Welcome to the new German War Machine, a non-political website home to a wealth of free content on the German Armed Forces in World War II. With authoritative text supported by videos, photographs and maps, German War Machine provides insight and information on every aspect of Germany’s military forces – land, sea and air – between 1939 and 1945. It is also home to a unique series of handy Rapid Reads ebooks.
One of the first requirements issued under the Nazis by the rapidly expanded Reichsluftfahrtministerium was a specification for a monoplane fighter to replace the Arado 68 and Heinkel 51. Designed by a Heinkel team under Walter Günthers (who was also responsible for the He 70), the He 112 was Heinkel’s entry to the competition.
The need for an anti-tank gun with a calibre greater than that of the 3.7cm PaK 35/36 had been anticipated even as the PaK 35/36 was entering service, and the design of a new 5cm weapon began during 1938. The design authority was again Rheinmetall-Borsig, and the new weapon entered service late in 1940 as the 5cm Panzerabwehrkanone 38.
The mighty battleship Tirpitz was laid down in October 1936 and was originally known as Schlachtschiff G or Ersatz Schleswig-Holstein (Replacement Schleswig-Holstein). She was launched on 1 April 1939 and completed in February 1941. From early 1942 she was based at various locations in Norway, and on 8 September 1943 she sailed from Altenfjord to bombard shore installations on Spitzbergen – the only time she fired her guns in anger against a surface target. On 22 September she was damaged in an attack by British midget submarines, and on 3 April 1944 she was further damaged in an attack by carrier aircraft of the British Fleet Air Arm, sustaining 14 bomb hits and suffering 122 dead. She was subjected to further attacks by the Fleet Air Arm in August 1944, but sustained only minor bomb hits.
The MP 38 was a technical and tactical success, but was also expensive to manufacture in terms of materials and time. The MP 38 was therefore re-designed as the Maschinenpistole 40 that was generally similar to the MP 38 but far easier to manufacture, as machining was reduced to a minimum and the use of welding and pressed components was maximized. As well as speeding production, these changes also made it possible for the MP 40 to be made by a larger number of companies drawing on the efforts of a pool of subcontractors delivering subassemblies. The MP 40 thus inaugurated the era of the swift and cheap manufacture of basic small arms, and was one of the most important submachine guns of World War II.
The Panzer 35(t) was a Czech-designed tank in the 10-ton class. As well as being rugged, much thought had gone into ease of operation. Thus, a 12-speed gearbox combined with a a pneumatic-servo-mechanical steering unit to make the tank easy to drive. In addition, the suspension system, consisting of two sets of four-wheel bogie units each side, was very hard wearing.
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While at Lofjord after being torpedoed, the entire stern of Prinz Eugen needed to be rebuilt, while the main repair needed was to her rudder. It proved impossible to make adequate arrangements in Lofjord, and so two jury-rigged rudders that had to be operated by hand using capstans were fitted. In May 1942 Prinz Eugen sailed for Germany but was spotted by the RAF and attacked while at sea. In spite of her poor steering apparatus, the German cruiser managed to avoid being hit.
Hitler’s aim in the East was very clear: acquiring Lebensraum in the East up to the Ural Mountains. These lands were occupied by groups that Hitler and Nazism despised: Bolsheviks, Slavs and Jews. Under the New Order, these peoples would either become slaves under German overlords or would be exterminated. He was to state in 1942: “If we do not complete the conquest of the East utterly and irrevocably, each successive generation will have war on its hands”. For him the war in Russia was a racial conflict, in which the racially superior German Aryan race was locked in a struggle with the “sub-human” Slavs. This made retreat in the face of “inferior” peoples unimaginable, for the Führer could not conceive of the racially inferior Slavs being able to defeat a superior race. As he stated on the eve of Kursk: “Germany needs the conquered territories or she will not exist for long. She will win hegemony over the rest of Europe. Where we are - we stay.”