World War… Who? Millennials lack basic knowledge of Second World War

World War… Who? Millennials lack basic knowledge of Second World War with 41% not knowing Britain fought for the Allies and 11% thinking the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’ refers to when the Nazis surrendered, survey claims

  • First nuclear weapon was dropped on Chernobyl, Ukraine, say some millennials
  • More than 40% did not know the UK fought on the side of the Allies, says survey
  • 18-34-year-olds ‘more interested’ in celebrities’ baby names than events of WWII

Millennials lack basic knowledge of WWII with nearly half of 18-34-year-olds not knowing Britain fought for the Allies and more than one in 10 thinking the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’ refers to when the Nazis surrendered, researchers claim. 

As Dunkirk celebrates its 83rd anniversary this week, a new study claims millennials are the most useless when it comes to knowledge of a conflict that killed or injured an estimated 35 to 60 million people globally.

Remarkably, 4% of millennials believe the first nuclear weapon was used on Berlin – and 3% think it was dropped on Chernobyl, Ukraine. 

While nearly two-thirds of millennials (61%) claim to have good knowledge about the Second World War, 41% did not know that the UK fought on the side of the Allies.

And with Christopher Nolan’s mega-budget movie Oppenheimer set to hit the big screen next month, featuring Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy, 74% of adults don’t know the Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking that produced the first nuclear weapons.

Boats and ships of all shapes and sizes were used during the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940

More than three in 10 (31%) admit they have never heard of J. Robert Oppenheimer – while 24% are unaware the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

In fact, two-thirds of millennials are not even aware which countries emerged victorious from the conflict.

The research found that millennials think people today are uninterested in the events which shaped British history, such as World War II, because it doesn’t impact them on a day-to-day basis (38%), they prefer thinking about the future (29%), and they never talk about it with friends or family (18%).

And nearly half (47%) did not realise the UK had more than one Prime Minister during the conflict – with 22% unaware that it was Winston Churchill by the end of the war, while 37% are clueless that Neville Chamberlain was in office when war broke out.

A British soldier helps an injured soldier during the evacuation from Dunkirk

One in 20 believe D-Day happened in Germany, rather than Normandy in France – and 11% of millennials think that the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’, in 1940, refers to the day the Nazis surrendered in 1945.

The study, commissioned to mark the launch of Company of Heroes™ 3: Console Edition on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, found 41% are clueless that D-Day was the bringing together of land, sea, and air forces to the beaches of Normandy.

Half of those polled (49%), via OnePoll, believe it is important to have a good knowledge of World War II – however, this drops to just over a third (36%) of 18-34-year-olds.

As a result, less than a quarter (23%) of millennials feel they lack knowledge about the event that shaped the world they live in today.

Indeed, millennials are more interested in who is top of the music charts (22%), the names of celebrity babies (20%), and how many followers they have on social media (20%), than what happened during World War II.

To celebrate the launch of Company of Heroes 3: Console Edition, SEGA and Relic Entertainment teamed up with Jay Morton, the SAS: Who Dares Wins star, and former member of the Parachute Regiment, to deliver the first physical copy of the game via skydive.

Servicemen join revellers in celebrating VE Day in Fleet Street, London, in 1945

Jumping from 15,000 feet and free falling at a speed of 120mph, Jay delivered the game’s premium edition to Stewart Clark, based near Oxford, ahead of the game’s launch, to ensure the franchise’s biggest fan received the console release of the third instalment before anyone else.

Mr Morton said: ‘As someone with 14 years of military service, including a decade within the UK Special Forces and four years within the Parachute Regiment, I was delighted to help SEGA launch Company of Heroes 3 on console.

‘I have completed many skydives during my career, but it was a new experience to deliver the game to fans, paying homage to our predecessors by wearing an authentic World War II British paratrooper’s uniform.

‘It’s important we remain knowledgeable about World War II, and that we don’t forget the harsh lessons that were learned.’

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