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 ...
5The Nazis Had A Supervillain Arctic Base To Make Nukes ... And 11 Men Took It Out
Picture the scene: A small group of WWII Norwegian commandos (basically, Vikings with tommy guns) are skiing away from an Arctic Nazi base with 3,000 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:
The most impressive part? They managed to tow their balls all the way up there.
This sounds like some badass Kirk Douglas movie (in fact, it is), but it's exactly what happened during Operation Gunnerside in 1943. 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. The only way to get into Hitler's Arctic nuke factory was a Nazi-held bridge over a 660-foot ice gorge, because sometimes history sounds like shit that we just made up.
Anders Beer Wilse
It looked like this, but covered in snow and swastikas.
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.
Hallvard Straume/Wiki Commons
At which point he put them on and went, "Oh, shit, you guys aren't janitors."
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. Jesus. We know these were literally Nazis and the fate of the world was at stake, but that just feels like bullying now, Norway.
4Japan Was Building A Tesla-Inspired "Death Ray"
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."
Dickenson V. Alley
"Ooooh, are those tentacles?"
After famously inventing an earthquake machine, alternating current, and even drones, Tesla claimed in 1934 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 ... except for Japan, who took it seriously enough to give their scientists the dramatic sum of 1 million yen to build one of these things. 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.
"Samuels! Nooooooooooooooooo ... Hey, Samuels, can you stand over here?"
The prototype wasn't particularly cool-looking, either. It was just a magnetron (equipment mostly used for radars back then) and a 75-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.