WWII Aerial Warfare and Innovations

The Luftwaffe

Germany's Air Force

The Luftwaffe
After WWI, Germany was forbidden from having an air force under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. German pilots trained in secret anyway. Hermann Goring, a former WWI ace, was the commander-in-chief. He was in Hitler's inner circle so the air force was well funded. Luftwaffe planes were made using prison labor, including forced labor from the concentration camps. During the war, the Luftwaffe lost over 76,000 aircraft and over 138,000 personnel.

Posted Saturday November 4th 2023

WWII The Luftwaffe and the Luftschutz
The Luftwaffe and the Luftschutz
Blitz in the Skies
The Luftwaffe was the Nazi air force, active from 1933 until the end of the Third Reich in 1946. After WWI, Germany was forbidden from having an air force under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. German pilots trained in secret until the Luftwaffe was publicly announced February 26, 1935. Over 3.4 million served in the Luftwaffe during this time. Hermann Goring, a former WWI ace, was the commander-in-chief for all but the last two weeks of the war. Though he had not flown in years, his position as a member of Hitler's inner circle meant that the air force was well funded and supplied with the newest equipment.

WWII The Luftwaffe and the Luftschutz The Condor Legion pilots had combat experience in the Spanish Civil War, which allowed them to test new aircraft and new tactics, giving them an advantage over Allied air forces when the war broke out. Their numbers were also superior to the Allies initially, further giving them air supremacy. They also had a paratrooper force, the Fallschirmjager. The Luftwaffe terrorized the UK in the Battle of Britain and in the Blitz bombing campaign. Luftwaffe planes were made using prison labor, including forced labor from the concentration camps. During the war, the Luftwaffe lost over 76,000 aircraft and over 138,000 personnel.

Luftwaffe and Nazi High Command made several errors in their strategies that ultimately caused their demise.

  • They never developed a successful long-range bomber, for example.
  • Another critical mistake was neglecting naval aviation. Goring considered any naval air forces as an attempt to usurp his authority.
  • Another of the Luftwaffe's shortcomings was its lack of focus on an air defense system in comparison to its aircraft, and Germany began hostilities without strong defenses in place.

Nazi Germany did have a civilian air raid defense, initially formed as a volunteer service in 1933, the Reichsluftschutzbund (RLB) (National Air Raid Protection League). In 1938, the RLB became the Luftschutz. It was still voluntary until 1943, when it became compulsory, and women were also required to serve. While officially a non-governmental organization, its senior leadership were active duty Luftwaffe officers. The Luftschutz was then broken into regional and local groups, down even to the block level. They spotted aircraft, prepared for air raids, and put out fires.


WIKIPEDIAThe Luftwaffe
Was the aerial-warfare branch of the German Wehrmacht before and during World War II.

Germany's military air arms during World War I, the Luftstreitkrafte of the Imperial Army and the Marine-Fliegerabteilung of the Imperial Navy, had been disbanded in May 1920 in accordance with the terms of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles which banned Germany from having any air force.

During the interwar period, German pilots were trained secretly in violation of the treaty at Lipetsk Air Base in the Soviet Union. With the rise of the Nazi Party and the repudiation of the Versailles Treaty, the Luftwaffe's existence was publicly acknowledged on 26 February 1935, just over two weeks before open defiance of the Versailles Treaty through German rearmament and conscription would be announced on 16 March. The Condor Legion, a Luftwaffe detachment sent to aid Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War, provided the force with a valuable testing ground for new tactics and aircraft.

LUFTWAFFEPartially as a result of this combat experience
The Luftwaffe had become one of the most sophisticated, technologically advanced, and battle-experienced air forces in the world when World War II broke out in September 1939.

By the summer of 1939, the Luftwaffe had twenty-eight Geschwader (wings). The Luftwaffe also operated a paratrooper force known as the Fallschirmjager.

  • The Luftwaffe proved instrumental in the German victories across Poland and Western Europe in 1939 and 1940.
  • During the Battle of Britain, however, despite inflicting severe damage to the RAF's infrastructure and, during the subsequent Blitz, devastating many British cities, the German air force failed to batter the beleaguered British into submission.
  • From 1942, Allied bombing campaigns gradually destroyed the Luftwaffe's fighter arm.
  • From late 1942, the Luftwaffe used its surplus ground support and other personnel to raise Luftwaffe Field Divisions
  • In addition to its service in the West, the Luftwaffe operated over the Soviet Union, North Africa and Southern Europe.
  • Despite its belated use of advanced turbojet and rocket-propelled aircraft for the destruction of Allied bombers, the Luftwaffe was overwhelmed by the Allies' superior numbers and improved tactics, and a lack of trained pilots and aviation fuel.
  • In January 1945, during the closing stages of the Battle of the Bulge, the Luftwaffe made a last-ditch effort to win air superiority, and met with failure. With rapidly dwindling supplies of petroleum, oil, and lubricants after this campaign, and as part of the entire combined Wehrmacht military forces as a whole, the Luftwaffe ceased to be an effective fighting force.

After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Luftwaffe was disbanded in 1946. During World War II, German pilots claimed roughly 70,000 aerial victories, while over 75,000 Luftwaffe aircraft were destroyed or significantly damaged. Of these, nearly 40,000 were lost entirely. The Luftwaffe had only two commanders-in-chief throughout its history: Hermann Göring and later Generalfeldmarschall Robert Ritter von Greim for the last two weeks of the war.

The Luftwaffe was deeply involved in Nazi war crimes. By the end of the war, a significant percentage of aircraft production originated in concentration camps, an industry employing tens of thousands of prisoners. The Luftwaffe's demand for labor was one of the factors that led to the deportation and murder of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews in 1944. The Luftwaffe frequently bombed non-military targets, the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe organized Nazi human experimentation, and Luftwaffe ground troops committed massacres in Italy, Greece, and Poland.

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WIKIPEDIAThe Reichsluftschutzbund
(RLB; "Reich Air Protection League")
Paramilitary organization in Nazi Germany in charge of air raid precautions in residential areas and among smaller businesses.

The RLB was in charge of educating and training ordinary German men and women in civil defense procedures necessary for the basic level of local self-help of the civil population against air raids. The local level was formed around air raid wardens and operated in small first intervention squads. The training include fire fighting, protection against chemical weapons, communication procedures and preparation of houses and apartments against air raids.

Wikipedia Reich Air Protection League

In 1939 the RLB had about 15 million members, 820,000 volunteer functionaries (of which 280,000 women) and 75,000 local units. The membership was trained at 3,800 civil defence schools with 28,000 instructors.

The RLB was organized by Hermann Goring in 1933 as a voluntary association. Existing volunteer air raid precaution associations were forced to merge with RLB. In 1939 the RLB became a Korperschaft des offentlichen Rechts (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization), while in 1944 it became an affiliated organization of the Nazi Party. RLB was dissolved by the Allied Powers after the end of World War II.

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