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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 262

Messerschmitt Me 262
Messerschmitt Me 262

The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (‘swallow’) was the world’s first operational jet fighter and the fastest aircraft of World War II. Its development started back in the mid 1930s, when the German engineer Hans von Ohain began work on jet engines, but was not formalized into a specification for a twin-engined fighter until 1939. The aircraft had a difficult development period, partly because of the enormous complexity of realizing such a radical experimental design and partly because of skepticism among senior figures in the Luftwaffe. Despite slashed budgets and institutional indifference, work on the prototype progressed steadily, and on 18 July 1942 it made its first jet powered flight.

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Artillery

LE FH 18

LE FH 18
LE FH 18

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.

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Ships

Prinz Eugen

Prinz Eugen
Prinz Eugen

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.

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Small Arms

MP 41

MP 41
MP 41

Given the fact that far-sighted submachine guns such as the MP 38 and MP 40, with their all-metal construction and features to facilitate mass production, had clearly indicated the most practical line of development for such weapons under wartime conditions, the Maschinenpistole 41 could be seen only as something of an anachronism demanding somewhat greater manufacturing resources for a weapon that offered little operational advantage, something that Germany really could not afford given the industrial power of the enemies ranged against her.

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Tracked Vehicles

PzKpwf M15/42

PzKpwf M15/42
PzKpwf M15/42

When the Italian Army received an updated model of its medium tank, designated M15/42, the German Army reaped the rewards. The Italians quit the Axis in September 1943 (only 82 had been delivered to the Italian Army before this date), and the German Army took control of 92 of the new tanks. Overall they still had many of the faults typical of Italian armoured fighting vehicles, but they did give the Germans some sorely needed fighting vehicles in the Italian theatre.

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Free Media

Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

Panzer in Poland

Panzer in Poland
Panzer in Poland

A Wehrmacht tank crew in their Panzer IV relax and have a smoke and a chat. Four of the five are wearing the typical wide panzer beret (Schutzmütze), prevalent early in the war, the fifth, on the left, is wearing a panzer black uniform (often confused with the SS uniform), short ankle boots (Schnürschuhe) and a service cap (Feldmütze).

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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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