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Timelines

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

Dornier Do 17

Dornier Do 17
Dornier Do 17

Designed as a fast mailplane (with single-fin tail surfaces) for Deutsche Lufthansa and first flown in 1934, the Do 17 was rejected by the airline and then developed by Dornier as a high-speed bomber with twin vertical tail surfaces. The aircraft entered service in early 1937, gaining the nickname “The Flying Pencil” on account of its slender rear fuselage. The first two military variants were the Do 17E-1 and Do 17F-1 for the high-speed bomber and long-range photo-reconnaissance roles respectively, the latter with additional fuel and the internal bomb bay revised to carry two cameras. The two types offered good performance and adequate all-round capabilities for their day, but by 1939 were obsolescent.

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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

Emden

Emden
Emden

Completed in January 1925, the light cruiser Emden was the first medium-sized German warship built after World War I. Originally a coal-burning vessel, she was intended primarily for overseas service and consequently had a large bunker capacity; particular attention was paid to accommodation space and crew comfort, something of a novelty at that time. Her first mission in World War II was to lay mines in the North Sea, and, in April 1940, she was one of the warships that accompanied the Blücher during the invasion of Norway. Though this operation was a costly affair in terms in shipping, she survived and was later transferred to the Baltic and saw considerable operational service there, initially operating as part of a powerful task force that included the new battleship Tirpitz and later operating as a mine warfare training vessel.

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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 I

Panzer I
Panzer I

In the early 1930s the German Army needed a tank that could be built cheaply and in large numbers for training purposes. The Krupp design (the L.K.A.1) was selected as the first production model in 1934, eventually becoming the Panzer IA. The earliest versions had open-top hulls, no turrets and were designated as agricultural tractors to disguise their true purpose.

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Free Media

Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

A War with a View

A War with a View
A War with a View

This photograph was taken on 1 September 1939, literally moments before World War II began with Germany’s invasion of Poland. While a photographer can be seen documenting the moment, a German Army officer peers through periscope binoculars to scan the Polish side of the border.

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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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