Here’s a weapon which could more properly be described as “low-profile” rather than underrated: the proximity-fused anti-aircraft artillery shell. Proximity fuses were essentially miniature radar sets, built small enough to fit in a shell and tough enough to withstand the tremendous kick of being fired from a gun. They were quite a technical achievement and they increased the chance that a shell would bring down an airplane even if it didn’t hit it directly. The Americans kept the proximity fuse very hush-hush; if I recall correctly, it was restricted to being used at sea, where unexploded shells couldn’t be recovered by the enemy and studied for their secrets.
Another effective weapon whose details were kept secret from the American public was the shaped-charge warhead. I own a laminated WWII magazine advertisement page which tells Americans about a revolutionary new anti-armour weapon called the bazooka; it makes the point that GIs are finding it very effective against German tanks, but it adds that the exact details of how it works and what it looks like can’t be revealed. As it happens, the Germans knew all about the Munroe Effect (discovered as far back as the 19th century) and had their own shaped-charge anti-tank weapon: the Panzerfaust. An amusing example of the public on your side being kept in the dark more than the military people on the enemy side.
Also on the subject of Italian POWs: some Italians captured by the British in North Africa ended up being interned in the Orkney Islands, where they were put to work constructing concrete barriers to seal off the eastern entry route into Scapa Flow (the route taken by U47 when it torpedoed the battleship Royal Oak in October 1939). Sometimes, arguments would break out between the Italians and the British personnel supervising the work, and an Army interpreter would be called in to sort out the dispute. After one such altercation, a Navy officer took the interpreter aside and asked him why he had been translating for the Italian man who’d been complaining, saying that, “This fellow can speak English!” The interpreter retorted that the man couldn’t “even speak Italian!” – an answer which no doubt baffled the Navy officer until the prisoner later confided that he’d been speaking in dialect. (“Churchill’s Prisoners: The Italians In Orkney, 1942-1944.” St Margaret’s Hope : Orkney Wireless Museum, 1992.)
On top of that, the average and casual Italian at this point had a very low morale, since they by now knew that Italy would loose, even if the Axis won the war.
That statement rings false. Germany did not have plans to enslave Italy after the war. In his writings, Hitler pointed out that if a nation wants allies, it must establish a reputation for treating its allies well. It was a logical conclusion for the leader of any nation, and I have seen no evidence to suggest Hitler had deviated from that logic.
I agree Italian morale was low. There were several reasons for that.
Mussolini seized power through military means. His views were not necessarily representative of those of most Italians.
Mussolini did not build a strong relationship with the Italian people after seizing office. He had no reason to rely on the Italian people to stick with him through thick and thin.
Most Italians did not believe in Mussolini’s dream of a revived Roman Empire, and thought his foreign adventures were rather pointless.
Italy was unprepared for war. It lacked a strong military culture and strong military traditions. Its army was not afforded the weapons which would have been necessary to destroy Britain’s Matilda tanks. Its military leadership was lacking. It’s hard to maintain high morale when it’s obvious that your opponent has a much better sense of what he’s doing than your own military has of what it’s doing.
Note that all four problems existed before Hitler came to power in Germany. It’s not as though Mussolini’s Italy had a great military tradition, which then collapsed once Hitler and Mussolini became allies. On the contrary: Italy’s military tradition and military preparedness were greatly lacking both before and after Hitler and Mussolini became allies.
The Battle of the Coral Sea fought from 4–8 May 1942, was a major naval battle between the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and naval and air forces from the United States and Australia, taking place in the Pacific Theater of World War II. The battle is historically significant as the first action in which aircraft carriers engaged each other, as well as the first in which neither side’s ships sighted or fired directly upon the other.
In an attempt to strengthen its defensive position in the South Pacific, Japan decided to invade and occupy Port Moresby (in New Guinea) and Tulagi (in the southeastern Solomon Islands). The plan to accomplish this was called Operation MO, and involved several major units of Japan’s Combined Fleet. These included two fleet carriers and a light carrier to provide air cover for the invasion forces. It was under the overall command of Japanese Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue.
The U.S. learned of the Japanese plan through signals intelligence, and sent two United States Navy carrier task forces and a joint Australian-American cruiser force to oppose the offensive. These were under the overall command of American Admiral Frank J. Fletcher.
On 3–4 May, Japanese forces successfully invaded and occupied Tulagi, although several of their supporting warships were sunk or damaged in surprise attacks by aircraft from the U.S. fleet carrier Yorktown. Now aware of the presence of U.S. carriers in the area, the Japanese fleet carriers advanced towards the Coral Sea with the intention of locating and destroying the Allied naval forces. Beginning on 7 May, the carrier forces from the two sides engaged in airstrikes over two consecutive days. On the first day, the U.S. sank the Japanese light carrier Shōhō; meanwhile, the Japanese sank a U.S. destroyer and heavily damaged a fleet oiler (which was later scuttled). The next day, the Japanese fleet carrier Shōkaku was heavily damaged, the U.S. fleet carrier Lexington critically damaged (and later scuttled), and Yorktown damaged. With both sides having suffered heavy losses in aircraft and carriers damaged or sunk, the two forces disengaged and retired from the battle area. Because of the loss of carrier air cover, Inoue recalled the Port Moresby invasion fleet, intending to try again later.
Although a tactical victory for the Japanese in terms of ships sunk, the battle would prove to be a strategic victory for the Allies for several reasons. The battle marked the first time since the start of the war that a major Japanese advance had been checked by the Allies. More importantly, the Japanese fleet carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku – the former damaged and the latter with a depleted aircraft complement – were unable to participate in the Battle of Midway (the following month) while Yorktown did participate, ensuring a rough parity in aircraft between the two adversaries and contributing significantly to the U.S. victory in that battle. The severe losses in carriers at Midway prevented the Japanese from reattempting to invade Port Moresby from the ocean and helped prompt their ill-fated land offensive over the Kokoda trail. Two months later, the Allies took advantage of Japan’s resulting strategic vulnerability in the South Pacific and launched the Guadalcanal Campaign; this, along with the New Guinea Campaign, eventually broke Japanese defenses in the South Pacific and was a significant contributing factor to Japan’s ultimate defeat in World War II.
In the terms of the Pacific War, how did this battle change the shape of the campaign before the battle of Midway?
How do you guys think Midway would have went if the Japanese carriers Shokaku and Zuikaku were present at the battle alongside the other carriers?
Neither side saw each other during this battle and yet it happened.
Pretty much declared a draw, what do you guys think?