The _LUFTWAFFE_ (German pronunciation: (_ listen )) was the aerial
warfare branch of the combined German
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
Spanish Civil War
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
* 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
* 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
* 9.1 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
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
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
The first steps towards the _Luftwaffe_'s formation were undertaken
just months after
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
Helmuth Wilberg . Wilberg later played a large role in the
development of German air doctrine. Having headed the _
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
PREPARING FOR WAR: 1933–39
THE WEVER YEARS, 1933–36
_ 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
In December 1934, Chief of the _Luftwaffe_
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
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
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.
A CHANGE OF DIRECTION, 1936–37
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
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
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
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
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
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
Despite the participation of these aircraft (mainly from 1938
onward), it was the venerable
Junkers Ju 52
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
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
However, even by the spring of 1940, the _Luftwaffe_ still had not
mobilized fully. Despite the shortage of raw-materials,
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)
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
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 .
ORGANIZATION AND CHAIN OF COMMAND
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
_LUFTWAFFE STRENGTH DURING THE FALL OF 1941_
FORCES PERSONNEL STRENGTH
Flying units 500,000
Anti-aircraft units 500,000
Air signal units 250,000
Construction units 150,000
The peacetime strength of the
SPANISH CIVIL WAR
Condor Legion experimented with new doctrine and
aircraft during the
Spanish Civil War
WORLD WAR II
World War II
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
Battle of Britain
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
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.
OMISSIONS AND FAILURES
MISTAKES IN COMMAND: THE LACK OF AERIAL DEFENCE
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.
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
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 . _
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 .
MISTAKES IN DEVELOPMENT AND EQUIPMENT
_ 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
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,
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
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
The failure to maximize production immediately after the failures in
CRITICAL ENGINE DEVELOPMENT PROBLEMS
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
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.
PERSONNEL AND LEADERSHIP
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
_LUFTWAFFE_ GROUND FORCES
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.
AERIAL BOMBING AS ALLEGED WAR CRIMES
The _bombing of Wieluń_ was an air raid on the Polish town of
Wieluń by the
_Operation Retribution_ (German : _Unternehmen Strafgericht_) also
known as _Operation Punishment_, was the April 1941 German bombing of
HUMAN EXPERIMENTATION IN MILITARY AVIATION
Nazi human experimentation
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.
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
English Channel . The principal locales for the experiments were
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
* ^ 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
Royal Air Force
* ^ "Control Council Law No. 34, Resolution of the
* Bekkerm Cajus. _Angriffshohe 4000_ (in German). Munich, Germany:
* Bergström, Christer (2007), _Barbarossa: The Air Battle:
July–December 1941_, London: Chevron/Ian Allan, ISBN
* Bergstrom, Christer. _Stalingrad: The Air Battle: November 1942
– February 1943._ London: Chevron/Ian Allan, 2008. ISBN
* Bergström, Christer, _Kursk: The Air Battle: July 1943._ London:
Chevron/Ian Allan, 2008. ISBN 978-1-903223-88-8 .
* Bergström, Christer and Andrey Mikhailov. Black Cross/Red
Operation Barbarossa 1941. _London: Classic Colours,
2003. ISBN 978-0-935553-48-2 ._
* Bergström, Christer and Martin Pegg. _Jagdwaffe: The War in
Russia: January–October 1942_. London: Classic Colours, 2003. ISBN
* Bowmen, Martin and Theo Boiten. _Battles with the Luftwaffe: The
Air War Over Germany 1942–1945_. London: Collins, 2001. ISBN
* Buckley, John (1998), _Air Power in the Age of Total War_, West
Midlands, UK: UCL Press, ISBN 1-85728-589-1
* Bungay, Stephen. _The Most Dangerous Enemy: A History of the
Battle of Britain_. London: Aurum Press, 2000.ISBN 1-85410-721-6 .
* Caldwell, Donald and Richard Muller. _The
* "The Pre-Normandy Air Battle"
* "Losing Air Superiority – A Case Study from World War II"
* Gunzinger, Mark A. "Air Power as a Second Front"
* Forum Discussion on reasons for
* Carter, W. "Air Power in the Battle of the Bulge"
* Bomber Command War Diary Online
* USAF Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB
* Book Review of American Raiders – discusses some of the
PORTALS Access related topics
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