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Third Reich Day by Day

The rise of the Third Reich as it happened from its beginnings to the start of World War II in September 1939.

Weapons & Technology

Aircraft

Heinkel He 60

Heinkel He 60
Heinkel He 60

One of the last of the many floatplanes designed by Ernst Heinkel was the He 60, a two-seat biplane powered by a BMW vee engine. This was intended for catapult operations from the decks of the larger German warships, and first flew in 1933 in prototype form. The 492kW (660hp) BMW V1 engine was subsequently replaced in the second He 60B prototype by a 559kW (750hp) version of the same engine, but this offered no significant improvement and was not adopted for subsequent aircraft. The third He 60c prototype had catapult launching equipment and underwent a series of trials that confirmed its suitability for operational use.

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Artillery

Flakpanzer Wirbelwind

Flakpanzer Wirbelwind
Flakpanzer Wirbelwind

A tactically important weapon that entered service in December 1943 to provide German armoured forces with a high level of air defence against low-flying attack aircraft, the five-man Flakpanzer IV (2cm) mit PzFgst Panzer IV/3 Wirbelwind (whirlwind) was based on the chassis of the PzKpfw IV Ausf J medium tank.

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Ships

Graf Spee

Graf Spee
Graf Spee

Officially classed as a Panzerschiff (Armoured Ship), but more popularly known as a “pocket battleship”, the Admiral Graf Spee and her two sisters, the Admiral Scheer and Deutschland, were designed as commerce raiders with a large radius of action and complied with the restrictions imposed on Germany by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (which was detested by the Nazi Party). The “pocket battleship” nickname derived from the fact that, although they were too small to be classed as battleships, they were more powerful and faster than most other warships then afloat. Their hulls were electrically welded, and armour protection was sacrificed to produce a higher speed.

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Small Arms

Walther P38

Walther P38
Walther P38

The Pistole 38, another semi-automatic weapon from the Walther stable, entered service with the German armed forces in 1938 as successor to the P 08. It embodied a double-action trigger mechanism developed from the earlier Models PP and PPK, and also featured the signal pin which extended beside the hammer when there was a round in the chamber.

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Tracked Vehicles

Panzer III Ausf N

Panzer III Ausf N
Panzer III Ausf N

The Panzer III Ausf N was an attempt to increase the potency of the tank by arming it with the 75mm KwK L/24 gun. This weapon fired an effective high-explosive round and an excellent shaped-charge that had better penetration than the long-barrelled KwK39 L/60 which it replaced.

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Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

Soviet troops drive forward into Berlin riding atop a Josef Stalin JS-2 tank. The Wehrmacht had little to put in the way of the mass of heavy machinery that the Red Army (and also the western Allies) could call on in their final drive into the German heartland.

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Commanders

Commanders

Erwin Rommel

Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel

No discussion of the German Army’s performance in North Africa can exclude an analysis of Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox.” The war in North Africa made his reputation. On February 12, 1941, Hitler dispatched Rommel by air to Tripoli in response to the major defeat that the Italian units had just suffered at the hands of British and Commonwealth forces. The new commander had with him just a small mobile force to stiffen Italian resolve and to assist them in reversing the possibility of total defeat at the hands of the British-led forces advancing from Egypt. Hitler did not, however, envisage the Africa Corps making spectacular successes, lest the need to protect these accomplishments from British ripostes led to the diversion of precious German reserves away from the impending Barbarossa invasion of the Soviet Union to the North Africa theater.

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