Big wars always add new words to our language. All the words and terms below were invented during World War 2. During the war, every American soldier knew the meanings of all the words below. How many of them do you know?

AWOL. Acronym for Away Without Official Leave. A soldier who left his base without permission was AWOL. After a certain amount of time, he became a deserter.
Bite the Dust. Killed or wounded.
Most people assume that the Germans invented the word Blitzkrieg, but they didn’t. The English invented this word from 2 German words: blitz (lightning) and krieg (war). Eventually, the Germans started using the word themselves.
Blockbuster. A very large bomb, usually weighing 2 tons or more, and capable of destroying or ‘busting’ an entire city block.
Officers. American officers in World War II wore brass insignias of rank.
Cash & Carry. Under Cash & Carry, a belligerent nation could buy weapons in the U.S. if they paid cash and picked them up here. England could buy tanks made in the U.S. and drive them across the Canadian border, a few miles away. Franklin Roosevelt invented the term Cash and Carry.
Chow Hound. A man who always winds up at the head of the mess line.
Dear John Letter. A letter from a wife or sweetheart saying that their relationship is over.
Duck Soup. An easy job or assignment.
Eisenhower Jacket. A short fitted belted jacket popularized by General Dwight D. Eisenhower during the war. (The blue zippered jacket that I wear is an Eisenhower jacket.)
Flat Top. An aircraft carrier.
Flying Blind. A date with a girl who you have never seen.
Get Cracking. To get something started. The term was created by RAF pilots.
An American soldier, an abbreviation for Government Issue.
Gremlins. Imaginary creatures that sabotage airplanes. The word was invented by British pilots. Any mechanical problem with an airplane was blamed on gremlins.
Haywire. An operation that went wrong or machinery that doesn’t work as it should.
You know what a Jeep is. We don’t know who was the first person to call this vehicle a Jeep.
Joe or A Cup of Joe. Coffee. During World War 1, American soldiers called it ‘A cup of Java.’
Kamikaze. A military suicide mission.
Margarine. Imitation butter. Originally called oleomargarine.
Milk Run. An uneventful and easy bombing mission.
Molotov Cocktail. A gasoline bomb. Named after Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin’s Foreign Minister. He encouraged Russian partisans behind German lines to make their own improvised weapons.
Pineapple. A hand grenade. American hand grenades during World War 2 were shaped somewhat like pineapples.
Pinup. A picture or poster attached to a wall of a sex symbol. The famous picture of Betty Grable, looking backwards with her hands on her hips, was the first and most famous pinup picture of the war.  The word ‘pinup’ was coined by Yank magazine.
Quisling. A traitor. Named after Vidkum Quisling, a Norwegian politician who assisted the Germans in the invasion and occupation of his country.
Radar and Sonar. Radar is an acronym for Radio Assisted Detection And Ranging. Sonar stands for Sound Navigation Ranging. Radar and sonar were among the most important inventions of World War II.
Roger. Meaning ‘Message received and understood.’
Sad Sack. A sad sack is a pitiable or luckless person. This was another of the many terms coined by Yank magazine.
Section 8. A soldier sent to a psychiatric hospital or discharged from the military on grounds of insanity.
Snafu. An acronym for “Situation normal, all fouled up.” Popularized by the Private Snafu cartoons made by Warner Brothers for the U.S. Army as a training aid for soldiers.
Stinkeroo. Something of very poor quality, often used to describe bad movies.
Take Home Pay. Take home pay is what is left of your wages after tax withholding and other deductions. Income tax withholding began during World War II.


Here’s a fun bit of World War 2 trivia. The Jeep was one of the most important weapons of World War 2. Jeeps gave American soldiers a huge edge over the Germans and the Japanese. That’s because the Jeep was the only mass-produced vehicle in the world that had 4-wheel drive. 4 wheel drive was invented in the late 1930s. Because the Jeep had 4 wheel drive, it could go places that no other wheeled vehicle could go. Jeeps could go across sandy deserts in North Africa and muddy field in France, places where German vehicles got stuck. But – where did the word ‘Jeep’ come from? There are a lot of stories and myths about this; however, we actually do know where the word Jeep came from.

In the 1930s, one of the most popular cartoon characters in America was Popeye the Sailor. The Popeye comic strip appeared every day in newspapers all over the U.S., and Popeye cartoons were seen in thousands of movie theaters all over the world. In 1936, a new character started appearing in Popeye cartoons named Eugene the Jeep. The Jeep was a strange creature with supernatural abilities. Eugene the Jeep could go anywhere and do anything. There was no obstacle that the Jeep could not instantly overcome. In 1941, the Willys Motor Co. began making a new vehicle for the U.S. Army with 4 wheel drive known simply as the Willys MB. Soldiers were astonished at the ability of this vehicle to go over terrain where no wheeled vehicle had ever been able to go before – and at high speed. We don’t know who was the first person to start calling this vehicle a Jeep, but whoever it was, the name caught on quickly and stuck. Below are pictures of Eugene the Jeep and a early model Willys MB.

WERNER GOLDBERG. ‘The Ideal German Soldier.’

History is full of improbable people, and I have always been fascinated by highly improbable people. Werner Goldberg was one of those improbably person. During World War 2, Werner Goldberg was one of the best known people in Nazi Germany. Photos of Werner Goldberg in his German army uniform appeared on billboards and army recruiting posters all over Germany. He was known to the German public simply as ‘the ideal German soldier.’ Almost nobody in Germany knew his real name or that he was a Jew. In 1933, Werner Goldberg’s father was fired from his job when Hitler came to power because he was a Jew. Werner was unable to get a job for the same reason. Werner needed to make money to feed his family, so in 1938 he joined the army. Werner saw military action soon after completing basic training. He participated in the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Shortly after the invasion of Poland began, a German army photographer took photos of Werner Goldberg and sent them to the Berliner Tagesblatt, a major newspaper in Germany’s capital. They liked the photos and published a full-page picture of Werner Goldberg in their Sunday edition. The newspaper didn’t state his name. They probably didn’t know it. They captioned the photo ‘The Ideal German Soldier.’ Hitler was very impressed by the picture and ordered it reprinted on Nazi propaganda and army recruiting posters. Eventually Nazi officials discovered the truth, that the ‘ideal German soldier’ was a Jew. Goldberg was forced out of the army, but he was never sent to jail or a concentration camp. In 1942, Werner Goldberg rescued his sick father who was being held in a Gestapo prison hospital for Jews. On Christmas Eve, Werner went to the hospital. He gambled that the guards and Gestapo agents at the door would either be absent from their posts or drunk because of the holiday, and he was right. Werner got into the hospital by showing the guards a photo of himself captioned ‘the ideal German soldier.’ The guards recognized the photo and let Werner into the hospital. Once inside, Werner simply went to his father’s room, dressed his father in street clothes that he brought with him and simply walked out the door with his father. Werner Goldberg survived the war and died in 2004.

Can You Really Improve Your Eyesight By Eating A Lot Of Carrots?

The short answer is No. Although carrots are rich in Vitamin A and other nutrients, you can’t actually improve your eyesight by eating carrots. Although we don’t know the origin of most popular myths, we do know the origin of this story (a story that I used to believe was true.) The myth that people who eat a lot of carrots have excellent eyesight was started by the British government during World War 2 as a trick to fool the Germans. It wound up fooling everybody.

carrotsDuring World War 2, the British government didn’t want the Germans to realize just how important radar was to their national defense. Radar was the principle reason why the RAF (Royal Air Force) won the Battle of Britain. The British Air Ministry built a chain of radar stations along the southern coast of England before World War 2 began. Because the Air Ministry had these radar stations, the RAF knew exactly when German bombers were headed their way, and they knew it long before the planes arrived. Fortunately for Britain, neither Hitler nor Goering (the head of the German air force) understood how radar worked or how important it was. The British Air Ministry didn’t want Hitler to figure this out, but the RAF was shooting down a tremendous number of German airplanes, and the Air Ministry needed some sort of plausible explanation for this. They started running stories in British newspapers claiming that their aircraft spotters had exceptional eyesight because they ate a lot of carrots, which supposedly gave them the ability to see German airplanes at night, in total darkness, and at great distances. As preposterous as this story was, a lot of people believed it! The Air Ministry released stories throughout the war about British aircraft spotters, most of whom were women, along with pictures of them eating carrots while looking for German airplanes at night. This disinformation campaign was so persuasive that a lot of Englishmen started eating carrots in the belief that it would help them find their way around English city streets during the nightly blackouts. The story spread around the world and is still widely believed to be true. Even now, people everywhere with poor eyesight eat carrots in the belief that it will improve their vision. The truth is that you cannot improve your eyesight, cure eye disease, or develop the ability to see in total darkness by eating carrots. On the other hand – eating carrots won’t hurt. (Above is a World War 2 American propaganda poster claiming that eating carrots improves the night vision of American soldiers.) There are a lot of other commonly accepted myths that started off as World War 2 propaganda. Perhaps I will cover some of the others in the future.