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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 Bf 110

Messerschmitt Bf 110
Messerschmitt Bf 110

During the 1930s air strategists believed twin-engine “heavy fighters” to be essential to offensive air operations. As was happening elsewhere at the same time, in 1934 the Reichsluftfahrtministerium issued a requirement for a machine capable of tackling aircraft, including single-seat fighters, sent up to intercept the bombers; it was to make up in firepower what it lacked in manoeuvrability and was dubbed Zerstörer (destroyer). Messerschmitt’s prototype Bf 110V1 first flew in May 1936 and the production Bf 110 entered service as the Bf 110B with two 700hp (522kW) Junkers Jumo 210 engines. Only 45 were built before the advent of the Bf 110C with two Daimler-Benz DB 601 engines, which had seven sub-variants, and the Bf 110D, built in three.

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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

Tirpitz

Tirpitz
Tirpitz

The mighty battleship Tirpitz was laid down in October 1936 and was originally known as Schlachtschiff G or Ersatz Schleswig-Holstein (Replacement Schleswig-Holstein). She was launched on 1 April 1939 and completed in February 1941. From early 1942 she was based at various locations in Norway, and on 8 September 1943 she sailed from Altenfjord to bombard shore installations on Spitzbergen – the only time she fired her guns in anger against a surface target. On 22 September she was damaged in an attack by British midget submarines, and on 3 April 1944 she was further damaged in an attack by carrier aircraft of the British Fleet Air Arm, sustaining 14 bomb hits and suffering 122 dead. She was subjected to further attacks by the Fleet Air Arm in August 1944, but sustained only minor bomb hits.

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Small Arms

Erma

Erma
Erma

The Maschinenpistole Erma (or MPE) was designed in the early 1930s by Heinrich Vollmer for the Erfurter Maschinenfabrik company, hence the weapon’s name.

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Tracked Vehicles

Tiger I

Tiger I
Tiger I

The Tiger I originated from competition between Henschel, Porsche, MAN and Daimler-Benz to produce a heavy tank. The winner was Henschel, and the new vehicle entered production in August 1942. It was the first tank to be fitted with an overlapping road wheel suspension, arranged with triple overlapping and interleaved steel wheels. The Tiger had eight independently sprung torsion bar axles on each side. The result was a very stable and soft ride for such a large tank. However, the interleaved wheels became clogged with mud in wet conditions, which then jammed the wheels if temperatures dropped below freezing.

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Hitler and Mackenesen
Hitler and Mackenesen

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Photo Galleries

Manually operated rudder after loss of stern to torpedo in 1942

Manually operated rudder after loss of stern to torpedo in 1942
Manually operated rudder after loss of stern to torpedo in 1942

While at Lofjord after being torpedoed, the entire stern of Prinz Eugen needed to be rebuilt, while the main repair needed was to her rudder. It proved impossible to make adequate arrangements in Lofjord, and so two jury-rigged rudders that had to be operated by hand using capstans were fitted. In May 1942 Prinz Eugen sailed for Germany but was spotted by the RAF and attacked while at sea. In spite of her poor steering apparatus, the German cruiser managed to avoid being hit.

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Commanders

Commanders

Erich von Manstein

Erich von Manstein
Erich von Manstein

One of the greatest generals of World War II was born in 1887 in Berlin. He fought and was wounded in World War I, and commanded the 18th Division in Silesia after the war. He first came to prominence in early 1940, when his plan for an armoured attack through the Ardennes caught Hitler’s attention. The Führer liked the plan, which he adopted and launched with great success. However, Manstein had upset the General Staff and so he was “banished” to Silesia to help form the new XXXVIII Corps.

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