How was I to handle the accounts of people no longer alive? Apart from letters and records, I approached family members. So far so good. Then Facebook led me to his daughter.
Gloria was in her nineties and living in Mexico. In our first conversation, Gloria proved to be a narrative treasure. She has a sharp mind and a gift for storytelling, with a keen eye for detail. She adored her father and held a complex portrait of him in her mind: he was caring and had a fierce temper, was generous and had high expectations for himself and his children.
Her father had left Barcelona in his twenties for opportunity. In New York he discovered he had a knack for management and equipment handling. Above all, Melchor was a family man. After the stock market crash forced him to return to work in the early s, he took a job that sent him back to Europe to manage operations there. When the provincial old city brought her to tears, her father consoled her.
But he also asked her to hang in there and try to acclimate to the place, in a way that suggested his own attitude to going undercover.
6 of the wildest top secret spy missions of World War II - Business Insider
I remember standing on the deck with a gentleman who was a correspondent for Paris. We were commenting on, How will we see the continent when we return? Our phone calls continued. I looked to other books that dealt with reframing memory and the public record.
The Secret History of World War II
Once he got involved, secret cables from Lisbon to Washington showed a new depth of insight about the cork business. He was providing information on a sensitive industry to U. Gloria absorbed this new information, which shifted some of her oldest memories. One involved a train ride with her father.
Later, when he told her of meeting a Cabinet member and getting his request granted, Gloria thought he was joking. Why would a top government official see this mid-level businessman? Now she knew. Connect to your existing Cracked account if you have one or create a new Cracked username. We're probably just a couple of decades away from the day when humanity collectively decides that World War II just didn't happen, that the whole thing was just too insane to be real.
We're pretty confident that if there is ever a war crazier than WWII, none of us will survive it. The best evidence of how batshit things got is that so many of the weirder stories just became footnotes in your history book. For instance, we bet that before today you had no idea that Picture the scene: A small group of WWII Norwegian commandos basically, Vikings with tommy guns are skiing away from an Arctic Nazi base with 3, pissed-off German soldiers on their tails. Why are the Nazis so angry? Because the Norwegians just set off explosive charges inside the aforementioned base, ruining Germany's chances of producing nuclear weapons.
Yep, Adolf Hitler could have had some nukes to play with if it wasn't for these guys:.
This sounds like some badass Kirk Douglas movie in fact, it is , but it's exactly what happened during Operation Gunnerside in When the Germans rudely came to crash on Norway's couch in the early '40s, they took over a factory up in Telemark that produced heavy water -- aka, exactly the thing they needed to make plutonium.
The Allies, realizing that "Nazis with ingredients for an atom bomb" was a somewhat undesirable situation, sent 30 British Army officers to sabotage the plant, but a combination of awful weather conditions and the Gestapo killed the entire group. So, the Allies sent something even more deadly than 30 Brits: 11 Norwegians. As if the mission wasn't insane enough, the Germans then decided to beef up the plant's defenses, sprinkling mines, floodlights, and guards all over the place. Anders Beer Wilse. Or at least the Germans thought that was the only way in -- the Norwegians simply climbed down the supposedly un-scalable ice gorge and snuck into the factory.
They laid the explosives and were about to light the fuse and escape, but and none of this is a joke the base's Norwegian caretaker, whom they were holding at gunpoint, announced he'd lost his glasses and refused to leave until they were found. Naturally, the commandos put the "stop Hitler from getting the bomb" plan on hold until they'd located gramps' glasses. Not only did the commandos complete their mission without casualties they released the caretaker and another civilian as soon as the fuses were lit and get medals up their asses, one of them and three other Norwegians actually came back later to sink the ferry the Germans were trying to use to evacuate the heavy water they already had.
We know these were literally Nazis and the fate of the world was at stake, but that just feels like bullying now, Norway. Dickenson V. The revolutionary ideas of Nikola Tesla have inspired electric car manufacturers, awesome T-shirts , and the "revolutionary" ideas of Thomas Edison. What you might not know is that Tesla also caused WWII-era Japan to aspire to even higher levels of batshit insanity when he uttered two little words: "death" and "ray.
After famously inventing an earthquake machine , alternating current, and even drones , Tesla claimed in that he had a "death beam" that could wipe out entire armies. This was never proven, and most of the world didn't seem to take the idea very seriously Future Nobel Prize winner Sin-Itiro Tomonaga was involved in the appropriately titled "Project Power," which by the end of the war had produced a legit death-ray prototype capable of killing at a distance of up to half a mile.
The catch: The target had to stand perfectly still for five to 10 minutes, so this doomsday device would have been effective only against the extremely lazy. The prototype wasn't particularly cool-looking, either. It was just a magnetron equipment mostly used for radars back then and a foot mirror, which is generally not something you'd try to haul to a battlefield.
Still, it was a work in progress, and it did work -- Japan's mad scientists successfully tested it against tied-up rabbits, monkeys, and marmots , and even managed to use it to stop a motor if the hood was up. One of the experimenters tested it on himself for a few seconds and felt dizzy and fatigued for the next 24 hours.
Presumably, he grew into a giant and stomped Tokyo after that. Japan never got a chance to whip out their death ray during battle. We have no idea what happened to the prototype some say they threw it into a lake , but we can only hope some American soldier snuck it home and used it to cook hamburgers from a mile away on the Fourth of July.
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Germany's biologists didn't just sit around comparing beards in WWII; they actually figured out how to make all sorts of bioweapons. The fact that they didn't use any is all thanks to one individual who single-handedly threw a wrench in this Nazi super-plot. This guy:. Perhaps we should explain. In , a high-ranking Nazi scientist recommended, "America must be attacked simultaneously with various human and animal epidemic pathogens as well as plant pests.
The Nazis had already carried out a series of bizarre insect-related tests, at one point even toying with the idea of releasing up to 40 million weaponized potato beetles over England's crops -- there's an alternate reality where "Beatlemania" refers to the time half of Britain starved because of Nazi bugs.
The scientists also learned how to weaponize a whole bunch of human diseases, including typhoid, cholera, and, oh, freaking anthrax. The ingenious synthetic medium they invented to keep the diseases dangerous for weeks was considered an "outstanding" read: terrifying achievement by the American scientists who raided Nazi laboratories after the war.
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So why didn't they use all this stuff? Because the boss-man didn't like it. Early in the war, Hitler issued an obscure order that said there could be no offensive biological weapons research. Nazi scientists basically ignored that order and did it anyway, but Hitler refused to change his mind when he was informed that he now had WMDs.
Theories about why he did that abound: Maybe it's because he had bad experiences with bioweapons during WWI, or because he considered science in general an elaborate Jewish plot , or because he was high on cocaine and bull semen around this time. Probably a combination of all three. Still, you would think selling Hitler on the "wipe out America tonight" idea would be an easy task, but nope; he didn't budge. The moral of this story: If you want to take over Europe, don't be a paranoid anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist with an affinity for cocaine-bull-semen speedballs, kids. On Dec. The residents of Niihau, the smallest main island of Hawaii, treated Shigenori exactly the way you'd expect cartoon versions of Hawaiians to treat an enemy combatant: by feeding him breakfast and throwing a big luau for him.
To be fair, they had no idea the U. Yoshio Harada, a natural-born American citizen of Japanese ancestry, was brought in to translate for Shigenori, so he did exactly that Word of the attacks reached the island anyway, at which point the situation turned rather awkward -- Shigenori demanded that the guy who pulled his ass out of the wreckage, Howell Kaleohano, return some Japanese documents he'd grabbed from the plane.
Kaleohano declined, presumably because toilet paper was a rare commodity on the island.