World War II was a hell of a time. Ask your grandpa: He'll tell you all about the solemn, grim-faced, gritty reality of the whole thing until you become grizzled by proxy. Now, we're not going to sit here and say your grandpa is full of crap (the guy could probably still gut us with a can opener). We're just saying that maybe some of the ways we picture WWII looking -- all razor-jawed men charging through the mud in black and white -- isn't entirely accurate. Because we know for a fact that at least some of the soldiers were carrying floppy dong-shaped rifles into battle, and those air aces had the most fabulous planes ...
#13. War Is No Excuse for Not Looking Pretty ...
You've seen that plane before, right? That, or one like it. It's the kind of thing we automatically think of when we talk about WWII flying aces: a grim-faced, begoggled young man striking a dashing figure as he mounts his coal-gray plane to do aerial battle with sinister forces. Now, let's colorize the photo:
And run it through an Elton John filter.
That is substantially more fabulous than we pictured it.
That is indeed a gentle pink WWII fighter plane. And it is not a fluke: Some fighter groups were so specialized that they only operated during certain times of day. The lovely pink planes of the RAF 16th Squadron were one such unit: Near invisible at both sunset and sunrise, the pinks were able to fly over Nazi lines and take valuable photos of enemy units. Presumably so they could post them on their blogs with absolutely scathing critiques of their outfits.
Ah, but we shouldn't make fun. Not because that's actually a clever tactic, or because their pilots were easily 10 times the men we'll ever be, but because we'll run out of jokes before we get to the really ridiculous war planes ...
#12. Look, in the Sky! It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's ... an Ice Cream Truck?
Well, that's some weird camouflage ...
Assembly planes, or Judas goats, worked like NASCAR pace cars: They were brightly colored so everyone in formation could see them and use them as markers to align themselves with. Or maybe their parent planes just didn't pay enough attention to them when they were growing up ...
It's like a hockey goalie wrapped in a Twister mat.
If you're going to fight fascism, why not do it with style?
Hey, kids, look! Up in the sky, it's the Wonder Bread plane! And what's that it's dropping from its underbelly -- why, Wonder Bread, of course! Let's all run toward the Wonderful Wondrous Wonder Bread Canisters, totally heedless of the integrity of our limbs!
"This leveling of your city was brought to you by Fruit Stripe Gum. Fruit Stripe: Die in fire."
#11. The Nazis Attack ... Los Angeles?
Via Rare Newspapers
That's not one of those novelty newspapers you can pay two dollars to print out and have read "[Your Name] Stops All War With Unreasonably Large Schlong." That was a real issue of the Los Angeles Examiner, and even a somewhat accurate headline. Here's the actual "attack":
Anyone else now have the 20th Century Fox theme in their head?
Wait, what? Were the aliens from Close Encounters part of the Axis back in the day? What are we looking at here, precisely? The answer is obvious: We don't know.
See, after the Japanese caught the U.S. asleep with our hands firmly wedged in our trousers over at Pearl Harbor, America was extra vigilant for the next imperial attack. In the early hours of February 25, 1942, unidentified flying objects were seen in the nighttime sky above LA. Instead of wondering at the infinite possibilities of the cosmos, men did what men did back then: They blew the shit out of it first, and asked questions later. And even then, those questions were just variants of "Is there any way we can blow some more shit out of that thing?" When the UFOs made their appearance, search lights opened up and AA fire caused "the air over Los Angeles to erupt like a volcano." Special-edition newspapers the next day spoke of enemy craft being shot down, but nobody knows exactly what happened there -- officials, as usual, blame weather balloons.
"Help! It's got lips!"
That's it. They've caused enough trouble: We're declaring war on weather balloons.
#10. Plane Crashes Are Inexplicably More Dramatic Than You Think
Real plane crashes don't look like Hollywood special effects, right?
They're way, way crazier.
The above picture shows the B-24L Stevonovitch II of the 464th Bomber Group. It was hit by German anti-aircraft fire on April 10, 1945. And to get this shot -- the exact moment when a shell bursts and severs the wing of an airplane, but before that wing fully snaps off and flies away -- the photographer had to have been some sort of psychic mutant, or else he was the guy who blew the wing off. This is one of the more famous aerial disaster images, but not the craziest:
"Get in closer! I'm gonna try to light my cigar."
Jesus! We'd make fun of friggin' Michael Bay if he put that veritable river of fire coming out of a plane in a Transformers movie.
That's the engine down at the bottom, in mid-explosion.
"Maybe if we hit the throttle we can catch up with our own engine. Johnson, when we get close, I'll need you to reach out the window and try to grab it."
"Do you really think that'll work, Sarge?"
"Hell no, son! But if you're gonna die, you may as well die crazy."
#9. A Tragedy, or a Cuddlefest?
Victims of a gas attack? Nope, just Official Nappy Times during the blitz. When the Axis bombing raids flew over London, the unflappable Brits just grabbed their binkies and their upper lip starch and headed down into the subways to sleep how we always suspected British people slept -- in a giant, well-mannered pile. Seriously, look at the guy in front: He doesn't even take his derby off in the subway, in the middle of a bombing raid ... to sleep.
#8. Watch Out for the Potholes
And here's why everybody in the above photo was napping in the subway, and not on other forms of public transportation. This wasn't a sinkhole or anything; it was a bomb crater right in the center of a London street after an October 14, 1940 attack. During blackout conditions, the bus driver didn't see the giant hole (wait, did the buses put their lights out, too? And they still tried to make their stops?!) and he crashed right into it.
Via Time & Life / Getty
"Ladies and gentlemen, we're experiencing some slight turb- wait, do buses experience turbulence?"
#7. Hazmat Babies
What is this?
1. The BioShock Saturday morning spinoff, Lil' Big Daddies.
2. Space babies.
3. Just some prepared infants.
The correct answer is No. 3: Gas masks don't fit babies, and yet, as our tragically ill-advised research has confirmed, babies are not immune to airborne poisons. So special devices were designed to protect infants in the event of an attack, and thanks to classical conditioning gone awry, now none of these kids can fall asleep unless they smell mustard gas.