World War II is one of the most influential events in world history. Spanning from 1939 to 1945, the war introduced new weaponry and machinery to warfare that had not been used previously. The warring nations taxed their engineering and scientific geniuses to the limit in an effort to design and manufacture equipment that would outdo the enemy’s apparatus. Troops needed a way to infiltrate rival territory, and vehicles were a key element in the fight. Whether on the ground or in the air, World War II military vehicles directly affected a nation’s ability to win or lose ground in the global fight.
World War II Cars
The United Kingdom was the only country to enter into World War II with a full convoy of war vehicles. Many countries, including Germany, still relied on horses at the beginning of the war to move supplies and troops. The United States followed Britain’s lead and retired its horses prior to entering the war, opting to begin the production of Jeeps to move supplies and troops in 1940, even though the States did not officially join the fight until after the Japanese Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941. Jeeps became a huge commodity in World War II. These all-terrain vehicles proved to do just what they were built to do: move troops and supplies through some of the roughest terrain in Europe and Asia. Both the Allies and the Axis had access to, and used, Jeeps throughout the war.
BBC History Looks at World War II
The Jeep During World War II
Jeep History: A Heritage of Heroes
World War II Trucks
Trucks and fire trucks also played a key role in World War II. In fact, 6,000 GMC model trucks aided the Allies during the Normandy invasion. These trucks were sturdy like Jeeps, but they were larger, enabling them to transport a greater amount of troops and supplies. Many of these trucks carried gasoline, so the Allied troops were able to push forward toward Germany without having to worry about running out of gas. Germany did not use trucks like the Allied forces did and ran out of gas, leaving the German troops stuck in their position and vulnerable to Allied attacks.
GMC Trucks Helped Win World War II
World War II Fire Trucks: Vehicles of Victory
World War II Tanks
Every country fighting in World War II used tanks. Tanks came in numerous shapes and sizes, but all had the same purpose: to serve as a nearly indestructible artillery vehicle protecting the contents inside. Many smaller tanks were used to scout out locations to move troops forward into enemy territory; others provided safe transport for key military personnel; all were armed and extremely dangerous. Dr. Sanders Marbles, a World War II historian, lists the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and Germany as the countries equipped with the best tanks during World War II. Germany, in particular, used tanks during its Blitzkrieg attacks when invading Poland, prompting the Allies to up their tank production and, eventually, win the war.
Stanford University Report on Armoured Fighting Vehicles
Stanford University News Discusses Tanks That Shaped History
The Ohio State University History List of Best World War II Tanks
Military Channel’s Tanks and Vehicles From World War II
World War II Aircraft
World War II brought air warfare to a new tactical level. The United States entered World War II because of air attack, and ended it with air attack. Perhaps one of the more perplexing strategies exercised in World War II was the Kamikaze fighter. On December 7, 1941, the U.S. Naval fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor was suddenly subjected to single-manned airplanes loaded with explosives literally flying into the naval vessels and airfields. The fearless Japanese soldiers committed suicide in honor of their country, and the planes they flew exploded upon impact, causing irreparable damage to the U.S. fleet. Nearly four years later on August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allies after the United States — by air — dropped two nuclear bombs on the country. This type of air warfare had never been seen before. In between these two key events, air warfare raged between the Allied and Axis countries. Advancements in technology enabled aircraft to do more than just fight. Aircraft and radar were used on reconnaissance missions. They were also used to move equipment and forces quickly. But it wasn’t until the aircraft named the “Enola Gay” dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan that World War II aircraft warfare took the final step toward ending the war that had consumed the globe for six years.
Wesleyan University: 47 Ships Sunk by Kamikaze Aircraft
The Ohio State University’s Discussion of U.S. Aircraft Carriers in World War II
University of California Los Angeles: German Jets in World War II
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s Enola Gay Exhibit
Cornell University’s Enola Gay Controversy Lecture
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