Pink planes and painted cows: The weird side of World War II

These images are drawn from Weird War Two, a new book from the Imperial War Museums that explores the stranger side of the Second World War.

From the squad of apes Churchill deployed to Gibraltar based on a superstition, to the Nazi plot to kill British command with exploding chocolate bars, to the POWs who built a glider to escape prison, the book catalogues the bizarre, baffling, and ingenious ways that people dealt with an unprecedented global conflict.

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World War II's weird side
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World War II's weird side

Venus the bulldog, mascot of the destroyer HMS Vansittart.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

Salvo the "Paradog" completing a parachute jump during training. Dogs accompanied D-Day troops dropped behind enemy lines, sniffing out mines, traps, and troops. They were given two months' intensive training, including how to angle themselves in the air —"forepaws up and rear legs down." On the day of the drop some dogs had to be encouraged out of the plane with the aid of a two-pound chunk of meat.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

Winston Churchill with baby Victor Lampson. Churchill is wearing an all-in-one "siren suit" of his own invention, designed to be quickly donned over his clothes in the event of an air raid. He had onesies for all occasions, from military-style to flamboyant denim, pinstripe, and even velvet.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

An inflatable Sherman tank, one of many dummy tanks made to deceive the enemy. Dummy tanks were used as part of Operation Fortitude, the scheme to convince the Germans that the D-Day landings would be at Calais rather than Normandy.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

Apes are checked in at Gibraltar. Churchill had heard a legend that if the apes ever left the rock, Gibraltar would cease to be a British colony, so he sent in shipments of primates to forestall that.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

A colorful "Mickey Mouse" gas mask designed to be less intimidating for children to wear. Children found they could amuse themselves by blowing through the respirator to produce a loud farting noise.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

A farmer paints stripes on her cow to increase its visibility at night and prevent car accidents should it wander onto the road during blackout conditions.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

Spitfires used for photo reconnaissance missions during the day were usually painted blue, but those that went out at dusk or dawn were painted "Camoutint Pink" to blend better with the sky.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

A Persian kitten takes a break from hunting rats in a specially made hammock aboard the sloop HMS Godavari.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

These overshoes were made for Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents operating in Asia and the Pacific. When the agent landed on a beach from the sea, the "footprints" were intended to fool the Japanese into thinking that he was a barefoot native.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

Circus elephants Kiri and Many clear a wrecked car from a street in Hamburg. Both elephants were used by the civil authorities to clear wreckage during and after the war.

(Photo via Imperial War Museums)

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Weird War Two is published by IWM and is available for purchase here.

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