Huck wrote:As for the German wartime technology, I was just stating the obvious, it was superior to Allied military technology in most areas
In the technology race, the Germans were behind the Allies in nearly all relevant categories, including, but not limited to:
All German contributions to military science were obscured by a mushroom cloud.
The Allies had the best selection and a sufficient number of bombers capable of delivering them.
The world's first operational self-guided missile was not invented by the Germans. It was the U.S. Navy's SWOD Mk 9/ASM-N-2, or simply known as the Bat
. This weapon was remarkably advanced at the time, being steered by its own radar, and originally classified as a glide bomb. The drop tests were sometimes successful but the radar seeker head was primitive and easily jammed by ground clutter or ECM. Even though the technology was impressive, the end result was disappointing. But we could say the same about the Me 163 and other dead end projects started by the Germans. The Bat
was a precursor to more advanced 'fire-and-forget' weapons.
EW was a seesaw battle to be sure, but the Allies generally maintained the advantage after 1943.
Electronic navigation systems
Used as an aid to precision bombing. Until 1943 the Germans led the way with their ground transmitters and beam systems like Knickebein, X-Gerät, Y-Gerät
but the signals were easily jammed, as was the original British GEE. The Germans copied Oboe in principle for their Egon
system, and they were using this to bomb the U.K. in 1944.
Terrain mapping radar bombing systems
- H2S / H2X
Ground mapping radars were installed in Allied aircraft and functioned independently of ground stations. They were made possible by the cavity magnetron. The Germans developed a mapping radar, but too late to see service.
In Vietnam, radar-busting aircraft were called 'Wild Weasels'. During World War II they were called 'Ferrets'. The USAAF pioneered anti-radar tactics with the B-17s of the 16th Recon Squadron, based in Tunisia (operational from April 1943). The Ferrets were stripped of all weapons and loaded with electronic gear and direction-finding antennae. They pinpointed and monitored radar sites for later airstrikes. In May 1944, a few RAF Typhoons were fitted with the Abdullah
, an early form of radar homing and warning (RHAW) receiver that could ferret out radar sites. The set was tunable to all known German frequencies. The Typhoon followed the radar beam back to its source, marked the site with smoke, and called down flights of fighter-bombers to attack. The Germans learned to recognize this threat so they switched off the power and put the Flak batteries on alert. The Typhoons tried to counter that by flying an oblique course towards the radar until the last minute.
Fire control systems
- Field artillery
- Naval artillery
- Anti-aircraft guns
- Proximity fuses
- Tactical air support
The Allies had the edge at all levels from the top down to the front lines.
Codebreaking and signals interception
Although the Poles and French did so first, British cryptologists routinely read German message traffic and the U.S. Navy decoded Japanese ciphers.
Intelligence, counterintelligence, and deception
Germany was better suited to a stand-up fight than a war in the shadows. Other than a few successes by the Abwehr
, the Gestapo
, and Skorzeny, the Germans were usually inept at playing this game. The 'secret agents' in the employ of the Abwehr
were almost invariably caught by Allied spy hunters, especially in the U.S. and the U.K. Many became double agents and most of the compelling data that fell into the hands of the Nazis is exactly what the Allies wanted them to believe.
Transport and logistics
The U.S. and British Commonwealth armies were fully motorized. The German army was mainly powered by horses, and the Nazis tried to conceal that fact in their propaganda films.
When a soldier was seriously wounded, whether friend or foe, his best chance of survival was evacuation by the Americans.
The Allies had superior combat parachutes, jump techniques, supply delivery methods, air transports and gliders, ground-to-air signalling equipment and portable radar sets (Pathfinders).
- Amphibious warfare, landing craft, and vehicles
- Anti-submarine warfare
- Anti-shipping operations
- Aircraft carriers, and use of
- Shipboard aircraft
The Allies were more advanced in both technology and organization. Every country had interservice squabbles, but the Nazi Party made matters worse in Germany because they created private armies. They diverted manpower from other services, compromised training standards, confounded the chain of command, created more logistical problems with special equipments, and added more layers to a bloated bureaucracy.
After 1942 the Wehrmacht maintained a minor edge in quality of main guns, ammunition and optics, but from start to finish, Soviet tanks were generally superior. Especially if we compare them by weight, e.g. T-34 vs. Panzer IV; IS-2 vs. Panther, etc. When the T-34 and KV-1 first appeared, the Germans had no effective antidote -- they had great difficulty knocking out these tanks. The Germans obviously plagiarized Russian design features when they cooked up the Panther and the Tiger II. Giant tanks were few in number, but I'd vote for the IS-3 as best overall. Interesting that Soviet tank designers embraced Ernst Diesel's engine, but the Germans did not.
Self-propelled anti-tank guns
At best the Germans achieved parity. The U.S. Army's M-10, M-36 and M-18 were turreted and better able to reposition the gun quickly -- that alone made them more survivable versus anti-tank threats. On the debit side the turrets had no roof except when field modified, so the crew was vulnerable to overhead bursts. By 1945 the Americans were using special high-performance shells for the 3-inch, 76mm and 90mm guns. Live-firing tests against derelict panzers confirmed a noticable improvement in armor-piercing power, especially by the 90mm gun. The Sturmgeschütz
and various Jadpanzer
had thicker armor and better optics, but they had no turret and less ability to adjust fire. The cannon fixed into the front of the hull was the main weakness -- a serious tactical disadvantage. The Soviet self-propelled guns were comparable to the German kind, if not better.
Assault engineering vehicles
The British Army tested all sorts of freakish vehicular contraptions, and some were useful.
Piston aero-engines, superchargers, turbo-superchargers
Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney had the edge over Daimler-Benz, Junkers and BMW, especially after 1942. The BMW 801 could trace its lineage to the American Hornet radials built under license agreement, but the Merlin, Griffon and turbo-supercharged R-2800 were superior at high altitudes. Mustangs with the Allison engines had less power but they were fast and competitive with German fighters at lower altitudes. The Germans had shortages of high-temperature metals so parts of their jet and piston engines failed more readily.
Nearly all German fighters had inferior high-altitude performance, and purpose-built types like the Ta 152H were not reliable thanks to supercharger problems with the Jumo 213E. The Jumo 004 jet engines had a tendency to flame-out above 30,000 feet, especially when flights of jets were trying to hold formation. Their true operational ceiling was lowered to that height, at least when flying in groups.
Though they tried, the Germans were unable to mass produce anything comparable to the P-51A-B-D, the P-38J-L, or the P-47N.
High-altitude heavy bombers
German efforts were futile and the Heinkel 177 was their most notorious failure. The USAAF and RAF developed several proven aircraft with better engines.
Photo reconnaissance aircraft
For the same reasons mentioned earlier, the Allies had superior high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The PR Spitfires and Mosquitoes could climb up to 42,000 feet and they were usually untouchable by German interceptors, except when they descended below 35,000 feet or had engine trouble. The USAAF F-5s could climb even higher, up to 44,000 feet, but their turbo-intercoolers were not reliable above 30,000 feet so the Lightnings usually flew at lower altitudes. The Germans had a few Arado 234s; very fast and almost impossible to intercept but their maximum altitude and performance were again limited by the reliability of the jet engines.
This is a controversial subject. It's reasonable to debate whether the Germans had the best nightfighting equipment to counteract heavy bombers, but my readings indicate that Nachtjäger
pilots believed that the British Mosquito was the most formidable nightfighter. Because of motor problems and other deficiencies, German nightfighter pilots had to live with lower performance from their twin-engined aircraft. The Fw 190 and Me 262 Nachtjäger
were not very successful at intercepting Allied nightfighters, so it's probably safe to say that the Mosquito was the best in the business. The P-61C had better performance because of the added turbo-superchargers, but it arrived too late for combat in Europe.
Ground support air weapons
Against armored vehicles, the British underwing 40mm guns were as good or better than the German 37mm. The RAF rejected them as standard because the extra weight reduced airspeed and agility. By September 1943, the Luftwaffe arrived at the same conclusion regarding their own planes. The General der Schlachtflieger
(Ernst Kupfer) condemned the Ju 87 as "no longer acceptable in any theatre of war" based on high losses. Kupfer was not impressed with the Soviet Il-2 for the same reasons. He insisted that speed and manueverability was the best recipe for survival, and would obviate the need for fighter escort. Kupfer ordered that all Stuka units would convert to the Fw 190 at the earliest possible date, and that it should not be armed with a gun heavier than 20mm.
The USAAF had a far better one than the Stuka. The A-36A was essentially a Mustang with dive brakes and low-altitude supercharger. It could place a bomb accurately and was considerably faster than the Ju 87. As it turned out, the dive-brakes were helpful but not necessary since a brake-less P-51 could vertical-bomb accurately without them. As I mentioned earlier, Ernst Kupfer demanded to abandon the Ju 87 in favor of fighter-bombers, but another reason that vertical-bombing lost some appeal is that it was more dangerous than a shallow dive when up against heavy opposition. In late 1943, Kupfer stated that dive-bombing had declined to the point where only one in 500 Stuka attacks dived vertically on targets.
Incendiaries were not used often by German fighter-bombers, but they were popular in the USAAF after the Normandy invasion. Napalm was useful for smothering and burning out foxholes, trenches, vehicle convoys and hard targets like tanks and bunkers. The napalm containers tumbled end-over-end as they fell and the jellied explosive mixture splashed forward as the bomb exploded, increasing the coverage on impact. Flame weapons often had a demoralizing effect on the enemy's will to fight, and operational research indicated that German soldiers were more eager to surrender when they saw napalms raining down on their positions.
The British 60-lb. RP and the American 5-inch HVAR were far and away better than the unsuccessful German W.Gr.28/32.
Metal stressed-skin construction
At Junkers, and possibly other German companies, they made improvements based on U.S. technology. The Ju 88 was one of the beneficiaries.
Aircraft gun sights
The British K-14 gyroscopic gun sight used in Allied fighters was better and more reliable than the EZ-42 fitted to Me 262s.
Like the Allies, the Germans had long-lasting problems with their torpedoes because of hasty pre-war testing. There was no single source of trouble. Some torpedoes failed to launch, failed to explode, ran erratically, or passed under the target. The depth-keeping defect in the U-boat torpedoes was not corrected until 1942. In April 1940, the torpedo directorate carried out extensive tests with the impact pistol and reported a high rate of failure owing to the 'clumsy design'. The magnetic pistols also gave trouble and ultimately the Germans copied the British magnetic pistol after they captured the submarine HMS Seal
Overall, the Allies had better ones. The MG-42 was the best machine gun, but the M-1 Garand was the best rifle. The standard German rifle was the bolt-action Mauser 1898 which belonged in a museum. Most of the Allied submachine guns stood above the German MP-40 which was also prone to stoppages. The Soviet PPSh, Australian Owen SMG, American M-3 'Grease Gun' and the Thompson SMG were all more reliable than the MP-40. The limited issue German assault rifle (MP-43/StG-44) was flimsy, easily damaged, jammed frequently, and was impossible to repair in the field. It worked best when firing single shots.
Hand-held anti-tank weapons
Provided it was fired at less than 50 yards, the panzerfaust
gave the German soldier unprecedented individual firepower against vehicles, buildings, bunkers, etc. For that they can thank the Americans, since the Germans did not have them until after they plagiarized the American bazookas. In 1945, the U.S. 17th Airborne Division was armed with (shoulder-launched) 57mm Recoilless Rifles. Though not as devastating as panzerschreck
hits, the 57mm Recoilless Rifle had far greater range and accuracy (the HEAT round had a max range of 4,300 yards which was amazing for a hand-held weapon). Both sides had larger Recoilless Rifles mounted on a tripod or wheeled carriage, but as far I know the Germans did not have shoulder-launched types.