10 Interesting Facts About Germany in WW2

1. In Most Cases, German Soldiers were better than Allied Soldiers

Now this one can be difficult to explain, as what is the definition of a ‘better soldier’? After all Germany did lose the war. But if you look at all the battles where German troops fought allied troops, they outperformed the allies almost every time. If you take the success of the Germans in the early years of the war, they controlled most of Europe from France in the West, Greece in the South, Norway in the North and as far as Moscow and Stalingrad in the East. They more than often fought enemies whilst being outnumbered and had to contend with enemy air superiority, especially towards the later years of the war. The German soldier was a formidable enemy and this explains why it took 4 years for the combined forces of Great Britain, The United States of America and the Soviet Union to eventually defeat the Germans.

2. German Tanks were not as good as Allied Tanks

Although Germany is characterised in WW2 by the use of the tank, German tanks were often inferior to the allied tanks. Believe it or not in 1940 when Germany invaded France, the Germans faced the far more powerful French tanks which outmatched any tank that the Germans possessed at the time. The secret to success with the tank was the way in which they were used and the Germans discovered this early on. After 1940 the British and American tanks tended to be outmatched by Germany tanks, but in the East the Soviet tanks were far more superior than any German tanks, especially the Soviet built T34 Tank (Pictured Right), which has often been said to be the best medium tank of the war.

3. The German army was heavily reliant on horses

Word War 2 has always been perceived as the ‘Modern War’ with tanks, trucks, Jeeps, heavy bombers etc,  essentially the foundation of what Armies of today use. But when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, they gathered over 600,000 horses to be used as a supply chain. The German army was not as motorized as some may think. Horses were still used for ration supplies, ammunition and field ambulances. The invasion of the Soviet Union depended on horses bringing up the supplies for the army and so it really wasn’t as modern as some may think.

File:Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-009-0869-12A, Russland, Zwei deutsche Infanteristen.jpg4. German troops were not given winter clothing when invading the Soviet Union

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, Hitler was so confident of success that he forbid the issuing of winter clothing to his troops. Hitler was convinced that the Soviet Union would collapse well before winter and so his troops would not require such clothing. Hitler was proved very wrong, but it was his soldiers that suffered for his over-confidence. In most cases, German soldiers had to make do with their summer uniforms as can be seen in the picture to the right and, more often than not were forced to take clothes from civilians causing tremendous casualties.

 

5. Many Russians served in the German Army

Amazingly nearly a million Soviet Citizens served as part of the German army, some just as ‘Hiwis’ (‘Willing to Help’) but others as soldiers and some who even assisted in the holocaust. When German troops invaded the Soviet Union, in areas such as Ukraine many people greeted the Germans as liberators, the people had had enough of Stalinist rule and they saw the German invasion as a chance for freedom from oppression. Sadly for these unfortunate people though, they were simply swapping one terrible regime for another. An army was even formed by the Germans called the Russian liberation army (Pictured Left), which consisted of anti-communist Russians, this army fought in the later stages of the war.

6. Germans invented the first jet-fighter aircraft

The Messerschmitt Me 262 (Pictured Right)became the worlds first jet powered fighter. Its speed was tremendous and was clearly the start of a new type of fighter. Although it was revolutionary, the aircraft came too late in the war (1944) to make a difference and was plagued by problems, especially the lack of fuel. With the allies enjoying air superiority over Europe with their huge air forces, it was of no surprise that the fighter jet did little to stop the defeat of Germany.

7. They had the largest artillery piece ever used in the history of warfare

The ‘Schwerer Gustav’ (In English: ‘Heavy Gustav’ or ‘Great Gustav’) was a huge artillery piece built on a fixed railway carriage. The sheer size of it made it impossible to be moved on anything other than rail and when fully assembled, the gun weighed 1,350 tonnes and fired shells that weighed 7 tonnes over a range of 47 Kilometres. the Germans only used it once in the siege of Sevastopol where the gun destroyed numerous bunkers in the city and even smashed an underwater ammunition magazine that lay 30 meters below the water with 10 meters of concrete to protect it.

8. The Germans used sirens on bombers to strike fear into their enemies

We have all heard the sound on old movies, the deafening whale that a plane lets out as it dives to the ground, but this sound is only actually made from one plane, the German Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber (Pictured Right). The device that caused the sound was the ‘Jericho Trumpet’, an instrument fitted to the plane so that as the bomber dived, air would rush into these instruments letting off a screaming siren that would send fear into the troops unlucky enough to be below it. The dive bomber was an integral part of the Blitzkrieg doctrine and was but one of the methods used to cause an army to break.

9. The Germans had the largest transport aircraft of the war

The German built Messerschmitt Me 323 ‘Gigant‘ or ‘Giant’ (Pictured Left) as it was appropriately called, was a huge 6 engine transport plane that had the capacity to carry vehicles and artillery pieces. The planes were used heavily in the Mediterranean where supplies were transported to the Afrika Korps.  However the planes were simply too slow for regular use and while the allies held air superiority, many were shot down.

10. The Germans were the first to use long-range Rockets and Helicopters during the war

By now if you have got this far then you have probably realised that the Germans invented a lot during the war! They invented machines and weapons that we see on a regular basis in the military today.  Many attempts had been made during the 1900’s at vertical flight but with little success. The Germans though were able to develop the first practical helicopter which they used during the war, but mainly for observation, transport and medical evacuation. It would still be a number of years after the war until they were used for warfare.
With rockets, the idea had been thought of hundreds of years before, some small scale rockets were used in the Napoleonic wars for example. But long range rockets came into being only during the Second World War. An area of the German military, under the leadership of the famous Wernher von Braun, was given the task of inventing and producing rockets that could be used to attack Germany’s enemies during the war. As the war progressed, Hitler wanted weapons to strike at population areas, mainly London to try and knock Great Britain out of the war, thus when the V2 rocket was developed, many were fired at London and other areas of Western Europe. Whilst it caused thousands of casualties, the Germans luckily did not have the numbers of rockets or good enough guidance systems to use them to their full potential. Wernher von Braun however would go on to develop his rockets after the war but in a peaceful way. Von Braun moved to the USA after the war and worked for NASA assisting the Americans in building the rockets that put the first man on the Moon. So although the Germans had invented some terrifying weaponry during the war, one of those developments was able to assist in taking mankind where it had never gone before.

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