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Nazi Germany's 5 Most Lethal Weapons of War

Not only did the U-boat campaign force the Allies to slow the flow of troops and war materials across the Atlantic and organize shipping into convoys for protection, it also affected the British civilian population, which suffered chronic shortages of foodstuffs and other goods. Initially powerful, U-boats were eventually nullified by Allied countermeasures and ultimately failed to sever lines of communication between North America and western Europe. Germany’s submarine force lost heavily—765 U-boats were lost during the course of the Second World War.

Panzerfaust

Germany’s use of masses of tanks on the modern battlefield opened Pandora’s box. Within a few years Allied forces would be returning the favor and it was suddenly the German Army that was facing large numbers of British, American and Soviet tanks. As the quality of German forces declined and the number of Allied forces went up, the Wehrmacht had a need for a cheap, inexpensive way to saturate the battlefield with tank-killing firepower. The result: the Panzerfaust.

The Panzerfaust was incredibly simple for an effective antitank weapon. A single-shot, recoilless weapon, it featured a large, egg-shaped warhead attached to a disposable metal tube. The primitive trigger ignited the black powder propellant, sending the warhead to an effective range of thirty yards. The shaped charge warhead had an astonishing penetration capability of up to 7.9 inches, making it capable of destroying any Allied tank.

The Panzerfaust made anyone—even old men and children dragooned into the German Army late in the war—a potential tank killer. The introduction of this new short-range, last-ditch weapon made Allied tank crews more cautious around German infantry that did not appear to have strong antitank defenses, such as towed guns. During the Battle for Berlin, some Soviet tankers even welded bed springs to their tanks, in hopes that prematurely detonating the shaped charge warhead would save their tank—a tactic the U.S. Army used decades later with so-called “slat armor” on Stryker armored vehicles.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

Image: Tiger 131. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/Simon Quinton

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