Likewise, it was in army exercises on Salisbury plain in 1928-1929 that the British army’s “Experimental Armored Force” was tested in serious war games. This force consisted of light and heavier tanks, armored machine gun carriers, armored scout cars, artillery units and infantry and engineers in mechanized vehicles as well as RAF support from the air. The tradition-minded generals threw standard infantry and cavalry units at the EAF in vastly superior numbers, stacking the odds heavily against them and yet the EAF won every time and with relative ease. The Germans learned a great deal from this and the famous German Panzer Divisions of mechanized infantry, tanks and artillery backed up by air support were all based on the proven success of the Experimental Armored Force in Great Britain. The Germans basically took ideas developed in Britain and utilized them to best effect, even more so than the British themselves who were hampered, in the early days of the conflict by the strictly defensive attitude of their French allies. In some ways, the Germans may have learned the lesson too well as German military thinking tended to bind the air forces to the army on the ground more than in other countries.
|The Gloster Meteor|
In the war at sea, it is no surprise that the British, who had dominated the oceans for so long, were also on the cutting edge. With HMS Ark Royal the British built the first modern aircraft carrier in World War I and in actions during World War II such as the raid on Taranto and the sinking of the Bismarck, it was the Royal Navy that proved how effective aircraft could be in the new age of naval warfare. In submarine warfare the British became famous for the success their submarines had at sinking enemy submarines and Royal Navy mini-subs, known as X-craft (or XE-craft in the Pacific) scored major successes with the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz and the Japanese cruiser Takao. HMS Turbulent, one of the rugged, heavily armed T-class subs operated by the Royal Navy sank 90,000 tons of Axis shipping and the T-boats in particular played a crucial role in choking off the flow of supplies to Axis forces in North Africa at the height of the conflict. Commander Ben Bryant, the most successful British submarine captain to survive the war, sank 32 Axis ships as compared to the most successful American sub commander who sank 24. Both remarkable achievements but it shows how the Royal Navy were not just on the receiving end of submarine warfare. The British had an excellent record on the seas as well as above and below them.
When it comes to military innovation and records of success in new fields, particularly in World War II, few probably would even consider the Kingdom of Italy. Yet, this is mostly due to how masterful the British were at another wartime tactic: propaganda. The Italians were actually extremely innovative even though, to their detriment, they did not always utilize the ideas of their best and brightest. Most will no doubt be very surprised to learn just how ahead of the curve the Italians were, what feats they were able to accomplish and how much more they might have. Far too many people have simply come to accept a grossly unfair caricature of the Italian military forces that has been repeated so often as to become accepted as a matter of fact. On land, sea and air the royal Italian military was far more advanced and innovative than most people realize. During World War II, the Italians accomplished some remarkable things and, again, contrary to popular perception, had some very expert and effective commanders. For example, when it came to the Blitzkrieg tactics later made famous by the Germans, to a large extent these were first put into effect by the Italian troops under General Ettore Bastico in Spain during the Santander offensive fighting for the nationalists in the civil war. He heavily trained his troops for specific objectives, managed coordination between infantry, artillery and air units for support and emphasized the need for speed in the advance, to keep advancing, to never stop and never allow the enemy a moment to reorganize himself. The result was a great victory for the Italian forces in Spain and a crushing defeat for the Spanish republicans.
|Semovente da 105/25 Italian tank destroyer|
One of the many factors that hampered Italian armored effectiveness was a lack of radios and this was also a problem for most Italian aircraft. This is all the more frustrating considering that an Italian, Guglielmo Marconi, is usually credited with inventing the radio. Similarly, the Italians invented a workable radar set but, for some reason, it was never widely employed which put Italian naval units at a disadvantage. However, one area of new technology where Italy did quite well was in submarine warfare. At the beginning of the war Italy actually had the largest submarine fleet, by tonnage, in the world and in the course of the conflict Italian submarines would sink more than a million tons of Allied shipping. In fact, the most successful non-German submarine commander of World War II was an Italian, Captain Gianfranco Gazzana-Priaroggia who took down 90,601 tons of Allied shipping. The Italians also excelled at special-forces type operations using small torpedo motor-boats, demolition frogmen and human-guided torpedoes (though not of the suicide-type such as the Japanese kaiten). These units (Decima Flottiglia MAS) were able to sink numerous ships, even major warships, in some of the most heavily defended Allied harbors in the world such as Gibraltar, Alexandria, Egypt and Sebastopol, Ukraine. During the naval war in general, it is often overlooked that for a considerable period of time in 1942 the Italian Royal Navy won total control over the central Mediterranean, the major opportunity for the invasion of Malta that never came.
|Italian airborne division Folgore|
The Italian Royal Air Force also pulled off some very surprising long-range bombing attacks, including an air raid on the British-held emirate of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. Most hair-raising of all was the plan to attack no less a target than New York City. The first idea was to use the “human-torpedoes” to be brought close to New York harbor by Italy’s most successful submarine, the Leonardo DaVinci which was specially modified for the task. However, after a postponement the sub was sunk and so another plan was hatched to use a large sea-plane to transport the craft to striking distance, stopping in mid-Atlantic to be refueled by submarine. However, the plan was postponed again because of some other secret weapon that was to be used instead. What could this have been? Italy also had a specially modified trans-Atlantic bomber that was being outfitted to carry an especially heavy payload. Some have speculated that this was part of an effort to deliver an Italian atomic-bomb and, as much as most dismiss the idea, there is at least some circumstantial evidence to suggest this may have been the case. As early as 1939 Italian atomic scientists at the University of Milan were issued a patent for a nuclear reactor they had designed and Italian scientists were later sent to Germany where they had better facilities to continue their nuclear research. We do know that at some top-secret German nuclear tests the only foreigner present was an Italian officer and Mussolini was one of only a dozen individuals Hitler informed about the operation, no doubt because of the participation of Italian scientists in the development of the weapons. How close they came to success we do not know due to much of the documentation being destroyed and much still being classified by the British government, however, there is no doubt that the oft-derided Kingdom of Italy was highly advanced in nuclear research.
|Japanese Type 3 Chi-Nu tank|
On the sea and in the air, however, things were very different. The Japanese were absolutely on the cutting edge of developing military aircraft. The famous Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter, mostly used in naval aviation but which was ground-based as well, was regarded by both Axis and Allied countries as the best carrier-based fighter in the world at the time. In the early weeks and months of the war, the Japanese Zero shot down 12 Allied planes for every one of their own lost. It gave Japan a marked advantage over anything the British or Americans had on hand to use against it. The only problem was that, once the war began, it became extremely difficult for Japanese industry to keep up as American fighters continued to improve. However, the biggest loss was in pilots. The most successful fighter pilots of the war, after the Germans, were the Japanese, the most successful being Lieutenant Hiroyoshi Nishizawa who, even by the most conservative of statistics, shot down far more planes than the best British, Russian or American pilots. An expert Japanese pilot in the latest aircraft proved to be capable of victory even against enemy forces that were considerably superior in number. The problem was that so many of these expert, remarkably well trained pilots were lost at the disastrous Battle of Midway that Japanese naval aviation was never able to recover. Pilots simply could not be trained and new planes designed and manufactured fast enough to keep up with what the war effort demanded.
|Yokosuka "Ohka" rocket plane|
The one area where Japanese innovation stood out more than any other, and so much so that it really requires very little in the way of explanation, was in naval warships and submarines. Already pioneers in the utilization of aircraft carriers, the Imperial Japanese Navy pushed the boundaries of military technology for both traditional warships and in new fields such as the submarine fleet. The problem was that most of these never had the chance to really engage in the sort of battle for which they were intended. Nonetheless, the designs were positively astounding and some have never been surpassed even to this day. Undoubtedly the most famous Japanese naval vessel of the war was the battleship Yamato, though its sister ship, Musashi, was probably even more formidable. These were, quite simply, the largest battleships ever built and will probably always remain so. They were built as part of the thinking of the Japanese naval high command which was focused on a major, decisive, battle such as was won by Admiral Togo at Tsushima in the war against Russia. With these two monster warships, Japan was confident of being able to totally dominate any ship-to-ship engagement with any navy in the world.
Japan also broke plenty of records under the water as well. No one was as innovative as Japan when it came to submarine design, though Japanese boats were so poorly utilized that they never came close to scoring anywhere near the success that Germany or Italy did. This was partly due to an over-ambitious strategy combined with overly-cautious tactics (which meant few ever got the opportunity to score many victories) but also because of the level of innovation itself which resulted in Japan producing so many different types of subs that none were able to be mass-produced in the numbers needed to have any appreciable impact on the war effort. Nonetheless, Japan produced highly advanced boats that demonstrated immense creativity and technical know-how. One area Japan was famous for was in combining air power with submarines. Many Japanese subs were equipped with small scout planes that could be launched and recovered from the sub itself to serve as reconnaissance aircraft. One even took up a few incendiary bombs which were dropped on the west coast of the United States. However, as the war situation became more desperate, many subs were forced into carrying cargo to isolated, starving garrisons on the islands of the south Pacific.
All of this is important information to know, even for those monarchists who are not terribly interested in weapons of war and military technology. It demonstrates how completely absurd the republican accusation is that monarchy is some sort of obstacle to progress or that countries with monarchies are stuck in the past, bound to tradition and blind to progress. On the contrary, monarchies respect tradition because they honor their past which gives them the courage to go forward onto new ground. There are many fields one could look at and military advancements are clearly no exception. In a world where republican powers have the most military muscle today, it is worth remembering that they didn’t get their all on their own. It was the British who invented the first fully automatic machine gun, the British who invented the tank, the torpedo, radar and who pioneered naval aviation, it was the Kingdom of Italy that first used aircraft in combat and had the first paratroopers and it was the Empire of Japan that built the largest battleships in history -and that’s only looking at the major monarchies of World War II. To be fair, a few republics have proven quite innovative and have achieved remarkable things in a number of fields but the point is that monarchies have as well. Having a dictator chosen by the party elite or electing a president based on a popularity contest does not guarantee achievement any more than having a hereditary monarch precludes it. Monarchies have a proven record of being willing to try new things just as they have the good sense to hold on to what has proven to work best.