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Weapons of the Second World War- Germany

Weapons of the Second World War- Germany

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4.7cm PaK(t) (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B tank destroyer
7.5cm Feldkanone 16 nA
7.5cm leichte Feldkanone/ leFK 18
7.5cm Feldkanone 38
7.5cm Pak40/2 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)/ Marder II
7.62cm PaK36(t) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf D
8.8cm Pak43/1 (L/71) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III/IV (Sf)/ Hornisse/ Nashorn
10cm Kanone 17
10.5cm leFH 18
10.5cm leFH 18M
10.5cm leFH 18/40
12.8cm Sf L/61 (Pz Sf V)
15cm Kanone 18
15cm Kanone 39
15cm Kanone (Eisenbahn)
15cm schwere Feldhaubitz 18
15cm schwere Feldhaubitz 18/40 or schwere Feldhaubitz 42
15cm schwere Feldhaubitz 36 L/23
15cm schwere Feldhaubitz 37(t)
15cm schwere Feldhaubitz 40
15cm Schwere Panzerhaubitze auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III/IV (Sf) (Hummel)
15cm slG33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)
15cm sIG33 (Sfl) auf PzKpfw 38(t) ausf H, M/ Grille
17cm Kanone 18
17cm Kanone (Eisenbahn)
20.3cm Kanone (Eisenbahn)
21cm Kanone 12 (Eisenbahn)
21cm Mörser 18
24cm Kanone 3
28cm Kanone 5 (Eisenbahn) - ‘schlanke Bertha’ (slim Bertha)
28cm kurze Bruno Kanone (Eisenbahn)
28cm lange Bruno Kanone (Eisenbahn)
28cm neue Bruno Kanone (Eisenbahn)
28cm schwere Bruno Kanone (Eisenbahn)
35.5cm Haubitze M.1
38cm RW61 auf Sturmmörser Tiger/ Tiger-Mörser/ Sturmmörser
42cm kurze Marinekanon 12 /Gamma-Gerät
80cm Kanone (Eisenbahn)
Arado Ar 65
Arado Ar 66
Arado Ar 67
Arado Ar 96
Arado Ar 198
Arado Ar 234 Blitz
Arado Ar 296
Arado Ar 396
Aufklarungspanzer 38(t) (Sdkfz 140/1)
Bergepanzer Tiger (P)
'Big Bertha'/ 42cm kurze Marinekanone 14 L/12 in Räderlafette M-Gerät
Blohm und Voss Bv 138
Blohm und Voss Bv 139
Blohm und Voss Bv 141
Blohm und Voss Bv 142
Blohm und Voss Bv 222
Blohm und Voss Bv 237
Bücker Bü 131 Jungmann
Bücker Bü 133 Jungmeister
Bücker Bü 134
Bücker Bü 180 Student
Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann
Bücker Bü 182 Kornett (Cornet)
Dornier Do 17
Dornier Do 215
Dornier Do 217
Dornier Do 317
'Elefant'/ Panzerjäger Tiger (P) mit 8.8 PaK 42/2 (L/71)/ 'Ferdinand'/
'Ferdinand'/ Panzerjäger Tiger (P) mit 8.8 PaK 42/2 (L/71)/ 'Elefant'
Fieseler Fi 98
Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (Stork)
Fieseler Fi 167
Fieseler Fi 256
Fieseler Fi 333
Flakpanzer 38(t) ausf M (SdKfz 140)
Flakpanzer IV/2cm Vierling/ Wirbelwind
Flakpanzer IV/3cm Flakvierling/ Zerstörer 45
Flakpanzer IV/3.7cm FlaK/ Ostwind I
Flakpanzer IV/3.7cm Flakzwilling/ Ostwind II
Flammpanzer 38(t) Hetzer
Flammpanzer II
Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 Drache (Dragon)
Focke-Achgelis Fa 224
Focke-Achgelis Fa 225
Focke-Achgelis Fa 266 Hornisee (Hornet)
Focke-Achgelis Fa 269
Focke-Wulf Fw 44 'Stieglitz' (Goldfinch)
Focke-Wulf Fw 56 Stösser (Falcon)
Focke-Wulf Fw 57
Focke-Wulf Fw 58 Weihe (Kite)
Focke-Wulf Fw 187 Falke (Falcon)
Focke-Wulf Fw 189 'Uhu' (Eagle Owl)
Focke-Wulf Fw 190
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 – Design and Prototypes
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 – Combat Record
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A
Focke-Wulf Fw 190B
Focke-Wulf Fw 190C
Focke-Wulf Fw 190D
Focke-Wulf Fw 190E
Focke-Wulf Fw 190F ‘Panzer-Blitz’
Focke-Wulf Fw 190G
Focke-Wulf Fw 190S
Focke-Wulf Fw 191
Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor
Focke-Wulf Fw 300
Focke-Wulf Ta 152
Focke-Wulf Ta 152A
Focke-Wulf Ta 152B
Focke-Wulf Ta 152C
Focke-Wulf Ta 152E
Focke-Wulf Ta 152H
Focke-Wulf Ta 152S
Focke-Wulf Ta 153
Focke-Wulf Ta 154 Moskito
Focke-Wulf Ta 183
Focke-Wulf Ta 211
Focke-Wulf Ta 254
Focke-Wulf Ta 283
Focke-Wulf Ta 400
Führer-Begleit Division
Führer-Grenadier Division
German Army Equipment, Second World War
Geschutzwagen Tiger für 17cm K72 (Sf), fur 21cm Mrs 18/1 (Sf) und fur 30.5cm GrW Sf 1-606/9
Grille/ 15cm sIG33 (Sfl) auf PzKpfw 38(t) ausf H, M
Heinkel He 45
Heinkel He 46
Heinkel He 49
Heinkel He 50
Heinkel He 51
Heinkel He 52
Heinkel He 59
Heinkel He 60
Heinkel He 66
Heinkel He 111
Heinkel He 114
Heinkel He 115
Heinkel He 162 Spatz
Heinkel He 170
Heinkel He 177 Greif (Griffon)
Heinkel He 177 Greif (Peter Antill)
Heinkel He 178
Heinkel He 219
Heinkel He 274
Heinkel He 277
Heinkel He 280
Henschel Hs 117 'Schmetterling'
Henschel Hs 122
Henschel Hs 123
Henschel Hs 126
Henschel Hs 128
Henschel Hs 129
Henschel Hs 130
Henschel Hs 296
Henschel Hs 297
Hermann Göring Formation: From Police Detachment to Panzer Corps
Hetzer/ Jagdpanzer 38(t)
Hornisse/ Nashorn / 8.8cm Pak43/1 (L/71) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III/IV (Sf)
Hummel (Bumblebee)
Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer
Jagdpanzer IV
Jagdtiger/ Jagdpanzer VI
Junkers JU 52/3M
Junkers Ju 60
Junkers Ju 86
Junkers JU 87, 'Stuka'
Junkers Ju 88
Junkers Ju 89
Junkers Ju 90
Junkers Ju 160
Junkers Ju 186
Junkers Ju 188
Junkers Ju 252
Junkers Ju 286
Junkers Ju 287
Junkers Ju 288
Junkers Ju 290
Junkers Ju 322 Mammut (Mammoth)
Junkers Ju 352 Herkules
Junkers Ju 388
Junkers Ju 390
Junkers Ju 488
Kleiner Panzerbefehlswagen I (Sd Kfz 265)
Kugelblitz/ Leichter Flakpanzer IV (3cm)
Leichte Feldhaubitze 18/2 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)/ Wespe
Leichter Flakpanzer IV (3cm) Kugelblitz
'Leopard'/ VK30.01(P) (Porsche Typ 100)
Luchs (Lynx)/ Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf L/ VK1303
Marder II/ 7.5cm Pak40/2 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)
Marder III/ Panzerjager 38(t) fur 7.5cm PAK 40, ausf H (SdKfz 138)
Marder III/ Panzerjager 38(t) fur 7.5cm PAK 40, ausf M (SdKfz 138)
Marder III/ Panzerjager 38(t) fur 7.62cm PAK 36(r) (SdKfz 139)
Messerschmitt Bf 109
Messerschmitt Bf 110
Messerschmitt Me 210
Messerschmitt Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 310
Messerschmitt Me 410
Möbelwagen/ 3.7cm FlaK auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen IV (Sf)
Munitionsfahrzeug 38(t)
Nashorn / 8.8cm Pak43/1 (L/71) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III/IV (Sf)/ Hornisse
Ostwind I/ Flakpanzer IV/3.7cm FlaK
Ostwind II/ Flakpanzer IV/ 3.7cm Flakzwilling
Panther medium tank
Panther II
Panther Ostwallturm
Panzer I Light Tank
Panzer II Light Tank
Panzer III Medium Tank
Panzer IV Medium Tank
Panzer IV/70 (A)
Panzer IV/70 (V)
Panzer V Panther
Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf D1 (Sd Kfz 267, 268)
Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf E
Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf H
Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf J/ Panzerbefehlswagen mit 5cm KwK L/42
Panzerbefehlswagen III Ausf K/ Panzerbefehlswagen mit 5cm KwK39 L/60
Panzerbefehlswagen IV
Panzerbefehlswagen Panther Sd Kfz 267
Panzerbefehlswagen Panther Sd Kfz 268 'Flivo'
Panzerbeobachtungswagen IV
Panzerbeobachtungswagen Panther
Panzer-Bergegerät (Panther I)/ Bergepanther
Panzergrenadier-Division Kurmark
Panzerjäger I
Panzerjager 38(t) fur 7.5cm PAK 40, ausf H (SdKfz 138, Marder III)
Panzerjager 38(t) fur 7.5cm PAK 40, ausf M (SdKfz 138, Marder III)
Panzerjager 38(t) fur 7.62cm PAK 36(r) (SdKfz 139, Marder III)
Panzerjäger 39
Panzerjäger Tiger (P) mit 8.8 PaK 42/2 (L/71)/ 'Ferdinand'/ 'Elefant'
Panzerkampfwagen 35(t)
Panzerkampfwagen 38(t)
Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) neuer Art Recon Tank
Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf A
Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf B
Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf a/1. a/2 and a/3
Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf b
Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf c
Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf A, B and C
Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf D and Ausf E
Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf F
Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf L/ Luchs (Lynx)/ VK1303
Panzerkampfwagen III als Tauchpanzer
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf A
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf B
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf C
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf D
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf E
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf F
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf G
Panzarhampfwagen III Ausf H
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf J (5cm KwK L/42)
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf J (5cm KwK39 L/60)
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf L
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf M
Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf N
Panzerkampfwagen III (Fl)
Panzerhampfwagen IV als Tauchpanzer
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf A
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf B
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf C
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf D
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf E
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf F
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf F2
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf G
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf H
Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf J
Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf D
Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf A
Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf G
Panzerkampfwagen V Panther Ausf F
Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger I Ausf E
Panzerkampfwagen Neubaufahrzeuge Heavy Tank
Panzer Lehr Division
Panzer Selbstfahrlafette I für 7.62cm PaK36(r) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf D
Porsche Typ 100/ VK30.01(P) 'Leopard'
Porsche Typ 101/ VK45.01(P) Tiger (P)
Porsche Typ 102
Porsche Typ 180/ VK 45.02 (P)/ Tiger P2
Schwere 10cm Kanone 18
Siebel Si 201
Sonderkraftfahrzeug or Sd.Kfz Numbers
StuG III/ Sturmgeschütz III
StuG III Ausf.A
StuG III Ausf.B
StuG III Ausf.C
StuG III Ausf.D
StuG III Ausf.E
StuG III Ausf.F
StuG III Ausf.F8
StuG III Ausf.G
Stuka, Junkers JU 87
Sturmhaubitze/ StuH
Sturmmörser/ 38cm RW61 auf Sturmmörser Tiger/ Tiger-Mörser
Sturmpanzer IV
Tauchpanzer IV
Tiger I Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf E
Tiger (P) /VK 45.01 (P)/ Porsche Typ 101
Tiger II (KingTiger) main battle tank (MBT)
Tiger P2/ Porsche Typ 180/ VK 45.02 (P)
Tiger-Mörser/ Sturmmörser/ 38cm RW61 auf Sturmmörser Tiger
VK30.01(H) (Panzerkampfwagen VI)
VK30.01(P) 'Leopard' (Porsche Typ 100)
VK36.01(H) (Panzerkampfwagen VI)
VK 45.01 (P)/ Porsche Typ 101/ Tiger (P)
VK 45.02 (P)/ Porsche Typ 180/ Tiger P2
Wespe/ Leichte Feldhaubitze 18/2 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)
Wirbelwind/ Flakpanzer IV/2cm Vierling
Zerstörer 45/ Flakpanzer IV/3cm Flakvierling

Ancient Greek myths about Hercules poisoning his arrows with the venom of the Hydra monster are the earliest references to toxic weapons in western literature. Homer's epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, allude to poisoned arrows used by both sides in the legendary Trojan War (Bronze Age Greece). [1]

Some of the earliest surviving references to toxic warfare appear in the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. [2] The "Laws of Manu," a Hindu treatise on statecraft (c. 400 BC) forbids the use of poison and fire arrows, but advises poisoning food and water. Kautilya's "Arthashastra", a statecraft manual of the same era, contains hundreds of recipes for creating poison weapons, toxic smokes, and other chemical weapons. Ancient Greek historians recount that Alexander the Great encountered poison arrows and fire incendiaries in India at the Indus basin in the 4th century BC. [1]

Arsenical smokes were known to the Chinese as far back as c. 1000 BC [3] and Sun Tzu's "Art of War" (c. 200 BC) advises the use of fire weapons. In the second century BC, writings of the Mohist sect in China describe the use of bellows to pump smoke from burning balls of toxic plants and vegetables into tunnels being dug by a besieging army. Other Chinese writings dating around the same period contain hundreds of recipes for the production of poisonous or irritating smokes for use in war along with numerous accounts of their use. These accounts describe an arsenic-containing "soul-hunting fog", and the use of finely divided lime dispersed into the air to suppress a peasant revolt in 178 AD. [ citation needed ]

The earliest recorded use of gas warfare in the West dates back to the fifth century BC, during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Spartan forces besieging an Athenian city placed a lighted mixture of wood, pitch, and sulfur under the walls hoping that the noxious smoke would incapacitate the Athenians, so that they would not be able to resist the assault that followed. Sparta was not alone in its use of unconventional tactics in ancient Greece Solon of Athens is said to have used hellebore roots to poison the water in an aqueduct leading from the River Pleistos around 590 BC during the siege of Kirrha. [1]

The earliest archaeological evidence of gas warfare is during the Roman–Persian wars. Research carried out on the collapsed tunnels at Dura-Europos in Syria suggests that during the siege of the town in the third century AD, the Sassanians used bitumen and sulfur crystals to get it burning. When ignited, the materials gave off dense clouds of choking sulfur dioxide gases which killed 19 Roman soldiers and a single Sassanian, purported to be the fire-tender, in a matter of two minutes. [4] [5] [6] [7]

Quicklime (the old name for calcium oxide) may have been used in medieval naval warfare – up to the use of "lime-mortars" to throw it at the enemy ships. [8] Historian and philosopher David Hume, in his history of England, recounts how in the reign of Henry III (r.1216 – 1272) the English Navy destroyed an invading French fleet, by blinding the enemy fleet with quicklime. D’Albiney employed a stratagem against them, which is said to have contributed to the victory: Having gained the wind of the French, he came down upon them with violence and gassing a great quantity of quicklime, which he purposely carried on board, he so blinded them, that they were disabled from defending themselves. [9]

In the late 15th century, Spanish conquistadors encountered a rudimentary type of chemical warfare on the island of Hispaniola. The Taíno threw gourds filled with ashes and ground hot peppers at the Spaniards to create a blinding smoke screen before launching their attack. [10]

Leonardo da Vinci proposed the use of a powder of sulfide, arsenic and verdigris in the 15th century:

throw poison in the form of powder upon galleys. Chalk, fine sulfide of arsenic, and powdered verdegris may be thrown among enemy ships by means of small mangonels, and all those who, as they breathe, inhale the powder into their lungs will become asphyxiated.

It is unknown whether this powder was ever actually used.

In the 17th century during sieges, armies attempted to start fires by launching incendiary shells filled with sulfur, tallow, rosin, turpentine, saltpeter, and/or antimony. Even when fires were not started, the resulting smoke and fumes provided a considerable distraction. Although their primary function was never abandoned, a variety of fills for shells were developed to maximize the effects of the smoke.

In 1672, during his siege of the city of Groningen, Christoph Bernhard von Galen, the Bishop of Münster, employed several different explosive and incendiary devices, some of which had a fill that included Deadly Nightshade, intended to produce toxic fumes. Just three years later, August 27, 1675, the French and the Holy Roman Empire concluded the Strasbourg Agreement, which included an article banning the use of "perfidious and odious" toxic devices. [ citation needed ]

The modern notion of chemical warfare emerged from the mid-19th century, with the development of modern chemistry and associated industries. The first recorded modern proposal for the use of chemical warfare was made by Lyon Playfair, Secretary of the Science and Art Department, in 1854 during the Crimean War. He proposed a cacodyl cyanide artillery shell for use against enemy ships as way to solve the stalemate during the siege of Sevastopol. The proposal was backed by Admiral Thomas Cochrane of the Royal Navy. It was considered by the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, but the British Ordnance Department rejected the proposal as "as bad a mode of warfare as poisoning the wells of the enemy." Playfair's response was used to justify chemical warfare into the next century: [11]

There was no sense in this objection. It is considered a legitimate mode of warfare to fill shells with molten metal which scatters among the enemy, and produced the most frightful modes of death. Why a poisonous vapor which would kill men without suffering is to be considered illegitimate warfare is incomprehensible. War is destruction, and the more destructive it can be made with the least suffering the sooner will be ended that barbarous method of protecting national rights. No doubt in time chemistry will be used to lessen the suffering of combatants, and even of criminals condemned to death.

Later, during the American Civil War, New York school teacher John Doughty proposed the offensive use of chlorine gas, delivered by filling a 10-inch (254 millimeter) artillery shell with two to three quarts (1.89–2.84 liters) of liquid chlorine, which could produce many cubic feet of chlorine gas. Doughty's plan was apparently never acted on, as it was probably [12] presented to Brigadier General James Wolfe Ripley, Chief of Ordnance. [ clarification needed ]

A general concern over the use of poison gas manifested itself in 1899 at the Hague Conference with a proposal prohibiting shells filled with asphyxiating gas. The proposal was passed, despite a single dissenting vote from the United States. The American representative, Navy Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, justified voting against the measure on the grounds that "the inventiveness of Americans should not be restricted in the development of new weapons." [13]

The Hague Declaration of 1899 and the Hague Convention of 1907 forbade the use of "poison or poisoned weapons" in warfare, yet more than 124,000 tons of gas were produced by the end of World War I.

The French were the first to use chemical weapons during the First World War, using the tear gases ethyl bromoacetate and chloroacetone. They likely did not realize that effects might be more serious under wartime conditions than in riot control. It is also likely that their use of tear gas escalated to the use of poisonous gases. [14]

One of Germany's earliest uses of chemical weapons occurred on October 27, 1914, when shells containing the irritant dianisidine chlorosulfonate were fired at British troops near Neuve-Chapelle, France. [3] Germany used another irritant, xylyl bromide, in artillery shells that were fired in January 1915 at the Russians near Bolimów, in present-day Poland. [15] The first full-scale deployment of deadly chemical warfare agents during World War I was at the Second Battle of Ypres, on April 22, 1915, when the Germans attacked French, Canadian and Algerian troops with chlorine gas. [16] [17] [18]

A total 50,965 tons of pulmonary, lachrymatory, and vesicant agents were deployed by both sides of the conflict, including chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas. Official figures declare about 1.3 million casualties directly caused by chemical warfare agents during the course of the war. Of these, an estimated 100,000–260,000 casualties were civilians. Nearby civilian towns were at risk from winds blowing the poison gases through. Civilians rarely had a warning system put into place to alert their neighbors of the danger. In addition to poor warning systems, civilians often did not have access to effective gas masks. [18] [19] [20]

World War I-era chemical ammunition is still found, unexploded, at former battle, storage, or test sites and poses an ongoing threat to inhabitants of Belgium, France and other countries. [21] Camp American University where American chemical weapons were developed and later buried, has undergone 20 years of remediation efforts. [22] [23]

After the war, the most common method of disposal of chemical weapons was to dump them into the nearest large body of water. [24] As many as 65,000 tons of chemical warfare agents may have been dumped in the Baltic Sea alone agents dumped in that sea included mustard gas, phosgene, lewisite (β-chlorovinyldichloroarsine), adamsite (diphenylaminechloroarsine), Clark I (diphenylchloroarsine) and Clark II (diphenylcyanoarsine). [25] [26] [27] Over time the containers corrode, and the chemicals leaked out. On the sea floor, at low temperatures, mustard gas tends to form lumps within a "skin" of chemical byproducts. These lumps can wash onto shore, where they look like chunks of waxy yellowish clay. They are extremely toxic, but the effects may not be immediately apparent. [24]

Between World War I and World War II, chemical agents were occasionally used to subdue populations and suppress rebellion.

Lenin's Soviet government employed poison gas in 1921 during the Tambov Rebellion. An order signed by military commanders Tukhachevsky and Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko stipulated, "The forests where the bandits are hiding are to be cleared by the use of poison gas. This must be carefully calculated, so that the layer of gas penetrates the forests and kills everyone hiding there." [28] [29]

In 1925, 16 of the world's major nations signed the Geneva Protocol, thereby pledging never to use gas in warfare again. Notably, while the United States delegation under Presidential authority signed the Protocol.

Alleged British use in Mesopotamia Edit

It has been alleged that the British used chemical weapons in Mesopotamia during the Iraqi revolt of 1920. Noam Chomsky claimed that Winston Churchill at the time was keen on chemical weapons, suggesting they be used "against recalcitrant Arabs as an experiment", and that he stated to be "strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes". [30] [31]

According to some historians, including Geoff Simons and Charles Townshend, the British used chemical weapons in the conflict, [32] [33] while according to Lawrence James and Niall Ferguson the weapons were agreed by Churchill but eventually not used [34] [35] R.M. Douglas of Colgate University also observed that Churchill's statement had served to convince observers of the existence of weapons of mass destruction which were not actually there. [36]

Spanish use in Morocco Edit

Combined Spanish and French forces dropped mustard gas bombs against Berber rebels and civilians during the Rif War in Spanish Morocco (1921–1927). These attacks marked the first widespread employment of gas warfare in the post-WWI era. [37] The Spanish army indiscriminately used phosgene, diphosgene, chloropicrin and mustard gas against civilian populations, markets and rivers. [38] [39] Despite having signed the Geneva Protocol in 1925, Spain continued to use chemical weapons for the subsequent two years. [39]

In a telegram sent by the High Commissioner of Spanish Morocco Dámaso Berenguer on August 12, 1921 to the Spanish minister of War, Berenguer stated: "I have been obstinately resistant to the use of suffocating gases against these indigenous peoples but after what they have done, and of their treacherous and deceptive conduct, I have to use them with true joy." [40]

According to military aviation general Hidalgo de Cisneros in his autobiographical book Cambio de rumbo, [41] he was the first warfighter to drop a 100-kilogram mustard gas bomb from his Farman F60 Goliath aircraft in the summer of 1924. [42] About 127 fighters and bombers flew in the campaign, dropping around 1,680 bombs each day. [43] The mustard gas bombs were brought from the stockpiles of Germany and delivered to Melilla before being carried on Farman F60 Goliath airplanes. [44] Historian Juan Pando has been the only Spanish historian to have confirmed the usage of mustard gas starting in 1923. [40] Spanish newspaper La Correspondencia de España published an article called Cartas de un soldado (Letters of a soldier) on August 16, 1923 which backed the usage of mustard gas. [45]

Chemical weapons used in the region are the main reason for the widespread occurrence of cancer among the population. [46] In 2007, the Catalan party of the Republican Left (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) passed a bill to the Spanish Congress of Deputies requesting Spain to acknowledge the "systematic" use of chemical weapons against the population of the Rif mountains [47] however, the bill was rejected by 33 votes from the governing Socialist Labor Party and the opposition right-wing Popular Party. [48]

Italian use in Libya and Ethiopia Edit

In violation of the Geneva Protocol, [49] Italy used mustard gas and other "gruesome measures" against Senussi forces in Libya (see Pacification of Libya, Italian colonization of Libya). [50] Poison gas was used against the Libyans as early as January 1928 [49] The Italians dropped mustard gas from the air. [51]

Beginning in October 1935 and continuing into the following months Fascist Italy used mustard gas against the Ethiopians during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War in violation of the Geneva Protocol. Italian general Rodolfo Graziani first ordered the use of chemical weapons at Gorrahei against the forces of Ras Nasibu. [52] Benito Mussolini personally authorized Graziani to use chemical weapons. [53] Chemical weapons dropped by warplane "proved to be very effective" and was used "on a massive scale against civilians and troops, as well as to contaminate fields and water supplies." [54] Among the most intense chemical bombardment by the Italian Air Force in Ethiopia occurred in February and March 1936, although "gas warfare continued, with varying intensity, until March 1939." [53] J. F. C. Fuller, who was present in Ethiopia during the conflict, stated that mustard gas "was the decisive tactical factor in the war." [55] Some estimate that up to one-third of Ethiopian casualties of the war were caused by chemical weapons. [56]

The Italians' deployment of mustard gas prompted international criticism. [52] [55] In April 1936, British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin told Parliament: "If a great European nation, in spite of having given its signature to the Geneva Protocol against the use of such gases, employs them in Africa, what guarantee have we that they may not be used in Europe?" [55] [57] Mussolini initially denied the use of chemical weapons later, Mussolini and Italian government sought to justify their use as lawful retaliation for Ethiopian atrocities. [52] [53] [55]

After the liberation of Ethiopia in 1941, Ethiopia repeatedly but unsuccessfully sought to prosecute Italian war criminals. The Allied powers excluded Ethiopia from the United Nations War Crimes Commission (established 1942) because the British feared that Ethiopia would seek to prosecute Pietro Badoglio, who had ordered the use of chemical gas in the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, but later "became a valuable ally against the Axis powers" after the fascist regime of Mussolini fell and, after the rise of the Italian Social Republic, Italy became a co-belligerent of the Allies. [52] In 1946, the Ethiopians under Haile Selassie again sought "to prosecute senior Italian officials who had sanctioned the use of chemical weapons and had omitted other war crimes such as torturing and executing Ethiopian prisoners and citizens during the Italian-Ethiopian War." [52] These attempts failed, in large part because Britain and the U.S. wished to avoid alienating the Italian government at a time when Italy was seen as key to containing the Soviet Union. [52]

Following World War II, the Italian government denied that Italy had ever used chemical weapons in Africa only in 1995 did Italy formally acknowledge that it had used chemical weapons in colonial wars. [58]

Nerve agents Edit

Shortly after the end of World War I, Germany's General Staff enthusiastically pursued a recapture of their preeminent position in chemical warfare. In 1923, Hans von Seeckt pointed the way, by suggesting that German poison gas research move in the direction of delivery by aircraft in support of mobile warfare. Also in 1923, at the behest of the German army, poison gas expert Dr. Hugo Stoltzenberg negotiated with the USSR to build a huge chemical weapons plant at Trotsk, on the Volga river.

Collaboration between Germany and the USSR in poison gas continued on and off through the 1920s. In 1924, German officers debated the use of poison gas versus non-lethal chemical weapons against civilians.

Chemical warfare was revolutionized by Nazi Germany's discovery of the nerve agents tabun (in 1937) and sarin (in 1939) by Gerhard Schrader, a chemist of IG Farben.

IG Farben was Germany's premier poison gas manufacturer during World War II, so the weaponization of these agents cannot be considered accidental. [59] Both were turned over to the German Army Weapons Office prior to the outbreak of the war.

The nerve agent soman was later discovered by Nobel Prize laureate Richard Kuhn and his collaborator Konrad Henkel at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg in spring 1944. [60] [61] The Germans developed and manufactured large quantities of several agents, but chemical warfare was not extensively used by either side. Chemical troops were set up (in Germany since 1934) and delivery technology was actively developed.

Imperial Japanese Army Edit

Despite the 1899 Hague Declaration IV, 2 – Declaration on the Use of Projectiles the Object of Which is the Diffusion of Asphyxiating or Deleterious Gases, [62] Article 23 (a) of the 1907 Hague Convention IV – The Laws and Customs of War on Land, [63] and a resolution adopted against Japan by the League of Nations on May 14, 1938, the Imperial Japanese Army frequently used chemical weapons. Because of fear of retaliation, however, those weapons were never used against Westerners, but against other Asians judged "inferior" by imperial propaganda. According to historians Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Kentaro Awaya, gas weapons, such as tear gas, were used only sporadically in 1937 but in early 1938, the Imperial Japanese Army began full-scale use of sneeze and nausea gas (red), and from mid-1939, used mustard gas (yellow) against both Kuomintang and Communist Chinese troops. [64]

According to historians Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Seiya Matsuno, the chemical weapons were authorized by specific orders given by Emperor Hirohito himself, transmitted by the chief of staff of the army. For example, the Emperor authorized the use of toxic gas on 375 separate occasions during the Battle of Wuhan from August to October 1938. [65] They were also profusely used during the invasion of Changde. Those orders were transmitted either by Prince Kan'in Kotohito or General Hajime Sugiyama. [66] The Imperial Japanese Army had used mustard gas and the US-developed (CWS-1918) blister agent lewisite against Chinese troops and guerrillas. Experiments involving chemical weapons were conducted on live prisoners (Unit 731 and Unit 516).

The Japanese also carried chemical weapons as they swept through Southeast Asia towards Australia. Some of these items were captured and analyzed by the Allies. Historian Geoff Plunkett has recorded how Australia covertly imported 1,000,000 chemical weapons from the United Kingdom from 1942 onwards and stored them in many storage depots around the country, including three tunnels in the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney. They were to be used as a retaliatory measure if the Japanese first used chemical weapons. [67] Buried chemical weapons have been recovered at Marrangaroo and Columboola. [68] [69]

Nazi Germany Edit

During the Holocaust, a genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany, millions of Jews, Slavs, and other victims were gassed with carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide (including Zyklon B). [70] [71] This remains the deadliest use of poison gas in history. [70] Nevertheless, the Nazis did not extensively use chemical weapons in combat, [70] [71] at least not against the Western Allies, [72] despite maintaining an active chemical weapons program in which the Nazis used concentration camp prisoners as forced labor to secretly manufacture tabun, a nerve gas, and experimented upon concentration camp victims to test the effects of the gas. [70] Otto Ambros of IG Farben was a chief chemical-weapons expert for the Nazis. [70] [73]

The Nazis' decision to avoid the use of chemical weapons on the battlefield has been variously attributed to a lack of technical ability in the German chemical weapons program and fears that the Allies would retaliate with their own chemical weapons. [72] It also has been speculated to have arisen from the personal experiences of Adolf Hitler as a soldier in the Kaiser's army during World War I, where he was gassed by British troops in 1918. [74] After the Battle of Stalingrad, Joseph Goebbels, Robert Ley, and Martin Bormann urged Hitler to approve the use of tabun and other chemical weapons to slow the Soviet advance. At a May 1943 meeting in the Wolf's Lair, however, Hitler was told by Ambros that Germany had 45,000 tons of chemical gas stockpiled, but that the Allies likely had far more. Hitler responded by suddenly leaving the room and ordering production of tabun and sarin to be doubled, but "fearing some rogue officer would use them and spark Allied retaliation, he ordered that no chemical weapons be transported to the Russian front." [70] After the Allied invasion of Italy, the Germans rapidly moved to remove or destroy both German and Italian chemical-weapon stockpiles, "for the same reason that Hitler had ordered them pulled from the Russian front—they feared that local commanders would use them and trigger Allied chemical retaliation." [70]

Stanley P. Lovell, Deputy Director for Research and Development of the Office of Strategic Services, reports in his book Of Spies and Stratagems that the Allies knew the Germans had quantities of Gas Blau available for use in the defense of the Atlantic Wall. The use of nerve gas on the Normandy beachhead would have seriously impeded the Allies and possibly caused the invasion to fail altogether. He submitted the question "Why was nerve gas not used in Normandy?" to be asked of Hermann Göring during his interrogation after the war had ended. Göring answered that the reason was that the Wehrmacht was dependent upon horse-drawn transport to move supplies to their combat units, and had never been able to devise a gas mask horses could tolerate the versions they developed would not pass enough pure air to allow the horses to pull a cart. Thus, gas was of no use to the German Army under most conditions. [75]

The Nazis did use chemical weapons in combat on several occasions along the Black Sea, notably in Sevastopol, where they used toxic smoke to force Russian resistance fighters out of caverns below the city, in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol. [76] The Nazis also used asphyxiating gas in the catacombs of Odessa in November 1941, following their capture of the city, and in late May 1942 during the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula in eastern Crimea. [76] Victor Israelyan, a Soviet ambassador, reported that the latter incident was perpetrated by the Wehrmacht's Chemical Forces and organized by a special detail of SS troops with the help of a field engineer battalion. Chemical Forces General Ochsner reported to German command in June 1942 that a chemical unit had taken part in the battle. [77] After the battle in mid-May 1942, roughly 3,000 Red Army soldiers and Soviet civilians not evacuated by sea were besieged in a series of caves and tunnels in the nearby Adzhimushkay quarry. After holding out for approximately three months, "poison gas was released into the tunnels, killing all but a few score of the Soviet defenders." [78] Thousands of those killed around Adzhimushkay were documented to have been killed by asphyxiation from gas. [77]

In February 1943, German troops stationed in Kuban received a telegram: "Russians should be eventually cleared out of the mountain range with gas." [79] The troops also received two wagons of toxin antidotes. [79]

Western Allies Edit

The Western Allies did not use chemical weapons during the Second World War. The British planned to use mustard gas and phosgene to help repel a German invasion in 1940–1941, [80] [81] and had there been an invasion may have also deployed it against German cities. [82] General Alan Brooke, Commander-in-Chief, Home Forces, in command of British anti-invasion preparations of the Second World War said that he ". had every intention of using sprayed mustard gas on the beaches" in an annotation in his diary. [83] The British manufactured mustard, chlorine, lewisite, phosgene and Paris Green and stored them at airfields and depots for use on the beaches. [82]

The mustard gas stockpile was enlarged in 1942–1943 for possible use by RAF Bomber Command against German cities, and in 1944 for possible retaliatory use if German forces used chemical weapons against the D-Day landings. [80]

Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, issued a memorandum advocating a chemical strike on German cities using poison gas and possibly anthrax. Although the idea was rejected, it has provoked debate. [84] In July 1944, fearing that rocket attacks on London would get even worse, and saying he would only use chemical weapons if it were "life or death for us" or would "shorten the war by a year", [85] Churchill wrote a secret memorandum asking his military chiefs to "think very seriously over this question of using poison gas." He stated "it is absurd to consider morality on this topic when everybody used it in the last war without a word of complaint. "

The Joint Planning Staff, however, advised against the use of gas because it would inevitably provoke Germany to retaliate with gas. They argued that this would be to the Allies' disadvantage in France both for military reasons and because it might "seriously impair our relations with the civilian population when it became generally known that chemical warfare was first employed by us." [86]

In 1945, the U.S. Army's Chemical Warfare Service standardized improved chemical warfare rockets intended for the new M9 and M9A1 "Bazooka" launchers, adopting the M26 Gas Rocket, a cyanogen chloride (CK)-filled warhead for the 2.36-in rocket launcher. [87] CK, a deadly blood agent, was capable of penetrating the protective filter barriers in some gas masks, [88] and was seen as an effective agent against Japanese forces (particularly those hiding in caves or bunkers), whose gas masks lacked the impregnants that would provide protection against the chemical reaction of CK. [87] [89] [90] While stockpiled in US inventory, the CK rocket was never deployed or issued to combat personnel. [87]

Accidental release Edit

On the night of December 2, 1943, German Ju 88 bombers attacked the port of Bari in Southern Italy, sinking several American ships—among them the SS John Harvey, which was carrying mustard gas intended for use in retaliation by the Allies if German forces initiated gas warfare. The presence of the gas was highly classified, and authorities ashore had no knowledge of it, which increased the number of fatalities since physicians, who had no idea that they were dealing with the effects of mustard gas, prescribed treatment improper for those suffering from exposure and immersion.

The whole affair was kept secret at the time and for many years after the war. According to the U.S. military account, "Sixty-nine deaths were attributed in whole or in part to the mustard gas, most of them American merchant seamen" [91] out of 628 mustard gas military casualties. [92]

The large number of civilian casualties among the Italian population was not recorded. Part of the confusion and controversy derives from the fact that the German attack was highly destructive and lethal in itself, also apart from the accidental additional effects of the gas (the attack was nicknamed "The Little Pearl Harbor"), and attribution of the causes of death between the gas and other causes is far from easy. [93] [94]

Rick Atkinson, in his book The Day of Battle, describes the intelligence that prompted Allied leaders to deploy mustard gas to Italy. This included Italian intelligence that Adolf Hitler had threatened to use gas against Italy if the state changed sides, and prisoner of war interrogations suggesting that preparations were being made to use a "new, egregiously potent gas" if the war turned decisively against Germany. Atkinson concludes, "No commander in 1943 could be cavalier about a manifest threat by Germany to use gas."

After World War II, the Allies recovered German artillery shells containing the three German nerve agents of the day (tabun, sarin, and soman), prompting further research into nerve agents by all of the former Allies.

Although the threat of global thermonuclear war was foremost in the minds of most during the Cold War, both the Soviet and Western governments put enormous resources into developing chemical and biological weapons.

Britain Edit

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, British postwar chemical weapons research was based at the Porton Down facility. Research was aimed at providing Britain with the means to arm itself with a modern nerve-agent-based capability and to develop specific means of defense against these agents.

Ranajit Ghosh, a chemist at the Plant Protection Laboratories of Imperial Chemical Industries was investigating a class of organophosphate compounds (organophosphate esters of substituted aminoethanethiols), [95] for use as a pesticide. In 1954, ICI put one of them on the market under the trade name Amiton. It was subsequently withdrawn, as it was too toxic for safe use.

The toxicity did not go unnoticed, and samples of it were sent to the research facility at Porton Down for evaluation. After the evaluation was complete, several members of this class of compounds were developed into a new group of much more lethal nerve agents, the V agents. The best-known of these is probably VX, assigned the UK Rainbow Code Purple Possum, with the Russian V-Agent coming a close second (Amiton is largely forgotten as VG). [96]

On the defensive side, there were years of difficult work to develop the means of prophylaxis, therapy, rapid detection and identification, decontamination and more effective protection of the body against nerve agents, capable of exerting effects through the skin, the eyes and respiratory tract.

Tests were carried out on servicemen to determine the effects of nerve agents on human subjects, with one recorded death due to a nerve gas experiment. There have been persistent allegations of unethical human experimentation at Porton Down, such as those relating to the death of Leading Aircraftman Ronald Maddison, aged 20, in 1953. Maddison was taking part in sarin nerve agent toxicity tests. Sarin was dripped onto his arm and he died shortly afterwards. [97]

In the 1950s the Chemical Defence Experimental Establishment became involved with the development of CS, a riot control agent, and took an increasing role in trauma and wound ballistics work. Both these facets of Porton Down's work had become more important because of the situation in Northern Ireland. [98]

In the early 1950s, nerve agents such as sarin were produced— about 20 tons were made from 1954 until 1956. CDE Nancekuke was an important factory for stockpiling chemical weapons. Small amounts of VX were produced there, mainly for laboratory test purposes, but also to validate plant designs and optimise chemical processes for potential mass production. However, full-scale mass production of VX agent never took place, with the 1956 decision to end the UK's offensive chemical weapons programme. [99] In the late 1950s, the chemical weapons production plant at Nancekuke was mothballed, but was maintained through the 1960s and 1970s in a state whereby production of chemical weapons could easily re-commence if required. [99]

United States Edit

In 1952, the U.S. Army patented a process for the "Preparation of Toxic Ricin", publishing a method of producing this powerful toxin. In 1958 the British government traded their VX technology with the United States in exchange for information on thermonuclear weapons. By 1961 the U.S. was producing large amounts of VX and performing its own nerve agent research. This research produced at least three more agents the four agents (VE, VG, VM, VX) are collectively known as the "V-Series" class of nerve agents.

Between 1951 and 1969, Dugway Proving Ground was the site of testing for various chemical and biological agents, including an open-air aerodynamic dissemination test in 1968 that accidentally killed, on neighboring farms, approximately 6,400 sheep by an unspecified nerve agent. [100]

From 1962 to 1973, the Department of Defense planned 134 tests under Project 112, a chemical and biological weapons "vulnerability-testing program." In 2002, the Pentagon admitted for the first time that some of tests used real chemical and biological weapons, not just harmless simulants. [101]

Specifically under Project SHAD, 37 secret tests were conducted in California, Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland and Utah. Land tests in Alaska and Hawaii used artillery shells filled with sarin and VX, while Navy trials off the coasts of Florida, California and Hawaii tested the ability of ships and crew to perform under biological and chemical warfare, without the crew's knowledge. The code name for the sea tests was Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense—"SHAD" for short. [101]

In October 2002, the Senate Armed Forces Subcommittee on Personnel held hearings as the controversial news broke that chemical agents had been tested on thousands of American military personnel. The hearings were chaired by Senator Max Cleland, former VA administrator and Vietnam War veteran.

United States chemical respiratory protection standardization

In December 2001, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL), along with the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM), Edgewood Chemical and Biological Center (ECBC), and the U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) published the first of six technical performance standards and test procedures designed to evaluate and certify respirators intended for use by civilian emergency responders to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapon release, detonation, or terrorism incident.

To date NIOSH/NPPTL has published six new respirator performance standards based on a tiered approach that relies on traditional industrial respirator certification policy, next-generation emergency response respirator performance requirements, and special live chemical warfare agent testing requirements of the classes of respirators identified to offer respiratory protection against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) agent inhalation hazards. These CBRN respirators are commonly known as open-circuit self-contained breathing apparatus (CBRN SCBA), air-purifying respirator (CBRN APR), air-purifying escape respirator (CBRN APER), self-contained escape respirator (CBRN SCER) and loose- or tight-fitting powered air-purifying respirators (CBRN PAPR).

Soviet Union Edit

There were reports of chemical weapons being used during the Soviet–Afghan War, sometimes against civilians. [102] [103]

Due to the secrecy of the Soviet Union's government, very little information was available about the direction and progress of the Soviet chemical weapons until relatively recently. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian chemist Vil Mirzayanov published articles revealing illegal chemical weapons experimentation in Russia.

In 1993, Mirzayanov was imprisoned and fired from his job at the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, where he had worked for 26 years. In March 1994, after a major campaign by U.S. scientists on his behalf, Mirzayanov was released. [104]

Among the information related by Vil Mirzayanov was the direction of Soviet research into the development of even more toxic nerve agents, which saw most of its success during the mid-1980s. Several highly toxic agents were developed during this period the only unclassified information regarding these agents is that they are known in the open literature only as "Foliant" agents (named after the program under which they were developed) and by various code designations, such as A-230 and A-232. [105]

According to Mirzayanov, the Soviets also developed weapons that were safer to handle, leading to the development of binary weapons, in which precursors for the nerve agents are mixed in a munition to produce the agent just prior to its use. Because the precursors are generally significantly less hazardous than the agents themselves, this technique makes handling and transporting the munitions a great deal simpler.

Additionally, precursors to the agents are usually much easier to stabilize than the agents themselves, so this technique also made it possible to increase the shelf life of the agents a great deal. During the 1980s and 1990s, binary versions of several Soviet agents were developed and designated "Novichok" agents (after the Russian word for "newcomer"). [106] Together with Lev Fedorov, he told the secret Novichok story exposed in the newspaper The Moscow News. [107]

North Yemen Edit

The first attack of the North Yemen Civil War took place on June 8, 1963 against Kawma, a village of about 100 inhabitants in northern Yemen, killing about seven people and damaging the eyes and lungs of 25 others. This incident is considered to have been experimental, and the bombs were described as "home-made, amateurish and relatively ineffective". The Egyptian authorities suggested that the reported incidents were probably caused by napalm, not gas.

There were no reports of gas during 1964, and only a few were reported in 1965. The reports grew more frequent in late 1966. On December 11, 1966, fifteen gas bombs killed two people and injured thirty-five. On January 5, 1967, the biggest gas attack came against the village of Kitaf, causing 270 casualties, including 140 fatalities. The target may have been Prince Hassan bin Yahya, who had installed his headquarters nearby. The Egyptian government denied using poison gas, and alleged that Britain and the US were using the reports as psychological warfare against Egypt. On February 12, 1967, it said it would welcome a UN investigation. On March 1, U Thant, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he was "powerless" to deal with the matter.

On May 10, 1967 the twin villages of Gahar and Gadafa in Wadi Hirran, where Prince Mohamed bin Mohsin was in command, were gas bombed, killing at least seventy-five. The Red Cross was alerted and on June 2, 1967, it issued a statement in Geneva expressing concern. The Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Berne made a statement, based on a Red Cross report, that the gas was likely to have been halogenous derivatives—phosgene, mustard gas, lewisite, chloride or cyanogen bromide.

Rhodesian Bush War Edit

Evidence points to a top-secret Rhodesian program in the 1970s to use organophosphate pesticides and heavy metal rodenticides to contaminate clothing as well as food and beverages. The contaminated items were covertly introduced into insurgent supply chains. Hundreds of insurgent deaths were reported, although the actual death toll likely rose over 1,000. [108]

Angola Edit

During the Cuban intervention in Angola, United Nations toxicologists certified that residue from both VX and sarin nerve agents had been discovered in plants, water, and soil where Cuban units were conducting operations against National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) insurgents. [109] In 1985, UNITA made the first of several claims that their forces were the target of chemical weapons, specifically organophosphates. The following year guerrillas reported being bombarded with an unidentified greenish-yellow agent on three separate occasions. Depending on the length and intensity of exposure, victims suffered blindness or death. The toxin was also observed to have killed plant life. [110] Shortly afterwards, UNITA also sighted strikes carried out with a brown agent which it claimed resembled mustard gas. [111] As early as 1984 a research team dispatched by the University of Ghent had examined patients in UNITA field hospitals showing signs of exposure to nerve agents, although it found no evidence of mustard gas. [112]

The UN first accused Cuba of deploying chemical weapons against Angolan civilians and partisans in 1988. [109] Wouter Basson later disclosed that South African military intelligence had long verified the use of unidentified chemical weapons on Angolan soil this was to provide the impetus for their own biological warfare programme, Project Coast. [109] During the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, South African troops then fighting in Angola were issued with gas masks and ordered to rehearse chemical weapons drills. Although the status of its own chemical weapons program remained uncertain, South Africa also deceptively bombarded Cuban and Angolan units with colored smoke in an attempt to induce hysteria or mass panic. [111] According to Defence Minister Magnus Malan, this would force the Cubans to share the inconvenience of having to take preventative measures such as donning NBC suits, which would cut combat effectiveness in half. The tactic was effective: beginning in early 1988 Cuban units posted to Angola were issued with full protective gear in anticipation of a South African chemical strike. [111]

On October 29, 1988, personnel attached to Angola's 59 Brigade, accompanied by six Soviet military advisors, reported being struck with chemical weapons on the banks of the Mianei River. [113] The attack occurred shortly after one in the afternoon. Four Angolan soldiers lost consciousness while the others complained of violent headaches and nausea. That November the Angolan representative to the UN accused South Africa of employing poison gas near Cuito Cuanavale for the first time. [113]

Falklands War Edit

Technically, the reported employment of tear gas by Argentine forces during the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands constitutes chemical warfare. [114] However, the tear gas grenades were employed as nonlethal weapons to avoid British casualties. The barrack buildings the weapons were used on proved to be deserted in any case. The British claim that more lethal, but legally justifiable as they are not considered chemical weapons under the Chemical Weapons Convention, white phosphorus grenades were used. [115]

Vietnamese border raids in Thailand Edit

There is some evidence suggesting that Vietnamese troops used phosgene gas against Cambodian resistance forces in Thailand during the 1984–1985 dry-season offensive on the Thai-Cambodian border. [116] [117] [118]

Iran–Iraq War Edit

Chemical weapons employed by Saddam Hussein killed and injured numerous Iranians and Iraqi Kurds. According to Iraqi documents, assistance in developing chemical weapons was obtained from firms in many countries, including the United States, West Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and France. [119]

About 100,000 Iranian soldiers were victims of Iraq's chemical attacks. Many were hit by mustard gas. The official estimate does not include the civilian population contaminated in bordering towns or the children and relatives of veterans, many of whom have developed blood, lung and skin complications, according to the Organization for Veterans. Nerve gas agents killed about 20,000 Iranian soldiers immediately, according to official reports. Of the 80,000 survivors, some 5,000 seek medical treatment regularly and about 1,000 are still hospitalized with severe, chronic conditions. [120] [121] [122]

According to the Foreign Policy, the "Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. . According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials like Francona, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983." [123] [124]

Halabja Edit

In March 1988, the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja was exposed to multiple chemical agents dropped from warplanes these "may have included mustard gas, the nerve agents sarin, tabun and VX and possibly cyanide." [125] Between 3,200 and 5,000 people were killed, and between 7,000 and 10,000 were injured. [125] Some reports indicated that three-quarters of them were women and children. [125] The preponderance of the evidence indicates that Iraq was responsible for the attack. [125]

Persian Gulf War Edit

The U.S. Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency's longstanding official position is that Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein did not use chemical weapons during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. In a memorandum in 1994 to veterans of the war, Defense Secretary William J. Perry and General John M. Shalikashvili, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote that "There is no evidence, classified or unclassified, that indicates that chemical or biological weapons were used in the Persian Gulf." [126]

However, chemical weapons expert Jonathan B. Tucker, writing in the Nonproliferation Review in 1997, determined that although "[t]he absence of severe chemical injuries or fatalities among Coalition forces makes it clear that no large-scale Iraqi employment of chemical weapons occurred," an array of "circumstantial evidence from a variety of sources suggests that Iraq deployed chemical weapons into the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO)—the area including Kuwait and Iraq south of the 31st Parallel, where the ground war was fought—and engaged in sporadic chemical warfare against Coalition forces." [126] In addition to intercepts of Iraqi military communications and publicly available reporting:

Other sources of evidence for sporadic Iraqi chemical warfare include U.S. intelligence reports on the presence of Iraqi chemical weapons in the KTO military log entries describing the discovery by U.S. units of chemical munitions in Iraqi bunkers during and after the ground war incidents in which troops reported acute symptoms of toxic chemical exposure and credible detections of chemical-warfare agents by Czech, French, and American forces. [126]

Nerve agents (specifically, tabun, sarin, and cyclosarin) and blister agents (specifically, sulfur-mustard and lewisite) were detected at Iraqi sites. [126]

The threat itself of gas warfare had a major effect on Israel, which was not part of the coalition forces led by the US. Israel was attacked with 39 scud missiles, most of which were knocked down in the air above their targets by Patriot missiles developed by Raytheon together with Israel, and supplied by the US. Sirens warned of the attacks approximately 10 minutes before their expected arrival, and Israelis donned gas masks and entered sealed "safe" rooms, over a period 5 weeks. Babies were issued special gas-safe cribs, and religious men were issued gas masks that allowed them to preserve their beards. [127] [128] [129]

In 2014, tapes from Saddam Hussain's archives revealed that Saddam had given orders to use gas against Israel as a last resort if his military communications with the army were cut off. [130]

In 2015 The New York Times published an article about the declassified report of operation Avarice in 2005 in which over 400 chemical weapons including many rockets and missiles from the Iran-Iraq war period were recovered and subsequently destroyed by the CIA. [131] Many other stockpiles, estimated by UNSCOM up to 600 metric tons of chemical weapons, were known to have existed and even admitted by Saddam's regime, but claimed by them to have been destroyed. These have never been found but are believed to still exist. [132] [133]

Iraq War Edit

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, American service members who demolished or handled older explosive ordnance may have been exposed to blister agents (mustard agent) or nerve agents (sarin). [134] According to The New York Times, "In all, American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs, according to interviews with dozens of participants, Iraqi and American officials, and heavily redacted intelligence documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act." [135] Among these, over 2,400 nerve-agent rockets were found in summer 2006 at Camp Taji, a former Iraqi Republican Guard compound. "These weapons were not part of an active arsenal" "they were remnants from an Iraqi program in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war". [135]

Syrian Civil War Edit

Sarin, mustard agent and chlorine gas have been used during the conflict. Numerous casualties led to an international reaction, especially the 2013 Ghouta attacks. A UN fact-finding mission was requested to investigate alleged chemical weapons attacks. In four cases the UN inspectors confirmed use of sarin gas. [136] In August 2016, a confidential report by the United Nations and the OPCW explicitly blamed the Syrian military of Bashar al-Assad for dropping chemical weapons (chlorine bombs) on the towns of Talmenes in April 2014 and Sarmin in March 2015 and ISIS for using sulfur mustard on the town of Marea in August 2015. [137] In 2016, Jaysh al-Islam rebel group had used chlorine gas or other agents against Kurdish militia and civilians in the Sheikh Maqsood neighborhood of Aleppo. [138]

Many countries, including the United States and the European Union have accused the Syrian government of conducting several chemical attacks. Following the 2013 Ghouta attacks and international pressure, Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention and the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons began. In 2015 the UN mission disclosed previously undeclared traces of sarin compounds [ disputed – discuss ] in a "military research site". [139] After the April 2017 Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, the United States launched its first attack against Syrian government forces. On 14 April 2018, the United States, France and the United Kingdom carried out a series of joint military strikes against multiple government sites in Syria, including the Barzah scientific research centre, after a chemical attack in Douma.

For many terrorist organizations, chemical weapons might be considered an ideal choice for a mode of attack, if they are available: they are cheap, relatively accessible, and easy to transport. A skilled chemist can readily synthesize most chemical agents if the precursors are available.

In July 1974, a group calling themselves the Aliens of America successfully firebombed the houses of a judge, two police commissioners, and one of the commissioner's cars, burned down two apartment buildings, and bombed the Pan Am Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, killing three people and injuring eight. The organization, which turned out to be a single resident alien named Muharem Kurbegovic, claimed to have developed and possessed a supply of sarin, as well as four unique nerve agents named AA1, AA2, AA3, and AA4S. Although no agents were found at the time Kurbegovic was arrested in August 1974, he had reportedly acquired "all but one" of the ingredients required to produce a nerve agent. A search of his apartment turned up a variety of materials, including precursors for phosgene and a drum containing 25 pounds of sodium cyanide. [140]

The first successful use of chemical agents by terrorists against a general civilian population was on June 27, 1994, when Aum Shinrikyo, an apocalyptic group based in Japan that believed it necessary to destroy the planet, released sarin gas in Matsumoto, Japan, killing eight and harming 200. The following year, Aum Shinrikyo released sarin into the Tokyo subway system killing 12 and injuring over 5,000.

On December 29, 1999, four days after Russian forces began an assault of Grozny, Chechen terrorists exploded two chlorine tanks in the town. Because of the wind conditions, no Russian soldiers were injured. [141]

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. cities of New York City and Washington, D.C., the organization Al-Qaeda responsible for the attacks announced that they were attempting to acquire radiological, biological, and chemical weapons. This threat was lent a great deal of credibility when a large archive of videotapes was obtained by the cable television network CNN in August 2002 showing, among other things, the killing of three dogs by an apparent nerve agent. [142]

In an anti-terrorist attack on October 26, 2002, Russian special forces used a chemical agent (presumably KOLOKOL-1, an aerosolized fentanyl derivative), as a precursor to an assault on Chechen terrorists, which ended the Moscow theater hostage crisis. All 42 of the terrorists and 120 out of 850 hostages were killed during the raid. Although the use of the chemical agent was justified as a means of selectively targeting terrorists, it killed over 100 hostages.

In early 2007, multiple terrorist bombings had been reported in Iraq using chlorine gas. These attacks wounded or sickened more than 350 people. Reportedly the bombers were affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq, [143] and they have used bombs of various sizes up to chlorine tanker trucks. [144] United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attacks as "clearly intended to cause panic and instability in the country." [145]

The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and the Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, or the Geneva Protocol, is an international treaty which prohibits the use of chemical and biological weapons in warfare. Signed into international Law at Geneva on June 17, 1925 and entered into force on February 8, 1928, this treaty states that chemical and biological weapons are "justly condemned by the general opinion of the civilised world." [146]

Chemical Weapons Convention Edit

The most recent arms control agreement in International Law, the Convention of the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, or the Chemical Weapons Convention, outlaws the production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons. It is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an intergovernmental organisation based in The Hague. [147]

8 Of The Biggest Guns Of Destruction Used During The Second World War

20th century easily stands out as one of the mankind’s destructive epochs, with two World Wars and several intermittent conflicts encompassing regions across the globe. And such mass-scale destruction was ironically brought on by the flourish in technology. Arguably, nothing quite epitomizes this ‘dark side’ of technological progress than war inspired man-made specimens like arms, armaments, and weapons. To that end, let us check out the eight super-heavy guns from Second World War that bridged the gap between engineering brilliance and remorseless barbarity.

1) Todt Battery –

Robust guns emerging from solid bunker-like constructions (also known as casemates) made of 3.5 m thick reinforced concrete, the Todt Battery in every way signified the defensive stratagem adopted by the Germans in the middle stages of the Second World War. Posing as a grand component of the so-called Atlantic Wall – which entailed an expansive bulwark of coastal fortifications as a defense against Allied invasion, the battery comprised of four casemates equipped with 380 mm caliber Krupp guns.

All of these guns had a substantial range of 55.7 km, thus making their cartridges capable of reaching up to the coastal regions of Britain. In fact, the installation’s armaments replicated those of the renowned German battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz. But oddly enough, the Todt was never used to its full capacity and was successfully captured by Anglo-Canadian troops in late-1944.

2) Karl-Gerät –

Translating to ‘Karl Device’ in German, the Karl-Gerät was the largest self-propelled machine of destruction ever built by man. The massive contraption with a length of 11.15 m (37 ft) and a weight of 124 tons, had an equally monstrous barrel with 3.16 m (more than 10 ft) width. Seven of such howitzers were made by the German military technology group Rheinmetall and six of them saw combat action against Russian, Polish and Allied opponents. As for their cased charged shells of 600 mm calibers, the 2-ton weighing projectiles had the maximum firing range of around 10 km.

The weightiness of the ‘vehicle’ however was a disadvantage with the top speed of Karl-Gerät only reaching up to 10 km per hr. Moreover, the huge howitzer had to be manned by a crew of 21 people and had a maximum operational range of about 60 km when fueled by a diesel engine.

3) Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 –

As can be discerned from the year mentioned in the model name, the humongous French railroad howitzer was originally designed (as the biggest ordnance piece by Schneider et Cie) in 1916 during First World War – but it didn’t fire a single shell during the ongoing conflict. Oddly enough, the gun was captured almost 24 years later by the Germans during their invasion of France in 1940 and then used as a Nazi German weapon during the infamous siege of Stalingrad.

The electrically powered contraption was gargantuan, to say the least, with its total length of 30.38 m (99.7 ft), a weight of 263 tons and barrel length of 11.9 m (39 ft). As expected from such ‘boisterous’ dimensions, the shells had 520 mm calibers and weights of over 1,400 kg. And in spite of its huge scale, the gun could only displace one round in 6 minutes, with a maximum range of around 17 km.

4) Krupp 28-cm-Kanone 5 (E) –

One of the very few guns with advanced engineering that matched its tactical ‘aptitude’, the Krupp 28-cm-Kanone 5 or K5 was a heavy railway gun with a massive 21.5 m (71 ft) long barrel. Utilizing what is known as the “Vögele Turntable”, the huge weapon had the capacity to turn 360 degrees – which undoubtedly added to its tactical value.

The ‘Anzio Annie’ of the Krupp K5 family was especially successful against the Allied troops, when over 50,000 soldiers made their amphibious landings in Italy in Anzio, Italy. In fact, according to many sources, the invasion effort was brought to a standstill for almost 3 months – with significant aid from the humongous 218-ton gun, which fired its huge 283 mm shells weighing 250 kg, over a range of 64 km!

5) 1938 Railway gun TM-3-12 –

A very interesting military specimen – the Soviet-built 1938 Railway gun TM-3-12 was actually constructed from the salvaged 1907 naval gun that was originally equipped on the sunken battleship, Imperatritsa Mariya. This mammoth ordnance saw action during the concurrent Soviet-Finnish war in 1940, while also having the distinction of serving the Soviet army till 1991, during the end of Cold War.

Some of the guns were also captured by the Germans during Second World War. These weapons were then transported all the way to the Guernsey island in the English Channel. As for the armament’s stately specifications, the TM-3-12 had a turret length of 13 m (43 ft) which could fire 314 kg shells of 305 mm caliber, up to a distance of around 43 km.

6) Schwerer Gustav –

Simply put, the Schwerer Gustav still remains largest-caliber rifled weapon ever used in combat of mankind! Designed by Krupp Industries, the gargantuan instrument of war measuring a colossal 47.3 m (155 ft) in length, 7.1 m (23 ft) in width and 11.6 m (38 ft) in height – for a total of 135,500 cubic ft volume, was used sparingly during the Siege of Sevastopol, when it’s barrel was already worn out by just firing 48 shells.

The hulking machine also holds the record for the heaviest artillery in the world with its 1,350 tons weight. Unsurprisingly, the Schwerer Gustav could fire 800-mm shells of over 7.5 tons weight, via its 32.5 m (106 ft) long barrel, with a firing range of 47 km.

7) V-3 cannon –

While not having the mammoth structural scope of the Schwerer Gustav, the V-3 (Vergeltungswaffe 3) more than made up for it with its extensive length of 130 m (430 ft). The entire armament was based upon the process of multi-charges in which a second propellant charge could significantly enhance the velocity of the fired projectile.

The super-gun with its 165 km range was originally planned for dedicated bombarding of London from over the English Channel, and so was positioned in Pas-de-Calais in northern France. But tactful bombings raids from the Allied forces disabled the artillery’s capacity to function in a proper manner. However, a similar model was utilized for long-range bombarding of Luxembourg during the later stages of the war (which was done with 150-mm caliber shells with 140 kg individual weights).

8) Haubitze M1 –

Categorized as a super-heavy howitzer, the Haubitze M1 was seen in action across many theaters of the Second World War, including France, Belgium, Poland, and Russia. Flaunting its dual-recoil mechanism and a dual-component carriage, the 75-ton ordnance had a substantial barrel length of 8 m (26 ft), while having a firing range of about 21 km.

Given its howitzer-oriented characteristics, the Haubitze M1 was used for big-caliber projectiles of 356 mm that were tailored for long-drawn siege actions. To that end, it comes as no surprise that the gun adequately played its part in famous arenas like the assault on Sevastopol, the Siege of Leningrad and the Warsaw Uprising.

The article was originally published on our sister site HEXAPOLIS.

Nazi Germany's 5 Most Lethal Weapons of War

The killer weapons the Allies did not want to face in battle.

The forces of Nazi Germany in World War II were some of the most formidable fielded in any war. Backed by German science, engineering and modern mass-production techniques, it was a new type of highly mechanized warfare. Faster paced and deadlier than the armed forces that fought in the Great War just twenty years before, it overwhelmed slower-moving enemies and helped Germany subjugate an entire continent. Here are five examples of German war technology that very nearly ended Western civilization as we know it.

The Panzerkampfwagen VI (Tiger Tank)

The tank’s modern reputation as a fast, hard-hitting, deadly war chariot is largely due to the German Army’s use of the tank in the early years of World War II. Although first invented by the British in World War I, the Wehrmacht and SS took the tank to its logical conclusion, in doing so swinging the pendulum of war from defense as the dominant form of warfare back to the offense.

Although the bulk of German tank forces was composed of smaller tanks such as the Panzerkampfwagen III and IV, the Panzerkampfwagen VI—or Tiger tank—was designed to be the decisive factor on the armored battlefield. At fifty-four tons, it was considerably larger than contemporary tanks, and together with its thick armor and eighty-eight-millimeter main gun, made the Tiger a so-called “heavy” tank. Introduced in 1942, the Tiger’s KwK 36 gun could gut any mass-produced Allied tank built during the war, and the tank’s thick armored hide could shrug off most Allied antitank rounds.

Tigers were organized into heavy tank battalions and deployed by German Army commanders where they were needed the most. As a result, unlike other German tanks which prioritized protection and mobility over firepower in a general offensive, the Tiger emphasized firepower and protection over mobility, as it typically had specific objectives in mind.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was hands down the most lethal fighter of the Second World War. Designed by legendary aircraft designer Willy Messerschmitt in the mid-1930s, it replaced a grab bag of forgettable interwar German fighters with a fresh design that included a monocoque airframe, retractable landing gear and a closed cockpit.

Early Bf109A models served in the Spanish Civil War. By the late thirties, German rearmament was in full swing and the Me109 became the main fighter of the fledgling Luftwaffe. Fast and maneuverable, it was also hard hitting, featuring two .51-caliber heavy machine guns and one twenty-millimeter cannon.

The Bf109A and the Luftwaffe served all over Europe, North Africa and European Russia, dominating all other air forces until 1943 with the exception of the Royal Air Force. The Bf109 and its wartime variants had the most serial aces of the war, including pilots such as Adolph Galland, Werner Molders and Johannes Steinhoff. Overall, 33,984 Bf109s of all kinds were built by German and Czech factories. Ironically, a variant of the Bf-109, the Czech Avia 199, served with an embryonic Israeli Air Force in the late 1940s.

MG-42 Machine Gun

The crew-served machine gun was a major contributor to the high death rate of World War I, and the interwar German Army, though small, ensured it had highly effective machine guns to help it punch above its weight. The MG-34 machine gun, adopted in 1934, was lightweight, had an extremely high rate of fire of up to 1,200 rounds per minute, and was capable of quick barrel changes on the battlefield—a must for an infantry-support machine gun.

Unfortunately, the MG-34 was built made more like a watch than a battlefield weapon, and as a result manufacturer Rheinmetall could not keep up with demand. The MG-42, introduced in 1942, was an attempt to simplify the design into something that could be more easily mass-produced, and ultimately four hundred thousand were produced. The MG-42’s high rate of fire proved highly beneficial in defensive battles, particularly strongpoints backed up by mobile reserves on the Eastern Front.

German small arms doctrine held that the MG42—not the infantry weapon—was the foundation of infantry firepower. The infantry, armed with slower-firing Karabiner 98k bolt-action rifles, supported the machine gun. By contrast, the U.S. Army placed less emphasis on machine guns, fielding fewer of them than a comparable German unit, while at the same time increasing overall firepower with the semiautomatic M1 Garand and the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle.

The German Navy (Kriegsmarine) in World War II was not the dominant arm of the German military. There would be no repeat of the German High Seas Fleet. As a result, it had to focus its limited resources on what was most effective its traditional maritime foe, the Royal Navy. While the response to the French Navy was the German Army, fighting the United Kingdom required a naval response.

But without capital ships, how would Germany take the fight to the Atlantic? The answer was the Unterseeboot, or U-boat submarine. U-Boats had been highly successful in World War I, and the Kriegsmarine heavily reinvested in them in World War II. This again proved successful, with U-boats sinking 2,779 Allied ships totaling 14.1 million tons between 1939 and 1945. The most successful U-boat, U-48, sank fifty-one ships. That translated to 306,874 tons of Allied shipping—the equivalent of three modern Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

Not only did the U-boat campaign force the Allies to slow the flow of troops and war materials across the Atlantic and organize shipping into convoys for protection, it also affected the British civilian population, which suffered chronic shortages of foodstuffs and other goods. Initially powerful, U-boats were eventually nullified by Allied countermeasures and ultimately failed to sever lines of communication between North America and western Europe. Germany’s submarine force lost heavily—765 U-boats were lost during the course of the Second World War.


Germany’s use of masses of tanks on the modern battlefield opened Pandora’s box. Within a few years Allied forces would be returning the favor and it was suddenly the German Army that was facing large numbers of British, American and Soviet tanks. As the quality of German forces declined and the number of Allied forces went up, the Wehrmacht had a need for a cheap, inexpensive way to saturate the battlefield with tank-killing firepower. The result: the Panzerfaust.

The Panzerfaust was incredibly simple for an effective antitank weapon. A single-shot, recoilless weapon, it featured a large, egg-shaped warhead attached to a disposable metal tube. The primitive trigger ignited the black powder propellant, sending the warhead to an effective range of thirty yards. The shaped charge warhead had an astonishing penetration capability of up to 7.9 inches, making it capable of destroying any Allied tank.

The Panzerfaust made anyone—even old men and children dragooned into the German Army late in the war—a potential tank killer. The introduction of this new short-range, last-ditch weapon made Allied tank crews more cautious around German infantry that did not appear to have strong antitank defenses, such as towed guns. During the Battle for Berlin, some Soviet tankers even welded bed springs to their tanks, in hopes that prematurely detonating the shaped charge warhead would save their tank—a tactic the U.S. Army used decades later with so-called “slat armor” on Stryker armored vehicles.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

Image: Tiger 131. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/Simon Quinton

Five Ill-Conceived Weapons From World War II

A fortress on the Maginot Line being attacked by German soldiers on June 9, 1940.

Claire Barrett
May 27, 2021

1. The Great Panjandrum

Nevil Shute, author of the popular novel On the Beach, A Town Like Alice, put down his pen and paper to moonlight as an aeronautical engineer during the Second World War.

He perhaps should have stuck with writing because his creation, the Great Panjandrum, was perhaps one of the most ill-conceived weapons to come out of World War II.

Comprised of a pair of 10-foot wooden wheels, the axle between them contained a 2-ton drum of TNT. In theory, the Panjandrum was to be launched from the ramp of a landing craft just off a Normandy beachhead, “from which it would roar up the beach at 60 mph and smash into the Atlantic Wall defenses, blowing a tank-size hole in the fortifications…. Propelling it were 70 solid-fuel rockets around the rim of each wheel, spinning the entire affair like a crazed Catherine wheel firework,” writes historian Stephan Wilkinson.

Truly, what could go wrong? But in a much more real sense, what couldn’t go wrong? Thankfully film still survives showcasing the Great Panjandrum during its first — and last — trial run.

A scene of chaos unfolds as the Panjandrum picks up speed, rolling and careening uncontrollably along the English seaside. Generals, admirals, and stray dogs can be seen fleeing the area as sparks and rockets fly out to what amounts to little more than an uncontrollable massive wheel. After that hubbub died down, the Panjandrum came to rest on its side, then promptly exploded and disintegrated.

Unsurprisingly, the Panjandrum was never used in action.

2. The Maginot Line

One cannot make a list of poorly conceived ideas and fail to include the Maginot Line. The development for the defensive structure began after World War I, with the bruised nation of France focused on defense rather than the notion of an offensive war.

The line of concrete fortifications and extensive interconnected bunker complexes were impenetrable to aerial bombings and tank fire. Running primarily from the town of La Ferté to the Rhine River along France’s border with Germany, there was just one problem…

The Germans simply went around it.

3. Heinkel He 177 GREIF

“This garbage plane is, of course, the biggest piece of junk that was probably ever produced,” Adolf Hitler once angrily quipped. He wasn’t far off. Mechanical problems plagued the Heinkel for four years and was declared barely fit for production near the end of the war. “By then,” writes Stephan Wilkinson, “there was no need for a long-range, four engine Luftwaffe bomber.”

The airplane was equipped with 3-ton engines on each wing, imposing enormous structural demands. To the surprise of no one, many HE 177s simply fell apart mid-flight. Those that managed to stay aloft for a time often quickly caught fire.

Nazi factories rolled out more than 1,100 He 177s, ultimately a complete waste of time, material, and money.

4. Panzer VIII Maus

Another Nazi failure includes the mammoth Panzer VIII Maus. Churning along at a whopping 8 mph, the Maus decidedly traded any sort of mobility for firepower and armor. While enemy rounds merely bounced off the tank’s armor, the lumbering Maus had no real function in combat situations.

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche of sportscar fame, one has to wonder if Porsche was in on some epic joke against the Nazis.

Only two prototypes were built by war’s end, with one never even receiving its turret and gun.

5. Bat Bombs

Shortly after he received the shocking news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, dentist Dr. Lytle S. Adams had a thought. “Couldn’t those millions of bats be fitted with incendiary bombs and dropped from planes? What could be more devastating than such a firebomb attack?” he recalled in a 1948 interview.

Who amongst us hasn’t seen a bat and immediately thought “explosives”?

Because Adams had friends in high places — namely First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt — the harebrained scheme didn’t die on the design floor. It got funded by the U.S. Army.

From there Adams developed the idea to attach small timer-controlled bombs to bats. The goal was to release the bats and have them hide inside buildings where they would later explode.

In 1943 the Army began freezing thousands of Mexican free-tail bats into hibernation, according to Caitlin O’Brien for Military Times.

The Army forgot that the bats needed time to thaw, and their release did not go as expected, as many bats plunged to their deaths.

The second test went slightly better in the fact that the bat bombs worked, but the creatures proved uncontrollable and managed to blow up an Army barracks, a control tower, and other surrounding buildings at the Carlsbad Auxiliary Field

“After these roadblocks,” writes O’Brien, “the Army decided to pass the project onto the Navy, which delegated it to the Marine Corps. Two million dollars and over 6,000 bats later, the Marine Corps dropped the plan in favor of the atomic bomb.”

5. The Legendary Nazi Blood-Strained “Blutfahne” Flag

Adolf Hitler reviewing SA members in 1935. He is accompanied by the Blutfahne and its bearer SS-Sturmbannführer Jakob Grimminger.

A sacred relic held dear by Hitler, the legendary Nazi blood-stained Blutfahne flag’s location is unknown.

There have been disputes about the flag’s actual existence as well as what happened to it.

Hitler himself had designed the Swastika flag, and it became a key Nazi symbol.

The red flag with a white circle and swastika in the center was carried during the attempted Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in 1923 where it became covered in blood.

The brown shirts of the SA had carried it to the center when they were halted by Munich police.

When the Munich police opened fire on the Nazis, the flagbearer was hit and dropped the flag.

Another SA man marching alongside the flag was also hit by several bullets and fell onto it when he died, staining the flag with his blood

The wounded flag-bearer, Heinrich Trambauer supposedly picked up the blood-soaked flag and ran to a friend’s house where he hid it in his jacket.

Hitler was later given the flag, which was attached to a new staff, after his release from Landsberg prison.

It had a decorative finial and silver sleeve to commemorate the 16 Nazis who died during the scuffle.

Despite the flag not showing any color of the dried blood of humans and it wasn’t in the same condition as the flag carried during November 1923, the legend remained.

Hitler displayed the flag each year at his Nuremberg rallies and held the sacred flag in one hand to consecrate other flags and swastikas. There were times it was also kept in Munich at the Brown House, which was the headquarters of the Nazi Party.

It was last publicly seen at the Volkssturm induction ceremony for Heinrich Himmler in October 1944.

Originally, the Allies believed the flag was destroyed during the Munich bombings, but later they doubted that.

Many people have claimed to have owned the flag since that time but the whereabouts of the real one still remains a mystery.

Russia’s Guns of World War II: 8 Firearms That Beat Hitler

Many of Russia’s guns of World War II are legends and were mass-produced the world over, but they did not get built or designed overnight.

When the Soviet Union faced invasion from Nazi Germany in 1941 its army was still utilizing the same basic bolt action rifle that had been carried a generation earlier during the First World War and the subsequent Russian Revolution and Civil War.

However, the Red Army was already looking to develop new small arms, and by the end of the Great Patriotic War – as the Second World War was labeled to the Russian people – millions of soldiers would be equipped with these weapons. It would also serve to jumpstart the Soviet arms industry, which would, in turn, see the development of some of the most infamous firearms ever created.

Soviet small arms have always been known for being somewhat crude yet reliable. The firearms were not always the most innovative or even the most advanced, but they worked well and in conditions where other guns would fail. So reliable were some of these small arms that their German adversaries often preferred captured weapons over their own issued weapons – this was especially true of the PPSh-41 submachine gun.

While development had begun before the actual invasion, much of the production was done in wartime. Whereas German small arms needed to be produced in factories that could make weapons to very stringent tolerances, the Soviet firearms were produced in small shops and in some cases even under siege and isolation. Clearly, Russia’s guns of World War II made a major impact in Hitler’s eventual defeat and downfall. Here is a list of the best of what Moscow created:

Mosin Nagent Model 1891 Rifle

Arguably one of the most widely produced firearms ever (with the possible exception of the much later AK-47), some 37,000,000 were made between 1891 and 1965. The rifle has an interesting history in that it incorporated two designs and features from two different designers including Sergei Ivanovich Mosin, a captain in the Imperial Russian Army, and Belgian gun designer Leon Nagant. Each submitted rifles for testing, and while Mosin’s rifle was selected, the modified version featured key details of the Nagant design including the fixed box magazine and the magazine spring. This rifle entered service officially as the Model 1891, and production began in 1892. The gun fired the 7.62x54mmR cartridge.

Interestingly, not only did it feature design aspects from a Belgian maker, but the first 500,000 rifles were produced by the French arms factory, Manufacture Nationale d’Armes de Châtellerault. The rifle had its baptism of fire during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), and by this time some 3.8 million rifles were in service. The results were mixed, but gun historians say a larger part of this is that the infantrymen were not properly trained with this rifle.

Millions more were made during the First World War, and in another unique twist, the Russian demand far outpaced the supply, so much so that 1.5 million rifles were ordered by the Russian government and produced by Remington Arms in the United States. An additional 1.8 were further produced by New England Westinghouse. Many of these rifles didn’t make it to Russia before the Revolution and Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and thus were never delivered to the Russian government. Some were supplied to American and British expeditionary forces sent to Russia in 1918 and 1919, but many were later used by U.S. National Guard and ROTC units. These rifles, as expected, are widely sought after by collectors.

With the establishment of the Soviet Union, production of the Mosin Nagant increased and the gun underwent a few changes. The basic M1891/30 saw the barrel shortened by about 3.5inches to the length of the “Dragoon variation.” This would be the standard issue weapon of Soviet troops when the nation was invaded by the Germans in 1941. Millions of rifles were produced during the war, and it remained the main small arm of the largest mobilized army in history with some 17.4 million being produced from 1941 to 1945. Numerous variations were produced notably a sniper version, and a carbine version that was introduced in 1944.

The Pistolet-Pulemyot Shpagina was in development when war broke out in June of 1941, and the gun was a follow-up to Russian gun designer Georgi Shpagin’s PPD-40, which interestingly enough had been first designed in 1934 but didn’t see widespread production until the Winter War with Finland. This gun proved to be reliable enough, but an easier to produce variation was needed – this would be the PPSh-41. Some six million PPSh-41s were produced during the war, as compared to around 19,000 of the PPD. Thus, the PPSh-41 was the most widely produced submachine gun of WWII (as compared to one million MP-40s that Germany produced) and near the top of any Russia’s guns of World War II list.

The PPSh-41, as with the PPD, fired the 7.62x25mm pistol cartridge that was developed for the TT-33 Tokarev pistol. It was originally fitted with a 71 round drum magazine, which gave the gun its distinctive silhouette, and later a 35-round curved box magazine was made available. In an interesting twist, the drum magazine was a copy of the Finnish M31 Suomi magazine, which also held 71 rounds. The PPSh-41 was durable yet crude, but looks could be deceiving, as the weapon could fire 900 rounds per minute. Because of its reliability, it was often used by German soldiers, especially in the latter part of the war.

The PPS (Pistolet-pulemjot Sudaeva) or PPS-43 was developed by Alexei Sudayev as an even more low-cost submachine gun. It was developed for use with reconnaissance units, vehicle crews and support personnel. Unlike the PPSh-41, the PPS was completely made of stamped sheet-steel and could be machined in less than half of the time of the former. It entered service in small numbers during the Siege of Leningrad, and full production began in 1943. This model firearm also utilized the 7.62x25mm pistol round from a curved box magazine, which interestingly was not interchangeable with the PPSh-41 curved magazine and the PPS could not use the drum magazine.

The Samozaryadnaya Vintovka Tokarea (Tokarev Self-loading Rifle, Model 1940) or SVT-40 has often been mislabeled as the “Soviet’s take on the M1 Garand.” This isn’t exactly accurate, in part because gun designer Fedor Tokarev had been working on his design essentially at the same as the M1 was being developed. Suffice it to say that military planners around the world were working to develop a semi-automatic rifle for the infantry.

The resulting gun that Tokarev designed first entered service in 1938 as the SVT-38, using the same 7.62x54mmR cartridge as the Mosin Nagant, and it was first used in combat in the Winter War with Finland (1939-40). The results were not good, and the reaction from the troops was quite negative. Soldiers found the gun too long and cumbersome, difficult to maintain and worst of all, it had a removable box magazine that fell out at inopportune times. Production ceased on the SVT-38 (some 150,000 examples in total were reportedly made and issued), and the gun was redesigned and designated the SVT-40. It was lighter, and more importantly, simpler to produce.

The Soviet Union had planned to replace the Mosin Nagant with the SVT-40, and on paper one-third of all rifles would be this model. However, a not so funny event occurred – namely a German invasion. This saw hundreds of thousands of rifles captured, and the Mosin Nagant, which had been taken out of service, was reintroduced. This is also why so many SVT-40s flooded the market in the 1980s seemingly unissued! While production of the SVT-40 reached five and a half million by the war’s end, it is worth noting that more were produced earlier in the war than later, as the weapon just didn’t live up to the demands of the Red Army. Basically, the problem was that the Soviets needed an easy to produce and reliable gun, and the SVT-40 proved to be neither.

DP-28 Light Machine Gun

The Pulemyot Degtyaryova Pekhotny (Degtyaryov’s infantry machine gun) earned the nickname “the record player” due to its large drum magazine on top. Likely inspired by the Lewis Gun, this light machine gun (and by light it was meant that a single individual could carry it, because it really can’t be fired from the hip as you see in video games) was introduced in 1928. It utilized a simple design with very few parts compared to other machine guns. As with other Soviet small arms, it was also highly rugged and could be buried in dirt and still work. It also used the 7.62x54mmR cartridge (thus a light machine gun as it fired a rifle round rather than a heavier round) and fired from the drum magazine rather than from a belt.

The magazine proved to be a major detraction, however, as it took longer to change magazines, which were also difficult to reload. With just 47 rounds in each magazine the guns had a limited amount of ammunition available to the shooter, but in fairness, this was still greater than the 20 round magazine of the American Browning Automatic Rifle or 30 round magazine of the British Bren Gun. Unlike with the Bren, the DP-28 did not feature a changeable barrel, so the firearm’s lower rate of fire and magazine changing time helped reduce the risk of the barrel overheating.

Maxim M1910

The Maxim was actually the first practical “machinegun,” and the Imperial Russian Army had been one of Hiram Maxim’s first (and arguably most loyal) customers. The Russian versions of the Maxim, designated the M1910 were chambered to fire the 7.62x54mmR round. These were mounted on the Sokolov mount (sometimes with gun shield), which made moving the heavy machine gun easier, but it was still fairly cumbersome. The M1910 was used throughout the First World War, the Russian Revolution and Civil War, through World War II and in the Cold War in China, Korea and even Vietnam. There seems to be no exact number of how many were actually produced.

One unique variation of the M1910 was the Maxim-Tokarev, which was a light machine version. It discarded the water jacket, and shortened the barrel and mounted it on a bipod. Only about 2,500 of these variants were produced.

SG-43 Goryunov

The Soviets looked to replace the M1910 Maxim with the SG-43, which was also chambered for the 7.62x54mmR cartridge. While a wheeled mount version, much like the M1910, was produced the gun was also fitted for tripods and vehicles, including tanks. It proved to be a reliable weapon, but as it was more of a defensive than offensive weapon it was overshadowed to some extent by the other Soviet small arms.

Egyptian marines aim a Soviet-made SG43 medium machine gun during an amphibious assault in support of the multinational joint service Exercise Bright Star 󈨙.


Two final firearms worth noting are the SKS (Samozaryadniy Karabin Sistemi Simonova) and RPD (Ruchnoy Pulemyot Degtyaryova). While technically not a true World War II firearm, the SKS semi-automatic carbine was developed at the tail end of the war by Sergi Gavrilovich Simonov while Vasily Degtyaryov worked on the RPD. These are both notable as they were among the first small arms to be chambered for the 7.62x39mm M43 round, which the Soviets developed in response to the German’s 7.92x33mm Kurz ammo that was used for the StG44/MP44 (Sturmgewehr). Soviet arms designers saw the benefits of this intermediate cartridge and looked to create their own version. This would be the 7.62x39mm.

How Did the Nazis Really Lose World War II?

Of the countless history books, TV documentaries and feature films made about World War II, many accept a similar narrative of the war in the West: Though Nazi Germany possessed a superior army, better equipment and by far the best weapons at the outset, the British somehow managed to hold on until the U.S. entered the war early in 1942. After that, with Germany seriously weakened by its brutal clash with the Soviet Union in the East, U.S. economic strength propelled the Allies to victory.

A formation of Tiger II tanks – January 1945. (Credit: ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

But according to James Holland, author of the three-volume history “The War in the West,” when it came to the operational level of World War II—the nuts and bolts of producing weapons, supplying troops and other logistics–the famous Nazi war “machine” was anything but efficient. It wasn’t even really a machine.

𠇎veryone always talks about the ‘Nazi war machine’ as though it’s entirely mechanized,” Holland told HISTORY. “Well it isn’t. Of the 135 divisions used in May 1940 for Blitzkrieg in the West, only 16 of those are mechanized. The other 119 are all using their own two feet, or they’re using horse and cart.”

In Holland’s view, the long-accepted wisdom of Germany’s military prowess relies too heavily on the experiences of individual Allied soldiers on the front lines, without taking into account the reality of the Wehrmacht’s logistical capabilities. While understanding strategy (including leadership and overall war aims) and tactics (the actual fighting on the front lines) of any conflict is essential, he believes the operational level is what holds the strategic and tactical levels together.

Germany Panzer Tiger II tanks in 1944. (Credit: ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

“If you’re an American soldier and you’re in Normandy in a foxhole, and you come up against a Tiger tank, all you care about is that it’s a huge tank with a massive great gun and if it fires a shell at you, you’re going to be obliterated.” Similarly, a Sherman tank facing off alone against one of the famously powerful German Tiger tanks would have no chance. “Looking at it operationally,” Holland explains, 𠇊 very different picture emerges. The Germans only built 1,347 Tiger tanks, whereas the Americans built 49,000 [Sherman tanks].”

And what about that Tiger tank? An icon of the Wehrmacht, the heavily armored monster featured a complex six-speed gearbox designed by Ferdinand Porsche. It was also prone to mechanical malfunction, difficult to sustain in combat and needed a lot of fuel, one of the many resources Germany sorely lacked.

Because Germany was so short on oil, steel and (most critically) food, Holland argues, the Nazis would have had to crush their enemies completely in the first phase of the war in order to have any chance of winning. Unable to defeat Britain in the West, Hitler had �solutely no choice” but to invade the Soviet Union in the hopes of getting access to more resources. That invasion, of course, led to another enormously costly war for Germany on the Eastern Front, even as the United States joined Britain in the West.

U.S. and German Field Artillery in World War II: A Comparison

At the beginning of World War II, the U.S. Army’s primary field artillery pieces were the French-designed M1897 75mm gun and M1918 155mm howitzer (above). By the time U.S. ground forces entered combat in 1942, both of these pieces were being replaced by modern and much more effective guns. (National Archives)

At first glance, there seems to be little difference between the artillery branches of the U.S. Army and German Wehrmacht in World War II. The American guns were a bit heavier than their German counterparts and generally had a longer range. The German 105mm was sufficiently similar to the American 105mm howitzer, and there were enough similarities overall between each army’s guns to allow the U.S. Army to equip two of its field artillery battalions with captured German pieces to take advantage of the enemy ammunition stocks captured in France.

Nevertheless, evaluating an army’s artillery requires a good deal more than looking at the standard guns that it deploys. To be fully effective, an artillery arm must be well supplied with suitable ammunition. There must be a sufficient supply of standard guns so that the units being supported can know what fires they can expect. It must have a good means of identifying and accurately locating a target and needs well-schooled forward observers who are in close contact not only with the batteries, but with the troops they are working with. Effective artillery requires fire direction centers that can accurately place fires and rapidly shift them from one target to another. Those fire direction centers must be able to co-ordinate with other artillery units to mass fires as needed. The guns must have effective prime movers or be mounted on tracked vehicles. There must be a sufficient supply of all of the above to meet the needs of the maneuver units or other forces the batteries are supporting. Finally, the guns must be protected from counter-battery fire or other interdiction.

In other words, artillery is a system with a number of interacting components. The gun is the most visible part, but the whole system must work well to make the gun effective. Any analysis that does not examine all components of the system, and acknowledge that interference with any part of it can sharply reduce its effectiveness, is incomplete.

A component by component examination of American and German artillery shows that almost from the beginning of America’s participation in the conflict the U.S. Army had the superior system. American artillerymen did not try to combat the enemy’s artillery by building bigger guns. The approach from the beginning was to build a better system and it worked. That was clear to thoughtful observers at the time. Viewing the Italian campaign, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel commented, “The enemy’s tremendous superiority in artillery, and even more in the air, has broken the front open.” During the Normandy campaign, Rommel added, “Also in evidence is their great superiority in artillery and outstandingly large supply of ammunition.” By any reasonable standard, especially during the latter part of World War II, the American artillery arm was very clearly superior to that of the Germans.

This fact may be startling since at the beginning of World War II, American artillery was armed with obsolete French guns that were transported via horses and unreliable trucks. In the next two years, however, the U.S. Army corrected twenty years of neglect by civilian authorities. The rest of this article examines the several components of the American and German artillery systems with an eye to showing how this transformation took place and describing its impact.

The most commonly used field artillery piece used by the U.S. Army in World War II was the M2A1 105mm howitzer. In this 25 March 1945 photograph, gunners from Battery C, 337th Field Artillery Battalion, prepare to fire the battery’s 300,000th round since entering combat in June 1944. (National Archives)

The potential for rapid improvement and transformation of the Army’s artillery was developed in the interwar years largely at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the home of the U.S Army Field Artillery School. Fort Sill was also where then-Lieutenant Colonel Lesley J. McNair introduced modern instruction methods which greatly facilitated the Army’s ability to rapidly expand the Field Artillery branch.

When war broke out in Europe in September 1939, the Army’ artillery units were still equipped with the venerable 75mm and 155mm French guns purchased during World War I. The French 75 or, more properly the Matériel de 75mm Mle 1897, is considered the first of the modern artillery pieces and was capable of a high rate of fire out to 8,000 meters (approximately five miles). It was designed to counter the mass infantry attacks that were typical of the tactics of the late nineteenth century by placing large numbers of time-fused shells over bodies of enemy troops.

The Field Artillery branch had developed clear ideas of what guns were needed for the mobile war it saw coming. Their designs were well thought out and served America well and, in some cases, are still serving America’s allies. When the money was finally allocated, the Army could spend it effectively (after a bit of congressional prodding) to get the guns it wanted built in a minimum of time thanks to the Army’s Industrial Mobilization plan. The United States was the only country with such a plan. The first version was largely put together by a bright young major named Dwight D. Eisenhower. As a result, good quality field guns were available when the army landed in North Africa in November 1942. While the Army fought in North Africa with modern artillery pieces, the French 75mm gun still had a limited role at that stage of the war. One of the first German Mk. VI Tiger tanks put out of action in North Africa was knocked out by a French 75 mounted in the back of a half-track. Until the M10 tank destroyer became available, the Army used this expedient to provide units with a mobile antitank gun.

The effectiveness of American artillery, even at this early stage of American involvement, impressed Rommel. In an 18 February 1943 letter to his wife, he described the fighting in and around what American historians have called the Battle of Kasserine Pass. In part he commented “an observation plane directed the fire of numerous batteries on all worthwhile targets throughout the zone.”

Gunners with a cannon company in the 90th Infantry Division fire an M3 105mm howitzer during fighting near Carentan, France, 11 June 1944. M3s equipped cannon companies assigned to infantry regiments and airborne field artillery battalions during the war. (National Archives)

By the time of Operation TORCH in November 1942, the Army had deployed an entire family of new guns. The M1 75mm pack howitzer, with a range of 8,880 meters (5.5 miles) for mountain, airborne, and jungle use, was put into service, and anything larger than a bicycle could move it. Two types of 105mm howitzers were assigned to infantry divisions. Each infantry regiment had a cannon company of short barreled M3 105mm howitzers that fired a reduced power round out to 7,600 meters (4.7 miles) for direct support. British historian Max Hastings has written that the Army withdrew the M3 from all but the airborne infantry late in the war, but that is inconsistent with the evidence available to the author. Each infantry division had three battalions of twelve M2 105mm howitzers, one battalion for each of the division’s three infantry regiments. The M2 105mm howitzer had a range about 12,000 meters (7.5 miles). The primary role of these guns was support of a designated infantry regiment, but they could also fire in support of other units. The aim of this practice was to enhance the effectiveness of the artillery/infantry team by having the same units habitually fight together, and it was largely successful. There was a smoothness to that cooperation that was rarely achieved with attached battalions of tanks and tank destroyers.

These new guns, especially the M2/M2A1 105mm howitzers, were superior to the French 75mm guns they replaced in part because of their longer range, but also because the larger caliber allowed a significantly larger bursting charge. They were also capable of plunging fire, which allowed the guns to engage targets in defilade, unlike the flatter trajectory of the French 75. In the infantry division their prime mover was usually a 2 ½-ton truck or an M5 high speed tractor. Each infantry division had another artillery battalion equipped with the tractor-drawn M1 155mm howitzer with a range almost 14,600 meters (nine miles). These guns provided general support of the division.

Gunners from the 244th Field Artillery Battalion prepare to fire their M1A1 155mm gun in support of the 26th Infantry Division, 30 March 1945. Nicknamed the “Long Tom,” this gun fired a 127-pound shell to a range of 22,000 meters (13.2 miles). (National Archives)

Heavier guns in separate battalions were attached to divisions, corps, or armies as needed. The M1 4.5-inch gun, range 19,300 meters (twelve miles), was used mainly for counter-battery fire. However, by the end of World War II, this gun was withdrawn from service despite its exceptional range. The bursting charge of its round lacked power and others guns were more accurate. The M1 8-inch howitzer had a range of almost 18,000 meters (eleven miles) and fired a 200-pound shell with great accuracy. The M1A1 155mm “Long Tom” could hurl a 127-pound projectile to a range of 22,000 meters (13.7 miles), while the M1 8-inch gun fired a 240-pound shell up to 32,500 meters (20.2 miles). The largest artillery pieces employed by the Army against Axis forces was the M1 240mm howitzer, which could fire 360-pound shell out to a range of 23,000 meters (14.3 miles).

If necessary, these heavier guns could be moved by truck, but they were usually pulled by the M4 high-speed tractor. In addition, there was a self-propelled version of the Long Tom. Under favorable conditions, an American heavy artillery battalion could road march up to 160 miles per day. These vehicles made American artillery far more mobile than German guns, which still relied heavily on horses for movement. German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein commented on the effectiveness of American trucks, even in the mud of the Russian front, where they sharply increased the mobility of Russian artillery units.

An M1 8-inch howitzer from Battery A, 194th Field Artillery Battalion, lights up the night sky during the fighting around Mount Camino, Italy, 3 December 1943. (National Archives)

Another weapon that supplied supporting fires, although it was neither a cannon or assigned to the artillery, was the M1 4.2-inch chemical mortar. Its high explosive round had the same impact as the 105mm shell, and it was often used to supplement other supporting weapons.

Another category of guns that often supported the infantry with direct fire and indirect fire were those mounted on tank destroyers. Confusingly, that term was used to describe both towed antitank guns and those mounted on tracked vehicles. America built several such tank destroyers on a tracked chassis with a lightly armored, open topped turret. When the Army decided to build such vehicles, the Wehrmacht was making successful attacks with massed tanks. These highly mobile tank destroyers were intended to rush to the scene of such an attack and seal off the penetration. By the time tank destroyers were ready for employment, the days of Blitzkrieg were over but they remained successful in engaging German armor. They were also very useful as infantry support weapons. Their highly accurate, high-velocity guns were excellent for engaging fortifications and in an indirect fire role.

As mentioned earlier, the first mobile tank destroyers consisted of 75mm guns mounted on half-tracks. A better system was needed quickly, so Ordnance officials decided to use available guns and chassis. The M10, the first purpose-built tank destroyer, mounted a 3-inch naval gun (which was available because the Navy had phased it out) on a Sherman chassis. While it was a fairly good weapon, the vehicle was unnecessarily large and slow. The M10’s gun also lacked the desired punch. The M10 was eventually phased out in favor of the M18 (nicknamed the “Hellcat”), a smaller, faster vehicle that mounted a high-velocity 76mm gun. Germany continued to improve its tanks, so the Army developed the M36, which carried a 90mm antiaircraft gun. The Army issued the M36 to tank destroyer battalions in Europe in the latter part of the war.

Most American armored divisions deployed three battalions of standard 105mm howitzers mounted, in the open, on the chassis of an M3 Lee or, more frequently, an M4 Sherman tank. These were designated the M7 and nicknamed the “Priest” for their pulpit-like machine-gun ring. While the Sherman was overmatched by German tanks in terms of main guns and armor, it was far more mechanically reliable than comparable German vehicles, and since the unarmored version that carried the artillery piece was substantially lighter than the Sherman, it seemed to handle mud quite well when compared to the standard Sherman tank. Belton Cooper, a veteran of the 3d Armored Division and author of Deathtraps: The Survival of an American Armored Division on World War II, considered them one of the Army’s best pieces of equipment.

The largest field artillery piece employed by the U.S. Army in World War II was the M1 240mm howitzer, such as this one of Battery B, 697th Field Artillery Battalion, shown here during the Italian campaign, 30 January 1944. (National Archives)

It has only taken a few paragraphs to describe America’s artillery and prime movers because America was able to adequately supply all of its forces with these few types of standard guns and vehicles. This was not the case with German artillery. Germany’s shortages were so severe that Germany seemed to employ nearly every gun that came into its possession. In The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944, Rick Atkinson wrote that half of the Wehrmacht’s artillery pieces on the Eastern Front were French guns. General Hans Eberbach, while commanding Fifth Panzer Army against the British in Normandy, wrote that his artillery included guns from every major power in Europe. It would be hard to overstate the logistical problems this caused. Acquiring the proper ammunition, let alone the firing tables and other equipment needed to keep the guns operational, must have been a nightmare. To add to his problems, the British alone had six times as many guns as he could deploy.

The mobility of American artillery was a sharp contrast to Germany’s situation. R. L. Dinardo’s excellent book, Mechanized Juggernaut or Military Anachronism? Horses in the German Army of World War II, covers the topic quite well. The relative lack of mobility of Germany’s artillery was caused by the limitations of the German economy, desultory planning, and the initiation of hostilities long before the planned expansion of the Wehrmacht was complete. The reliance on horses caused substantial problems in terms of speed of movement, low cargo capacity, short radius of action, and the disproportionate number of men needed to care for the animals. German horse-drawn artillery could only move at a rate of perhaps twenty-five miles a day for several days before the horses needed to rest. These problems were only partly mitigated by using the German rail system. Intense Allied bombing of German railways slowed the movement of troops, equipment, and supplies. The raids also caused heavy losses in men and materiel.

One way to appreciate the magnitude of the problems caused by horse-drawn artillery is to note that one of the reasons the German Sixth Army did not try to break out of its encirclement at Stalingrad was because most of its horses were in rehabilitation camps to the west and were outside of that encirclement. As a result, Sixth Army would not have been able to move its heavy weapons or ammunition during a breakout attempt.

The Trüppenführung, the basic statement of Germany’s war fighting doctrine, stated that the “Artillery must be used with great mobility to achieve its full effect.” The U.S. Army’s artillery achieved that goal far better than the Wehrmacht or any other army during World War II.

Part of the reason American artillery was so effective was good forward observation. During World War I, fire was adjusted by individual batteries. Battery commanders spotted the fall of their rounds, usually from a crude tower near the guns. In World War II, both German and American artillery fire direction was normally done at the battalion level. A fire direction center typically controlled at least a dozen guns, so better target acquisition and observation of the fall of the rounds than the Word War I practice was needed. In the fast-paced fighting of World War II, observers needed to be somewhere near or with the troops being supported, and they needed to have rapid communication with the fire direction center. When the troops were moving, landline telephones were useless. Even in static situations, the telephones, with their vulnerable lines, had serious limitations near the front lines. Radio was a possible solution, but early AM radios were fickle and often unreliable. Major, later General, Anthony C. McAuliffe studied the FM radios that the Connecticut State Police had began using and convinced the Army to develop FM vehicle radios. These provided a strong clear signal for about forty miles. Germany developed a family of high frequency vehicle radios for military use, but their radios were not nearly as effective as the American versions. By the last year of the war in Europe, Germany was deploying its own family of FM radios.

America added another element to forward observation: the light airplanes previously referred to by Rommel. Initially the Army Air Corps refused to listen to the to the light plane manufacturers’ pleas to be included in the war effort, so the manufacturers made planes available for free to generals conducting maneuvers. The benefits were so clear that, almost instantly, an irresistible clamor for their purchase arose.

The plane most used by U.S. forces was a slightly militarized Piper Cub designated the L-4. The aircraft was painted olive drab, equipped with a radio, and modified with the addition of a window was placed in the top of the fuselage behind the wing. Two planes were issued to each artillery battalion.

A gun crew from the 575th Field Artillery Battalion loads their M1 8-inch gun near Berstheim, France, in late 1944. The 8-inch gun had the longest range of any American field artillery piece of the war—32,000 meters (twenty miles). (National Archives)

Replying in kind to American deployment of airborne artillery spotters was not an option for Axis forces. Germany had an airplane that would have served admirably, the Fiesler Fi 156 Storch (Stork), which was designed with artillery spotting in mind. Nevertheless, like so much German equipment, it was overdesigned and therefore too expensive for Germany to use it as widely as it would have needed to be used to make a difference in German capabilities. In addition, Allied air supremacy would have rapidly driven them from the sky.

The use of aerial spotters solved the problem of a shortage of spotters on the ground. The troops frequently operated in separate small units, too many to have a spotter with each one. The spotter on the ground could only see nearby targets, leaving some units unable to call for fire. The airborne spotters were so effective that, in some cases, the pilot/observer directed up to ninety-five percent of the artillery fire delivered. Not only could targets be far more clearly observed from the air, but targets further behind the front lines could also be engaged.

The mere presence of the observation planes in the air over the front lines had the effect of severely suppressing enemy fire. That impact was observed in both the European and Pacific Theaters. When the spotters were in the air, enemy batteries generally remained silent or limited their fire to a few rounds at dawn and dusk. So even after the plodding German batteries arrived at the front, they were often silent.

When they were forced to fire anyway, the counter-battery fire had a catastrophic impact on them. For example in the winter of 1944-45, Germany attempted to hold the Allies well west of the Rhine River. When that defense collapsed Germany took heavy losses as the troops attempted to flee across the few bridges available. German artillery attempted to slow the advancing Americans and the “air observation posts had several field days firing on the artillery batteries that were trying to protect the crossing of the Germans to the East bank of the Rhine River. These batteries were destroyed or silenced.”

Allied troops on the ground in all theaters were extremely grateful. The most dramatic proof is that in 1978, a former World War II observation pilot received a letter from a former infantryman. He had been under Japanese artillery fire on the island of Luzon when a spotter airplane came on the scene and silenced the Japanese battery by its mere presence. He was sure that the spotter had saved his life. Years later he succeeded in tracing down the pilot to personally express his gratitude.

The Field Artillery School at Fort Sill also developed the fire direction center for U.S. artillery battalions and brigades into a place where fires could be rapidly allocated and shifted as needed. It was common practice to combine fires of the artillery of two or more adjacent divisions in support of an attack of one of those divisions, and then shift all the fires to successive attacks by the other divisions. The four divisions fighting on the northern shoulder of the Battle of the Bulge went even further. They were supported by the fire of 348 guns and a battalion of 4.2-inch mortars. All of these guns were placed under the direction of the assistant division commander of the 1st Infantry Division and all their fire was coordinated through his headquarters.

Gunners of the 244th Field Artillery Battalion fire a captured 88mm gun, 26 December 1944. American forces captured dozens of German artillery pieces, including dozens of the versatile 88s, along with tons of ammunition in the summer of 1944 and later used some of the captured ordnance against the Germans. (National Archives)

The sophistication of American fire direction developed at Fort Sill included the uniquely American ability, at that time: to have several batteries fire “Time on Target” (TOT) shoots. The fire direction center directing the TOT broadcast a countdown to all of the batteries participating in the shoot. Each battery calculated the time of flight from their guns to the target. Each fired during the countdown at a time that caused the initial rounds from all of the guns to impact the target simultaneously. Its effect was shattering.

The sophistication of American fire direction is illustrated in an anecdote in My War, a memoir by Dr. Don Fusler, a soldier who served on a 57mm antitank gun crew. His unit had occupied a large farm in western Germany. On three occasions German artillery fire came in on them with suspicious accuracy, twice hitting tank destroyers and once the unit mess. A Russian slave laborer told them that when they had occupied the farm a German captain had been on leave there and had stayed behind with a radio when the rest of the defenders pulled out. He was captured and in his possession was a map showing all of the German artillery positions in the area. It was turned over to the division artillery which conducted a simultaneous TOT shoot on all of the German positions. No other artillery in the world could have done that at that time.

The ability to coordinate fire planning and execution with the troops being supported, to readily observe the impact of artillery fire, and to efficiently shift that fire as needed was extremely important. Prewar studies had made it clear that a synergistic effect occurred when infantry, artillery and armor fought as a closely coordinated whole. That was repeatedly confirmed during the war.

In Eisenhower’s Lieutenants: The Campaign for France and Germany, 1944-1945, American military historian Russell Weigley makes much of ammunition shortages, arising largely out of the difficulties in getting ammunition from Normandy to the fighting fronts. According to Weigley, this limited the effectiveness of U.S. artillery. This seems overblown. He is correct that the American forces did not always have as much ammunition as it might wish because they preferred to use their guns to pound German positions. In the fighting for Hill 192 outside of St. Lô, the 2d Infantry alone fired up to twenty TOTs a night to keep the defenders off balance. During interrogations, German prisoners of war (POWs) in France frequently remarked on the heavy volume of American fire they had experienced.

Three gunners from Battery C, 28th Field Artillery Battalion, 8th Infantry Division, prepare to fire a 155mm shell inscribed with the greeting, “For Adolph, Unhappy New Year,” 31 December 1944. (National Archives)

The effectiveness of German artillery was limited by ammunition shortages that dwarfed those of the Allies. Even in Russia in 1941, ammunition shortages were felt by late that year heavy artillery units typically had about fifty rounds per gun on hand. Primarily because of supply problems, the German artillery supporting Fifth Panzer Army in Normandy could only fire about ten percent of what the British fired. Production problems, massive bombing raids on German manufacturing centers, and air interdiction of lines of communication all combined to seriously impede Germany’s ability to move ammunition and other supplies to its forces in Africa, Italy and the European campaign.

American artillery enjoyed another advantage that is hard to quantify: superior quality of the ammunition it fired. By 1942, Germany was drafting workers of military age out of factories and munitions plants and replacing them with POWs and slave laborers. They were not enthusiastic replacements, especially since they were usually working under harsh conditions. There are numerous anecdotes about sabotage that caused shells to fail to explode at crucial times. One of the best documented examples is described by Geoffrey Perret in There’s a War to be Won: The United States Army in World War II. Germany deployed batteries of long-range 170mm guns against the Anzio beachhead that could shoot from beyond the range of Allied counter-battery fire. However, they failed to do significant damage because seventy percent of the shells were duds.

The American artillery’s effectiveness got another boost in the winter of 1944-45. Against troops in the open, or without overhead cover, shells that burst just before they impact are much more effective than those that hit the ground before exploding. Normally, this is accomplished with a time fuze set to detonate the round a fraction of a second before it impacts. Getting the timing right can be tricky and slow the rate of firing. The proximity, or variable time (VT), fuze automatically exploded the shell above the ground, simplifying the gunners’ job. It was available earlier in the war, but fear that Germany would capture examples and reverse engineer the fuze for use against the fleets of bombers devastating the country kept the Allies from using it against targets forward of the front line. The Allies planned to begin using it against ground targets with the beginning of the New Year, but the German surprise offensive in the Ardennes, later known as the Battle of the Bulge, hastened its introduction by a few days.

The Allied artillery had a number of different types of impacts on the Normandy campaign and taken together their effect was huge. The fact that TOTs could drop without warning at any time meant that there was steady attrition in the front lines. The German front was always close to breaking so units were deployed at that front as soon as they arrived. The first to arrive tended to be well equipped elite units and they were quickly ground down. For example, the well trained 3d Parachute Division arrived from its training area in Brittany a few days after the invasion. It was deployed against the left flank of the American sector. Even when the front was relatively quiet, the Fallschirmjäger lost approximately 100 killed and several hundred wounded each day. As a result, an elite German division was seriously depleted before it was attacked by the 2d and 29th Infantry Divisions near St Lô. Panzer divisions that the Germans were also forced to commit to a defensive role had similar experiences. As a result, German opportunities to assemble a multi division force of near full strength units for the massive counterattack they needed to make to regain the initiative were severely limited.

What forces they could muster for counterattacks were virtually defeated before the attacks began. The most dramatic example took place in the British sector. Three full strength Panzer divisions arrived from Belgium and Poland and assembled near Caen. They were tasked with cutting the Caen-Bayeux road. Their assembly areas were so raked over by American and British artillery that the attack got off to a late shaky start and was called off less than twenty-four hours later. During American artillery attacks, U.S. guns neutralized crew-served weapons, destroyed defensive works, and kept the enemy infantry from manning its defenses until the fires were lifted.

In other cases, what should have been German successes were foiled by the tenacity of the men on the ground, backed by very substantial artillery support. For example, after the capture of Avranches and the breakout from the Normandy beachhead, the Germans launched Operation Lüttich, a foolhardy attempt to cut off American spearheads now penetrating deep into France. The plan was to drive from the vicinity of Falaise to the coast of the Gulf of St. Malo. The Germans made some initial progress until it reached the town of Mortain, where a battalion of the 30th Infantry Division occupied Hill 317. For three days, the Germans attempted to capture the hill, but the battalion, aided by curtains of artillery fire, held them off. It was an example of the artillery “putting solid walls of hot steel in front of American defensive positions” while calling in concentrations on German troops for miles around.

Later in the Battle of the Bulge, artillery provided the same protection. In addition, it hampered German attacks by separating infantry from its accompanying armor. Tanks unsupported by infantry were regularly taken out by American antitank guns and bazookas.

The advantages the armies of the western Allies had over the German were not limited to the excellence of their artillery. Some of these advantages are well understood and some less so. For example, there is not a lot in the histories of World War II about the fact that the Germans never developed the cavalry groups that gave the Allies an excellent reconnaissance capability. During the fighting at Mortain, there was a serious gap in the American lines. The Germans could have side slipped the axis of their advance into that gap but they never discovered it. The advantages of air superiority during the European campaigns were crucial and that topic is well developed elsewhere.

Watch the video: German Arms and Military Production During World War II (May 2022).