To the victors belong the spoils of war, and after Nazi Germany was defeated there were plenty of spoils that the Allies were after.
1. Guided Weapons
One of the innovative concepts that emerged during WWII was in-flight guidance onto a moving target. One of the earliest examples was the Fritz X anti-ship bomb, first deployed by the German Air Force in 1943: An operator in the launch aircraft guided the Fritz X to its target using radio control, sinking an Italian Battleship.
Around the same time, the U.S. Navy deployed an even more sophisticated anti-ship bomb called the Bat, which used radar to isolate the target without the need of a human operator.
Another anti-ship homing weapon was the Zaunkoenig torpedo, which was fitted to German U-boats from 1943 onward. It used underwater sound waves rather than radar to locate the target.
2. Long-Range Missiles
While all the major powers fielded short-range rockets, only Nazi Germany put serious effort into the development of long-range, liquid-fueled rockets. The result was the V-2, a 14-ton, vertically launched missile with a range of 200 miles and a top speed of 3,500 miles per hour.
The V-2 was one of two long-range weapons deployed by the Germans, the other being the V-1 flying bomb. Both the V-1 and the V-2 were launched in the thousands, mainly against London and the port city of Antwerp in Belgium.
The V-1 was the ancestor of today’s cruise missiles, while the V-2 was the world’s first ballistic missile.
3. Airborne Units
It was the Germans who seized on the potential that paratroopers gave. Such troops fitted in perfectly with Guderian’s vision of Blitzkrieg, the lightening war.
Hermann Göring, as head of the Luftwaffe, formed the first parachute regiments in 1935. During the Spanish Civil War, the Germans had gained experience in air-landings, primarily using the Junkers Ju-52. It was this plane that was to be the workhorse of the German paratroopers during WWII. A Luftwaffe general, Kurt Student, was given charge of airborne training.
The Germans launched what can be called the first airborne ‘attack’ in history on March 12th, 1938 when German paratroopers seized and captured an airfield at Wagram in Austria during the Anschluss, the peaceful take-over of Austria.
When the Germans attacked Poland and gave the world its first glimpse of Blitzkrieg in September 1939, paratroopers played no part despite many rumors that areas of Poland had been captured by paratroopers. In the attack on Western Europe, the German paratroopers were used in the attack on Norway in April 1940 when they captured airfields at Oslo and Stavanger.
In the attack on the Netherlands, German paratroopers played a major role isolating the city of The Hague, and in Belgium, they seized vital bridges, and glider troops took the strategic fort at Eben Emael.
The Germans used paratroopers to attack Crete; this was the first time that paratroopers were given the task of attacking and defeating a complete target. At the time, it was the largest airborne attack in history.
Though the island was taken after heavy fighting, the Germans took very heavy casualties of around 25% and Hitler lost faith in this form of attack. On the orders of Hitler, German paratroopers were sent to Russia where they fought as ground troops.
Ironically enough, the use of the German paratroopers on Crete was one of the reasons why the Allies began experimenting with Airborne divisions.
Continues on Page 2