21 Of The Biggest Misconceptions About World War II

Published October 25, 2016
Updated March 25, 2019

From the 400,000 Axis soldiers on American shores to the real reason the Japanese surrendered, these World War II myths are sure to surprise.

World War Ii Myths Soldiers
Pile Of Bones
Nanjing Massacre
German Prisoners
21 Of The Biggest Misconceptions About World War II
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So ingrained is the widely accepted narrative of World War II that we can recount the conflict's history in a short series of mere phrases: Hitler rises, France falls, the Holocaust begins, Pearl Harbor burns, D-Day commences, the bomb drops.

However, this narrative -- even in its most fully fleshed-out form -- misrepresents why and when the war started, how and where it progressed along the way, and why and when it ended. This narrative likewise conceals both the greatest devastation committed by the war's "villains" and the greatest triumphs achieved by its "heroes."

Did you know, for example, that the war didn't begin in 1939 and didn't end because of the bomb? Did you know that Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren't even the deadliest bombings of the war, that 400,000 Axis soldiers made it onto American shores, or that the body count of the Holocaust is about twice as big as you think it is?

The facts and photos above begin to reveal the story of the war as it actually happened, not the narrative propagated by its most powerful victors after the fact. These are 21 World War II myths that desperately needed to be debunked.

Enjoy debunking these World War II myths? Next, discover 31 surprising World War II facts that even most history buffs don't know. Then, read up on ten American history myths you probably believe.

John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society of history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.