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World War II Technology: Anti-Aircraft Guns

World War II anti-aircraft guns
Figure 1.--Wirld War II artillery including AA guns were mostly deployed in battlefields outside of the major cities. The Germans were an exception. At a time that the Ostheer badly needed artillery and amunition to stop the relentless Red Army drive west, much of the artillery and amunition produced by German industry was going gto build and supply the massive FLAK fields that the Germans were building around their cities. It was largest AA effort in the history of warfare. It did not only not stop the Allied bombing effort, but severely impaired the Ostheer's ability to hold back the Red Army. As a result, at the end of the War there were countless AA guns in and around German cities. Here we see German children after the war playing with a 37mm AA gun.

Two countries put the greatest effort into anti-aircraft (AA) artillery during World War II -- the Germans and the Americans. Britain which was the first country targetted by a major strategic bombing campaign, fought off the Germans with relatively few AA guns (1940). The British had less need for anti-aircraft guns in the later phase of the War as the balance in the air shifted to the Allies, although British AA guns along the coast managed to shoot down a number of V-1s (June-July 1944). The Germans heaviy bombed Soviet cities in the first year of the Ostkrieg (1941-42), before the Soviets were able go build up msjor AA defenses. The Germans who began the War with the world's most poweful air force would up having to build the world's most addvance air defense inckuding a massive anti-aircraft effort. And most of the AA gunners would be Hitler Youth boys. The Germans has to deploy huge numbers of anti-aircraft guns in massive FLAK belts around the country's major cities. And importantly, vast quantities of amunition had to be diverted for this purpose. In the first few years of the war the German 88mm was probably the best anti-aircraft gun on land, but that was all changed with the American 90mm radar controlled anti-aircraft gun, especially when microwave radar was perfected (1944). The americans had mo real need to protect their cities. America was beyiond the range of Axis bombers. But the Pacific War from a very early point shited to a focus in naval aviation. As a result, ships needed anti-aircraft protection. They were different than the AA-guns used in Europe. The primary dufference eas alditude. The Germans needed AA guns thas could reach high aldutudes. In the Pacific the air battles were fought at much lower alditudes. Ccritical for the Americans was the Swedish Bofor AA guns deployed as a naval weapon by the Americans in the Pacific (1942). The Americans were able to put up a massive wall of AA fire around its ships, an order of magnitude sbove its caability early in the war. The Japannese also strengthen thei AA capability, but no way near to what the Americans did. The Americn Bofors and the intriduction of proximnity fuses played an important role in carrier warfare and then beating back the Japanese Kamikazees in the final year of the War (1944-45). The Bofors gun was Swedish technology, the one important World War II weapon not developed by one of the major belligerant powers. The Japanese needed an AA defense like the Germans , but did not have the industrial capacity to approach what the Germans ammassed around their cities (1945).


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Created: 6:03 PM 1/26/2017
Last updated: 10:29 PM 7/26/2023