Nazis. History's most stylish villains. They're famous as much for their cool equipment as for their total evilness, and because of its distinctive aesthetic and reputation- they did develop some of the most technologically advanced weapons of the 1940s, after all- it gets a lot of use in games, both traditional and otherwise. Here's a hilariously non-brief overview. As a general rule of thumb (with the exception of the Karabiner 98 which predated the Nazis by decades) Nazi equipment was very advanced in concept and potentially quite strong, but overly complicated and unreliable to the point of being dangerous to its user.
The vast majority of what you see below fall into four categories, staples of Nazi engineering: Too little too late, too much too soon, "High Command squandered the potential because they either weren't using it to full capacity or for purposes it wasn't designed for" or "Completely and obviously fucking retarded, but if I don't follow orders I'm getting shot, sorry test pilot!".
- Karabiner 98 kurz: ("Carbine 1898 short" in German, also called simply Gewehr 98, "rifle of 98") The standard German infantry rifle during WWII from the old Mauser family. It was beginning to become dated in WWII, given that it was essentially just a shorter version of the venerable Gewehr 98 which armed most German soldiers in WWI. It used 7.92×57mm Mauser ammunition (often shortened to "8mm Mauser"). Probably the least "Nazi equipment" example on this list while also one of the most manufactured, the rifle's strengths were that it was fairly cheap, very accurate, and reliable. But its drawbacks were that it had a slow rate of fire and only a five-round magazine. The easiest weapon to compare it to in WWII would be the Soviet Mosin Nagant, which was cheaper to make (and currently in something of a renaissance as very inexpensive Soviet era demilitarized versions were sold in huge numbers not too long ago.) It fell short compared to the British SMLE rifle, which had a ten-round magazine and had a good rate of fire for a bolt action, though it has a substantial advantage due to 8mm Mauser being rimless while .303 British is not. Worse yet, the Karabiner 98k also went up against the semi-automatic American M1 Garand (which General Patton had called "the greatest weapon ever devised") which vastly outperformed it in spitting bullets down range. (All of the above are roughly the same range of calibre—.30 [inches] or 7 to 8mm—one which remains in use today by almost every major military as well as many civilian uses, although today's fashion is for smaller calibre, higher velocity rounds for infantry.) Even then, the gun was generally quite well regarded for what it was and there was plenty of them to go around. It was also the go-to weapon for German snipers who affixed a scope to it. The gun is still in production today (albeit with modern style furniture), it is still the German army's drill rifle, some states still use versions of it as a sniper rifle and it's sometimes found in Iraq and other third world nations where it acts as a cheap marksman's rifle. Of course, it's also an excellent hunting rifle in civilian hands.
- Gewehr 43: "Rifle 1943". the German army's semi-automatic rifle. This weapon was developed in response to their invasion of the Soviet Union, where the Germans were shocked to find Soviet troops brandishing semi-automatic rifles (the SVT-40, primarily), drastically out-gunning their troops in firefights. The result was a fairly decent semi-automatic rifle/carbine chambered for the same rounds as the Kar98k, which derived many of it's concepts, while not being an outright clone of, the SVT-40. The rifle's magazine was also not built-in in that its detachable (allowing for quick reloads) but still had the option of allowing the shooter to rapidly use stripper-clips when reloading (either attaching them directly to the weapon from above, or using them to push several bullets at once into a magazine which attached to the rifle below.) Much like the Kar98k, it worked well as a marksman/sniper's weapon when affixed with a scope. Unfortunately, mechanically it was far from perfect as it was overgassed (not surprising, as the gas pressure that was tapped from the barrel to cycle the semi-automatic action proved to be too strong for the rifle's quite complicated mechanism, especially when made by unskilled workers from lower-quality steel). This resulted in (comparatively) frequent breakdowns and shattered parts, in addition to requiring more maintenance. Copying overmuch from the SVT-40 may have also contributed to this problem, as the 7.62x54mmR cartridge in the SVT-40 produces a lower gas pressure than the 7.92x57mm Mauser. For this reason, the G43 wasn't a very popular weapon among German troops, though its firepower was still welcome. The G43 has an interesting legacy that lasts to this day, however. Engineers discovered that, on occasion, the roller lock could fire fully automatic, careful adjustments to the mechanics provided. This discovery lead to the Development of the Gerät 06 or StG 45 (M) which was the ancestor of the roller-delayed blowback systems used in guns like the MP5 or the G3.
- Maschinenpistole 38/40: "Machine pistol 1938/1940", the iconic MP 40 is a slightly updated variant more suitable for mass-production. The most common German submachine gun through the war used mainly by squad leaders and troops fighting in urban areas. It was also the go-to weapon of specialist units like paratroopers and the SS. Uses a 32-round magazine chambered for 9x19mm rounds and typically comes with a folding wire stock. In general pretty good but only a million of them were produced, compared to the millions of SMGs made by the British, Americans and Soviets. The primary weapon of the Nazis, according to Hollywood at least, where every single German grunt has one. Known for its rather simplistic design; the weapon had only one fire setting (automatic), though its cyclical rate was much lower than equivalent Allied SMGs, allowing aimed single shots at the cost of some room-clearing power. Was a major influence that can still be seen in SMG development.
- Pistole Parabellum 1908: "Pistol Parabellum 1908". The Nazis used a bunch of pistols in truth, but none are as iconic of the Third Reich as the P08 Luger with its joint armed breech. It could load an eight-round box magazine or a thirty-two-round drum. The 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge was initially designed for this pistol and is still one of the most common pistol calibers in the world. It was eventually phased out in favor of the P38 as being a standard-issue sidearm due to the Luger being too expensive to manufacture for the entire German army, although the Luger was still available for the troops and officers who could afford it. The Luger was also somewhat unique at the time in that it could still double as a pistol carbine by affixing a stock and a 32-round drum-magazine to it, when carbine-convertible pistols had started falling out of fashion years before. The exotic toggle-lock mechanism of the gun meant it had shitty reliability in field conditions, but the gun was made at a time when sidearms were typically issued to specialists, officers, and policemen, who were typically away from conditions that could foul up the gun. WW2 era produced Lugers go for several thousand dollars *today* as collectibles.
- Walther Pistole 38: "Walther Pistol 1938". The Walther P38 replaced the Luger P08 as the Wermacht service pistol just before World War II due to it being cheaper to produce. It loaded a 9x19mm eight-round detachable box magazine. Nerds will recognize this as G1 Megatron's alt-mode, and attentive James Bond fans will recall it seeing some use in Goldfinger. MUCH more common than the Luger despite what Hollywood would tell you, and a decent pistol, if a bit annoying due to its hard-to-pull trigger. The Italians cloned its internals in the M1951, meaning the Beretta 92 is the P38's grandchild.
- Mauser Construktion 96: "Construction 1896". Popularly known as the "Boxcannon" (by the Chinese) and "Broomhandle" (by most everyone else); it loaded ten rounds from a stripper clip into an internal magazine, although there was also an option for a 20-round magazine that had the added bonus of the entire magazine being detachable instead of being built-into the weapon. The C96 was typically chambered for either the newer 9x19mm or the original 7.63x25mm rounds (which were so high velocity for a pistol cartridge of the time that they were only surpassed with the later development of the .357 Magnum). The C96 was not typically issued to the main German army during WW2—only the Luftwaffe were known users of the weapon during the war, as sidearms for their pilots. It was also one of the first and most iconic of the pistol carbine designs, innovating the wooden holster that could double as a detachable stock, making it (and Spanish and Chinese knockoffs) extremely popular in areas like China where proper longarms might be either too expensive or banned from import. However, by the 30s and 40s, this feature had fallen out of fashion in the West and wasn't included in newer production models, with only a few being modified to restore the functionality. Nerds will recognize this as Han Solo's DL-44 blaster pistol from the original Star Wars trilogy, with some gubbins glued to it to make it more sci-fi.
- Walther Polizeipistole/Polizeipistole Kurz: "Police Pistol/Police Pistol short". You know this one, it's the gun made popular by Ian Fleming and James Bond super-spy character. The Walther PP is a compact pistol that was typically issued to German police units (Kripo, Gestapo, Gefepo and Feldgendarmerie), but also as a sidearm to military officers and senior party members. The PPK variant was an even smaller version of the PP, designed for concealed carry in mind (in fact it was so small that it can typically fit into the sleeves of most longcoats, making it useful for infiltrators). It could come chambered for either 7.65mm (.32 ACP to Americans) or 9x17mm (.380 Auto) rounds. The Cold War era Soviet Makarov pistol would largely be based on the PP pistols, though in a (slightly) more powerful cartridge known as 9x18 or 9mm Makarov (which is actually thicker than the now ubiquitous 9x17/9mm Parabellum, since Soviets measured width from a different part of the cartridge). The PPK and cheaper clones (such as the Bersa Thunder, in .380 ACP or 9mm Kurz "Short") are readily available today and basically never stopped production. If you're looking to buy one in the states, be aware that there have been several license holders: Interarms (1978-1999, truest to the original design), S&W (2002-on, have had some recalls over serious defects), and Black Creek (1999-2001, very limited numbers).
- M30 Luftwaffe Drilling: The Germans had never been too keen on combat shotguns for various reasons (during WWI Kaiser Wilhelm was famously mocked for his protests that the American use of pump-action shotguns constituted a war crime), but the emergent Luftwaffe air force saw the need for equipping their pilots with survival weapons, in the event that they were shot down far from friendly forces and needed to hunt or defend themselves. They decided on a drilling combination gun (a double-barreled shotgun with a single-shot rifle barrel) as the ideal solution. However, the Luftwaffe's commander Hermann Goering had a propensity for being vain and flashy instead of practical, and chose the fancy high-end hunting rifles that aristocrats would purchase, instead of putting out an order for cheap, mass-produced weapons that would get the job done at a fraction of the cost. As a result, the few surviving M30 drillings are extremely collectible and valueable.
- Sturmgewehr 44: The "Assault rifle 1944" was the first assault rifle adopted on a large scale. Fun fact - the name was suggested by Hitler and was pure propaganda. Chambered for the new 7.92x33mm Kurz cartridge, it gave a rifleman the power and accuracy of a rifle with the rate of fire of a submachine gun. As its name suggests, it entered the war very late, even though it is only an updated version of the MKB42, which, as the name suggests, came into the war mid-early 1942. In a rare demonstration of common sense, Hitler vetoed its mass deployment early on due to logistics (replacing over 10 million '98k' rifles with a new model that used different ammo couldn't be done overnight, or cheaply), though he approved of the idea and changed his mind later in the war when it became clear a limited impact would be better than none at all. This, combined with the fact that producing the Stg44 required the industry to adapt their tooling, and recurrent shortages of resources later in the war, heavily limited the scale at which they were produced. It was not that difficult to make though, being to Kar98 what Panther was to Panzer IV - roughly 120% of resources for superior result. It also had some mechanical issues, including a fragile feed mechanism which could jam if the rifle was knocked over. Anecdote: one of its optional attachments was the Krummlauf, a curved barrel and periscope for firing around corners or from inside a vehicle hatch. Yes, it worked, but the bullets often shattered as they skittered along the curve of the barrel, causing a shotgun-like spread, and the barrels wore out quickly. In any case, the troops who received the regular Stg44 loved them because it gave the firepower of a submachine gun at about three times the effective range—and it was particularly interesting to the Russians, with contest for new "avtomat" design starting in 1943, even before Stg44 entered official mass production. Due to effectively already winning a war, USSR's Ministry of Defense decided that, instead of taking what they could in 1944, all designs should be perfected as neither suited demands perfectly (especially the one about the same weight as the Stg44 was deemed to be too heavy) - and we all know what the final result was after some young Red Army engineer named Mikhail Kalashnikov got his hands on a few.
- Zielgerät "Vampir": Night vision rifle. Produced too late too few. Per usual Nazi gimmicks, quite capable, powerful, but not produced enough because the industrial base and time wasn't enough. Caused distress to Soviets briefly.
- Maschinengewehr 42: "Machine gun 1942". German military doctrine during WWII was built around the machine gun and, as such, the Germans developed an exceptional machine gun in the MG 42 (basically an improved but functionally identical version of the earlier MG 34). It was lightweight at 11.7 kg, was belt fed unlike the magazine fed LMGs it usually went against, and it could nominally fire 1,200 rounds per minute (although, in practice, it was actually even faster) while most other machine guns could barely reach 600. That much dakka causes a lot of heat, so the gun was designed for easy swapping of barrels; although even with the barrels being regularly changed it was not uncommon for these guns to fire so fast that a cartridge would ignite before being fully loaded, completely breaking the gun and potentially injuring the gun's crew. Its terrifying rate of fire and distinctive report earned it the nickname "Hitler's Buzzsaw". The MG 42 was the basis for numerous other weapons throughout the Cold War (and is still used in NATO-forces today as MG3, they only changed to NATO-standard-caliber and reduced the firing rate to actually be 1200 rounds per minute, as opposed to the 1500 rpm of the original MG42). The MG3 is still widely exported and its production licensed to NATO and allies. A double barrel variant of the MG3 was also produced as a low cost Minigun alternative.
- Maschinengewehr 34: The predecessor to the MG 42, it was still in wide use at the start of the war. It had a lower, more controllable rate of fire of around 800-900 RPM, and had a single-shot mode that was removed in the MG 42. Its production went on parallel to the MG 42 because its swing-down barrel-swap method was more compatible with vehicle ball mounts than MG 42's slide-open method, so all MGs seen on German tanks even late in the war were still MG 34's.
- Fallschirmjägergewehr 42: "Paratrooper rifle 1942", and if a K98k and a MG42 could have a baby together this battle rifle would be it. Created in limited numbers for the exclusive use of German paratroopers. The high-ups realized that the K98k was too long for paratroopers, and the MP40 wasn't suitable outside of urban combat, so they wanted something that handled like a carbine but could fire like a machine gun. the FG 42 was designed as a shorter, automatic battle rifle to give paratroops superior firepower, using a side-loading box magazine. Its high recoil made automatic fire inadvisable, as with later automatic high-caliber battle rifles such as the US M14. While it never really took off, it was quite the solid design, and is notable for influencing the design of the MG 42 (along with the American M60 machine gun after the war).
- Hafthohlladung: In English, "Attachable Shaped Charge" (get used to this very literal naming scheme, it continues below). Very soon into the war, the Germans realized they would never have enough tanks and AT guns to go around, so they developed weapons that would allow an infantryman to (in theory, at least) deal with a tank. The Hafthohlladung was such an early attempt. A big AT grenade with three magnets that allowed it to stick to any metallic surface, it would make a nice hole into any tank it was attached to... Which makes the weapon's main drawback immediately clear: running up to an operational tank to slap a bomb to its flank wasn't exactly safe. In theory, you could also try to wait and hide in ambush for the tank to pass close by since visibility from inside a tank wasn't that great, but that would require being able to anticipate the path of the tank (without accidentally getting run over), and tanks were often supported by infantry anyway. At the very least, they were less suicidal than the Japanese "lunge mine." The Hafthohlladung wasn't really a successful weapon and saw only limited use, but it paved the way for the next item on the list:
- Panzerfaust: "Armor fist", or, more literally, "tank fist". A disposable one-shot anti-armor weapon for use against tanks and entrenched positions. Really cheap to produce, lightweight, and able to do a lot of damage to tanks at close range (maximum range being at most 150 meters for the later models). And it was really easy to use: hold in crook of the arm, flip a switch up that becomes an iron sight (and also arms the weapon), aim, squeeze the firing lever, and enjoy the fireworks. The basic idea of how they were used was to give one guy in every squad (or more) one of them so that if a tank ever did get close, there was a chance they'd be able to take it out or do some damage. This, among other things, made allied generals wary about sending tanks to clear out German infantry forces, especially among the ambush-friendly hedgerows of northern Europe. That said, Panzerfausts were useless for trying to snipe at tanks from a distance (with an effective range of about 60m of the most produced versions) and could not be reloaded with another rocket, preventing most troops from carrying more than one shot on their person. In the last days of the war, the Nazis gave these to grannies and kids on the off-chance that they could destroy an allied tank when they rolled into town. In fact, it was so cheap to produce every member of late Volkssturm was generally issued one, while every third was lucky enough to be issued a rifle. Looked like a fist in a tube, hence the name. Its general design was later copied by the Russians, eventually used in the RPG-2 and RPG-7 rocket launchers. The concept of the Panzerfaust is still very much alive in the form of many "Light Anti-tank Weapons" (M72, AT4, MATADOR,...) in use today.
- Panzerschreck: "Armor terror", or "tank fright". A reusable anti-tank rocket launcher based off captured American bazookas, and you can almost imagine the Nazi scientist getting one and saying "Bigga is Betta!"! (Although the actual reaction was probably also: "VHY DIDN'T VE ZHINK OF ZHAT!!!", see next item on the list.) The Panzerschreck was larger than the Bazooka, with an 88mm muzzle size (where the first Bazooka was only 60mm)—in fact, it is still larger than most rocket launchers and mortars in use today. Like the Bazooka, but unlike the Panzerfaust, it could be reloaded, and had a longer range than the Faust bar the latest version. The Panzerschreck has a distinctive steel blast shield in front, which has to do with the larger rocket blowing hot exhaust into the users face. Early models without the shield ended up requiring the operator to wear a gasmask and protective poncho (which must have sucked for the first person to test it, before they figured that out). The Panzershreck was more useful as an offensive weapon than the Panzerfaust, since it was capable of easily penetrating the armor of any tank they faced (and at better ranges) thanks to the bigger rocket. But on the other hand, it was very much a temperamental weapon that required trained operators, so its use was restricted to dedicated tank hunter teams (unlike the Panzerfaust, which was simple enough that a 10-year old kid could handle it).
- Sturmpistole: An early attempt at making a lightweight anti-tank weapon, the sturmpistole was little more than a modified flare gun equipped with a stock and sighting system, and fired oversized warheads out of the muzzle like the Panzerfaust. Unlike the panzerfaust, it didn't see much success due to the small size of the warhead.
- Raketenwerfer 43: At the time Germany acquired the Bazooka and refined it into Panzerschreks, they had there own version of a two-man team rocket based anti-tank weapon: the Raketenwerfer 43 a.k.a. the "Puppchen" or "Little Doll". Why such a weird nickname? Because it was, for all purposes and intent, a miniature artillery piece: wheeled and towed and working from a a closed breech exactly like the rest of the German field guns and howitzers (except it fired rockets). Despite its better range and accuracy it was more expensive and harder to make then the Panzerschreck or Bazooka, so not nearly as many of them were made as compared to 'schrecks.
- Panzerwurfmine: "Mine to be thrown at tanks" (don't say we didn't warn you about the names). Another attempt at allowing infantrymen to deal with a tank, this is basically a shaped charge with deployable stabilizing cloth fins that was thrown overhand to land on the top a tank and blow a nice, big hole through it. Cheap to produce and very efficient, but it required lots of practice to use, so it was only given to trained "tank-hunter" teams. The Russians captured some of those, were duly impressed, and promptly refined the German concept into their own "RPG-6" AT hand grenade that was just as cheap and efficient but way easier to use, and so good it was still part of their arsenal when the Soviet Union fell and can still be found all over the world in relatively low-intensity conflicts. Sure, it won't kill a modern tank, but it sure as hell will kill third-world militia in up-gunned Toyotas.
- Various AT-Rifles: Germany utilized a lot of AT-Rifles at the very beginning of the war, just like every other major power at the time did, and just like their counterparts, they became obsolete really, really quickly, with only the USSR really committing to their use thorughout the entirety of the war. Here are some of the AT-Rifles the Germans used.
- Tankgewehr M1918: The daddy of the AT-Rifle and, in a sense, most anti-materiel rifles to this day. Developed near the end of WW1 by the German Empire in search of an reliable alternative to light or medium field guns in the role of anti-tank weaponry. It essentially is a Mauser Gewehr 98 on steroids firing a massive 13mm round that could penetrate up 20 millimeters of armour on ranges of 100 meters and below. It needed a lot of training to make it work right; the recoil was reported to be strong enough to dislocate a mans shoulder if used incorrectly and even if done right, the marksman would become nauseous after just 2 or 3 shots at maximum. To put it in perspective: Imagine firing a gun, whose recoil feels like a seasoned boxer just hit you in the nuts. The Wehrmacht used some of them that were still lying around in arsenals all over Germany and some they took from the Polish army.
- Panzerbüchse 39: Or "Tank Rifle Model 39". Whereas other nations like the British and the Soviets tried to improve their AT-Rifles by using larger calibers with bigger powder charges (the British used a .55 cartridge, the Soviets 14,5 by 114 millimeters), the Germans actually made their bullets smaller, using a 7,92mm by 94 cartridge. The idea was basically to increase the kinetic force of the bullet through speed instead of mass and it sorta worked, the PzB 39 was comparable to most other AT-Rifles of the time. It's shortcomings main came from (as is tradition) overengineering; the PzB 39 was a breech-loading rifle (like an artillery gun) and the action was expensive and labour-intensive to produce. Additionally, unlike most of its comtemporaries and even some of the other AT-Rifles the Germans used, it was single shot only (The Boys AT Rifle had a 5 round magazine, as did the Soviet PTRS-41). The rifle proved barely effective already in Poland and France and was subsequently either phased out or coverted into grenade launchers.
- Panzerbüchse SS41: An insanely complicated, impractical marvel of engineering developed specifically for SS troops. The need for alternative weapons for the Waffen-SS divisions arose when Himmler wanted to use the SS alongside traditional Wehrmacht units; however the Wehrmacht Generals disliked the idea of a paramilitary force loyal only to the Nazi party, yet alone an army of glorified thugs and some political lobbying lead to the Wehrmacht keeping its monopoly on all weapons produced by the german arms industry, a priviledge the SS didn't have, so Himmler sourced weapons from all over Europe and took whatever he could get his filthy hands on (In spite of what /pol/lacks and Wehraboos might tell you, most SS units were poorly equipped and used a huge variety of surplus or obsolete rifles, submachineguns and looted guns). The SS41 differs in this regard as it was developed in secret specifically for the SS in Czechia from prototypes the Czechs developed on their own before their annexation into the Greater German Reich. Cycling this monstrous contraption requires the soldier operating it to slide the entire forward assembly forwards and backwards, a process that looks as awesome as it was tedious. Speaking of looks, this gun is really a beauty, you gonna hand it to them, and a Bullpup design on top of that. It fired the same 7.92 by 94mm cartridge the PzB 39 used, so it's fair to say that it didn't take long to become obsolete and surviving examples are exceedingly rare.
- Solothurn S18/1000: A ludicrously massive gun more akin to a cannon than anything else. Developed as part of the German schemes to gain access to modern firearms in spite of the conditions of the Versailles treaty in the late 20s. It was in fact so large that the Swiss put wheels on it and called it a cannon. It fired a FUCKHUEG 20mm round and needed 3 men or operate and carry it and built the basis of nearly all automatic cannons the German military developed and used through out the war.
- Volkssturmgewehr: Literal garbage guns made from parts of broken or defective weapons, surplus barrels and wood that barely deserves to be called so. Part of the vain efforts to make the Volkssturm units into anything resembling an organized fighting force and to make a quick and extremely cheap produced gun to defend what was left of Germany by 1945 and like the German war effort, utterly failed due to being too complicated. Yeah, the last ditch weapons that look like an Ork Mek would think they are too crude for his taste use in fact a fairly elaborate mechanism that put their price tag slightly above that of an StG 44.
- Maschinengewehr 08/15: A mid-WW1 improvement on the regular MG 08 of the Imperial German army. It was developed as an answer to the problem that infantry in the field often had problems in the field to assault positions with no support from automatic weapons and the standard MG 08 being too heavy and too cumbersome to carry around. The result saw the mounting of the MG 08 being replaced by a bipod and the coolant jacket being reduced in size and volume, bringing down its weight from almost 40 kilos down to a more comfortable 20, and the addition of a shoulder stock also made it possible to use it like a more modern LMG.By modern standards, still way too heavy to reliably use it in that particular role, but it worked well enough for the Germans that they continued to improve on it, leading to its late (and due to the end of WW1 ultimately ineffective) , fully air-cooled version of the LMG 08/18, which did away with water cooling entirely, reducing its weight down to 16 kilos, actually making it comparable to guns like the Lewis Gun (Also the reason why Drum-fed LMGs never catched on in the German military, as Germany was forbidden to develop any new automatic weapons under the Versailles treaty conditions). The 08/15 remained the standard MG for the Reichswehr and even the early Wehrmacht. Loads of them remained in stockpile well into the war, where they were issued to rear and police units for what the Nazis called "Anti-Partisan action", with reports of the weapons being used tracking all the way into late 1941 and 1942. Fun fact: The gun was so ubiquotous and regular training tasks on it so tedious, that the word "nullachtfünfzehn" (Zero-Eight-Fifteen) entered the German language as a derogatory term for something mediocre, uninspired and boring.
- Captured Weapons: Due to necessity and practicality, German troops also commonly used enemy equipment from all sides, predominantly Soviet weapons due to their large sweeps during the first stage of the invasion of Russia. To ease supply concerns, some weapons were converted to use standard German ammunition like the PPSh-41 submachine-gun (which was converted from 7.62x25mm to 9x19mm), while others actually had new Soviet-style ammunition made for them in converted factories.
Artillery pieces and AT-Guns
- Granatwerfer 36: Leave it to the Germans to overengineer a simple tube that spits out explosives. This little critter was supposed to serve as light, indirect fire support on the squad level and a bunch of gizmos tacked onto it that made aiming with it a hell of a lot easier - too bad the small caliber (5cm) limited its range and effectiveness in its intended role. Production was terminated in 1941, the reason given that the thing was too complex and too heavy, which in hindsight is a real headscratcher, as to why the High Command didn't come to this conclusion sooner, although it remained in use throughout the rest of the war.
- Leichtes Infantriegeschütz 18: The LeIG 18 was an evolution of the proven and reliable "Leichter Minenwerfer 18", the German answer to the Stokes Mortar that the British used. The idea was to give out a light field artillery piece to take out targets that sat in the niche of targets that were too insignificant to justify a full barrage or tank assault, too strongly defended or entrenched to just assault them solely with infantry. Think isolated pillboxes or MG-Nests holding a minor strongpoint. The odd naming stems from the conditions of the Versailles treaty, to give the Reichswehr plausible deniability for any curious allied noses poking in to German arms research.
- 8-cm Granatwerfer 34: A carbon copy of the Stokes Mortar. Yes, really.
- 15-cm Schweres Infanterie Geschütz 33: The largest gun that any given Infantry battallion had on offer. Fired 38 kilograms of explosives over considerable distances, and also served as the main armament of the Sturmpanzer IV.
- LeFH 18: The most common field gun of the German army. It was held back by considerable downsides and really couldn't compare with Allied artillery pieces, not notably the Soviet 155mmm M1934 howitzer, which fired a much heavier payload, or the British QF-20-Pounder. Various improvements over the course of the war kept it relevant, but ultimately, it became outdated by 1941.
- 3,7-cm PaK 36: Probably the most advanced AT-Gun in the interwar period, but often gets a bad rep from reports of German soldiers, who had to fire the thing at Churchills, T-34s and other more modern tanks, earning it the moniker "Heeresanklopfkanone", or "The Heer's(German armed forces) door knocking cannon". Its major boons however were its very light weight and the perfected design of its mounting, making it very easy to transport and move. Seeing how much the German army invested in this gun before the war (over 9000 being built when the war started and an additional 5500 until 1941) they tried their damndest to keep the thing relevant even when it was very clear it could no longer keep up. Still, a remarkable and groundbreaking design for the early thirties, with 6000 being sold abroad and Japan, the USSR and even the United States outright copying the design with few modifications.
- 5-cm PaK 38: The PaK 38s bigger, beefier brother, intended to fight off bigger tanks the light 3,7-cm couldn't handle - with very mediocre results. Practically identical to the 5-cm gun of the Panzer III.
- 7,5-cm PaK 40: The first design that came onto the scene with WW2 in mind. A very effective design that in the latter half of the war ultimately became the most AT-Gun the Germans used and only became outdated at the very end of it, when even its significant firepower wasn't enough anymore to crack the armour of the big Soviet beasts. Modified versions of it became the main armament of a lot of German Tanks and Tank destroyers, the most notable of it being the Panther and the Jagdpanzer IV.
- 8,8-cm PaK 43: A modified version of the infamous 8,8-cm Flak gun, stripped down to its essentials and with added length to act as an AT-gun. Other than that, they're basically identical.
- 12,8-cm PaK 44: The biggest, baddest AT-gun any side ever devised, although one could argue that it was probably overkill, as it was so impractical and heavy that any use outside of fortified positions would be pointless. Given that the gun was designed when the war effort started to really go south and Germany found itself in a defensive war, probably a negliable downsight, but then again, it didn't really seem to make any difference in the end. Some were used as part of the Siegfried Line and the Defense of Berlin, but they were very rare and the only examples that remain today are the ones built into the surviving Jagdtigers and the Maus.
German tanks were in general well designed, but in hindsight were overengineered and prone to breakdowns in the field. For example, take their Schachtellaufwerk (interleaved roadwheels system for tracks). The idea was: more roadwheels = weight distributed more evenly over track = less ground pressure = less bogging down and/or a higher maximum load. It was also supposed to lessen tank shaking and allow to fire (relatively) accurately on the move. Great idea on paper, and a pretty good one when testing prototypes at home... but an absolute hell on the Eastern front, where the almost supernaturally awful mud (or rasputitza) infiltrated between the wheels before freezing and breaking everything. Cue hour after hour of work for the maintenance teams, removing the track and wheels for cleaning before mounting them again each and every time the goddamn tank sortied, where a more traditional slack-track system would have required much less cleaning. And let's not even get into real mechanical breakdowns...
Another big weakpoint in the German Panzerwaffe was the lack of standardization between the individual tank models. The Allies, more or less made the variations of their Tanks (which were standardized for every company and factory making them) from existing Models and fitted them with weapons they deemed appropriate for the task at hand, which eased supply and maintenance whereas the Germans designed entirely new vehicles for every purpose across multiple manufacturers with their own specifications, tooling and production lines. In practice, this meant that parts between German vehicle types were mostly incompatible with each other (i.e. a gear made for a Panzer III could not go into a Panzer IV and vice versa, whereas a T-34 crew could just scavenge for parts in a nearby wreck or just broken tank) and it quickly became a logistical nightmare to sufficiently supply all tank units with spare parts or even fuel (The Germans never could make their minds up if they preferred Gasoline or Diesel). That's not to say that they didn't know or realize this (thoughts in this direction lead into the E-Series of design studies, planned to be a series of tank models that more or less shared all parts with each other except armament and chassis) but by 1944 Germany lacked the industrial capacity and resources to switch to a more economical model of production. Furthermore, the German model of tank production didn't help too; all of the German tanks were hand-crafted, using expensive and elaborate methods with strict tolerances to produce the best results they could offer which becomes redundant when you compare it to the production streets of the T-34 and the Sherman that were put out by the dozens. The "5 to 1 ratio" of allied vs German Tanks is as much the result of the Modus Operandi of the German war industry as it is of failed planning and overly complicated designs.
In the end, the true selling point of the Panzerwaffe was not the tanks themselves, but instead, primarily, the tactics of using them, the crew members manning them, the mechanics supporting them, and the radios installed in every tank that allowed for a level of coordination between tanks, infantry, and artillery not seen before the start of WWII (which formed the core of Blitzkrieg tactics). This, along with some powerful late-war designs, occasionally gave German tanks an edge over Allied tanks until production problems, stability issues and most of all fuel shortages became overwhelming.
German tanks are called "Panzer", which when directly translated means "armor", and more specifically is the shortened version of "Panzerkampfwagen" (Armored Fighting Vehicle). The name is often abbreviated to just "PzKpfw" or even "Pz". The habit of naming tanks, airplanes and other pieces of equipment, like the V3 gun after animals, mostly predators, was introduced after a suggestion by Goebbels in 1944 to increase the propagandistic value of the vehicles. This is why earlier vehicles have none of these names and were named "at face value". At no point in time did these nicknames show up in official records of the Wehrmacht aside from anecdotal mentions in field reports. The official records of the Heereswaffenamt (Army armory office) used the Sonderkraftfahrzeug ("Special purpose vehicle", Sd.Kfz. in short) system of designations instead.
- Panzer I: Designed and produced in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, the Panzerkampfwagen I was the first Nazi tank. It was small, weighing only 5.4 tonnes, and was armed only with two MG-13 machine guns. Some 1,493 were made, and were most notable in that they allowed tank crews to be trained, and (after being sent to Spain) let tank doctrines be developed that later allowed the Nazis to take over Poland. They saw some use at the beginning of WWII, but were pretty soon deemed to be out of date even on scouting missions. Until they were deemed totally obsolete, they were continuously upgraded and specialized, and had several variants including a potential recon paratrooper-tank. Primary Nazi tank of the Condor legion in the Spanish Civil War.
- Panzer II: The Panzerkampfwagen II was designed using the experience gained in the Spanish Civil War. Heavier than the Panzer I at 8.9 tonnes, it was designed as a stopgap, as the Panzer III and IV were experiencing delays in production. It was armed with a dinky automatic 20mm cannon that was little better than an anti-tank rifle. Common during the early war, it was made obsolete by the arrival of the Panzer III and IV, and relegated to reconnaissance duties, training, or conversion into open-topped tank destroyers. Much like it's younger brother, it too was pushed through several variants; however, instead of trying to upgrade it to stay in main-line action, it was turned into a better scout tank so that the Panzer III could take over the main-line role. Primary Nazi tank for the invasion of Poland and France.
- Panzer II Ausf. L "Luchs": The final version of the Panzer II with a redesigned turret housing the same 2cm-autocannon in a new turret and a modified chassis. Speedy little bugger (it could reach up to 60 kph under optimal conditions) that served as a scouting verhicle for the tank divisions, with 100 being built.
- Panzer III: One of the two main German tanks of the war, the Panzerkampfwagen III was about when Germany really got the hang of this whole tank design thing. Introduced in 1939, it weighed 23 tonnes, carried a 37mm anti tank gun, and notably had a turret big enough for three guys (which is actually more important than you might think, as it allows the crew to share the workload, e.g., the Loader's only task would be to load the gun with correct ammo in as short time as possible, the Gunner focuses on aiming and firing the gun, while the Commander can retain situational awareness and, well, give orders). Contemporary tanks usually had two- or even one-man turrets, forcing the crew to share responsibilities, thus lowering combat efficiency. The Panzer III was designed from the ground up to engage enemy tanks, rather than the infantry and light vehicles of earlier models. In Poland, France, and North Africa it did well, even though some French vehicles still outgunned them. Against Soviet T-34s, however, it was completely insufficient, unless upgraded to a 50mm gun and firing APDS. Thankfully, unlike the French and Russians, the Panzer III were all equipped with radios, allowing them to out-maneuver the un-radioed yet otherwise better tanks. Production stopped in 1942, but since they had built 5,774 of them, they stayed in service until the end of the war. The chassis was used to produce the StuG assault cannon (although "Geschütz" is hard to translate to English: it's neither a mere gun, nor a cannon, being more of a tank destroyer, i.e., a "sniper"-style tank), which would be the most widely produced German vehicle of the war. Switched roles with Panzer IV to become the infantry support tank with short barrelled howitzer, though this was soon also replaced with a dual-purpose gun. Primary Nazi tank for the invasion of Soviet Union.
- Panzer IV: Ultimately the most common German made tank, with nearly 9,000 units being built over the course of the war (now compare numbers with those of Sherman and T-34), the Panzerkampfwagen IV was the Panzer III's big brother. The Panzer IV was originally intended to be used against infantry and was armed with a low-velocity 75mm gun for blowing stuff up with explosive shells. After the invasion of Russia they switched to a 50mm anti-tank gun, and later a 75mm high-velocity cannon while also being up-armored to an absolute weight limit of a chassis. After that upgrade, it was generally on par with the T-34 and M4 Sherman (on average, at least — they had a less powerful engine, but better optics). Unlike early Soviet tanks, every Panzer IV generally had a working a radio receiver. It's chassis became the foundation of many German vehicles of all classifications. Primary Nazi tank from 1942 to the end of the war in 1945.
- Panzer V Panther: The Panther was introduced in 1943 and is often argued to be the the best tank of the war. It copied many features of the T-34 and improved on them. It was listed as a "medium tank," despite weighing in at 44.8 tonnes (due to the Germans attributing a class with the intended use in mind, not weight). Its 75mm/L70 gun was one of the most powerful tank guns of the war, and could destroy any Allied tank. Quite mobile for its weight, its frontal armor was more effective than that of the Tiger's thanks to sloping. It truly was a swift and hard as nails death machine... when it was in working order, that is. The Panther was rushed into service and had even more mechanical problems than the Tiger did due to its rushed design. The transmission, for example, broke down on averag after just 250 kilometers (that's 155 miles for you yanks) of use, leading to a lot of abandoned tanks. On the plus side, the Panther was only about 20% more expensive to produce than the Panzer IV, and the Germans managed to produce 6,000 of them, though switching over did cost them in terms of other production due to the necessary retooling time. Along with the Tiger, the Panther was enough of a threat for the Western Allies to up-gun their Shermans (the 'Firefly' with the British 17-pounder gun and the multiple American (76) variants sporting a more powerful 76 mm gun) and the Soviets to make up-armored and up-gunned T-34-85's (with, you guessed it, a 85 mm gun in the turret). Along with the aforementioned US and Soviet tanks, the Panther eventually became one inspiration for the post-war "Main Battle Tank" concept, the other being the British Centurion. An upgraded Panther II was planned, but never entered production.
- Panzer VI Tiger: Even before invading Russia, the generals of the Wehrmacht sent requests for a tank that could be called "heavy". After seeing French B1's in action, however brief or desperate, they were convinced that a slower brawler that could take punches and return them had its place on the battlefield along the faster but relatively lightly armoured Pz. III and IV. Still, the idea lingered for a couple of years, with only the shock of encountering previously unknown Soviet KV-1s and T-34s giving the necessary push and resources to the project as perceived German tank superiority was shattered. The Nazi top brass took this as a challenge to create the ultimate tanks, and the result of said project were "the Big Cats". The first of these was the Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger heavy tank, which entered service in 1942 (yes, the Pz. V actually came out after the VI did). "Heavy" definitely described the Tiger: it weighed 54 tonnes, had a 690 hp engine, had up to 100mm of armor, could reach its 40 kph in good conditions to keep with the little guys and was armed with a hueg 88mm cannon that could take out a T-34 or Sherman from 2 kilometers with ease. In fact, it could do this to any tank the Allies would have at any point of the war from one kilometer away, barring IS-2s and Churchill VIIs. Despite this, the Tiger was over-engineered mechanically and somewhat under-designed chassis-wise. It was expensive, a drain on strategical resources and labor intensive to build, had reliability issues, and was horribly maintenance-intensive one in the field. The Tiger chassis was essentially an upgraded Pz. IV (and therefore a metal box), and the design took no advantage of the sloped armor concept the Russians were by then fielding in the T-34, which made the Tiger heavier and slower than it could have been for the same armor effectiveness. Only 1,347 Tigers were built, but they did have an effect on Allied morale. In one instance a single Tiger destroyed most of the 22nd Armoured Brigade and forced them to retreat (Battle of Villers-Bocage). The Tiger is without a doubt the most famous (and overrated, due to the problems listed above) tank of WWII, known even to those illiterates who think WWII was only fought between America and Germany, and if most video games are to be believed, every Nazi tank was a Tiger. That is, however, somewhat understandable given just how often allied tankers yelled 'Tiger' whenever they lost a tank, even to a regular Pz IV (which could be mistaken for a Tiger at a distance). The Tiger and Panther tanks, like a used car, came with an owner's manual (the Tigerfibel and Pantherfibel, respectively), and Heinz Guderian (one of Germany's, and possibly the entire war's, best tank commanders) wanted every tank crew to read the manual. But even back then, people understood just how few guys actually read the instruction manual for anything. So it was written as a fun book to read, with humor, poetry, and naked girls alongside the information about how to use two of the most famous heavy tanks to be fielded in WWII.
- Tiger II: The Tiger II, sometimes known as the King Tiger (from an incorrect translation of Königstiger, meaning "Bengal Tiger", but which literally translates to "Royal Tiger"), was the ultimate German tank, and introduced in 1944 as a successor to the Tiger. It weighed 68.5 tonnes (more than most modern tanks) and had 150mm of frontal armor, which was even sloped (a huge step forward from the boxy Tiger I)! Even so, between limited resources and an increasingly bombed-out industrial base, only 492 of these behemoths rolled off the assembly line before the war ended. These tanks were considered to be just as temperamental as the Tiger I, but for different reasons. The designers learned how to fix some of the problems with the Tiger I, and promptly over-built the Tiger II even more after patching the holes, because they thought they had wiggle room or something. It was damn near unkillable, but a fuel guzzler to the extreme, barely maneuvable and prone to mechanical failures of almost any kind. Some historians argue that the King Tiger only had an effective use as a propaganda piece and little else.
- Anything they could steal: From French B1 heavy tanks to Soviet T-34's to American Shermans, the Nazis used everything they could get their hands on like Orks in clean uniforms (not that the Allies were any different: Soviets, for example, had several companies armed with Panzers V used as tank destroyers). This became so chronic that the British had a strong rule in place that said any tank which could not be repaired or salvaged was to be destroyed, so the Germans wouldn't pinch it. They deployed stolen tanks pretty much everywhere, and of every type; hell, even Renault FT-17s were used in police roles in some areas.
- Panzer 35(t) and 38(t): the most famous tanks the Nazi
stolewere supplied with by puppet governments all across Europe were the PZ 35(t) and 38(t). Light tanks, both were Czech designs (hence the (t) for tschechisch) Germany acquired when they took over first the Sudetenland, and then the rest of Czechoslovakia. While very useful early in the war, the designs were rendered obsolete by 1942 (they simply couldn't compete against a T-34), and the chassis was instead used to produce Marder 2 and Hetzer tank destroyers. A version of the 38(t), called the Stridsvagn m/41, was also used by Sweden. The vehicle's Czech steel was lower-quality than German stock.
- Panzer 35(t) and 38(t): the most famous tanks the Nazi
Tank Destroyers/Assault Guns
Between the First and Second World Wars, various nations were still trying to figure out what good designs were for armored vehicles. This is the same era that gave us the British infantry and cavalry tank concept. In response to the super heavy British infantry tanks of the time, the Germans were quick to invent and use an armored doctrine they called Panzerjäger (tank hunters). The concept was to stick a huge gun (too big to put in a proper turret with then available technology) onto a vehicle with a fixed casemate and open top to allow the heavy gun to be moved around easily. Think like the Basilisk, only built for direct fire. Later in the war, Germany discarded the lighter Panzerjäger tank destroyers and instead designed big heavy tank destroyers, with thick armor and guns big enough to make an ork blush with envy, and labeled the class "Jagdpanzer" (hunter-tank). Panzerjäger of both types had the advantage of being cheaper and simpler to make than turreted tanks, and having lower silhouettes that allowed for easier ambushes. Plus it was easy to convert an otherwise out of date, under-gunned tank into a destroyer. The disadvantage was, of course, that they had no turrets, so they could be outflanked and had no way to point their guns at any targets that did not drive in front of them short of turning the entire tank around. Generally speaking, most Tank Destroyers were rather effective in what they were supposed to do, but the turret-less constructions meant that they were sacrificing much needed flexibility in the field and every major power in the post-45 world order didn't want to bother with it, especially since the British Centurion MBT showed the world for the first time that a tank could reliably perform all roles that were previously assigned to a variety of models. Only Sweden and Germany kept some Tank Destroyers around after the war (the Strv 103 and the Kanonenjagdpanzer) and even those were thoroughly outclassed once self-directing ammunition like TOW missiles became available.
- Panzerjäger I: Remember that little note in the Panzer 1's description on how it was repurposed? Well, this is the end result. What basically amounts to a Panzer I with its turret taken off and a casemate installed instead, it had a nice 4.7cm anti-tank gun but was relatively weak otherwise. There were no vision slits in the casemate, meaning that in order to aim, the crew had to peek over the top and get themselves shot in the head (a pressing issue in particular for Anti-Tank battalion 643).
- Marder: The Marder 1, 2, and 3 were all very similar tank destroyers, hence why they share a listing. The Marder 1 is based on the chassis of the French Lorraine 37L tractor, the Marder 2 is based off the Panzer II chassis, and the Marder III is based of off the Panzer 38(t) (the "T" means it was Czech in origin, not that it weighed 38 tons). All three were open topped and armed with either 7.5 cm cannons or converted Russian 76 mm cannons they stole early in their invasion of Russia. At the start of Operation Barbarossa, German tanks were again under-gunned and -armed compared to their enemies, especially when compared to the T-34 (which one German field marshal quipped was the best tank in the world in 1941). But, like the battle for France, the Germans had more radios and were thus able to make massive advances anyway through superior tactical coordination. Still, a better anti-tank weapon was needed, so the Marders were created and armed with 7.5 cm weapons (although there were never enough of them, so they would revert to using Russian guns).
- Wespe and Hummel: The Wasp and Bumblebee, respectively, and both with a nasty sting. Both were re-purposed tank chassis, but sporting artillery howitzers instead of AT guns (Which makes them technically self-propelled artillery instead of assault guns, but in the end it's a huge gun on tracks so fuck that noise!) the Wespe was based off the Panzer II and sported a 105mm 'light' howitzer; the Hummel was based on a modified Panzer III chassis and sported a 150mm howitzer. They're the real-life equivalents of (and probably the inspiration behind) the Imperial Guard's Basilisk Artillery Gun.
- Hetzer: Repurposed Panzer 38(t) with a casemate-mounted 75mm gun. A nice late-war re-design and a dangerous opponent since its small chassis and decent speed made it easy to get in position for a good ambush, and its gun was strong enough to take on any allied tank. Notorious for being an absolutely awful thing to be in, the interior was cramped to the point of farce and ergonomics were very poor. The Hetzer lacked in the armour department, though, and couldn't slug it out.
- Nashorn: Also called Hornisse, this was a Marder-like tank-destroyer, with a chassis specially designed to mount the fearsome "Acht-acht" 88mm gun. Just like the Marders it was open-topped, but the huge range of its gun made it a dangerous opponent. The Germans later experimented with even bigger guns (105mm and 128mm) mounted like this, but those vehicles proved simply too heavy and impractical to use, so they did not evolve beyond a couple of prototypes.
- StuG III & IV: By far the most widely produced German vehicle of WWII, the Stug was easily one of the most versatile combat platforms fielded in the war(And famous in Panzer General series for easily knocking out Russian tanks). StuG's, or "Sturmgeschütz" or "assault artillery", were built to combat a problem Germany learned from the first world war: that infantry lacked the ability to take on fortifications, and the artillery was too slow to keep up to allow direct fire on these targets. The StuG was the solution: by mounting a 7.5 cm
howitzergun in a fixed casemate on a Panzer III chassis, they allowed the vehicle to roll up with the infantry and blow any fortifications in the way to rubble. Of course during the invasion of the Soviet Union the Germans ran into tanks much better than their existing vehicles, namely KV-1s and T-34. In order to quickly counter these threats, the StuG was "up-gunned" (quote marks are there because the guns caliber did not change), to mount a high-velocity 7.5 cm anti-tank gun. In 1943, the StuG chassis was changed from a Panzer III's to a Panzer IV's, otherwise no changes were made. StuG's, despite looking like and being compared to tanks, were not considered tanks, and were crewed by artillery men. StuG's are estimated to have destroyed 20,000 enemy tanks in the course of the war, impressive when you consider that just over 10,000 were made, and not all of those were armed with actual anti-tank weapons. After the war, the Soviets gave a number of captured tanks to Syria where they were used up to 1960s. In a funny twist of irony, some of those ended up in Israeli hands during the Six-Day-War and remain on display in Tel Aviv today. (There was a self-propelled-gun with a an actual howitzer, too: the StuH 42.)
- Sturmpanzer: Known commonly to the Allies as the Brummbär (Grouch), this infantry support gun was based on the Panzer IV chassis. It mounted a 15cm mortar-sized direct-fire cannon, which fired a combined shell-charge weighing in at over 100lbs, designed to make infantry and buildings explode.
- Ferdinand/Elefant: To put the Ferdinand into perspective, this is a tank that even Hitler though was too complex, too unreliable, and too theoretically advanced to use. The Ferdinand is the result of a contest between two of Nazi Germany's top companies, Porsche and Henschel (both of which still exist today), to produce a heavy tank that could use the 8.8 cm gun. The initial plan was to produce both tanks simultaneously, with contracts to make a "small" series of 100 tanks for both participants signed with Krupp on the same day of 22th of July, 1941. Both Tigers (P) and (H) had A LOT of problems, but due to unclear reasons even before final tests conducted in November 1942 came the order to stop production of Porsche version. That's why, despite losing the contract, Porsche had 90 Porsche Tiger hulls laying around, though he couldn't make more as he lacked production lines of his own. It was decided to turn those unused Tiger P prototypes into tank destroyers, and so they bolted even more armor on and added a fixed super structure for the gun, and thus the Ferdinand (named humbly after Porsche himself) was born. The Ferdinand was a troubled vehicle: rather than one engine, its immense bulk required two, and thanks to poor ventilation they often overheated. Bizarrely, the two engines did not even connect to the drive train (possibly because of issues keeping the two engines synchronized without modern computer control), and were instead connected to a set of electric generators that in turn powered a pair of electric motors. That's right, in 1942, the Nazi's built a 65 ton gas-electric, hybrid-powered tank destroyer, good for the environment maybe (but not actually, because the primitive technology just made the combo even less efficient), but maintenance for the thing was a nightmare worse than the Tiger. And before we forget, it did not have a machine gun. To be honest, it wouldn't have been that much of a deal (StuG-IIIs didn't have a machine gun until December 1942, for example) if Guderian hadn't used them as heavy tanks (he even calls them "Porsches' Tigers" in his memoirs), and even then out of 39 Ferdinands lost during Battle of Kursk only 4 were confirmed to be burned down by Molotov cocktail, and in 3 cases they were damaged either by mines or artillery shells before that. It had one hell of a gun, however: 8.8 cm Pak 43 could destroy any Allied tank at distances exceeding 2000 meters. In 1943, all 48 remaining operational tanks were converted to have a machine gun, more armor, anti-magnetic zimmerite paste coatings, and a commander's cupola. The modified tanks were named Elefants. Overall, more Ferdinands were destroyed by their own crews after their tracks or suspensions were damaged by mines or artillery fire and tanks themselves could not be towed back to a repair base than were lost to enemy fire. Maybe it is the inspiration for the Shadowsword Imperial Guard superheavy.
- Jagdpanzer IV: A Panzer IV chassis mounting a long-barrelled 75mm gun in a casemate mount. Worked generally very well, the low silhoutette being a great advantage it had over comparable tanks, but had some notable downsides too: The inclusion of additional armour and the long 75mm KwK from the Panther strained the Panzer IV chassis to the absolute limit, limiting range and mechanical reliablity. The extra armour and long gun also the tank particularly nose heavy, making it a bitch to drive and limiting its manuverability, nevermind being almost unable to make steep descends without bumping the gun on something, a problem tanks with a similar nose-heavy loadout like the Russian T-34 and SU-85 also had.
- Jagdpanther: A Panther chassis mounting a long-barrelled 88mm gun in a casemate mount. Arguably the best "Jagd-" model combining decent mobility, decent protection and a very powerful gun.
- Jagdtiger: Tiger II chassis outfitted with a long-barrelled 128mm (!) naval gun. Pure overkill, and ultimately a poorly-performing design. To put it in perspective, the M1 Abrams TODAY has a smaller and shorter 120mm cannon, even if most of its armor busting power comes from the fact it fires modern (and far more deadly) sabot rounds. Even back then, two of the most effective AT guns of the war were the German Acht-Acht 88mm gun and the British 76.2mm 17 pounder gun; both much smaller, lighter and with a better rate of fire than this 128mm monster. No warmachine used on the frontline called for such a massive gun to be dealt with in World War II (save perhaps for the Soviets's IS heavy tanks, which were designed to be have armor good enough to stand up to 88mm AT gun fire, but ironically the Jagdtiger only served on the western front make it a moot point) and even the fact it could double up as artillery support in a pinch didn't make up for the fact it was just too big and unwieldy and slow-firing a gun to deal with tanks. Add to that, a tank with a 128mm main gun is especially stupid when your enemies on both sides favored zerg rushes of Sherman and T-34's medium tanks respectively, much lighter vehicles that could reliably be taken out by much smaller guns. While anticipating future enemy capabilities is important in wartime weapon development, pretty much no one was working on a vehicle sufficiently armored to warrant this firepower (excluding absurd Super-heavy design studies like the American T28/T30 and T95 or the British Tortoise), unless it was intended to fire on battleships from the shore—and firing from a stationary coastal-defense position probably would be for the best, because even at its crawling pace, going off-road tended to knock the gun out of alignment and require it to be recalibrated before firing again, so good luck with flanking maneuvers. The nicest thing that could be said about it was that it was great for shooting at enemy tanks hiding behind buildings, because it would shoot straight through building and tank alike. (Seriously, read Otto Carius' memoirs. His opinion on these is as first-hand as it is scathing.)
On a sidenote:
One could reasonably point out that the Russians weren't much better in that regard, since they too threw a couple of 'overcompensated' tanks/assault guns into the fray over the course of WWII: The KV-2 sported a 152mm howitzer in a gigantic (and horribly impractical) turret, and the SU-152 and ISU-152 were also equipped casemate-mounted 152mm howitzers (basically, the only difference is that the SU was based on the KV chassis and the ISU on the IS chassis). The difference here is that these vehicles had been designed for infantry support (and demolishing festungs), making the huge gun just mobile enough to keep up with the grunts and chucking high explosive death at the enemy from medium/long range instead of blasting other tanks to smithereens. This doesn't mean they couldn't: indeed the ISU-152 was effective enough in that regard to be nicknamed the Zveroboy (Beast Killer in Russian, which it inherited from the SU-152), but being able to blast a Tiger on its back was merely a handy bonus. Add to that the low-velocity 152mm howitzer was a good 30% lighter than the massive PaK 80; resulting in lighter, more compact, and more mobile vehicles overall once they realized trying to mount a huge howitzer in a turret wasn't such a good idea after all. All the Russians did was switch the unwieldy 152's for lighter 85's, 100's and 122's to make actual tank destroyers.
- Vindicator, which is not a coincidence: both vehicles' role is to rumble up to a strongpoint and obliterate it with extreme firepower. Very quickly, the Germans realized that fortifications were a major pain in their Aryan butts to deal with and that static artillery was too slow and vulnerable to keep up with their Blitzkrieg attacks. So at first they relied on airplanes, but as their opponents started to contest the skies, they fielded self-propelled howitzers that would rumble up 'close' to the bunker/building/... and blast it to pieces. The Sturmtiger... The Sturmtiger is what you get when the point where you should have stopped putting bigger, larger guns on tracks is long passed, yet one still keeps going... and somehow manages to make it work. Based off of the Tiger 1 chassis, it sported a 380mm gun/rocket launcher adapted from a Kriegsmarine depth-charge launcher as its main gun; and only because the 210 mm howitzer they intended to use first wasn't available. Although it sported a gun that could obliterate anything in front of it, the Sturmtiger suffered the same problems as the Tiger itself. Overbuilt drivetrain, maintenance-intensive and prone to breakdown Schachtellaufwerk tracks to keep ground pressure tolerable, and an underpowered engine. On top of that, the rocket was so powerful that in order to not break the barrel of the gun or kill the crew, the exhaust gasses from launching the depth-charge rocket had to be vented out of a number of tubes that went back up the barrel. Not to mention that by the time the Sturmtiger was being fielded the Germans were in no position to use nor did they require an urban assault vehicle of this kind.
- Flakpanzer IV: Tanks whose main gun had been replaced with one (or more) anti-aircraft guns. With the Luftwaffe having been squandered by inability to adapt to changes (i.e. realize that maybe it should have switched priorities to defending the Fatherland before the latter half of 1943), the Germans came up with these SPAAGs in other to try to defend themselves from all those nasty american Jabos (German shorthand for fighter-bomber) making their lives hell. Didn't really work, because towards the end of the war the ground attack aircraft had become too fast to be engaged reliably by guns relying on human eyes to acquire and follow their target. They were, however, murder on tracks when facing infantry and lightly armored ground targets. Four Variants were made, all based on the ever-reliable Panzer IV chassis:
- Möbelwagen: Odd looking thing that more or less was an armoured AA-emplacement on a tank; when deployed, the crew would fold down the "walls" of the open topped fixed turret with a 3.7 cm AA-gun on top of it. Needless to say, it didn't offer any significant improvement over existing and far more simple AA-vehicles which consisted of little more than an armoured truck with the gun in a trailer.
- Wirbelwind: Perhaps the most iconic of the four, it massively improved the design by adding an again open-topped turret that could be turned almost as fast as a regular AA-gun on its mounting. Armed with a quadruple 2-cm FlaK 38 and 105 being built, it was ultimately the most common variant of the Flakpanzer IV.
- Ostwind: The last Flakpanzer IV to be put into serial production. The turret remained pretty much the same from the Wirbelwind, although the introduction of a single 3.7-cm FlaK 43 made one of the two loaders on the Wirbelwind obsolete and a hydraulic turning mechanism pumped its turning speed up to 60 per second. Its prototype partook in the Battle of the Bulge and returned back home undamaged. 47 were completed by the end of the war.
- Kugelblitz: Similar deal to the Typ XXI U-boats, the Kugelblitz was the peak of military engineering for its time that remained unsurpassed until computer-guided tracking systems and heat-seeking missiles revolutionized ground-based Anti-Air weaponry. The Kugelblitz utilized a fully enclosed, roughly ball-shaped turret with two 3-cm-MK 103 borrowed from the Me 262 fighter plane that were fed by belt instead of magazines or clips like the FlaK guns before. The shape of the turret, combined with an improved version of the hydraulic turning mechanism of the Ostwind made for an incredibly deadly package that could cover the airspace above it completely and inspired many imitators after the war. That being said, the 37mm AA gun was really showing its age and post war AA guns went for either high caliber autocannons or rotary guns. Only 5 prototypes were made by the end of the war, one of which actually saw combat in Thuringia, where a direct hit by a bomb blasted its turret off into a forest, where it was recovered in 1999.
Halftracks and Armoured Cars
- Kfz 13: One of the first projects of the German armament programs that started after Hitler started to outright ignore the conditions of the Versailles treaty. Very much a stopgap solution based on a civilian car, the Adler Standard 6. Some of them partook in the invasions of Poland and France and were relegated to training purposes shortly after.
- Einheits-PKW: A German take on the US army jeep, general purpose cars meant for transporting officiers and reconnaissance. Existed in three weight classes. Became redundant after the introduction of the Kübelwagen, who could do everything an Einheits-PKW could do for cheaper and also could be made into an amphibic vehicle with only minor modifications. The heavy Einheits-PKW served as the basis for the wheeled armoured reconniasance tank Sd.Kfz 221.
- Leichter Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz. 221/222/223: The 221 was the standard reconnaisace vehicle of the Wehrmacht in the early days of the war. Open topped and armed with an MG 34, its weak armor of only 25 millimeters, as well as its armament proved insufficient during the French campaign. The vehicles would be refitted with the 2-cm autocannon from the Panzer II and designated as Sd.Kfz. 222. Leading vehicles would be equipped with high-capacity radios instead of any armament and designated as Leichter Funkwagen 223.
- Schwerer Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz 231/232/233: The heavy alternative to the 222. A six (or eight)-wheeled tank whose development already started when the Weimar Republic was still alive and well. It was the primary reconnaisance vehicle for the tank divisions. The different designations refer to the armament, a 231 was armed with two MG 15 in a Panzer I turret, the 232 with a high-capacity radio and the 233 with the short-barreled 7.5-cm tank guns from the earlier versions of the Panzer IV and the StuG III.
- Schwerer Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz 234 "Puma": A completely new wheeled tank, where the major improvement over the older 231s and 222s was that they were designed around being tanks instead of armoured cars. The first serially produced version, the 234/2 was armed with the long 5 cm-tank gun from the Panzer III in the turret of the never realized Leopard reconnaisance tank, later versions were open topped due to material shortages. This gave the vehicles firepower unprecedented for such a light vehicle and often lead to crews to take the fight to the enemy instead of scouting, with mixed results.
- Mittlerer Schützenpanzerwagen Sd.Kfz. 251: The standard APC of the Wehrmacht throughout the entire war. A design so flexible that it could easily be used in just about any role any commander wanted it to serve with tons of variants of it existing. In the standard configuration, it could carry 10 men plus equipment in an open topped chassis. An innovation over competing APCs of the time was that Soldiers could enter and leave the vehicle quickly through a door in the back. The 251 was originally supposed to form the backbone of the Panzergrenadier divisions to provide infantry support to tanks in a vehicle quick enough and armoured to devlier them directly into the fray, but the lack of industrial capacity as well as the complicated Schachtellaufwerk of its tracks limited their production rates. The later years of the war saw the 251 relegated to an absurd number of combat roles, from light SPAAG with a 2-cm-FlaK 36, AT gun carrier and even Infrared night vision reconnaissance. One of the more successful vehicles of the German Army in general, with 15.000 of them being built throughout the entirety of the war.
- Messerschmitt Bf 109: This plane is credited with more kills than any other fighter in the history of man due to the tens of thousands of communists it has sent to hell in burning metal coffins. It is also the most produced fighter of all time. The variants of the 109 and the Spitfire competed with each other throughout the war for the title of "World's Best Fighter" as they were both continually upgraded. The 109 was small, very fast, a good turner, a god tier climber, and was inexpensive to produce and maintain. The 109's speed and climb rate made it a top tier energy fighter.
- Focke-Wulf Fw 190: When first introduced, the Fw 190 was hands-down the best fighter on the planet, due mostly to its very powerful radial engine. The 190A-3 was rocking 1,700 horsepower at a time when the Spitfire V had 1,450. As the war dragged on, BMW failed miserably to improve the engine and the 190 dropped in effectiveness until it was given a completely new engine in the Dora variant. The 190 was horrifically fast at low altitude, had extremely powerful armament, outstanding high speed handling, and had the best roll rate of any plane in the war. However, it was a very poor turner. This set of attributes made the 190 one of the best "boom and zoom" fighters, going toe to toe with Mustangs and Thunderbolts but once again falling victim to shit production, just as the Russians started getting P-39 Airacobras from America that could take on anything the Nazis had as long as the fight was below 12,000'.
- Fieseler Fi 156 Storch: A product of the early, successful parts of the war, the Storch was a dedicated observation plane for forward air control. It was unique for its EXTREMELY low stall speed of 31 mph which even in the 21st century is still impressive for a two seater and almost 25% lower than the American equivalent (the Piper Cub). The design continued in production well into the 60's in France and the USSR; modern replicas using even lighter, stronger materials are capable of flight with a takeoff run of as little as 30 meters. Its capabilities for close support were illustrated best during the final days of the war, when famed pilot Hanna Reitsch landed one on a building-lined street in Berlin and then successfully got it airborne again.
- Heinkel He 111: The main German bomber from beginning to end, it was developed in the 1930s; the Nazis called it a high speed passenger aircraft to get around the Treaty of Versailles. It was first put to its real use in the Spanish Civil War. The He 111 was a twin engine medium bomber, cheap to make and maintain and able to carry up to 3,600 kilos of bombs. Early on it performed very well and was one of the most effective bombers in the world but after 1941 the British and Americans began building larger and longer ranged four engine bombers like the Lancaster and the Flying Fortress in large quantities. The german engineers had a plan to counter these with an enhanced version of the HE 111 called the HE 111-Z that consisted of two 111 fuselages fused together on a central wing (which is just as retardedly awesome and awesomely retarded as it sounds) therefore gathering twice the bombs and weaponry of a regular bomber while being powered by 5 engines. They did manage to make it fly but it remained a prototype. Note: Actually it was suppose to be used as a glider tug for the massive Messerschmitt ME-321 and the purposed Junkers JU-322 Mammut.
- Messerschmitt ME-163 Komet: Before the Nazis mastered jet engines, they toyed around with rocket-based fighters instead. The Komet was a tiny, zippy little fighter plane, and the first plane to travel faster than 1000 kph. It was also the first and last rocket-powered fighter, as they only succeeded to shoot down about eighteen allied craft at the cost of ten crashed Komets. This was because despite being far faster than anything the allies could field, the komet proved very temperamental: it was difficult to control while building speed, its fuel dangerous to handle, its landing gear could bounce off and smack the plane, its cannons were too slow to keep up, and it was vulnerable as it glided back to earth. Still, for its time, it was the only fighter capable of threatening the allies' high-altitude bombers, until the ME-262 came about. The fuel, being hypergolic, had a nasty tendency to melt test pilots.
- Ba 349 Natter: The meaning of "double down" if Luftwaffe logistics was a poker game. Even crazier than the Komet, Natter was little more than a Grot Bomm Launcha with unguided rocket batteries up the nose. Adding to the madness was that it's designed to be built from unskilled labor, and wood. Yes, wood. Yes: the British Mosquito was made of wood, but the Mosquito was built by professionals with great care, and was not rocket powered! What's worse, its fuel was T-Stoff (a highly caustic solution of hydrogen peroxide and a stabilizing chemical) mixed with C-Stoff (a hydrazine hydrate/methanol/water mixture), combustion was spontaneous so extreme care was required to handle both chemicals; leave it to Nazis to use fuel made out of the second most dangerous and villainous compounds (See N Stoff bellow for the stuff even they thought was crazy). The Walter motor generated about 1,700 kg (3,740 lb) of thrust but a loaded Ba 349A weighed more than 1,818 kg (4,000 lb) so liftoff required more power, like a rail launcher or catapult. Simply put, the design was fuck-nut retarded from scratch, killing every test pilot and canceled before it was used, not that a plane nearing the speed of sound made out of shitty wood firing unguided rockets wouldn't hit fuck-all.
- Messerschmitt ME-262: The Me 262 was the world's first operational jet fighter and possibly the most advanced aircraft of all in WWII. It was very fast, able to achieve a speed of 900km/h (in comparison, a P51 Mustang had a top speed of about 700km/h) and carried four 30mm cannons. The latter was its most important feature because around that time, a single HE autocannon hit meant "instant death" for any aircraft facing them, forcing them to exploit 262's slow turning speed. Quality suffered due to a lack of high quality steel, which severely limited the shelf life of their engines to twelve hours. Even so, it was an effective against bombers. Much like every other advanced Nazi weapon, it arrived too late (in part due to delays involving the Nazi top brass-thank God for Hitler on not deciding whether it should be a tactical bomber or a fighter-) and in too few numbers to influence the course of the war, though it spurred development of jet aircraft on both sides of the Iron Curtain postwar. The Japanese built a rather similar jet fighter in the Nakajima Kikka, but that never got beyond prototype.
- He-162: With a max speed of 900 kph, 2 centerline 20mm cannons, and a 39 lbs/ft^2 wingloading, the He-162 was almost invincible in combat. Where the 262 was an interceptor, the He-162 was designed as a cheap, easy to build and fly air superiority fighter. It was also designed to be piloted by children. Developed as a Volksjäger (”people's fighter”) the He-162 was a last ditch design meant to be piloted by the high school aged Hitler Youth as Nazi Germany had almost completely run out of regular pilots at the time. Amazingly enough despite the incredibly short time between design and full production, it turned out to be a solid design; both cheap and easy to build (most of the frame was made of wood) and a dangerous opponent (allied testing after the war showed that a large number of them would have been a major pain in the rear to deal with). The only point where the "Spatz" didn't deliver was the 'easy to fly' part; like all early jet airplanes it required an experienced pilot at the stick and being able to bench press to just turn the damn thing (which was a problem to everyone until the lessons of the Korean War).
As a general rule, Hitler dumped most of money into the Heer (army) and Luftwaffe (air force), leaving the Kriegsmarine (navy) out in the cold, so to speak, so they were not overly fond of him. (Although Hitler realised he wouldn't be able to build up a navy to rival the English quickly so he prioritised planes and tanks over ships to seize land and industrial capacity at first, which kind of made sense.) Hitler actually liked the Idea of a huge navy and passed Plan Z in 1937 which would have built a truly massive fleet to fight the Royal Navy in about 1945, as the building up to that point was designed to fight France, and predated the Nazi's rise to power. Like so many of der Furhur's calls it was a bad one as it prevented Admiral Donitz from building up his U-boats before the war started, and as Plan Z was a long term thing none of the ships from it were ever built.
- U-Boote: U-Boote, which are shortened the version of the word "Unterseeboot" or "underwater boat", are submarines. They were used in devastating effect to cut off Britain from supplies from the outside world by having "wolfpacks" of U-boats patrol around shipping lanes and sink down any enemy ship they found. Their other uses involved seeking and destroying enemy battleships, placing automated weather stations all over the world (helpful for Kriegsmarine ships) and dropping off a substantial number of spies in Britain and even America, most of which got caught-and subsequently replaced by Loyal British spy's (read about some of the ways the British Bamboozled the Nazi's in world war 2 some of it, like the moment the Germans gave a British agent the Iron cross, is just hilarious). They were so terrifying to Winston Churchill that he spent most of his naval planning on working out ways to subvert or destroy the U-boat wolfpacks. As a consequence of all this, they worked very well in the first years of the war, sinking huge (and i mean HUGE) numbers of ships with very few boats (only about 15 boats, at most, were out at sea at any given time in the first year or so). Being such an absolute pain in the arse, the British thus invested a fuckton of money and manpower into hunting and killing said U-boats, and finally got very, very good at it, through a combination of new technology, a massive information network for coordinating defenses, and navy wargamers developing new strategies to counter the U-Boats. Right when more and more U-boats were being produced, as German high command finally realized their potential, the British began sinking ever more of them (Example: in all of 1941, 35 boats were lost, in 1943, 244 boats were sunk, with 41 in May alone). Admiral Karl Dönitz, unlike Hitler, loved the U-boats, and built one of the largest structures on earth (at the time) to house them: the German U-boat pens in captured France. U-boats were invented in the first world war, and there unrestricted campaign of sinking any ship, even those with US citizens on them (even after the German government made a very public warning to the US that boarding a ship to England was a very bad idea), that approached England led to the neutral though leaning allied American to join the first world war and for them to be the last straw on the German back to end it.
- Typ VII: The most common type and with 703 ships in total also the most built submarine model in history. Generally well regarded as a very good design, it was rather nimble for its tonnage, was able to dive extremely quickly, and much more deeper than even the designers anticipated (U-95, the famous submarine from Das Boot, reportedly sunk as deep as 290 meters after being hit by water bombs, and even though it was quite taxing on the ship itself, the crew survived in full and made it back to port). Its major downfall (as seems to be the norm with many Nazi equipment) was that it wasn't used in its intended role; the Typ VIIc submarines in particular weren't designed to operate as long away from a home port as they were ordered to do, and their firepower against anything larger than a merchant vessel was negligable. They were, at best, Torpedo boats that could also dive, and only the Fall of France even made it even possible for them in the first place to operate in the mid-Atlantic as they did, even tho their main theater was supposed to be the German sea and the Channel. Incompetent leadership as well as the afromentioned efforts of the British in fighting them lead to the Typ VII becoming obsolecent already by 1942 and a major bleed of trained Seamen and Naval officiers.
- Typ IX: The Typ VII's bigger sister, and the actual ocean-going submarine of the Kriegsmarine. Much more spacious than the Typ VII, and designed to operate as far away as the fucking Indian Ocean. Quite a few of them remained a considerable threat due to their elusiveness and extreme range; multiple Typ IXs made it as far as New York City and sunk convoys there. As is tradition, incompetent leadership fucked this type and their crews; Dönitz was notoriously iron-fisted about keeping the Typ VII wolfpacks in use and very narrow-minded as far as new technology goes. The Typ IX was for the task at hand superior to its smaller cousin in every way, but materiel shortages and limited Dockyards meant it was damned to take a step back behind the Typ VII.
- Typ XXI: A technological marvel that came at the very end of the war, and too late to be used by the Nazis themselves, but these babies were by far the most advanced type of submarine devised at the time. Primarily designed to operate almost entirely under water and as trials with the finished ships by the allies after the war showed, more than capable of that. Typ XXI marks a significant shift in submarine doctrins across the globe, as it proved that Submarines were more than capable of operating far away from a port without needing any assistance and almost completely invisible. The modern nuclear submarines of the US and USSR are direct decendants of the Typ XXI for that very reason.
- Gorch Fock: The first of a series of five ships built very early in Germany's rearmament program, when the Nazis were still uncertain what might provoke the allies. Not in any way a warship, these were sail tallships, the last, largest, and finest ever made (although their engine systems were designed to train sailors for operating U-Boats). After the war all the ships of the class were seized as war trophies, notably the Horst Wessel which was taken by the United States becoming the USCGC Eagle. The modern day Gorch Fock of the Bundesmarine is a new ship built from the same plans in 1958 and remains a training vessel to this day.
- Deutschland Class Cruiser: The archetypal battlecruiser, the Deutschlands were the first new large ships designed by Germany after the Treaty of Versailles, and were carefully designed to get the most out of a very liberal interpretation of what the treaty permitted. Fast and heavily armed, they were ideal for commerce raiding and all three were used in this role. Of the class, the Admiral Scheer had the most successful career, sinking the most shipping tonnage of any ship in WW2, while the Graf Spee would get in a shootout with three British cruisers and be forced to scuttle in the harbor of Montevideo.
- Bismarck and Tirpitz:
A pair of battleships with guns as big as steers and shells as big as trees. As well as inspiration for a Kickass Sabaton songMemes aside, those were the largest ships built by the Nazis, but they were neither the biggest (that title goes to Yamato) or meanest (Warspite with the most battle honors of any ship in history) or most modern ships of World War 2 (Debatable: but likely Iowa, and technically Vanguard but that was finished after the war). Germany's building skills had suffered under the limitations of the Versailles treaty in the inter-war period, Bismarck and Tirpitz were the best they could build on a relatively short notice of five years and with a ten year technological gap to fill on the go. Both ships were envisioned as commerce raiders sinking transport ships and disrupting allied supplies, not to slug it out with the Royal Navy. This being said, while no superweapons capable of turning the war on their own they were far from worthless. Sinking the Bismarck required an entire Royal navy fleet, six battleships, and battlecruisers and two aircraft carriers, along with a number of cruisers and destroyers in a running battle over several days (albeit this was mostly due to the Brits not learning Jutland's lesson of not putting unarmored battlecruisers in a line battle, incredible luck and terrible luck at the same time on all sides and rank incompetence, stubbornness and general stupidity on all sides). And the Bismarck was alone. Tirpitz was similarly tough. The RAF spent most of a year bombing Tirpitz with everything in their arsenal, including the British Tallboy earthquake bombs. 5,400kg, fortification-destroying earthquake bombs could not destroy the Tirpitz despite scoring direct hits until a final bombing raid by 32 heavy Lancaster Bombers managed to score a hit on one of the ammunition magazines. These two ships had a weakness that greatly limited their offensive capability however: Very few facilities existed that were large enough to work on them. Of these few facilities only one of them, the Normandy dock at Saint-Nazaire, was held by the Nazis and remotely in a position where the giant ships could both rest and be in a position to attack. The British (and one American suicide bomber) exploited this by launching a commando raid on the dock, destroying it. This forced the pair to use docks safely in German territory where they presented minimal threat to the allies.
- A lot of the confusion around the capabilities of the Bismarck class in relation to the other ships of WWII is the result of a somewhat understandable lack of understanding of Naval Development interwar, and a prefect storm that let her 1v1 an modernized HMS Hood.
- So the storm above:
- The HMS Hood was as mentioned modernized, this is due to a clusterfuck of budget constraints and the like but it all ends up the same.
- The rest of the planned German task force wad been mauled whilst sinking the carrier HMS Glorious, whilst this may seem like a bad thing, the Royal Navy would never have dispersed their fleet if there were three battle ships waiting to sortie.
- The HMS Prince of Wales was brand new, so new in fact about half of her contribution to the fight was spent trying get her guns to work.
- The rough weather limited the British ability to use carriers and the RAF.
- HMS Warspite had removed most of the modern Kreigsmarne's destroyer fleet in Norway. See above with the Scharnhorsts for why that was (bizarrely) in the Bismarck's favor.
- A 1 in a MILLION hit on Hood's aft magazine.
- So back to that bit about Naval Development, to make a long story short Battleships are expensive, and arms races in Battleships even more so. So after WWI the Washington and London Naval Treaties were signed to limit the size of ships and have a building holiday. This means the ships of most navies were of a set tonnage and most were quite old.
- Compared to
herhis peers the Bismarcks are actually rather inefficient, they were just finished finished first. The Italian Littorios carry one more gun in a better layout, and are better at pretending to be in treaty limits, though they have shorter cruising range range. The Americans have the South Dakotas (think stubby Iowas) which are just flat out better, carrying more bigger guns and better armor. Yamato barely needs an explanation as to her comparative capabilities. Even the French were able to almost build a solid counter. Finally the British equivalent was the King George V which, as the lead ship proved when she caught Bismarck after he sunk Hood, were able to give a a solid match when they had had the time warships needed to work up. Lastly there are just a lot of armature mistakes in her design. Like parts of her fire control not being under the armored deck, or that his main batteries have a bad habit of knocking out his own radar. They also mounted a turtle back armor system that is very good a close ranges but generally considered an outdated concept by the time they were built There are reasons for all of these things but combined they make a ship that succeeds by being the biggest kid on the block, but that was not an advantage they were ever going to keep for very long.
- Graf Zepplin: The Nazi's sole attempt at building an aircraft carrier that was a weird carrier/cruiser hybrid. Not the best idea because having the heavy guns meant it could field less planes and having planes meant that it would punch below its' weight in shooting match with other surface assets, though this is theoretical. Never completed, due to the squabbling between Göring and the Admiralty whose department this ship belongs to and the ever decreasing need of an aircraft carrier in continental Europe. Despite never being officially cancelled until the end of the war, frequent changes to the design and the planes that were supposed to be used with it as well as severe materiel shortages made sure that construction was put on hold in 1943 and the, by that time about 85% complete ship was moved from port to port in the Baltic Sea. The Soviets captured it in 1945, used it for target practice and ultimately sunk it in 1947 off the coast of Danzig (or Gdansk in Polish), where its wreck was rediscovered in 2006.
Wunderwaffen. One thing that caught the imagination of the world and started the "Superior German Engineering" meme. As a preface, civilian engineering is great in Germany. Military? Well... you'll see in a bit. This is the place any of the "Nazi Super science" stuff goes. You want lightning guns? Wunderwaffen. Super tanks? Wunderwaffen. Moon rockets? Wunderwaffen. Hitler in a giant robot spider powered by the souls of the damned? Wunderwaffen.
A lot of people can argue that things like the Wunderwaffe and to a lesser degree the Gen 3 heavy tanks like the Tiger and Panther were wastes of time, money and resources in a time where they desperately could not afford to spend all three. These same people argue that it would have been preferable to produce more panzer IV's and Stugs then produce expensive Tigers or Wunderwaffe. However the truth is, as usual, a lot more nuanced. Take a quick look at even a modern map of Europe and you quickly find the same truth the Nazi's ran into no matter how they ignored: Germany is small. They don't have the same kind of resources at there disposal that Russia or America and England (Maybe France on a one-on-one), especially when their colonial Empires are factored in. There is, frankly, no way Germany could ever produce enough tanks to match the American horde of Sherman or Soviet onslaught of T-34's, and there is no way for Germany to keep all those tanks fueled. It is with this mind set that one can understand the reason for the Wunderwaffen and Gen 3 heavy tanks. If there is no way to produce as many tanks as your enemy's, your only options is to pack so much power into each individual war machine that they can achieve favorable kill/death ratios to make up the difference. At the core it's space marine logic, a few stronger units outfighting many times their number.
When put that way it makes the Wunderwaffe sounds like a good idea in theory. In practice they turned out not to be, due to many different factors going from limitations that could not be overcome with tech from the forties to nepotism and human stupidity (more on this below). It is indeed true that the different wonder weapon projects were on the bleeding edge of their epoch's technology when envisioned, next generation devices which most of the scientists of other nations had been thinking about/started to toy with, but had yet to reach prototype much less combat stage. Yes, the Germans pioneered a lot of things that were afterwards acquired and adapted by the Allies and the Soviet Union. The problem was, at the start of the war, the technology to make said Wunderwaffe efficient weapons (a real guidance system for the V1 and V2, for instance, and a decent fuel valve for V-1's to avoid engine death after a hundred turns) simply wasn't there yet, and once the war got into full-swing and the attendant drain on fighting a multi-front war along with the effects of Allied strategic bombing became dominant, the Germans never managed to close the gap. All that the Wunderwaffen could have been agreed upon having accomplished is the initial psychological shock upon deployment (such as the unstoppable V-2 launches), which wasn't much of a big deal after the human mind would adapt to the new threat.
On the negative side, while the German quest for military innovation lead to a number of advances and efficient war machines that did have everyone else scrambling to catch up, most were nothing more than a drain on Germany's already limited resources. Hitler had a documented fascination with anything that screamed "German Supremacy" and was willing to throw money at any such proposal. Thus, for every successful development that led to for instance the Messerschmitt Bf 109 (which was a very good plane and a potential game changer); you had more half-successes like the Tiger/VK3X.XX series/Ferdinand-Elephant/... (which were decent enough machines in the field but were horribly costly and maintenance-intensive) and all the associated waste of time and resources that went into completely hare-brained projects like the Ratte. Later on, once the multi-front war turned against Germany, it turned into an arguable desperation for something-anything to one-shot win-the-war. As you can imagine with four hands strangling Germany, one smelling of vodka, one of bourbon and apple pie, one of tea and gin and the last of white bread and frog legs, these weapons were developed and produced with a shortage of resources and time and the lack of quality only exacerbated their various shortcomings and strained an already breaking economy. They were rather dismissively called "voo-vah" by Allied troops, and they allegedly thanked Hitler for ultimately shortening the war by authorizing the waste of resources on them. Perhaps ironically, the Wunderwaffen did help to shorten the war, since those resources may have been better used on propping up a failing wartime economy, or building "boring but effective" war materiel. As with anything on this wiki, YMMV and you're encouraged to do your own research (and find a lot of really interesting stories in the process; did you know that at point-blank range, the standard 88mm AP round could rip a furrow through the entire length of the roof of a M4 turret, peeling open the steel like a centre-parting in hair? SCIENCE!)
- V1 flying bomb: The V1 is considered as an early version of the cruise missile and was used in the bombing of England, since a city was pretty much all they COULD accurately hit (and even then). The V1's used an early version of a Pulse jet and they were quickly called "buzz bombs," "doodlebugs," or "farting furies" to discourage people from calling them "robot bombs," which gives the impression that they were unstoppable. Fun fact about the V1: it uses the same fuel as a type of beetle uses to defend itself. It was infamously known for cutting its engine as it dived (due to a fuel flow error), leading to it suddenly becoming silent just before it smashed into the ground. Its entire "guidance computer" was nothing more than a simple gyroscope system to keep it level and flying, plus a small spinning propeller in the nose that would set the flaps to dive the V1 into the ground once it revolved a certain amount of times (calculated to have covered the distance to the target city). Far too inaccurate to be used against a military target, the V1 was ultimately a gigantic waste. After the war though, with American and Soviet resources and improved controls, it founded the basis of modern tactical bombardment. Strategic? See right below.
- V2 rocket: The V2 was the world's first ballistic missile and spacefaring craft. The scientists that developed it, including Werner von Braun, went on to work for NASA and developed the booster rockets on the Saturn V launch vehicle (Nazi science really did put a man on the Moon in the end). Unlike its brother the V1, it was utterly unstoppable by AA; not a single inbound V2 was ever shot down by anti-aircraft fire, owing to it moving at 3 times the speed of sound. It was the first vehicle to ever reach space (but not the first object, that honor falls to Imperial German artillery in WW1, specifically the Paris Gun), from a vertical test launch in 1943, and after the war it was very frequently reused by the Americans (with extra shit often strapped on top) as an early spacecraft, with grainy images returned from suborbital flights in space as early as 1946. Less of a waste than the V1 but even so, without a decent guidance system it had a hard time hitting England as well as the dubious distinction of being the only weapon which killed more people in its manufacture than it did enemies.
- Horten 229 and Horten 18: While technically Nazi aircraft, they really deserves to be here, not up in Aircraft. Commonly known as the "Nazi stealth fighter," this twin-turbojet flying-wing fighter was found in a secret workshop hangar by invading American forces. Nobody knows for certain if the Horten 229 was originally built for stealth, but it's all-wood construction and smooth radar-fouling shape, coupled with radar-absorbing paint on the outer shell makes a fairly clear case for a stealth aircraft (Though the allies had already been fielding wooden aircraft for years and the Germans knew Radar worked poorly on them). The concept that the 229 was build around was the "3x1000": 1000kph, 1000km range, 1000kg bomb payload. This, in 1943. During test flights, it outperformed the Me. 262 while using exactly the same engines. It was probably going to be used to fly through or knock out the British radar array in a second, never-realized "Battle of Britain 2: Electromagnetic Boogaloo." The Horten 18 was an even bigger flying wing, with a huge wingspan and 6 jet engines. This one was designed to be an intercontinental bomber, intending to hit American cities as the western front made Hitler angrier and angrier. The Horten 18 was never built, but the 229 was rather successfully test flown. Both planes looks quite a bit like the modern B2 stealth bomber, which isn't much of a surprise considering the Americans hauled the Horten 229 prototype back home to be studied in a secret airforce base (where it is today). The designs failed for several reasons: lack of funds and insufficient stabilizing hard/software for flying wing aircrafts in 1940's.
- Maus: The Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus ("mouse") is the largest tank ever built. A 200 metric ton monster with a 128mm (5 inch) main gun, and a 75mm co-axial gun in the turret, it crept along at a blistering 13 kph and sucked down liters of gas per kilometer. The most amazing thing is that (beyond not cancelling the project on sight like anyone withing hailing distance of sanity would) they actually managed to build this tank. Five were ordered, but only two prototypes and one turret were built. It was originally going to be called the Mäuschen (Little Mouse), but because the Germans liked schadenfreude more than irony, just Maus stuck. Realistically, neither front's tanks would have had the firepower to penetrate the Maus, only extreme-caliber anti-tank guns and artillery fire would have done the job, however it was so big that there was no road or bridge big enough to take it so it had to have special snorkling gear to get past river. Its extremely slow speed and massive size, however, likely would have made it prime bait for bombers (which is one of the reasons why modern militaries don't use heavy tanks anymore). While neither side had anti-tank weapons strong enough to penetrate its armor, it's more then likely it would never get there even if it was built. It's not quite a Baneblade, but they were getting there. The Nazi's really didn't want anyone to get this monster, so they blew up the complete first model. The second Maus, armed with the first one's turret, was towed back to Russia by invading forces, and currently resides in the Kubinka Tank museum for all to see.
- Ratte: The Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte ("rat") was an even larger tank, or "land cruiser", since it was essentially a naval warship on tracks. Never actually built, despite being ordered by Hitler. The Rat was to be a 1000 metric ton tank, mounting a naval turret with two 280mm guns, a 128mm anti tank gun, eight 20mm FlaK cannons, and two 15mm aircraft cannons, surpassing even the Eleven Barrels Of Hell of the Baneblade. It would have been so heavy that it would have destroyed every road it used, capable of wrecking a town just by running through it, and it would have collapsed every bridge it crossed. It needed two U-BOAT motors to get around, or maybe EIGHT 20 CYLINDER ENGINES. Not surprisingly, Albert Speer canned the project (mostly because a single bomber dropping a 500kg bomb on top of the thing would fuck its day up immensely), which is a great shame because A- Building and maintaining such a monster would have posed a noticeable strain on Germany's logistics, thus accelerating their defeat (it would have required about six months worth of the Reichs ENTIRE STEEL PRODUCTION just to build the damm thing) and B- It would have made the most awesome museum piece in the known universe.
- Karl-Gerät The Karl-Gerät is one of the very few real world weapon ever built that is BIGGER then its 40k equivalent. Karl weighs 124 tons, is armed with a 60cm (24 inch) gun that fires a shell that weights more than a ton, that can hit a target between four and ten kilometers away depending on the size of its shell. This thing was the largest self-propelled gun ever made and it could give even a (admittedly small) Titan pause for thought. These things were actually used in combat to decent effect in Warsaw, but had mixed results in other deployments. It fucked up any target royally when it hit like famously the Prudential in Warsaw, but the Gerät was so big and slow that it had to be disassembled and put on special tractor trailers to move around (one hell of a logistic operation) and and was moved any real distance by train. Its shells were carried by special turret-less Panzer IIIs. Surprisingly one of these things survived the war and was captured by the Russians. It's currently in the Kubinka Tank Museum along side the only Maus heavy tank in the world and assorted other war trophies.
- Schwerer Gustav: An excellent example of the brilliance and impracticality of Wunderwaffen, Schwerer Gustav was a railway gun that resembled a cruiser fucking a freight train and an artillery piece, built in the late 30's to defeat the Maginot Line. Two were built, the other called "Dora." It is a descendant of the German Empire's 1918 "Paris gun," a smaller gun ("only" 238mm's) built in World War One to shell Paris from Germany, 120 kilometers away (a range so far they had to account for the curvature of the Earth when firing the damn thing). Gustav was designed to defeat any fortifications in existence; as such, it was the largest-calibre rifled weapon ever used in combat, the heaviest mobile artillery piece ever built in terms of overall weight, and fired the heaviest shells of any artillery piece. It fired 80cm (31 inch) shells, weighing 4,800kg to 7,100kg up to 48km. The AP shells could penetrate 7m of reinforced concrete. It completely succeeded in its job of defeating any existing fortification, but at the same time was completely impractical: it required two specially-laid parallel railway tracks to move (yes, it was a railway gun too big for the railway), took 54 hours to set up for firing, and had a rate of fire of 14 rounds per day as charges had to be heated up in a special device for roughly 1 day before firing. Since building a gun that fired shells that wouldn't fit through the front door to your house wasn't excessive enough for the Nazis, plans were made to mount the Schwerer Gustav 80cm gun on a 1,500t self propelled artillery platform (the Landkreuzer P.1500 Monster) with two 15cm howitzers and multiple 15mm autocannons as secondary weapons. Unfortunately, both guns were scrapped near the end of the war. The Schwerer Gustav, overall, was the biggest (if the strange rocket exhaust powered V3 listed bellow is not counted) motherfucking gun on the planet. The weapon likely could have blown a Titan away if its shields were down, and much science-fiction set in WW2 features the gun (notably, in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, the gun is used to blow up two landed alien spacecraft from sixty kilometers away).The fucking thing was hilariously impractical as there is no recorded cases it of successfully hitting the target (and with the accuracy of that thing it's a miracle no German forces were harmed). There is an urban legend about one AP shot detonating an ammo dump through 15 meters of water and 7 meters of concrete during the Siege of Sevastapol, but no hard proof supports it.
- V3: If you thought Gustav up there was nutty wait to you here about the V3, a gun that's as big as a 40k titan. The V3 was an attempt to make a gun that could shoot across the English channel, and there were a number of sane guns that could do this including railway guns and big bunkers built with battleship battery's. but they could only shoot between the narrowest point between England and continental Europe. The V3 was built to shell London from France. I said early it was as big as a titan, and I was not being sarcastic, (though it would only be as big as a knight, which despite being the smallest titan is still bloody big) from breach to muzzle the gun was 130 meters or 430 feet long with a bore of 150mm or 5.9 inches across. Rather then use a single big explosion to propel the shells, the V3 used rocket motors mounted in pairs, set so there exhaust would thrust a 140kg shell out of the barrel like a reverse bolter. This set up allowed it to fire a shell out to 165km and put London well in range. Of course like all of the Nazi Wunderwaffen, in practice it sounded good but was actually kinda shit. the gun was so big, remember 130meters that it had to be built in a hill meaning it was impossible for it to change target after being built, and after all the time you spent building the damn thing, by the time you were done it might no longer be useful to have, such as what happened during the Nazi Operation Nordwind. Further even if you ignore the logistical issues compared to other period artillery the V3 was just plain shit. The 16"/50 caliber Mark 7 guns of the USS Iowa class battleship, had a caliber of 16 inch or 406mm, and fired a shell that weighed 1,225 kg, so over twice as big around and almost exactly nine times as heavy, and the Iowa had nine of them, and it could move. and to put the cherry on the HMS sound plan, by the time the first five guns were finally built to shell London, the British airforce destroyed them with Tallboy Earthquake bombs. If anything proves how silly the idea of Nazi Super Science is, let the fate of the V3 super gun stand testament to how many times Hitler's scientists, and Hitler himself, had been hit with the stupid stick growing up. Hitler in particular, who was punished by his enraged father severely.
- N-Stoff: Someday, somewhere in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute there was an Evil Overlord that was unhappy about the quantity of flammen his flammenwerfer could werf - so he got around and took two guys named Ruff and Krug to play around with some flourine and some chlorine. Now, if you studied something about chemistry, you may realize that using "flourine" and "chlorine" in the same sentence does not spell good news for anybody, but you know, Nazi Evil Overlords... What they discovered made their commissioners - yes, the same ol' boys who thought gassing millions was cool - go NOPE!, and when you discover something that's too crazy even for Crazy Nazi Science standards you know you're in for a treat. Indeed, Chlorine Trifluoride (as the compound is called) proved to be pretty good in burning bunkers to the ground - and by "burning bunkers" we mean the whole bunker, as in it reacts with the motherfucking concrete - plus it doubled as a chemical warfare agent, giving off corrosive and toxic fumes. N-Stoff (translating to Substance-N; yeah, they kinda failed the naming here) burns at a raging 2400 degrees Celsius - twice the temperature of lava and almost enough to BOIL steel - and can set fire to things that shouldn't burn like glass, wet sand (or asbestos (the same substance that they used to make fireproof stuff out of) and things that have already been burnt. In fact fighting the fire with water is counterproductive, the water is just more fuel and it reacts to create deadly acids and gasses. In the 1950's a ton of the stuff was spilled on a warehouse: the chemical then burned through a foot of Concrete and three feet gravel, while releasing a deadly gas that corroding everything it came into contact with. If there ever was something like Enuff Dakka for flamethrowers, Substance N came close to delivering it. The Nazis planned to use it in war, but were never able to produce enough of it (only a few dozen kg total), presumably because it kept incinerating everyone who tried to make it. It later found its use in the semiconductor and nuclear industry - after being dubbed a bit too violent to use as rocket fuel, one rocket scientist famously said that the best way to deal with a Chlorine Trifluoride accident was "a good pair of running shoes". Also, Sly Marbo uses Substance N to spice up his Catachan Take Away.
- E-Series: A very obscure piece of German tank engineering history, that was brought to mainstream attention by being featured in World of Tanks. The Entwicklung series of tanks were pure design studies, never produced or even properly conceptualized as an attempt in streamlining tank production and as replacements for the entire tank pool of the Wehrmacht. It consisted of 5 tanks in total (E-10, E-25, E-50, E-75, E-100) with different purposes and their name corresponded with their weight class. By the time these design studies were made (around late 44 to early 45) producing an entirely new series of tanks was way beyond the capabilities of the by that time disintegrating remainder of the German heavy industry, so it's best not to read too much into these tanks other than them being interesting curiosities. From what was left of reserve steel, the Germans managed to scramble together one incomplete E-100 chassis that was found by the Americans and handed over to the British, which used it for target practive and ultimately scrapped it in 1950.
- Uranprojekt: The Uranprojekt (Uraniumproject as the most literal translation) was the attempt of German scientists to create a nuclear bomb, or at least to create a sustainable chain reaction. It found its way into popular fiction as the German attempt in creating an atomic bomb, often claiming they almost had one, but when taking a closer look, this isn't exactly the truth. It didn't exactly go all that well. Germany suffered a major brain drain when it expelled all its Jewish scientists and it had next to no access to Uranium or materials that could be used as a moderator (like highly pure graphite or heavy water). The material problems were sorta solved when France and Norway fell into their hands, but the problems only increased from then on. The scientists were unsure what to use as fuel for the bomb as both proposed elements (Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239) are extremely rare and need to be created artificially in breeding reactors. To put it in perspective: Plutonium wasn't believed to be a natural occuring element at all until the 1990s and common Uranium ore contains usually 2% Uranium in its most stable form (U-238) and generally only 0,7% of all Uranium is of the 235 variety (U-238 is much more stable than U-235 and therefore harder to split). One must also take into consideration that nuclear technology in general was in its infancy and just at the very onset of leaving the purely theoretical stage, which adds to the problems in procuring enough viable fission material outlined above. The lead scientist of the project, Werner Heisenberg, (yes, that's where the name Heisenberg comes from) also had a crisis of conscience and reduced his work on the project significantly. After the Invasion of the Soviet Union, the project was abandoned by the Wehrmacht and handed over to the civilian Reichsforschungsrat (Council of Science of the Reich) because of the material expenses and the lack of results. The project experienced a significant number of setbacks, the most important of which was an explosion of a globe filled with Uranium powder in 1942, which destroyed a substantial amount of Germanys Uranium reserves (The accident in question actually bears a striking resemblance to what happened in Chernobyl in 1986, thankfully only on a much smaller scale). But it didn't stop there. The Allies caught wind of the project and feared that the Germans could succeed in developing a nuclear bomb and sent Commandos in a series of daring operations that make for excellent reading material. In short, all German facilities that could produce materials, together with practically any Uranium and heavy water for use in the Uranprojekt were destroyed by early 1944 either through sabotage or air raids and the project worked off remaining reserves from then on. One last experiment in Haigerloch, South Germany was conducted in Febuary 1945 and failed in producing a nuclear chain reaction. The leading scientists were taken into custody by the Americans, others from the rank-and-file by the Soviets, where they continued their work on the Soviet Unions nuclear weapons project. The effect the Uranprojekt was more to found in the looming paranoia of the Allies, particularly the Americans, about a possible German nuclear bomb that drove a lot of the reasearch in the Manhattan-Project, with the irony being that the Germans never even came close to create a critical nuclear chain reaction, let alone a bomb. In hindsight, the project was in fact a complete failure.
- Die Glocke (The Bell): Okay, so you know the Nazi Zombie craze that got started back in 1941 (seriously the first Nazi Zombie film was made during WWII), and the purported occult obssession several higher-ups in the party had? This is one of the end results of that branch of PseudoScience & Conspiracy level crazy. Much like the US's philadelphia Project, or M.K Ultra; Die Glocke was supossed to be "something" that would break the laws of reality, bring back the dead, power all the factories, and mind control the enemies of the Reich. It's also complete horse-shit, potentially made up by a Polish Author/Journalist (I. Witkowski), and then later popularised by a British Author/Military Journalist (N. Cook). Still as it has helped shape the more fantasical view of the Nazi Wunderwaffen, especially in the realm of /v/idya, and the "factual" books are a good laugh, is worth a mention.
- Sonnengewehr (Sun Gun): Slightly less fantastical than the Bell above (as in theoretically feasible but just as impossible to realize with the tech available at the time) was the Sonnengewehr, or the Sun Gun. Orginally proposed in 1929 by Hermann Oberth, the Sonnengewehr was a hypothesised space station that would orbit around the planet roughly five thousand miles up, and focus the Sun's rays into a ray capable of burning down cities, or boiling dry the oceans using a fuckhueg reflector made of metallic sodium. While the numbers involved are probably fairly wooly given just how batshit crazy the Nazi science machine was, the scientists involved claimed that the Sun Gun could be completed within 50 to 100 years. On an amusing sidenote, the Russians eventually demonstrated the concept was sound (if stupidly impractical for any intended purpose) with their Znamaya solar mirror prototype in the nineties.
- Stahlhelm: The many variants of the iconic German helmet were derived from the medieval sallet during the Great War. The purpose of these helmets was to keep shrapnel out of one's head. It was better than it's contemporaries by better protecting the sides and back of the head as well. Not to be confused with the spiked Prussian Pickelhaube. Used by all kinds of German troops but the Fallschirmsjäger (paratroopers) as it is impractical to jump with it. Paratroopers had a special version of the helmet that removed the front and back flanges, giving it a much more streamlined appearance. The basic shape of the helmet would go on to become the basis for most modern helmets, especially as the shape was well suited to wearing a headset under it.
- Stielhandgranate: Often called "stick grenades" or "potato mashers," these are those grenades on sticks you see the Germans always using. Used by popping off the metal cap at the end of the stick, giving the cord which doubled as a fuse a good yank, and throwing it to your target (of course, before the fuse went off). The Stielhandgranate is what is called a "offensive" grenade known now as a "concussive" grenade. The difference is an offensive grenade uses explosive pressure waves to kill an enemy, thus allowing you to use it while advancing without getting a face full of shrapnel, while a defensive grenade (like the US "pineapple" grenade) uses shrapnel to kill an enemy, affecting a much larger area but also putting you in the blast radius, hence they were designed to be thrown over the wall of a fox hole or trench line at advancing enemy troops while you keep your head down. The reason the Stielhandgranate has the stick is to give you more leverage when throwing it as compared to a round grenade, which worked but nonetheless history moved past the concept and grenades on sticks didn't keep.
- Geballte Ladung: Take your grenades off of their sticks, wrap them all up around one stick grenade, and tie them up around it with something. You see, as the Stielhandgranate was basically just a head of TNT lit up after the fuse at the end of the stick reached the explosive filler in the head, cramming more of these explosive heads around one will lead to a bigger boom when that one goes off like planting more TNT on the same detonation location will, though the added weight would reduce the range advantage of hurling it by the stick and made it harder to carry them en masse (regular Stielhandgranates were only barely harder to attach to someone than actual sticks and soldiers could easily cram them just about anywhere on their person). This "bundled charge" was improvised for use against harder targets, like armoured vehicles (though it didn't take long in World War 2 for this to become useless against tanks) and buildings. Six explosive heads fit nicely when tied around one stick grenade's head on the horizontal plane parallel to the head's circular ends, which was the usual upper limit for this improvisation, though logically it would be quite possible to tie even more around the grenade while making it even more difficult to throw and making it more resemble an explosive charge that you can't expect to throw very far with a stick in it.
- Nebelwerfer: A family of weapons whose very name means "Fog/Mist Thrower"; they were listed as smoke screen launchers before the war (to get around the Treaty of Versailles), but in truth were rather deadly artillery pieces designed to deploy chemical munitions, though in the extent of the war they never did (actually they did in Crimea), probably because Hitler had survived gas attacks in the last war and drew the line at using them himself and the fact that using chemical weapons would invite retaliation. These types of weapons included some mortars, but, more importantly, rocket artillery. In Germany between the wars, there was a fair bit of interest in new rocket designs (as conventional artillery was strictly regulated/forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles) and the Nazis knew they had use for that. These rockets were inaccurate, but you could easily fire a whole bunch of the things off at once for a good saturation bombing, though thanks to the smoke you had to scoot away or the other side would drop their own artillery on top of you. The rocket based system made a very distinctive sound. The Germans nicknamed the thing "Heulende Kuh" (Bellowing Cow) and US troops would come to call them "Screaming Mimi" and "Moaning Minnie".
- The Germans would also later on mount the launcher onto a half-track known as the "Panzerwerfer" (armored thrower). In many ways a German analogue to the BM-21, the Panzerwerfer saw intensive use during the Battle of the Bulge.
- Goliath: A remotely controlled mini-vehicle on treads, stuffed full of explosives. They were driven up to an enemy tank or a bunker and then blown up. (Games Workshop stole the idea and design for the Imperial Guard Cyclops.) Good idea, but the execution was lacking since Radio Control wasn't good enough yet. They had a cable like some sort of bargain remote-controlled car which limited their range dramatically, and cutting this would utterly defeat the weapon. (At least it's not as bad as the Russians and their kamikaze dogs which they trained to run under tanks, that is, THEIR OWN TANKS, but I digress...) On the flip side, American soldiers often made great fun with captured Goliaths by riding them around as the tiny thing could carry quite a load.
- Flammenwerfer: A werfer zat werfs flammen. Your standard flamethrower in both name and function, though there wasn't much use for it - There were no real line wars like in WW1 where people sat in
comfylittle (hell) holes and took potshots at each other. not to say they weren't used. but unlike the trench wars of WW1 most of the fighting was mobile rather than static. For added nastiness, some bigger ones were mounted in Flammpanzers, able to shoot hundreds of liters of sticky, burning fuck you over distances exceeding 50 meters. Getting issued one was generally regarded one of the least desirable jobs on all sides of the war, Flamethrower operators were prime targets for reasons that should be obvious but also because everyone shot them on the spot when they surrendered. It also bears mentioning that actually firing a flamethrower is a very unpleasant sensation.
- 8.8cm flak gun: Known as the "Acht-Acht", this is THE German gun of world war two, and it sums up the German experience in the first part of the war; of never being truly ready but by being very clever and doctrinally flexible. The 88mm was designed as an anti-air weapon (Flak standing for Fliegerabwehrkanöne, or AA gun) built to throw a high explosive shell as high into the air as it could so that it could explode somewhere in the same ballpark as the enemy plane and put one piece of shrapnel into something important and bring it down, which is a role it preformed throughout the war. However against the heavy allied tanks such as the British Matilda 1 and French B1, the German tanks of the time had no ability to penetrate their frontal armor The the 8.8 cm flak guns however, thanks to the high muzzle speed required to fire their explosive shell so high into the air, were able to deal with enemy tanks at unparalleled ranges at the time. So the guns were pulled to the front by a certain Erwin Rommel during the battle of Arras, the barrels lowered, a French-British tank-heavy counterattack stopped; and it snowballed from there. In case your wondering, the reason why the 88's had anti-tank rounds was because while not designed to deal with enemy tanks, they had a secondary role in busting enemy bunkers and fortifications, hence why an ANTI-AIR gun had an AP round. Germany quickly pushed to have both a proper PaK version of the 88 (Pak standing for Panzerabwehrkanöne, or AT gun) that had a lower profile, was easier to move around and had a shield to stop stray bullets from decimating the crew; and a tank armed with the 88 as it became clear that against the soviet union, tanks were only going to get stronger. Which is why the Tiger I is a metal slab with a huge gun: its job was to get an 88mm gun into the battlefield as fast as possible. Using AA guns as AT guns was such a good idea that the US did the same thing with their 90mm AA gun converting it into a anti-tank weapon for the M36 tank destroyer and the Pershing tank; and so did the Russians with their 85 mm gun for the upgunned versions of the T-34 and KV-1. The Imperial Guard Basilisk cannon looks almost exactly like the Flak 88.
- 2 cm Flak 30/38/Flakvierling: Remember the "Acht-Acht"? Now add two of these smaller guns to each flak 88 site, hill, hedge, ditch and rooftop in Europe and watch the fireworks. The German answer to the question of "enuff dakka" in a more reasonable package than MG42 which went through metal reserves was this little bastard, which was like an American 30.cal firing explosive and armor piercing rounds. Obviously devastating to infantry and aircraft, it even rained sufficient hailstorms of rounds that damaged and threw off approaching lightly armored vehicles enough to make a difference, and given luck, it could rip through tank tracks too. And the Germans made 150.000 of these fuckers. And those 150.000 Bolter-Expies, these unsung weapons, did more damage and inflict casualties than any other weapon during the Normandy landing and the push inland. As explained here.
- The S-mine: The Sprengmine (jumping mine), or, to use the name US soldiers gave it, "Bouncing Betty", was one of the most widely used and most effective, weapons of its class. It was a mine that when triggered 'bounced' about three feet into the air before exploding at about waist height in an 'air burst', able to inflict casualities (The military definition of the word meaning more then just dead) at up to 140 feet. And it had a tendency to not kill you, but maim you. A deliberate decision, as the Nazis estimated that a wounded soldier takes up a lot more resources than a dead one. Later in the war, some were made out of glass and even pottery, with minimal metal parts, to make them even harder to find. Suffice to say, they still havent found all of them... 1.93 million S-mines were made and it was widely copied after the war, these things are still killing people to this day as old mines forgot about are stepped on and the explosive proves itself still good. While the S-mine is hardly unique in that regard (Unexploded US aircraft bombs and shells make up the bulk of what they still find in Germany, around 2,000 pounds year according to the Smithsonian) land mines, like the S-mine, are still dug up by the truck load in North Africa.
- Pervitin: Not a traditional weapon as such, but a key element in how the Nazis blitzkrieg tactics were so effective, Pervitin was a methamphetamine drug that provided the base recipe for today's crystal meth and which was distributed to all members of the Nazi military. Its powerful stimulatory effect enabled them to fight harder for longer, and was essential in the breakneck races from the border to the battlefield. With all of the Nazi troopers hopped up on this drug, which later incorporated cocaine for increased effectiveness, Nazi forces could keep fighting effectively well after their enemies were worn out. At least until their supply lines were cut and addiction/withdrawal symptoms crippled them all, that is. The use of pervitin was cut drastically after the France campaign for that reason (and for fear of long-term side effects, especially when discipline issues started mounting), though many pilots and tank crew members still used it readily, especially during Stalingrad (with the hilarious side effect of turning into an on-the-spot popsicle when the crash came). It could also be issued for important operations. The idea that all Wehrmacht soldiers were drooling junkies is however wrong, funny, but wrong. It has a fascinating legacy that lasted much longer than the Third Reich did: The Bundeswehr and NVA (Armed forces of Communist East Germany) kept stockpiles of it well into the 70s for emergency use and for paratroopers, as did the US Army in Vietnam. The first climb of Mount Everest in 1953 also saw extensive use of Pervitin and President John F. Kennedy used it to treat his chronic back pain.
- Hs 293 & Fritz-X: Another German WWII oddity, the Hs 293 and Fritz-X were basically remote-controlled bombs and the grand-parents of modern precision-guided ammo. In an effort to improve bombing accuracy without having to dive at the target, they came up with this idea: take a huge bomb, add small wings with control surfaces, actuators, a radio receiver and a big flare up the bomb's arse so the bombardier can see where it's going (and a rocket booster in the case of the Hs 293); and then add a radio transmitter with a joystick in the airplane so the bombardier can correct its descent. There you go, highly precise steerable bomb. It actually worked really well, but not without drawbacks: drop altitude was limited, since the bombardier needed to keep a line of sight on the flare, like all radio transmission it could be jammed and lastly the bomber had to remain in level flight during the bomb's entire descent to allow the bombardier to steer it. Ultimately the bombs only saw limited anti-ship use, the combination of limited drop altitude and level flight made the bomber a way too easy prey for any fighter defending its target. Still, they were pretty efficient weapons in the right circumstances as the Roma, the Littorio and the Warspite can attest to.
- Kettenkrad (Sd. Kfz 2): Those stylish tracked motor cycles, build as a light general-purpose platform that could do basically anything, from reconnaissance to lying down telephone and radio cables and towing light AT-guns and artillery pieces. A very solid design in general, it was very manuverable for its weight, had great off-road capabilities and was very easy to drive; if you knew how to drive a motor cycle you could drive a Kettenkrad. This was achieved by a rather complex steering gear that used the front wheel to steer it when making turns of about 8°, when making sharper turns a mechanism slowed down one of the tracks. It remained in production and use throughout the entire war.
- Zimmerit: Ever wondered why so many German Tanks had such a patchy look? and why German WW2 tanks are such a bitch to model? This stuff is the reason. Zimmerit was a thick paste consisting of Barium Sulfate, Polyvinyl acetate, Zinc Sulfide and some filling material that was applied at the end of tank production in thick layers with spatulas, giving it its distict look. Zimmerit served as a reliable protection against magnetic anti-tank grenades like the German Hafthohlladung or . . . nothing. No other nation other then Germany deployed a magnetic anti-tank mine during the war, though concerns that the Hafthohlladung could be easily copied made the idea of Zimmerit a decent idea at the start of the war. However rumours about it igniting after sustaining hits lead to an order to cease production and application of the stuff on tanks. The rumours were never proven, but applying the stuff took days at best and by 1944 the German High Command didn't really want to bother with it anymore, especially since rocket propelled AT-weaponry like the Bazooka made magnetic mines obsolete anyway.
- Jerrycans: Yes, the instantly recognizable jerrycan is in fact a German invention, which given that the Germans in WW1 and 2 were derogatory known as 'jerrys' does make a lot of sense in hindsight. Designed by Wehrmacht Engineers in the late 30s as an improvement over predecessors, which required special tools and funnels to fill, a task that was tedious and took up a lot of time, not to mention how bulky they were. The perfection of the jerrycan design cannot be understated; it's easy to stack, fill, takes up fairly little space and you can carry around a lot of them. The Germans were aware they had struck logistical-design gold and troops were under orders to destroy theirs cans rather than risk their capture, but unfortunately for them the design was brought to the Allies' attention when the American Paul Weiss traveled with a German friend through the entirety of India and realized that his modified car had no storage for reserve water, said German friend who had access to the German reserve stockpile of jerrycans brought them with him on the tour (though also fortunately for the Germans, it wouldn't be until 1943 that any of their enemies would mass-produce the can). After the tour, Weiss shared the design with the American military, who reverse engineered the thing and issued it to every motorized company in the US Army.
Not exactly their strongest area...
- Enigma: Enigma was a communications scheme based on a sophisticated but easy to use electromechanical encryption/decryption device resembling a cross between a typewriter and an odometer. When used with proper procedures it was the one of the most secure means of communication available in the world for its time, offering effectively 76 bit encryption with 1920's technology in a device that was superior to anything the allies had. SIGABA was comparably secure but far heavier and fragile, and the M-209 was far inferior in both ease of use and encryption strength (although it was still adequate). However the combination of lax discipline, reuse of settings, and notes from a polish customs inspection of an enigma device resulted in the technology being reverse engineered and cryptographic attacks being discovered. Only Kriegsmarine communications remained difficult to decrypt by the end of the war, due to their practice of using secret codebooks to further compress their messages prior to encryption.
- Bombing Beams: Wouldn't you know it, the Instrument Landing System used today at pretty much every major airport was originally invented to 'land' bombs on London in the middle of the night when the lights are out. By using narrow radio beams the Nazis could steer bombers to a precalculated drop point. All the pilots had to do was maintain a certain speed and altitude, and then drop their bombs when the signal detector said they should... except when the British were fucking with them. Towards the end they were fucking with them so hard German bomber pilots were landing at RAF bases believing they were in France. When it actually worked, such as at Coventry, it was more accurate than daytime saturation bombing, with most bombs falling within 90 meters of the beam centerline. This system is why Nazi bombing raids tended to less of a brief swarm like the allies used and more of a continuous bomb conveyor belt lasting most of the night; they would line up single file along the approach beam, and then after they hit the drop beam they'd change altitude, turn around, follow the beam back across the channel; no visibility needed. The British figured this out and started using their television antennas (which had far greater power output) to mess with the system. If the Nazis had continued to improve this technology with ECCM and built a lot more bombers instead of squandering money on Wunderwaffen, they probably would have won the Battle of Britain (even then, Göring would have found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory).
- Tank Radios: While today we take it for granted that any trooper anywhere in the galaxy could get a call from the emperor himself to execute order 66, this wasn't always the case. Throughout the 1930's, all German armored vehicles had radios, while their opponents would typically only have a radio for the unit commander. This was an enormous advantage for Nazi tank units that remained the case basically until America showed up. The Nazis also had the Torn.Fu.d2, a backpack portable infantry radio comparable to the American SCR-300, although they didn't distribute them as widely as the Americans did (this was an organizational thing; Germany dealt with communications by assigning a signals battalion to each division and delegating resources as needed, while the Americans always had radios at company level and sometimes had SCR-536 handy-talkies for individual platoons). The main problem the Germans had with radios was that lots of American soldiers were fluent in German(plus certain words that hint at communication are not too separated from English...).
- Zuse Z3: Lo and behold, for you look at the very first freely programmable digital computer in the world. Completed by Mathematician and Electronics Engineer Conrad Zuse in 1941, it was kept in extreme secrecy, so much so that it was rarely put into use. The rare times it was used, its purpose was to calculate trajectories for V2 rockets. Zuse advocated for its use in the war effort, but the original (and at the time only) device was destroyed in an allied bombing raid in 1943. Zuse built an improved successor, the Z4, just before the war came to a close. Although conditionally Turing complete, physically the Z3 was less advanced in implementation than its peers. Zuse was not able to procure thermionic components (vacuum tubes were in critically short supply for radios and radars in Germany) and so had to rely on electromechanical relays from phone switching gear; in practical terms this meant that the Z3 ran much slower than even purpose built non-Turing complete calculators such as the Atanasoff-Berry or the Colossus. The Z3 itself received little immediate recognition outside of Germany partly because of the American ENIAC computer; the strict secrecy Zuse worked under lead to the Z3 falling into relative obscurity, until the invalidation of the Sperry Rand patents in the 1970's, which hinged partly on Zuse's own patents which had been licensed to IBM as early as 1946 (FYI: you're reading this page on a computer today partly because those Sperry patents died; a year later the Altair 8800 began the long road of upstart Davids bringing down industry Goliaths). Today, a replica of the Z3 can be found in the German Museum in Munich. The only surviving (and probably only completed) Z4 computer was used as the main computer of the Mathematical Devision of the University of Zürich, Switzerland, until 1958, when it was sold to the German Museum in Munich where it remains to this day. An example of the Z3 working can be viewed here. (Video in German, good automatic translated English subtitles are available)