War and Social Upheaval: World War II Military Forces


Figure 1.--At the time that Hitler and Stalin launched World War II by forming an alliance and invading Poland (September 1939), therewas only one country that had the sconomic capability (agriculture and industry) to wage global war--the United States. And the Unoted States not only did not have a sizeable army, but the American people by a large margin were determined to stay out of another war. Only after the fall of France to the NAZIs was a limited draft approved over the energetic opposition of the Isolationists (September 1940). Here some of those new soldiers are on leave in Washington D.C. (Dupont Circle). At the same time two major actions were underway. German Panzers were driving East and destroing massive Red Army formations in the most gigantic military campsign in history. It looked like the Soviet Union like other NAZI victims would soon fall--fundamentally alering the world ballance of power. At the same time, Isolationists in America were pressing the Congress just a few months before Pearl Harbor to cancel the draft and send the small army that was just beginning to form home.

Each of the major beligerants at the outbreak of World war II had substantial military forces. hey were almost all located in Europe. Jaoan was the one outlyer. China had a large army, but poorly equipped and trained. The one exception was the Unite States which had such a small army and arms industry that it was largely dismissed by the Axis leaders. Ironicall, the United states was the only country with the manpower and economic (industrial and agricultural) to wage global warfare. As in precious wars there were armies and navies. World War II had a third force, air forces, whiich played a major role in the War. These had begun to evolve as separare forces, although the american air force was still organizationlly prt of the U.S. Army. Air warfare had begun in World War I, but no where near the importance and scope or the power of World War II. There was considerable similarity in the organization of the military forces built up by the important belgerants. There were also important differences. The U.S. Marine Corps (naval infantry) played a key role in the Pacific War, in part because the scale of many island battles was a fraction of the important European battles. And the Waffen-SS, a highy politically motivated force, became an imoprtant part of the German armed fores and German military action in the final 2 years of the War. Several of the beligerants set up commando forces with different names. In the Axis countries, the police/security forces assumed important military or para-military roles. The same was the case in the Soviet Union, often commiting unimaginable war crimes. Only in Japan, however, did the military actually take control of the government and in essencey played the role of a Fascist political party. At the onset of the War the focus was on weapons, especially planes and tanks. It was not yet understood that the real advantage that the German Wehrmacht held was they had litterally invented modern warfare--Blitzkrieg. World War I began as a war of movement, but after the Miracle on the Marne became a war of attrition. A war of attrition as in World war I ould be disaster for Germany. The Blitzkrieg doctrine broke the Western front wide open and gave the Germans areal chance of winning the war. What Hitler misjudgd was the will of the British to reist, the strength of the soviet union, and the war making capacity of the United States. Germany needed quik victories to win the war. It would only be so long before the undefeated enemies he created would understand an adopt their own Blitzkrieg doctrine.

Countries

Each of the major beligerants at the outbreak of World War II had substantial military forces. hey were almost all located in Europe. Jaoan was the one outlyer. China had a large army, but poorly equipped and trained. The one exception was the Unite States which had such a small army and arms industry that it was largely dismissed by the Axis leaders. Ironicall, the United states was the only country with the manpower and economic (industrial and agricultural) to wage global warfare. Germany had many fundamental weaknsses, only incredible mistakes by Allied and Soviets and the Allied desire for peace gave Hitler a real chance to win the war and essentiall the opportunity to destroy Western civilization. As in precious wars there were armies and navies. World War II had a third force, air forces, whiich played a major role in the War. These had begun to evolve as separare forces, although the american air force was still organizationlly prt of the U.S. Army. Air warfare had begun in World War I, but no where near the importance and scope or the power of World War II. There was considerable similarity in the organization of the military forces built up by the important belgerants. There were also important differences. The U.S. Marine Corps (naval infantry) played a key role in the Pacific War, in part because the scale of many island battles was a fraction of the important European battles. And the Waffen-SS, a highy politically motivated force, became an imoprtant part of the German armed fores and German military action in the final 2 years of the War. Several of the beligerants set up commando forces with different names. In the Axis countries, the police/security forces assumed important military or para-military roles. The same was the case in the Soviet Union, often commiting unimaginable war crimes. Only in Japan, however, did the military actually take control of the government and in essencey played the role of a Fascist political party.

Uniforms and Equipment

Most of the combatant countries had destinctive, utilitarian uniforms uniforms which helps identify the huge numbet of World war II photographs. There were some exceptionds. The British Domiinions and other Empire countries wore British uniforms. The Indian army had some special touches for their uniforms, but mostly the dress uniforms. The other exception was the revived French Army after Torch, the rebuilt French Army was equipped with American uniforms, although some of the top commanders wore the traditional French caps. Most armies wore khaki uniforms of different shades. The Soviets wore a greenish khaki, the Americans, British and Japanese various shades of a brownish khaki. Given the varioius manufacturers there were differnes even among the individual countries. The Gemans had a grey uniform. We include equioment here because soldier wore equipment as part of their combat kit. In fact the helmet is the most recognizable piece of equipment and is commonly considered to be part of the uniform. The British and Germans used their World War I helmets, although the Germans made some design modification. The Americans and Soviets had new helmets. The best World War II helmet one was definitely the German Stahlhelm. The German Stahlhelm proved to offer great protection from artillery fire. The Stahlhelm had some width so that it would also protect some of the shoulder from airburst shells. It provided protection for the greatest surface area of the head without obstructing the soldier's view while in combat. Its functionality is demonstrated by yje fact that after Vietmam, the U.S. Army adopted the basic design.

Technology and Weaponry

World War I began as a war of movement, but after the Miracle on the Marne became a war of attrition as the Allies and Germans built a parallel system of trenches from the Swiss border to the English Channel. New weapons such as the machine gun, poison gas, tanks, and airplanes appeared, but the war was largely an infantry war, decided by the superior resources of the Allies and the arrival of the American infantry. The horrors of trench warfare caused military planners to focus on new weapons to restore mobility and to avoid a future war resulting in mass losses of foot soldiers. It was the Allies that developed tanks and won the World War I air war. It was the Germans, however, that after the War gave the greatest attention to developing new weapons, especially the tanks and air planes that would dominate the World War II battlefield. German commanders also conceived of an innovative method of effectively employing the new weapons, a combined arms tactic which has come to be known as Blitzkrieg. Naval commanders in a tradition firmly implanted by Nelson at Trafalgar were wed to the idea of a major decisive fleet action. The Germans in World war I called it Der Tag--the Day. The German Navy was no longer capable of a major fleet action when World war II broke out. The British did not think the German U-boats were a threat. The ASDAC (SONAR) developed in World War had helped defeat the U-boat threat and British commanders were convinced that it made the submarine obsolete. The major navies had each planned their war winning fleet action, all based on the big-gun battleships. The Japanese termed the action Kantai Kessen--Decisive Battle. The American plan to respond to a Japanese attack on the Philippine Islands was War Plan Orange. The Germans began World war II with the word's most modern air force. It was, however, a tactical air force designed to support the Wehrmacht's land offensive as part of Blitzkrieg. Germany did not have the industrial capacity to build a strategic air force and had no plans to wage an air war. America and Britain did have the industrial capacity to build a strategic air force. World War was the first real air war. Both the British and Germans were preparing a strategic bombing campaign in World War I, but the War ended before it had begun. Thus air commanders when World War II had no real idea how to wage an air campaign.







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Created: 12:18 AM 8/11/2014
Last updated: 10:43 PM 2/7/2016