Key point: Germany’s use of masses of tanks on the modern battlefield opened Pandora’s box. Within a few years Allied forces would be returning the favor.
The forces of Nazi Germany in World War II were some of the most formidable fielded in any war. Backed by German science, engineering and modern mass-production techniques, it was a new type of highly mechanized warfare. Faster paced and deadlier than the armed forces that fought in the Great War just twenty years before, it overwhelmed slower-moving enemies and helped Germany subjugate an entire continent. Here are five examples of German war technology that very nearly ended Western civilization as we know it.
The Panzerkampfwagen VI (Tiger Tank)
The tank’s modern reputation as a fast, hard-hitting, deadly war chariot is largely due to the German Army’s use of the tank in the early years of World War II. Although first invented by the British in World War I, the Wehrmacht and SS took the tank to its logical conclusion, in doing so swinging the pendulum of war from defense as the dominant form of warfare back to the offense.
Although the bulk of German tank forces was composed of smaller tanks such as the Panzerkampfwagen III and IV, the Panzerkampfwagen VI—or Tiger tank—was designed to be the decisive factor on the armored battlefield. At fifty-four tons, it was considerably larger than contemporary tanks, and together with its thick armor and eighty-eight-millimeter main gun, made the Tiger a so-called “heavy” tank. Introduced in 1942, the Tiger’s KwK 36 gun could gut any mass-produced Allied tank built during the war, and the tank’s thick armored hide could shrug off most Allied antitank rounds.