- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
Authorized by German dictator Adolf Hitler in March 1935, despite its prohibition by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles (1919; see Paris Peace Conference), the Luftwaffe became the world's most powerful air force in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It developed dive-bombers and dive-bombing techniques and then honed them to perfection in the Spanish Civil War (1936 39). The Luftwaffe's dive-bombers and fighters proved highly effective in German blitzkrieg attacks during the early months of World War II, but Hermann Goering, its commander in chief, neglected the development of strategic bombers. As a result the Luftwaffe failed to subdue Great Britain in the Battle of Britain and the ensuing blitz. Further, with much of the Luftwaffe active on the eastern front against the Soviet Union, it was unable to defend Germany against American and British strategic bombing. The Luftwaffe's development of V-1 buzz bombs, guided missiles, and jet-propelled aircraft came too late to affect the outcome of the war.
The air force of the Federal Republic of Germany is also called the Luftwaffe.
Bibliography: Claasen, Adam R. A., Hitler's Northern War: The Luftwaffe's Ill-Fated Campaign, 1940 1945 (2001); Corum, James S., The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War 1918 1940 (1997); Hayward, Joel, Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East (1998); Pimlott, John, ed., Luftwaffe: The Illustrated History of the German Air Force in World War II (1998).