The Great War: 74 World War 1 Facts, Heroes and Stories

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The Russians defending Osowiec Fortress in WW1 were attacked by Germans using poisoned gases. The Russians that survived, counter-attacked (covered in blood) shocking the Germans, and making them flee. This was later dubbed "The attack of the dead men"

52. The direct cause of World War 1 was Archduke Ferdinand of Austria's assassination. What many people don't know is that the initial assassination attempt failed when the bomb blew up the car behind Ferdinand's. The only reason he was assassinated is because one of the terrorists named Gavrilo Princip (a Serbian organization called the Black Hand) stopped to buy a sandwich and saw Ferdinand in the store.

53. In WW1 a handful of journalists risked their lives to report on the realities of war. As the Government sought to control the flow of information from the frontline at the start of the war, journalists were banned

54. In 1917, during World War 1, Germans built a 25-foot-tall armor-plated fake tree with a soldier sitting in it to spy on Allied forces. The Germans waited until nightfall and cut down one of the real trees to replace it with the fake one, all while firing artillery so that the British forces wouldn't hear the axes.

55. Ten French villages were destroyed during World War 1 and deemed uninhabitable afterwards. Today, these ten villages are known as “villages that died for France.”

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56Harry Houdini

During World War 1, Magician Harry Houdini took 1 year off performing to help sell war bonds and teach American soldiers how to escape from German handcuffs.

57. When the trench gun was introduced by the U.S. during World War 1, the German Government issued a diplomatic protest claiming that the shotgun was prohibited by the law of war.

58. Christopher Robin was a real boy who befriended Winnie, a black bear at the London Zoo, named after Winnipeg, Canada, by a Canadian soldier who bought a real bear cub and took him to Europe during WW1.

59. The American Army during WWI employed champion Skeet Shooters to protect the trenches by shooting enemy grenades out of midair and deflecting them

60. During WWI, the word "f*ck" was used to often, it was considered noteworthy when someone didn't use it. E.g., "Get your f*cking rifles," was considered routine, whereas "Get your rifles," implied urgency and danger.

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61Dry day

When the US navy banned alcohol on ships in July 1914, they held one last massive party and invited ships from several nations to help drink the last of the booze. Many of the participants in the party would become enemies weeks later when WWI broke out.

62. The commander of the first "Flamethrower unit" used in WW1 named "Bernhard" and that before the war he was a firefighter.

63. In 1914, British WWI soldier Thomas Hughes tossed a beer bottle with a letter to his wife into the English Channel. He was killed two days later. In 1999, a fisherman dredged up the bottle in the River Thames. Although Hughes' wife had died in 1979, it was delivered to his 86-year old daughter.

64. In the US being clean shaven became popular after troops returned as heroes from WWI they had been required to shave so gas masks would securely fit.

65. In WWI, over 600 German soldiers burned to death at Fort Douaumont because someone tried to heat up coffee with flamethrower-fuel, resulting in a fire that spread to the ammunition

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66Marcelino Serna

The most decorated American WWI veteran from Texas was an undocumented Mexican immigrant named Marcelino Serna. He was also the first Hispanic to be awarded the Distinguished Service Cross

67. The most decorated enlisted man in the British Army in WWI was a conscientious objector who never fired a single shot. He was a stretcher bearer who won the Victoria cross for charging into fire unarmed and carrying out 3 wounded men on his back

68. A family went into hiding from Soviets in Siberia after WWI. And weren't found for over 40 years, unaware of WWII, the space race, or plastic bags

69. An American soldier named Henry Gunther was killed 60 seconds before the WWI Armistice came into effect after he charged and shot at a German roadblock. The Germans knew about the coming peace and tried to wave him off.

70. The British slang for sausages is "Banger" because of WWI food shortages. Meat shortages forced sausages to be made with high water content, causing them to burst when being cooked, hence the name.

71Henry Johnson

Henry Johnson, a WWI veteran, saved his friend from over 20 German soldiers by himself by using his rifle as a club and then proceeding to attack the rest with his bolo knife.

72. Harry S. Truman was so nearsighted, that he cheated and memorized the army's eye chart to be enlisted in WWI.

73. During WWI, Dominic "Fats" McCarthy was awarded the Victoria Cross after he, virtually unaided, killed 22 Germans, captured 5 machine guns, 50 prisoners, and half a kilometer of the German front. When it was over even the prisoners he'd captured patted him on the back for what he'd done.

74. After WWI, the US began forced sterilization to prevent 'imbeciles' and 'promiscuous' individuals from having children in order to clean up the gene pool


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