World War II was a bloody war that brought conflict and bloodshed to all corners of the world. It was a tragic and pivotal event in history that reshaped the world and directly affected much of the world’s population. Over 80 million people, both military and civilian, lost their lives as a direct result of the war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. There has been much written about the key figures involved in the war, including Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Josef Stalin, the policy-makers, and much is known about strategies and actions of both the Allied and Axis Powers. Truth be told, World War II is one of the most talked-about events of the 20th century, if not in world history. There have been numerous books, television shows, and films produced about this brutal war.
As might be expected, in wartime, just about anything can occur and usually does. However, very few would expect some of the strange reports that came out of the war; those of ghost planes, a UFO attack over California, the complete disappearance of a group of jets, or even famous government relics that went missing. Throughout the war, these things occurred and many more even stranger events and, even after seventy years, many of them remain unsolved. Some have been attributed to the fog of war or perhaps to the confusion that follows the devastation of battle. Others, though, lack rational explanation and remain baffling. Here are fifteen of the strangest unsolved mysteries of World War II.
15. The Mysterious Death Of Subhas Chandra Bose
Subhas Chandra Bose was the leader of the Indian Nationalists during World War II, and opposed British rule to the point of seeking aid from both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. He is remembered as a defiant patriot and a hero of India. To the Allies, he was a traitor. Throughout the war, Bose dodged British surveillance and attended covert meetings with Axis commanders. All of this is pretty much accepted as fact. What is disputed, however, is the apparent death of Bose; reportedly, on the eve of an Allied attempt to capture and try Bose for treason.
According to reports, on August 18, 1945, a Japanese Air Force bomber took off bound for Tokyo. On board the bomber were Bose and 12 other passengers and crew, including a high-ranking Japanese general. Soon after take-off, the plane crashed in Japanese Taiwan. The Japanese report his body was immediately retrieved, cremated, and taken to a temple in Tokyo. Many believe that those aren’t his ashes interred in Tokyo, and that Bose escaped the war, living out his life in secret. The Indian government acknowledges they are in possession of approximately forty secret files on Bose, all sealed, and they refuse to divulge their contents. Many assert that if they were opened they would be detrimental to India’s international relations. In 1999, one file came to light about sightings and the subsequent investigation into the whereabouts of Bose that occurred in 1963, when it was believed that he was living secretly in Bengal. However, the government has refused to comment.
14. The Battle Of Los Angeles
It was in the early morning hours of February 25, 1942; just three months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The U.S. had just entered World War II and the military was on high alert when it responded to what was believed to be another unprovoked attack above the skies of California. Witnesses reported a large, round object, glowing pale orange, in the skies above Culver City and Santa Monica, cruising along the Pacific coast.
Air raid sirens sounded and searchlights began scouring the skies over Los Angeles, as over 1,400 shells from anti-aircraft guns barraged the mysterious object as it quietly moved across the night sky, vanishing from view. No enemy aircraft were shot down and indeed no satisfactory explanation could be given for what occurred. The Army’s official statement was that “unidentified planes” had invaded Southern California air space, but then Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox countermanded and dismissed those reports as “war nerves” and a “false alarm.” No satisfactory explanation was ever given to explain the bright lights in the sky that were tracked across Los Angeles.
13. Die Glocke, The Nazi Bell
It was called Die Glocke, German for “The Bell.” Reportedly this wundewaffe, “wonder weapon,” was code-named Project Chronos and was given the highest classification. It was said to resemble a giant metallic bell, hence the name, approximately 2.7 meters wide and 4 meters high. It was composed of an unknown metal and based out of Der Riese, a facility near the Wenceslaus mine in Poland, near the Czech border. The Bell contained two counter-rotating cylinders said to contain a metallic liquid called Zerum-525. Through an unknown process, when activated, The Bell would emit an effect zone of approximately 200 meters. Within this zone, crystals would form in animal tissue; blood would coagulate and separate, while plants would rapidly decompose. Reportedly, many of the original scientists died horribly during the initial tests. The weapon was also able to rise off the ground and hover in the air as it was meant to be launched over the Northern Hemisphere, detonating in the jet stream releasing its deadly radioisotopes causing the death of millions.
The main source for this report is a Polish journalist named Igor Witkowski, who claimed to have read about the weapon in KGB transcripts of the interrogation of SS officer Jakob Sporrenberg. Sporrenberg claims that the project was under the direction of SS General Hans Kammler, an engineer who disappeared after the war. Many believe Kammler was secreted into the United States, possibly with his prototype of The Bell. The only physical trace of the project is the ruins of a concrete framework, called “The Henge,” about 3 km from the main complex of Der Riese, that may have been a test rig for anti-gravity and propulsion experiments with The Bell.
12. The Nazi Ghost Train
The legend says that, in the final days of World War II, in April 1945, with Soviet forces fast approaching, Nazi soldiers loaded valuables onto an armored train in Breslau (now Wroclaw), Poland. The train departed and headed west toward Waldenburg (now Walbrzych). It’s about a 40-mile (60-km) trip and, somewhere along the way, the train, with all its valuable cargo, vanished in the Owl Mountains. Reportedly, the train was filled with Nazi treasure, including gold and precious metals looted from Jewish families. Over the years, many have tried to find the legendary “ghost train,” but none have. Historians claim that there is no definitive proof that the train actually ever existed. While it is true that, during the war, Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler ordered the creation of a network of underground tunnels in the Owl Mountains, as part of Der Riese, a Nazi secret facility, there is no concrete indication that a train was ever hidden inside.
With the stories going back some seventy years now, the lack of evidence has not deterred treasure hunters from looking for the “ghost train.” The original story can be traced back to a Polish miner who claimed he heard from some German miners after the war that they had witnessed a train being pushed into one of the tunnels in the mountain. Presently, two anonymous men have come forward claiming to have located a possible location for the mysterious train using ground-penetrating radar. They have agreed to lead an expedition in exchange for 10% of the value its contents. The Polish government has agreed but, as of yet, the train still hasn’t been located.
11. WWII Ghost Planes
Few can imagine watching a plane soar through the sky only to disappear into thin air, but for many World War II veterans, it was almost a common occurrence. Those planes, called ghost planes, went missing in action during the war, only to return and be sighted decades later, long after the war ended. One common location where this is witnessed is the infamous Peak District in northern Derbyshire, in England. Over 50 planes have crashed there and it has gained a reputation for being a hotspot of ghost plane activity.
One of the first stories reported there involved Richard and Helen Jephson who were driving nearby, their car windows down, when they spotted a WWII-era bomber flying through the sky. They remembered it appeared to be flying very low but, remarkably, made no sound. They say the bomber just vanished as it flew by. A Royal Air Force veteran, who was nearby also witnessed the plane, believing it to have been a 4-engine American B-24 Liberator bomber. Another witness, who was golfing in the area, agreed it looked like a Liberator and was camouflaged. Local airport officials and the military confirmed that there were no historical planes in the air or nearby air shows. In fact, there were very few of these very loud B-24 bombers left over from the war and even less that were still operational. This was a classic ghost plane sighting and there have been many others documented over England. What could explain these sightings? Did these planes get lost in a dimensional portal, fated to forever fly in a time loop for eternity? Or, are they dedicated airmen still flying to defend the Allies, even in death?
10. The Disappearance Of Raoul Wallenberg
Swedish businessman Raoul Gustaf Wallenberg is considered a hero of World War II. He was a humanitarian who saved around 60,000 Jews from Nazi-occupied Budapest in Hungary, providing them with forged passports, food, medical treatment, and shelter. However, when the Soviet Red Army marched through Eastern Europe, he was arrested on suspicion of espionage. In 1945, Wallenberg all but disappeared into the hands of the Soviets. Later, the Soviets claimed that Wallenberg had died a prisoner at Lubyanka Prison, on July 17, 1947. They claimed he passed away suddenly in his cell of apparent heart failure. Prison records indicate the prison doctor certified the death and had the body cremated without an autopsy.
The outside world remained unconvinced. In 1991, the Russian government agreed to look into the matter. The ensuing investigation concluded that, most likely, Wallenberg was executed at Lubyanka in 1947, possibly by the administering of C-2 poison (carbylamines-choline-chloride), which was used by the Soviet secret police at the time. This would explain why the body was cremated quickly to avoid any complications from an autopsy. However, this inference is speculation and the investigation was inconclusive. There have been other claims about his final days, with some former Lubyanka prisoners, as recent as 1987, claiming Wallenberg survived and remained in prison for about 40 years. Yet Soviet records still haven’t been released explaining exactly why he was imprisoned in the first place, or why he might have been executed. It has remained a mystery all these decades.
9. Hitler’s Missing Globe
It has to have been the world’s most famous globe. Charlie Chaplin parodied it in his film, The Great Dictator. This massive globe, known as “The Führer Globe” or “The Columbus Globe for State and Industry Leaders,” was specially built for Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler. It was huge, easily as large as a small group of people and it was Hitler’s prize possession. It sat in a custom-built stand in his office at the New Reich Chancellery and, after the war, it disappeared.
Once the Red Army captured Berlin, Soviet Minister of Internal Affairs Lavrentiy Beria inspected the Reich Chancellery. It is entirely possible, and believed, that he had the globe seized and returned with it to his headquarters at Lubyanka, where it might remain to this day. If the globe is still there, at the old KGB headquarters or possibly the FSB building, Russia has denied any knowledge of it. In fact, they refuse to confirm or deny if they were ever in possession of the famed “Führer Globe.” Over the years, other Nazi globes have been recovered, even one discovered at the war’s end by an American soldier inside Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest compound near the Bavarian Alps. That one appeared too small to have been Hitler’s famed globe. Nonetheless, it was sold at auction for £68,000 ($100,000) in 2007. Some remarkable replicas have been built as well, but the real one’s whereabouts are unknown and will probably never be found.
8. Erwin Rommels’ Hidden Treasure
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel was one of the most respected military commanders of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was the famous Desert Fox, popular with the German public and fiercely dedicated to his nation. He was so dedicated that, in 1944, when it looked like the tides of war were turning against Germany, Rommel attempted to hide treasures to avoid them being captured by encroaching enemy armies. The valuables were seized by German forces during the Tunisian campaign. The story goes that Rommel entrusted four elite Waffen-SS divers with treasures that included 440lbs of gold bullion, silver, precious stones, and artwork. The divers were instructed to bury the stash deep in the sea. No one is quite sure where this occurred, but many believe it was around the many underwater caves that can be found off the eastern coast of Corsica, in the Mediterranean Ocean. They say the treasure would be worth at least an estimated £20 million ($26.8 million).
A British researcher, who has spent the past fifteen years searching for the missing treasure, believes the mystery might be close to being solved. An old photograph of a German soldier was discovered with mysterious writing on the back. It turns out it was a code, a code many now believe translates into coordinates that lead to the location of Rommel’s treasure. Plans are underway to narrow the search to an area less than a mile from the Corsican port of Bastia, off Marana Beach. After seventy years, this mystery might actually be close to be solved.
7. Foo Fighters
No, we’re not talking about Dave Grohl’s band, but the World War II phenomena after which his band was named. The term was used by Allied pilots during the war to describe the unidentified flying objects they encountered, originally coined by America’s 415th Night Fighter Squadron. The term became formally adopted by the U.S. military in November 1944. Believed originally to be secret Nazi aircraft sent for reconnaissance, most pilots reported seeing strange glowing balls of light that maneuvered around their aircraft at night, flying at great speed. Sometimes the mysterious lights would chase the planes, other times just keeping pace with them. Usually radar operators were unable to see the mysterious UFO’s on their screens, but sometimes they could confirm their existence.
A postwar scientific panel was unable to adequately explain the phenomena. One theory concluded that the UFO’s were St. Elmo ’s fire – a weather condition where a strong electric field causes a glowing discharge to emanate from certain objects. Another theory was that the phenomenon was just cases of ball lightning, which are brilliant spherical balls of light that can appear in thunderstorms. Most pilots who witnessed the strange glowing lights that chased their planes dismiss these theories. This is one mystery that will most likely never be solved.
6. Where Is The Infamous Nazi Blutfahne Flag?
The Blutfahne, or Blood Flag, is the Nazi hakenkreuz (the infamous angled swastika) flag that was used in the failed 1923 Munich Beer Hall Putsch in Germany. During the Putsch, the flag became soaked in the blood of dying Nazi Brown Shirts (SA) who were killed in the conflict. The flag then became one of the most honored objects of the Nazi Party. It was used in ceremonies and was greatly valued by Adolf Hitler. Reportedly designed by Hitler himself, the flag became the key Nazi symbol. The story goes that the flag was rescued from the armed conflict and hidden until Hitler was released from prison, whereupon it was presented to him to commemorate their cause.
Despite the fact that the flag displayed by Hitler as the true Blutfahne contained no dried blood and was reportedly not even the same size as the one used in 1923, its legendary status still grew among Nazis. The flag was last seen in October 1944, at one of Heinrich Himmler’s public Volkssturm induction ceremonies. It was initially believed that the Allies destroyed it during the round-the-clock bombings of Munich, but many were unconvinced. Numerous people throughout the years have claimed to have seen the actual flag, with some claiming it has secretly been in their possession all this time. The true location or fate of this symbol of Nazi tyranny has never been revealed.
5. The Pearl Harbor Ghost P-40
One of the most intriguing ghost plane reports of World War II, this story involves the P-40 fighter that got shot up and crashed near Pearl Harbor. Doesn’t sound too mysterious, right? Only this plane was witnessed a year after the Japanese attack and, when investigated, no pilot’s body was found in the cockpit.
It was December the 8th, 1942, and U.S. radar picked up an identified plane heading straight for Pearl Harbor from the direction of Japan. Two fighters were instructed to investigate and quickly intercepted the mysterious plane. It was a P-40 Fighter, of the type used in the defense of Pearl Harbor the year prior, and not used since. What was even stranger was that the plane was bullet-ridden, missing its landing gear, and the pilot could be seen to be covered in blood and slumped forward over his controls. The intercepting pilots claimed the other pilot waved at them briefly before his P-40 nosedived directly towards the ground and crashed. Rescue crews were dispatched immediately and combed through the wreckage. There was no trace of the pilot. They did recover a diary that indicated the plane was stationed on the island of Mindanao, 1,300 miles away in the Pacific Ocean. If he was a wounded Pearl Harbor defender, how did he survive in a shredded plane for a year? Without landing gear, how did he get his plane off the ground? What happened to his body? This has remained one of the most perplexing mysteries of the war.
4. Who Were The Auschwitz British 17?
This mystery lay dormant for more than sixty years after the end of the war. In 2009, an excavation at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland uncovered a mysterious document. It was a list that contained the names of seventeen British soldiers believed to have been prisoners of war. With names like Osborne, Lawrence, Gardiner, Lamb, Symes, Saunders and Holmes, eight of those listed had small marks next to their names. Many believe that indicates that those eight had been executed along with many other captured British soldiers during the war. However, others are unconvinced.
On the back of list, there is written, in German, twenty words with their English translations. These words include, “since then,” “never,” and “now.” This has led some to the conclusion that those soldiers were actually part of a secret British Schutzstaffel (SS) unit that fought for the Nazis against the Allies during World War II. Of course, neither theory can be proven, as all there is to go on is a dusty old document and a lot of conjecture, but it is a mystery.
3. Who Turned In Anne Frank?
Most people know something of the tragic story of Anne Frank. She was a young German Jew, fifteen years old, living in hiding with her family in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. She and her family were captured by the Gestapo in 1944, and sent to the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. Young Frank died there, but left behind her now-famous diary, written while living in hiding. Her father, Otto Frank, survived the concentration camps and published her diary as a testament to her life. What has remained unknown all these years is exactly who tipped off the Gestapo and revealed the family’s hiding place?
There have been various suspects named over the years, most blaming Willem van Maaren, the warehouse manager of the complex in which the “Anne Frank House” was located. Van Maaren denies any involvement and even helped Otto Frank rescue the diary of his daughter after the war. Another suspect is a cleaning lady, Lena Hartog-van Bladeren, who feared her husband would be arrested and is known to have been aware that Jews were secretly living on the property. However, a 1948 investigation indicated that numerous complex employees were aware that the family was hiding in the secret annex that became to be known as the “Anne Frank House.” A subsequent 1963 investigation located the former SS non-commissioned officer, Karl Silberbauer, who arrested the Frank family. However, he claimed that he didn’t actually speak to the informant. He claimed his supervisor, Julius Dettman, received the phone tip and then ordered Silberbauer and his team to investigate the claim. Dettman committed suicide at the war’s end. There is no conclusive evidence as to who actually turned in the Frank family and it will probably never be known.
2. The Amber Room
It was called the Eighth Wonder of the World. The legendary Amber Room from the Catherine Palace of Tsarkoye Selo, near St. Petersburg, was known worldwide prior to World War II. It was actually built in Prussia in the 18th century and then transported in pieces to Russia as a royal gift to Tsar Peter the Great in 1716. The room was entirely comprised of beautiful amber panels, with gemstones, gold leaf trim and mirrors. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, the Amber Room was disassembled and transported to Königsberg in East Prussia and displayed at the Königsberg Castle.
In January 1945, Hitler ordered all relics to be removed from Königsberg, although it is known that the man in charge of the relic fled without removing the Amber Room. Just months prior, in August 1944, the whole area was under heavy bombardment by the British Royal Air Force. Then, by April 1945, the city was near to being utterly destroyed by the advancing Soviet Red Army. The Amber Room could have been destroyed at any time during this period. However, numerous reports have come to light of people owning individual panels from the Amber Room, with some witnesses claiming the entire room was loaded onto the German transport ship, Wilhelm Gustloff, sometime after Hitler’s January 1945 order. Despite these claims, most investigators believe that the Amber Room was most likely destroyed during the bombing raids in 1944, though it cannot be proven. Subsequently, a replica of the Amber Room was built by the Soviet Union and now can be viewed by the public at Tsarskoye Selo.
1. The Disappearance of Flight 19
This is probably the most famous mystery of the war, although technically it occurred some months after the war’s conclusion. Flight 19 was a group of five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers involved in a training flight off the coast of Florida. It was December the 5th, 1945; Lt. Charles Taylor was in charge of a navigation training flight that originated from the Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Sometime during the exercise, Lt. Taylor reported that his compass was malfunctioning and that he couldn’t ascertain the flight’s position. It was decided that all the planes would stick together and, when one ran out of gas and had to ditch in the ocean, all the planes would ditch together. The tower lost contact with the flight and it was presumed they had run out of gas and had to make an emergency water landing. A PBM Mariner flying boat was dispatched to try to locate the ditched planes’ location. However, mysteriously enough, the tower lost contact with the Mariner as well. The planes and all of the men disappeared, six planes and 27 men in total; all assumed dead; but how?
The Navy’s investigation originally placed the blame on Lt. Taylor; however, they later changed the official report to reflect the loss of planes to “Cause Unknown.” They have never been able to determine with any certainty the reason for Flight 19’s disappearance, nor the loss of the PBM Mariner. No bodies and no aircraft have ever been found. The mystery has only added to the Bermuda Triangle legend.