Third Reich Luftwaffe

This section covers all Third Reich Luftwaffe related items such as tunics, headgear, field equipment, badges, documents and flying gear and equipment.

Under the terms of the Versailles Treaty Germany was forbidden to own military aircraft. The design and manufacture of civil aircraft was permitted and important figures such as Hugo Junkers, Ernst Heinkel and Willy Messerschmitt continued to work in the industry.

After Adolf Hitler came to power he made it clear that he was unwilling to keep to the terms of the peace treaties and in 1935 Hermann Goering announced the establishment of the Luftwaffe in March, 1935. Over the next few years Goering, the commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, ordered the production of a large number of fighter planes such as the Messerschmitt Bf109, the Messerschmitt 110, Junkers Stuka, Heinkel He111 and the Dornier D017 bomber.

By 1938 Germany was producing 1,100 aeroplanes a year. During the invasion of Poland the Luftwaffe used 1,750 bombers and 1,200 fighters.

The Luftwaffe had considerable success during Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Like in earlier attacks on Poland, Denmark and Holland, it did well against poorly defended targets. German pilots easily dealt with the Soviet airforce and aces such as Erich Hartmann was credited with 352 victories.

In 1943 Adolf Galland began to argue that the Luftwaffe needed to change to a more defensive strategy. Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering disagreed and after a series of arguments Galland was sacked as General of the Fighter Arm in December 1944. Galland returned to front-line duty and and after shooting down two more Allied aircraft on 26th April 1945 he brought his score to 103.

Germany continued to increase production of aircraft during the Second World War. There were 10,800 built in 1940; 11,800 in 1941, 15,600 in 1942, 25,500 in 1943 and 39,800 in 1944.

In 1944 Germany began producing jet aeroplanes. This included the Messerschmitt Me 262, the Arado Ar 234 and the Heinkel He 162. Although outstanding aircraft they appeared too late to have any impact on the outcome of the war.