German superiority myth? or reality. When I was younger I was sure that the Germans in WWII had a superior military and the most technologically advanced weapons, aircraft and equipment. Over the years my reading, studies and military experience cast doubt on the truth of this perception. Much published material, many websites and the opinions of many WWII history buffs tended to support my original perceptions but I became more and more convinced that it was myth not supported by fact. Some thoughts: 1.) The early German successes were more a product of Allied unpreparedness than of German superiority. In the West the German successes were as much the result of a military trained up to a wartime footing (Germany) vs. militaries in a peacetime mode or just beginning to move towards a wartime footing. To support this view just look at the Japanese, they had been at war or preparing for war since the 1930's. They decisively defeated the militaries of many of the same countries that Germany defeated. Their military conquered more territory, as quickly, if not more so than the German military. Contemporary perceptions were that they were invincible; they went virtually unchecked from one victory to another. In retrospect this can not be attributed to superior technology, very little to superior weapons (Zero fighter, Long Lance torpedo being the exceptions), and not to some inherent superiority of the Japanese soldier or their organizations. They were simply more proficient than their opponents at that point in time due to their level of training and combat experience. Early German success in Russia had as much to do with the Red Army still trying to recover from Stalin's purges of its leadership as it did to any inherent German superiority. 2.) Armored vehicles/tanks-Yes the German vehicles looked cooler but were they better? When it appeared in the deserts of North Africa, in British service, the M4 Sherman was the best tank on the battlefield, outclassing the German tanks it faced. When the T-34 first faced German armor on the Eastern Front it outclassed its German opponents even though it was still undergoing teething problems. Germany regained an individual technological advantage with its Tiger and Panther tanks (the latter a direct response to the T 34) but both were plagued throughout their service with mechanical unreliability issues. The Allies could have fielded more advanced tanks had they chosen to but they opted for mechanical reliability, mobility, and mass production. Upgrades to their tanks kept them competitive on an individual basis while numbers gave them a decisive edge overall. For instance the M4A3E8 Shermans and T34mod44 were still deadly to the late war German tanks. During the closing months of the war the U.S. fielded the M-26 Pershing and the Soviets the T-44 both of which re-established technological superiority over German Tanks and could have been fielded earlier than they were had the issue of victory over Germany been in doubt. 3.) Aircraft-From the start of the war the Western Allies enjoyed technological parity, more often than not superiority, as time progressed they increasingly enjoyed numerical superiority and they produced pilots of equal quality to Germany's pilots only in far greater numbers. The Soviets though initially suffering from inferior pilots and aircraft continually progressed. They developed a number of aircraft types that were, at least the equal of German types. They produced large quantities of pilots, many of which became the equals of the Germans they faced. They developed tactics that minimized their shortcomings in aircraft and pilot quality vs. the Luftwaffe until both pilots and aircraft types had time to improve. An example often cited as showing German technological superiority in aircraft types is the fielding of the ME-262. The fact is that the British developed the first jet engine; the Gloster Meteor was fielded only a short time after the ME-262 and the U.S. P-80, using British supplied jet engines, followed closely on their heels. Had Great Britain and the United States needed a jet aircraft to succeed in the air war over Europe they could have fielded jets earlier and in greater quantities than Germany could ever have hoped to achieve. The simple fact of the matter is, the Western Allies had large numbers of advanced performance aircraft in the air over Europe, had air superiority and fielding an operational jet aircraft was not of high priority. The Germans on the other hand were desperate for an edge to counter allied airpower, but various technical difficulties prevented fielding of the 262 any earlier than they did. Also, the 262, while providing a great increase in performance, didn't translate this increase into improved combat effectiveness. The ME-262 had a aerial kill ratio of 5:1, compare this to the P-51 11:1, the F6F 19:1, the F4U 11:1, the F4F 9:1 and the P-47 7.5:1.* The ME-109 had a better kill ratio than the 262!* *note: The kill ratios for the ME-109 and F6F are greatly skewed and those for the F4U and P-51 also, to a lesser degree. Early in the war the Germans faced more mediocre aircraft types and in many cases poorly/lesser trained pilots, especially in the East. When they encountered well trained pilots and good aircraft (such as in the Battle of Britain) their kill to loss ratio dropped dramatically. Later on the Eastern Front, when the Soviets had better tactics, pilots who'd survived the early slaughter and better aircraft, the kill to loss ratio narrowed. The F6F entered the war at a time when the quality of Japanese pilots had dramatically decreased; Japanese aircraft no longer enjoyed a performance edge as they had early war. The F4U Corsair though, first entered service while Japan still possessed large numbers of highly trained, veteran pilots. The initial versions of the Corsair were not as dominating as the later variants would be but, they leveled the playing field performance wise with the Zero, increased range over the Wildcat, while retaining the strengths, such as heavy firepower, ruggedness, pilot protection, etc. that had characterized it's predecessors in U.S. service. Late war while it still performed in the fighter role, more and more it's primary mission evolved into ground support, so when comparing it's kill ratio, to that of the Hellcat, you're not really getting a true picture. 4.) Electronics-Here the Western Allies enjoyed a marked technological advantage, in virtually all areas. Every German advance was quickly countered by further allied advances. 5.) Industrial technology-Germany wasn't even close. 6.) Military Engineering and Logistics-Once again Germany wasn't even close. 7.) Naval-German Naval prowess is most often illustrated by using the Bismark/Tirpitz and the U-Boat campaign as examples. We'll take the U-Boats first. The Germans had advanced submarines, highly proficient officers and crews, superior tactics and were extremely effective for a short period of time. Allied tactics, electronics, and warship design/construction were developed to counter this threat and marginalized it. However, the German submarine threat did require the Allies to commit a significant portion of their war making* ability towards replacing losses and combating the threat. Resources that could have been utilized in other areas. *note: By this I mean money, material resources, industrial capacity, labor, military manpower and equipment, research and development assets, merchant seamen, etc. The effects went far past just ships, materials carried and sailors lost. We all know of the effectiveness of the U-Boats against the Allies but the U.S. submarine war against Japan was even more effective, despite the U.S. campaign having to deal early on with defective torpedoes. So where is the German superiority? I think few would disagree that the U.S. Iowa class battleships were the finest, most technologically advanced battleships to appear in the war but they were of a newer generation of naval construction than the Bismark. While the Iowa class was ordered 4 years after the Bismark they were much more powerful, capable ships on basically the same tonnage. Iowa/Bismark-displacement 45,000tons std / 41,700tons std--top speed 31kts / 30.1kts--range 14,890 miles / 9810 miles--main armament 9 x 16"/50 / 8 x 15". The American and British treaty battleships were equal to or more powerful as a surface combatant vs. the Bismark. The were fitted with better AA suites, superior electronic sensors, had superior fire control and munitions. All around, more capable ships but with only 80% of the displacement. The only area the Bismark had an advantage was speed and that was by only a couple of knots. Why the myth of the Super-Ship Bismark? While pondering these issues, there is only one area/piece of equipment where Germany showed an advantage for more than a short period of time and that’s in its MG42 machine gun. It’s advantages were however somewhat cancelled out by Allied tactics, increasing the numbers of automatic rifles/LMG’s at the squad level to compliment their older model machines guns, and attaching mortars at the company level. Your thoughts?