It may be considered unfortunate, but war can drive innovation. World War II was no exception. In fact, the Second World War was easily the most innovative war up until then in human history due to the wide array of new and deadly weaponry that were developed over the course of the conflict.
Here are the most innovative World War II weapons:
The STG44 was the world’s first true assault rifle and the pinnacle of German small arms achievement during the war. Up until then, the two primary infantry weapons were bolt action rifles and automatic submachine guns. The STG44 was designed to bring the two weapons together, by firing intermediate rifle rounds out of a fully automatic carbine that could be easily carried around, unlike the American BAR. Around half a million STG44s were made, and they were intended to eventually phase out the 98k rifle completely, but the war ended before it could. Afterwards, captured STG44 rifles ended up in the hands of the Soviets, who developed the design into the AK-47.
Perhaps the most effective and widely used heavy machine gun of the war was the M2 Browning in .50 caliber. Millions of them were produced for everything from defending bombers to being mounted on tanks and trucks and so on. The massive .50 caliber rounds could easily punch through walls and shred enemy soldiers to pieces. They also were capable of firing almost six hundred rounds a minute.
Also known as Hitler’s buzzsaw, the MG42 was one of the most feared light machine guns during the war. Firing the same 8mm Mauser round as the 98k rifle, it could fire up to 1,500 rounds a minute, which was twice the rate of the Allied machine guns. It also had an effective firing range of up to one thousand yards. Some German soldiers would also outfit the weapon with a drum magazine rather than a belt and remove the bipod, and then sling the rifle across their shoulder to use it more like an assault rifle than a true machine gun.
The primary piece of American artillery during World War II was the M101 Howitzer. The reason the M101 was so effective was because it was lightweight and easily portable. When used in close proximity, they could also lay waste to whatever they were targeting. The M101 Howitzer was used to great effect in both the Pacific and European theaters of war.
The B17 Flying Fortress was a heavy bomber that was equipped with ten thousand pounds of bombs at once, along with ten .50 caliber Browning M2 machine guns for defense. The bomber was commonly used by the American air force to lay waste to German cities and factories during the war, significantly hampering production. They also had a top speed of nearly three hundred miles per hour, which was incredibly fast for bombers at the time.
The standard issue grenade of the war was the Mk2 fragmentation grenade, which was also referred to as the pineapple grenade. It was also easily one of the most widely used grenades throughout the war. It was designed to be as simple to use as possible, while also having the ability to break apart into thousands of pieces when exploding, which would send thousands of pieces of shrapnel everywhere in a fifty yard radius.
When war broke out, the infantry of almost all world armies were equipped with bolt action rifles. The Germans had the Mauser 98k, the Italians had the Carcano, the Japanese the Arisaka, the British the Lee Enfield, the Soviets the Mosin Nagant, and so on. But the Americans did not have a bolt action rifle as their standard infantry weapon. Rather, they had the semi-automatic M1 Garand, which allowed for an overall much faster rate of fire. That’s also not to mention it had an eight shot clip, rather than the typical 5 shot of the time. The M1 was later developed into the M14 rifle following the war.
The German 88mm Flak Gun was developed by the Germans as both an anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapon. It was one of the most effective weapons in this class throughout the war, being used in all of the German fronts.
Considering that the atomic bomb was first developed and used during World War II, it simply has to be included in this list. It was also the weapon that effectively ended World War II as Japan surrendered right after (although the Soviet Union invading Manchuria was also a significant factor). Over two hundred thousand people perished instantly when the bombs went off, and hundreds of thousands of more died afterwards from radiation sickness. The Allies justified the use of the bombs, claiming that they saved millions of lives over the long run, as an invasion of the Japanese islands was the only alternative.
Also known as the King Tiger by Allied troops, who greatly feared it, the Tiger II tank was arguably the best tank of the war. It was heavily armored to the point that it could resist the guns of enemy Sherman and T-34 tanks, while taking out each of those tanks with a single hit. It wouldn’t at all be uncommon for a single Tiger II to take out over a dozen enemy tanks in a single battle. The only real downside to the Tiger II was its slow production. As a result, Germany was only able to produce over a thousand of them, so they didn’t have as big of an effect as they otherwise could have.
The Messerschmitt Me 262 jet was easily the most innovative and developed fighter plane during the war. It had a top speed of nearly eight hundred miles an hour, and was far more armored and powerful than any Allied fighter pilots. As a result, to destroy the Me 262 the only way American or Soviet fighter planes could effectively do it would be to attempt to shoot them on the ground or while they were attempting to land.
The V3 rockets were developed by Germany to reach Britain and damage London. In late 1944, the German forces were in full retreat across France and the Luftwaffe was incapable of attacking London, but Allied forces had practically free reign over Germany, dealing severe damage to cities and factories alike. The V1, V2, and V3 rockets were developed as so-called ‘vengeance’ weapons to strike the British homeland. Their effect, however, was very minimal as few were developed.