“The Bazooka, the Jeep, the DC-3 and the atom bomb,” Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower is said to have answered when he was asked, after the war, what things made the biggest contribution to the American victory in the Second World War. The answer may be apocryphal, but there’s no disputing the essence of it.
American productivity, technology, know-how and resources were just some of the factors that enabled us to crush the Axis. Specifically, ten major factors and weapons enabled the Allies, led by the U.S., to win.
The Willys MB Jeep
The Jeep. One of the most widely-produced vehicles in human history, the Willys MB enabled the mass-mechanization of U.S. battlefield forces. Willys and Ford together produced 640,000 of the ubiquitous 4 x 4, ¼-ton trucks. The U.S. Army was the only army in World War 2 that was 100% mechanized.
The Pratt & Whitney R-2800
Used to power such iconic American combat planes as the Curtiss C-46 Commando, the Northrop P-61 Black Widow, the Martin B-26 Marauder, the Vought F-4U Corsair and the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, among other famous W.W.2 allied aircraft, this 2,000-h.p., 18 cylinder engine was rugged, reliable and immensely powerful. Over 125,000 were manufactured.
The Norden Bombsight
The Norden bombsight. As secret as the atomic bomb, the Norden bombsight was an electro-mechanical computer that coupled with the bomber’s autopilot and reduced circular error probability to around 1,200 feet in combat. The Norden compensated for wind, altitude, airspeed and density altitude automatically, enabling U.S. bombers to attack targets in daylight with precision.
The ‘Bazooka’ Firing an anti-tank, rocket-propelled shaped charge warhead, the “2.36 inch anti-tank rocket launcher” could take out a Panzer or a Tiger tank at a time when the American Sherman tank, which was inferior to Nazi armored fighting vehicles, was being chewed up on the battlefield. The M-1 Bazooka firing the M-6 warhead enabled U.S. foot soldiers to level the playing field and stopped hundred of Panzers in their tracks.
The M-1 Garand rifle
The Garand M-1 rifle. Gen. Geo. S. Patton, Jr., called the American infantry weapon, “the greatest combat implement ever devised.” It was a semi-automatic rifle firing a .30-06 round, housed in clips of 8, that didn’t require cocking and re-loading like the bolt-action German 1908 Mauser did. Firepower made the difference, and the M-1 delivered a heavy, large round that would generally kill, instead of wound, the enemy. Over 6,000,000 M-1s, at a cost of $85. each, were produced.
The C-47 Skytrain (DC-3)
The Douglas C-47 Skytrain (DC-3). The DC-3 was the world’s first “modern” airliner, and it saw extensive service in the war, dropping paratroops, supplies, weapons and generally functioning as a combat workhorse. The twin-engined transport remains one of the most recognizable symbols of American air superiority in the war; about 10,000 were built. Hundreds are still flying.
The naval combat aircraft carrier
The U.S. Navy operated nearly 100 aircraft carriers during the war. Most were ‘escort carriers,’ which ultimately defeated Nazi U-boats in the Atlantic. U.S. “fast carriers”, and their naval shipboard fighters and bombers, destroyed the Imperial Japanese fleet and enabled the island-hopping campaign that ultimately crushed Japan itself.
American industrial production
One-half of all industrial output worldwide, in 1944, was American. Fed by a virtually unlimited stream of raw materials, possessed by no other nation in such unstoppable abundance, U.S. war production, combined with the most well-trained army in history, overwhelmed the Axis. America could not be out-produced and, therefore, it couldn’t lose.
The atomic bomb
After the Nazis surrendered, America was still fighting Japan. The problem was, Japan was beaten, but they didn’t know it. Hundreds of incendiary fire-bombing raids on the home islands still didn’t convince their government that continued fighting was pointless. The world’s first nuclear weapons, however, did. A few days after Nagasaki was destroyed, Hirohito broadcast a message to his people accepting America’s terms. Say what you want to after reading Hiroshima by John Hersey, but Little Boy and Fat Man ended World War Two.
American public opinion
The wants and needs of the American people have been the dominant force in world affairs for the entire 20th century. Japan and Germany both thought that America was soft, unprincipled and weak. After Pearl Harbor galvanized the U.S., it was immediately obvious that nothing short of an absolute victory would be acceptable. A determined government, and an equally resolute populace, delivered the most clear-cut victory in modern history.