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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

Focke Wulf Fw 190

Focke Wulf Fw 190
Focke Wulf Fw 190

This outstanding aircraft was in fact the only new fighter design to enter service with the Luftwaffe during the war. The prototype flew in June 1939 and after an intensive development programme in which both vee and radial engines were trialled, the Fw 190A entered production with a BMW 801 radial engine. The 40 Fw 190A-0 pre-production aircraft were followed by 100 Fw 190A-1 fighters, and the type entered service in the autumn of 1940. Although well known to the Allies prior to the war, the Fw 190 caused a nasty shock when it was first encountered over France in May 1941. It was light, manoeuvrable, fast, powerfully armed and immensely strong.

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Artillery

Flak 38

The capability of the FlaK 30 was hampered by the gun’s low rate of fire, so Mauser was allocated the task of boosting the firing rate and, at the same time, significantly reducing the gun’s tendency to jam. The result was the 2cm Flak 38 that appeared in 1940 with a revised breech mechanism improving the cyclic and practical rates of fire to 420-480 and 180-220rpm respectively. The feed system and carriage/trailer were essentially unaltered, but sighting was now effected by means of the Flakvisier 38, a complex and somewhat fragile and expensive unit replaced from 1941 by the Linealvisier 38 open ring sight, itself succeeded from a time late in 1944 by the Schwebekreisvisier 38.

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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

Pistole 08

Pistole 08
Pistole 08

Generally known as the “Luger”, the Pistole 08 is amongst the most celebrated pistols ever placed in production. The first Luger pistols for military service were manufactured in 1900 to meet a Swiss order, and the type was also adopted by the German navy during 1904 and then by the German Army in 1908. It was this last order that led to the designation P 08, which became the most important of some 35 or more Luger pistol variants.

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Tracked Vehicles

Grille

Grille
Grille

The Grille was first ordered for construction on the new self-propelled gun chassis that BMM was developing, the resultant vehicle being designated Sf 38(t) Ausf K. However, wartime demands resulted in Panzer 38(t)s being used instead, being converted by BMM as they returned from the front for refits. The standard chassis was fitted with a new fighting compartment superstructure, which had to be extended over the engine compartment in order to accommodate the sIG33/1 L/12 heavy gun and its 15 rounds of ammunition.

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Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

A drawn and haggard Adolf Hitler during one of his last appearances outside his bunker in Berlin. By this time Hitler was increasingly losing his grasp of reality, ordering movements of formations that in practice did not exist and still hoping that something would happen to save his Reich from the Red Army that was grinding down Germany’s forces. During these last months, Hitler often mentioned Frederick the Great, whose Prussian state was saved from dismemberment in the Seven Year’s War when the Empress Elizabeth of Russia died in January 1762.

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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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