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.
Despite its unusual appearance, which brought more than a few words of scepticism from conservative Luftwaffe pilots, the Fw 189 Uhu (Owl) was extremely effective in its intended role of army cooperation and short-range reconnaissance. It was only one of two such aircraft produced for the Luftwaffe – somewhat strangely considering it was designed primarily as a tactical air force for the support of the army. The prototype first flew in July 1938 – none of the subsequent prototype aircraft were alike – yet it was unknown by the Allies until it was disclosed in 1941 as the “Flying Eye” of German armies.
The 10.5cm le FH 18 was designed and developed by Rheinmetall from 1928 and entered service in 1935 as what became the standard medium field howitzer of the German Army up to 1945. The le FH 18 was a completely orthodox but capable and reliable weapon given a somewhat obsolescent look as a result of its large wheels. The type was latter adapted as the le FH 18.M with a muzzle brake to reduce the recoil forces, and could fire a wide variety of shells including high explosive, smoke, tracer, hollow-charge and incendiary.
The Prinz Eugen, launched in August 1938, was the third of five heavy cruisers laid down for the Kriegsmarine in the 1930s. On 23 April 1941 she was damaged by a magnetic mine, but was repaired in time to sail for the Atlantic with the battleship Bismarck in May. Prinz Eugen managed to elude the British warships hunting the Bismarck, having been detached to make her own way to the French Atlantic ports, and so escaped Bismarck’s fate, arriving at Brest on 1 June 1941 undamaged. On 12 February 1942 she took part in the famous “Channel Dash” with the battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, which totally humiliated the Royal Navy.
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.
By far the most enduring of the main types of German tank, the Panzer IV was specified as a medium tank in the 20-ton class, to be armed with a 75mm gun. The order to build the vehicle was awarded to Krupp, who initially proposed interleaved road wheels for suspension. However, the actual suspension used was much more simple: eight road wheels on each side suspended in pairs on leaf springs. Like other German tanks of the period, the Panzer IV’s engine was located at the rear with the transmission led forward to the final drive via sprockets at the front of the track.
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Reinhard Heydrich in his uniform as SS-Gruppenfuhrer. Heydrich was a key member of the Nazi regime, who was central in pre-war attacks on Jews, such as Kristallnacht of 1938; he organised the Einsatzgruppen that followed the army during Operation Barbarossa in 1941 and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews; and he chaired the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 that set in motion plans for the “Final Solution”, the murder of all Jews within Nazi-controlled Europe. Strangely, there were always rumours that Heydrich had Jewish ancestry, rumours he strove to quell.
He was born in Halle, Saxony, on March 7, 1904, the son of the founder of the Halle Conservatory. He was a rounded individual, possessing exceptional intellectual ability, as well as being an accomplished sportsman. In 1922 he joined the navy as a cadet and was under the orders and tutelage of Canaris, but in April 1931, due to allegations of dishonourable conduct towards a young lady who declared that he had impregnated her, he was brought before an honour court, presided over by Canaris, which found him guilty and dismissed him from the service. He became engaged to Lina von Osten and it was she who was to convert him to Nazism, and he joined the NSDAP in 1931. Lina enlisted the help of Frederich Karl von Eberstein to bring him to Himmler’s notice, which he did on the June 14, 1931. Himmler found him appealing; the interview was short and he came straight to the point: “I want to set up a security and information service within the SS and I need a specialist. If you think you can do this management job, will you please write down on paper how you think you would tackle it, I’ll give you 20 minutes.”