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.
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.
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.
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.