World War I and World War II had a significant impact on the development of the world because they revealed the full extent to which a global military conflict may be dangerous and devastating. At the same time, strategies used in both World Wars by different countries aimed at the global domination, although they were quite different in principle and implementation of different weaponry determined, to a significant extent the different in strategies and tactics used by participants of both wars. In fact, the technological progress and changes in the weaponry influenced consistently the development and outcomes of both wars and the difference in technologies and weaponry used in World War II has revealed the huge progress countries had made since World War I that had changed strategies and tactics used in World War II compared to World War I. At the same time, the difference in technology had defined the difference in strategies used in the course of wars. World War I was the trenches war because weapon, such rifles and canons mainly did not allow fast maneuvers, whereas World War II was the blitzkrieg war because aviation, tanks and other vehicles allowed the fast movement of troops and rapid invasion of huge territory of enemy. For instance, Germany used aviation to paralyze the opposing army, destroying its aviation and production facilities, whereas tanks backed up the invasion but, in World War I, this strategy was impossible because of the lack of new technologies. As a result, World War II became a new step in the development of military technologies, which distinguished it from World War I and determined the striking difference in strategies used in World War II compared to World War I.
Key players in World War I and World War II
First of all, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the key players involved in World War I and World War II were the same because the same countries attempted to maintain their global domination and were full of imperialistic ambitions. In this regard, it is worth mentioning traditional opponents in Europe, including Germany and Italy and their allies as opposed to Great Britain, France and Russia (Steinberg, 621). These were key players in both wars in Europe. In other parts of the world, it is important to single out the US and Japan as major opposing parties, which maintain the military conflict in the Asia-Pacific region, whereas the US was involved in military conflict not only in the Asia Pacific region but also took an active part in military actions in Europe. Remarkably, the territory of the US almost had not suffered from the war but the violent attack on Pearl Harbor in the beginning of World War II for the US.
Strategies, weapon and technologies in World War I and World War II
At the same time, it should be said that the main characteristic of World War I was its inactive development. World War I was a trenched war because armies involved in the war spent practically all their time in trenches without rapid and unexpected breakthroughs, which had become the characteristic of World War II. World War I was long-lasting through the nature of tactics and weapons used in the war. For instance, in Europe, opponents could not make a fast breakthrough through multiple defense lines and trenches. As a result, the war was exhausting and opponents did not penetrate deep into each others’ territory being clinched together in the trenches.
At this point, it is important to stress the fact that the weapon and technologies used in World War I did not allow armies to conduct effective and fast military operations invading huge enemy territory in a short time. However, this was exactly the case of World War II. For instance, Germany used aviation and tanks to implement its strategy of Blitzkrieg. The early success of German army were determined by a successful tactics of Blitzkrieg, which worked pretty well in Western Europe but failed in the war on the USSR, which turned out to be long-lasting:
The worm in the apple of Hitler’s spectacular campaigns of 1939-41 was that they had been fought from an economic base too fragile to sustain a long war, but with effects on the will of his enemies which ensured that the war would inevitably lengthen into a do-or-die struggle unless he could quickly crown it with a swift and decisive victory.
Nevertheless, the German army had reached a tremendous success in the war due to the effective use of aviation and tanks:
The German armoured pincers which encircled and crushed the Soviet armies in western Russia in June, July and August 1941 were instruments of military victory such as the world had never seen; but they were not instruments of total victory. Although they destroyed one of the Soviet Union’s principal means of making war, its mobilised front-line defences, they did not succeed in destroying its industrial resources in the European provinces. Even while the Panzers were on the march, an evacuation soviet was rapidly uprooting factories from their path, loading machinery, stocks and workforces on to the overstretched railways, and shipping them eastward to new locations beyond the Panzers’ reach. (Keegan, 47).
In this respect, it is possible to refer to Fuller, who believed that the massive use of tanks breaking through to the enemy’s hinterland would lead to the defeat of the enemy and fast victory.
Germany could not avoid its defeat even in spite of control over Western Europe, where the power of Germany was unchallengeable: The German system of control in Western Europe was both efficient and economical. In France, German security forces did not number more than 6500 at any stage of the war. (Keegan, 37).
In such a situation, any attempts of forces resisting to the German control in Europe to rebel and raise the military resistance to the occupation:
all failed at the price of very great suffering to the brave patriots involved but at triffling cost to the German forces that put them down … They must be seen by any objective reckoning as irrelevant and pointless acts of bravado (Keegan, 481)
In contrast to Hitler, Stalin used the scorched earth strategy that proved its efficiency. Therefore, Stalin took the right decision in the course of the war.
Tojo was a proponent of the massive use of aviation in the war. In this respect, it is worth mentioning Douhet’s concept of bombing as a key to success in the war. At the same time, Tojo developed the idea of Japanese supremacy in Asia:
The idea of a “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” … clothed a genuine belief in the mission of Japan, as the first great Asian power, to lead other Asians to independence from foreign rule. Many in Asia were enthused and inspired by the Japanese triumph of 1942 and were ready, even eager, to co-operate with it. (Keegan, 48).
Respecting General Tojo, Keegan writes:
Contrary to Allied wartime propaganda, Tojo was not a fascist…He did not seek revenge…He was strongly anti-communist and feared the growing power of Mao Zedong in China; but he harbored no scheme to exterminate Japan’s Chinese enemies or any other group who might stand in Japan’s way in Asia. On the contrary, his chauvinism was exclusively anti-Western … His vision was of an Asia liberated from the Western presence, in which Japan stood first among peoples who would recognize the extraordinary effort it had made to modernize itself. (Keegan, 49)
In such a way, it is obvious that aviation and tanks, which were apparently underdeveloped in World War I, became the core weaponry and technology used by opposing parties in World War II. What is meant here is the fact that aggressors, namely Germany, Japan and their allies relied heavily on aviation and tanks because they allowed them to attack fast and deep into the territory of their enemies. In such a way, they could invade fast huge territories. Normally, countries used aviation to destroy strategic targets on the territory of enemy, especially the aviation of the enemy. After that tanks came into the play and completed the invasion launched by aviation. As a rule, opponents could not recover fast after the aviation’s attacks and they had to give up as soon as tanks and other troops arrived to the devastated areas.
However, in contrast to World War I, World War II strategy of aggressors was mainly focused on the blitzkrieg – fast and victorious war. Both Germany and Japan expected to win the war they launched fast, destroying armies and infrastructure of the enemy in the first days if not hours of the war. This strategy was quite successful as long as the war lasted for a short time. However, as soon as aggressors were involved in a long-lasting war, namely after the assault of Germany on the USSR, the blitzkrieg war has failed and, instead, Germany and its allies had to conduct the long-lasting war similar, in a way, to that of World War I. But this similarity was just superficial because weaponry and technologies used in World War II allowed armies to conduct large scale operations and destroy easily trenches of opponents (Cook, 640). Instead, World War II became the war where countries with more advanced technologies and weaponry won. In this regard, the end of the war is particularly noteworthy because the war ended after the bombardment of Japan and use of nuclear weapon by the US.
In fact, technologies had made a considerable progress in World War II compared to World War I. For instance, the aviation played the crucial role in World War II as well as tanks, which worked together effectively allowing armies to penetrate fast to the territory of the enemy. During World War I, aviation had been used for intelligence mainly. However, during World War II aviation was used for bombing as well as fighters were developed to protect bombers as well as to protect territory from enemy bombers. Aviation allowed to change the strategy of World War II compared to World War I, when technologies were under-developed and aviation could not be used as effectively as it was used in World War II. The same trend could be traced in relation to tanks, which were quite few in World War I, whereas in World War II they became an important part of armies participating in the war.
Thus, both World War I and World War II had devastating effects. However, World War I suffered from technological backwardness that determined the strategy and tactics used by opponents. In stark contrast, World War II was technologically more advanced with the emphasis on the use of aviation and tanks. Such changes in weaponry affected the strategy and tactics of World War II. In fact, opponents attempted to end the war fast using massive aviation attacks and destroying key targets and infrastructure of each other. In such a way, World War II was even more devastating then World War II, whereas the number of casualties among civilians had grown consistently compared to World War I. Thus, World War II marked the new stage in the development of weaponry, military strategy and tactics.
A Multimedia History of World War I. 2011. Retrieved on April 1, 2011 from http://www.firstworldwar.com/
Cornwell, J. Hitler’s Scientists. New York: Random House, 2008.
Cook, Tim (2006), “The politics of surrender: Canadian soldiers and the killing of prisoners in the First World War”, The Journal of Military History 70(3): 637–665
Keegan, J. The Second World War. New York: Routledge, 2007.
Steinberg, Jonathan (June 1995). “The Third Reich Reflected: German Civil Administration in the Occupied Soviet Union, 1941–4”. The English Historical Review 110 (437): 620–51.
World War II. Military Situation Maps. Library of Congress. 2011. Retrieved on April 1, 2011 from http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/maps/wwii/