Air Force (Wehrmacht)

Article

May 17, 2022

The Luftwaffe of the Wehrmacht concerned the air force (Luftwaffe) as part of the German army at the time of Nazi Germany, the Wehrmacht. The Luftwaffe was officially founded in 1935 by Hermann Göring and would play a hugely influential role during World War II: the Luftwaffe bombed hundreds of cities, took part in all major combat offensives and inflicted many casualties among the Allied armies and among the civilian population. In the Netherlands, the Luftwaffe became especially notorious for the bombing of Rotterdam on 14 May 1940. About 800 people were killed and 80,000 Rotterdammers became homeless during this bombing. There was also the bombing of Coventry, in response to the Berlin bombing. This bombardment, carried out by the Luftwaffe on 14 November 1940, also resulted in a significant number of civilian casualties. In Poland, the Luftwaffe became infamous for the bombing of Warsaw in September 1939 and 1944.

Creation of the Luftwaffe

During World War I, Germany had the Kaiserliche Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial Air Forces). This air force consisted of about 3000 aircraft, most of which were biplanes used for reconnaissance. The planes flew over the front and located the movements of enemy troops there. Only very sporadically were multi-person biplanes used for bombing raids. After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany to maintain an air force. Many German fighter pilots became unemployed as a result. One of them was Hermann Göring. Göring, a successful World War I pilot, became in charge of the newly built air force when Adolf Hitler came to power. When Hitler came to power in 1933, a start had already been made with the Luftwaffe. In the greatest secrecy, Germany had trained pilots at the Russian airbase Lipetsk. Hitler gave Göring unlimited freedom and a large budget. Because the Germans were not allowed to have an air force according to the Treaty of Versailles, foreigners had to get the impression that it was a new airline. That is why Göring used many aircraft that were also used by airlines. The Junkers Ju 52/3m was used as a military transport aircraft, an aircraft that was previously mainly known as an airliner. The bombers used were the Heinkel He 111 and the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 ("Condor"), aircraft that were originally designed as cargo aircraft. The other countries initially had no idea. It was only when the new airline started to get very large proportions that people started to suspect. England and France began to rapidly expand their air forces.

Fundamental weaknesses

Despite this, the Luftwaffe showed some serious shortcomings in some respects. Objective The Luftwaffe was primarily intended for a Blitzkrieg, a mobile lightning war in which the air force, together with the tank units and other support units, overran enemy countries. A long-term vision had barely been developed. The tactical advantage was insufficient to compensate for this.Productivity Only after the great defeat at Stalingrad, when the economy was geared to total war, did production ramp up. Furthermore, it was not until 1944, when the Allied air superiority was almost insurmountable, that it was decided to shift the emphasis to the production of fighter aircraft.Diversification People tended to make unreasonable demands on aircraft in order to be able to use them for multiple tasks. The urge to adapt existing models also slowed down the development of new devices. Examples include the Heinkel He 177, a strategic bomber that also had to function as a dive bomber, and the Messerschmitt Me 262, a superior jet fighter that turned the tide for the Luftwaffe