WWII Military Myths

It is claimed that Napoleon once said “history is the lies that the victors agree on”. While rather extreme, there is a strong element of truth in this statement. Unfortunately the military history of WWII (as opposed to the political and socio-economic histories) has been, and still is, particularly susceptible to this phenomenon. It appears that the whole subject of Nazi Germany and WWII is so emotive that it has proved difficult for many historians and other commentators to be objective. In many cases it has proved impossible for them to stand back and analyse the purely military aspects of the war, with particular focus on the tactical and operational performance of the belligerent’s military forces.

There are many reasons for this, which would in themselves warrant a whole book. However, the core seems to be human nature: who wants to learn that their ‘hated’ enemy exhibited a higher degree of tactical or operational skill than their own brave soldiers? Who wants to learn that a derided enemy weapon system was in fact an outstanding operational success? Nevertheless one would expect that after six decades a sense of objective realism would prevail in regards to the military aspects of WWII. Unfortunately the vast majority of literature to do with this subject is written by ‘authorities’ from the winning side, and generally there has been a curious reluctance on the part of historians and authors to shake off the myths bestowed by Allied counter-propaganda during the war. It is understandable and necessary that during WWII the Allies (including the Soviets) would assiduously propagate statements to debunk Axis propaganda. But it seems that many of these deliberate misconceptions and fallacies sown during the war have continued post-war. In most cases these misconceptions have been diluted, but the core messages remain. In the post-war years, too many successive WWII commentators (with notable exceptions) have taken the received wisdom of these statements on face value and repeated them ad nauseam until they have become the generally accepted ‘truth’. Some of the ‘legends of WWII’ do stand up to close scrutiny and in-depth quantitative analysis, but a great many do not.

The objective focus of ‘Operation Barbarossa: the Complete Statistical Collation and Military Simulation’ is upon the tactical, operational and strategic performance of the Soviet and Axis forces in 1941. The methodology employed in this work forces the reader or user to ask questions about all aspects of the war, and in many cases the facts and figures coming out of the research do not support the commonly held beliefs currently held by the majority of published literature.

The following constitutes a few selected examples where a ‘WWII truth’ is nothing more than a myth, or where it desperately needs to be placed in context for the reader to gain an accurate overall view.

The T-34 in WWII: the Legend vs. the Performance

The ‘Siberian’ Divisions and the Battle for Moscow in 1941-42

Combat Aircraft Versus Armour in WWII

The Eighty Eight: ‘Anti-aircraft, Anti-tank and Anti-social’

The ‘Door Knocker’

1940 Panzer Divisions vs. 1941 Panzer Divisions

All Infantry Squads are Not Created Equal

The Omnipresent Luftwaffe

Essay, Part of the Ongoing Discourse on German / Soviet Combat Proficiencies

The Operational Readiness State of Tanks in Army Group Center’s Panzer Groups in late August 1941

The Spanish Blue Division in 41-42