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.
Probably no other aircraft in history has been developed in so many different forms for so many purposes as the Ju 88, with the possible exception of Britain’s Mosquito. The Ju 88 was flown in 1936 as a civil prototype, and it remained of vital importance to Germany throughout the war. After a frantic design process led by two Americans well versed in modern stressed skin construction, it was transformed into a heavier, slower and more capacious high-speed level- and dive-bomber of the type just then entering service when war broke out. Structurally the aircraft was excellent, combining a large internal fuel capacity with great load-carrying capability, and despite the fact that many of its variants were mere “lash-ups”, the performance of the aircraft was never so degraded as to become seriously vulnerable – as the Dornier and Heinkel bombers were.
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.
The Schleswig-Holstein was one of a class of five pre-dreadnought battleships, laid down in 1902–04. She was launched in December 1906, completed in July 1908 and subsequently served with the German High Seas Fleet, seeing action in the Battle of Jutland. In the last two years of the war she served in turn as a depot ship at Bremerhaven and an accommodation ship at Kiel, and was one of the small force of warships that Germany was permitted to retain by the Versailles Treaty for coastal defence in the post-war years.
The Maschinenpistole 38 is one of the most celebrated, or perhaps infamous, submachine guns ever placed in service. Designed by the Erma-Werke, the MP 38 introduced a number of unusual and innovative features: the main spring was contained within a telescopic sleeve (as pioneered in the limited-production MP Erma), the butt could be folded, and there was no wood in the weapon, which was therefore entirely of steel and plastic construction. Created from the outset for service with airborne and motorized troops (and thus with the folding butt), the MP 38 had a magazine located vertically under the weapon.
In December 1942, the first of the final production series of the StuG III - the Ausf G - rolled off the production line in Germany. When production ceased in March 1945, a total of 7720 had been built. The hull of the Ausf G was not radically different from previous models, the main changes being to the superstructure. A cupola with periscopes was added for the commander, while a shield for the machine gun was installed in front of the loader’s hatch.
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Officers pose with a brand new BMW. In late 1934 motorcycles entered service, with the 11th, 12th and 16th Horse Regiments becoming motorized rifle troops, in effect now riding “iron horses,” principally German-made BMWs and Zundapps.
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.