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.
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.
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.