Mental Floss

Common Misconceptions About World War II

Ellen Gutoskey
Members of a U.S. reconnaissance squadron in Italy in April 1945.
Members of a U.S. reconnaissance squadron in Italy in April 1945. / Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images

As the story goes, German troops rolled their tanks into Poland in September 1939 and were eventually met by Polish soldiers on horseback. This matchup is often mentioned as a way to illustrate just how ill-prepared Poland was to defend itself against Germany’s high-tech military prowess. But while there were Polish soldiers on horses and German soldiers in tanks at the time, it wasn’t exactly the animal-versus-machine face-off most people picture.

In this episode of Misconceptions, Mental Floss’s Justin Dodd is sharing what really happened at that battle—and also covering several other stories from World War II that you might think you know better than you do. Did kamikaze pilots really volunteer? Did the U.S. really declare war against the Axis powers directly after Pearl Harbor? And did the Polish army really have a bear in the ranks? (For that last one: Yes, they did. His name was Wojtek.)

Press play below to learn all the details about those queries and more.

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