This is for history lovers. World War 2 captures more attention than any war. There are a number of subjects that I have in-depth knowledge of, for instance, geography, graphology, drafting, the Scriptures, and last but not least history. I may never get the chance to describe for readers so much of what I have learned over 50 years of researching history, so I am taking a little time to describe for WW 2 buffs some interesting things about the war that I would certainly like to write up in greater detail if I got the chance. I assure you that what I write may startle you, but is accurate! This is written off the top of my head—so rather than give references & detailed stats, I simply open up to you new vistas of things. And I will keep this short.
GERMANY. Many of our images of WW 2 fighting are provided to our American public via Hollywood movies, & bear little resemblance to reality, although in recent years beginning with Saving Private Ryan there has been a new genre of truly reality-based movies. The German side of things is not well known, nor how weak & vulnerable Nazi Germany began & remained through the war. Economically, the Axis were economically greatly outclassed, greatly outclassed in population by the Allies & the Axis had to place their hope on their intelligence & drive—intelligent tactics, training, & inventions. Prior to the war, Germany was so poor that the govt. required all restaurants to save all food thrown away by customers & kitchens, which was collected and through the chemical industry transformed into a nasty margarine—in hopes that some substitute butter could be produced while the national focus was on building guns, so to speak.
THE REAL GERMAN ARMY. The popular picture is of a “mechanized juggernaut”, the misconception & its origin has been explained in a previous post. Except for a small % of panzer units and the panzer grenadier mechanized infantry units designed to travel with them, most of the German infantry were outfitted similar to WW 1 units, with horses (not vehicles) providing their mobility. Nor was Blitzkrieg a military strategy/tactic taught by the German military. Technically “Blitzkrieg” was an invention of the press. The military sought to create “Kessels”, which they did in Russia so well, but the true concepts of Blitzkrieg were not unleashed on the Russians. The magnificent air to ground support by a superb tactical air force, and some other tactics and some of their weapons allowed then to overwhelm their opponents with speed, but “Blitzkrieg” itself was not taught to the officers, you would have read in vain to find the word or even the full concept of it described in German training manuals. Some armor generals advocated new thinking along the lines of Blitzkrieg—releasing the panzers to roam at will, but the older tactics of WW 1, which the staff felt comfortable with, prevailed when orders were given for the Eastern Front.
80% of WW 2’s combat was on the Russo-German front, called the eastern front. WW 2 was really decided on the eastern front. Hitler placed in the neighborhood of 300 divisions on the Eastern front, while he sent the Africa Korp (orig. 3 divisions-but the size fluctuated) to keep the British Empire busy in Africa. This is why the Americans sent over $11 billion (in 1940’s dollars) in weapons, food & tools to keep Russia in the war, for instance over a ½ million jeeps & trucks. This was “lend-lease”, in other words they were to pay us back, but most of the debt was written off. The Roosevelt administration (in violation of neutrality) began supplying Russia as soon as Hitler invaded Stalin’s territory. Bear in mind the aid began in June 22, 1941 many months BEFORE Pearl Harbor (12/7/41) officially brought us into the war. The American navy was already attacking German subs long BEFORE Pearl Harbor. One of the reasons Hitler declared war in support of Japan after Pearl Harbor was so he could fight back against the Americans who had ALREADY been waging war against Germany.
Hitler’s generals (by & large) survived the war to write their biased memoirs. Collectively, they blamed Hitler for the defeats & made him look like a stubborn buffoon needing a straight jacket. Many glaring lies can be detected in their memoirs…often failed policies that they themselves advocated, were after the war covered up and blamed on Hitler. The common misconception is that Hitler had no strategy the last year of the war, but could not think beyond stubbornly refusing to retreat and instead forcing his troops to needlessly die in place stubbornly holding onto phantom fortresses. It is true Hitler was stubborn & willful. He viewed a strong will as a virtue. He believed “Where there is a will, there is a way.” He has plenty of company in that belief.
In the last year of the war, in order to preserve his chance of real victory, Hitler had a strategy that indeed would have worked by using true subs (Type XXI & Type XXIII) with tough hulls. These true subs completely outclassed the successful anti-sub tactics used by the allies in 1943 to defeat the U-boat wolf packs. Their submerged speed was 18 knots and they did not have to surface at night to charge diesel motors. They were to be armed with dirty nuclear bombs (using radioactivity—not the explosion—to kill) delivered with 2 stage ballistic missiles. The largest underground factory in the world was set up to produce all this using Schneeberger uranium. As war reparations, the Russians got 200,000 tons of German uranium from the Schneeberger mines. These uranium mines were only closed on the unification of the 2 Germanys in 1989. In order for the new subs to be built and their crews trained, the Germans had to keep control of the Baltic Sea where the subs were produced and their crews were trained. Hitler and his naval commander Doenitz desperately tried to hold onto the Baltic. Now you know why Hitler insisted on the Courland (Kurland) area in Estonia continue to hold out, as well as Baltic ports like Koenigsberg. Now you know in part why Doenitz was his named successor. Had the Germans held the Baltic Sea (& oil/coal producing areas) for a few more months, their new generation subs indeed would have started shifting the balance of power. But the generals like Guderian have convinced people that Hitler held the Kurland out of sheer stubbornness mistakenly thinking he was holding down Soviet forces from attacking towards Berlin. The true end-time Nazi strategy is basically unknown.
Why did Hitler make sure that his forces in far off Estonia (Eastern front) had good reinforcements & supplies, at a time that his Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge) offensive in the West needed all it could get?? Because Estonia was critical to help hold the Baltic Sea from the Russian fleet at Leningrad, which was in turn critical to preserve the Baltic Sea’s security for the training of the crews for the new super subs!! Make more sense now? It was part of a secret strategy for victory that they could not openly talk about, not to mention the various secret flying saucers that the Nazis were attempting to develop weapons for. Hitler was not bluffing when he called on the German people to hold out until the secret weapons could be brought into play. Often he is ridiculed as having made false promises to the German people about secret wonder weapons. The reality is that they had them, but were not able to use them to any effect as the end came too quickly.
His plan for a land victory on the Western front was a 1-2 punch, the Ardennes (Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein) offensive followed by an Alsatian offensive (Unternehmen Nordwind). I basically never hear the full story of all this. Many accounts of the fighting don’t seem to realize the 2nd offensive followed, the Alsatian one, nor do they talk about the nighttime parachute drop behind American lines in support of the Ardennes offensive. This parachute attack led by Col. Von der Heydte seems forgotten when I read statements that the 1941 Crete parachute offensive was Germany’s last. Further, the successful “1,000” plane attack by the Luftwaffe on New Year’s Day against all the allied air bases on the western front is consistently totally mis-described. The mission of the surprise attack was to render all the allied bases inoperative for a few days so that Hitler could extract his precious panzer divisions from the Battle of the Bulge, and send them to Hungary to defend its oil fields, and to Prussia to defend the Baltic. The surprise air attack caught the allies totally by surprise; many bases were hung over from New Year parties. The comprehensive destruction of all the allied air bases, gave time for the panzers to extract without air attack. The German attack is typically ridiculed, its success never mentioned, & the allied incompetence glossed over.
Germany & Japan had nations that were allied to them that seem forgotten. The help Vichy France and their worldwide colonies gave the Germans, for instance, sub resupply ports in the Caribbean, is forgotten. Small nations are also forgotten: Slovakia, Slovenia, a number of Arab republics in the USSR and Croatia joined the Axis & sent troops to the Eastern front. While Italy under Mussolini gets much historical attention, the ally of Germany that was most helpful (if we don’t factor in Japan) was Romania. The Romanians produced most of the oil & gas to make the Axis war machine run. They were the only German ally to capture a major enemy city, Odessa. They invented & produced their own fighters. The Romanian Black Sea mine fields kept the Russian Black Sea fleet in port. Romania’s contribution has been under-appreciated. Romania’s military, while not on par with Germany’s, played a big & essential role in Army Group South on the Eastern Front.
Before I run out of length, let’s discuss Japan a little. Its ally Thailand is seldom mentioned. It had other allies also, for instance, Chandra Bose’s Free India army. The Japanese fought with incredible intelligence—their ops were often quite complex–but some of their mistakes were downright stupid…for instance, the banzai charges & neglecting any real anti-sub protection for their ships. Many of their accomplishments are still not well known— for instance, their great naval night fighting abilities & their class of giant subs (the largest in the world) which were actually aircraft carriers.
Final thoughts…this is as long as I care to make this…there are many other little known details about the war, so perhaps, if there are readers who are interested in going beyond the standard histories, I will find it worthwhile to write another similar article. So this concludes a look at some of the lesser known facts of the war.