As far as pilots go, there were none as skilled and dangerous as the Germans. Especially in World War 2, you didn’t want to be within their range. The Luftwaffe was the name given to the German Air Force, and was host to the most deadliest planes flown during World War 2.
Did You Know?
Luftwaffe was the official name of the East German Air Force, a day before Germany was united in 1990.
The airplane was a wondrous invention that let man dominate the skies. You probably imagined yourself handling an airplane the first time it soared over your head. You swerved your toy plane left and right, enjoying the wind as very few can.
SWAT Kats was probably the first animated series to portray the life of two pilots, as they put their life on the line to protect the citizens of Megakat City. Although fictional, the pilots navigated a jet which was a combination of the planes, such as the Grumman F-14 and the Saab Draken. One of their main antagonists was the Red Lynx, a parody of the Red Baron, a fighter pilot of the Luftwaffe, one of the most deadly air strike teams during World War II. Whether you are a SWAT Kats fan or a history buff, relax, while we narrate the events of the Luftwaffe.
Origins of the Luftwaffe
After World War I, the treaty of Versailles had banned Germany from flying airplanes. In order to cover up the fact that they were training in secret, airplane clubs were opened in the guise of gliding clubs. The instructors were the aces who had survived the ordeal in World War I. The Luftwaffe was an elite unit of the Wehrmacht, consisting primarily of pilots. With their renegade tactics and off-the-book flying, they were able to strike down many pilots in their prime. The literal meaning of the word ‘Luftwaffe’ is air weapon, but it really means air force. The Germans refer to the British Air Force as British Luftwaffe.
The Luftwaffe gained its prominence in 1933, when the National Socialist German Workers Party came to power, and Adolf Hitler assigned the Luftwaffe to gain control of Germany’s borders, and eliminate the unnecessary. Hermann Göring was assigned as the Reichsmarschall of the Luftwaffe, owing to his exceptional flying record and his considerable political influence.
►The Luftwaffe wanted a distinct uniform that stood out from the counterparts of the Wehrmacht. The uniform consisted of a white shirt and black necktie, with blue-gray trousers. It also had an open-collared jacket with four pockets and flaps. They wore black leather boots, accompanied with a gray peaked cap or side cap. Their ranks were indicated by their shoulder patches. Officers had an embroidered Luftwaffe eagle stitched over the wearer’s right breast pocket.
►The Luftwaffe Leather Pilot jacket was made in black or dark-brown color. It had two zipper chest pockets, as well as two pockets under the ribs with pointed flaps.
►The Luftwaffe style black Panzer jacket was similar to the ones worn by the Army. It was a double-breasted overcoat, with a large collar and pointed lapels. The insignia of the Luftwaffe national emblem was embroidered on the right chest pocket.
►The Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger-Messer was a paratrooper unit considered only for elite missions. They had a unique insignia of the iron eagle gripping a swastika. Knochensack were smocks worn by paratroopers over their traditional uniform.
Organization of the Luftwaffe
Since the Luftwaffe was an elite unit, it originally battled in pairs. Two planes always flew together in a formation, called Rotten. A pair of Rotten (4 planes) formed a Schwärm. A bomber Schwärm consisted of 3 planes flying in a V formation, called Kette (chain). 3 Schwärme were under the direct command of the Staffelkapitän. A Gruppe usually consisted of 3 Staffeln, making the total strength of the unit up to 60 to 70 aircraft. A Gruppe was the smallest self-contained unit of the Luftwaffe.
A total of 4 Gruppe together formed the Geschwader. Each Geschwader was controlled by the Geschwaderkommodore. The Geschwaderkommodore was usually of Oberst rank or higher. The Fliegerkorps consisted of four Geschwader. Two Fliegerkorps together formed a Luftflotte. It consisted of 1,215 planes, 850 light and agile single-engine planes, and 350 heavy twin-engine jet planes. Each Luftflotte or air fleet had a separate operational base and mission.
Ranks of the Luftwaffe
General Officer Ranks
|Generalfeldmarschall||General of the Army|
|General der Flieger, General der Fallschirmtruppe||Lieutenant General|
Non-commissioned Officer Ranks
|Stabsgefreiter||Private First Class|
|Hauptgefreiter||Private First Class|
|Obergefreiter||Private First Class|
|Gefreiter||Private First Class|
Facts About the Luftwaffe
►The Luftwaffe first gained their experience in the Spanish Civil War. They sent the Condor Legion, a set of volunteers from the German Army, and Luftwaffe, which bombed Guernica, on 26 April 1937, killing 300 civilians.
►The Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger-Messer was an elite paratrooper unit of the Luftwaffe. They were known for their rescue of Benito Mussolini from the Allied Forces. Their most recognizable weapon was the Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger-Messer paratrooper knife, or gravity knife, used for cutting trapped parachutists.
►The Luftwaffe helped in expanding the territory of Germany by strafing civilians in Poland.
►They helped destroy three Allied Air Forces, assuring the defeat of France in six weeks.
►During the Battle of Britain, the Messerschmitt Bf 109E and Bf 110C fought against the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Hurricane Mk I and Spitfire Mk I.
►In June 1941, the Luftwaffe helped destroy many airplanes of the Soviet Union, but ultimately failed in the capture of the country due to a lack of strategic bomber planes.
►Germany launched Operation Bodenplatte to gain air superiority during the interim of the Battle of the Bulge, to help advance the ground troops of the German Army.
►The Junkers Ju 52, or Aunt Ju, was primarily used to transport paratroopers over enemy lands to a safe point. Later on, they were designed to carry bombs, and successfully bombed Warsaw in 1939.
►The Junkers Ju 87, or Stuka, was a two-man dive-bomber plane, with a pilot flying the plane and the gunner at the rear shooting down enemies.
►The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was flown by top-scoring aces of the Luftwaffe, claiming 928 victories in World War II.
►Erich Hartmann, nicknamed the Black Devil, was one of the greatest Luftwaffe aces of all time. He racked up 342 victories in all.
►Generalleutnant Adolf Galland, the General of Fighters, had 104 victories on the Western front alone. He was one of the earliest pilots of the Messerschmitt 262, the first mass produced fighter aircraft.
►Over the years, even on the onset of Germany’s defeat, Hermann Göring ordered the production of a large number of planes, such as the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the Messerschmitt 110, Junkers Ju 87, Heinkel He111, and the Dornier D017 bomber.
►Messerschmitt Me 262, the Arado Ar 234, and the Heinkel He 162 were some of the secret planes produced by the Luftwaffe.
►Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel was the top pilot among the Luftwaffe aces. He amassed a total of at least 519 confirmed tank kills. In conjunction with being the most decorated German service member in WWII, he partially destroyed a Soviet battleship. He was the most successful ace who flew the Stuka.
Whether you love the Germans or hate them, one thing is certain, they pioneered the way for better aircraft by handling advanced airplanes well beyond their time. The Luftwaffe planes during World War 2 will forever be remembered as one of the elite air units to roam the skies.