The Info List - Luftwaffe

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The _LUFTWAFFE_ (German pronunciation: (_ listen )) was the aerial warfare branch of the combined German Wehrmacht
military forces during World War II
World War II
. Germany 's military air arms during World War I
World War I
, the Luftstreitkräfte _ of the Army and the _Marine-Fliegerabteilung _ of the Navy , had been disbanded in May 1920 as a result of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which stated that Germany was forbidden to have any air force.

During the interwar period, German pilots were trained secretly in violation of the treaty at Lipetsk Air Base . With the rise of the Nazi Party and the repudiation of the Versailles Treaty, the _Luftwaffe_ was officially established on 26 February 1935. The Condor Legion , a _Luftwaffe_ detachment sent to aid Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
, provided the force with a valuable testing ground for new doctrines and aircraft. Partially as a result of this combat experience, the _Luftwaffe_ had become one of the most sophisticated, technologically advanced, and battle-experienced air forces in the world when World War II
World War II
broke out in 1939. By the summer of 1939, the _Luftwaffe_ had twenty-eight _Geschwaders _ (wings) .

During World War II, German pilots claimed roughly 70,000 aerial victories, while over 75,000 _Luftwaffe_ aircraft were destroyed or significantly damaged. Of these, nearly 40,000 were lost entirely.

The _Luftwaffe_ proved instrumental in the German victories across Poland
and Western Europe in 1939 and 1940. During the Battle of Britain , however, despite inflicting severe damage to the RAF 's infrastructure and, during the subsequent Blitz , devastating many British cities, the German air force failed to batter the beleaguered British into submission. From 1942, Allied bombing campaigns gradually destroyed the _Luftwaffe_'s fighter arm. In addition to its service in the West , the _Luftwaffe_ operated over the Soviet Union, North Africa and Southern Europe. Despite its belated use of advanced turbojet and rocket propelled aircraft for the destruction of Allied bombers , the _Luftwaffe_ was overwhelmed by the Allies' superior numbers and improved tactics, and a lack of trained pilots and aviation fuel. In January 1945, during the closing stages of the Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge
, the Luftwaffe
made a last-ditch effort to win air superiority , and met with failure. With rapidly dwindling supplies of petroleum, oil, and lubricants after this campaign, and as part of the entire combined Wehrmacht
military forces as a whole, the _Luftwaffe_ ceased to be an effective fighting force. After the defeat of Germany, the _Luftwaffe_ was disbanded in 1946. The _Luftwaffe_ had only two commanders-in-chief throughout its history: Hermann Göring and later _ Generalfeldmarschall _ Robert Ritter von Greim . The Luftwaffe
High Command was involved in Nazi medical experiments .


* 1 Origins

* 2 Preparing for war: 1933–39

* 2.1 The Wever years, 1933–36 * 2.2 A change of direction, 1936–37 * 2.3 Dive-bombing * 2.4 Mobilization, 1938–41

* 3 _Luftwaffe_ organization

* 3.1 _Luftwaffe_ commanders * 3.2 Organization and chain of command

* 4 Personnel * 5 Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
* 6 World War II
World War II

* 7 Omissions and failures

* 7.1 Mistakes in command: the lack of aerial defence * 7.2 Mistakes in development and equipment * 7.3 Production failures * 7.4 Critical engine development problems * 7.5 Personnel and leadership

* 8 _Luftwaffe_ ground forces

* 9 War crimes
War crimes

* 9.1 Aerial bombing as alleged war crimes * 9.2 Human experimentation in military aviation

* 10 See also

* 11 References

* 11.1 Notes * 11.2 Citations * 11.3 Bibliography

* 12 External links


Main articles: Luftstreitkräfte and Aviation in World War I
World War I
_ Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred von Richthofen
with other members of Jasta 11 _, 1917 as part of the _ Luftstreitkräfte _

The Imperial German Army Air Service was founded in 1910 with the name _Die Fliegertruppen des deutschen Kaiserreiches_, most often shortened to _Fliegertruppe_. It was renamed _ Luftstreitkräfte _ on 8 October 1916. The air war on the Western Front received the most attention in the annals of the earliest accounts of military aviation, since it produced aces such as Manfred von Richthofen
Manfred von Richthofen
and Ernst Udet
Ernst Udet
, Oswald Boelcke , and Max Immelmann . After the defeat of Germany, the service was dissolved on 8 May 1920 under the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles , which also mandated the destruction of all German military aircraft.

Since the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany to have an air force, German pilots trained in secret. Initially, civil aviation schools within Germany were used, yet only light trainers could be used in order to maintain the façade that the trainees were going to fly with civil airlines such as Deutsche Luft Hansa
Deutsche Luft Hansa
. To train its pilots on the latest combat aircraft, Germany solicited the help of the Soviet Union , which was also isolated in Europe. A secret training airfield was established at Lipetsk in 1924 and operated for approximately nine years using mostly Dutch and Soviet, but also some German, training aircraft before being closed in 1933. This base was officially known as 4th squadron of the 40th wing of the Red Army. Hundreds of _Luftwaffe_ pilots and technical personnel visited, studied and were trained at Soviet air force schools in several locations in Central Russia. Roessing, Blume, Fosse, Teetsemann, Heini, Makratzki, Blumendaat, and many other future _Luftwaffe_ aces were trained in Russia in joint Russian-German schools that were set up under the patronage of Ernst-August Köstring (de).

The first steps towards the _Luftwaffe_'s formation were undertaken just months after Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
came to power. Hermann Göring, a World War I ace, became National Kommissar for aviation with former Luft Hansa director Erhard Milch
Erhard Milch
as his deputy. In April 1933 the Reich Aviation Ministry (_Reichsluftfahrtministerium_ or RLM) was established. The RLM was in charge of development and production of aircraft. Göring's control over all aspects of aviation became absolute. On 25 March 1933 the German Air Sports Association
German Air Sports Association
absorbed all private and national organizations, while retaining its 'sports' title. On 15 May 1933, all military aviation organizations in the RLM were merged, forming the _Luftwaffe_; its official 'birthday'. The National Socialist Flyers Corps (_Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps_ or NSFK) was formed in 1937 to give pre-military flying training to male youths, and to engage adult sport aviators in the Nazi movement. Military-age members of the NSFK were drafted into the _Luftwaffe_. As all such prior NSFK members were also Nazi Party members, this gave the new _Luftwaffe_ a strong Nazi ideological base in contrast to the other branches of the Wehrmacht
(the _Heer_ (Army) and _ Kriegsmarine _ (Navy)). Göring played a leading role in the buildup of the _Luftwaffe_ in 1933–36, but had little further involvement in the development of the force after 1936, and Milch became the "de facto" minister until 1937.

The absence of Göring in planning and production matters was fortunate. Göring had little knowledge of current aviation, had last flown in 1922, and had not kept himself informed of latest events. Göring also displayed a lack of understanding of doctrine and technical issues in aerial warfare which he left to others more competent. The Commander-in-Chief left the organisation and building of the _Luftwaffe_, after 1936, to Erhard Milch. However Göring, as a part of Hitler's inner circle, provided access to financial resources and materiel for rearming and equipping the _Luftwaffe_.

Another prominent figure in German air power construction this time was Helmuth Wilberg . Wilberg later played a large role in the development of German air doctrine. Having headed the _ Reichswehr _ air staff for eight years in the 1920s, Wilberg had considerable experience and was ideal for a senior staff position. Göring considered making Wilberg Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff
(CS). However, it was revealed Wilberg had a Jewish mother. For that reason Göring could not have him as CS. Not wishing his talent to go to waste, Göring ensured the racial laws of the Third Reich did not apply to him. Wilberg remained in the air staff, and under Walther Wever helped draw up the Luftwaffe's principle doctrinal texts, "The Conduct of the Aerial War" and "Regulation 16".



_ Walther Wever , Chief of the Luftwaffe_ General Staff, 1933–1936.

Contrary to popular belief in American and British circles, the _Luftwaffe_ was not "the handmaiden of the German Army." The German officer Corps was keen to develop strategic bombing capabilities against its enemies. However, economic and geopolitical considerations had to take priority. The German air power theorists continued to develop strategic theories, but emphasis was given to army support, as Germany was a continental power and expected to face ground operations following any declaration of hostilities.

For these reasons, between 1933 and 1934, the _Luftwaffe_'s leadership was primarily concerned with tactical and operational methods. In aerial terms, the army concept of _ Truppenführung _ was an operational concept, as well as a tactical doctrine. In World War I, the _Fliegertruppe's_ initial, 1914-15 era _ Feldflieger Abteilung _ observation/reconnaissance air units, each with six two-seater aircraft apiece, had been attached to specific army formations and acted as support. Dive bomber units were considered essential to _Truppenführung_, attacking enemy headquarters and lines of communications. _Luftwaffe_ "Regulation 10: The Bomber" (_Dienstvorschrift 10: Das Kampfflugzeug_), published in 1934, advocated air superiority and approaches to ground attack tactics without dealing with operational matters. Until 1935, the 1926 manual "Directives for the Conduct of the Operational Air War" continued to act as the main guide for German air operations. The manual directed OKL to focus on limited operations (not strategic operations): the protection of specific areas and support of the army in combat.

With an effective tactical-operational concept, the German air power theorists needed a strategic doctrine and organisation. Robert Knauss (de), a serviceman (not pilot) in the _Luftstreitkräfte_ during World War I, and later an experienced pilot with Lufthansa, was a prominent theorist of air power. Knauss promoted the Giulio Douhet theory that air power could win wars alone by destroying enemy industry and breaking enemy morale by "terrorizing the population" of major cities. This advocated attacks on civilians. The General Staff
General Staff
blocked the entry of Douhet's theory into doctrine, fearing revenge strikes against German civilians and cities.

In December 1934, Chief of the _Luftwaffe_ General Staff
General Staff
Walther Wever sought to mould the _Luftwaffe_'s battle doctrine into a strategic plan. At this time, Wever conducted war games (simulated against France) in a bid to establish his theory of a strategic bombing force that would, he thought, prove decisive by winning the war through the destruction of enemy industry, even though these exercises also included tactical strikes against enemy ground forces and communications. In 1935, "_Luftwaffe_ Regulation 16: The Conduct of the Air War" was drawn up. In the proposal, it concluded, "The mission of the _Luftwaffe_ is to serve these goals."

Under this doctrine, the _Luftwaffe_ leadership rejected the practice of "terror bombing " (see _Luftwaffe_ strategic bombing doctrine ). Terror bombing was deemed to be "counter-productive", increasing rather than destroying the enemy's will to resist. Such bombing campaigns were regarded as diversion from the _Luftwaffe_'s main operations; destruction of the enemy armed forces. The bombings of Guernica
, Rotterdam
, and Warsaw
were considered tactical missions in support of military operations and were not intended as strategic terror attacks.

Nevertheless, Wever recognised the importance of strategic bombing . In newly introduced doctrine, _The Conduct of the Aerial Air War_ in 1935, Wever rejected the theory of Douhet and outlined five key points to air strategy:

* To destroy the enemy air force by bombing its bases and aircraft factories, and defeating enemy air forces attacking German targets. * To prevent the movement of large enemy ground forces to the decisive areas by destroying railways and roads, particularly bridges and tunnels, which are indispensable for the movement and supply of forces * To support the operations of the army formations, independent of railways, i.e, armoured forces and motorised forces, by impeding the enemy advance and participating directly in ground operations. * To support naval operations by attacking naval bases, protecting Germany's naval bases and participating directly in naval battles * To paralyse the enemy armed forces by stopping production in the armaments factories.

Wever began planning for a strategic bomber force and sought to incorporate strategic bombing into a war strategy. He believed that tactical aircraft should only be used as a step to developing a strategic air force. In May 1934, Wever initiated a seven-year project to develop the so-called " Ural bomber ", which could strike as far as into the heart of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
. In 1935, this design competition led to the Dornier Do 19 and Junkers Ju 89 prototypes, although both were underpowered. In April 1936, Wever issue requirements for the 'Bomber A' design competition: a range of 6,700 km (4,163 mi) with a 900 kg (1,984 lb) bomb load. However Wever's vision of a "Ural" bomber was never realised, and his emphasis on strategic aerial operations was lost. The only design submittal for Wever's 'Bomber A' that reached production was Heinkel
's _Projekt 1041_, which became the maritime strike bomber Heinkel
He 177 on 5 November 1937.

In 1935, the military functions of the RLM were grouped into _ Oberkommando der Luftwaffe _ (OKL; "Air Force High Command").

Following the untimely death of Walther Wever in early June 1936 in an aviation-related accident , by the late 1930s the _Luftwaffe_ had no clear purpose. The air force was not subordinated to the army support role, and it was not given any particular strategic mission. German doctrine fell between the two concepts. The _Luftwaffe_ was to be an organization capable of carrying out broad and general support tasks rather than any specific mission. Mainly, this path was chosen to encourage a more flexible use of air power and offer the ground forces the right conditions for a decisive victory. In fact, on the outbreak of war, only 15% of the _Luftwaffe_'s aircraft were devoted to ground support operations, counter to the long-held myth that the _Luftwaffe_ was designed for only tactical and operational missions.


Wever's participation in the construction of the _Luftwaffe_ came to an abrupt end on 3 June 1936 when he was killed along with his engineer in a Heinkel
He 70 Blitz, ironically on the very day that his "Bomber A" heavy bomber design competition was announced. After Wever's death Göring began taking more of an interest in the appointment of _Luftwaffe_ staff officers. Göring appointed his successor Albert Kesselring as Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff
and Ernst Udet
Ernst Udet
to head the Reich's Air Ministry Technical Office (_Technisches Amt_), although he was not a technical expert. Despite this Udet helped change the _Luftwaffe_'s tactical direction towards fast medium bombers to destroy enemy air power in the battle zone rather than through industrial bombing of its aviation production.

Kesselring and Udet did not get on. During Kesselring's time as CS, 1936–1937, a power struggle developed between the two as Udet attempted to extend his own power within the _Luftwaffe_. Kesselring also had to contend with Göring appointing "yes men" to positions of importance. Udet realised his limitations, and his failures in the production and development of German aircraft would have serious long term consequences. Ernst Udet
Ernst Udet
. Along with Albert Kesselring, Udet was responsible for establishing the design trend of German aircraft. Udet's focus was on tactical army support air forces

The failure of the _Luftwaffe_ to progress further towards attaining a strategic bombing force was attributable to several reasons. Many in the _Luftwaffe_ command believed medium bombers to be sufficient power to launch strategic bombing operations against Germany's most likely enemies; France, Czechoslovakia
, and Poland
. The United Kingdom presented greater problems. _ General der Flieger _ Hellmuth Felmy , commander of _ Luftflotte 2 _ in 1939, was charged with devising a plan for an air war over the British Isles. Felmy was convinced that Britain could be defeated through morale bombing. Felmy noted the alleged panic that had broken out in London during the Munich crisis , evidence he believed of British weakness. A second reason was technical. German designers had never solved the issues of the Heinkel He 177 A's design difficulties, brought on by the requirement from its inception on 5 November 1937 to have moderate dive bombing capabilities in a 30-meter wingspan aircraft. Moreover, Germany did not possess the economic resources to match the later British and American effort of 1943–1944, particularly in large-scale mass production of high power output aircraft engines (with output of over least 1,500 kW (2,000 hp). In addition, OKL had not foreseen the industrial and military effort strategic bombing would require. By 1939 the _Luftwaffe_ was not much better prepared than its enemies to conduct a strategic bombing campaign, with fatal results during the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain

The German rearmament program faced difficulties acquiring raw materials. Germany imported most of its essential materials for rebuilding the _Luftwaffe_, in particular rubber and aluminium. Petroleum imports were particularly vulnerable to blockade. Germany pushed for synthetic fuel plants, but still failed to meet demands. In 1937 Germany imported more fuel than it had at the start of the decade. By the summer 1938 only 25% of requirements could be covered. In steel materials, industry was operating at barely 83% of capacity, and by November 1938 Göring reported the economic situation was serious. The _Oberkommando der Wehrmacht
_ (OKW), the overall command for all German military forces, ordered reductions in raw materials and steel used for armament production. The figures for reduction were substantial: 30% steel, 20% copper, 47% aluminium, and 14% rubber. Under such circumstances, it was not possible for Milch, Udet, or Kesselring to produce a formidable strategic bombing force even had they wanted to do so.

The development of aircraft was now confined to the production of twin-engined medium bombers that required much less material, manpower and aviation production capacity than Wever's "Ural Bomber". German industry could build two medium bombers for one heavy bomber and the RLM would not gamble on developing a heavy bomber which would also take time. Göring remarked, "the _Führer_ will not ask how big the bombers there are, but only how many there are." The premature death of Wever, one of the _Luftwaffe_'s finest officers, left the _Luftwaffe_ without a strategic air force during World War II, which eventually proved fatal to the German war effort.

The lack of strategic capability should have been apparent much earlier. The Sudeten Crisis highlighted German unprepardness to conduct a strategic air war (although the British and French were in a much weaker position), and Hitler ordered the _Luftwaffe_ be expanded to five times its earlier size. OKL badly neglected the need for transport aircraft; even in 1943, transport units were described as _Kampfgeschwadern zur besonderen Verwendung_ ("Bomber Units on Special Duties", KGzbV). and only grouping them together into dedicated cargo and personnel transport wings (_Transportgeschwader_) during that year. In March 1938, as the _ Anschluss _ was taking place, Göring ordered Felmy to investigate the prospect of air raids against Britain. Felmy concluded it was not possible until bases in Belgium and the Netherlands
were obtained and the _Luftwaffe_ had heavy bombers. Fortunately it mattered little, as war was avoided by the Munich
Agreement, and the need for long-range aircraft did not arise.

These failures were not exposed until wartime. In the meantime German designs of mid-1930s origin such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109 , Heinkel He 111 , Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, and Dornier Do 17 , performed very well. All first saw active service in the Condor Legion against Soviet-supplied aircraft. The _Luftwaffe_ also quickly realized the days of the biplane fighter were finished, the Heinkel
He 51 being switched to service as a trainer. Particularly impressive were the Heinkel
and Dornier, which fulfilled the _Luftwaffe_'s requirements for bombers that were faster than 1930s-era fighters, many of which were biplanes or strut-braced monoplanes.

Despite the participation of these aircraft (mainly from 1938 onward), it was the venerable Junkers Ju 52
Junkers Ju 52
(which soon became the backbone of the _Transportgruppen_) that made the main contribution. During the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
Hitler remarked, "Franco ought to erect a monument to the glory of the Junkers Ju 52. It is the aircraft which the Spanish revolution has to thank for its victory."


Junkers Ju 87 D's over the Eastern Front, winter 1943–44

Poor accuracy from level bombers in 1937 led the _Luftwaffe_ to grasp the benefits of dive-bombing. The latter could achieve far better accuracy against tactical ground targets than heavier conventional bombers. Range was not a key criterion for this mission. It was not always feasible for the Army to move heavy artillery over recently captured territory to bombard fortifications or support ground forces, and dive bombers could do the job more quickly. Dive bombers, often single-engine two-man machines, could achieve better results than larger six or seven-man aircraft, at a tenth of the cost and four times the accuracy. This led to Udet championing the dive bomber, particularly the Junkers Ju 87 .

Udet's "love affair" with dive bombing seriously affected the long-term development of the _Luftwaffe_, especially after General Wever's death. The tactical strike aircraft programs were meant to serve as interim solutions until the next generation of aircraft arrived. In 1936 the Junkers Ju 52
Junkers Ju 52
was the backbone of the German bomber fleet. This led to a rush on the part of the RLM to produce the Junkers Ju 86 , Heinkel
He 111 , and Dornier Do 17 before a proper evaluation was made. The Ju 86 was poor while the He 111 showed most promise. The Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
convinced Udet (along with limited output from the German munitions industry) that wastage was not acceptable in munition terms. Udet sought to build dive bombing into the Junkers Ju 88 and conveyed the same idea, initiated specifically by OKL for the Heinkel
He 177 , approved in early November 1937. In the case of the Ju 88, 50,000 modifications had to be made. The weight was increased from seven to twelve tons. This resulted in a speed loss of 200 km/h. Udet merely conveyed OKL's own dive bombing capability request to Ernst Heinkel
concerning the He 177, who vehemently opposed such an idea, which ruined its development as a heavy bomber. Göring was not able to rescind the dive bombing requirement for the He 177A until September 1942.


By the summer of 1939, the _Luftwaffe_ had ready for combat nine _Jagdgeschwader_ ("fighter wings") mostly equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109E, four '_Zerstörergeschwader _ ("destroyer wings") equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter, 11 _ Kampfgeschwader
_ (bomber wings) equipped mainly with the Heinkel
He 111 and the Dornier Do 17Z, and four _Sturzkampfgeschwader_ ("dive bomber wings") primarily armed with the iconic Junkers Ju 87 B _Stuka_. The _Luftwaffe_ was just starting to accept the Junkers Ju 88 A for service, as it had encountered design difficulties, with only a dozen aircraft of the type considered combat-ready. The _Luftwaffe_'s strength at this time stood at 373,000 personnel (208,000 flying troops, 107,000 in the Flak Corps and 58,000 in the Signals Corps). Aircraft strength was 4,201 operational aircraft: 1,191 bombers, 361 dive bombers, 788 fighters, 431 heavy fighters, and 488 transports. Despite deficiencies it was an impressive force. Polish civilian strafed by German dive bombers, September 1939

However, even by the spring of 1940, the _Luftwaffe_ still had not mobilized fully. Despite the shortage of raw-materials, _Generalluftzeugmeister_ Ernst Udet
Ernst Udet
had increased production through introducing a 10-hour working day for aviation industries and rationalizing production. During this period 30 _Kampfstaffeln_ and 16 _Jagdstaffeln_ were raised and equipped. A further five _Zerstörergruppen_ ("Destroyer groups") were created (JGr 101, 102,126,152 and 176), all equipped with the Bf 110.

The _Luftwaffe_ also greatly expanded its aircrew training programs by 42%, to 63 flying schools. These facilities were moved to eastern Germany, away from possible Allied threats. The number of aircrew reached 4,727, an increase of 31%. However, the rush to complete this rapid expansion scheme resulted in the deaths of 997 personnel and another 700 wounded. 946 aircraft were also destroyed in these accidents. The number of aircrew completing their training was up to 3,941, The _Luftwaffe_'s entire strength was now 2.2 million personnel.

In April and May 1941, Udet headed the _Luftwaffe_ delegation inspecting Soviet aviation industry in compliance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact . Udet informed Göring "that Soviet air forces are very strong and technically advanced." Göring decided not to report the facts to Hitler, hoping that a surprise attack would quickly destroy the USSR. Udet realized that the upcoming war on Russia might cripple Germany. Udet, torn between truth and loyalty, suffered a psychological breakdown and even tried to tell Hitler the truth, but Göring told Hitler that Udet was lying, then took Udet under control by giving him drugs at drinking parties and hunting trips. Udet's drinking and psychological condition became a problem, but Göring used Udet's dependency to manipulate him.


Main article: Organization of the Luftwaffe (1933–45)


Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
. Defendants in the dock. The main target of the prosecution was Hermann Göring (at the left edge on the first row of benches), considered to be the most important surviving official in the Third Reich after Hitler 's death.

Throughout the history of the Third Reich , the _Luftwaffe_ had only two commanders-in-chief. The first was Hermann Göring , with the second and last being _ Generalfeldmarschall _ Robert Ritter von Greim . His appointment as commander-in-chief of the _Luftwaffe_ was concomitant with his promotion to _ Generalfeldmarschall _, the last German officer in World War II
World War II
to be promoted to the highest rank. Other officers promoted to the second highest military rank in Germany were Albert Kesselring , Hugo Sperrle , Erhard Milch
Erhard Milch
, and Wolfram von Richthofen .

At the end of the war, with Berlin surrounded by the Red Army , Göring suggested to Hitler that he take over leadership of the Reich. Hitler ordered his arrest and execution, but Göring's SS guards did not carry out the order, and Göring survived to be tried at Nuremberg .

Sperrle was prosecuted at the OKW Trial , one of the last twelve of the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
after the war. He was acquitted on all four counts. He died in Munich
in 1953.


Main article: Organization of the Luftwaffe (1933–45)

At the start of the war the _Luftwaffe_ had four _Luftflotten_ ("air fleets"), each responsible for roughly a quarter of Germany. As the war progressed more air fleets were created as the areas under German rule expanded. As one example, _Luftflotte_ 5 was created in 1940 to direct operations in Norway and Denmark, and other _Luftflotten_ were created as necessary. Each _Luftflotte_ would contain several _Fliegerkorps_ (Air Corps), _Fliegerdivision_ (Air Division), _Jagdkorps_ (Fighter Corps),_Jagddivision_ (Air Division) or _Jagdfliegerführer_ (Fighter Air Command). Each formations would have attached to it a number of units, usually several _Geschwader_, but also independent _Staffeln_ and _ Kampfgruppen _. _Luftflotten_ were also responsible for the training aircraft and schools in their operational areas.

A _Geschwader_ was commanded by a _ Geschwaderkommodore _, with the rank of either major, _ Oberstleutnant _ (lieutenant colonel ) or _ Oberst _ (colonel ). Other "staff" officers within the unit with administrative duties included the adjutant, technical officer, and operations officer, who were usually (though not always) experienced aircrew or pilots still flying on operations. Other specialist staff were navigation, signals, and intelligence personnel. A _Stabschwarm_ (headquarters flight ) was attached to each _Geschwader_.

A _Jagdgeschwader_ ("fighter wing", literally "hunting wing") (JG) was a single-seat day fighter _Geschwader_, typically equipped with Bf 109 or Fw 190 aircraft flying in the fighter or fighter-bomber roles. Late in the war, by 1944-45, JG 7 and JG 400 (and the jet specialist JV 44 ) flew much more advanced aircraft, with JG 1 working up with jets at war's end. A _Geschwader_ consisted of groups (_Gruppen_), which in turn consisted of _Jagdstaffel_ (fighter squadrons). Hence, Fighter Wing 1 was JG 1, its first _Gruppe_ (group) was I./JG 1, using a Roman numeral for the _Gruppe_ number only, and its first _Staffel_ (squadron) was 1./JG 1. _Geschwader_ strength was usually 120 – 125 aircraft.

Each _Gruppe_ was commanded by a _Kommandeur_, and a _Staffel_ by a _Staffelkapitän_. However, these were "appointments", not ranks, within the _Luftwaffe_. Usually, the _Kommodore_ would hold the rank of _Oberstleutnant_ (lieutenant colonel) or, exceptionally, an _Oberst_ (colonel). Even a _Leutnant_ (second lieutenant) could find himself commanding a _Staffel_.

Similarly, a bomber wing was a _Kampfgeschwader_ (KG), a night fighter wing was a _Nachtjagdgeschwader_ (NJG), a dive bomber wing was a _Stukageschwader_ (StG), and units equivalent to those in RAF Coastal Command, with specific responsibilities for coastal patrols and search and rescue duties, were _Küstenfliegergruppen_ (Kü.Fl. Gr.). Specialist bomber groups were known as _Kampfgruppen_ (KGr). The strength of a bomber _Geschwader_ was about 80–90 aircraft.


See also: Luftwaffe personnel structure



Flying units 500,000

Anti-aircraft units 500,000

Air signal units 250,000

Construction units 150,000

_ Landsturm
_ (militia) units 36,000


The peacetime strength of the Luftwaffe
in the spring of 1939 was 370,000 men. After the mobilization in 1939 almost 900,000 men served, and just before Operation Barbarossa in 1941 the personnel strength had reached 1.5 million men. Luftwaffe
reached its largest personnel strength during the period November 1943 to June 1944, with almost three million men and women in uniform; 1.7 million of these were male soldiers, 1 million male _Wehrmachtsbeamte_ and civilian employees, and almost 300,000 female and male auxiliaries (_ Luftwaffenhelfer _). In October 1944, the anti-aircraft units had 600,000 soldiers and 530,000 auxiliaries, including 60,000 male members of the _ Reichsarbeitsdienst _, 50,000 _Luftwaffenhelfer_ (males age 15-17), 80,000 _Flakwehrmänner_ (males above military age) and _Flak-V-soldaten_ (males unfit for military service), and 160,000 female _Flakwaffenhelferinnen_ and _RAD-Maiden_, as well as 160,000 foreign personnel (Hiwis ).


Main article: Operational history of the Luftwaffe (1939–45) Ruins of Guernica

The _Luftwaffe_'s Condor Legion experimented with new doctrine and aircraft during the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
. It helped the _ Falange _ under Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
to defeat the Republican forces. Over 20,000 German airmen gained combat experience that would give the _Luftwaffe_ an important advantage going into the Second World War. One infamous operation was the bombing of Guernica
in the Basque country . It is commonly assumed this attack was the result of a "terror doctrine" in _Luftwaffe_ doctrine. The raids on Guernica
and Madrid
caused many civilian casualties and a wave of protests in the democracies. It has been suggested that the bombing of Guernica
was carried out for military tactical reasons, in support of ground operations, but the town was not directly involved in any fighting at that point in time. It was not until 1942 that the Germans started to develop bombing policy in which civilians were the primary target, although The Blitz on London and many other British cities involved indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, 'nuisance raids' which could even involve the machine-gunning of civilians and livestock.


When World War II
World War II
began, the _Luftwaffe_ was one of the most technologically advanced air forces in the world. During the Polish Campaign that triggered the war, it quickly established air superiority, and then air supremacy. It supported the German Army operations which ended the campaign in five weeks. The _Luftwaffe_'s performance was as OKL had hoped. The _Luftwaffe_ rendered invaluable support to the army, mopping up pockets of resistance. Göring was delighted with the performance. Command and control problems were experienced, but owing to the flexibility and improvisation of both the army and _Luftwaffe_, these problems were solved. The _Luftwaffe_ was to have in place a ground-to-air communication system, which played a vital role in the success of _ Fall Gelb _.

In the spring of 1940, the _Luftwaffe_ assisted the _ Kriegsmarine _ and _Heer_ in the invasion of Norway . Flying in reinforcements and winning air superiority, the _Luftwaffe_ contributed decisively to the German conquest.

In the spring of 1940, the _Luftwaffe_ contributed to the unexpected success in the Battle of France . It destroyed three Allied Air Forces and helped secure the defeat of France in just over six weeks. However, it could not destroy the British Expeditionary Force at Dunkirk despite intense bombing. The BEF escaped to continue the war. Gun camera film shows tracer ammunition from a Supermarine Spitfire Mark I of No. 609 Squadron RAF , flown by Flight Lieutenant J. H. G. McArthur, hitting a Heinkel
He 111 on its starboard quarter.

During the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
in summer 1940, the _Luftwaffe_ inflicted severe damage to the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
, but did not achieve the air superiority that Hitler demanded for the proposed invasion of Britain , which was postponed and then cancelled in December 1940. The _Luftwaffe_ ravaged British cities during The Blitz , but failed to break British morale. Hitler had already ordered preparations to be made for Operation Barbarossa , the invasion of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union

In spring 1941, the _Luftwaffe_ helped its Axis partner, Italy, secure victory in the Balkans Campaign and continued to support Italy in the Mediterranean, Middle East and African theatres until May 1945.

In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The _Luftwaffe_ destroyed thousands of Soviet aircraft, yet it failed to destroy the Red Air Force altogether. Lacking strategic bombers(the very "Ural bombers" that General Wever had asked for six years before) the _Luftwaffe_ could not strike at Soviet production centers regularly or with the needed force. As the war dragged on, the _Luftwaffe_ was eroded in strength. The defeats at the Battle of Stalingrad and Battle of Kursk ensured the gradual decline of the Wehrmacht
on the Eastern Front .

British historian Frederick Taylor asserts that "all sides bombed each other's cities during the war. Half a million Soviet citizens, for example, died from German bombing during the invasion and occupation of Russia. That's roughly equivalent to the number of German citizens who died from Allied raids."

Meanwhile, the _Luftwaffe_ continued to defend German-occupied Europe against the growing offensive power of RAF Bomber Command and, starting in the summer of 1942, the steadily building strength of the United States Army Air Forces . The Defence of the Reich campaign gradually destroyed the _Luftwaffe_'s fighter arm. Despite its belated use of advanced turbojet and rocket propelled aircraft for bomber destroyer duties, it was overwhelmed by Allied numbers and a lack of trained pilots and fuel. A last-ditch attempt, known as Operation Bodenplatte , to win air superiority on 1 January 1945 failed. After the _Bodenplatte_ effort, the _Luftwaffe_ ceased to be an effective fighting force.

German day and night fighter pilots claimed roughly 70,000 aerial victories during World War II. Of these, about 25,000 were British or American planes, about 45,000 were Soviet aircraft, and a few thousand were French, Belgian, Polish, or other Allied nationalities. 103 German fighter pilots shot down more than 100 enemy aircraft for a total of roughly 15,400 aerial victories. Roughly a further 360 pilots claimed between 40 and 100 aerial victories for round about 21,000 victories. Another 500 fighter pilots claimed between 20 and 40 victories for a total of 15,000 victories. It is relatively certain that 2,500 German fighter pilots attained ace status, having achieved at least five aerial victories. These achievements were honored with 453 German day and _Zerstörer_ (destroyer) pilots having received the Knight\'s Cross of the Iron Cross . 85 night fighter pilots, including 14 crew members, were awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. Losses on the other hand were very high as well. The estimated total number of destroyed and damaged for the war totaled 76,875 aircraft, of which 40,000 were total losses and the remainder significantly damaged. By type, losses totaled 21,452 fighters, 12,037 bombers, 15,428 trainers, 10,221 twin-engine fighters, 5,548 ground attack, 6,733 reconnaissance, and 6,141 transports.



The failure of the _Luftwaffe_ in the Defence of the Reich campaign was a result of a number of factors. The _Luftwaffe_ lacked an effective air defence system early in the war. Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
's foreign policy had pushed Germany into war before these defences could be fully developed. The _Luftwaffe_ was forced to improvise and construct its defences during the war.

The daylight actions over German controlled territory were sparse in 1939–1940. The responsibility of the defence of German air space fell to the _Luftgaukommandos_ (air district commands). The defence systems relied mostly on the "flak" arm. The defences were not coordinated and communication was poor. This lack of understanding between the flak and flying branches of the defence would plague the _Luftwaffe_ throughout the war. Hitler in particular wanted the defence to rest on anti-aircraft artillery as it gave the civilian population a "psychological crutch" no matter how ineffective the weapons.

Most of the battles fought by the _Luftwaffe_ on the Western Front were against the RAF\'s "Circus" raids and the occasional daylight raid into German air space. This was a fortunate position since the _Luftwaffe_'s strategy of focusing its striking power on one front started to unravel with the failure of the invasion of the Soviet Union. The "peripheral" strategy of the _Luftwaffe_ between 1939 and 1940 had been to deploy its fighter defences at the edges of Axis occupied territory, with little protecting the inner depths. Moreover, the front line units in the West were complaining about the poor numbers and performance of aircraft. Units complained of lack of _Zerstörer_ aircraft with all-weather capabilities and the "lack of climbing power of the Bf 109". The _Luftwaffe_'s technical edge was slipping as the only formidable new aircraft in the German arsenal was the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 . _ Generalfeldmarschall _ Erhard Milch
Erhard Milch
was to assist Ernst Udet
Ernst Udet
with aircraft production increases and introduction of more modern types of fighter aircraft. However, they explained at a meeting of the Reich Industrial Council on 18 September 1941 that the new next generation aircraft had failed to materialize, and production of obsolete types had to continue to meet the growing need for replacements.

The buildup of the _ Jagdwaffe _ ("Fighter Force") was too rapid and its quality suffered. It was not put under a unified command until 1943, which also affected performance of the nine _Jagdgeschwader_ fighter wings in existence in 1939. No further units were formed until 1942, and the years of 1940–1941 were wasted. OKL failed to construct a strategy; instead its command style was reactionary, and its measures not as effective without thorough planning. This was particularly apparent with the _Sturmbock _ squadrons, formed to replace the increasingly ineffective twin-engined _Zerstörer_ twin-engined heavy fighter wings as the primary defense against USAAF daylight raids. The _Sturmböcke_ flew Fw 190A fighters armed with heavy 20 mm and 30 mm cannon to destroy heavy bombers, but this increased the weight and affected the performance of the Fw 190 at a time when the aircraft were meeting large numbers of equal if not superior Allied types.

Daytime aerial defense against the USAAF's strongly defended heavy bomber forces, particularly the Eighth Air Force and the Fifteenth Air Force , had its successes through the calendar year of 1943. But at the start of 1944, Eighth AF commander Jimmy Doolittle made a major change in offensive fighter tactics , which defeated the _Luftwaffe_'s day fighter force from that time onwards. Steadily increasing numbers of the superlative North American P-51 Mustang single-engine fighter, leading the USAAF's bombers into German airspace defeated first the Bf 110 _Zerstörer_ wings, then the Fw 190A Sturmböcke .


_ The most troublesome of all German designs during WW II — both in development and in service — was the He 177 Greif_ heavy bomber.

In terms of technological development, the failure to develop a long-range bomber and capable long-range fighters during this period left the _Luftwaffe_ unable to conduct a meaningful, strategic bombing campaign throughout the war. However, Germany at that time suffered from limitations in raw materials such as oil and aluminium, which meant that there were insufficient resources for much beyond a tactical air force: given these circumstances, the _Luftwaffe_'s reliance on tactical mid-range, twin engined medium bombers and short range dive-bombers was a pragmatic choice of strategy. It might also be argued that the _Luftwaffe_'s _Kampfgeschwader_ medium and heavy bomber wings were perfectly capable of attacking strategic targets, but the lack of capable long range escort fighters left the bombers unable to carry out their missions effectively against determined and well organised fighter opposition.

The greatest failure for the _Kampfgeschwader_, however, was being saddled with an aircraft intended as a capable four-engined heavy bomber: the perpetually troubled Heinkel
He 177 , whose engines were prone to catch fire in flight. Of the three parallel proposals from the Heinkel
engineering departments for a four engined version of the A-series He 177 by February 1943 , only one, the He 177B , emerged in the concluding months of 1943. Only three airworthy prototypes were produced by early 1944, some three years after the first prototype flights of the Avro Lancaster , the most successful RAF heavy bomber. Arguably, one of the greatest tactical failures was the neglect of naval aviation in the western theatre, 1939–1941. (pictured is a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C Condor)

Another failure of procurement and equipment was the lack of a dedicated naval air arm . General Felmy had already expressed a desire to build a naval air arm to support _Kriegsmarine_ operations in the Atlantic and British waters. Britain was dependent on food and raw materials from its Empire and North America. Felmy pressed this case firmly throughout 1938 and 1939, and, on 31 October 1939, _ Großadmiral
_ Erich Raeder sent a strongly worded letter to Göring in support of such proposals. The early-war twin-engined Heinkel
He 115 floatplane and Dornier Do 18 flying boat were too slow and short-ranged. The then-contemporary Blohm ">'s primary seaborne maritime patrol platform, with nearly 300 examples built; its trio of Junkers Jumo 205 diesel engines gave it a 4,300 km (2,670 mi) maximum range. Another Blohm und Voss design of 1940, the enormous six-engined Blohm und Voss Bv 222 _Wiking_ maritime patrol flying boat, would see it capable of a 6,800 km (4,200-mile) range at maximum endurance when using higher-output versions of the same Jumo 205 powerplants as used by the Bv 138, in later years. The Dornier Do 217
Dornier Do 217
would have been ideal, but suffered production problems. Raeder also complained about the poor standard of aerial torpedoes, although their design was the _Kriegsmarine's_ responsibility, even considering production of the Japanese Type 91 torpedo used at Pearl Harbor as the _Lufttorpedo_ LT 850 by August 1942. (See: Heinkel
He 111 torpedo bomber operations )

Without specialised naval or land-based, purpose-designed maritime patrol aircraft, the _Luftwaffe_ was forced to improvise. The Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor airliner's airframe – engineered for civilian airliner use – lacked the structural strength for combat maneuvering at lower altitudes, making it unsuitable for use as a bomber, The Condor lacked speed, armour and bomb load capacity. Sometimes the fuselage literally "broke its back" or a wing panel dropped loose from the wing root after a hard landing. Nevertheless, this civilian transport was adapted for the long-range reconnaissance and anti-shipping roles and, between August 1940 and February 1941, Fw 200s sank 85 vessels for a claimed total of 363,000 Grt. Had the _Luftwaffe_ focused on naval aviation – particularly maritime patrol aircraft with long range, like the aforementioned diesel-powered multi-engine Blohm ">'s responsibility. In addition, Göring regarded any other branch of the German military developing its own aviation as an encroachment on his authority and continually frustrated the Navy's attempts to build its own airpower.

The absence of a strategic bomber force for the _Luftwaffe_, following General Wever's accidental death in 1936 and the end of the Ural bomber program he fostered before the invasion of Poland, would not be addressed again until the authorization of the " Bomber B " design competition in July 1939, which sought to replace the medium bomber force with which the _Luftwaffe_ was to begin the war, and the partly achieved _ Schnellbomber _ high-speed medium bomber concept with more advanced, twin-engined high speed bomber aircraft fitted with pairs of relatively "high-power" engines of 1,500 kW (2,000 hp) output levels and upwards each as a follow-on to the earlier _Schnellbomber_ project, that would also be able to function as shorter range heavy bombers. _ Oberst_ Edgar Petersen , the head of the _Luftwaffe_'s _Erprobungsstellen_ network of test facilities late in WW II

The spring 1942 _ Amerika Bomber _ program also sought to produce useful strategic bomber designs for the _Luftwaffe_, with their prime design priority being an advanced trans-oceanic range capability as the main aim of the project to directly attack the United States from Europe or the Azores. Inevitably, both the Bomber B and Amerika Bomber programs were victims of the continued emphasis of the Wehrmacht's insistence for the _Luftwaffe_ to support the Army as its primary mission, and the damage to the German aviation industry from Allied bomber attacks.

The RLM's apparent lack of a dedicated "technical-tactical" department, that would have directly been in contact with combat pilots to assess their needs for weaponry upgrades and tactical advice, had never been seriously envisioned as a critically ongoing necessity in the planning of the original German air arm. The RLM did have its own _Technisches Amt_ (T-Amt) department to handle aviation technology issues, but this was tasked with handling all aviation technology issues in the Third Reich, both military and civilian in nature, and also not known to have ever had any clear and actively administrative and consultative links with the front-line forces established for such purposes. On the front-line combat side of the issue, and for direct contact with the German aviation firms making the _Luftwaffe_'s warplanes, the _Luftwaffe_ did have its own reasonably effective system of four military aviation test facilities, or _Erprobungstellen_ located at three coastal sites – Peenemünde-West (also incorporating a separate facility in nearby Karlshagen ), Tarnewitz and Travemünde – and the central inland site of Rechlin , itself first established as a military airfield in late August 1918 by the German Empire, with the four-facility system commanded later in World War II
World War II
by _Oberst_ (Colonel) Edgar Petersen . However, due to lack of co-ordination between the RLM and OKL, all fighter and bomber development was oriented toward short range aircraft, as they could be produced in greater numbers, rather than quality long range aircraft, something that put the _Luftwaffe_ at a disadvantage as early as the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
. The "ramp-up" to production levels required to fulfill the _Luftwaffe_'s front-line needs was also slow, not reaching maximum output until 1944. Production of fighters was not given priority until 1944; Adolf Galland commented that this should have occurred at least a year earlier. Galland also pointed to the mistakes and challenges made in the development of the Me 262 jet – which included the protracted development time required for its Junkers Jumo 004 jet engines to achieve reliability. German combat aircraft types that were first designed and flown in the mid-1930s had become obsolete, yet were kept in production, in particular the Ju 87 Stuka, and the Bf 109, because there were no well-developed replacement designs.


The failure of German production was evident from the start of the Battle of Britain. By the end of 1940 the _Luftwaffe_ had suffered heavy losses and needed to regroup. Deliveries of new aircraft were insufficient to meet the drain on resources; the _Luftwaffe_, unlike the RAF, was failing to expand its pilot and aircraft numbers. This was partly owing to production planning failures before the war and the demands of the army. Nevertheless, the German aircraft industry was being outproduced in 1940. In terms of fighter aircraft production, the British exceeded their production plans by 43%, while the Germans remained 40% "behind" target by the summer 1940. In fact German production in fighters fell from 227 to 177 per month between July and September 1940. One of the many reasons for the failure of the _Luftwaffe_ in 1940 was that it did not have the operational and material means to destroy the British aircraft industry, something that the much-anticipated _Bomber B_ design competition was intended to address.

No effort was made to address the low production output of the German aviation industry to support the expected increased attrition rates. The so-called "Göring program" envisaged the defeat of the Soviet Union in 1941. Erhard Milch's reforms expanded production rates. In 1941 an average of 981 aircraft (including 311 fighters) were produced each month. In 1942 this rose to 1,296 aircraft of which 434 were fighters. Milch's planned production increases were initially opposed. But in June, he was granted materials for 900 fighters per month as the average output. By the winter of 1941–42 just 39% of the fighter force was operational and possessed just 60 more combat aircraft than it did in June 1941 despite its increased commitments. Throughout 1942 the _Luftwaffe_ was out produced in fighter aircraft by 250% and in twin-engine aircraft by 196%.

The appointment of Albert Speer
Albert Speer
as Minister of Armaments increased production of existing designs, and the few new designs that had originated from earlier in the war. However the intensification of Allied bombing caused the dispersion of production and prevented an efficient acceleration of expansion. German aviation production reached about 36,000 combat aircraft for 1944. However, by the time this was achieved the _Luftwaffe_ lacked the fuel and trained pilots to make this achievement worth while.

The failure to maximize production immediately after the failures in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
and North Africa ensured the _Luftwaffe_'s effective defeat in the period of September 1943 – February 1944. Despite the tactical victories won, they failed to achieve a decisive victory. By the time production reached acceptable levels, as so many other factors had for the _Luftwaffe_ – and for the entire Wehrmacht military's weapons and ordnance technology as a whole – late in the war, it was "too little, too late".


The early development of the "coupled" engines, began in the late 1930s with Daimler-Benz's development of a 1,500 kW class engine design using a single crankcase. The result was the twenty-four cylinder Daimler-Benz DB 604 , with four banks of six cylinders each. Possessing essentially the same displacement of 46.5 litres (2830 in3) as the initial version of the Junkers Jumo 222, its protracted development was diverting valuable German aviation powerplant research resources, and with more development of the DB 610 coupled engine giving improved results at the time, the Reich Air Ministry stopped all work on the DB 604 in September 1942. A restored DB 610 "power system" engine, comprising a pair of DB 605 inverted V12s.

BMW worked on what was essentially an enlarged version of its highly successful BMW 801 design from the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A. This led to the 53.7 litre displacement BMW 802 in 1943, an eighteen-cylinder air-cooled radial, and the even larger, 83.5 litre displacement BMW 803 28-cylinder liquid-cooled radial, which from post-war statements from BMW development personnel were each considered to be "secondary priority" development programs at best. This situation with the 802 and 803 designs led to the company's engineering personnel being redirected to place all efforts on improving the 801 to develop it to its full potential. The BMW 801F radial development, through its use of features coming from the 801E subtype, was able to substantially exceed the over-1,500 kW output level.

As the largest-displacement inverted V12 aircraft powerplant built in Germany, the 44.52 litre (2,717 cu. in.) Daimler-Benz DB 603 saw widespread use in twin-engined designs, yet could not exceed the 1,500 kW output level without more development. Only the twinned-up Daimler-Benz DB 601 -based, 1,750 kW output designated the DB 606, and its more powerful descendant, the 2,130 kW output DB 605-based DB 610, each of some 1.5 tonnes weight apiece seeing production were ever produced for front-line aircraft, most notably for the troublesome Heinkel
He 177A heavy bomber, with the strictly experimental, approximately 1.8-tonne weight apiece, twinned-Daimler-Benz DB 603 -based DB 613, capable of over 2,570 kW output, never leaving its testing phase.

The proposed over-1,500 kW output subtypes of German aviation industry's existing piston aviation engine designs—which adhered to using just a single crankcase that was able to substantially exceed the aforementioned over-1,500 kW output level—were the DB 603 LM (1,800 kW at take-off, in production), the DB 603 N (2,205 kW at take-off, planned for 1946) and the BMW 801F (1,765 kW (2,400 PS) engines. The pioneering nature of jet engine technology in the 1940s resulted in numerous development problems for both of Germany's major jet engine designs to see mass production, the Jumo 004 and BMW 003 (both of pioneering axial flow design), with the more powerful Heinkel HeS 011 never leaving the test phase, as only 19 examples of the HeS 011 would ever be built for development. Even with such dismal degrees of success for such advanced aviation powerplant designs, more and more design proposals for new German combat aircraft in the 1943–45 period centered either around the failed Jumo 222 or HeS 011 aviation powerplants for their propulsion.


The bomber arm was given preference and received the "better" pilots. Later, fighter pilot leaders were few in numbers as a result of this. As with the late shift to fighter production, the _Luftwaffe_ pilot schools did not give the fighter pilot schools preference soon enough. The _Luftwaffe_, OKW argued, was still an offensive weapon, and its primary focus was on producing bomber pilots. This attitude prevailed until the second half of 1943. During the Defence of the Reich campaign in 1943 and 1944, there were not enough commissioned fighter pilots and leaders to meet attrition rates; as the need arose to replace aircrew (as attrition rates increased), the quality of pilot training deteriorated rapidly. Later this was made worse by fuel shortages for pilot training . Overall this meant reduced training on operational types, formation flying, gunnery training, and combat training, and a total lack of instrument training.

At the beginning of the war commanders were replaced with younger commanders too quickly. These younger commanders had to learn "in the field" rather than entering a post fully qualified. Training of formation leaders was not systematic until 1943, which was far too late, with the _Luftwaffe_ already stretched. The _Luftwaffe_ thus lacked a cadre of staff officers to set up, man, and pass on experience.

Moreover, _Luftwaffe_ leadership from the start poached the training command, which undermined its ability to replace losses, while also planning for "short sharp campaigns", which did not pertain. Moreover, no plans were laid for night fighters . In fact, when protests were raised, Hans Jeschonnek , Chief of the General Staff
General Staff
of the _Luftwaffe_, said, "First we've got to beat Russia, then we can start training!"


One of the unique characteristics of the _Luftwaffe_ (as opposed to other independent air forces) was the possession of an organic paratrooper force called _ Fallschirmjäger _. These were established in 1938. They saw action in their proper role during 1940–1941, most notably in the capture of the Belgian army fortress at the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael and the Battle for The Hague in May 1940, and during the Battle of Crete in May 1941. However, more than 4,000 _Fallschirmjäger_ were killed during the Crete operation. Afterwards, although continuing to be trained in parachute delivery, paratroopers were only used in a parachute role for smaller-scale operations, such as the rescue of Benito Mussolini in 1943 . _Fallschirmjäger_ formations were mainly used as crack foot infantry in all theatres of the war.

During 1942 surplus _Luftwaffe_ personnel (see above) was used to form the _Luftwaffe_ Field Divisions , standard infantry divisions that were used chiefly as rear echelon units to free up front line troops. From 1943, the _Luftwaffe_ also had an armoured paratroop division called Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1 Hermann Göring , which was expanded to a _ Panzerkorps _ in 1944.


See also: Bombing of Wieluń See also: Operation Retribution (1941)


The _bombing of Wieluń_ was an air raid on the Polish town of Wieluń by the Luftwaffe
on 1 September 1939. The Luftwaffe
started bombing Wieluń at 04:40, five minutes before the shelling of Westerplatte
, which has traditionally been considered the beginning of World War II
World War II
. The air raid on the town was one of the first aerial bombings of the war . It killed an estimated 1,300 civilians, injured hundreds more and destroyed 90 per cent of the town centre. The casualty rate was more than twice as high as Guernica
. Writer Sylwia Słomińska and Sender Freies Berlin director Joachim Trenkner (author of German 1989 TV documentary about the bombing of Wieluń) stated in the documentary that there were no military or industrial targets in the area, except for a small sugar factory in the outskirts of the town. Furthermore, Trenkner stated that German bombers destroyed the town's hospital first. Two attempts to prosecute the attack on the Wieluń hospital were dealt with shortly by West German judges in 1978 and 1983, since prosecutors _emphatically_ claimed that the pilots could not make out the nature of the target in alleged morning fog.

_Operation Retribution_ (German : _Unternehmen Strafgericht_) also known as _Operation Punishment_, was the April 1941 German bombing of Belgrade
, the capital of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia . It occurred in the first days of the World War II
World War II
German-led Axis invasion of Yugoslavia . The operation commenced on 6 April and concluded on 7 or 8 April, resulting in the paralysis of Yugoslav civilian and military command and control, widespread destruction in the centre of the city and many civilian casualties. Following the Yugoslav capitulation, _Luftwaffe_ engineers conducted a bomb damage assessment in Belgrade. The report stated that 218.5 metric tons (215.0 long tons; 240.9 short tons) of bombs were dropped, with 10 to 14 percent being incendiaries. It listed all the targets of the bombing, which included: the royal palace, the war ministry, military headquarters, the central post office, the telegraph office, passenger and goods railway stations, power stations and barracks. It also mentioned that seven aerial mines were dropped, and that areas in the centre and northwest of the city had been destroyed, comprising 20 to 25 percent of its total area. Some aspects of the bombing remain unexplained, particularly the use of the aerial mines. In contrast, Pavlowitch states that almost 50 percent of housing in Belgrade
was destroyed. After the invasion, the Germans forced between 3,500 and 4,000 Jews
to collect rubble that was caused by the bombing. General Alexander Löhr , the officer in charge of the attack, was captured by the Yugoslav Partisans on 9 May 1945, escaped, and was recaptured on 13 May. He was intensively interrogated, after which he was tried before a Yugoslav military court on a number of war crimes charges, one of which related to his command of _Luftflotte_ IV during Operation Retribution. He was convicted, sentenced to death and executed.


See also: Nazi human experimentation
Nazi human experimentation
_ A cold water immersion experiment at Dachau concentration camp presided over by Professor Ernst Holzlöhner (left) and Dr. Sigmund Rascher (right). The subject is wearing an experimental Luftwaffe_ garment.

Throughout the war civilians or prisoners were used as human guinea pigs in testing _Luftwaffe_ equipment. It is unclear whether these tests were carried out by _Luftwaffe_ personnel or on the orders of OKL. These illegal tests are classified as war crimes and were carried out on the _Luftwaffe_'s behalf.

In 1941, experiments with the intent of discovering means to prevent and treat hypothermia were carried out. Freezing /hypothermia experiments were conducted for the Nazi high command to simulate the conditions the armies suffered on the Eastern Front , as the German forces were ill-prepared for the cold weather they encountered. A number of crews were also lost to hypothermia during the Battle of Britain when planes ran out of fuel or were shot down and ditched in the English Channel . The principal locales for the experiments were Dachau and Auschwitz
. Dr Sigmund Rascher , an SS doctor based at Dachau, reported directly to _ Reichsführer-SS _ Heinrich Himmler and publicised the results of his freezing experiments at the 1942 medical conference entitled "Medical Problems Arising from Sea and Winter". Approximately 100 people are reported to have died as a result of these experiments.

In early 1942, prisoners at Dachau were used by Rascher in experiments to perfect ejection seats at high altitudes. A low-pressure chamber containing these prisoners was used to simulate conditions at altitudes of up to 20,000 m (66,000 ft). It was rumoured that Rascher performed vivisections on the brains of victims who survived the initial experiment. Of the 200 subjects, 80 died outright, and the others were executed.


* _ Der Adler _, Luftwaffe's propaganda magazine * Organization of the _Luftwaffe_ (1933–45) * Military Ranks of the _Luftwaffe_ (1935–45) * List of flags of _Luftwaffe_ (1933–45) * Uniforms of the _Luftwaffe_ (1935–45) * German Air Fleets in World War II
World War II
* List of World War II
World War II
military aircraft of Germany * Schnellbomber * Bomber B * Amerika Bomber * Emergency Fighter Program * _Luftwaffe_ serviceable aircraft strengths (1940–45) * Trial of Erhardt Milch * High Command Trial
High Command Trial
* List of World War II
World War II
aces from Germany * List of German aircraft projects, 1939-45 * List of German World War II
World War II
jet aces * List of German World War II
World War II
night fighter aces * List of weapons of military aircraft of Germany during World War II * German war crimes * Bombing of Guernica
* Nazi human experimentation
Nazi human experimentation



* ^ Official dissolution of the Wehrmacht, including the _Luftwaffe_, began with Proclamation No. 2 of the Allied Control Council on 20 September 1945 and was not complete until Order No. 34 of 20 August 1946. * ^ _Luftwaffe_ is also the generic term in German speaking countries for any national military aviation service, and the names of air forces in other countries are usually translated into German as "_Luftwaffe_" (e.g. Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
is often translated as "britische _Luftwaffe_"). However, _Luftstreitkräfte_, or "air armed force", is also sometimes used as a translation of "air force" for post-World War I air arms, as it was used as the first word of the official German name of the former East German Air Force
German Air Force
, disbanded one day before German reunification was achieved in October 1990. Since "Luft" translates into English as "air", and "Waffe" may be translated into English as either "weapon" or "arm" , "Air Arm" may be considered the most literal English translation of _Luftwaffe_ (cf. Fleet Air Arm
Fleet Air Arm


* ^ "Control Council Law No. 34, Resolution of the Wehrmacht
of 20 August 1946" (in German). _Official Gazette of the Control Council for Germany,_ 1 May 2004 – 7 June 2004, p. 172. * ^ Tom Philo. "WWII production figures". Taphilo.com. Retrieved April 26, 2014. * ^ Jason Pipes (2008). "Statistics and Numbers". Feldgrau.com. Retrieved April 26, 2014. * ^ Entry in German dictionary _Duden_ * ^ Stedman, Robert F. (20 November 2012). _ Luftwaffe
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