5 Bullshit 'Facts' Everyone Believes About WWII

We all think we know a thing or two about World War II, probably because it's been immortalized in every medium from blockbuster films to fetish pornography. But as we've mentioned before, any popular historical subject tends to resemble a pit of truth at the center of an overripe bullshit fruit. We're talking basic preconceptions like ...

#5. World War II Was the War of Technology

Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If the average World War II documentary is to be believed, the Americans single-handedly crushed the Nazis under the mechanized might of our planes, tanks, and automobiles. Then, just to put the icing on the annihilation cake, we loaded up one of said airplanes with our brand spanking new god-bomb and ended the war with the Japanese in one fell swoop (OK, technically two).

After all, this ain't the friggin' War of 1812 we're talking about! Everything "World War II" was mechanized, motorized, and weaponized.

Apogee Software
Even Hitler.

Why It's Bullshit:

Despite the copious stock footage of B-17 and B-29 bombers employed by the History Channel, World War II was still largely about horsepower. Literal horsepower.

Museum Platkow
And the Howitzer was powered by trained fire mice.

The Soviet Army had at least 3.5 million horses in service and deployed tens of thousands of mounted cavalrymen. They would have relied even more heavily on horse-drawn transport had the U.S. not played the role of shady wartime used car dealer. Now, you might expect as much from an army that famously didn't have enough guns for all its soldiers, but they weren't the only ones who relied heavily on horses.

The German "war machine" was actually less gears and sheet metal, more flesh and bone. When World War II began, horses outnumbered vehicles in the Wehrmacht by a good 3 to 1, and that figure only got worse as the war progressed and vehicles crapped out. When we think of the German army, we think of panzer and tiger tanks, but even the famous panzer armies had 15,000 more horses than motors. And here you thought those fancy jackboots were just for style.

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-E10457 / CC-BY-SA
If there was such a thing as a "stately" blitzkrieg, you'd be looking at it.

Ironically, even as Nazi propagandists were inventing stories about Polish cavalrymen hopelessly charging German tanks, the German army was busy forming new cavalry units in an attempt to stop getting trampled by their horse-savvy enemies.

The United States had the only army that was mostly motorized, yet U.S. cavalry was responsible for one of the last mounted charges in history. And even though the U.S. was less reliant on horses, the Allied rolls contained thousands of veterinarians, veterinarians' assistants, and blacksmiths who kept animals and wagons on the road. While we firmly believe that Hawk Phoenix: Blitzkrieg Veterinarian and Flint McSteel: Wartime Blacksmith would have made excellent films, the animal-powered nature of the war got little airplay, thanks largely to Soviet and Axis propaganda efforts.

US Army Handbook
Armies really, really wanted that Humane Association label in their film credits.

#4. The Nazis Came This Close to Developing an Atomic Bomb

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As documented in such historical works as Captain America and The Official Wolfenstein Compendium of World War II, Nazi Germany was a technological juggernaut -- why, they were neck and neck with the U.S. in the race to develop the A-bomb. It was only blind luck (and the fact that Jesus likes apple pie more than bratwurst) that led to the good guys developing it first.

Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images
"Fuck it. At least we still have that Ark project going, right?"

Why It's Bullshit:

In what was quite possibly the only good thing anti-Semitism ever did for the world, the Third Reich ostracized the very scientists capable of developing the atomic bomb. In fact, the Reich was so disdainful of that type of work that they considered the whole field of study "Jewish physics." So-called "Jewish physicists" like Erwin "quantum mechanics" Schrodinger and Albert "motherfucking" Einstein booked it out of Germany, and their exit lit the fuse that sent the Nazis' atomic aspirations up in a disappointingly non-mushroom-shaped cloud.

Apic/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"Albert E=FU squared."

While the remaining German scientists got the general gist of what it would take to make the bomb tick, the Nazi atomic bomb program was doomed from the get-go due to gross miscalculations in just how much uranium was needed to give the very face of Mother Earth a gigantic shiner. Add to that the fact that Germany had been largely expelled from the world's scientific community (nobody wants genocide-tainted fingers all up in their beakers), and they never stood so much as a snowball's chance of painting that shiny new doomsday device with stylized swastikas.

#3. The Nazis Were an Efficient, Bureaucratic Machine

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Pop culture has consistently depicted the Third Reich as a cruel, coldly calculating computer. Say what you will about the content of their lists, they were, at the least, impeccably organized. (And probably at least five items long, as all good list makers know is necessary.) It's almost impossible to picture Nazi Germany as anything other than a disturbingly efficient bureaucratic superpower.

Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
So whenever someone insists on competence, feel free to call them a genocidal maniac.

Why It's Bullshit:

It's absolutely true that Germany's government was a well-oiled machine ... before the Nazis came along and threw a big ol' Aryan super-wrench into its gears.

Back when Hitler wasn't much more than a Mussolini fanboy, the German government was ticking along about as well as a post-war, pre-Depression era government could be expected to. They were keeping up with their reparation payments from World War I, their currency was stabilizing -- the I's were dotted, the T's were crossed, and everything was in order. But then the Third Reich came along, slapped all those nerd-papers into the air, and walked away laughing.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Josef Mengele was also a controversial proponent of titty twisting.

While it's true that the Nazis had a ton of paperwork, no one ever said that they were any good at it. The Nazi government was all about a political agenda and not so much about administration; from its very beginnings, it was a bureaucratic nightmare that completely destabilized itself through extreme politicization, intergovernmental conflicts, and other problems that didn't even exist in Germany until the Nazis came to power. Even the very poster child of unfeeling bureaucracy, the Gestapo, was an absolute mess. They were consistently and embarrassingly understaffed, and if it wasn't for the German public pulling Gestapo horror stories out of their asses, they'd have seen their influence crumble quicker than a certain young artist's career.

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