How well prepared for war was Germany in 1939?
The Germans, of course, had the advantage of being the aggressor in 1939. It was Nazi Germany who dictated when war broke out and as such had the distinct advantage of choosing to fight, rather than being forced into war. This does not necessarily mean that the Wehrmacht was wholly prepared for war though.
The German armed forces were split into a number of sections. Principally these were:
The Luftwaffe was a relatively modern air force. Following the First World War the development of the airforce was severely curtailed by the terms of the Treaty of versailles. Following the Nazi’s rise to power the air force was developed quite quickly as a matter of priority. Chief of Staff Walter Wever believed that 4 engine bombers were a vital part of any attacking unit. These planes would bomb strategic targets in and around the battlefield and allow ground forces to make rapid progress. Wever died in 1936, before the building programme for these 4 engined planes could get underway. By 1939 there was no mass production of 4 engined bombers or fighter bombers. The Luftwaffe did however have a formidable force by 1939. Over 2000 aircraft were deployed on the western front alone in 1940, including 898 bombers. This fighting force, unlike those of the Allies, had already gained wartime experience, having participated in the Spanish Civil War.
The German army had 98 divisions in 1939. This amounts to some 1.5 million trained men. In addition to this were the 9 Panzer divisions developed in the late 1930’s. Each of these divisions contained over 300 Panzer tanks and 6 supporting artillery batteries – I don’t mean Duracell or Varta Batteries!
. Many of the German infantry divisions were motorised and were able to be deployed rapidly. German troops also enjoyed possession of the worlds first light machine guns, the MG34 and MG42. These could be used by infantry and posed a significant threat compared to the semi automatic weapons of other forces. Similarly German assault rifles, grenades and anti-tank weapons used by the army were extremely reliable and accurate.
The Kriegsmarine was the German navy. In 1939 the Kriegsmarine was not strong enough to seriously threaten the Allies. naval development in Nazi germany had anticipated a war no earlier than 1940, and it was hoped that it would not come until later than that. In 1939 the surface fleet comprised of 2 Battleships, 2 battle cruisers, 22 destroyers and 9 cruisers. The Kriegsmarine also had in the region of 60 submarines available at the onset of war. These vessels were all modern though, and a programme of expansion ad been put into place.
The armed divisions of the SS fought alongside the regular army. These troops were politically motivated, coming from the parties ranks and having a great bond with the party leadership. The Waffen SS was the most feared part of the German army, well trained, equipped with the best that germany could offer and utterly ruthless in their completion of military tasks.
Luftwaffe Resource Centre – detailed site about the aircraft of the German airforce.
U Boats – explanation of the development of U Boats in the inter war era.
The Luftwaffe – good site about the Luftwaffe.
German Bombers – outlines the specifications of many of the Luftwaffe’s planes and offers an outline explanation of the strategic uses of bombers by the Luftwaffe.
German Army – Spartacus entry for the Germany Army.
Feldgrau – superb site that looks at each element of the military might of Nazi Germany.
Causes of the Second World War How well prepared for war was Germany in 1939? How well prepared for war was Poland in 1939?
How well prepared for war was Britain in 1939? How well prepared was the Soviet Union for war in 1939? How well prepared for war was France in 1939?
Statistical analysis of Europe’s readiness for war in 1939