John Wayne – an outspoken anti-communist – was a threat to the cause, he set in train an assassination. Fortunately they were cancelled.

Credits: Mirrorpix

Stalin planned to have John Wayne assassinated

9: As the Blitz took hold between September 1940 and May 1941, the sound of air raid sirens was an almost daily event. Many felt the mournful rising and falling wail was dampening morale and tried to come up with cheerier alternatives. The bishop of Chelmsford's suggestion was a 'gay cock-a-doodle-do' repeated six times.

10: A pipe that fires bullets was invented by Mr V Marten-Gwilliam to give plain clothes members of the Home Guard a "means of dealing with isolated enemy paratroopers in country districts". The gun could even be smoked like a real pipe, although you'd have to be pretty brave.

11: Paradogs accompanied D-Day troops dropped behind German lines, sniffing out mines, traps and troops.

Weird stories about WWII

Salvo the 'Paradog' completing a parachute jump

They were given two months' intensive training, including how to angle themselves in the air – "forepaws up and rear legs down". But understandably, on the day, some of the dogs had to be encouraged out of the plane with a two-pound piece of meat.

12: During the war two circus elephants, Kiri and Many, were used by the civil authorities in Hamburg to clear wreckage after air raids and they continued in this role in the immediate aftermath of the war.

Weird stories from WWII

Circus elephants Kiri and Many moving a wrecked car from a bombed out garage in Hamburg

13: In Boston, in the US, an experimental Rumor Clinic was set up. A network of 300 "morale wardens" tracked down "wild, damaging, morale-eroding stories" and the local newspaper printed corrections. So, for example, they were able to disprove the tale of the female ammunition worker whose head exploded when she went for a perm.

Weird stories from WWII

Weird War Two

Weird myths and legends around the world

Weird myths and legends around the world


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