1. The German Militaries 88
"[American troops] knew that the greatest single weapon of the war, the atomic bomb excepted, was the German 88 mm flat-trajectory gun, which brought down thousands of bombers and tens of thousands of soldiers. The Allies had nothing as good, despite one of them designating itself the world's greatest industrial power.
— Paul Fussell, 1989"
It started life as an anti-aircraft flak gun but the Condor legion in Spain quickly found use for it as a devastating Anti-tank, anti-vechile and anti-infantry weapon. During the battle of France it easily knocked out superior French heavy Char B1 and British Matilda 2 easily at range, later they would prove devastating against the k1 and superb T34 as well as American Shermans and Grants. In the anti-tank role they were devastating, the wermarct using sword and shield tactics waited for advancing allied tank forces to attack drawing them on to their long range 88s anti tank guns, wiping them out, then the Panzers would attack. An American tanker who survived losing three tanks wrote to Chrysler after V-E Day that "an 88 sure makes quick work of them. They go through them just like they were a piece of paper".This weapon and Wermarcht tactics were the major reason their tanks were so successful in battle despite often being inferior or mostly equal. Things got worse for the allies when designers decided to mount this weapon system on new tank designs such as the Tiger & Panther which cut a swath through allied tanks despite being badly out numbered. Who knows how many allied aircraft and tanks this fearsome weapon wiped out.
Though produced in too few a number & too late in the war this first assault rifle made itself known and towards the end of the war allowed the Wermarct to hold the line. With its revolutionary intermediate round and high capacity 30 round magazine it was way ahead of anything allied forces had, even the m1 garrand. The assault rifle proved a valuable weapon, especially on the Eastern front, where it was first deployed. A properly trained soldier with a StG 44 had an improved tactical repertoire, in that he could effectively engage targets at longer ranges than with an MP 40, but be much more useful than the Kar 98k in close combat, as well as provide covering fire like a light machine gun. It was also found to be exceptionally reliable in extreme cold. The StG 44's rate of fire was 500 rpm. The US & Soviets would not have anything near as good up until the 60s with the AK47 & M16. It was stilled used post ww2 in limited numbers by US special forces, the French foreign legion, by West & East German soldiers and in the middle East. Few were produced and few survived. A cache of 5,000 were captured by Syrian rebels in the city of Aleppo in August in 2012. A few were known to be brought back by US soldiers, this is a classic rare antique weapon that sells for $40,000 each here in the US.
This most produced fighter aircraft in history, with a total of 33,984 airframes produced from 1936 to April 1945 and for good reason, when it first went into mass production in 1937 it made every other fighter in service obsolete even fighters that were still on the drawing boards or had yet to go into production such as the P40 or the Hawker Hurricane. Serving with the Condor legion in Spain pitted against the best fighters the Soviet union and France had to offer often flown by experienced Soviet or French pilots, the BF109 tore them apart. The BF109 would only meet it's match against the British Spitfire in 1940 during the battle of Britain and even then it would still have the edge over it as a fighter at least for a time. In 1941 during operation Barbarossa the BF109 destroyed a huge number of 21,000 Soviet aircraft half of which were in air to air combat. Like most fighters designed in the prewar peace time of the 30s it was primarily designed as a short range high performance defensive fighter that would intercept high altitude enemy bomber aircraft and this is exactly what it excelled at. With two machine guns, two 20mm cannons and sometimes a 30mm cannon with the option to add rockets or cannon pods it was the bane of RAF bombers who were forced to fly at night or USAF B17s flying fortresses or B24 liberators who were easy prey for this warbird, it was statistically safer to be in the US army infantryman in ww2 than to be in a used bomber over Europe. The BF109 design was constantly updated during WW2 still remaining a competitive war machine despite the arrival of newer designs like fockerwulf 190 and me262, but eventually when in 1943 the British decided to put a Spitfire engine into a mustang they finally found they had a long range bomber capable of escorting bombers all the way to Germany and back and still dofight competitively with the BF109 the game was up. USAF aerial warfare tactics took time to develop to take full advantage rather than just escorting the bomber to and from the target the Mustangs would hunt the Luftwaffe in the air and on the ground. Waves of Mustangs would be sent out before a bomber wave to tempt Luftwaffe fighters up to fight, others would hit the Luftwaffe in the ground, others would escort the bombers to target then go looking for enemy fighters in the air and on the ground while another wave of Mustangs and shorter range fighters would escort the bombers home. The highest scoring fighter pilots in history all flew BF109s. The boyfriend 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories among them while flying with Jagdgeschwader 52, mainly on the Eastern Front. The highest-scoring fighter ace of all time was Erich Hartmann, who flew the boyfriend 109 and was credited with 352 aerial victories. After the war the BF109 would remain service with other airforces like the spainish & finnish airforces for many years and even served with the Israeli airforce witj weapons supplied by the Soviet union to help them win their independence. It was probably the greatest fighter of WW2.
The lethal U-boat was the weapon of choice for the Kriegsmarine to strangle the British Empire during the Battle of the Atlantic sinking vessels & convoys supplying Britain with war materials and food in "wolfpacks". With Americas entry into the war British invented sonar devices mass produced in US factory lines allowed for allied surface ships to better detect and sink U-boats, especially deadly were allied bombers equipped with sonar detection equipment and depths charges and Allied inteligence reading the Kriegsmarine enigma codes eventually the U-boats had nowhere to hide. Armed with their deadly torpedoes by the end of the war, although the U-boats had sunk 6,000 (3,500 merchant vessels) ships totalling 21 million GRT, the Allies had built over 38 million tons of new shipping, the allies winning this battle of attrition but it's no doubt their effectiveness in combating the allies war effort and you could argue they held back the liberation of Europe greatly.
5. V1 ballistic missile.
This so called vengeance weapon was the Wermarcts response to the bombing of German cities in 1944 and Luftwaffes inability to strike back or defend German airspace as the war drew to a close. At peak, more than one hundred V-1s a day were fired at south-east England, 9,521 in total. With a warhead of 1,000 kg and inexpensive to produce the V1 was a cost effective weapon compared to Luftwaffe air attack, each one costing 1000 times less than a B17. With a jet engine flying at 400 mph and launched from mobile sites it was difficult for most allied fighters to intercept even newer RAF fighters such as the Hawker Tempest or the jet thr Gloucester Meteor had trouble keeping up to shoot them down. When it reached its target the jet engine simply shut down and the v1 glided to its target. Granted it only hit it's intended 25% of the time but that's at least as accurate as the B17.
6. Bismarck-class Battleship
The Bismarck-class were a pair of Kriegsmarine battleships built in the mid 30s in response to the French navy's Richelieu-class battleships. When the Bismark and Tripitiz were completed they were the most powerful Battleships afloat (disputed with the Japanese battleships Yamato& Musashi ) displacing more than 41,000 metric tons (40,000 long tons) normally, they were armed with a battery of eight 38 cm (15 in) guns and were capable of a top speed of 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph), equipped with three FuMO 23 search radar sets, mounted on the forward and stern rangefinders and foretop. At the Battle of the Denmark Strait 24 May 1941 the famous Royal Navy Battlecruiser HMS Hood and the brand new battleship Prince of Wales were sent to intercept the Bismark and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen in an attempt to prevent them from breaking out into the North Atlantic to raid British merchant vessels, after an 8 minute battle HMS Hood exploded when a shell from the Bismark penetrated her deck and hit the cordite in her rear ammunition magazine, breaking the Hood's back, all three of her crew of 1,419 men with her. The HMS Prince of Wales laid smoke and fled, the Prinz Eugen was detached to commence commerce raiding leaving the Bismark alone to make for Saint-Nazaire for repairs. Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered all warships in the area to join the pursuit of Bismarck. The British battleships HMS King George V and HMS Rodne, The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, The heavy cruisers HMS Norfolk and HMS Dorsetshire, The light cruiser HMS Sheffield, destroyers HMS Cossack, HMS Sikh, HMS Zulu, HMS Maori, HMS Mashona, HMS Tartar, The Polish destroyer ORP Piorun were all sent to sink The Bismark. Two old Revenge-class battleships were ordered into the hunt Revenge, and kept in reserve with HMS Prince of Wales block Bismark's escape. Force H from Gibraltar with aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, the battlecruiser HMS Renown and the light cruiser HMS Sheffield was sent to engage Bismark also. On the 26th of May the Royal Navy with Swordfish from Ark Royal launched an attack damshing Bismark's rudder, On the morning of the 27th Battleships Rodney and King George V drew into range and began firing on Bismark with by the large guns of the British battleships, with the heavy cruisers Norfolk and Dorsetshire adding their firepower eventually putting the Bismark's guns out of action, Bismarck continued to fly her ensign and her engines were still working despite HMS Rodney firing at point blank range and King George V firing vertically to penetrate Bismark's. With no sign of surrender, despite the unequal struggle, the British were loath to leave Bismarck. Their fuel and shell supplies were low – a demonstration of how tough it was to sink a Bismark class battleship even in an unbalanced engagement. When it became obvious that their enemy could not reach port, Rodney, King George V and the destroyers were sent home. The Bismark's first officer ordered the ship to be scuttled and to abandon ship. The Tirpitz saw little action during WW2 instead acting in a strategic role as a "fleet in being", its mere presence in the Baltic and Norwegian waters was a threat to British shipping forcing the Royal Navy to dedicate significant warships to contain her. Many times the British tried to sink her with a daring by mini-sunmatines and unsuccessful large scale air raids by the by the RAF& Royal Navy. 12 November 1944 the RAF were finally able to sink the Tripitiz force of 32 Lancasters from Nos. 9 and 617 Squadrons dropped 29 Tallboys on the ship, with two direct hits and one near miss. It's a testament to how difficult this ship was to sink that the RAF had to resort to bunker buster bombs so large and powerful that only one could be carried by a single Heavy bomber like the Lancaster.
7. Tiger Tank 1&2
Tiger 1: This is one monster no allied soldier would want to encounter on the battlefield. This is the much feared Tiger Tank. Only 1,347 of this heavy tank were produced but it certainly earned it's reputation in terms of destruction of allied forces and the fear it spread otherwise known as Tiger fever. During Operation Barbarossa the Wermarct & SS tank divisions were shocked when they encountered Soviet tank designs like the Soviet T-34 medium and KV-1 heavy tanks which were better armoured and armed, German tanks had to get close to destroy one, though lucky for them Soviet tank crews were poorly trained and Soviet tank tactics were weak, mostly anti-tank 88s were used to take them out. In 1942 the British army first encountered the Tiger in North Africa where they quickly found their anti-tank guns were useless and the Tiger with its 88 out ranged any tanks they had and even their best armed and armoured American made M3 lees and M4 Shermans couldn't take on a Tiger 1 at almost any range. Against Allied forces it had a 10:1 kill ratio though this was not sufficient to hold back the sheer volume of Allied forces as Tigers were expensive to build. Only heavy anti-tank weapons, dedicated up gunned tanks or allied heavy tanks could match a Tiger, often Sherman drivers would havr to charge a Tiger hoping to get behind it to destroy it at point blank range where it's armour is weakest. Only the Soviet Iosif Stalin 2, United States M26 Pershing were comparable. SS Tank Ace Micheal Whittman on 13 June 1944 while in command of a Tiger I tank, Wittmann destroyed up to fourteen tanks and fifteen personnel carriers, along with two anti-tank guns of the British 7th armoured division, within the space of fifteen minutes. For his actions he was promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer, and awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.
King Tiger ( Tiger2) : This beast replaced the Tiger 1 and was the deadliest Tank of WW2 with the same thick armour of the Tiger1 but now incorporating it in a sloped design like the Soviet T34 and with an improved 88 anti tank gun. The 503rd equipped with Tiger 2s in the Hungarian theater of operations for 166 days in October 1944 accounted for at least 121 Soviet tanks, 244 anti-tank guns and artillery pieces, five aircraft and a train. This was set against the loss of 25 Tiger 2s.
8. Panzerfaust anti-tank rocket.
This cheap disposable anti-tank weapon was the end of many tanks and soldiers too. It was simple to operate and even the untrained volunteers from the Hitler youth and Volkssturm could be taught to use it effectively and they made good use of them as the Russians smashed their way into Germany. When used against tanks, the Panzerfaust had an impressive beyond-armour effect. Compared to the Bazooka and the Panzerschreck, it made a larger hole and produced massive spalling that killed the crew and destroyed equipment. One informal test found that the Panzerfaust made an entry hole two and three-fourths inches in diameter (~7 cm), whereas the Panzerschreck made an entry hole at least one inch in diameter (~2.5 cm), and the Bazooka made an entry hole that was only a half-inch in diameter (~1.3 cm). The US Army's AT-4 copied the Panzerfaust to produce the same effect against modern main battle tanks. In 1944 34% of British tanks in Normandy were taken out by Panzerfausts and on the eastern from 74% of tank kills were from Panzerfausts. The US 82nd Airborne Division captured some Panzerfausts in Scilly and found them to be a superior weapon system compared to their bazookas, they even used them in operation Market Garden and during the Battle of the Buldge.
9. MG 34/42 ( AKA Hitler's buzzsaw)
They called this Hilter's buzzsaw and firing 800–900 rounds per min its not hard to see why. This is the light & medium machine gun the Wermarct structured it's infantry tactics around and Allied armies had nothing comparable or as effective with the American BAR, British Bren gun, Lewis gun all being heavier, having a slower rate of fire, lower capacity and being heavier. It was much the same for their Vickers and Browning medium machine guns. The only way Allied forces were able to match their fire power was with the higher rate of fire of the US Garrand and British Lee Enfields as well as adding more light machine guns to companies. The Russians mostly just threw more men into the fire or with more submachine gun armed soldiers armed with the capable PP41s. Special training films were prepared for US soldiers to prepare them for the noise of the MG 33/42 to stop them crapping themselves whenever it fired. Heinrich Severloh a wermarch soldier stationed at Omaha beach on D-day while manning a MG42 is said to have killed possibly 2000 US soldiers. This was a superior design and this weapon system so good that it is still used today by the Bundeswehr as the MG 3 and Italian MG 42/59. It also spawned the Yugoslav nearly identical Zastava M53, Swiss MG 51 and SIG MG 710-3, Austrian MG 74, and the Spanish 5.56×45mm NATO Ameli light machine gun, and lent many design elements to the American M60 and Belgian MAG.
10. Luftwaffe guided anti-ship bombs
A. The Henschel Hs 293 was a World War 2 German anti-ship radio controlled glide bomb with a rocket engine slung underneath it. It was launched from a bomber at sufficient distance to keep the aircraft out of range of anti-aircraft fire, radio controlled by an observer over head in the bomber it was guided to a ship. It had quite a high success rate during the allied invasion of Sicily & italy With many ships sunk. It was also used to attack land targets such as bridges.
B. Fritz X
A forerunners of modern anti-ship missiles and precision-guided weapons this anti-ship glide bomb with an armour piercing warhead, it had success against allied ships.
Note: By D-day allied forces had worked out how to jam these weapons, though the fact that the Luftwaffe was able to build such weapons and attack ships was a classified secret for decades.
....stay tuned for part 2.