The P26/40 Tank Was the Italian T-34
Italy was not renown in World War II for its tanks, which tended to be light and poorly used on the battlefield. But the Italian arms industry did produce interesting designs, some quite formidable. The Carro Armato P26/40 was a rare example of an Italian medium tank—the Italian army referred... Read more
Foreign Soldiers Built the French Army
At the end of World War II, the French Army was the fourth largest military force on the European continent, behind the Soviet Union, the United States’s expeditionary forces and Britain. The Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle had battled fascism alongside the Allied armies and marched straight... Read more
The Destroyer ‘Le Terrible’ Was Blazingly Fast
Destroyers in World War I rarely got close enough to battle an enemy fleet with their guns, so navies began building faster, most robust and heavily-armed destroyers packing bigger weapons and additional torpedo tubes. During the following interwar period, no country embraced this trend more than France, which built several large, fast... Read more
The Media Laughed, But Bob Semple Stood by His Tank
New Zealand wasn’t at risk of a direct attack during World War I. That would change nearly three decades later during World War II with the onset of rapid Japanese conquests in the South Pacific. As New Zealand faced the possibility of a Japanese landing, industrialist and conscription minister... Read more
The Third Reich Squandered the Well-Armed ‘Scharnhorst’
The Treaty of Versailles drastically limited the size of the postwar Kriegsmarine, precluding Germany from owning any dreadnought battleships. The Germans could keep (and replace) pre-dreadnought vessels of 10,000 tons or less, roughly the size of a heavy cruiser in most navies. Presented with this problem, German engineers developed... Read more
World War II Created the Documentary Film Genre
World War II still haunts. Even now—several generations removed—we still live in the shadow of a war that reshaped the planet and propelled America to the center of geopolitical power. Millions of Americans grew up watching footage of the war and hearing its stories told and retold around the... Read more
The AEC Armored Car Pretended to Be a Tank
The United Kingdom fielded one of the widest varieties of armored cars during World War II. All were lightly-armored vehicles designed for scouting, convoy escort, rear security and other less combat-intensive duties. One of the more unusual British armored cars was the AEC, which came in three versions—Mk I-III—with roughly... Read more
The Nashorn Was Germany’s World War II Tank Sniper
German tanks during World War II were often outmatched by superior Red Army designs beginning with the T-34. Armor, reliability and firepower were all—at various times—serious shortcomings. To counteract the Soviet beasts, Germany rushed ahead with tank destroyers—armored vehicles designed to inflict long-range firepower from concealed positions—but these also had a... Read more
Britain’s Bizarre ‘Fleet Shadower’ Showed Up at the Wrong Time
The Royal Navy was still heavily a gun and battleship-centric force in the years just before World War II. So to help spot targets for its battleships, the Royal Navy in 1938 summoned manufacturers General Aircraft and Airspeed to develop two very similar prototype planes — which would become some of... Read more
In 1944, a Malfunctioning B-24 Bomber Required Mid-Air Surgery
On April 22, 1944, 26 B-24 bombers from the U.S. Army Air Corps’ 453rd Bombardment Group took off from Old Buckenham Airfield in England. Their target — a railway marshaling yard in Hamm, Germany. The pilot of the lead B-24 was Bill Norris, my father and a future Air Force test... Read more
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