Your History Book Is So Wrong: What You Know About World War II Is Wrong
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Here's what to keep in mind: Almost every story of war ever published focuses almost exclusively on the strategic and tactical level, but hardly takes operational aspects into account, and the result is a distorted version of events.
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The Second World War remains a permanently fascinating topic, but despite the large number of films, documentaries, books and even comics on this topic, our understanding of this catastrophic conflict remains heavily distorted by conventional wisdom, propaganda and a subject dependent on interpretation, even after seven decades available information.
In my new book The War in the West: Germany Ascendant 1939-1941, for the first time in a three-volume story, I question a number of long-held assumptions about the war, many of which were based on the truth according to general knowledge My Damascene moment a few years ago when I got a tour of the Small Arms Unit at British Staff College in Shrivenham. I glanced at a German MG42, which the Allies called "Spandau". "Of course that was the best machine gun of the war," I commented, sharing what I had read in many books.
"Who says? Who says?" replied my leader and unit leader, John Starling. In the next few minutes, he deconstructed everything I thought I knew about this infamous weapon: that its phenomenal rate of fire caused massive overheating problems, that it was largely inaccurate (which I can fire one after I fired one) (vouch) it was incredibly expensive to manufacture, massively revised, and certain simple additions were missing that would have made handling so much easier. The men who supported this weapon not only had to carry large amounts of ammunition to feed this thirsty animal, but also trampled six spare barrels because of their willingness to overheat. And each run had multiple test stamps. "What was," John told me, "a complete waste of time in the middle of a total war."
I was thrilled, but this visit led me to a completely new field of research that was equally revealing. It became clear to me that almost everything the Germans made was overdeveloped, from tanks to gas mask housings to the field jacket of the lower landowner. Finally, in the German military archive in Freiburg in the Black Forest, I found a memo signed by Hitler at the beginning of December 1941, which read: "From now on we have to stop producing such complete and aesthetic weapons." In other words, by then they had deliberately done so. Needless to say that his instruction was not followed; These all-metal, finely designed, yet cumbersome and completely senseless cylindrical gas mask housings were manufactured until the end of the war, while the Panther tank and the Tiger with his Porsche were still to be expected. Developed hydraulically controlled semi-automatic six-speed pre-selection gearbox, as complicated and refined as it sounds and completely unsuitable for front combat or for use by poorly trained young drivers. The transmission of a Sherman tank built in the USA was a robust four-speed manual transmission that was simply manufactured in large quantities. America built 74,000 Sherman hulls and engines; Germany only built 1,347 tigers.
Studying such things in detail meant that I was now dealing with the operational level of war. Any conflict - or business in this matter - is conducted on three levels. The first is the strategy - that is, the general goals and ambitions. The second is tactics: the coal face, the actual fights, the pilot in his Spitfire or the man in his tank. And the third is the operative - the nuts and bolts, the logistics, the economy and the supply with war.
Almost every narrative war story ever published focuses almost exclusively on the strategic and tactical level, but hardly takes operational aspects into account, and the result is a distorted version of the events in which German machine guns are at the top and tiger tanks always come out on top.
However, studying the operational level offers an insightful perspective. Suddenly it's not just about tactical flair, it's so much more. Britain, for example, decided to wage a highly mechanical and technological war. "Steel not meat" was the mantra and therefore the British had a small army, but still ensured that it was 100 percent mechanized. They also developed a huge air force and built an incredible 132,500 aircraft during the war - 50,000 more than the Germans. Until early 1944, the priority of the UK workforce was not the Army, Navy or even the Air Force, but the Department of Aircraft Production. Well-fed men and women were kept in the factories.
Germany, on the other hand, was very under-mechanized, but had a huge army, which meant that it needed horsepower and infantry to get a foothold. As a result of so many German men on the front lines, their factories were occupied with slaves and prisoners of war who were malnourished and abhorred and their production capacity was affected.
And if the ability to deliver war was the key, the battle in the West was the decisive theater in the war in the West. Nevertheless, before the war, Germany built up a surface fleet that could never hope to keep up with Britain or France, neglecting the submarine arm. Despite the declining volume of British supplies in 1940, it was still not enough to even bring Britain to its knees from afar. In truth, there were never enough submarines to more than stem the flow of shipping to Britain. In fact, of 18,772 crossings in 1940, they sank only 127 ships, 0.7 percent and 1.4 percent in the entire war.
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Instead of acting against David Goliath and amateurs like David as often as David, Britain suddenly reappears as a global superpower, commanding the largest trading empire the world has ever seen, while Germany seems to have resources despite impressive land victories at the start of the war unfortunately, being inadequate and wasting openly the supplies they could fall back on. In addition, after the initial flood of conquest spoils, the Occupied Territories quickly became an outflow and a burden that had to be occupied and which proved to be another outflow of valuable resources. The words "Germanic" and "efficiency" usually belong together; nothing could have been further from the truth in World War II.
This article originally appeared last year and will be republished due to reader interest.
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