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Old 03-06-2011, 12:36 PM   #1
Wamy Einehouse
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The Second World War

Arguably the most important - and certainly the most destructive - conflict in human history, the Second World War is a vastly complex subject but one it is essential to understand and remember due to it's terrifying scale and horror.

In this thread it would be good to get some discussions, pictures, book recommendations and anything else that seems interesting. Just to get it said and crystal clear from the outset - if you seriously believe that the Holocaust never happened or any other revisionist nonsense, then you probably should study more, and certainly don't post any of that garbage in this thread.

I'll kick off with a few things here:

For anyone with an interest in learning more about this global conflict I would suggest the best introductory text by far is The Second World War by Martin Gilbert, although obviously in such a broad subject there are many books that could claim this mantle, so please lets not kick off with a pointless debate about the best introductory text.

One of the most disturbing images in terms of the scale of human suffering during the war, glasses at Auschwitz:



Before and after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima:



Stalingrad after the battle had finished:



I also have a variety of war diaries passed down my from my family covering both the European and Asian theatres, and I might try and get some extracts from them in this thread if/when I have time to transcribe them.

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Old 03-06-2011, 03:49 PM   #2
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Re: The Second World War

Some more images of the vastness of destruction in WWII


Firebombing of Dresden:











Firebombing of Hamburg:





Firebombing of Toyko:





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Old 03-06-2011, 04:25 PM   #3
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Re: The Second World War

The large scale firebombings rank up there with the worst tragedies of WW2 in my opinion. Largely ineffectual in any military sense, they killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, destroyed some of the great cultural cities of the world, and wasted thousands of pilots lives that could have been used to attack military and supply targets.

It's an often over looked part of the Allies conduct during the war as the winners tend to wright the history, but it is always worth remembering that the British killed more civilians in one night in Dresden than died in the entire of the Blitz/V1/V2 campaign against England.
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Old 03-06-2011, 04:55 PM   #4
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Re: The Second World War

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Originally Posted by Wamy Einehouse View Post
The large scale firebombings rank up there with the worst tragedies of WW2 in my opinion. Largely ineffectual in any military sense, they killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, destroyed some of the great cultural cities of the world, and wasted thousands of pilots lives that could have been used to attack military and supply targets.

It's an often over looked part of the Allies conduct during the war as the winners tend to wright the history, but it is always worth remembering that the British killed more civilians in one night in Dresden than died in the entire of the Blitz/V1/V2 campaign against England.
Horrific though I'm not sure its so clear that it wasn't seen as a military target (unlike the Blitz). That wouldn't begin to jutsify it imo.

btw it was the USA and the British.
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Old 03-06-2011, 05:05 PM   #5
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Re: The Second World War

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Horrific though I'm not sure its so clear that it wasn't seen as a military target (unlike the Blitz). That wouldn't begin to jutsify it imo.

btw it was the USA and the British.
The USA generally did not fire bomb European cities on the whole (although they did Japanese). They predominantly did day raids on military/industrial targets while the British did night firebombing raids on major cities - hence my usage above, where all of the incendiary bombs on the first night were dropped by the British, but over all you are obviously correct.

The Blitz was started by accident - Hitler only targeted London as a city after we retaliated for the (accidental) dropping of bombs on London with raids on German cities, so I'm not sure it's really clear that their is any kind of divide between the two in terms of target selection. Germany didn't even have a heavy bomber in its fleet after all, and claiming all major cities are military targets is clearly a little suspect.

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Old 03-06-2011, 05:22 PM   #6
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Re: The Second World War

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Originally Posted by Wamy Einehouse View Post
The USA did not fire bomb European cities on the whole (although they did Japanese). They did day raids on military/industrial targets while the British did night firebombing raids on major cities - hence my usage above, where all of the incendiary bombs on the first night were dropped by the British, but over all you are obviously correct.
I dont think its that clear. Certainly seems you have a point but its not the caes that the USA didn't attack civilian targets and a lot of the day only stuff appears to be a maeter of logistics ratrher than design.

From wiki (which seems a fairly good page)

"On 15 February, the 1st Bombardment Division's primary target — the Böhlen synthetic oil plant near Leipzig — was obscured by cloud so the Division's groups diverted to their secondary target which was the city of Dresden. As Dresden was also obscured by clouds the groups targeted the city using H2X. The first group to arrive over the target was the 401st, but they missed the centre and bombed southeastern suburbs with bombs landing on the nearby towns of Meissen and Pirna. "

Was the distinction significantly more than firebombing resources being more readily at hand for the nearby countries. USA -Japan, Britain-Germany.

Quote:
The Blitz was started by accident - Hitler only targeted London as a city after we retaliated for the (accidental) dropping of bombs on London with raids on German cities, so it's not really clear that their is any kind of divide between the two. Germany didn't even have a heavy bomber in its fleet after all.
however it started it clearly became a major civilian campaign. Did the V1 and V2 have any use apart from being weapons of civilian terror.
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Old 03-06-2011, 05:48 PM   #7
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Re: The Second World War

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however it started it clearly became a major civilian campaign. Did the V1 and V2 have any use apart from being weapons of civilian terror.
I don't really see how anyone could claim firebombing night raids on cities had any real purpose other than civilian terror. You can't aim, you have no idea where they are going, you know it will create huge indiscriminate firestorms and you know basically 100% of the casualties will be civilians. Seems very much like the V1 and V2s - only doing a lot more damage.

And you're obviously right on Americans dropping bombs on civilian targets, just as a general theme they tried to distance themselves from it more so than the British, although as you point out this may purely have been based on logistics and not on anything else.

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Old 03-06-2011, 09:02 PM   #8
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Re: The Second World War

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I don't really see how anyone could claim firebombing night raids on cities had any real purpose other than civilian terror. You can't aim, you have no idea where they are going, you know it will create huge indiscriminate firestorms and you know basically 100% of the casualties will be civilians. Seems very much like the V1 and V2s - only doing a lot more damage.
I can easily make that claim - the stratagy was one of area bombardment which is a policy of of indiscriminate bombing rather than targeted bombing (how true the claim is I'm not at all sure, certainly there was also a strong element of demoralise civilians and probably a large dose of revenge)

[warning politics; The only reason I think its important to not easily accept the 'no military objective' argument is that I don't believe that even if true it is the reason it was a terrible thing to do. The direct descendent is 'collateral damage']
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Old 03-06-2011, 09:06 PM   #9
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Re: The Second World War

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Originally Posted by Wamy Einehouse View Post
The large scale firebombings rank up there with the worst tragedies of WW2 in my opinion. Largely ineffectual in any military sense, they killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, destroyed some of the great cultural cities of the world, and wasted thousands of pilots lives that could have been used to attack military and supply targets.

It's an often over looked part of the Allies conduct during the war as the winners tend to wright the history, but it is always worth remembering that the British killed more civilians in one night in Dresden than died in the entire of the Blitz/V1/V2 campaign against England.
According to wiki the body count was around 25.000 between Feb. 13-15, 1945 which is an information as of 2010. That makes them not the worst days in this conflict, at least bodycount-wise. I heard of different numbers in my schoolbooks.

Until today, the way of representing these bombings is heavily influenced by politics imo.

Also, I darkly remember that Joseph Goebbels wrote a lot in his diary about the initial bombings on London. It was something he approved of and tried to push as a military plan. In his idea it was a brilliant plan to "tame" Britain. Just a show off, so to say.
The bombings on Dresden then were used by his propaganda machine to get into the role of the victim, he over dramatized the whole attacks and his sayings got into the history books without real background knowledge.
All of the investigations, mainly during the cold war period had heavy trouble acting against various politic interests, especially from the DDR.

In Goebbels personal opinion, Churchill did it because he had nothing else left in his arsenal, which shows the complete delusion of the Nazi regime once again. Few weeks later he committed suicide.

A question I'd like to ask. How did it come to the whole antisemitic movement in Central Europe and Russia beginning from ~1860 decades before WW2 which was obviously the breeding ground of all what happened later?
Never really understood or read much about it.
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Old 03-06-2011, 09:11 PM   #10
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Re: The Second World War

I've read several - probably a dozen - first hand accounts of WWII. The only one whose title I can remember off hand is The Regiment by Farley Mowat. He was an intelligence officer in the Canadian Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment for the whole war, and participated in the invasion of Sicily, Italy, the fight all the way north, and then a little bit in Holland in 1945. It's a pretty decent book, and since I served in the Hasty Ps when I was younger, I had the chance to meet a handful of the men in the book, and hear the stories from then - and many others secondhand, that had been passed down in Regimental lore, it gives it a slightly different slant.

The other one that really stands out in my mind right now is about an artillery observer. For the life of me I can't remember what it's called, and since I think it was about a Canadian, you probably can't find it outside the country, but it was an absolutely incredible read. If I can remember, I'll post here again.

I like the books written by real soldiers much better than the larger histories. You get a much better feel for what war was really like.
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Old 03-06-2011, 10:22 PM   #11
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Re: The Second World War

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Originally Posted by chezlaw View Post
btw it was the USA and the British.
Lot of truth in that. Vienna was pretty much safe against bombings during the whole war because it was out of reach of the UK planes and kinda known as the "Luftbunker".
Well, at least until 1944, a little after the Allies successfully invaded Italy.

The US troops based in Foggia, Italy started then to bomb Vienna with 550 planes because of after the loss at Normandy, a lot of the German air forces were sent to Vienna.

Although until today its fact that they really only tried to bomb strategically important targets, especially a oil refinery, only 0,2% of the bombs did actually hit the target.
Major parts of Vienna, especially the most historic buildings in the city center were destroyed. 8769 people died, 6214 were completely destroyed. Mostly on 12th March 1945, where especially because of the bad weather and the resulting complete inaccuracy of the bombings, everyone thought it was finally over.

Not to forget the very controversial bombings on Prague by 650 US planes, two weeks later.



There is also very massive flak towers in Vienna until today.
One was made into an huge Aquarium with climbing walls outside and its a park and the primary school I went to right beneath it.

The other 5 ones can't be made any use of, so we mostly just built parks around them if possible. They can't be blown up. 10m of reinforced concrete would destroy everything in reach.







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Old 03-07-2011, 05:53 AM   #12
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Re: The Second World War

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According to wiki the body count was around 25.000 between Feb. 13-15, 1945 which is an information as of 2010. That makes them not the worst days in this conflict, at least bodycount-wise. I heard of different numbers in my schoolbooks.
Hmm I had actually not seen that survey, and was going off a variety of figues from a variety of sources that put the figures between 25,000 and 100,000. I'm guessing that as the revulsion with what happened has steadily died down so the figure has. General figures for the whole of the blitz hover around 40,000, and I notice that the wiki figure for the Hamburg firestorm is 50,000.

Either way, the general point about how much damage Allied fire storm damage did compared to German efforts is still pretty valid.
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Old 03-07-2011, 08:52 AM   #13
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Re: The Second World War

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Originally Posted by Zurvan View Post
I've read several - probably a dozen - first hand accounts of WWII. The only one whose title I can remember off hand is The Regiment by Farley Mowat. He was an intelligence officer in the Canadian Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment for the whole war, and participated in the invasion of Sicily, Italy, the fight all the way north, and then a little bit in Holland in 1945. It's a pretty decent book, and since I served in the Hasty Ps when I was younger, I had the chance to meet a handful of the men in the book, and hear the stories from then - and many others secondhand, that had been passed down in Regimental lore, it gives it a slightly different slant.

The other one that really stands out in my mind right now is about an artillery observer. For the life of me I can't remember what it's called, and since I think it was about a Canadian, you probably can't find it outside the country, but it was an absolutely incredible read. If I can remember, I'll post here again.

I like the books written by real soldiers much better than the larger histories. You get a much better feel for what war was really like.
Could this book be 'The Guns Of War' by George G. Blackburn? Originally published in two parts as 'The Guns Of Normandy' and 'The Guns Of Victory' it is now published as a single volume. The book covers the Battle of Caen, the closing of the Falaise pocket through to the crossing of the Seine and the fighting through belgium and Holland into Germany. Great book if it is the one, worth looking out for.

Last edited by UthersGhost; 03-07-2011 at 08:54 AM. Reason: spilling mistake
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Old 03-07-2011, 09:01 AM   #14
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Re: The Second World War

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Could this book be 'The Guns Of War' by George G. Blackburn? Originally published in two parts as 'The Guns Of Normandy' and 'The Guns Of Victory' it is now published as a single volume. The book covers the Battle of Caen, the closing of the Falaise pocket through to the crossing of the Seine and the fighting through belgium and Holland into Germany. Great book if it is the one, worth looking out for.
That's the one
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Old 03-08-2011, 02:34 AM   #15
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Re: The Second World War

Two excellent books about different aspects of WWII that I would like to recommend.

Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-1945, by Barbara Tuckman:

http://www.amazon.com/Stilwell-Ameri...9564545&sr=1-1


Against the backdrop of General Stilwell’s life this book describes the causes; bumbling diplomacy; inefficient leadership and infighting throughout the theater of war in Asia. This sometimes forgotten part of WWII, with an emphasis from the main Japanese invasion of China in 1937 to the end of the war in 1945, is brilliantly written, detailed, with much insight and first-hand accounts. This is a first-rate book in my opinion.


Another first-rate book covers the rise of Hitler and Germany and the European theater of war: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer. This is essential reading for anyone interested in WWII.

http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Fall-Thir...9566013&sr=1-1


-Zeno
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Old 03-08-2011, 07:05 AM   #16
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Re: The Second World War

Meh, Shirer's book is still a great read, but it is so out of date on so many key topics. The research that has been done into so many fields has advanced so much that it has really badly aged Shirer's book historiographically.

Richard J Evans three part series on the Third Reich are the best books I know of at the moment.
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Old 03-09-2011, 12:14 PM   #17
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Re: The Second World War

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The Blitz was started by accident - Hitler only targeted London as a city after we retaliated for the (accidental) dropping of bombs on London with raids on German cities
why are the attacks on the UK called Blitz? i thought Blitzkrieg referred mostly (only?) to the tactic of using tank divisions as spearheads that ventured far ahead of other ground troops into enemy territory (with the attacks on Poland and France the prime examples). did the name just carry over to the air raids as a catchy headline or is there something else, warfare-related behind it?
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Old 03-09-2011, 12:26 PM   #18
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Re: The Second World War

I thought that Britain had a double agent that convinced Hitler to switch from bombing RAF bases to London because the RAF was being pummelled so much that it soon wouldn't have be able to defend against a sea invasion due to lack of planes.
No source, just a documentary from a few years ago.
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Old 03-09-2011, 12:52 PM   #19
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Re: The Second World War

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zurvan View Post
I've read several - probably a dozen - first hand accounts of WWII. The only one whose title I can remember off hand is The Regiment by Farley Mowat. He was an intelligence officer in the Canadian Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment for the whole war, and participated in the invasion of Sicily, Italy, the fight all the way north, and then a little bit in Holland in 1945. It's a pretty decent book, and since I served in the Hasty Ps when I was younger, I had the chance to meet a handful of the men in the book, and hear the stories from then - and many others secondhand, that had been passed down in Regimental lore, it gives it a slightly different slant.

The other one that really stands out in my mind right now is about an artillery observer. For the life of me I can't remember what it's called, and since I think it was about a Canadian, you probably can't find it outside the country, but it was an absolutely incredible read. If I can remember, I'll post here again.

I like the books written by real soldiers much better than the larger histories. You get a much better feel for what war was really like.


re first hand accounts, what's obviously rarely recommended are those by german soldiers, so i'll fill this gap with probably the best one out there: Das Boot, by L.-G. Buchheim (http://www.amazon.com/Das-Boot-Boat-...9687317&sr=8-8). Well known for the movie based on it (but rarely read, i think) and while that movie is good the book is much, much better. It's very well written and manages to convey everything movies can't or hardly can, smells, feelings, all the little details that together can give you an idea of what it was like to be on a submarine in WWII.

It might not be for everyone though, it can seem quite longwinded with long passages of "nothing" happening - but that's certainly not a deficiency imo, after all it's not a book geared to provide suspense (although it has copious amounts of that too) but a realistic view on the life of the crew of a sub and those downtimes are simply a part of that.

and again, Buchheim's writing is very enjoyable - to me at least, i bought his two other novels after reading Das Boot, The Fortress and The Parting. Both are in the same style (knowing hardly anything about literature theory i'd call it stream-of-consciousness-y); Fortress is a 1500-pages-monster about his experiences in pre- and post-D-Day France that lacks the sheer suspense of Das Boot. nonetheless i still enjoyed it a lot.
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Old 03-09-2011, 04:09 PM   #20
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Re: The Second World War

I was fascinated by Dan Carlin's "Hardcore History" series, Ghosts-of-the-Ostfront. It's 4 free podcasts covering the war on the eastern front. The scale and horror of the eastern front is unbelievable. I don't know how accurate the series is. I would like to read some books on the eastern front. There seem to be few books written in English about the east. Any recommendations?
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Old 03-10-2011, 02:15 AM   #21
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Re: The Second World War

I'd recommend (I think it's called) Nuremberg Diary -- the prison interviews with the Nuremberg defendants. Perversely engrossing to read the first person thought processes/reflections of the losing side.
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Old 03-12-2011, 08:38 AM   #22
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Re: The Second World War

Questions:
In what extent did Wehrmacht and Red Army used captured tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons? When reading about great battles of WWII I always see statistics which mention how many weapons were captured by winning side, but I never hear anything about their usage.

Also: why didn't Wehrmacht use chemical weapons on eastern front? They were first to use poison gas in WWI, they used artillery which were originally designed to fire gas canisters and for Wehrmacht war against USSR was a war of annihilation. So why didn't they?
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Old 03-12-2011, 09:41 AM   #23
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Re: The Second World War

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Originally Posted by Ratamahatta View Post
Questions:
In what extent did Wehrmacht and Red Army used captured tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons? When reading about great battles of WWII I always see statistics which mention how many weapons were captured by winning side, but I never hear anything about their usage.
All wars are generally fought on a pretty ad hoc basis in terms of supply, and weapons are perhaps the best example of this. I would guess that basically all weapons and ammo were used up unless crews could not be found to man them, in which case it would have been destroyed. It is so heavily promoted as a stat by the victors simply because it shows how many weapons they have deprived the enemy of.

Quote:
Also: why didn't Wehrmacht use chemical weapons on eastern front? They were first to use poison gas in WWI, they used artillery which were originally designed to fire gas canisters and for Wehrmacht war against USSR was a war of annihilation. So why didn't they?
Gas is actually a pretty poor weapon in these sort of terms. You are much better off encircling armies and destroying them later. Gas is unpredictable, often non-lethal, and could be easily avoided by gas masks.
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Old 03-12-2011, 10:27 AM   #24
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Re: The Second World War

re gas, there was a kind of stalemate similar to the one in the Cold War w/nuclear weapons, if one side used gas it could be certain the other side would too which would have been devastating for both. Germany would have been hit very hard obviously with the huge Allied air superiority later on but V2 attacks with nerve gas on London could have been awful too.
then there were logistical problems - the gas available to Nazi Germany might have been several dozen times more toxic than the ones used in WWI but they didnt have enough and couldnt produce enough for a large scale attack which would have been necessary to offset the negatives - Allied and Russian retaliations with chem weapons themselves; also in the late stages of the war (44/45) the necessary infrastructure for those large scale poison gas attacks simply wasnt there anymore.
there are also some rumours that the higher-ups kept the effectiveness of the available chemical weapons from Hitler, for whatever reason; and that Hitler himself was reluctant to use them because of his own experiences in WWI - thats unlikely though as he himself ordered their development and production.

finally chemical warfare just isn't that effective in a "modern" war without big trench fights - you cant use gas with the necessary accuracy unless you know exactly where the enemies are (which obviously was the case in WWI) - unless you launch a massive attack, and Germany wasnt able to do that at the time.
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Old 03-12-2011, 05:13 PM   #25
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Re: The Second World War

Quote:
Originally Posted by monarco View Post
re first hand accounts, what's obviously rarely recommended are those by german soldiers, so i'll fill this gap with probably the best one out there: Das Boot, by L.-G. Buchheim (http://www.amazon.com/Das-Boot-Boat-...9687317&sr=8-8). Well known for the movie based on it (but rarely read, i think) and while that movie is good the book is much, much better. It's very well written and manages to convey everything movies can't or hardly can, smells, feelings, all the little details that together can give you an idea of what it was like to be on a submarine in WWII.

It might not be for everyone though, it can seem quite longwinded with long passages of "nothing" happening - but that's certainly not a deficiency imo, after all it's not a book geared to provide suspense (although it has copious amounts of that too) but a realistic view on the life of the crew of a sub and those downtimes are simply a part of that.

and again, Buchheim's writing is very enjoyable - to me at least, i bought his two other novels after reading Das Boot, The Fortress and The Parting. Both are in the same style (knowing hardly anything about literature theory i'd call it stream-of-consciousness-y); Fortress is a 1500-pages-monster about his experiences in pre- and post-D-Day France that lacks the sheer suspense of Das Boot. nonetheless i still enjoyed it a lot.
I just read The Forsaken Army by Heinrich Gerlach. Gerlach was a school teacher in his life before the war. It's a story by one of the 5000 survivors of the 6th Army on the Eastern Front. He tried to smuggle out a version of his writings while he was a POW but the manuscript was confiscated and destroyed. After the war, although he managed to survive his health was ruined, and so his memory for specific events was compromised.

So, he wrote a novelized account of the surrounding of the German Army, the many promises of reinforcements from Berlin, and the eventual surrender of the frozen troops against Hitler's orders. Although we tend to have less sympathy for them because they were, well, Nazis, as well as being the aggressors, it's hard to imagine the level of suffering depicted in the book.
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