Luftwaffe (Luft - air and Waffe - weapon) is the German air force (see World War II in the Air).
Its most famous period by far was during World War II. The Luftwaffe was originally the pride of Nazi Germany under its bombastic leader Hermann Goering. It learned new combat techniques in the Spanish Civil War and appealed to Hitler as the decisive strategic weapon he needed. Its high technology and rapid growth led to exaggerated fears in the 1930s that cowed the British and French into appeasement. In the World War II the Luftwaffe performed well in 1939-41, but was poorly coordinated with overall German strategy, and never ramped up to the size and scope needed in a total war. It never built large bombers, was deficient in radar, and could not deal with the faster, more agile P-51 Mustang pursuit planes after 1943. The Luftwaffe was narrowly defeated in the Battle of Britain (1940), and reached maximum size of 1.9 million airmen in 1942. Grueling operations wasted it away on the eastern front after 1942. It lost most of its remaining fighter planes to Mustangs in 1944 while trying to defend against massive American and British air raids.
When its gasoline supply ran dry in 1944, it was reduced to anti-aircraft flak roles, and many of its men were sent to infantry units. By 1944 it operated 39,000 flak batteries staffed with a million people in uniform, both men and women.
The Luftwaffe lacked the bomber forces for strategic bombing, because it did not think such bombing was worth it. They did attempt some strategic bombing in the east. Their one success was destroying an airbase at Poltava, Russia, which housed 43 new B-17 bombers and a million tons of aviation fuel.
- 1 Beginnings
- 2 Early history
- 3 Luftwaffe in World War II
- 4 Aircraft
- 5 Airmen
- 6 War in the West
- 7 Battle of Britain: 1940
- 8 Hitler's mistakes
- 9 Destruction of the Luftwaffe over Germany
- 10 War in the East
- 11 Collapse
- 12 Luftwaffe today
- 13 Bibliography
- 14 Online resources
The German Air Force began as the Luftstreitkräfte (Air Force) of the Imperial German Army in 1912. During World War One the German Air Force was greatly increased in size and capacity. A famous fighter ace of this period was Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron.
The Treaty of Versailles caused the total dismantling of the German Air Force. To maneuver around this the German authorities used Lufthansa (the civil airline) to train pilots and ground crews. It was not until the advent of the Nazi regime that an air force (Luftwaffe) was created.
In 1925 the Soviet Union allowed the German government set up the top-secret Lipetsk Aviation School, inside Russia, to train pilots and navigators in violation of the Versailles Treaty of 1919, which ordered that Germany could never have an air force. The school closed in 1933 when secrecy was no longer needed to defy Versailles. Although no actual flying formations were in existence by 1933, the intellectual, technical and organizational bases for the ultimate establishment of a large air arm had been created. Göring defiantly announced the existence of the Luftwaffe in 1935, as British, French and Soviet intelligence hurried to track its soaring growth curve.
Various proposals to centralize military aviation under a separate military service, beginning even before World War I, were thwarted by the usual army-navy differences and the internal opposition of each service to losing its subordinate air arm. Air power theories alone would not have gained independence for the German air force, but Hitler's foreign policy needs and the political power of air minister Hermann Göring within the Nazi party proved a key in gaining first separate status under an Air Ministry and then gaining increased power, such as in acquiring control of anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), called "flak" in German. Unlike the army and navy, the Nazis had full control over the Luftwaffe and therefore needed to keep it independent of the old-guard officers who controlled the older services. This attitude made it impossible for the navy to develop its own air service. The one aircraft carrier it started to build was to have flight crews under Luftwaffe command, but the carrier was never finished.
Strategic and tactical doctrines
In the 1930s Hans von Seeckt and senior army leadership, using World War I as a guide, advocated an independent air force designed for aggressive support of the army on the battlefield, and air-to-air warfare to gain air supremacy. Developed and written by airmen and army officers and published as "Conduct of the Air War" in 1935, the Luftwaffe's operational doctrine was battle-tested in the Spanish Civil War.
The Spanish Civil War (1936–38) was the most intensive experience of combat for the Luftwaffe before World War II. Germany sent its "Kondor Legion" to test out its "blitzkrieg" doctrine using the Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber, of which 5800 were built. Theorists completely redesigned their air superiority fighter tactics, and discovered new techniques for high-speed dogfight tactics and tactical air support for ground forces. The Spanish Civil War had a tremendous impact on all aspects of Luftwaffe combat doctrine, giving it technique, doctrine and self-confidence that Britain and France lacked.
A common misperception holds that the Luftwaffe was primarily a tactical support force for the army and that, unlike the American and British air forces, it did not develop a theory or concept of strategic air war. In reality, the Luftwaffe built up an extensive doctrine of strategic air war by 1939. In the 1930s imaginative Nazis saw strategic bombardment by air as a powerful tool. Air warfare was seen as a growing threat to Germany, especially in British hands, so the Luftwaffe became a means of national mobilization and redemption. Nazi Germany believed that air warfare would allow the country to rebuild itself in a racial compact. During World War II, are warfare became a means for rejuvenating authority domestically and increasing influence abroad.
However, Germany never built long-range bombers; only the British and Americans did so. While they experimented, one of Hitler's obsessions intervened on the side of the Allies: he insisted that every German bomber be capable of dive bombing, a method of attack impractical for long-range aircraft designs of the time.
Close air support
Between 1918 and 1939 the Luftwaffe steadily developed a doctrine of close air support of ground forces, which while not its primary mission, nevertheless influenced its organization and aircraft design procurement. The Spanish war demonstrated the effectiveness of logistical disruption and close air support, and confirmed German views concerning the ineffectiveness - and even counterproductive nature - of the strategic bombing of civilian populations. After 1939, it further refined the doctrine based on successful operational experience, and by the time of the German invasion of Russia in 1941 the Luftwaffe was directly and decisively supporting army operations. In contrast, the Americans and British showed little interest in army support during the interwar period, and as late as 1940, notwithstanding the German success in Poland in 1939, the RAF still possessed no air formation that could rapidly respond to the ground situation.
The French air force intelligence section was relatively well informed on the growth of the Luftwaffe, which, in their view, was the most important of the three services of the German armed forces and which could call upon virtually unlimited resources. The new German pursuit planes and bombers were considered the best in the world; German aircraft production was estimated at one thousand per month at the time of the Munich crisis. Thus, German aerial superiority was the main argument against protecting Czechoslovakia from Nazi aggression. The subsequent French rearmament program greatly increased aircraft production, but it failed to keep pace with German increases. Guy La Chambre, the French air minister, optimistically informed the government that the air force was capable of dealing with the Luftwaffe. On the other hand, General Joseph Vuillemin, air force chief of staff, described the French air force as far inferior and consistently opposed war with Germany. Nevertheless, the Daladier government, believing that the rearmament program would soon take off and relying on British determination to stop Hitler, rejected any new policy of appeasement. The reorganization of the air force had not been completed when the war broke out and the German aircraft industry was able to achieve a spectacular increase in production due to the development of machine tools more efficient than those used in French factories. Even so, the Germans were not so far ahead in 1940 in quantity or quality of aircraft. They were far ahead in morale, self-confidence and useful doctrine; France lost the aerial battle of 1940 in the minds of the leaders of its air force.
Luftwaffe in World War II
Early in the war the Luftwaffe played a very successful role in the destruction of enemy targets. The Luftwaffe was an integral part of the German tactic of Blitzkrieg, with bombers acting as flying artillery in support of ground troops. The main German fighter plane at this time, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 outclassed the Polish, French, and British planes up until the Battle of Britain, giving the Luftwaffe air superiority through the battles of Poland and France.
During the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe lost about 1,000 planes and about 2,000 men. Because of its superior man power and size the Luftwaffe was set back but not knocked down by the smaller RAF.
The Lufwaffe had initial success in North Africa and the Soviet Union, but as the war ground on, it saw a steady decline. Despite the creation of technologically advanced jet fighters such as the Me-262, at war's end the Luftwaffe had ceased to be an effective fighting force. The greatest ace of the Luftwaffe (and in all of aviation history) was Erich Hartmann, who scored 352 aerial victories, all on the Eastern Front.
The state secretary in the Air Ministry, Erhard Milch later blamed Göring for not proceeding with heavy bomber development. Milch himself blamed personality conflicts but the general staff, the technical staff, and the aviation industry shared in the decision, which was more than a mere dispute between Göring and Milch. Lack of sufficient labor, capital, and raw materials in the 1930s contributed to the decision. Milch was second only to Göring in shaping the course of German air power from 1933 to 1945. Milch, however, underestimated the need for large numbers of fully trained pilots and decided too late to press for high production of fighter aircraft; his belief that defensive air power could save Germany was a fatal error.
The workhorses of the Luftwaffe defenses were the Messerschmitt Bf 109 (31,000 were built) and the Focke-Wulf Fw-190 (20,000 were built). By 1943 they were outclassed by the P-51 Mustang in terms of range, speed and rate of climb, not to mention gasoline (the Allies had much higher octane), and pilot training.
Production in the early years of the war was small, primarily because Luftwaffe did not see a need for a vast armada. At one point General Hans Jeschonneck, chief of the air staff, opposed a suggested increase in fighter plane production with the remark that he wouldn't know what to do with a monthly production of more than 360 fighters. By late 1943 doom was in the air and plans called for a steadily increasing output of fighters. By 1944 Allied bombers targeted aircraft factories, but they were widely dispersed. The main way to stop the Luftwaffe was to cut off its gasoline by bombing refineries and synthetic oil plants, and for the Soviets to capture the Romanian oil fields.
Luftwaffe Field Marshal Erhard Milch and airplane designer Ernst Heinkel built a huge factory at Budzyn, Poland, called the "Ultra Project" designed to use Jews as slave laborers to build warplanes. It lasted 18 months but turned out not one aircraft nor a single aircraft part.
Strength of Luftwaffe:
In order to release able-bodied men serving in home-based flak units for combat duty, 100,000 women auxiliaries (Helferinnen) were called up in 1944-45 to serve in the air warning service, and in the telephone and teletype departments. There were no women pilots.
The Luftwaffe was organized into Luftflotten (air fleets). These were multi-role formations, with aircraft of all types. Initially there were four Luftflotten (Nos. 1–4), each covering a specified geographical territory; as Germany expanded their range expanded and three additional Luftflotten (5, 6, and Luftflotte Reich) were added, the last specifically for the defense of Germany. Each Luftflotte consisted of a number of Fliegerkorps (flying corps), which in turn had Fliegerdivision. They included Geschwader (similar to a RAF Group), notably Kampfgeschwader (KG) (bombers); Jagdgeschwader (JG) (pursuit); Nachtjagdgeschwader (NJG) (night fighter); Stukage schwader (StG) (dive-bomber); Zerstoerergeschwader (ZG) (destroyer); and Lehrgeschwader (LG) (training). The Geschwader in turn controlled several Gruppen (groups), similar to an RAF Wing, with each Gruppe commanding 3–4 Staffeln (squadrons), a Staffel consisting of 12 aircraft. In September 1939, the Luftwaffe comprised 302 Staffeln with 2,370 operational crews and 2,564 operational warplanes (bombers, dive bombers, and pursuit).
The Luftflotte had their own signals branch and a Flak branch that controlled the anti-aircraft artillery. It also had control of a number of Luftgaue, administrative commands responsible for airfields, personnel and logistics, and training.
War in the West
The Luftwaffe used its aircraft in a strategic manner in the early campaigns in Poland and France in 1939-40.
Battle of Britain: 1940
The Battle of Britain, August to September. 1940, was fought for air supremacy over Britain. Hitler wanted to threaten an invasion, but with a weak navy he could not counter the Royal Navy unless the Luftwaffe defeated the RAF. The Luftwaffe used 1300 medium bombers guarded by 900 fighters; they made 1500 sorties a day from bases in France, Belgium and Norway. The RAF had 650 fighters, with more coming out of the factories every day. Thanks to its new radar system, the British knew where the Germans were, and could concentrate their counterattacks. The Germans used their strategic bombing doctrine to focus on RAF airfields and radar stations. After the RAF bomber forces (quite separate from the fighter forces) attacked Berlin and other cities, Hitler swore revenge and diverted the Luftwaffe to attacks on London. The success the Luftwaffe was having in rapidly wearing down the RAF was squandered, as the civilians being hit were far less critical than the airfields and radar stations that were now ignored. The last German daylight raid was September 30; the Luftwaffe was taking unacceptable losses and broke off the attack; occasional blitz raids hit London and other cities from time to time before May 1941, killing some 43,000 civilians. The Luftwaffe lost 1733 planes, the British, 915. The British showed more determination, better radar, and better ground control, while the Germans violated their own doctrine with wasted attacks on London.
The British surprised the Germans with their high quality airplanes; flying close to home bases where they could refuel, and using radar as part of an integrated air defense system, they had a significant advantage over German planes operating at long range. The Hawker Hurricane fighter plane played a vital role for the Royal Air Force (RAF) in winning the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940. A fast, heavily armed monoplane that went into service in 1937, the Hurricane was effective against both German fighters and bombers and accounted for 70-75% of German losses during the battle. The Germans immediately pulled out their Stukas, which were so slow they were child's play for the Hurricanes and Spitfires. The Battle of Britain showed the world that Hitler's vaunted war machine could be defeated.
The first system of radio guidance used by the Luftwaffe was the Knickebein or System K, operational in 1938. With it, ground controllers could direct bombers to targets at night and in all kinds of weather. Thirteen Knickebein transmitters were eventually built in the west, six in France. System K was expanded by the addition of X-Gerät, a system of automatic bombardment. This was followed by System Y-Gerät (Wotan II). British countermeasures forced the Germans to discontinue the offensive use of the system but they used the Y-Gerät until the invasion of Normandy.
Over friendly territory the Germans used grid and hyperbolic systems, copied partly from the English Ground Electronic Environment and from LORAN. After 1941, the Luftwaffe used a new system for offensive navigation known as the Bernard system, which gave the airplane the transmitter's call-sign, the bearing of the plane, and the position, altitude, and heading of an enemy interceptor. In 1942 the Germans copied the English identification-friend-or-foe (IFF), calling it the EGON system, which was also used offensively for tactical guidance.
After the war, much German radio-navigation technology was adopted for military and civilian purposes.
After the failure of the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe failed to mount a major strategic air campaign, not because of the lack of strategic air doctrine or theory but because of the failure to produce an effective heavy bomber, the failure to train enough pilots for a war of attrition, and the failure of the high command to utilize the Luftwaffe in the most effective manner. Göring did not have good strategic sense and failed as a leader. The Luftwaffe was unaware of Hitler's strategic plans and was unable to prepare accordingly. Hitler's interference sabotaged the jet planes the Germans had invented. Hitler made strategy without realizing how progressively weaker his air power was becoming or how rapidly the Allies were building up theirs, and he put increasing faith in secret weapons (especially the V-1 and V-2) that were too inaccurate to be of much value.
Destruction of the Luftwaffe over Germany
While the British air defense system was operational in the critical days of 1940, the Germans were only beginning to build their own version, the Kammhuber Line, in 1940. They never caught up with the British.
In late 1943 the USAAF (U.S. Air Force) suddenly realized the need to revise its basic doctrine: strategic bombing against a technologically sophisticated enemy like Germany was impossible without air supremacy. General Hap Arnold replaced Ira Eaker with Carl Spaatz and Jimmy Doolittle, who fully appreciated the new reality. They provided fighter escorts all the way into Germany and back, and cleverly used B- 17s as bait for Luftwaffe planes, which the escorts then shot down. Doolittle's slogan was "The First Duty of 8th AF Fighters is to Destroy German Fighters."
Big Week, February 1944
The Allied response was the "Big Week," (20-25 February 1944, code named ARGUMENT), when 2400 bombers from the RAF Bomber Command and 3800 bombers from US Eighth Air Force and Ninth Air Force based in England, and the US Fifteenth Air Force based in Italy, launched a full-scale assault against the German aircraft industry. They dropped 20,000 tons of bombs, the British at night, the Americans by day. American losses amounted to 254 aircraft, including 28 fighters, while RAF lost 157. Flak accounted for most of the losses; flak seldom downed a bomber but instead knocked it out of formation, allowing the Germans to pounce. The purpose was to diminish the German air force by cutting into its fighter-plane production and by drawing the German fighters into the air for American fighters to destroy. American bombers protected by hundreds of fighters, flew 3,800 sorties dropping 10,000 tons of high explosives on the main German aircraft and ball-bearing factories. The Luftwaffe made a powerful effort to sweep American day bombers from the skies. The battle raged for a week. It was fought over Regensburg, Merseburg, Schweinfurt, and other critical industrial centers. The German fighter force was severely crippled, as their fighter planes were designed to knock out big bombers but were slower and less agile than the American P-51 Mustangs. The US suffered 2,600 casualties, with a loss of 137 bombers and 21 fighters. Ball bearing production was unaffected, as Nazi munitions boss Albert Speer repaired the damage in a few weeks; he even managed to double aircraft production. Sensing the danger, Speer began dispersing production into numerous small, hidden factories.
Paradoxically, the Luftwaffe would have to come out and attack or see its planes destroyed at the factory. Before getting at the bombers the Germans had to confront the more numerous, better armed and faster American fighters. The heavily armed BF-110 could kill a bomber, but it slowness made it easy prey for the speedy P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs armed with numerous fast-firing machine guns. The big, slow twin-engine Ju-88 was dangerous because it could stand further off and fire its rockets into the tight B-17 formations; but it too was hunted down. Germany's severe shortage of aviation fuel had sharply curtailed the training of new pilots, and most of the instructors had been sent into battle. Rookie pilots were rushed into combat after only 160 flying hours in training compared to 400 hours for the AAF, 360 for the RAF and 120 for the Japanese. They never had a chance against more numerous, better trained Allies flying superior planes.
The Germans began losing one thousand planes a month on the western front (and another 400 on the eastern front). Realizing that the best way to defeat the Luftwaffe was not to stick close to the bombers but to aggressively seek out the enemy, Doolittle told his Mustangs to "go hunting for Jerries. Flush them out in the air and beat them up on the ground on the way home." On one occasion German air controllers identified a large force of approaching B-17s, and sent all the Luftwaffe's 750 fighters to attack. Error. The bogeys were all Mustangs, which shot down 98 interceptors while losing 11. The actual B-17s were elsewhere, and completed their mission without a loss. In February, 1944, the Luftwaffe lost 33% of its frontline fighters and 18% of its pilots; the next month it lost 56% of its fighters and 22% of the pilots. April was just as bad, 43% and 20%, and May was worst of all, at 50% and 25%. German factories continued to produce many new planes, and inexperienced pilots did report for duty; but their life expectancy was down to a couple of combat sorties. Increasingly the Luftwaffe went into hiding; with Allied losses down to 1% per mission, the heavy bombers now got through.
Allied air supremacy
By April, 1944, Luftwaffe tactical air power had vanished, and the Allies had unquestioned air supremacy over France and much of Germany. From April through August, 1944, both the AAF's and the RAF's strategic bombers were placed under the direction of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied Supreme Commander . He used them were used tactically to support the invasion. Airmen protested vigorously against this subordination of the air war to the land campaign, but Eisenhower forced the issue and used the bombers to simultaneously strangle Germany's supply system, burn out its oil refineries, and destroy its warplanes. Mission accomplished, Ike returned the bombers in September.
Eisenhower, knowing he had complete control of the air, decided to go ahead with the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He guaranteed his men that "if you see fighting aircraft over you, they will be ours." Indeed, on D-Day Allied aircraft flew 14,000 sorties, while the Luftwaffe managed a mere 260, mostly in defense of its own battered airfields. In the two weeks after D-Day, the Luftwaffe lost 600 of the 800 planes it kept in France.
By the late spring of 1944, synthetic fuel plants and crude oil refineries became the prime targets for Allied bombers, which reduced production between May and October 1944 to 5% of the former monthly output.
Allied medium bombers and fighter-bombers struck Luftwaffe airfields in diversionary attacks so timed as to reduce the concentration of interceptors that threatened the bomber formations. Diversionary fighter sweeps further dislocated the Luftwaffe. As the range of P-47 and P-51 fighters was increased through the installation of droppable fuel tanks, they were employed more and more to escort bombers to targets deep in Germany. In response the Luftwaffe withdraw fighters from the East to meet the threat from the West. This was an important factor in enabling the Soviet air forces to maintain air superiority on their front.
War in the East
Though victorious in Poland in September, 1939, the Luftwaffe did not perform as well as the Nazi propaganda machine led the world to believe, both because of its own internal weaknesses and the creditable resistance put up by the Polish air force.
On the first day of the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, the Soviet air force (VVS) lost 336 aircraft in aerial combat to only 40 German losses. Much more threatening was the loss, within a few days of 800 Soviet aircraft destroyed on the ground in the course of Luftwaffe bombing raids on airfields. This was the first ever instance of one air force achieving a significant victory over another by pre-emptive strikes against its air bases. The Luftwaffe had attempted this in Poland in 1939 and in France in 1940 with less success. The successful attacks on Soviet air bases, the superiority of the Luftwaffe pilots in air-to-air combat, and the loss of hundreds of damaged but repairable aircraft that had to be abandoned on airfields about to be over-run by advancing German ground troops together meant that, by the end of the first week of the German invasion, the Soviet air force VVS was nearly defunct as a combat organization.
In May 1942, the Luftwaffe, by providing a high level of tactical air support, played a key role in smashing a major Soviet offensive around Kharkov. Performing well in all operations, including tactical reconnaissance, air-drop and supply, direct battlefield support, interdiction, and protection of German logistics, it initially engaged in a series of nonstop defensive missions that countered the Soviet effort to encircle German forces and then greatly aided German ground forces as they threw back and crushed the Soviet forces.
In August and September 1942 the Luftwaffe had the opportunity and planes to deliver a major blow against the Soviet economy by attacking the Caucasus oil centers that provided nearly all of the Soviet supplies. Instead, Hitler diverted his airpower against Stalingrad, Not until October 1942, did Hitler finally order air attacks against the oil centers, but the Germans no longer had the bomber strength and advanced forward bases to carry out major operations against them. The raids were too little and too late and proved incapable of crippling Soviet oil production.
In July 1942, north of Norway, an attack by the Luftwaffe sank two ships, and convoy PQ-17, sailing from Iceland to Archangel, Russia, was ordered to scatter by the British Admiralty. It mistakenly thought the German battleship Tirpitz was about to intercept the convoy. Twenty-two more ships were sunk by the well-coordinated attack of German air forces.
After 1942 the Soviets completely restructured their air force around mobile air armies. By 1942-3 Soviet air power challenged the Luftwaffe for air supremacy in the Stalingrad, Kuban, and Kursk campaigns. Frontal aviation's 17 air armies were complemented by a long-range air army in 1944, by which time the Soviets had air superiority, though it lacked long range bombers. As a result, the Soviets had more planes and more gasoline. The Russian front became a meatgrinder for the Luftwaffe; it was systematically worn down.
Failure of Cooperation
Germany's Kriegsmarine (navy) and Luftwaffe failed to cooperate throughout most of the war because of interbranch jealousy, limited strategic vision, poor leadership in the Luftwaffe, and the personality defects of Göring. This failure, coupled with the strategic shift eastward after mid-1941 and the lack of an offensive oriented air branch of the Kriegsmarine, meant that Germany was never able to fulfill its potential effectiveness in naval operations designed to restrict Britain's operational and material resource base.
In sharp contrast to the smooth cooperation of the Allies, the Luftwaffe ignored opportunities for strategic and economic cooperation with the air forces of its allies Italy, Finland, Romania, and Hungary. Instead of using factories in France, the Netherlands and Czechoslovakia to build new air fleets, it removed the machinery and shut the factories.
By 1942 everything started to go wrong. Defeat after defeat in the air against increasingly superior enemy planes sapped morale, and killed off the best pilots. Göring was easily outmaneuvered by rival Nazis after 1940 and the Luftwaffe experienced an erosion of authority after it failed to meet his grandiose promises. Hitler was enthusiastic in support, believing air power was the supreme strategic weapon; but he never understood air affairs, even though he talked glibly about them. He did not coordinate the Luftwaffe with the other branches of service, and Göring systematically misled him about Luftwaffe progress. Hitler did not plan in terms of continuous massive quantity and quality in the number of planes or in their offensive use. He thought in terms of defense or of secret, magic weapons for one massive, catastrophic blow.
Luftwaffe technology was not well concentrated. The Me-262 jet flew test runs in 1939—Germany needed 10,000 of these superior planes but only produced 1000 and most never flew in combat. Again, Hitler personally intervened in a manner providential — for the Allies. He insisted that the Me-262 not be deployed until it could carry out bombing missions, for which it was not designed. He only allowed it in a devastating air defense role when it was too late. Likewise the brilliant engineering efforts that went into the highly innovative V-1 jet-powered cruise missile and V-2 rocket-powered ballistic missile were partly wasted from a narrow military point of view; their guidance was too inaccurate to threaten any target smaller than a metropolitan area. On the other hand, the Allies diverted up to 25% of the air power to attacks on the V-weapons. (The Luftwaffe was responsible for the V-1, while the army was in charge of the V-2.)
Poor long-term planning
The success of early blitzkriegs blinded the Germans to the necessity of planning for a protracted air war, so they lacked the planes, fuel supplies, and trained airmen. By 1944 their pilots had far less flying experience than the Allies, and were more and more helpless in the sky. Furthermore, the Luftwaffe was unable to solve its growing logistics problems; when its fuel supply ran dry in 1944 it was doomed. Increasingly the Luftwaffe concentrated on ground-based anti-aircraft operations, which involved hundreds of thousands of women soldiers. The major cities were ringed with high power guns; including 423 around Vienna. Often they were built on high flak towers that had unobstructed views. The British bombers flew at night and the Germans used searchlights (staffed by women) to track their location, direction and speed so the guns, which shot ahead of the bombers, could throw up a barrage of shells that might hit the planes. The Germans never had a proximity fuze so their shells seldom exploded at the right moment.
Surplus airmen and ground crews were reorganized into 21 Luftwaffe field divisions; they came under army control in late 1943, as Göring was losing power. They were generally of mediocre quality and were chewed up on the Eastern Front; few men returned.
Despite intensified Allied bombing, Germany achieved its highest plane production at the end of 1944 (a total of 12,329 aircraft), but their quality was inferior to Allied warplanes. The production of aviation gasoline (itself of much lower octane than Allied gasoline) allowed for a daily consumption of 6,000 tons of flight fuel in 1944; the fuel production crisis in 1945 brought this to 76 tons. On 30 April 1945 the Luftwaffe flew its last 96 actions.
Post war re-creation
It was not until 1955 that the Luftwaffe was recreated in West Germany. Former members of the WW2 era Luftwaffe were brought together to plan the formation of a new air force. The creation of a post war Luftwaffe was the result of the heightened tensions of the Cold War. The East German authorities created the Luftstreitkräfte of the NVA (National People's Army) during the same period.
The modern Deutsche Luftwaffe is one of the three branches of the Bundeswehr, the German Federal Defense Force. The Luftwaffe is mainly equipped with US made or designed aircraft. In 2004 the German defense minister announced a planned reduction in the number of fighter aircraft and the future purchase of the Eurofighter Typhoon.
The name "Luftwaffe" was bestowed on the new West German air force that began in the 1950s, and included many veterans, but supposedly no Nazis.
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- Zeitlin, Jonathan. "Flexibility and Mass Production at War: Aircraft Manufacture in Britain, the United States, and Germany, 1939-1945," Technology and Culture, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Jan., 1995), pp. 46–79 in JSTOR
- Galland, Adolf. The First and the Last: German Fighter Forces in World War II (1955)
- Orange, Vincent. "The German Air Force Is Already 'The Most Powerful in Europe': Two Royal Air Force Officers Report on a Visit to Germany, 6–15 October 1936." Journal of Military History 2006 70(4): 1011-1028. Issn: 0899-3718 Fulltext: Ebsco
- "The Luftwaffe, 1933-1945", details on all units and equipment; long bibliography
- "Luftwaffe - The Airforce 1935-1945" by Jason Pipes
- Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich at War (2009) 436-7
- James S. Corum, "From Biplanes to Blitzkrieg: the Development of German Air Doctrine Between the Wars." War in History 1996 3(1): 85-101. Issn: 0968-3445
- Christopher C. Locksley, Condor over Spain: the Civil War, Combat Experience and the Development of Luftwaffe Airpower Doctrine." Civil Wars 1999 2(1): 69-99. Issn: 1369-8249
- Peter Fritzsche, "Machine Dreams: Airmindedness and the Reinvention of Germany." American Historical Review, 98 (June 1993): 685-710; James S. Corum, "The Development of Strategic Air War Concepts in Interwar Germany, 1919-1939." Air Power History 1997 44(4): 18-35. Issn: 1044-016x
- James S. Corum, "The Luftwaffe's Army Support Doctrine, 1918-1941." Journal of Military History 1995 59(1): 53-76. Issn: 0899-3718 in Jstor
- Peter Jackson, "La Perception de la Puissance Aerienne Allemande et Son Influence sur la Politique Exterieure Française Pendant les Crises Internationales de 1938 a 1939," [The Perception of German Air Power and its Influence on French Foreign Policy During the International Crises of 1938-39]. Revue Historique des Armées 1994 (4): 76-87. Issn: 0035-3299; Faris R. Kirkland, "French Air Strength in May 1940." Air Power History 1993 40(1): 22-34. Issn: 1044-016x
- Edward L. Homze, "The Luftwaffe's Failure to Develop a Heavy Bomber Before World War II," Aerospace Historian 1977 24(1): 20-26. Issn: 0001-9364
- Lutz Budrass, "'Arbeitskräfte Können Aus Der Reichlich Vorhandenen Jüdischen Bevölkerung Gewonnen Werden.' Das Heinkel-werk in Budzyn 1942-1944," Jahrbuch Für Wirtschaftsgeschichte 2004 (1): 41-64. Issn: 0075-2800
- An invasion was unlikely; over a third of the days were bad flying weather that grounded most flights. On those days the Royal Navy battleships could plow through the storms and sink the entire invasion fleet.
- Civilian deaths were 300 to 600 a day, plus 1000 to 3000 injured. London was not a factory city and aircraft production went up.
- Jean-François Salles, "Organisation des Systemes de Radionavigation de la Luftwaffe en Normandie en 1944," [The Organization of the Radio Navigation Systems of the Luftwaffe in Normandy in 1944]. Revue Historique des Armées 1995 (1): 77-88. Issn: 0035-3299
- R. J. Overy, "Hitler and Air Strategy," Journal of Contemporary History 1980 15(3): 405-421.
- Craven & Cate, 3:43-6
- Craven and Cate 3:664
- Murray, Luftwaffe 183, 207, 211; Craven & Cate, 3:47
- John F. Kreis, "Blitzkrieg in Poland." Air Power History 1989 36(3): 31-35. Issn: 1044-016x
- Joel S. A. Hayward, "The German Use of Air Power at Kharkov, May 1942." Air Power History 1997 44(2): 18-29. Issn: 1044-016x
- Joel Hayward, "Too Little, Too Late: an Analysis of Hitler's Failure in August 1942 to Damage Soviet Oil Production." Journal of Military History 2000 64(3): 769-794. Issn: 0899-3718 in Jstor
- Harold J. McCormick, "Convoy Catastrophe: the Destruction of PQ-17 to North Russia in July, 1942." Sea History 1992 (62): 14-16. Issn: 0146-9312
- Sönke Neitzel, "Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe Co-operation in the War Against Britain, 1939-1945." War in History 2003 10(4): 448-463. Issn: 0968-3445 Fulltext: Ebsco
- James S. Corum, "The Luftwaffe and its Allied Air Forces in World War Ii: Parallel War and the Failure of Strategic and Economic Cooperation." Air Power History 2004 51(2): 4-19. Issn: 1044-016x Fulltext: Ebsco
- Overy, "Hitler and Air Strategy"
- Note that the searchlights were not there to blind pilots; when four searchlights converged on one plane, then analog mechanical calculators were used to estimate exactly where the plane--two or three miles high-- would be when the shells reached that height. Edward B. Westermann, Flak: German Anti-Aircraft Defenses, 1914-1945 (2005); Horst Boog, "Luftwaffe and Logistics in the Second World War." Aerospace Historian 1988 35(2): 103-110. Issn: 0001-9364