World War 2 Weapons
part 1

Contents

Part 1

Land War

Small Arms
Pistols
Rifles
Sub Machine Guns
Hand Grenade
Flame Thrower

Artillery
V2 Rockets
Anti-Aircraft Guns

Tanks

Mines

Part 2

WW 2 Aircraft

Part 3

WW 2 Weapons & the Navy

Land

The backstory of weapons employed in World War 2 on land, sea and air was the intense focus of the scientific /tech communities to create the means for the greatest devastation.

Earlier wars may have planted the seeds for lethality, but this new war that engulfed the planet was a quantum leap into the future of weaponry.

The reader will hardly forget the game changer: the atomic bomb that made hyperbole an understatement. 

The weapons were often  utilized with a degree of barbaric cruelty and hatred. How else can history explain over 60 million dead? 

Automation  became a standard for what had merely been mechanical.

Introduction of full rapid fire required new platforms that created new systems for delivery.

The aircraft carrier, the amphibious landing craft, the self propelled gun, the dive bomber became terms  common in civilian discourse.

Our identification of these weapons into Land, Sea, Air does not limit their use to these broad categories. Many of the systems crossed these boundaries and were employed effectively in all environments.

                                                            

                                                        Small Arms

 Naval officer and Medal of Honor winner, John D. Bulkley: It's not the captain but "the men who do the fighting, man the guns, they're the guys that really win the war".          

These arms were regularly described by all belligerents as those weapons used by an infantry squad, but not necessarily limited to the infantry. They are portable.

                                                             Pistols

The pistol was notoriously inaccurate and useful only in close combat. This weapon was carried by infantry officers, tank crews and pilots. There were no significant innovations from those pistols used in World War 1. All were semi-automatic. (Each trigger pull fired a single shot.)

United States:  .45 caliber M1911-----considered the best pistol carried.

Germans:         .38 caliber Walther----considered more reliable than their

                         Luger Model 1908. The most sought after souvenir by

                         U.S. servicemen in European Theater Operations..

             


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British:  .38 caliber Webley and Enfield 2

Soviets: Nagent revolver 1895 and Tokarev pistol---------not widely issued

Italy:      Beretta  .33 caliber-------not accurate but widely issued- small and compact

Japan:   Nambu Type 94----unsafe. Many officers preferred ceremonial sword.

        Was sometimes used by officers to commit suicide ("Seppuk" to avoid capture.)

      World War 2 Weapons

 World War 2 Weapons


                                                               Rifles

Many of the armies entered the war equipped with World War 1 rifles. Americans were issued 1903 Springfield, bolt action. The Japanese were using a weapon that was in vogue in the Russo-Japanese conflict of 1904.

United States: By 1945, the standard rifle was the 9 lb Garand M1 (John Garand) with a maximum range of 5500 feet. The rifle was semi automatic and self loading.  It was gas operated and fed with an 8 clip .30 caliber cartridge. Its sight was extremely accurate and the gun unaffected by weather. The butt carried swabs, brush and cleaning rod. Its simplicity was confirmed by every infantryman who could it tear it down and put it together in the dark. It was described as 9 plus pounds of terrific "knock down" power and never jammed.


World War 2 Weapons

World War 2 Weapons

British:     Reliable Lee Enfield NO. 4 AND 5

Italy:         Mannlicher Modello 91

Japan:      Arisaka, Meiji, Mosin  The Arisaka was a copy of the German Mauser rifl 38"  long and used as a sniper weapon when telescope sight added (6.5 cal.).

Germany: Karabiner 98K, one of many numerous upgrades, fired a Mauser cartridge 7.92x57mm. Many German rifles utilized earlier Czechoslovakian designs. Used by  Wehrmach(infantry), kriegsmarine (Subs), Luftwaffe (air), Waffen SS (multi services from police to panzer).                                          

World War 2 Weapons

World War 2 Weapons


                                                    Submachine Guns

The Thompson gun had its origin at the end of world War 1. It was the notorious weapon of choice for 1930's gangsters when known as the "Tommy" gun.The gun was fully automatic. (Gun continuously fires as long as the trigger remains depressed.)

United States: This gun was occasionally issued to non commissioned officers but its  low velocity and failure to penetrate light armor was a significant problem.It was found somewhat ineffective in jungle battle. The M1 model had a 50 round box magazine instead of the familiar looking round drum. Marines were issued the weapon in the Pacific and used on Okinawa (April-June 1945).

World War 2 Weapons

World War 2 Weapons


Britain: Their commandos favored the Thompson gun. They would also manufacture their version of the submachine gun---the Sten gun.

World War 2 Weapons

World War 2 Weapons


Japan:      Used their machine gun when they captured the oil fields on Java,rarely utilized. 


Germany;  The following illustrates the MP 40 and its deadly stream of fire.


Germany: Most innovative-- produced a semi or fully automatic assault rifle. The machine pistol 43 (Sturmgewehr=storm rifle) had shorter range than most rifles, a less powerful bullet. It's compact form made it more controllable and proved very effective on Russia's, eastern front. Although referred to as a rifle, it  had the qualities of a sub-machine gun.

World War 2 Weapons

World War 2 Weapons


The significant use of steel for defense had its counterpoint in the armor piercing projectiles. Technology utilized two methods.

A. Kinetic energy---depended on velocity of at least 3,000 feet per second. It was constructed of tungsten/carbide material that was denser than steel.

B. Chemical development of a hollow, higher explosive charge generating high, penetrating heat traveling at 2,000 feet per second. Utilized by all belligerents.


                                                       Hand Grenades

Hand held hollow materials containing explosives and thrown at an  enemy have been used in multiple centuries. The grenade in World War 2 became an integral weapon in every infantry man's kit. The United States manufactured over 87 million grenades for use in close quarter fighting.

Marine Corporal Robert Johnsmiller reported his grenade experience on Red Beach, Tarawa while crawling through the bodies of dead comrades (Gilbert Islands Campaign November 20, 1943) :

" A Japanese hand grenade landed next to me. alerted by my buddy to 'roll', I quickly moved my body as it went off". Wounded, he kept crawling forward until he reached a trench. He looked into the ditch and saw a Japanese soldier looking up at him. He pulled back and signaled to his comrades."We quickly dispatched grenades into the emplacement and silenced the threat".

The corporal's grenade wound----a lost eye.

Grenades evolved that differentiated between offensive and defensive use. The defensive grenade (MKII) when exploded emitted deadly fragments at super speed. The offensive  grenade (MKIII) created an explosive blast.

Some grenades were utilized for signaling or screening. Some even had handles for throwing. One grenade manufactured, when thrown, emitted tear gas.

There also was the "home made" grenade known as the molotov cocktail (Soviet Commissioner for Foreign Affairs---Vyocheslav Molotov). When Great Britain feared invasion, the government distributed to its citizens this type of weapon which followed the molotov formula: a solution of phosphorus and benzine.  This explosive appeared in a number of innovative forms. The simple bottle was the most used and first appeared in  numbers with Finnish troops in the their run-up pre -World War 2 fight against the Soviet Union. The Russians used the more traditional long handle type of  grenade similar to German "potato masher".



World War 2 Weapons

World War 2 Weapons


The grenade could also be attached to the muzzle of a rifle adding to the effectiveness of the infantry man.There also was a stick on grenade applied to a tank body timed to explode.

The U.S. grenade was made of cast iron and grooved to improve the grasp of the throwing hand and increase its deadly fragments ("frag grenade"). Its pineapple appearance gave rise to that popular description of the grenade.

The German and Japanese grenades followed a different design, but their effect was similar to the American explosives.


World War 2 Weapons

World War 2 Weapons

World War 2 Weapons

                                                      Flame Thrower

The Germans introduced the flame thrower in world War 1. The technology which had been based on portable tanks or canisters filled with gasoline carried by the infantryman was now also added to the tank's arsenal. In the Pacific Theater, the flame thrower was used by Americans and Japanese effectively against foxholes, caves, pill boxes with the hidden soldier as a target.

On Okinawa in the spring months of 1945, American marines referred to their effort to force Japanese surrender with flame throwers as "cave flushing". The Japanese often chose death from burns and suffocation rather than surrender..

World War 2 Weapons

American                                                                                                                                        Japanese

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                                                      Machine Guns

Machine guns are a hybrid falling between small arms and traditional artillery. Small arms are usually represented as portable and hand held by an individual soldier. With the possible exception of the light machine gun, any weapons system that requires a crew to carry and operate will fall outside the domain of small arms.

Machine guns were employed by all the armed services.During the Pacific campaign to retake New Guinea, in early 1943, American air men mounted extra machine guns  in order to increase strafing power against the Japanese.

The power of the automatic machine gun on Okinawa prompted a marine to write."It was an appalling chaos".  Ernie Pyle, famed front line reporter, was hit and killed by a Japanese machine gun bullet in this Pacific Island battle.

It was hardly different in the Italian campaign to capture Cassino. General Mark Clark commanded the American Fifth Army. He ordered his men to cross the Rapido River into the face of German machine gun emplacements. Clark finally had to order a withdrawal with high casualties. The Germans were barely damaged (January-February 1944).

The machine gun was to be a factor in the Pacific until the day the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri (Sept. 2, 1945).  In the U.S. effort to pacify Luzon Island in the Philippines, and protect Manila Bay, hidden Japanese machine guns on Bataan could not be dislodged protecting over 100,000 Japanese troops in the place where they had treated American prisoners with barbartic cruelty--the Bataan death march. 

Czechoslovakia, the country that was unable to defend itself in 1939, was the major designer of the "state of the art" machine gun. The British Bren gun was a product of the Czech design. The American Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) was the U.S. answer for its light machine gun. Both guns were light enough to be carried or could be mounted on a bipod. This flexibility made the gun a valuable asset at squad level. Sometimes employed as a small arm, and sometime manned by a crew.

                                      Bren                                          BAR

weight                            22.5 lbs.                                    15.5 lbs.

caliber                           .303 rimmed                               .30 rimless

cooled                            air                                              air

pressure                        gas cylinder                                gas cylinder

magazine                       curved above barrel                   box below barrel



World War 2 Weapons

World War 2 Weapons

Bren (left)

BAR was also produced as a heavy machine gun, and could be used as an anti-aircraft gun.


The German MG 34 weighed 26 lbs. This heavy air cooled gun was used extensively. It fired 7.92mm at a rate of 800-900 rounds per minute.

The Russians answer was an 80 lb. gun that fired 600 rounds per minute.

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The British relied on an upgraded World War 1 Vickers that replaced their Lewis heavy machine gun. It was water cooled, weighed 40lbs and fired 450 rounds per minute.

The Japanese had 7.7mm gun (Type 92) that was  poorly designed but used effectively by well trained crews. It fired 550 rounds per minute and weighed 70 lbs.

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                                                            Artillery

                                             

In 1944, American's had gained a marked superiority in numbers and effectiveness of its big guns. General William H. Simpson remarked: "Never send an infantryman in to do a job that an artillery shell can do for him".

However, in 1939, the Germans set the standard for the disposition of their cannon. When they attacked Poland, they introduced the concept of big gun mobility. Nevertheless, in 1940, in a full fledged war, the Allies held a two to one ratio over the Germans with 14,000 field guns. But the Germans neutralized the disadvantage with their tactic of blitzkrieg (lightning) warfare which exploited weaknesses in the allies defensive lines with rapid strikes by their panzer (tank) corps  discussed below. Ultimately, that disadvantage in numbers would contribute to the German defeat. By June 1944, The Allies fielded 1182 assault weapons against 337 comparable pieces. Despite the long odds, General Erwin Rommel had built along the French coast his famous defensive "fortress" wall installing an array of huge cannon believing that it made the coast impregnable.


Artillery that crushed infantry units, shot down airplanes, sunk enemy shipping accounted for half of all battle casualties. The panoply of weapons were generally described as light, medium and heavy, The Library of Congress World War II Companion (see Reference below) further defines the classification summarized as follows:

1. Guns with high velocity and flat trajectories-------coastal, fixed defense or on tracks as shown below. This railroad gun was manufactured on orders from Hitler and used sporadically. Aside from the railway gun, these other big guns were fixed as though set in concrete----as many were.

 2. Howitzers with low velocity fire with a higher trajectory to drop over defensive cover; a front line gun. This weapon was mobile and transportable by appropriate vehicles.

The Germans developed a howitzer with a 30 mile range with thousand plus projectle weight.    A front line gun.

Long guns were adept at supporting infantry advances and, as in World War 1, could lay down "creeping barrages" that cleared enemy areas as troops moved under this umbrella.

3. Mortars dropped shells at the greatest angle over obstacles--light ( U.S. 81mm muzzle loaded); heavy, fixed or self propelled as the German 60cm below (Sturmtiger).

This was a front line, mobile gun. The Howitzer and mortar could also be mounted and made a self-propelled weapon system.  A front line gun.

4. Rockets represented a new form of delivering an explosive. It came in several forms: hand held as the American anti-tank weapon, recoiless "Bazooka", or mounted on a platform as the Russian Katyusha. The rocket increased the speed to the target, but not always accurate.

The  bazooka, on the other hand,  was quite effective, and was armed with a rocket shaped missile with its own motor that produced exceptional heat that could penetrate armor. The  Germans picked up many on the North  African battlefields dropped by Ameicans. They retrofitted the design to increase rocket size and manufactured  them for their use.

The power of these guns and the noise they generated was greatly feared by enemy troops. A survivor of the surrender of Corregidor May 6, 1942, an American island fortress in the Philippines, reported that the wounded sought refuge in tunnels and caves to avoid the "mind numbing" barrage of Japanese guns.

At the battle of Kursk on the Russian front, July 15-17, 1943, a German infantryman reported: "First came a dreadful barrage"----3 hours long.

In North Africa, the British were desperate to protect the Suez Canal and expel Germans from Egypt.  On October 23, 1942, they began a two week campaign to repulse the German forces at El Alamein with a 1,000 gun barrage. It marked a turning point in the North African battlefields with General Bernard Montgomery besting General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Corps and pushing the Italo-German forces back into Libya.

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                                coastal artillery

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                German big gun on RR tracks

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January 1944: 240mm howitzer preparing to fire on German lines in Mignamo, Italy

      Below:  a"smaller" big gun howitzer

                                  

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                                               88 mm mortar section Guadalcanal August 1942

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                         Bazooka

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             Russian self-propelled rocket launcher

The 75mm gun was used to maximum proficiency as a field gun when mounted on a tank. However, its armor piercing projectile met its match IN 1944 in Normandy when matched against the new  and more heavily armored German Tiger and Panther tanks. The 75mm also had the capability of firing "shot" against German infantry.

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U.S. Chaffee tank                             British Churchill tank

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In 1943, Americans began, in secret, to build  a 40 ton computer that could rapidly calculate artillery firing tables.                                               Associated Press


                                                           V2 Rocket

The Nazi government maintained a secret scientific site located in the north eastern corner of Germany on Peenemunde,  an island in the Baltic Sea. The German scientists had previously produced the V1 which was known as a "flying bomb". An RAF airstrike on Peenemunde, August 17.1943.  was evidence that this secret location had been revealed.

The V1 launch sites were scattered in France and were overrun by advancing Allied forces in 1944. Now other bases for launch tests were hurriedly constructed to accommodate the scientists and engineers.The production of the V2 (now hyphenated as V-2) was now a priority for Hitler. Test launches had begun in 1942 with liquid oxygen as the fuel. The V2 product was second generation.

In September 1944, the first non test launch from Holland against London hit that city leaving high casualties. It traveled at 3800 miles per hour and could not be intercepted. Over 3,000 of the V2 ballistic missiles accounted for casualties of over 6,000 dead and wounded.(Some claims are as much as 9,000 victims.)

The German rocket scientist, Wernher von Braun, worked at Peenemunde, and in the  post war era was brought to the United States where he distinguished himself in the U.S. space program.

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                                                 Anti-Air Craft Guns

As the war proceeded, both the Allies and Axis armies were constantly innovating. We noted above that the heavy Browning Automatic (BAR), primarily aimed at land based targets, was effective against low flying planes. The German 88 mm was also primarily an anti-tank weapon, but excellent performing as an anti-aircraft gun. Nevertheless, all the combatants utilized heavier weapons as well with a greater ceiling range.

The Bofar "AA" gun was designed by a Swedish inventor in 1929. Its accuracy and reliability was  established through a succession of wars prior to World War 2. The Chrysler Corporation was the principle manufacturer that produced this highly effective weapon at a modest cost. The rate of fire for this 40mm gun was 120 shells per minute. It was equally proficient on land and on the high seas with a ceiling of 23,600 feet and level range of 12, 500 feet.

As with almost all of the big guns used in batteries, firing was directed by a central control.

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Algeria                                                      Pacific Ocean

The British Royal Navy used its version of a .40mm gun referred to as a Pom Pom Gun (after the sound when firing). Also referred to as a "2 Pounder" referring to the weight of its projectile. Like the U.S. Bofar's versatility, it had proved its worthiness in World War 1 trenches and on the HMS Kelvin in World War 2.

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If there was a star in the artillery firmament, the U.S. 90mm anti-aircraft gun would be the weapon of choice. The German 88 would tie for first place with its anti- tank, anti- aircraft, anti -personnel capability. Although the British 76.2 gun also became known as a tank killer. The Japanese could make no such claim. Their anti-tank gun was so ineffective that their solution was a jerry-built land mine from torpedoes.

The U.S. 90 M1 was a semi-automatic field gun. Because of its size, mobility was accomplished by mounting the gun on a tractor base that could reach a speed of 35 MPH. The gun was operated in a battery of four and fire directed under a central control. Its projectile could reach an altitude of 30,000 feet. In 1943, a redesign---the M2----of its breech increased its rounds per minute to 23-28. It added a remarkable new feature. Its blast could illuminate the sky and replaced the need for searchlights to spot and follow enemy planes. This versatile gun could be lowered for horizontal firing and effectively was used against Wehrmacht infantry. Its rate of fire exceeded most other artillery pieces.  The gun crew used a  telescopic gun sight. Range was limited by the 30 second fuze time to explode over enemy infantry concentrations.

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Training                                      The real deal on Okinawa

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                                                                                        It still required manpower.


The German 88mm proved to be a scourge against allied pilots, and deadly on the ground in the battle of the Battle of the Bulge (Christmas 1944). It also was a target of American fire in that cauldron of the Ardennes Forest.

Can you visualize yourself in a Sherman tank, or a U.S. pilot targeted by the 88-----or the crescendo of noise that crashed through the Ardennes woods as you lay in a snow packed crater on that Christmas day in 1944?

    Defense Media Network                   The variable use of the 88mm gun.

August 1944 the U.S. Army began its Po Valley offensive in Italy. The Sherman tanks with powerful 75mm guns were slowed by many river crossings, bad weather and road traffic. September 4 they were ordered to assault a ridge two  miles away. The German 88 batteries opened fire. Result: 24 tanks lost. 64 dead.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is the value of a good video?


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                                                              Tanks

In world War 1, German military placed little emphasis on an armored vehicle operating on caterpillar type tracks (panzer). The British had been the first country to introduce a tank on the battlefield. Their French ally was not far behind. The Versailles treaty (JUNE 28, 1919) ending that conflict prohibited Germany from manufacturing tanks. The Germans found ways to disguise their efforts to build a fighting force of panzer divisions. As they began the war, their Panzer I and II models were battle ready.

September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland spearheaded by 3,000 tanks. On May 10, 1940, they invaded Belgium which brought France and Britain into the defense of that country and formerly declared war on (September 3, 1939). The first tank battle in history occurred on May 14 on Belgian territory. From the Allies view point, the French had delayed German advances. The photo below shows Germans inspecting captured French tanks. The high profile of the tank would be a problem that the military designers sought to lower in future designs.

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The Germans began their war with about 3000 tanks, but used only three of the ten panzer divisions in their lightning strike (blitzkrieg) intended to target France and gain control of the English Channel ports. Their military planners had two pathways. One was to butt heads with the heavily fortified French Maginot line to the south as anticipated by France, or to cross the supposed impenetrable Ardennes Forest. The Germans chose to hook around the French flank, in a north westerly advance, through the forest,  and avoided the French Maginot Line. 

Arrayed against the panzers, were the combined tank forces of Britain, France, Belgium, and Holland. Their combined forces were about 2 times the size of the German divisions and fielded better built tanks. There was one German design that tipped the scale in its favor. Each of their tanks were equipped with a radio, and all of the tanks were subject to central control---much like big gun artillery systems.

The Germans chose the forest route and did run into delays caused by their own traffic. Nevertheless, the strike through the least point of resistance against the French line appeared to be the future for panzer attacks.

A French pilot reported that the panzers advanced like water, "and almost at the point where it meets no resistance".  The French had 3254 tanks that were positioned at the wrong place and time to meet the panzers in open battle

A bit more than one month later, the French surrendered in Paris (June 22, 1940).

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The French turned over to the German victors about 2000 tanks including the well designed French Renault R-35. Both armies had mounted 37mm guns, but the Germans noted the inadequacy of the 37mm which could not pierce enemy armor and converted to a 55mm long gun. The German light tank (right) was eight foot high and weighed 24 tons. Its shell was high explosive armor piercing up to 77mm effective at short range. There were several upgraded designs and all told, about 6,000 were manufactured. This series of German tanks were among the 37 different types of panzers manufactured. They were extremely innovative with captured tanks using parts and pieces to rebuild their own designs.The escaping French left their share of tanks on the road to Dunkirk beaches in June 1940.

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Abandoned Renault                                                                                                                                       German redesign



In the early days of the German invasion,  Colonel Erhard Raus commanded a panzer brigade. In his post war memoirs, which included his later years as general of all eastern front panzer divisions, recalled that a single KV-l  denied his entire brigade  passage through a choke point on a  Russian road.

This behemoth weighed 45 tons, 22 feet long, and had multiple turrets each with 76.2mm guns. In addition, the crew of 5 manned 3 to 4 machine guns. As the invasion began, there were 508 KV-1 on line. There would be several evolutions with upgrades including torsion bar suspension system. One of the reasons why Germans could advance no further than the Caucus region in 1943.

The alternative was another monster sized T-35 that was a mechanical failure. Losses resulted more from breakdowns than battle. This vehicle was extensively used in the battle for Moscow (October 1941). It was often abandoned and seized as pictured below. Outwardly, with similar dual turrets, but required a crew of 7.

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1939 KV-1                                     Later design

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In 1943, the German command brought there own mammoth to the battle at Kursk (Russia July 1943). A German infantryman supporting the armor recalled the moment he viewed the new tank: "Fortunately, we were protected by a German tank named Ferdinand, the biggest and heaviest tank that I had ever seen. It was so big that the ground was practically shaking when it was 3 kilometers away. Not even the Russians had one like it. But the there was a thunderstorm---- the ground went soggy and that was the end of Ferdinand".

The Americans began the war with a surplus of Stuart light tanks. All told they would field over 1 dozen types of tanks. The year before, 1941, the British were using the Stuart lend lease tanks in North African deserts. Reports from that source established the inadequacy of the tank when armies were converting to medium sized armored tanks with heavier armor and larger cannon.  The reports were reinforced in 1942 when Americans in these same tanks faced the Afrika Korps (Operation Torch). Ultimately they were retired from the European theater, but did well in the Pacific theater at Guadalcanal , Tarawa and Saipan.The Stuart M3 was called the President (the "Grant" and the "Lee").  Stuart 1 and the little beefier Stuart 5 were less than 15 feet long, and some of the Stuart 5 models carried a 75mm guns. Its size lent to a 36 MPH rate. Its range was 70 miles.

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             Stuart M1 used by British in North Africa

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                             Stuart M5


The Sherman series medium tank became the U.S. workhorse. About 50,000 of Sherman series were built. Many went to Britain and about 8,000 to Russia under lend lease. This M4 medium tank ran on a Ford 8 cylinder liquid cooled 450 HP engine.

It first engaged the enemy in North Africa (1942) and its principal opponent was the Panzer IV. Each had 75mm guns with a turning turret and a 5 man crew. The Sherman had alternate rubber road tires mounted on each side of the treads. The Sherman's presence in Africa presaged the end of American employment of the Stuart tank in Europe.

At the second battle of El Alamein (Oct 23-Nov 4 1942) in the North African desert, the British and Americans threw 1,000 tanks into the battle including a preponderant number of Shermans. The Germans countered  with about 500 panzers. The Allies took the victory and the Germans and Italians had lost well over 400 tanks.

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The German military designers and engineers in 1943 were able to achieve the production of 2 superior tanks, the medium panther and heavy tiger. Combined the German war machine was able to produce about 8,000 units. Their 88mm guns dominated tank on tank battles. They had the unique quality of turning in place to immediately face the enemy while the Sherman had a longer turning arc decreasing their mobility.

When the Sherman crews complained that their shells bounced off the heavy armor of the  German tanks, General Patton advanced a new strategy to support his belief in the Sherman tank. He suggested that the crew first hit the German tank with a high explosive  projectile and then follow with a white phosphorous shell that was an incendiary that would ignite any excess oil or gas on the enemy tank and create the dreaded fire in the cabin. That seemed to work well.

When the enemy  climbed through the hatch to escape burning, the opposing tank gunners would machine gun the soldiers escaping the conflagration. Neither side had any compunction with this strategy.

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                              Panther                                                                         Tiger


The Nazi ally in the Pacific Theater of operations was much less enthusiastic about tank warfare.The Japanese had determined that their interests and resources were better applied to investment in naval, air and amphibious equipment. Their light tank was ineffective and often not introduced in the island campaigns and mostly appeared in the early years of the war. Nevertheless, their arsenal had produced 12 types including prewar designs. Below: Type 95

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On the D Day invasion landing in Normandy (June 6, 1944), the Americans began landing the first of their 5 armored divisions in addition to off loading lesser amounts of British and Canadian tanks: light tanks 1,141 and medium 5,083. They faced 1347 German tanks. However, only one panzer division was near the coast. General Erwin Rommel had foreseen the need for more tanks, but was overruled by Hitler who insisted on holding the main panzer divisions in reserve and believed the Normandy landings were a diversion from the real invasion at Calais. 

On the British beachhead, code name---Sword Beach, their troops faced about 30 panzers that had organized a counterattack. They were repulsed by artillery fire from the Ally ships off shore. As the British moved inland, the Germans became aware of the Allies deception and that Normandy was the main invasion target. They threw 6 1/2 armored divisions against the British and Canadians as they advanced inland toward the City of Caen. Lt. General Bernard Montgomery led these forces and underestimated the German defenses. It was not until mid July that three British tank divisions were able to defeat the Germans south of Caen. What Montgomery planned to accomplish in one week, took over one month.

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The planners of the Normandy invasion (Operation Overlord) underestimated potential tank losses. In the three month period June to August 1944, actual losses exceeded 25%. The Germans lost about 500 tanks in the same period.


The Sherman tank, highly favored by General George S. Patton, formed the spearhead of the armored advances. Within days of landing in Normandy, Patton's 3rd Army began hooking north (Operation Cobra) through the Loire Valley intent on denying retreating German forces a defensive line on the Seine River. In a continuous 25 day advance, his tanks had covered 300 miles with only light pressure from the Germans.

click to enlarge        1st Army moving with Patton tanks

www.battleofnormandytours.com

Our British friends and ally have constructed a significant web site that adds information to this discussion of tanks.

http://adayinatank.co.uk/the-tanks/#facts


The liberation of Paris, August 25, 1944, is in good part the story of tank warfare. The interesting views of the combatants is a story well portrayed in this video.

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Mines

In 1944, the Germans anticipated an invasion that would attempt to breach the Atlantic Wall they had constructed with fortifications running from Spain through Holland. General Erwin Rommel, now Field Marshal, well aware of the threat spoke to his chief engineer:

"------I want mines that detonate when a wire is tripped, mines that explode when a wire is cut; mines that can be remotely controlled and mines that will exploded when a beam of light is interrupted---"

An agreed upon estimate approximates that land mines were deployed in the multi millions. Basically there were anti-personnel mines and anti-tank mines.The latter were generally detonated by a heavy weight and the former with lower explosive power that fired out steel ball bearings in all directions about waist high. The Brits referred to this "S" mine as a "Bouncing Betty".

In February 1943, The Americans were suffering a stinging loss and retreat at the Kasserine Pass, Tunisia. A few months later the American General Lesley McNair remarked, "The enemy's tremendous application of land mines makes them almost a new arm of combat".

Both type devices could be exploded with delayed fuzes or trip wires.

General Rommel ordered the installation of  a half million mines around El Alamein in 1942. The British retaliated in kind. The idea was to reduce the mobility of the tanks in the desert. Tourists have been discouraged from entering the area 70 plus years later.

The German anti-tank mine could also be detonated by personnel weighing 100 pounds. Weight on the hinged cover--about 18" by 14" wooden box-- would lower onto a lever connected to a detonator. Its power could destroy the tank treads or a small vehicle.


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The array of anti-personnel devices was extensive. The German "S' mine is far left. The Japanese even used a terracotta shell.

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The Axis powers were particularly innovative in preparing booby trap mines. The Germans  hid it in potential battlefield souvenirs; Luger pistol, field glasses or a body. The Japanese, with supply lines lengthened or cut, would hide grenades surrounded by metal fragments in hollowed coconuts or ceremonial swords attached to trip wires.

All the armies developed detection tools. Some used expendable prisoners even infantrymen. Machine guns raked opened fields. Any device or animal would be used to clear safe passage through a field. Tanks used a variety of extensions to test the ground.

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Part 2 : World War 2 Aircraft

Part 3:  World War 2 Weapons & the Navy

American Wars | Causes of World War 2 | World War 2 Weapons

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