WW2 Myths and Misconceptions

There are many ideas about WW2 in the popular consciousness that are not always entirely accurate. A good example is the picture of the German army as an unstoppable mechanised juggernaut. See the Why Nazi Germany Lost WW2 thread for some good discussion about why that was incorrect.

There are a lot of other examples too and I thought this thread might be a good place to discuss some of them. Here’s a few to start with.

  • If the RAF had lost the Battle of Britain, the Germans would have invaded and occupied Great Britain.

  • Midway was a decisive defeat for the Imperial Japanese Navy.

  • German late war heavy tanks were invincible super weapons and the Sherman was a deathtrap.

  • Stalingrad was the Red Army’s main theater of operations in the winter of 1942-1943

Let’s get some discussion going.

1 Like

How about a few more:

  • The French army (heck, the whole nation) was completely worthless, surrendered as soon as the Germans invaded, and did nothing from mid 1940 till the end of the war.

  • The Japanese A6M “Zero” was unbeatable.

  • The war began on Dec. 7, 1941.

1 Like

I’m British so I definitely disagree with this one!

1 Like

Does anyone really believe that in 1940, a nation that wasn’t known for their naval history was going to magically invent a warfare style to invade Britain and that the Royal Navy, possibly the best navy in the world at that date, was going to sit by and let them?

Even then, how do you defeat an air force over their home territory when your own aircraft have limited range, and they can see you coming?

The circumstances that would allow Germany to win the BoB, let alone even launch Operation Sea Lion, approaches “alien space bat” territory.

But it is fun to discuss. I heard the Brits did a war game simulation in the 70s with the Germans invading in the best locations, without any opposition on the beaches, no RAF, no Royal Navy, and no Home Guard, and they still took 70% casualties in the first 10 miles.

1 Like

The real question is, did the war start with the invasion of Poland, or do we start it with Japan invading China?

I can guarantee, sadly, that if I walk down any city street in America and ask ten random people when WW2 started: 5 won’t know, 2 won’t care, one will say “Dec. 7,” and the last two will just be flat wrong.


Sea Lion was indeed wargamed in the 1970s. They had some pretty big names involved, including Adolf Galland. There’s a bit about it on Wikipedia actually.

tl;dr, the Wehrmacht managed to get across the Channel and things weren’t going too badly, then the Royal Navy showed up and it all went horribly wrong.

Aside from having to deal with light forces like destroyers which could just sink the majority of the German invasion “shipping” by sailing past it and swamping it with their wake, the British also had an old R class battleship (I can never remember which one and the internet isn’t being very helpful. Ramillies maybe?) stationed in Plymouth specifically with the intention of sailing it up the channel to sink as much invasion shipping as possible. The most seaworthy landing craft available to the Germans were converted Rhine barges and their ability to deal with hits from 15" naval rifles was somewhat limited.

It was HMS Revenge not Ramillies. Don’t British battleships have the coolest names?

1 Like

Main WW2 movie’s misconception: The Germans were everywhere and they were countless

The Germans also ate babies and all carried machine guns. The pilots all flew jets and each had a few hundred kills each. The submarines were undetectable and sank millions of ships. And every last one of them was a card carrying member of the Nazi party and practically worshiped Hitler, believing and supporting everything the man said.

Then again, Hitler was a occult-practicing cyborg with laser gatlings for hands.

There could be an entire series on WW2 misconceptions from movies, tv, and video games.


Well… Wehrmacht 's conduct of war wasn’t, by far, exemplary…

1 Like

Sadly very true.

Though some, like Rommel, at least tried to be as honorable as possible, as did many in the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine.

I remember a story (possibly a myth?) about Adolf Galland and other commanders being asked during the Battle of Britain what they would do if ordered to shoot RAF pilots who bailed out. His response, to Goering, was that he would refuse. Goering replied that was the answer he expected, and did not order them to shoot bailed out pilots. True? I don’t know.

(Then again, Galland supposedly requested Spitfires for the Battle of Britain.)

The other is Captain Hellmuth Heye, who recommended Lt. Cmd Gerard Broadmead Roope (RN) for the Victoria Cross after the former, in command of the HMS Glowworm (H29, a G-class destroyer) rammed the heavy cruiser Admiral Hipper. Heye contacted the British via the Red Cross to make aware the gallantry of Roope, who did not survive the engagement.

And, of course, there’s always Oskar Schindler…


On the other hand, plenty of Wehrmacht units helped round up Jews and other “undesirables” to be handed over to the Einsatzgruppen.

There was the Commissar Order which called for any captured commissars to be summarily executed, the Severity Order issued to the 6th Army prior to its advance on Stalingrad and of course the Guidelines for the Conduct of the Troops in Russia which stated that

  1. Bolshevism is the mortal enemy of the National-Socialist German people. This corrupt world view and its supporters warrant Germany’s struggle.

  2. This struggle demands ruthless, energetic and drastic measures against the Bolshevik agitators, guerrillas, saboteurs and Jews as well as the complete removal of all active and passive resistance.

The Wehrmacht was also complicit in the deaths of millions of Soviet prisoners of war.

I think a myth about WW2 is that the Wehrmacht just got on with the war and that it was the SS in the rear areas that committed all the war crimes.


100% true. And that was the case in the Balkans, which are overlooked in comparison with the Eastern Front. The average German soldier in WW2 was not a monster, but nevertheless, units of Wehrmacht conducted war crimes against civilians

1 Like

Misconception: Italy was completely useless in the war.

Well the infantry put up a decent fight at times and the frogmen showed great bravery and skill. Sadly quite often though they were little more than a speed bump e.g. first invasion of Egypt, operation Uranus. I think they had a lot of the same problems other Axis countries like Romania or Hungary did. The individual fighting men could fight bravely but they lacked modern equipment, particularly antitank weapons. They also had issues with political motivation and high level leadership.

1 Like

The Italian soldier was brave, well trained and, most times, well-equipped. The problem was Mussolini, setting unattainable and delusional aims in his foreign policy, the Italian industry which could not support a fully-mechanized war, and the Italian generals, stick to their plans and not their aims… ( if this reminds you a “beloved” WW1 Italian :grin: )
A case study is the Greco-Italian War. Mussolini sent his soldiers to war having so ludicrous Intelligence service, that he never figured out that, from 1939, Greece was preparing for war against Italy. Too proud, he demobilized soldiers, believing that he was going to win the war because Italy was a stronger nation, and a few days after the attack the Italians were outnumbered by an enemy of higher moral and motivation. The Italian generals were appointed from political connection rather than merit, and when Mussolini strengthen his forces, gaining absolute numerical superiorety, the Greeks were entrenched on the mountains and all they had to do was to stay and defend…
Germany was forced to intervene in the Balkans to correct the Italian blunder, Greece was subdued in 2 months, the occupation of Greece and Yugoslavia resulted to the creation of a fierce Resistance which bled the Axis, and the Italians until the end were permanently depended on the Germans…

1 Like

Not sure I agree with that, though willing to be convinced I’m wrong. From what I recall, their tank program tanked (pun intended). Their aircraft were okay, for the mid-30s. Who flies open-cockpit biplanes in 1942? Their industry just didn’t seem to have the ability to transition from the 30s to the “modern” period. Their firearms hit and miss as well. Some good, but some inadequate.

In the Spanish Civil War I’d agree, the Italians were top notch. But by the time of the invasion of France, and for sure by the time of the Siege of Malta the Italians were not a “top 5” military.

Yeah, a lot of blame lies with Mussolini and the government.

1 Like

Whatever Mussolini declared, the average Italian soldier seemed to lack motivation…

1 Like

Italians are stereotypically “laid-back.”

1 Like

In WW1, when the Italians had motivation, they performed better, even having Cadorna as Generalissimo. And in WW2, after the capitulation, both sides of the Italian Civil War fought viciously against each other…

1 Like