Spanning the entire globe and involving more countries than any other war, World War II (1939 – 1945) was also the largest armed war in human history. With its roots in the First World War, it was not a surprise to see the fusion of man and machine to the extent that witnessed the Second.
Never before had human seen such a dramatic and diverse flow of new scientific developments and new powerful weapons as World War II, culminating in the first use of nuclear weapons.
Machine gun: World War II saw many early designs still in use around the world together with some remarkable developments in reliability and rates of fire. Much of this was possible because of the consistent quality of ammunition, the fuel to drive the machine.
Small arms: pistols were one of the most prolific production weapons of WWII and rifles, then more accurate, standard for all infantry soldiers as most countries needed to arm their drafted armies rapidly with trusted, simple and effective weapons; grenades still widely used by all parties.
Field artillery served a vital role in World War II. Could be used to soften the ground an attack, set up to hold the front lines or called in from great ranges and at any time to support in face of heavy opposition or counter attack, field artillery often proved to be decisive in battle.
Heavy artillery: both World War I and II witnessed the use of extremely heavy artillery, most extensively by the German. Massive warheads over great distances, once launched, brought devastating and demoralising effects to enemy. However, it often proved impractical as it might take long to deploy.
Following the breakthroughs of the World War I, most countries realized that the development of tanks would play an integral and vital part of any future war. And they played a huge role in WWII, reaching new heights of capacities and technological advances. German tanks domiated all other rivals early in the war with their sheer power of production and their effective tactics and defeated by American forces by 1943 for these very reasons.
Since their poor fighting role in WWI, these found their way in the Second.
Small, fast and deadly, fighters were quick-response weapon, able to deploy actions at the moment of notice and powerful support weapon for vulnerable ground troops, bombers and ships. Their role was decisive in opening way for advancing troops.
Bombers were the ultimate long range heavy weapons of World War II, a role they still have. They can deliver massive firepower directly to enemy’s heart and destroy its vital resources, military targets, industry, eroding its strength in battle fields. Great Britain and the United States produced the most advanced bombers and the largest bomber forces of World War II, which had limited effectiveness early in the war due to technological difficulties but gradually came to be mighty forces towards the end.
Battleships of World War II represented both a powerful statement and ultimately a great destructive force. When unleashed with the freedom of the sea the battleship was feared for its massive guns.
Submarines were widely used by both sides in World War II, as they did in the First, as the ultimate weapon of naval blockade, sinking opponents’ merchant ships and warships. The German U-boats, following success in the first, was a “peril” to Allied navy. American joined the submarine warfare after Pearl Harbor in 1941 and gained significant achievements since 1943.
On August 6 and 9, 1945, the first and so far the only atomic bombs used in warfare were dropped to two Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing some 120,000 soldiers and civilians outright, and at least as many died of sickness and injuries during the next 5 years.
Japan surrendered short after that. Arguments linger over whether the use of such massive destruction weapon was justified. But one thing for sure: the threat of nuclear weapons overshadowed and indeed defined the Cold War, following the end of World War II.