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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

Arado Ar 234 Blitz

Arado Ar 234
Arado Ar 234

The Blitz (Lightning) was the only turbojet-powered bomber to achieve operational status in World War II and is a milestone in military aviation’s development. Its evolution dates from a 1940 requirement issued by the German Air Ministry (Luftfahrtministerium) for a fast reconnaissance aeroplane. An intensive programme of design and development resulted in no fewer than 18 prototypes, featuring a powerplant of two Junkers 004 or four BMW 003 turbojets, provision for rocket-assisted take-off units, a cabin with or without pressurization and an ejection seat, and a clumsy combination of a drop-away trolley for take-off and extendible skids for landing. A ­­­few of these prototypes were used from July 1944 by the reconnaissance units (Aufklärungsgruppe).

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Artillery

Flakvierling 38

Flakvierling 38
Flakvierling 38

The 2cm Flakvierling 38 quadruple 20mm mounting was highly respected by Allied airmen operating at low level. Designed by Mauser for German naval use, the Flakvierling 38 entered production for the army and air force during 1940. The Flakvierling 38 combined four FlaK 38 barrels on an adapted version of the FlaK 38’s carriage, and while the standard sight was the Flakvisier 40 or improved Flakvisier 40A, provision was being made for radar direction by the end of World War II.

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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

Walther P38

Walther P38
Walther P38

The Pistole 38, another semi-automatic weapon from the Walther stable, entered service with the German armed forces in 1938 as successor to the P 08. It embodied a double-action trigger mechanism developed from the earlier Models PP and PPK, and also featured the signal pin which extended beside the hammer when there was a round in the chamber.

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Tracked Vehicles

Panzer IV Ausf C

Panzer IV Ausf C
Panzer IV Ausf C

By far the most enduring of the main types of German tank, the Panzer IV was specified as a medium tank in the 20-ton class, to be armed with a 75mm gun. The order to build the vehicle was awarded to Krupp, who initially proposed interleaved road wheels for suspension. However, the actual suspension used was much more simple: eight road wheels on each side suspended in pairs on leaf springs. Like other German tanks of the period, the Panzer IV’s engine was located at the rear with the transmission led forward to the final drive via sprockets at the front of the track.

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Caption Competition

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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