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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

Blücher

Blücher
Blücher

Launched in June 1937, the heavy cruiser Blücher was one of five vessels in her class, the others being the Lützow, Seydlitz, Prinz Eugen and Admiral Hipper. On 9 April 1940, flying the flag of Admiral Oskar Kummetz, she took part in the German invasion of Norway, leading a group of warships carrying 2000 troops and bound for the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

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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

PzKpwf MkII 748 (e)

PzKpwf MkII 748 (e)
PzKpwf MkII 748 (e)

German victories in the first three years of the war resulted the capture of large numbers of enemy vehicles. These were pressed into service. The problems with this was the lack of spare parts and eventual obsolescence. Due to the small numbers involved, it was not worth the setting up of spare parts manufacture, and as a result most of these vehicles were lost due to maintenance problems. French and Italian armoured vehicles could be relatively easily maintained because those countries (which Germany occupied) had large stocks of spares, but armoured vehicles captured from other adversaries presented problems.

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Caption Competition

Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

An award ceremony for Wehrmacht soldiers on the Eastern Front

An award ceremony for Wehrmacht soldiers on the Eastern Front
An award ceremony for Wehrmacht soldiers on the Eastern Front

Maintenance of morale was not just a case of awarding medals. The efficient field postal service was more crucial: postage was free and letters sent from one end of Europe to the other rarely took more than a week. The daily mail call was always one of each day’s high points. In addition, men received food and ammunition on a regular basis, which also helped morale.

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Commanders

Commanders

Hans von Seeckt

Hans von Seeckt
Hans von Seeckt

Infantry General Hans von Seeckt (left) was the commander in chief of the German Army from 1920 to 1926. As such he played a pivotal role in shaping the evolution of the interwar German military. Confronted with the reduction of German military capabilities imposed by the draconian Versailles settlement of 1919, Seeckt utilized his experience of mobile warfare on the Eastern Front during World War I to pursue his belief that an aggressive defense conducted by mobile forces could defeat a numerically and materially superior enemy. It was Seeckt, therefore, who initially pushed motorization in the interwar German Army as he sought to inculcate offensive spirit in German troops.

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