Category: World War II

Top Tank Battles of World War II

The top tank battles of World War II, despite their crucial victories and severe losses, do not carry the same notoriety as other battles throughout the war.  Throughout WWII, tanks were used as an effective force which allowed a quick tactical victory.  Their involvement in World War II was vital.   Listed below, in no particular order, are some of the top tank battles of World War II:

(1941)  Battle of Brody

Germans:  800 tanks        Soviet Union:  2,500 tanks

The Battle of Brody was a fierce tank battle between the Germans and the Red Army. It remained the largest tank battle of WWII until the Battle of Kursk two years later.  Despite being outnumbered, the Germans were victorious.

(1940)  Battle of Hannut

France:  600 tanks          Germans:  618 (up to 674)

This World War II tank battle occurred in Belgium between the French army and the Nazi invaders.  Despite inflicting a significant number of casualties on the French, the Germans were unable to neutralize the French army and withdrew.

(1944)  Operation Goodwood

United Kingdom – 1,100 – 1,300 tanks     Germans:  377 tanks

In Operation Goodwood, the British attacked the German forces in northern France.  What ensued was a battle some would arguably defend as the largest tank battle ever fought by the British Army.  In the end, some would refer to this as a strategic Allied victory, but a tactical victory for the Germans.

(1943)  Battle of Prokhorovka

Soviets:  800-850 tanks     Germans:  500-700 tanks (possibly far less)

This WWII tank battle was part of the Battle of Kursk and is one of the largest tank battles in military history.  Though the victory of this battle was not immediately clear, it did show the continued force and determination of the Soviets.

(1941)  Battle of Raseiniai

Soviets:  749 tanks                   Germans:  245 tanks

Battle of RaseiniaiDuring the Battle of Raseiniai, the Soviet armored forces were almost completely destroyed.  This cleared the way for the German offensive to continue their drive and cross the Daugava River.

 (1942)  Second Battle of El Alamein

Allies:  1,029 tanks              Axis:  547 tanks

The German’s lost this battle and were unable to gain possession of Egypt and the Suez Canal.  The Allies received Sherman Tanks from the Americans, which reinforced their forces and allowed them to outlast the Germans.  The tanks were critical in this Allied victory.

The world has seen many epic tank battles before and since.  But those listed above are definitely some of the top tank battles of WWII.

The Role of Native American’s During World War II

For the most part, the role of Native American’s during World War II is greatly overlooked.  In fact, Native American’s made a greater per capita contribution to the war than any other group.

Childers (left), with General Jacob L. Devers after receiving the Medal of HonorChilders (left), with General Jacob L. Devers after receiving the Medal of Honor. It is estimated that approximately one million Native Americans lived in what is now known as the United States when Christopher Columbus arrived.  Less than 400 years later, the population had dwindled down to around 250,000 Indians.  By 1940, that number had risen to around 350,000.  Of that 350,000, 44,000 of them saw military service during WWII.  The Native Americans were involved in all conflicts and received numerous medals, awards and citations.  Three even received the Congressional Medal of Honor – Lt. Ernest Childers from the Creek tribe, Lt. jack Montgomery, a Cherokee Indian and Lt. Van Barfoot a Choctaw.

The United States Enters the War and So Do the Native Americans

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, many Native Americans either enlisted in the armed forces, or went to work in the war plants.  According to one survey, by 1942 the majority of the Native Americans in the service had enlisted voluntarily.

Back in 1917, the Iroquois Confederacy had declared war on Germany.  At the start of WWII, they still had not made peace and were more than ready to fight.  Other tribes were also ready as well.  Some were willing to wait for hours in bad weather in order to sign their draft cards.  Others showed up with their rifles, ready to fight.  It is estimated that about a quarter of the Mescalero Apaches enlisted voluntarily.  This was the same for many of the remaining tribes throughout the United States.  These Native Americans were prepared to overlook their past disappointments and resentments.  They understood the importance of defending one’s own land.

By mid-1942, the annual enlistment for Native Americans was approximately 7,500.  By the beginning of 1945, the yearly average had jumped to 22,000.  Selective Service reported in 1942 that 99% of all Native Americans who were eligible for the draft (healthy males between the ages of 21 and 44) had registered for the draft.  On the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, approximately 5,000 Indians were in the service.  That number escalated to over 44,000 (both reservation and off reservation) by the time the war ended. This accounted for more than ten percent of the Indian population during the war time-frame.American Indian woman]

In addition to the Indian males who served during the war, the women of some of the tribes also contributed serving in the WACS, WAVES and Army Nurse Corps.

Language Barriers

During WWI, the Choctaw language baffled German code-breakers.  With World War II looming in the not too distant future, Germans feared Indian language would once again be used against them.  Throughout the 1930s, German Nazis, infiltrated the reservations disguised as anthropologists and writers in an attempt to learn the language while others attempted to dissuade the Indians from registering for the draft.  Some German Nazis whirling-log-basketbelieved the Indians would chose to revolt rather than fight against Germany since the Swastika was quite similar to a symbol used by the Indians (though once they learned of the Nazi Swastika, the Navajo discontinued using the symbol).  Not only did the Germans fail to convert the Indians, some speculate it was the fuel that encouraged them to register in such staggering numbers.  In all, an average of 80,000 men and women (roughly 20% of the Indian population) fought in the armed forces both at home and abroad.

Some of the tribes had to memorize key English phrases and learn how to write their name.  Others, such as the Navajo were so determined, they began remedial English training classes on the reservations in order to qualify for the military.

The way the draft was structured meant Indians and whites would need to operate together while defending the United States.  As a result their lives, as well as their land-based culture would be forever changed.

On the Home Front

As war was declared on the Axis by President Roosevelt, it felt as if he were speaking to each and every citizen individually.  The Indian tribes interpreted this as meaning all would be permitted to participate.  As a result, an estimated 40,000 Indians (men and women ranging in age from 18 to 50) left their reservations for the very first time and sought jobs in the defense industry.  As a result, they acquired vocational skills, increased their cultural sophistication and elevated their awareness when dealing with non-Indians.

buy war bondsAdditional support from the Tribes came from their large purchases of Treasury Stamps and Bonds and in way of donations to the Red Cross.  In 1944, it is estimated that Indians purchased close to $50 million in bonds.

Also at home, an estimated 2,500 Navajos participated in the construction of the Ft. Wingate Ordnance Depot in New Mexico.  The Pueblo tribe assisted with the building of the Naval Supply Depot in Utah, while the Alaskan Indians were engaged in territory defense.

Back on the reservations, the women assumed the traditional duties of the men.  In addition to sewing uniforms, tending livestock and canning food, they also manned the fire lookout stations and learned to be mechanics, lumberjacks and farmers.  Despite their reluctance in leaving the reservation, many of the women worked in aircraft plants as welders.  Others donated time to the Red Cross, the Civil Defense and the American Women’s Volunteer Service.

Native Americans in the USMC

After the successful use of the Choctaw language (to befuddle the Germans) in World War I in sending messages to field phones, the USMC began recruiting Navajo Indians for the same purpose.  They would become known as Navajo_Code_Talkersthe Navajo Code Talkers.  Their code allowed for faster transmitting and deciphering and it was a code the Japanese were never able to break.

 

The Marine Corps welcomed the Indians.  They respected their warrior reputation; a reputation they felt matched their own ‘elite’ fighters.  When the Marine Navajos ended their ceremonial chants, they would do so by singing the USMC Hymn in their native tongue.  They started a signal unit comprised of all Navajos in order to encode messages in their native tongue.  They formed their own words for various military and naval terms so they could transmit orders and/or instructions.  The Code Talkers were first used in 1942 on Guadalcanal, but eventually, they were each assigned to one of the USMCs six Pacific divisions.  By the end of the war, more than 400 Navajos had served as Code Talkers, a service which is credited with saving countless lives.

 Other Areas of Service

Native Americans excelled at basic training, were proficient in marksmanship and bayonet fighting and were capable of enduring thirst and food deprivation better than the average soldier.  The Native American soldier had an acute sent of perception, excellent endurance and exceptional physical coordination.

Along with the Pacific Theater, the Indians also saw action in Bataan and Corregidor, Italy and Central Europe.

Post World War II

After the war was over, many of the Native Americans remained in the mainstream (as opposed to returning to the reservation).   Leaving their traditional culture was not rejection of their heritage.  Instead, they began to identify and cope with various differences they saw between themselves and the white man.  Others, despite learning to make the necessary adjustments to live in white America, still chose to return to their reservations.  Despite a better standard of living and job and education opportunities, these Indians were not willing to give up the security offered by the reservation.

The Native Americans, no doubt, played an outstanding role in America’s WWII victory despite the challenges they faced both as individuals and as a group.  They left the comforts of the only land they ever knew and travelled to far away strange places where people did not understand their traditions.  They gave up their dances and rituals and had to learn how to adapt to working under a ‘white man’.  Despite all this, the Native Americans did learn to adapt to their various World War II roles and in the process, they went from being American Indians to Indian-Americans.

Interesting Facts About World War II

Below is a list of interesting facts about World War II:

  1. World War II, to date, caused more destruction and cost more money than any other conflict. Russia alone suffered more than 21 million casualties – more than any other country involved in the war.
  2. Four of every five German soldiers killed in the war, died on the Eastern Front.
  3. Only 20% of the males born in the Soviet Union in 1923 survived the war.
  4. An average of 27,700 tons of bombs was dropped per month by the Allies from 1939 to 1945 for a total of 3.4 million tons.
  5. Facts about Pearl Harbor:
    1. At the time of the attack, 96 ships were anchored
    2. 18 of the ships were sunk or seriously damaged – this included eight battleships
    3. A total of 2,402 American men were killed with another 1,280 being injured
    4. A total of 350 aircraft were either damaged or destroyed
    5. President Roosevelt used Al Capons’ bullet proof car (which had been seized by the US Treasury in 1931 and was the only bulletproof vehicle available) as a means of safe transportation to deliver his infamous Pearl Harbor speech.
  6. Back in 1942, the radio DJs in the United States were forbidden to accept listener requests as officials feared enemy spies could imbed secret messages.
  7. In World War II, the youngest serviceman in the United States military was Calvin Graham – age 12. Graham lied about his age when he enlisted in the US Navy.   His real age was not discovered after he was wounded.
  8. A number of historians credit the Battle at Stalingrad as the turning point of the war in Europe.
  9. The Battle of the Atlantic is the longest battle of the war, lasting from 1939 to 1945.
  10. Only one out of every four men serving on U-boats survived.
  11.   The Japanese use the term ‘niju hibakusha’ to refer to survivors of the atomic bombings. Literally translated, the word means ‘explosion-affected people’.
  12. The earnings of a private jumped from $21/month in 1941 to $50/month in 1942.
  13. German U-Boats are credited with sinking 2,000 Allied ships. A total of 781 U-Boats were destroyed in the process.
  14. Production of war related items soared in the United States during World War II, including the following:
    1. 650,000 Jeeps
    2. 300,000 military aircraft
    3. 89,000 tanks
    4. 3 million machine guns
    5. 7 million rifles
  15. More than 80,000 US soldiers died in the Battle of the Bulge, making it the largest and deadliest battle for United States troops to date.
  16. Hard to believe, but the Siege of Stalingrad resulted in more Russian deaths (military and civilian) then the United States and Britain sustained (combined) in all of World War II.
  17. During WWII, the Japanese launched more than 9,000 ‘balloon’ weapons at the United States. These ‘wind ship weapons’ carried combustible bombs over the states with 1,000 of them actually hitting their intended target. Some reached as far as Michigan. The only deaths reported as a result of these bombs were in Oregon – five children and one pregnant woman who found a bomb that had not detonated, but did so after they moved it.
  18. The use of Kamakaze (divine wind) pilots was proposed in October of 1944 by Vice Admiral Onishi. Onishi felt the tactic would help to balance the technological advantages of the advancing US forces. It is believed that as many as 2,000 pilots died while sinking 34 US ships, damaging 368, killing 4,900 sailors and wounding an additional 4,800.
  19. The United States’ defense budget during the war (1940-45) increased from $1.9 billion to a staggering $59.8 billion.
  20. Jet fighters were first used during World War II by the Germans. Their late development made their impact insignificant, however, in changing the course of the war.
  21. During World War II, General Karl Becker designed the most powerful artillery gun. The Karl – as it was appropriately named – was mainly used against the Russians. This artillery piece was capable of shooting a 2.5 ton shell over three miles. Each shell was 24 inches wide and had the capacity to pierce through 8 or 9 feet of concrete.
  22. To avoid using the German sounding name ‘hamburger’ during World War II, Americans used the name ‘Liberty Steak’.
  23. The top ace fighter of all nations involved in WWII is Germany’s pilot Erich Hartmann – known as the Blond Knight. Hartmann is credited with 352 ‘kills’.
  24. Adolf Hitler’s nephew, William Hitler, served in the US Navy during World War II. It wasn’t until after the war that he changed his name.
  25. The following Hollywood actors served in WWII and received military decorations:
    1. Henry Fonda – Bronze Star in the Pacific
    2. Walter Matthau – 6 Battle Stars
    3. David Niven – US Legion of Merit
  26. Though infamous for starring in more than a dozen World War II movies, actor John Wayne was unable to serve during the war due to a football injury.
  27. Oddly enough, both Adolph Hitler and Henry Ford each kept a framed picture of each other on their desk.
  28. Private Eddie Slovik was the only deserter of WWII shot for this crime. He was executed in January of 1945, the first since the Civil War.
  29. During WWI, Japan fought with Britain, France and the US. Minimal territory gain from the peace treaty and a change of government in 1920 (fanatical nationalists) eventually provoked Japan to side with the Germans.
  30. Germany also had a number of grievances after its defeat in WWI. First, it was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles. They lost all their overseas empires and even land mass to its neighbors. Germany was further prevented from maintaining a large army. The resentment that followed eventually nullified the settlement and led to World War II.
  31. The 442nd regimental Combat Team was (and continues to be to date) the most decorated unit in United States history. Their motto for this Japanese-American volunteer group during the war was ‘Go for Broke’. They received a total of 4,667 medals and citations which included the following:
    1. 560 Silver Stars – 28 of these had oak-leaf clusters
    2. 4,000 Bronze Stars
    3. 52 Distinguished Service Crosses
    4. One Medal of Honor

This unit is also noted as never having a case of desertion.

  1. The United States camouflage print for the service uniforms used during World War II was designed by Norvell Gillespie. Gillespie was the garden editor for the Better Homes and Gardens Magazine.
  2. From July 4-22, 1943, more than 3,600 tanks took part in the Battle at Kursk. This tank battle between the Germans and the Russians is the greatest tank battle in the history of warfare.
  3. During World War II, the largest Japanese spy ring was actually located in Mexico. Here, they could spy on the United States Atlantic Fleet.
  4. The mortality rate for POWs in Russian camps was 85%.
  5. During WWII, Germany lost twice as many generals than the United States. Germany lost 3,363 while the United States lost just over 1,500.
  6. When the war was over, the majority of German war criminals gained their freedom by claiming to be refugees at various displaced persons camps.
  7. Had it been necessary for a third atom bomb, the city targeted would have been Tokyo, Japan.
  8. The United States is the only country that Germany formally declared war on in World War II.
  9. A new weapon – the Katyusha – was introduced by the Soviets in July of 1941. This weapon is capable of firing 320 rockets in as little as 25 seconds and is still considered an effective weapon today.
  10. A little trick used by Britain during the war was the use of inflatable barrage balloons. These balloons would be launched around major towns and cities just before a raid. Beneath each balloon was a network of steel cables, which forced bombers to fly high in order to avoid entanglement within the cables. As a result, their accuracy was greatly reduced.
  11. Many attribute the success of the Blitzkreig to the use of dive-bombers. These bombers – such as the Stuka (Junkers Ju87) -would support the tank units. They were fitted with sirens which made a screaming sound that terrified the population.
  12. A Norwegian leader – Vidkun Quisling who held office from 1942 to 1945 – was found guilty of collaborating with the Germans after its occupation. During World War II, the word quisling in the Norwegian language became a synonym for traitor.
  13. Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier, emerged from the jungle of the Pacific Island Lubang in 1974. Unaware that Japan had surrendered, he remained hidden in the jungle for 29 years.
  14. Russia and Japan have never signed an official peace treaty. An attempt – as recent as 2000 – failed when Russia refused to return four offshore islands they had taken from Japan after the war.
  15. During WWII, the Navajo Code Talkers were able to devise a code using their native language. The code allowed for quick sending and deciphering. Unlike earlier codes, which required far more time, the Japanese were never able to break the Navajo Code.
  16. The first Allied paratroopers did not appear until 1940, five years after the Russians.
  17. Newly developed blood transfusion proved to be the most important medical advancement credited with saving lives of soldiers.
  18. During WWII, all major powers had chemical weapons, such as poison gas that was first used in WWI to break the trench war stalemate. However, only two countries actually used them:
    1. Japan – in China
    2. Italy – in Ethiopia
  19. Total casualties for World War II totaled between 50 – 70 million people. A staggering 80% of this total came from only four countries – Russia, China, Germany and Poland. Over 50% of the casualties were civilians, with the majority of those being women and children.

These interesting facts about World War II are just some of the little known facts regarding the war.

WWII – First USMC Native American Minnie Spotted Wolf

minnie spotted wolfJuly 2013 marks another WWII milestone – the 70th year anniversary of the first Native American woman enlisting in the USMC Women’s Reserve – Minnie Spotted Wolf.  Minnie – a member of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe – was born in an area just outside of Heart Butte, MT close to White Tail Creek.  She grew up on a ranch and spent much of her time working as a ranch hand.  Minnie learned to cut fence posts, drive a 2-ton truck and even break a horse.  The physicality of ranch work prepped Minnie for the rigors of boot camp.  She is quoted as noting Marine boot camp as ?hard, but not too hard’.

Minnie served a total of four years in the United States Marine Corps.  She was not only a heavy equipment operator, but also drove for the visiting generals on bases in California and Hawaii.

Minnie spotted wolf 2After four years in the Marines, Minnie Spotted Wolf returned to her home state of Montana.  She met and married Robert England.  In 1955, Minnie earned her two-year degree in Elementary Education.  Eventually, in 1976, she earned her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.  Minnie taught for 29 years before passing away in 1988.

Though Minnie Spotted Wolf was the first Native American woman to enlist in the Marine Corps, she was certainly not the only Blackfoot to give service in the US Armed Forces during WWII.

USMC Women’s Reserve

The history of the USMC Women’s Reserve began in World War I when Maj. Gen. Commandent Barnett requested permission from the Secretary of the Navy to enlist women to assist with electrical duties.  On 13 August 1918, Opha Mae Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.  By year’s end, she was followed by an additional 300 women.  These women took over a number of stateside clerical duties.  They received the nickname ?Marinettes’.

Major Ruth StreeterOn 13 February 1943, the USMC officially established the Women’s Reserve with first director Maj. Ruth Streeter.  Training for the women began in March of 1943.  At the time, the USMC used Navy training facilities for both the officer candidates and the enlisted women.  Within the first month of accepting women, the USMC had their first class of officer candidates.

Women in the USMC were given over 200 different jobs stateside.  By the time the war ended, more than 85% of the enlisted at USMC headquarters were women.  While many women were positioned in clerical positions, others were assigned as radio operators, photographers, cooks, drivers, control tower operators and auto mechanics to name a few. More than 20,000 women served the USMC throughout WWII, with only 1,000 continuing on in service after the war ended.

women in warIn June of 1948, the US Congress officially passed an act – the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act – which made women a permanent part of the USMC.  Within two years, these women would be mobilized once again for the war in Korea.  Almost 2,800 women were called to active duty during that time.  During the Vietnam War, close to 2,700 women were serving stateside as well as overseas.  Except for roles in the infantry, artillery, armor and pilot-air crew, women were given approval by the USMC for assignment in all occupational fields by 1975, a far cry from the basic roles given to the first Native American woman – Minnie Spotted Wolf – in World War II.

Sticky Bombs of WWII

The sticky bombs used during World War II were originally produced by the United Kingdom. These hand grenades were designed as a solution to the shortage of anti-tank guns, which was evident after the Dunkirk evacuation.

Development of the Sticky Bomb

It is believed that Major Millis Jefferis began thinking about an anti-tank weapon as early as 1938. His idea was to have an explosive charge deform so it could cover a substantial area of close contact with a target’s surface. Once detonated, the charge would create far greater destruction in a more condensed area making it capable of rupturing a thick armored plate. This type of explosive device was known as a ‘poultice’ or ‘squash head’.

Eventually, he enlisted the help of Dr. Bauer and Dr. Schulman from the Colloid Science Department at Cambridge University. The men began experimenting with various lengths of bicycle inner tubes, filling them with a type of modeling clay to represent the explosive. Next, wooden handles were fitted on the tubes and then dipped into a rubber solution causing them to become sticky. They soon discovered their prototypes were not only difficult to aim, but they also did not adhere to the metal bins used in the trials to represent the tanks.

By 1940, after the incident at Dunkirk, a German invasion of the UK seemed imminent. The British Army was not properly equipped for such an invasion. Among other things, they were short on anti-tanks guns. The 840 they had in France had been left behind, leaving them with only 167, for which ammunition was scarce.

Jefferis realized his sticky bomb idea may now have general applications for the British Army. But problems still remained with developing this device. In searching for solutions, he turned to Robert Stuart Macrae, who realized a flexible bag capable of holding an explosive gel would be required. This design, in theory, would allow for better adhesion on the target. At trials though, difficulty throwing the bag was still an issue.

Next, Gordon Norwood, who was a master printer and happen to overhear the problems being experienced, had an idea. He secured every day light bulbs in an effort to demonstrate his theory that a spherical glass flask placed inside a sock of woven wood is rigid enough to allow a good throw. However, upon making contact, the glass breaks allowing the bomb to bend and adhere to the necessary shape. In order to provide the thrower time to create a safe distance between himself and the explosive, a sticky substance was used to cover the bomb which allowed it to remain in place a few seconds before detonation.

The development of the sticky bomb continued to be refined and arguments over a number of issues persisted. The War Department refused to grant approval for the British Army to use this devise. However, Prime Minister Churchill intervened and production of the bomb commenced. Between 1940 and 1943, more than 2.5 million were made. During World War II, in addition to the United Kingdom, the sticky bomb was also used by Canada and Australia.

Top Ten United States Fighter Pilot Aces from WWII

OVERVIEW

Based on victories reported, below is a top ten list of the United States fighter pilot aces from WWII.  No doubt, they US had a number of excellent fighter pilots.  However, had the outcome of the war been determined on fighter pilot victories alone, the Germans would have taken the war hands down.  Though various circumstances did contribute to their incredibly high numbers, they were far superior in kills than any other country or countries combined.  Their top ace – Erich Hartmann – had more victories than the top ten US pilots combined:  352 vs. 325.

Richard Bong

In all, Germany had a total of 195 top flying aces in World War II, compared to the United States 25.  Germany aside, the Japanese are next on the list regarding total victories scored, followed by the British and Commonwealth aces.  However, the United States fighter pilots did tally an impressive number of victories throughout WWII, and no doubt, played a pivotal role in the success of the Allies.

THE TOP TEN LIST

The top 10 list below actually lists 11 pilots as the #10 and #11 aces each scored 25 victories.

Name                              Branch                     Total Victories             Aircraft

Richard Bong             US Army Air Force                 40                      P-38 Lightning

Thomas McGuire       US Army Air Force                 38                     P-38 Lightning (Killed in action)

David McCampbell     US Navy                                  34                      F6F Hellcat

Gregory Boyington     US Marine Corps                   28                      F4U Corsair

Francis Gabreski         US Air Force                           28                      Spitfire / P-47 Thunderbolt

Robert Johnson           US Army Air Force                28                      P-47 Thunderbolt

Charles MacDonald    US Army Air Force                 27                      P-38 Lightning

Joseph Foss                  US Marine Corps                    26                      F4F Wildcat

George Preddy              US Air Force                           26                      P-51 Mustang (Killed in action)

Robert Hanson             US Marine Corps                   25                      F4U Corsair (Killed in action)

Lance Wade                  Royal Air Force*                    25                      Spitfire (Killed in action)

*Note:  Lance Wade is the only American to serve exclusively in any foreign air force.

When considering top aces of World War II, victories alone do not always reflect overall performance.  Guidelines throughout the countries varied and a pilot’s word was sometimes the only confirmation.  The list above is strictly based on total victories reported.

The United States may have paled in comparison to the Germans overall victory performance in World War II, but they left an impressive mark on American history.  Even though these men are ranked possibly fourth among all the countries for victories in WWII, these fighter pilot aces fought long and hard; and the top ten aces listed here is reflective of the dedication of the American armed forces and their fighter pilots.

WWII Weapons and Tactics

During WWII, both the Allies and Axis continually designed, produced and implemented advanced weapons and tactics in their endeavor for supremacy.  Industrial advancements and military leadership was crucial as battles raged in the air, on the land and on the sea.

Step back in time as you step into the Firearms and Ordnance Gallery at the Armed Forces History Museum.  Here, reality awakens within, as you marvel at the weapons and feel the power of destruction housed throughout this extensive gallery.  Authentic weapons (including some used by Special Forces) from around the world dating throughout history can be witnessed in this astonishing collection.  The oldest piece on display is a very rare bayonet from the Revolutionary War.

Air Warfare

In the air, strategic and tactical warfare was executed, along with airborne assault.  When bombers were sent to destroy the enemy’s industry and towns, it was referred to as strategic air warfare.  But, when the bomber-fighter planes were employed to attack opposing troops on the ground, they were said to be using tactical warfare.  Airborne assault involved dropping troops behind enemy lines.

Strategic – Strategic warfare was utilized mainly by the US and the British against Germany.  The heavily conducted air raids used newly developed long-range aircraft, allowing them to penetrate deep into German occupied areas.  Daytime missions proved to be too dangerous, but night time bombing missions were found to be inaccurate and basically ineffective.  Once long range fighter planes were developed, they assisted the bombers and provided additional protection on the daylight missions.

Tactical – Fighter-bomber aircraft were employed for tactical missions.  These aircraft were heavily armed and capable of withstanding steep dives and rapid maneuvers.  Their heavy armor protected them from some of the ground fire they encountered on low-level missions.  Their missions included striking enemy armor and their defense positions, destroy any supplies or communication centers located in close proximity to the battlefield and also to hassle troops positioned behind the lines.

Airborne Assault – Paratroopers and glider troops became highly utilized during WWII.  By dropping these troops behind enemy lines, these forces could impair the enemy’s key positions and installations.  Airborne assault was widely utilized during the Normandy invasion.

Sea Warfare

Naval warfare of World War II included submarines, battleships and aircraft carriers and amphibious tactics.

Submarines – Submarines during WWII adopted a form of attack known as “wolf-pack”.  This type of attack coordinated large groups of submarines to assault shipping convoys.   The US adopted this technique in the Pacific theater where it proved successful in hindering Japanese shipping.

Battleships and Aircraft Carriers – Battleships were instrumental throughout WWII, but it was also discovered that aircraft carriers could be used as the main warship of a fleet.  Prior to the war, carriers were viewed as support for battleships by the air protection and reconnaissance they provided.  However, once their potential as an offensive weapon was realized, the aircraft carrier’s role changed and it became the dominant warship throughout the Pacific.

Amphibious – With the introduction of the amphibious landing crafts, troops could now be beached easily and in large numbers.  This type of assault tactic was used frequently in the Pacific, with the largest assault occurring during the landings at Normandy.

Land Warfare

Tanks, artillery and small arms all played major roles for both the Allies and the Axis in the land warfare of World War II.

Tanks – The WWII tank took on a whole new persona and evolved throughout the war as they became actively involved in their own independent offensives.  Tanks were heavily armored and provided ample fire power with turret mounted machine guns.  Many consider the Soviet tank – T-34 – the most impressive tank of WWII.

Artillery – During WWII, artillery became more mobile.  Also introduced during this time frame was the recoilless rifle.  This rifle was light in weight but fired a powerful shell.  Also developed and highly used during WWII were hand-carried rocket launchers and anti-aircraft weapons.

Small Arms – During WWII, many of the American soldiers (and even some troops from other nations) were armed with semi-automatic weapons.  Light machine guns were more widely used in this war than in previous conflicts and some troops – predominantly the Soviets – used submachine guns in WWII.

The weapons and tactics of WWII took on a new dimension.  Some of what was used at the beginning of the war was obsolete just a few years later when the war ended.  During the war, developments occurred at rapid speed in an effort to maintain superiority over the enemy.  In the end, the weapons and tactics used throughout WWII provided significant lessons for both the Allies and the Axis.

Highest Scoring Tank Ace of WWII – Kurt Knispel

The highest scoring tank ace of WWII was Germany’s Kurt Knispel.  Knispel total tank kills were confirmed at 168, with some unconfirmed estimates stating that total could actually be closer to 195 kills.  Knispel is considered by some as the greatest tank ace in history.  His awards included the Iron Cross, Panzer Badge and German Cross in Gold.

Step close and get a sense of the strength of the cold metal on AFHMs authentic, fully restored, fully operational battle tanks, which are prominently displayed throughout the museum.  Get a sense of the combat they endured throughout their service.  Take a moment, put yourself in the turret – feel the power, feel the fear, feel the pride.

Knispel’s Early Service

Kurt Knispel began his basic training at Panzer Replacement Training Battalion.  He later received tank training on the Panzer I, Panzer II and Panzer IV tanks.  Knispel was also instructed on the Panzer IV as a loader and gunner.  When training was completed in June of 1941, Knispel was assigned as gunner of a Panzer IV under the leadership of Lt. Hellman and he began his World War II service.

Later in the War

Tiger II Tank

In January of 1943, Knispel returned for training on the newer Tiger I tanks.  At that time, he was already credited with 12 kills.  His squadron – 1st Company of the 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion – participated in various battles throughout World War II, eventually upgrading to the Tiger II tank.  Knispel is said to have accomplished an incredible 24 hits in one action with the Tiger II tank.

A Closer Look

Kurt Knispel was recommended four different times to receive the Knight’s Cross – a coveted award received by many of the other German tank aces.  Knispel, however, did not mind that he was consistently passed over.  The purpose of his mission was not for decoration.  He is even said to have credited others with kills he could have easily disputed as his own.  His rise in ranks was slow which is attributed to a few conflicts he encountered with Nazi authorities and his lack of typical military uniformity – sporting longer hair than most and a goatee.

War’s End

Kurt Knispel – an individual who fought in every type of German tank as a loader, a gunner and a commander – received a fatal wound just ten days before the end of the war.  At age 23, the highest scoring tank ace of WWII – Kurt Knispel – was dead.

WWI and WWII US Navy Nurse Corps

In 1908, US Congress established the United States Navy Nurse Corps.  Up until this time, women nurses had been working unofficially on Navy ships and in Navy hospitals.

First Introduction

The concept of women being formally added to Navy hospital staff was first introduced by Dr. William Barton in 1811.  But the official service of women as nurses would not be established until much later – in 1908 with the formation of the Nurse Corps.  At that time, 20 women were chosen and assigned to the Naval Medical School Hospital in Washington, DC.  This first group, however, had to provide their own room and board.

WWI and the Nurse Corps

Just prior to WWI, the Nurse Corps had already grown to 160 nurses.  With the onset of WWI, the duties of the Nurse Corps were greatly expanded, including overseas service and working under difficult battle field conditions while on loan to the US Army.  In all, 19 female nurses lost their life during this time – more than half of them dying from influenza.

World War II

The World War II era saw a great influx in the number of nurses in the Nurse Corps.  In November of 1941, close to 800 were on active duty, with an additional 900+ on reserve (inactive status).

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Navy nurses were on duty throughout the Pacific and played a vital role in minimizing the overall loss of life and limb.  The need to place them under the War Manpower Commission became apparent and, despite the shortage of qualified nurses, the Navy upheld its standards and enrolled those nurses with outstanding credentials and exceptional skills.  The nurses selected received further training in specialty areas such as orthopedics, surgery and psychiatry.  The Navy nurses were also responsible for training Hospital Corpsmen.

The Navy nurses participated in WWII throughout the Pacific theater and in Europe, as well as stateside.  Some were assigned to naval hospitals aboard ships and were eventually given permission to travel off ship to pick up the wounded.  By the mid-1940s, flight nurses were graduating after additional training in swimming and rescue missions.  Upon graduation, they became an active member of a flying team.

Post WWII 

By the end of the war, over 10,000 nurses were serving over six continents.   After WWII, the US Navy Nurse Corps played important roles in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  The US Navy Nurse Corps, far removed from the worn torn battlefields of WWII, remain active to this day with nurses deployed throughout the world.

Top US World War II Generals

A number of excellent military leaders emerged from World War II, including the top World War II Generals.  When such a list is compiled, it could be disputed for a number of reasons.  Facts are not always a decisive factor as each individual may have shown exemplary leadership in a number of different ways.  However, over the years, the history books, the stories and any additional information provided points consistently to a handful of World War II generals and leaders.

Below is a list of some of the top World War II Generals and leaders.  They are presented in alphabetical order.

General Omar Bradley –

Previously an instructor at an infantry school, Bradley entered WWII under the command of General George Patton – only to later become Patton’s boss.  At the time of the Normandy Landing, Bradley commanded all of the US ground forces in WWII.  Commanding a total of 43 divisions – totalling 1.3 million men – it was the largest US troop command ever under a single US field commander.

General Mark W. Clark –

Clark was the youngest US Army Lieutenant General.  During WWII, he served as US Commander in Italy and is known for his triumphant march into Rome.  In 1945, he was promoted to General – once again the youngest ever in US Army history.

 

Dwight D. Eisenhower –

Eisenhower entered WWII as an assistant to senior officers such as MacArthur and Patton.  He proved his value as a commander during the North Africa Campaign.  Afterwards, Eisenhower was appointed by President Roosevelt as the commander of SHAEF – Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force – command headquarters for Allied forces in northwest Europe.

 

General Douglas MacArthur

MacArthur was reinstated in the military just before the Pacific war began.  After he was unable to stop the Japanese from taking possession of the Philippines, he stood on his promise to return.  In 1945, he did just that and presided over the Japanese surrender.  Due in part to MacArthur’s strategies, casualties under his command were relatively low.

 

General George Marshall

Marshall – Chief of Staff – commanded the US Army during World War II.  As US Army Chief of Staff and chief military adviser to President Roosevelt, many of the US generals were issued their top command posts based on Marshall’s recommendation or as a result of his personal choice.  General Marshall is attributed to leading the rapid growth of forces in the United States and known for his co-ordination of the Western Allies and his promotion of postwar reconstruction in Europe.

 

General George S. Patton, Jr. –

General Patton utilized aggressive tactics throughout his military career.  His abrasive personality lay at the source of several reassignments throughout the war but no one could dispute his brilliant strategies – strategies that many feel made him one of the most outstanding field commanders of the United States.

The summaries above are brief and do not completely reflect the excellent, long-standing careers of these outstanding men.  These top US Generals of WWII were met with some of the fiercest fighting of our time, but they brilliantly used the circumstances as a reason to rise to the challenge, not become defeated by it.