Underused weapons and equipment in WW II

November 14th, 2011  

Topic: Underused weapons and equipment in WW II

Although WW II saw the construction of extremely expensive battleships (Bismarck, Littorio, Yamato, etc,) and the birth and rise of many sophisticated weapons that required huge investments and the best minds, there were many inexpensive, sometimes even low tech or obsolete weapons that could have made a major difference during the war, had they been available in larger quantities.
Here are some examples:
The Italian 90/53 AA cannon was lighter, easier to make and harder hitting than the famous 88 mm FLAK of the Germans. It fired a 10.2 kg projectile at a higher speed than the 9.3 kg projectile of the 88 mm yet only slightly over 500 were made throughout the war. It is surprising that Germany would not copy this weapon or supply the steel to Italy to produce many more of them, which would have been invaluable for AA and antitank duty. The self propelled version Semovente 90/53 was even more useful but made in even much more ridiculous numbers.

Even the German 88 mm FLAK that saved Rommel in Arras, Gazala, el Alamein, etc, from total defeat against tanks that were impermeable to his tank and antitank weapons was always in very deficient numbers at the front (only about 21,000 were made). In Barbarossa, the Germans had to face 28,800 Soviet tanks and had only 3,600 tanks and their antitank weapons were useless against the KV and T-34 tanks at 1,000 m or the other tanks at 2,000 m but vulnerable to the 88 mm, but the Gemrnas had only 7,180 cannon of all types for the invasion, perhaps as few as 1,100 of them were 88 mm, a ridiculously small number for a 3,000 km front and 4 million men. Moreover, many of these cannon were towed by 6 horses and advanced so slowly that they were always tens or hundreds of km behind the front, so the front had desperately few of them when they needed them during an offensive. It is ironic that Germany would build extremely expensive and difficult to transport 800 mm double rail guns capable of firing 7 metric ton shells and take them all the way to Sevastopol, yet would have ridiculously few of the relatively inexpensive 88 mm guns in all the fronts.

An apparently obsolete, inexpensive, fuel efficient plane that was easy to learn to fly and extremely useful during Guderian's sickle cut in France was the Henschel Hs-123. It was an all metal, biplane dive bomber with a very reliable air-cooled engine. Guderian was impressed with its quick turn around, ruggedness and precision. Although it was a little slower than the Stuka, it was much better for the muddy aerodromes in the USSR and as long as there was German air superiority it had excellent survivability. However, Göring stopped producing it in 1938 and destroyed the tooling in 1940, so only a few were available for Barbarossa. Had Guderian had the support of several dozen Hs-123 during Yelnya, he would probably have been able to hold back the Soviet tanks while he received supplies. Instead of losing 34,000 men and a large number of Stugs and tanks and invaluable time having to withdraw.

Although the 8 mm Kurz was designed in 1938, it was not used until the expensive assault rifle entered mass production in 1943. Had the Germans made some MG-34 for this caliber, it would have been ideal for assault troops that could run with a lot more of these lighter cartridges, under cover from a conventional MG-34 a few hundred meters back.

The M-1 Garand was designed to fire a smaller diameter bullet on a slightly shorter case, making it much more useful, comfortobale (less recoil) and efficient. But McArthur decided to produce it in .30-06 to use the available ammo. Not realizing that many more million rounds of this more expensive cartridge would have to be produced during the war than were in stock and that the soldiers would have to carry them and take the recoil. Furthermore, the Garand would have been much better had it used the same Magazine than the B.A.R. designed at the end of WW I.
November 14th, 2011  
During the war the axis produced extremely few machine guns, submachine guns and mortars, so that most soldiers used 5 round, bolt action rifles, which were of little use at close quarters and had a low rate of fire at long range. It is surprising that America, the country least prepared for war in 1939 was the only one to mass produce an 8 round automatic rifle and that the axis countries didn't at least copy the British Lee Enfield's 10 round capacity, which they had to fight at a disadvatage in WW I.

Guesstimated Mortar Production:
Axis: Germany 74,000, Japan 29,000, Italy 22,000 Total 125,000
Allies: USSR 200,000, US 105,000, GB 103,000 Total 408,000 (3.3 times more than the Axis)
Guesstimated Machine gun Production:
Axis: Reich 680,000, Japan 380,000, Italy 160,000 Total 1,220,000 (by far most of them 8 mm or below)
Allies: US 2,670,000, USSR 1,477,000, GB 297,000, Canada 252,000, Total 4,666,000 (3.8 times more than the Axis, mostly 7.62 mm, over a million 12 mm)
Guesstimated Submachine gun production:
Axis & Finland: Reich 1.6 million, Italy 400,000, Finland 80,000, Japan 25,000 Total 2.105 million
Allies: USSR 7 million, US 780,000, GB 620,000: Total 8.4 million (4 times more than the Axis)

Note than even the sparsely populated Canada incredibly produced more machine guns than Italy and 37% as many as Germany.

November 14th, 2011  
The Italian Folgore and the Romanian IAR-80 were good designs for their time. Unfortunately both countries produced them in very small numbers so they did not contribute to the war effort. Had Italy and Romania produced 4 times more of them, they could have helped considerably. The Italian CR.42 was one of the best biplanes ever produced and had there been some German planes to protect it in Libya in 1940, it would have been very helpful for ground support. However, they were destroyed by the British in large numbers and were of little use throughout the war (they performed dismally in the BoB, where they should not have participated against Hurricanes and Spitfires).

The Stuka was an excellent dive bomber but required fighter cover (like all bombers, except perhaps the Mosquito). It experienced very heavy losses during the BoB and was withdrawn from the front, mainly because initially Göring did not coordinate massive attacks, but sent a few planes at a time, allowing radar to detect them and send the fewer British planes to destroy the German planes, and gave them time to refuel and reload and go back for the next wave. Had Göring sent waves of 600 planes or more at a time from the beginning of the BoB, he would have promptly obliterated the airplanes, aerodromes, radar stations, etc, and suffered very few losses. The Stuka would have been quite useful and much less vulnerable in these massive attacks. Finally, The Stuka was produced in ridiculous numbers (6,500 from 1937 to 1945) and hundreds were lost in France, Norway, Greece, the BoB, the Mediterranean, etc, So that in Barbarossa they were many fewer Stukas spread over a 3,000 km front than there have been in tiny France. Accordingly, Guderian received totally insufficient air support in the USSR, where he had to face many more tanks than in France. In France Guderian's sickle cut was so successful because he received the most intense and prolonged air support in history, but in the USRR he recieved a very small fraction of that when he needed it most (having run out of supplies in Yelnya).

The Vought Corsair was designed and tested long before the Hellcat was (it was the first American fighter to reach 400 mph or 644 km/h) and would have been a much better fighter than the P-40 in 1942 against the Zero in the Pacific and the Bf-109 in North Africa, but it didn't enter mas production till late in 1943. It was one of the biggest technological wastes in the war.
November 15th, 2011  
During the North African campaign, the British 8th Army captured an anti tank gun from the Afrika Korps.

On examination it was found to be of British Manufacture and built as a Anti Aircraft Gun (either 3.7 or 4.7), checking the serial number it was found that the gun was exported to Russia who converted it into a very effective anti tank gun, captured by the Germans, sent back to Germany and finally North Africa. It seemed the British had a very good anti tank gun and didn't know it.
November 15th, 2011  
The British military mind was that Ack Ack guns where strictly for shooting down aircraft and should not be used for any thing else. It was not till towards the end of the war did they even start to use the Bofor Gun against fortified positions and that was on a local basis.
November 15th, 2011  
If there were few Stuka's produced after 1940,it was because ,after 1940,the Stuka had become obsolete .It could not defend itself against enemy aircraft and AA guns.
It also had a short flying-range .
November 15th, 2011  
There were few Stukas produced in 1940 (the critical year when many were lost), most Stukas were produced in 1941, 42 and especially 43 (over 1,800). The Kanonenvogel with two 37 mm cannon firing tungsten carbide projectiles was extremely effective during Kursk. The Germans only stopped using it because they ran out of Tungsten. In 1942 the Stuka received a more powerful engine and much heavier armor. As long as the Germans ruled the air, it worked wonders, but the western allies started destroying planes very rapidly and the Soviets dominated the air after Kursk, so the Stuka became very vulnerable.
Had they produced more Stukas before and during Barbarossa or not wasted them in the BoB, Greece,. Yugoslavia, Africa, etc, Barbarossa would have been even more successful.
In just one demonstration near Zagan, Poland for Göring in a cloudy sky 13 were lost when they dove out of the clouds into the ground. These 13 would have been very valuable in Barbarossa. Even the Romanians, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Croats, Slovaks and the Italians received some (Picchiatello). So the number available to cover the German tanks was always ridiculous. Compare the 6.500 Stukas to the 37,000 Sturmoviks, keeping in mind that the Stukas went to several fronts (Spain, Poland, Norway, France, Holland, Belgium, BoB, Greece, Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, Romania, the USSR, etc,) while all the Sturmoviks remained in one front and that the Germans never had 5,000 tanks in the USSR at a given time and the Soviets had 28,800 tanks at the beginning of Barbarossa (By January 30, 1942 there were probably fewer than 130 Stukas and 1,500 German tanks in service in the USSR, spread over a huge front) and the Soviets exceeded that number at several points late in the war.
For example, during Torch some of the few Stukas, Ju-88s, etc, urgently needed in Stalingrad were sent to Africa, which allowed the Soviets to cross a lot more soldiers and finish off the Germans.
There were over 300 Stukas in combat when Germany invaded tiny Poland (which had a few hundred planes and tanks), but only 290 Stukas when it invaded the endless USSR (which had 28,800 tanks and 21,000 planes).
At a short distance the 1943 Stuka could carry an 1,800 lb bomb.
November 15th, 2011  
Originally Posted by LeEnfield
The British military mind was that Ack Ack guns where strictly for shooting down aircraft and should not be used for any thing else. It was not till towards the end of the war did they even start to use the Bofor Gun against fortified positions and that was on a local basis.
Yup, & I think it was an 88mm also!
November 15th, 2011  
Originally Posted by samneanderthal
During the war the axis produced extremely few machine guns, submachine guns and mortars, so that most soldiers used 5 round, bolt action rifles, which were of little use at close quarters and had a low rate of fire at long range........
It´s not correct.

The rifle was a far more efficient weapon than generally recognized, and was used with deadly effect in close combat in the manner of a sub-machine gun. Also rapid fire is possible with the right technique. British commandos were trained to deliver a rate of five rounds in four seconds with reasonable accuracy.
November 15th, 2011  
Reasonable accuracy and high rate of fire are relative terms. At close quarters in a Stalingrad blockhouse I prefer a PPSh-40 with a very high capacity drum magazine that spits several rounds per second with little recoil and is much easier to carry around obstacles with its short barrel. At 150 m I would prefer a special MG-42 built in 8mm Kurz, at 300 m a conventional MG-42 and at 600 m a .50 cal Browning, but of course you can use a 5 round Mauser or a single shot .60 caliber elephant gun everywhere.

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