There are some hidden facts about world war two that we are about to unfold in this article, just sit tight and read through.
When it comes to the Second World War, most people will be able to tell you about the important dates and historical facts. But did you know that Britain actually had the least rationing in Europe? Or that Germany had a unique way of treating its flying ‘aces’? Here, historian James Holland reveals several lesser-known details about the conflict
France had more tanks, guns and men than Germany in 1940
It is always assumed that during the Second World War the Germans bludgeoned their way to victory with a highly modern and mechanised army and Air Force that was superior to anything the Allies could muster in May 1940. The reality of WW2 was very different.
On 10 May 1940, when the Germans attacked, only 16 of their 135 divisions were mechanised that is, equipped with motorised transport. The rest depended on horses and cart or feet. France alone had 117 divisions.
France also had more guns: Germany had 7,378 artillery pieces and France 10,700. It didn’t stop there: the Germans could muster 2,439 tanks while the French had 3,254, most of which were bigger, better armed and armoured than the German panzers.
The priority for manpower in the UK is surprising
Britain had decided before the war began that it would make air and naval power the focus of its fighting capability, and it was only after the fall of France that British powers realised that the Army would have to grow substantially too.
However, right up until the spring of 1944, the priority for manpower in the UK was not the navy, RAF, army, or even the merchant navy, but the Ministry of Aircraft Production. In the war, Britain alone built 132,500 aircraft, a staggering achievement – especially when considering that Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain never had more than 750 fighters.
The Japanese had Kamikaze rockets
It was not only the Germans who put rocket-power aircraft into the air in the Second World War. After their initial victories, the Japanese struggled to pace with US and British technology, but they did develop the Ohka or ‘Cherry Blossom’, a rocket-power human-guided anti-shipping missile, which was used at the end of the war as a kamikaze weapon.
It had to be carried by a ‘mother’ plane to get within range, then once released would glide towards the target usually a ship before the pilot would fire the rockets and hurtle in at up to 600 mph. Ohka pilots were called Jinrai Butai – ‘thunder gods’ but only managed to sink three Allied ships. It was a lot of effort and sacrifice for not very much.
Britain had the least rationing in Europe
France and Britain began the war without rationing and, while it was modestly introduced in Britain in January 1940, France had still resisted by the time they were defeated in June 1940. Germany, on the other hand, introduced rationing before the war and struggled to feed its armed forces and the wider population from start to finish.
The country’s demand for food from occupied territories led to a lot of hunger for a lot of people, including the urban French. British people never had to go hungry and, although a number of foods were rationed, there were lots that were not. Certainly, by 1945, Britain had it very easy compared with the rest of Europe.
The American Parsons Jacket was designed with comfort in mind
The standard and most widely worn US Army field tunic of the war was the M41, better known as the Parsons Jacket. This was introduced in 1941 following trials by the US 5th Division in exercises in the Midwest and Alaska in the summer and autumn of 1940 and was given its name after Major-General Parsons, the divisional commander.
The design, however, was based on a pre-war civilian windcheater: the rapidly expanding US Army recognised that most of its recruits were conscripts and that comfort, durability and practicality were more important than the slick military bearing. With a zip and button front, it was a simple, lightweight and warm short jacket that required little tailoring and wasted no material, and which was designed in consultation with Esquire magazine’s fashion desk.