History

The aircrew of a Heinkel 111 bomber look out on accompanying plane, circa 1940.

Luftwaffe

Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It was also the official name for the Nazi air force founded in 1935. Led by Hermann Goering, it became the largest and most powerful in Europe by the start of World War Two.


Photo: The aircrew of a Heinkel 111 bomber look out on an accompanying plane, circa 1940. (Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

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The aircrew of a Heinkel 111 bomber look out on accompanying plane, circa 1940. Luftwaffe

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More information about: Luftwaffe

The Luftwaffe was the aerial warfare branch of the German Wehrmacht during World War II. After the German Empire's World War I-era army air force, the Luftstreitkräfte, and the Kaiserliche Marine naval air units had been disbanded by May 1920 under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the Luftwaffe was reformed on 26 February 1935 and grew to become one of the strongest, most doctrinally advanced, and most battle-experienced air forces in the world when World War II started in Europe in September 1939. After the defeat of the Third Reich, the Luftwaffe was disbanded in 1946.

Luftwaffe is also the generic term in German speaking countries for any national military aviation service, and the names of air forces in other countries are usually translated into German as "Luftwaffe" (e.g. Royal Air Force is often translated as "britische Luftwaffe").[citation needed] However, Luftstreitkräfte, or "air armed force", is also sometimes used as a translation of "air force" for post-World War I air arms, as it was used as the first word of the official German name of the former East German Air Force, disbanded the day before German reunification was achieved in October 1990. Since "Luft" translates into English as "air", and "Waffe" may be translated into English as either "weapon" or "arm", "Air Arm" may be considered the most literal English translation of Luftwaffe (cf. Fleet Air Arm).[citation needed]

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