August 28 - The German Armed Forces in August 1939

The German Army was a Prussian tradition with centuries long. Even with the limitations, the spirit of service to the cause lived on. However, the new Army, still based on those values, searched for new and brighter ideas, tactics and strategies. New leaders with disruptive conceptions were motivated and defended. The German soldier was strong and equipped with the best weapons at the time. But it was the way those weapons were to be used in the battlefield that revolutioned the war in 1939. The tank as a breakthrough weapon combined with the tactical aviation was the base of this “Blitzkrieg” or Lightning War. Large armored formations launched into the enemy lines, supported by tactical bombers (such as the Junkers Ju-87 “Stuka”) with the objective of breaking resistance and disrupt communication and organization behind those lines. Infantry would then follow to occupy the space and finish the job of destroying what was left.

After the severe limitations imposed by the Versailles Treaty in 1919, the German Armed Forces were almost irrelevant:
- The Army had no more than 100000 soldiers for internal control purposes only;
- No heavy weapons such as tanks or large artillery were allowed;
- No Air Force was to exist;
- No submarines;
- No surface ships with over 10000 tons of displacement.

After arriving to power, Hitler's objective was to develop the Armed Forces into a fighting and conquering force. At first all actions taken were covert or within the limitations. The army grew from 100000 men to 400000 soldiers. For instance the number of planes grew but they were built for civilian purpuses and used to train pilots and give them hours of flight.

However, in March of 1936 Hitler openly defied the limitations and ordered the regular conscription. The covert Air Force was now public as one of the best in the world. Tanks and modern weapons were ordered to the main economic groups in Germany (Krupp, MAN, Mauser, etc).

The Wermacht (The German Army)

The German Army was a Prussian tradition with centuries long. Even with the limitations, the spirit of service to the cause lived on. However, the new Army, still based on those values, searched for new and brighter ideas, tactics and strategies. New leaders with disruptive conceptions were motivated and defended. The German soldier was strong and equipped with the best weapons at the time. But it was the way those weapons were to be used in the battlefield that revolutioned warfare in the early stages of Second World War.
In September 1939, there were:
- 6 Panzer (Armored) Divisions although more than half of those tanks are Pz Kw 1, a very outdated machine. Only a few of them are Pz Kw 4, the latest armored weapon.
- 4 Motorized Infantry Divisions
- 36 Infantry Divisions
- 3 Mountain Divisions
- 37 Reserve Divisions and 14 Ersatz (these just fresh out of training)


The Kriegsmarine (The German Navy)
The German Navy has probably the best ships of her time but in a very small number. Ships like:
Aircraft Carriers - Graf Zeppelin (never finished)

Battleships - Bismarck (1940) and Tirpitz (1941)
Battlecruisers - Scharnhorst (1939) and Gneisenau (1938)
Pocket Battleships - Deutschland, Admiral Scheer and Admiral Graf Spee
Heavy Cruisers - Admiral Hipper, Blucher and Prinz Eugen
Destroyers - 21 units
E-Boats (Torpedo Boats) and Auxiliary Cruisers (Armed Merchants) - several tens of units

And developed a submarine fleet that through the War caused severe problems in the North Atlantic when attacking the convoys that supplied the British Islands.

However, it was never a match against her conterparts, specially the Royal Navy.

The Luftwaffe (The Air Force)


Based on the thoughts of Ernst Udet and Albert Kesselring, it was perhaps the best prepared and equipped Air Force in the World when the War begun. Using civilian aircrafts, installations and companies (like Lufthansa), Germany prepared many pilots within the restrictions of 1919. From 1936 on the production of excellent models would strive. And with new strategic and tactical ideas based on the ground support to troops, civilian bombings, fast airplanes, the Germans had a huge Air Force, tested in combat in Spain and with the best planes in the world. The fighter Me-109 would be unmatched in the early stages of war. The dive bomber Ju-87 "Stuka" would cause panic in the enemy ranks and prove very useful in tactical support. And the medium bombers like the He-111 and the Do-17 surprised by combining speed and a good bomb payload.

In Poland, Luftwaffe will hve around 2300 modern airplanes against the 400 polish, most of the outdated.

The lack of a strategic bomber would be an error that, against Great Britain in 1940, was regretted but in 1939 no one could beat the Germans in the air.

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