A number of warfare strategies were engaged in during WWII. This article will take a brief look at some of the more prominent strategies and tactics of both the Allies and Axis.

 

Strategic Bombing

During WWII, strategic bombing – which is a term referring to all aerial bombardment of a strategic nature – was used by the Allies and the Axis. Both sides focused on RAFthe bombing of military forces, rail systems, harbors and cities – both civilian populated as well as industrialized.

When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the Luftwaffe began providing the German Army with tactical support. At that time, they would indiscriminately bomb civilian populated areas along with various Polish cities. This resulted in the UK and France declaring war on Germany. The RAF began to attack the German warships along Germany’s coast.

As the war expanded, both the Axis and the Allies continued a significant amount of bombing in military and industrial installations as well as cities with civilian populations. The latter targets were set up in an attempt to psychologically break the spirit of the enemy and dismantle their will to fight.

 

Tactical Bombing

Tactical bombing was the use of bombers to attack enemy troops on the ground usually in support of one’s own troops. The fighter-bomber was the primary aircraft used in tactical bombing. The aircraft was fast and heavily armed. The heavy armor used for the aircraft made them sturdy enough to stand up to steep dives and rapid maneuvers, often required on tactical bombing missions. They were also capable of withstanding ground fire often encountered during its low-level attacks. These aircraft were generally armed with bombs, heavy machine guns, automatic cannons and air-to-ground rockets. The Soviets and Germans were equipped largely for tactical bombing.

 

Airborne Assaults

paratroopersWorld War II was the first real demonstration of the powerful role played by the paratroopers and the glider troops. These airborne combat groups were dropped in behind the enemy lines in an attempt to take hold or sabotage the enemy’s key positions and/or installations. During the Battle of Flanders, the Germans made the first successful assault using paratroopers and gliders. Later on the island of Crete, they successfully initiated the first significant airborne invasion in all of history. But it was the Allies who launched this type of assault during the infamous landing at Normandy. They used an estimated 700 gliders, which transported three divisions of paratroopers and their equipment. (Article continued below.)

Naval Warfare

Submarines: Submarines were also employed during WWII. In 1940, the German subs began instituting a method of attack known as ‘wolf-pack’. This method would include large groups of subs which would coordinate assaults on various shipping convoys. This technique was also successfully used by the United States against Japan in the Pacific theater.

The key weapon of the sub (and even some surface vessels) was the torpedo. An extremely successful torpedo from WWII was Japan’s ‘Long Lance’. This particular torpedo sunk four cruisers at the Battle of Savo Island. Later in the war, homing torpedoes were introduced by the Germans. These torpedoes were guided by the sound of the targeted ship’s propeller.

Aircraft Carriers: Aircraft carriers were a significant development of World War II. WWII was the first time these warships were used as capital ships – primary warships aircraft carrierof an armada. Prior to WWII, the aircraft carriers role was seen as more of a support ship, providing air protection and air reconnaissance for battleships. On December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the role of the aircraft carrier forever changed. As a result of this attack, the aircraft carrier’s role as an offensive weapon became evident.

In May of 1942, the first naval confrontation in history took place in which the entire battle (Battle of the Coral Sea) was fought by carrier-based aircraft with neither fleet coming within sight range of the other. The ships were never even in proximity of each other to exchange gunfire. This was the beginning of the domination of the warship in the Pacific.

Amphibious Tactics: By 1934, amphibious landing craft were being used by the USMC to successfully land troops and their equipment on shores that were being strongly defended. The landing craft was designed to be beached close enough to permit easy unloading. Naval gunfire and aircraft, combined with precision logistical support allowed a swift buildup up of both troops and equipment on the intended beachhead. Almost all land based fighting in the Pacific began with an amphibious assault. The lessons learned in the Pacific were utilized in the Normandy landings, the largest amphibious assault ever attempted.

Land Warfare

Tanks: The tank played a very different role in WWII than WWI. Prior to World War II, the tank would accompany and protect advancing troops. They would also be used Tankto break the stalemates that would often result from trench warfare. But during WWII, the design of the tank allowed to be used for independent offensive action, which was evident with the blitzkrieg attacks.

Along with the heavy armor of the tank, they were equipped with powerful guns – both small and large caliber. One example is the T-34 (Soviet Tank) which could reach a speed in excess of 30 mph and was equipped with an 85mm main gun along with two machine guns. This particular tank has been considered by many as one of the finest tanks of WWII.

Artillery: Artillery weapons also saw advancements during World War II. The pieces were adapted to allow easier mobility. Some were mounted on tracked, self-propelled carriages and other advancements were hand-held, such as the newly introduced American bazooka which was widely used against the tanks. New anti-aircraft weapons were also introduced during this war, including larger, mounted rockets which fired sequentially. Long range missiles, such as the German V-2, were also used.

submachine gun soldierSmall Arms: The small arms of WWII gave better firepower to the infantry soldier than any other previous conflict. Some of the soldiers were even equipped with semi-automatic weapons, which with just the pull of the trigger, the weapon would repeatedly shoot. Reloading was also easier than weapons from the past. Another weapon of WWII was the submachine gun. It was more widely used throughout WWII than any of the previous conflicts.

Conclusion

Warfare strategy of WWII encompassed a number of new tactics and weapons, but still required the experience of a logistical mind. Along with these advancements came the need for better training. Commanders, as well as soldiers, needed to become specialized in these newly developed areas. Never before has technology proceeded so rapidly, and the need for flawless execution be so pertinent. When those two ideals came together, we saw WWII warfare strategy at its finest.