L – Luftwaffe

German Luftwaffe trainees prepare glider for flight

The Luftwaffe (pronunciation: LOOFED-vaffa) was one of Germany’s biggest assets.  The Treaty of Versailles forbade the Germans from having a proper military.  However, a piece of paper did not stop Hitler.  The Germans knew they needed pilots if they were going to have a proper air-force.  The Germans devised plan to discretely train pilots.  The solution was to round up teenage boys during the summer, and send them to pilot training camps.  The Germans bypassed Versailles by training the youth pilots in gliders.  These were not powered gliders, so they had to be towed into the sky with tow-planes.  A glider would be attached to a tow-plane with a thin rope, nearly identical to how a water-skier gets pulled behind a boat.  There is a very small learning curve between flying gliders and powered planes, so the Germans were really preparing their pilots to fly bigger planes. By the mid-1930s the Germans had a large amount of well-trained pilots.

Then Came Luftwaffe

The Luftwaffe became official after The Law for the Reconstruction of the National Defense Forces was enacted in May of 1935.  This was one of Germany’s first blows to the Treaty of Versailles.  When World War II officially started in 1939,  Germany’s Luftwaffe had a very high success rate.  The Luftwaffe was a vital part, if not the most important part, of the blitzkrieg method, which was first proven successful in Poland in 1939.  Initial bombs and paratroopers paralyzed everything in the Luftwaffe’s path, and then, Germany’s army would arrive and officially take control of the ground.  The paratroopers were an integral part of the Luftwaffe, and were called in German the Fallschirmjäger (pronunciation: FALL-sherm-yayger). The Luftwaffe was really put to work during the Battle of Britain, a year later.  Since the English Channel provided a nice barrier, the British were able to prevent any hope of a German ground attack.  Germany was able to destroy parts of England nonetheless, and the Luftwaffe was mostly responsible for this.


The Luftwaffe was considered to be the most powerful part of Germany’s military.  Much of this success was attributable to the Luftwaffe’s leader, Hermann Göring.  Göring’s political clout allowed gave him more resources at his disposal, which was also the Luftwaffe’s biggest caveat.  When the tide turned during the middle of the war and Germany began to scrounge, Göring’s glut of resources dwindled, ceding the advantage to the Allies.  The Allies officially ended the Luftwaffe in August 1946, after the war.