Military Archive Research
by Dr. Stuart C Blank
Member of the Orders and Medals Research Society (OMRS)
Member of the Royal Air Force Historical Society (RAFHS)
Member of the Naval Historical Collectors and Research Association (NHCRA)
Member of the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS)
Member of the International Bank Note Society (IBNS)
Member of the International Bond and Share Society (IBSS)




The Third Reich's Luftwaffe

After 1933 all of Hitler's armed forces were committed to a massive programme of expansion and the development of high professional armed forces. The German Air Force or Luftwaffe was no exception. However economic limitations restricted its development and future combat ability. At the start of this expansion key critical decisions were made regarding the composition of the Luftwaffe and its organisation. It had to decide between an air force geared to short / medium range operations in support of ground troops or a strategic air force designed for long range actions against an enemy's infrastructure. It chose the former. This was a brilliant strategy during the Blitzkrieg years and the Luftwaffe played a role in all the operations theatres of the war. In the later years of the war the lack of ability to wage long range aerial operations was a major deficiency and ultimately caused its own and the Third Reich's demise.

The Nazis were strong supporters of aeronautical research and they pioneered many technologies such as helicopters, jet engines and jet aircraft, (ballistic) missile technology and swept-wing (transonic) aircraft. It may surprise you but the modern jumbo jet era started with German aeronautical research. Executives from Boeing found German wind tunnel models at the end of the war and wondered why they had swept-wings for operating at transonic speeds. Also, the whole of the 1960s space race was based on missile research conducted by the Nazis. 

Research into the Luftwaffe normally follows one of the following avenues:

a) the operational aspects / issues of Luftflotten, Gruppe, Fliegerkorps and squadrons for bomber (Kampfgeschwader), fighter (Jagdgeschwader), dive-bomber (Stukageschwader) and reconnaissance (Aufklarungsgruppe)

b) development and history of aircraft and aircraft / aeronautical technology

c) aeronautical weapons (bombs etc) development

d) individual aircraft histories

e) aerial combat actions where Luftwaffe aircraft engaged RAF aircraft

f) leading personalities such as Aces and senior officers

g) uniforms, insignia and medals awarded to / worn by Luftwaffe personnel

Other research issues arise from time to time but the majority can be classified in the above aspects.