I have quite a few entries of interesting things I found while fulfilling requests queued up now, so I think for the time being this will be it. However, I generally always welcome requests if there is something you really really want to see. And to the person who requests Mengele - I will do that once I gather up a bit more for a day’s worth of entries sometime this week. Thank you to everyone who submitted entries - they were spectacular!
Also, just for a bit of housekeeping: I recently started a blog of lovely things that inspire me. It’s mainly historical stuff, vintage illustration, 19th and 20th century art, etc. It will be occasionally nsfw (cabaret, vintage erotica and the like may pop up). If interested here it is:
“René Hemery, an officer with the 48th French Infantry Regiment, was in St. Dizier on the Marne that day when the Armistice was finally signed a little North in Compiegne. In St. Dizier, as elsewhere in the victor nations, the churchbells pealed and the streets filled with singing and dancing crowds. But Hemery, like most veterans, found it difficult to indulge in any form of celebration, and as dusk fell, he walked in search of better air toward the edge of town, where stood a small cemetery. As he approached the burial ground he heard sobbing. He moved closer. And finally he could see figures. One was a little boy playing with a flag, a Tricolor. The other was a woman, on her knees, forehead on the ground, overcome with grief. Clutching his ‘emblem of glory,’ as Hemery described the flag in his diary, the child suddenly shouted, ‘Papa, c’est la Victoire!’”—Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age. (via the-seed-of-europe)
Image showing the effects of a shaped charge lined with metal. Note the stand-off distance in the steel-lined example.
The Shaped Charge was a revolutionary weapon that made its debut during WWII. It works off of the Munroe Effect (something that was discovered in 1888), and was weaponized by a German during the inter-war period.
Essentially, you take a block of explosives, then make a conical-shaped hollow section in it. You then line it with a soft metal, such as copper. When the explosive is triggered, the conical section acts like a radar dish - it focusses the explosive force into a small point. The metal is essentially evaporated during the explosion, and is turned into plasma. The net profit being a concentrated jet of plasma that is moving so fast that it exerts pressures well above the yielding strength of any known metal.
Its primary application is anti-tank work. The small size of shaped charges means that a single man toting a shaped charge weapon can bring down a tank. This is utterly significant. Without it, infantry would have pretty much been helpless in the face of enemy armor. When fired from a tank or large gun, it has a very interesting effect - the shaped charge has the same amount of power regardless of range, unlike conventional AP shells, which rely on velocity.
All major combatants utilized shaped charges during WWII.
The Germans started things off by using it in their magnetic mines. Infantry would run up to tanks and the magnet would attach itself. The shaped charge would do the rest.
The Americans were the first to put it a rocket on the back of it, creating the iconic “Bazooka.” Germans would steal the design and make the Panzershreck.
The Germans put it in a recoilless rifle. The Americans would steal the idea and make their own recoilless rifles, sorta evening out the earlier German theft.
The Brits made the PIAT, which was pretty depressing when you consider it worked like kinda like a NERF foam-crossbow. It at least used a shaped charge.
The shaped was inherently unkind to rifled guns - the spinning motion would decrease the power of the shaped charge. The Germans solved this by mounting the shaped charge with ball bearings around it - the shell would spin but the charge would not.
The Soviets famously did not develop many infantry shaped charges, aside from some grenades. The Germans produced so many Panzerfausts that the Soviets were able to capture enough to furnish their armies. The Russians supplemented their infantry anti-tank arsenal with flamethrowers.
The Soviets, did, however, mount them on aircraft in bundles of 200 charges. A Sturmovik could carry two such bundles, an IL-4 could carry four such bundles (so an IL 4 packed 800 shaped charges). Each one of the charges could kill any tank in one hit.
The post war effect of the shaped charges was immense - tank designers everywhere concluded that steel armor was virtually useless in the face of shaped charges. This situation continues today. Only by using exotic materials like ceramics, titanium, kevlar, and depleted uranium can the threat of shaped charges be countered.
Even then, its not a complete counter. The American Javelin missile can defeat any tank in the entire world, in one hit, at over two miles away, day or night.
Here’s something for your weaponry day. The Russian-made T-34 tank. Refined and improved from the American Walter Christie’s earlier designs, the T-34 was a deadly blend of speed, maneuverability, firepower and protection. When it was first made, it was perhaps the best and most revolutionary tank in the world in terms of armor, gun, and alacrity. Modern tanks copy its innovations, in particular, its sloped armor - a tank design which utilizes geometric properties to increase the effective armor of the tank.
Its hardiness was also unparalleled - it could go for thousands of miles with maintenance from unspecialized technicians, its wide tracks prevented it from getting bogged down, and is engine could start even when completely frozen over.
The design was easily mass produced, and very versatile. While there were initial problems with crew communication and awareness, these issues were largely solved by 1944. At that point, it had been up-armored and up-gunned, ending up as a very capable main battle tank. Whether it was enemy tanks, fortifications, or infantry, the T34 could handle it.
While some German tanks may have been superior in a one on one basis, the production numbers of the T34 meant that they were everywhere. Many times, swarms of T34’s would simply avoid the slow Panzer divisions by either driving around them or using routes the Panzers could not, then striking at vulnerable infantry divisions, supply lines, command centers, and airfields. Many fascists were crushed underneath its treads.
The T34 was a war-winner, and it was, in my opinion, the greatest tank of the war.
Prototype weapons, unconventional warfare, and final version weapons that were breakthroughs for the era? :3
Admitting my ignorance again - I am more familiar with WWI breakthrough weaponry and new forms of warfare since there were so many (gas, flamethrowers, tanks, etc.), so I’ll queue some up today. But I’m keeping the submissions open for anyone who knows more and wants to contribute. Also! you submitted a link to an article, but I on’t think it worked! Try again?
For requests, what about those weird composite photos some photographers made during WWI? I've heard that a number of photos from that day were made out of several different photos to make a more exciting one. Could you show some of those?
Hmmm, I’ll look around and see what I can find. A lot of that happened in WWII as well, so I might queue those up.
If anyone wants to submit photos like this that they might have found, I’ll open submissions for the day!