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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

Dornier Do 18

Dornier Do 18
Dornier Do 18

The Do 18 was originally produced as a trans-Atlantic mail carrier to supersede the Dornier Wal 33 (from 1934 Do 15) in service with Deutsche Lufthansa on its South Atlantic routes, and later used as a medium-range maritime reconnaissance type by the Luftwaffe. The first of four prototypes made its maiden flight in March 1935, one of them being used for an experimental crossing of the North Atlantic. The twin-Junkers Jumo 205 diesels were mounted in tandem above the wing centre section, itself carried on a semi-circular hull with characteristic Dornier under-surface and lateral sponsons, and strengthened for catapulting (most German warships were equipped with catapults for mounting aircraft – vital for long-range reconnaissance).

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Artillery

Jagdpanzer IV

Jagdpanzer IV
Jagdpanzer IV

Introduced late in 1943, the Jagdpanzer IV was based on the PzKpfw IV medium tank with the turret removed and the upper hull revised into a fixed superstructure, including 60mm (2.47in) upper and lower frontal plates sloped at 45° and 57° respectively, above the all-welded original hull. The sloping sides of the superstructure extended beyond the vertical hull sides over the tracks to provide additional volume for ammunition stowage (a maximum of 79 rounds). Armour skirts of 5mm (0.2in) thickness were bolted to brackets welded to the vehicle’s sides.

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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

Karabiner 98K

Karabiner 98K
Karabiner 98K

In World War I the German Army decided that its standard rifle, the Gewehr 98, was too long for effective use. There was little that could be done at the time, but by 1924 Mauser had developed a rifle shorter than its Gewehr 98 and based on its “Standard” model for export sales: this was manufactured in Belgium and other countries, but did not enter German production until 1935 as the Karabiner 98k (the letter suffix standing for kurz, or short).

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Tracked Vehicles

PaK 40 (SF)

PaK 40 (SF)
PaK 40 (SF)

With the capture of so many vehicles following the fall of France in June 1940, the Germans set about converting them for their own use. This was not an immediate decision, as the army was flushed with victory and few believed that large numbers of non-German armoured fighting vehicles would be needed. It was only with the huge losses experienced on the Eastern Front, plus the appearance of the Soviet T-34, that prompted the necessity for large numbers of antitank platforms. One such vehicle was the PaK40 (SF), a self-propelled antitank gun on a light tank chassis. The conversion was unusual in that the engine was left in the rear.

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Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Commanders

Commanders

Ewald von Kleist

Ewald von Kleist
Ewald von Kleist

Born in 1885, Kleist saw service in World War I with the hussars. A corps commander during the invasion of Poland in 1939, he led a panzer group during the fall of France in May-June 1940. Although initially inexperienced in the proper use of armoured forces, he learnt quickly and had able subordinates such as Guderian and Zeitzler. Thus, by the spring of 1941 he was equipped to command mobile forces, and his First Panzer Group achieved rapid success in the Balkans campaign. During Barbarossa, his panzer group was attached to Army Group South, taking part in the great Uman and Kiev encirclements, before being ordered north to close the southern part of the Vyazma encirclement. On October 6, 1941, his panzer group became the First Panzer Army; it had taken Rostov by November, but was then forced to withdraw from the city and spend the winter of 1941-42 on the defensive.

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