When I was younger and taking my first baby steps into the world of Modern History I always imagined myself visiting Museums, old dusty Archives, rustling through piles of ancient documents and squelching through fields with a metal detector, I was perhaps even nieve enough to imagine I might one day get a job working in an archive, perhaps a Museum or I might dive headfirst so far into the History Knowledge hole I would ascend to the greatest of all Historian Jobs, being a Guest Star on Channel 4’s Time Team.
I never would have imagined that most of my life from that point on would involve sitting with my face buried into my hands while yet another tea drinking beardy man in a Cardigan tells me the fascinating story of how the Russians Strapped landmines to dogs and how ironic it was that the dogs immediately turned round and blew up the Russian Tanks. Oh how I laughed, the first 40 odd times.
It didn’t do to well for my character I must admit, I became somewhat loathing of my friends everytime they would mention to someone that I was into History. I would look over with a mixture of Fear, loathing and pure hatred and sure enough, there was the casual nod and that slow smile spreading across their face as they began “Well did you know….” and like the silly polite British person I was I would sit there and listen patently pretending this was the first time I’d heard the story.
It wasn’t always the Landmine dogs. Sometimes they would mix it up, I kept a tally. Sometimes it would be the American Pigeon Bomb, other times it was the Fritz X or the Incendiary Bat Bomb, a few times it was the Horton Ho 229 and ,on more occasions that I would like, a lecture on the Nazi Space exploration and the possibility that Germany could have launched a rocket to the moon in 1945 or had built a working UFO using advanced technology that even we ,70 years later, cannot replicate.
In short, every idiot with a collection of books thinks they are a Historian, every dumb ass who’s played Total War or any WW2 Shooter immediately thinks they know something and the second they learn you’re a Historical Enthusiast they just can’t wait to share what they’ve learned with you.
So with that in mind I’d like to present a list of just a few things everyone thinks is Factual that is actually compete bullshit. Enjoy.
1. Thomas Edison invented Electricity.
Because America likes to think it rules the world and invented everything I get this splashed a lot in my face, specially as a die hard Nicol Tesla fanboy, the great and powerful Thomas Edison, true American, who invented everything including Electricity to which without we would have nothing. heck even if you type “who invented electricity” into Google Thomas Edison just appears in giant bold letters as the first result, and as amazing as this would seem, it’s a lie.
Electricity cannot be invented, it already existed so it could only be discovered, a few like to point to Benjamin Franklin for his Kite experiment, but all he did was prove that lightning was made from Electricity and there is significant doubt if or not he actually did the experiment being that anyone who has attempted to re-create his experiment has found old Benjy would have been immediately killed if lightning had actually struck his kite.
Electricity was known to the Ancient Greeks around 600 BCE, about 2,400 years ago, who were able to generate static electricity by rubbing Amber against animal fur, ontop of that since the 1930’s scientists have been digging up clay pots with sheets of copper inside that work somewhat like Batteries, these have been found in Ancient Roman Cities as well as ruins of the former Persian Empire as well as several Egyptian ruins. These batteries were most likely used in place of “electric fish” such as the lamprey eel which was used in Ancient Egypt as a pain relief or as a very early defibrillator. The Romans also potentially could have invented a short use Lightbulb due to several Roman legionnaires accounts of “Pots of Zues’s Fire which lit the way” though there is no evidence to their existence.
By the time Edison was born; electrical generators, as well as the discovery of AC/DC current, had been known about for at least 100 years.He didn’t even invent the lightbulb a British chap named Joseph Swan invented it in 1850, Edison wouldn’t start working on his version until 1878, granted Edison’s was greatly improved over Swan’s the two sent lawyers at each other and eventually decided to go into business together to avoid the costly expense of suing each other.
2. People only use 10% of their Brains.
ahhh and if only we could tap into that other 90% we could all be super geniuses able to remember Pi to it’s 200th decimal point, do complex Math and problem solve faster than modern computers. Bullshit.
Despite it being the plot of several films including the classic Sci-Fi Flight of the Navigator, the hundreds of self-help books and Hippie-cult frauds and it even being a question in Trivial Pursuit the whole thing is utter nonsense.
Humans use all of their brains, but for different things at different times mostly unconscious thought like maintaining your Heart beat, your sense of balance and remembering to Breath and various other body controlling functions that you’re probably quite happy not to have to deal with, imagine living in a world where you had to constantly remind your Liver what it was supposed to be doing.
The 10% is supposedly conscious thought, actually it’s more like 30%, possibly higher, Mythbusters even did a show on this where they proved that humans use at least 15% of their brain while asleep, thus blowing the whole 10% bullshit out of the water. The Myth has been traced back to a few people; mostly various intellects from History such as Albert Einstein who always quirked that the rest of Humanity wasn’t using as much of their brain as he was.
There is a way to fully stimulate your brain and use all 100% of it, it’s called having a Seizure.
3. Einstein was a Mathematical Idiot at School
Let’s just admit it right now, Maths is insane, it’s complicated and can reduce even the strongest willed of men to tears, unless you’re some kind of genius of course and that genius could be you? After all, Albert Einstein was a true Genius of our time and he sucked at maths at school, he was so bad he thought Maths was something you could eat, his teacher commented that he would never amount to anything great in life. Boy didn’t he prove him wrong.
My School had these little feel good info sheets at the start of every text book, I guess it was there to make you feel better when you failed at something, good thing no-one paid attention to it because as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, it’s nonsense.
Einstein was a Mathematical prodigy, by the age of 12, Einstein was already self-teaching himself geometry and algebra. His parents subsequently bought him textbooks and, in one summer, he mastered both subjects, while coming up with his own proofs to prove the various mathematical theories he was studying, including his own way to prove the Pythagorean Theorem. by 13 he was learning calculus putting him about three years ahead of his classmates who were only just qualifying to learn that calculus was actually a thing.
No-one is quite sure how this rumor started or why people still cling to as a gospel but it first showed up in 1955 at a Ripley’s Believe it or not Convention. Einstein was still alive at the time and upon learning of their mistake he laughed so hard he never bothered to correct them.
4. Micheal Wittman was the greatest Tank commander of WWII
To which most of the people mentioned above smile slowly and put their hands on their hips and state with authority “of course not, it was Kurt Knispel right?” to which I slowly sigh and facepalm, not the point.
US General George Patton, Simo Häyhä the “White Death”, Vasily Zaytsev and his German counterpart Major Erwin Koing, Micheal Wittman, the entire Soviet “Elite” regiments from Siberia. As people all existed (aside from Koing) but as Legends they quite simply, don’t exist.
People always get very confused and a little butthurt at this one so I’ll explain them all one at a time.
There are three things that urk me about the film “Patton” firstly it’s suggestion that the failure of the US forces in the first active engagement of WWII (aside from the often forgotten exploits of Big Red One) at the Kasserine Pass was due to US Soldiers being under the command of British Generals, the idea that the Germans laughed at the idea of facing British troops but cowered behind their bunkers when they learned the Americans were on the way  and lastly is the overall portrayal of Patton himself.
Patton is ,and probably always will be, the man who led America to victory, using overwhelming firepower and dramatic tank charges to his advantage he ignored direct orders to hold position and instead orchestrated his own American-Brand Blitzkreig on the Germans, constantly thwarting them at each turn and terrifying the legendary Erwin Rommel.
A shame none of it is actually true. Patton was hated by his underlings and by his troops and while Patton did ‘shake up’ the demoralized US II Corps his actions placed considerable strain on the men, who would arrive on the battlefield exhausted, under equipped and running low on supplies while completely unable to retreat nor re-supply due to Pattons love of out-running his own supply lines and ending up miles behind enemy lines.
Thankfully his Adversary, a rather handsome chap by the name of Hermann Balck (not Rommel as the film claims) was given command of the German 1st army to which he described in a letter he wrote to von Rundstedt, “I have never been in command of such irregularly assembled and ill-equipped troops.” talking about the reserves of men considered too old, injured or insane to fight which was filling up his ranks as well as the badly maintained and often cheaply mass produced equipment they were supplied with. Balck never knew the name of his American counter-part, in fact it wasn’t until a report in 1945 did the Germans actually address Patton by name, even when talking about fighting Patton Balck stated his ability to slow the enemy advance had little to do with him or the troops he had been supplied “The fact that we have been able to straighten out the situation again and release the 3rd Panzergrenadier Division for the Northern front can only be attributed to the bad and hesitating command of the Americans and the French…” Later he said “Within my zone, the Americans never once exploited a success. They are constantly forced to stop to wait for their trucks to catch up. They seem to spend more time looting than fighting and are quick to retreat when challenged.” There was no “Patton Panic” in the German Army, they had already considered the British as the bigger threat and units facing the Americans were often undervalued and had to make do with what little could be spared.
So while the Legend of Patton is more a myth created by Propaganda, it is however a very clever one almost entirely orchestrated by the man himself. Consider yourself a US Citizen living in 1940’s America when the Balloon goes up, how do you feel about your friends and family being rushed off to another continent, to fight a war for a former enemy against a country who’s idea’s you actually agree with while every day the newspapers bring yet more horror and casualty reports. Most Americans were confused as to why they had to be involved in this war while Japan loomed over them, they considered the European theater to be a largely British Show and were none to in favor of sending people off to die for those slimy Red Coats.
What the Americans needed was a Hero and Patton gave them just that. A brave, smart looking, bad ass tank commander who led from the front, who gave outrageous speeches, who swore and who didn’t listen to the British “superiors”. The propaganda reels loved him and his image of smart looking professional american soldiers, it gave the Americans hope both at home and in the US Army, it made them feel like they were actually part of the war and fully capable of kicking some ass as opposed to just “helping out the limeys”.
And THAT is Patton’s true Legend
Simo Häyhä the “White Death”:
A legendary Finnish sniper who upon hearing of the war with Russia, left his farm, grabbed his trusty rifle and headed out into the woods. Using nothing but a bolt action rifle with ironsights Simo dispatched over 500 Soviet troops single handed, creating one of the biggest man hunts of the War as thousands of Soviet troops were committed to flushing him out, going as far as even setting the forest on fire, but they never found him.
One at this point may question the thought process going through a Soviet Generals mind when he commits thousands of troops to take down a lone sniper hiding out in a forest that apparently has no tactical advantage. Several facts are also omitted in the official story such as when did Simo start doing this, was it during the Finnish/Russian Winterwar or actually during the Second World war, what did Simo do between wars and did he turn around and start shooting Germans when Finland switched sides?
Supposedly he was only active during the winter war, finally getting hit in the face by a Soviet Explosive Bullet and only regaining conciousness once peace was declared, apparently doing nothing else despite Finland being at War with Russia almost a year later. Several other details are often omitted from the official story including exactly where Simo’s forest was however great detail is gone into the tactics he used and specifically the gun he carried.
On the opposing side the Russians do have numerous reports regarding Finnish Snipers and the problem they faced, but no one sniper is singled out and the only mention made of forests being set on fire is to act as a smoke screen to prevent Finnish snipers from harassing their troop movements. The locations given by the Soviets for these notorious sniper spots would require Simo to be in several places at once, often hundreds of miles apart.
While Simo “may” have certainly been an elite sniper his actual “kill count” is most likely a total fabrication created by attributing the credits of other snipers to Simo, much like our second famous sniper duo.
Vasily Zaytsev and Major Erwin Koing:
The Film enemy at the gates “historically” portrays the famous sniper duel between Vasily at Koing in the ruins of Stalingrad. The story goes that Vasily “the greatest sniper of all time” was causing so many problems for the Germans that they wouldn’t leave their trenches for fear of being snipped by him and was forced to deploy their own Sniper Elite, one Majoy Koing to route him out. The two came to blows in the ruins of an old shoe factory with Vasily pulling off a close victory when Koing mistook one of Vasily’s spotters for Vasily himself and popped his head up to confirm the kill.
Course as I suppose you’ve worked out by now this sniper duel never happened. The only record of this duel is a book Vasily wrote himself which has been looked over by a number of Historians as well as a number of Army Sniper vets who happily pointed out hundreds of tiny mistakes that show if Vasily even was a sniper, he was not a very good one.
There are no records of any Major Konig nor the sniper school he supposedly ran, plus the German Heer did not operate snipers as lone wolf units until well after Vasily’s supposed duel plus the German’s never considered any sniper as “elite” status nor was any Specific sniper priority shipped to Stalingrad.
Vasily himself may also be a bit of a show boater, during his exploits he claims hundreds of kills but mentions few other snipers other than his small group, his diaries are also full of inaccuracies not only regarding his local knowledge of Stalingrad but also simple things such as his claim he would operate mainly at Dusk as the sun was setting, in Stalingrad the German lines faced East, meaning if he was looking down at them the sun would be in his eyes.
Russia was exceptionally aggressive with their Snipers and deployed far more of them than any other faction of the war especially in Stalingrad where ,at one time, there was close to 300 Snipers operating, most of them untrained and unsupported, moving as lone wolves and scavenging food wherever they could.
Vasily is more likley the creation of Propaganda, the Soviet Unions desperate for People’s Hero’s to disguise the true reality of war. To them he was more than a sniper. He was a symbol of hope to the Russians. In a time when millions were being thrown to slaughter, he showed them that each and every man can make a huge difference on his own, and that each fighter had his value to the motherland.
If or not he actually did what he claimed remains a topic of debate.
In 1944 the British Armed forces land at Sword beach and Assaulted the City of Caen, after weeks of heavy fighting the British realize the “day one” objective is going to be a harder nut to crack than first anticipated. To try and make the job easier for themselves the 7th Armoured, equipped with their new Cromwell Tanks, flanks the city of Cean. However as they pause in the village of Villers-bocage they come face to face with Tank Ace Micheal Wittman. Armed in his own superior Tiger Tank he single handed defeated the British and secured himself a place among the Tank legends of History.
Or did he….
Quick, think of something else Wittman did to earn his Ace title…..
People get so caught up in the romanticism of this Myth they fail to notice the obvious holes every time the story is told. Wittman supposedly spots the British from a Hill, coming towards him and entering the Village, he immediately starts up his Tiger and ambushes a Convoy leaving the Village before hurtling into town. Now question yourself, if this is true, that convoy is loaded up with Ammunition and food supplies, it’s leaving town and going…where? If what Wittman claims is true it’s heading towards the German front lines with only two light tanks supporting it, secondly A massive Tiger Tank hurtles down a ancient French village street, destroys three Tanks, gets taken out by an AT gun hiding in a Shop and the British…run away.
The Legendary 7th Army who suffered thousands of losses in Both Africa and Italy ran away after the loss of three tanks? Really?
Buckle in Ladies, because the popular version of this story is quite simply the biggest horde of bullshit ever conceived.
Firstly it was not the Famous 7th Army Wittman faced but the 4th, secondly Wittman was not alone, he had around three other Tiger Tanks and Several Panzer IV’s. He planned his attack to come down on the southern end of the town, opposite where the British were preparing defences, a pretty sensible flank attack on Wittman’s part. His approach was heard by the convoy and the escorting Light Tanks moved to engaged Wittman in a tactic called “buttoning” unfortunately for them Wittman was not alone and the Lights were quickly dispatched. Hearing the sounds of gunfire several other Tanks start their engines, the main Vanguard of the British forces had already left and were probing the road ahead, what was left was reserve forces, tanks under repair or with injured crew.
What was available set off around the village, not thinking the Tigers would attempt to push through, but they did. In ignorance of everything learnt in Stalingrad Wittman drove his tanks into the Village. His tanks made good progress, taking the British off guard, but even as they outclassed almost anything the Brits had; the range made them vulnerable, within the first few minutes Wittman’s group had already lost a Tiger and a Panzer IV, as Wittman stormed down the main street he passed a British Tank crew sitting down to breakfast, quickly they mounted up and drove after him.
Wittman came across another British Medium but was able to take it down, as he emerged in-front of a bridge crossing into the north side of town he came face to face with a British heavy tank called a Churchill, the two opened fire but couldn’t damage one another. In a desperate gargle to his driver the Churchill commander ordered “reverse” but for some reason the Driver miss heard and the Churchill surged forward. Fearing that the Heavy was moving closer into range Wittman reversed and turned, just in time for the Second British Medium, known as a Cromwell Tank, to come into range.
The Cromwell was already loaded and managed to fire off two shots, putting a small gash along Wittman’s Turret, but not enough to penetrate. Wittman returned fire, the shot smacked the Cromwells frontal armour, bounced and sent the round through the main drive wheel. The force of the impact span the Cromwell around blocking off the street. Wittman held fire and allowed the Crew to bail unharmed but it cost him time, even more so when he now had to drive around the immobile Cromwell. By this time the other British forces in the area have been alerted, a small group who had witnessed the Cromwell shoot out grabbed their Six Pounder AT gun and hid in a shop, preparing to ambush Wittman as he drove passed. Wittman passed the tank and hurtled back down the street, as he passed the shop the hidden gun opened fire, penetrating the side armour and ripping off several drive wheels, as well as the tracks. Wittman and his crew were able to escape the Immobile Tiger and make an ,admirably heroic, escape back to the German front lines.
The British, now aware their sneak flank attack had been rumbled and that the Germans would be preparing defences ahead of them, pulled back, the Germans arrived the next day to re-take the village the the Micheal Wittman Myth was born.
While it was not the heroic charge often described it was impressive that a group of Tanks acting on impulse was able to exploit a major weakness in British battle planning and this battle did go onto become a focal point for the re-structuring how the Brits planned their Tank defences.
So why does this Myth exist, like everything else it’s a work of pure Propaganda, but not one aimed at the Allies, while the Germans took every opportunity to promote the idea their tanks were superior the Myth of Wittman was in truth an answer to the growing number of Tank Aces emerging from the Wehrmacht. The SS was supposed to represent the very elite of the German fighting machine, the idea that the regular German Army outperformed them was too embarrassing so it became common to artificially create “Tank Aces” by attributing the kills of the entire squad to one individual or by inflating kill scores by counting Trucks and AT guns as ‘Tank’ kills.
Regardless a total of twenty seven vehicles were destroyed that day including six Cromwells, one Sherman Firefly and three Stuarts, alternate theories to the stories include the first tiger to be knocked out in the attack was actually Wittman’s Tiger and to avoid embarrassment they claimed he had been commanding the second Tiger. Regardless if you believe or not, I think I’ve ranted enough about this topic.
The Soviet “Elite” regiments from Siberia:
Ahh Siberia, a cold harsh desert of endless winter where temperatures rarely rise above freezing, a place where only the hardest, most brave, most manly of men live. here is a picture of this harsh, desolate Russian region.
According to current historical wisdom, large numbers of veteran and well equipped Siberian divisions, and of course they are elite because they come from Siberia, were deployed protecting Russia’s eastern borders against a possible attack by Japan. They were then apparently transferred west sometime in 1941 just in time to have a decisive influence on the battle for Moscow and later Stalingrad. According to the same historical wisdom these divisions were released from October to November 1941, after Stalin had learned from his spy network in Japan, run by Richard Sorge, that the Japanese had no intention of attacking the USSR. Apparently by November 1941 these same Siberian divisions were being encountered all along the front protecting Moscow.
The following quote typifies the current common perception,
“The Siberians are coming! It was a cry that spread terror through the ranks of the German Wehrmacht in the winter of 1941. Since June 22, the Red Army had lost millions of dead, wounded and captured soldiers, while the Wehrmacht had advanced to the very gates of Moscow itself. Now, however, new armies seemed to be springing out of the Russian soil as if by magic as the Germans prepared their final thrust toward the Soviet capital. The ever distrustful Josef Stalin had primarily put his faith in the word of one man (Richard Sorge), and had ordered division after division of his armies in the Far East to be transported as quickly as possible to the west to blunt the German advance”.
Did this really happen?
The the 91st, 119th, 166th, 107th, 133rd and 178th Rifle Divisions attached to the 24th army were the only units coming from Siberia, these units were already in transit before Operation Barbarosa had began. The 91st and the 166th had been completely wiped out before the Germans had even reached Moscow and the remaining divisions were mere skeletons of their former selves. Of the divisions actually sent to Moscow (the 32nd, 93rd, 78th and 238th Rifle Divisions) only two had significant personal from Siberia.
So where exactly were these “Siberian units being encountered all across the Eastern front”? For this to even be remotely true there would have had to have been at least 20 units of rifles, not two.
Truth is it was the vast hordes of freshly recruited units from all across Russia, quickly conscripted then rushed to the front as a sheer weight of personnel, eventually halted the German advance, stagnating it until it was eventually overrun. The term ‘Siberian’ as well as ‘Guards’ or ‘Elite’ was often applied to newly formed regiments as a way of boosting moral and was rarely an indication of combat proficiency.
Oh Boy that was a lot of ranting, I did plan to do a lot of these but I think I’ve rambled enough for now.
In fact the US soldiers were extremely grateful for the experience passed to them by the more experienced British troops, so much so a British Field manual titled ‘how to be bombed’ showing troops how to prepare for and survive Artillery and Air bombardments was mandatory reading for US soldiers.
 Actually it was the other way round, the Germans considered Britain to be the bigger threat hence why British troops faced against 21 Panzer divisions while the Americans only faced 3
 Before the horrors of the Holocaust was discovered the Nazi Ideology enjoyed a great deal of support in the US
 If you’ve ever heard a Tiger Tank overturn it’s engine you’ll understand
 rapidly shooting with MG fire at the Tanks viewports and sights in order to blind it
 Note the famous propaganda video showing the performance of the Panther vs the M3Lee, rumour has it the Germans tried it first with a Sherman but were dumbstruck when the Sherman outperformed the Panther.
td;dr Thomas Eddison didn’t invent Electricity