Germany's Weapons in WWII

Non-naval discussions about the Second World War. Military leaders, campaigns, weapons, etc.
Vic Dale
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Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby Vic Dale » Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:17 pm

The point wich comes over most strongly in these fascinating threads is that generalisations in regard to each nations weapons only rarely work.

It has been asserted in many books and periodicals that the Spitfire was superior to the Me109. The fact is that each aircraft had it's optimal flying charcteristics set to different heights the Spitfire was a match for the 109 up to 20,000ft when the 109 became superior and considering that the Luftwaffe was hunting the RAF during the Battle of Britain, if the Germans were going to knock the RAF out they would have to come down and fight at their level.

When Goering asked Galland what his fighter squadrons needed to defeat the RAF he replied; "A squadron of Spitfires." This remark has gone down in History and although it was a slap in the face for Goering to wake him up to the idea that they could lose the battle. The remark has another edge in saying; "if we are expected to fight on the enemy's ground, we will need his weapons." The 109 was good in attack but not so good in defense, it was faster than the Spitfire, but not so maneouvreable.

With regard to tanks, the Germans did not possess the best tanks in 1940, it was organisation and panzer tactics which won the battles. The German's shock at first meeting the T34 in Russia sent their tank industry into overdrive trying to come up with an answer to it. The result was a slower tank with a much larger profile and which kept breaking down. The Panther was a beautiful looking beast, but it still would not out match a T34. Later marks did improve the Panther's performance, but by then, other soviet production had advanced. Early success against the soviets was gradually cancelled out as the enemy developed his tactics and against such a good tank produced in such large numbers the German army eventually found itself at a disadvantage.

When the Belgian FN was introduced to Britain's armed forces we turned our noses up. It was less accurate than the Enfield 303, having a shorter barrel and when it fired, instead of jumping straight back into your shoulder, the butt tried to rotate upwards and into your face. However it was a good choice for infantry and shore detachments. Figures for rifle casualties in 2 world wars showed that by far, the highest percentage of rifle casualties occurred at ranges below 200 yards, so there was logic in producing an average, lightweight, rapid-fire weapon, which could be cheaply manufactured and which would make a reasonable shot of most men. The 303 was over-engineered for the job it was required to do.

If war with Britain was the plan, then ships like Bismarck, Scharnhorst and Graf Spee were a bad choice. They were all very fine weapons and each made a very good account of herself in her final battle, though at the time of their inception Germany was still very weak and could only hope to play an armed role, as auxilliary to other more powerful forces on the world's oceans. They were long range vessels capable of operating far from the Baltic and they were excellent sea-keeprs too, which further strengthens the idea of world-wide displays of naval power by a resurgent Germany, keen to show the world what it could do. Although each ship was designed to show maximum strength in terms of hitting power and ablity to withstand punishment and such capabilities would no doubt be shown in relation to the best that the world could produce, their design and construction does not of itself imply aggressive intent towards Britain.

These were prestige weapons and nations with the cash to spend would be able to buy their own super-fast battleships and some could even be sold cheaply as a hook for tasty trade deals. When we look at the expense of production, the bulk of the cost would be spent on development, making up the jigs and setting up the machinery for production of the originals of the different types, especially guns and machinery, so a futher prodution run of say five or six units could be produced at the same cost as the original unit and if they sold, a good profit would be made on each. We should not forget that Germany was a capitalist nation with a hungry eye on markets.

I read somewhere that the guns for certain types were to be bought from the USA and this, if correct, seems to imply that the ships were simply commercial ventures, by which Germany as a heavy manufacturing nation would secure a slice of the world market for warship production. Graceful lines, extremely high speed, hitting power and good overall protection would make these vessels show-piece items - a must for any developing nation with designs on dominance at sea. I believe Britain built or sold the plans for Japan's fleet around the turn of the century and four ships intended for sale to foreign parts were commandeered to fight the First World War. So perhaps this was to be a re-run of an old and on-going economic naval strategy.

At Jutland German ships demonstrated superirority to the British units they were matched against, so anything German and which looked right might sell very well.

Vic Dale

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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby Bgile » Fri Dec 05, 2008 1:41 am

I agree with much of what you say, with the following quibbles:

I think the main differences between the Me-109 and the Spitfire were irrelevant. They were close enough in performance that it didn't matter. The real difference is the British could usually pick the time of battle and they were fighting over friendly territory so if they bailed out they had a chance to fight again. The German pilots were most always lost to the German war effort.

The Panther was always far superior to the T-34 if it actually got to where it could engage one. I realize that's a significant "if".

I can't imagine firing any rifle that rotated on recoil, and I've fired a lot of rifles. None of them did that, and I sure wouln't want to carry one that did.

I believe S&G were poorly armed and powered and had poor seakeeping compared to competitors on about the same displacement. I don't think very many of the German naval vessels gave a good account of themselves in their final battle. I'd give the most credit to AGS for a good fight.

I've never read anything that would imply German naval vessels for sale. As far as I know, they were built in anticipation of WWII. I'm not aware of any guns being produced for them in the USA.

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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby Vic Dale » Fri Dec 05, 2008 7:23 am

Bgile wrote:I can't imagine firing any rifle that rotated on recoil, and I've fired a lot of rifles. None of them did that, and I sure wouln't want to carry one that did.

I've never read anything that would imply German naval vessels for sale. As far as I know, they were built in anticipation of WWII. I'm not aware of any guns being produced for them in the USA.


Personal experience on an acquaintance course taught me the quirks of the Belgian FN. I got a swollen cheek from the bastard until I learned to handle it properly - we had been warned of this particular characteristic with the Service SLR as we knew it in the 1960s. I think it had something to do with the weapon having a heavy bolt/ejector mechanism and a very powerful spring behind it for the reload and it was this and not recoil which made the weapon jump.

On your last point I never heard of one on Germany's ships being offered for sale either, but then they had have time to prove themselves reliable and sea worthy, Sedlitz was given to the Russians as a sort of trade deal.

The problem with the thought that Germany's fleet was being built for WWII, is the war at the time these vessels were on the drawing board was simply not on the cards. From inception to launch takes a good five years and Hitler was not on the scene as leader until 1933.

The Graf Spee, the last of the Deutschlands had been laid down in 1932, Scharnhorst was to be laid down in 1934 and Bismarck in 1936. Hitler did not begin his cross border incursions until 1937 when he slunk across the border into Austria with a view to pulling out if there was anything of a protest from Britain and France.

WWII took Hitler completely by surprise, so it is hardly feasible that Germany was designing ships in the 20s and early 30s for a war which did not begin to gel until 1938-39.

I think the German heavies were show-boats, showcase items, but with very best which German technology could produce incorporated into their design in the form of guns, machinery and firepower and if the ships themselves did not sell or were not offered for sale, the German firms who made the parts will have gained marvelous spin-off sales on the strength of what these ships were capable of. That doesn't mean that they were not fine ships though.

Vic Dale

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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby lwd » Fri Dec 05, 2008 2:07 pm

I think the Duthc had either contracted or were considering contracting a couple of Scharnhorst look alikes just before the war broke out. I think there plan was to use them as large cruisers in the Pacific.

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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby tommy303 » Fri Dec 05, 2008 4:55 pm

LWD,

Yes there were plans drawn up for ships to be built for the Dutch navy.

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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby RNfanDan » Fri Dec 05, 2008 6:06 pm

Vic Dale wrote:...generalisations in regard to each nations weapons only rarely work. It has been asserted in many books and periodicals that the Spitfire was superior to the Me109. The fact is that each aircraft had it's optimal flying charcteristics...


In the case of aircraft, this generalization becomes even easier to fault, because no sooner could one say a ME-109 beats a Spit or vice-versa, than by the next mission, a new variant of one or the other appears! The Spitfire Mk. IX for example, is a whole 'nother performance level away from the Mk. V, just as the ME-109 had its own variants and incremental improvements.

By contrast, incremental improvements in big-gunned warships seldom affected the ships' basic characteristics. The addition of radar incrementally improved fire control and targeting capabilities, and it generally took sheer numbers of light weapons to affect air-defense capabilities, but a battleship was still pretty much the same weapon as when it was first built. In my opinion, generalizations made about warships are much more easily "absorbed" in any serious discussion, than similar ones about aircraft.
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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby tommy303 » Fri Dec 05, 2008 7:51 pm

I think Vic's reference to the Spitfire vs Messerschmidt was referencing the two contenders during the Battle of Britain. This essentially matched the Spitfire Mks I & II against the Bf109 E series.

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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Sat Dec 06, 2008 1:30 am

Remember some issues here:

The tank ace of WWII was German: Wittman
The sub ace of WWII was German: Prien
The aerial ace of WWII was German: Hartman

If you read the whole list of aces in every dimension or branch the Germans scored so high that the allied "best" it´s hardly it´s half. And it cannot be accomplished only by skill: the weapons at hand in the right hands gave the edge.
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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby lwd » Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:18 am

It also requires numerous opponents to rack up a score like that. Note that commerce raiders of the loosing side usually do a lot better than those on the winning side. To rack up the numbers like that you need skill, decent equipment, luck, and opportunity. For the most part the allies clearly lacked the latter.

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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:45 am

Just an example, one that is not of "allied" liking.

The overall best most succesfull pilot of WWII is Eric Hartmann with 352 kills.

The following 111 (one hundred eleven) top aces below Hartmann are all German (not a single American, British, Polish, Japanese nor Soviet). Just Germans. Germans flying "inferior" Me 109, FW 190 or Me 262 (jet, which the "allied" superior technology lacked).

The 113 top ace pilot is Finnish (Ilmari Juustilainen with 94 kills), still on the Axis Side. And I doubt this guy flew a Spitfire or a Wildcat.

The 114 is Japanese: Tetsuzo Imamoto with also 94 kills (his personal record shows 202 kills but only 94 were awarded). And he flew a Zero, which has been disqualified as a good oponnent for the Brewster Buffalo or the Wildcat.

The first allied top aces appears down the list and is not even American: Ivan Kozhedub with 62 kills. I doubt his plane was a Mustang.

The first American appears LOWER: Richard Bong, with 40 kills. Hartmann outskills this guy by 880%.

OK. Let´s say that the nazis lied to everybody. Then Eric Hartmann only shot down half those he claimed and that somehow USA didn´t account properly Bong´s score and he shot down three times as much. Still Hartmann outscores Bong 176 kills to 120. Still the German was 50% better than Bong.

And he did it on a German plane.. you know, inferior technology and non worthy German warriors...
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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:50 am

Another example, this time naval: our stuff...

Best overall sub skippers:

Otto Kretschmer
Wolfgang Lüth
Eric Topp
Heinrich Liebe
Viktor Schültze
Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock
Karl-Friedrich Merten
Herbert Schultzë
Günther Prien
George Lassen
Mochitsura Hashimoto
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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:56 am

Tired?

Best tank commander of WWII?

Michael Wittmann.

As with the Red Baron, von RIchtofen (a German, you know) everybody claims to have killed him: 2nd Canadian Regiment; 144 Royal Armoured Corps, 1st Polish Armoured; 4th Canadian Armoured; 144 Regiment Royal Armoured Corps; RAF Second Tactical Air Force.

The standard doctrine of the European Theatre issued to the American Tankers was the following: 5 Shermans per Tiger, if less disengage.

5 to 1. That´s speaks a lot.
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Karl Heidenreich
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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Sat Dec 06, 2008 3:58 am

And, for the last, the balance in battleships:

1 Bismarck Class BB

In order to sink it you need:

KGV + Rodney + Sheffield + Dorsetshire + Ark Royal + many destroyers, etc. etc. etc.

Shall I continue?
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby dougieo » Sat Dec 06, 2008 4:41 am

Karl Heidenreich wrote:And, for the last, the balance in battleships:

1 Bismarck Class BB

In order to sink it you need:

KGV + Rodney + Sheffield + Dorsetshire + Ark Royal + many destroyers, etc. etc. etc.

Shall I continue?


Karl, you forgot to add 1 "inferior" POW with 1 "inferior" 14in hit to screw up the Bismarcks cruise?, correct?

and while it may be good to have the "best" individuals I would take the BEST TEAM any day!!

No offence Karl

comeback?

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Karl Heidenreich
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Re: Germany's Weapons in WWII

Postby Karl Heidenreich » Sat Dec 06, 2008 4:47 am

dougieo:

Karl, you forgot to add 1 "inferior" POW with 1 "inferior" 14in hit to screw up the Bismarcks cruise?, correct?

and while it may be good to have the "best" individuals I would take the BEST TEAM any day!!

No offence Karl

comeback?


No offense taken. In order to answer your post please refer to my recently posted:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1809

It can clarify your ideas in that regard. Anyway, not a single score listed above could be contested...isn´t it?
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
Sir Winston Churchill


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