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Luftwaffe - WW2 German Airforce

WW2 Nazi German Luftwaffe PlanesThe Nazi German Air Force, Luftwaffe, was formed in May of 1935. It was formed after the passing of the "Law for the Reconstruction of the National Defense Forces". This law brought back into existence a free standing German army, navy and air force, something that had been essentially banned after the end of World War I.

With the end of World War I and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the Weimar Republic - the successor to Imperial Germany - was allowed only a small defensive military force known as the Reichswehr. The Reichswehr's size and composition was strictly controlled by the Allies in the hope that by restricting its constitution they could prevent future German military aggression. The Reichswehr consisted of 100,000 men divided between a small standing army, the Reichsheer, and a small defensive navy, the Reichsmarine. There was no provision for an air force of any sort.

In 1933 the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) came to power and the infamous Third Reich was born. Two years later in 1935, the Treaty of Versailles was renounced and the Reichswehr became the Wehrmacht. The newly formed Wehrmacht would still consist of an army and a navy - the renamed Heer and Kriegsmarine, but a new air force was born as well - the Luftwaffe.

Although officially announced in 1935, the Luftwaffe had existed in one form or another practically since the day the treaty banning it had been signed. Initially, there were Freikorps air units, then later glider and sailplane formations tasked with finding ways around the rigid restrictions of Versailles, a secret training base in the Soviet Union, and various cover organizations for the initial forming of the new German air force.

The Luftwaffe consisted of air units that made up the majority of the German air force, as well as Fallschrimjäger units, field divisions, the elite Herman Göring ground formations, thousands of smaller anti-aircraft, engineer, communications and security units, and a fair number of Luftwaffe naval vessels and formations as well. Between 1939 and 1945 over 3.4 million served in the German air force. Over 165,000 were killed, over 155,000 went missing and over 192,000 were wounded. Of the 7361 men awarded the initial grade of the highest German combat honor of WWII, the Knights Cross, 1785 were from the German air force making up 24% of the total awarded.

Initially, the Luftwaffe ruled the skies but thereafter fought an increasingly futile war of attrition which when combined with vital mistakes in aircraft production and utilization, was its death knoll. In the face of this, the Luftwaffe produced the most successful air aces of all time. As well, the feats of the Fallschirmjäger in the first airborne operations in history are as heroic as they are tragic. German paratroops suffered appalling losses during the invasion and Battle of Crete and essentially never saw large-scale airborne operations again. Some ground units fought well during WWII, such as certain field divisions and the elite Hermann Göring formations, while other units simply served.

Ultimately the structure of the Luftwaffe was a grand reflection of its commander, Hermann Göring. He strove more so than any other branch to create a personal army with responsibilities as far-reaching as possible. It was partly due to this that the Wehrmacht was ultimately defeated. The strain on resources and manpower such political maneuvering had was far-reaching.

The Luftwaffe was officially disbanded in August of 1946 by the Allied Control Commission.



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