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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

Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant

Originally planned as a heavy tank and troop transport glider, and first flown on 25 February 1941, the Me 321 V1 prototype had a single-crew member and a substantial cargo hold that could accommodate some 200 troops or 20,000kg (44,092lb) of freight. The Me 321A-1 entered service in late in 1941, followed by the Me 321B-1 with a crew of three and two defensive machine-guns. Luftwaffe transport pilots found that the Me 321 handled adequately in the air, but lacked a suitably powerful tug (even the extraordinary five-engined Heinkel He 111Z proved inadequate). This led to further development as the Me 323 with multi-wheel landing gear, structural strengthening and six Gnome-Rhòne radial engines from captured French stocks.

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Artillery

PAK 43

PAK 43
PAK 43

The 8.8cm Panzerabwehrkanone 43 was a Krupp development of the proposed PaK 42. Entering service late in 1943, this equipment proved itself to be the best anti-tank gun of World War II. The weapon possessed a low silhouette and was also protected by a well-sloped shield, and its potency was revealed by the fact that the PaK 43 was the only German weapon able to penetrate the thick and well-sloped armour of the Soviet IS heavy tanks, and then at ranges well in excess of those offered by smaller-calibre guns.

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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

MG 42

MG 42
MG 42

Without doubt one of the most far-sighted and influential machine guns created in World War II, the Maschinengewehr 42 was in terms of its design and manufacturing requirements a truly outstanding weapon that has exercised a long-lasting influence over later general-purpose machine guns.

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Tracked Vehicles

Nashorn

Nashorn
Nashorn

The Nashorn (Rhinoceros), later called Hornisse (Hornet), was designed to accommodate the 88mm Pak 43/1 L/71 gun - the most powerful tank armament produced by the Germans in World War II, and the most effective anti-armour gun built by either side. With a muzzle velocity of 1018m/sec (3340ft/sec), it could destroy any Allied tank in service up to the end of the war in Europe in May 1945.

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Free Media

Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Commanders

Commanders

Erich von Manstein

Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein

One of the greatest generals of World War II was born in 1887 in Berlin. He fought and was wounded in World War I, and commanded the 18th Division in Silesia after the war. He first came to prominence in early 1940, when his plan for an armoured attack through the Ardennes caught Hitler’s attention. The Führer liked the plan, which he adopted and launched with great success. However, Manstein had upset the General Staff and so he was “banished” to Silesia to help form the new XXXVIII Corps.

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