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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

Junkers Ju 88

Junkers Ju 88
Junkers Ju 88

Probably no other aircraft in history has been developed in so many different forms for so many purposes as the Ju 88, with the possible exception of Britain’s Mosquito. The Ju 88 was flown in 1936 as a civil prototype, and it remained of vital importance to Germany throughout the war. After a frantic design process led by two Americans well versed in modern stressed skin construction, it was transformed into a heavier, slower and more capacious high-speed level- and dive-bomber of the type just then entering service when war broke out. Structurally the aircraft was excellent, combining a large internal fuel capacity with great load-carrying capability, and despite the fact that many of its variants were mere “lash-ups”, the performance of the aircraft was never so degraded as to become seriously vulnerable – as the Dornier and Heinkel bombers were.

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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

Gneisenau

Gneisenau
Gneisenau

The battlecruiser Gneisenau was launched in December 1936 and completed in May 1938. She was upgraded in the following year and made her first Atlantic sortie, with her sister ship, Scharnhorst, in November 1939, sinking the British auxiliary cruiser Rawalpindi. She was damaged by gunfire from the British battlecruiser Renown off Norway on 9 April 1940, but on 8 June she and Scharnhorst sank the British aircraft carrier Glorious and her escorting destroyers Ardent and Acasta. On 20 June 1940 she was torpedoed by the Royal Navy submarine HMS Clyde off Trondheim. In January 1941, again with the Scharnhorst, she made another sortie into the Atlantic, the two sinking 22 merchant ships – a moderately successful action.

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Small Arms

MG 08

MG 08
MG 08

The Schwere Maschinengewehr 08 (specification at left) was one of Germany’s most important weapons of World War I, and numbers remained in service up to the outbreak of World War II as there were insufficient MG 34 weapons to replace them. By 1942 the s MG 08 had been retired to second-line duties.

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Tracked Vehicles

StuG (F1)

StuG (F1)
StuG (F1)

During World War II flamethrower tanks were popular with infantry units for a number of reasons, such as their ability to deal with enemy bunkers and strongpoints (thus saving infantry formations having to get close to such locations, which would have resulted in heavy casualties), and thus demoralise the enemy in general. It was therefore logical that the Germans would convert a number of StuGs, their prime assault gun, to flamethrowers.

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Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

MG34 machine gun

MG34 machine gun
MG34 machine gun

Maschinengewehr 34, the MG34, here seen with receiver mounted bipod which could be secured at the breech but also attach at the end of the barrel jacket as a mobile infantry support weapon. The sights of the weapon are particularly clearly shown in this photograph. The MG34 came with a standard iron sight consisting of a notched ‘V’ sight mounted to a post in the rear and a single blade at the front. The sight was calibrated for ranges between 200 and 2000 metres in 100 metre increments.

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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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