Organization of the Luftwaffe (1933–1945)

This page describes the organization of the Luftwaffe and was part of the Wehrmacht, meaning the chain of command (starting from the highest level, the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, down to the operational level with the Luftflotte, they depended on their Geschwader time, Gruppe and Staffel), training, life in the barracks, the salary of the staff and the symbols of armed force.

Organizational levels                                       

Every aspect of the German aviation, including the Luftwaffe, was under the control of the RLM – Reich Air Ministry, but the military command on it belonged, as part of the German armed forces, to Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW – High Command of the Wehrmacht). Hermann Göring, aviation minister from March 1933 to April 1945 and then the civil aviation authority, was also commander in chief of the Luftwaffe (Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe). At the operational level command of the Luftwaffe was shared between an “inspector of air combat” (Inspekteur der Kampfflieger) and an “inspector of the aerial hunting” (Inspekteur der Jagdflieger) together with the secretary of state for aviation. In April 1945, shortly before the end of the Second World War in Europe, Göring was replaced by Robert Ritter von Greim.

The Luftwaffe was divided into three branches: airborne troops, anti-aircraft artillery and troops assigned to communications. These three “arms” of the German air force were later in turn divided into sub-branches such as paratroopers, air crews or the medical plane. Since then the Luftwaffe organized by geographic areas each with a body of maintenance workers and to supply, each unit that would move from one sector to another would not have to worry too much about the logistics, thus giving a great mobility.

Strategic Level: Oberkommando der Luftwaffe

The strategic control of the Wehrmacht, this was the name given to the German armed forces, was entrusted with the OKW, the highest German command structure in which there were three commands, one for armed forces:

•Oberkommando des Heeres – High command of the army;

•Oberkommando der Luftwaffe – Air Force High Command;

•Oberkommando der Marine – High Command of the Navy.

Despite this structure, all orders for the Luftwaffe left by Hitler headed to Göring, who provided then diramarli to the various commanders bypassing the OKW. Moreover, the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) is understood as the command center itself, equal to that of the other two armed forces, was only born February 5, 1944, although there already since 1935, through the efforts of General Günther Korten and Karl Koller. In doing so the military aviation was finally removed from the Air Ministry to which he was deprived of the expertise on staff, sull’ispettorato of arms, the operations center, ispettorato of aerial hunting, and on supplies of a division communications officer, and the rest, as the production of weapons and aircraft, remained in the hands of the RLM. The OKL was also responsible, along with the Air Ministry, research, production and maintenance of the aircraft.

The OKL, led by a chief of staff, was divided into eight directorates (operations, organization, training, troop movements, intelligence, equipment and supplies, historical archives and personnel management) and seventeen in inspectorates.

Operational level


The home of the HQ of Luftkreis.



The Luftkreis Königsberg

Luftkreis II  Berlin

Luftkreis III  Dresden

Luftkreis IV  Münster

Luftkreis V  Monaco of Bavaria

Luftkreis VI (naval)  Kiel

On 1 April 1934 were set up six Luftkreis (translated as “air service command”), which went on to form the basic territorial units of the Luftwaffe.

At the head of each was placed a Luftkreis höherer Fliegerkommandeur which consequently was also in charge of each unit in his area of expertise: two or three Luftgaukommando (administrative commands), a communications command, a battalion physician and a unit for the logistics, the höherer Fliegerkommandeur also ordered civil airports and civil air defense and, later, even the replacement battalions (extended in 1936 to the size of a regiment – Fliegerersatzregiment) and units of FlaK. Göring and Erhard Milch chose to fill this role Generalleutnant of the army, then promoted General der Flieger (Hans Halm, Edmund Wachenfeld and Leonhard Kaupisch), a retired officer of the Navy (Konrad Zander, put in charge of Luftkreis VI) and two officers of the Luftwaffe (Oberst Hugo Sperrle and Generalmajor Karl Schweickhard)

In July 1938, however, things changed. The Luftkreis were merged into three Luftwaffengruppenkommando and, as a consequence, from 1 November 1938 was changed also the third digit of the identification codes of the planes (who was under the administration of Luftwaffengruppenkommando 1 painted a “1”, a “2” for the Luftwaffengruppenkommando 2:01 “0” for the Luftwaffenkommando Ostpreußen). By the end of April 1939, added another Luftwaffengruppenkommando. Subsequently, on 1 February 1939 all four Luftwaffengruppenkommando were renamed Luftflotte (air fleets). The flocks were also renamed and assigned in batches of twenty-five to each Luftflotte: in this way the Luftflotte 1 had the flocks from 1 to 25, the Luftflotte 2 26-50 and so on, but the texture varied greatly depending on the needs of war.

At the beginning of the war then there were four Luftflotte in Germany, but with the progress of the war, three more were created to control the conquered territories. Each Luftflotte, equivalent to a Army Group land, had a Jagdführer (commander of hunting) who reported to the commander of all operations of the hunt. Although the Air Ministry had the power to move the Luftflotte, these had, by special commands, absolute control over every aspect of aviation in their area of ​​expertise, including ground operations, legal support, administration, communications (say, three regiments) and supplies. Also present was a unit of FlaK. Luftflotte and relative areas of operations

Luftflotte, Office of the QG and Area of ​​operations

Luftflotte 1 Berlin north-eastern Germany

Luftflotte 2 Brunswick North-West Germany

Luftflotte 3 Monaco of Bavaria southwestern Germany

Luftflotte 4 Vienna Germany southeastern

Luftflotte 5 Oslo Norway, Finland and northern USSR

Luftflotte 6 Poland, moved to Brussels, then in Smolensk and eventually in the Crimea in 1941 USSR Central

Luftflotte 7 Zentral (renamed in 1944 Luftflotte Reich) Berlin Defense of the Reich

Luftflotte 10


Each Luftflotte was divided into Luftgau (districts aircraft) and Fliegerkorps (aircraft bodies). The first administration and logistical support were provided to each airport and were led by a Generalmajor (Brigadier General), who had to employ from fifty to one hundred and fifty men and reported directly to the Air Ministry. The Luftgau created in Germany were numbered in a non-progressive with Roman numerals, while those established abroad bore the name of the area in which they were allocated.

Each Luftgau had several sections, each dedicated to a different purpose (operations, helpers of the commanders, legal, administration, communications, supplies, and no-fly zones) numbered with Arabic numerals followed by the Roman numeral of the Luftgau. For example, the 3rd section of Luftgau VI was designated “3/VI”.

Fliegerkorps and Fliegerdivision

While Luftgau provided administrative and logistical support, the Fliegerkorps (body aircraft), one or more for Luftflotte, took care of operational issues, they had to employ various units, usually flocks from fighters and bombers (or only one of the two types) supported by reconnaissance groups or, less commonly, groups or squadrons autonomous and could be seconded to other Luftflotte. There were a total of twelve or trecidi, in a non-consecutive numbered with Roman numerals.

As well as the Luftflotte to which he belonged, even a Fliegerkorps had his geographical area of ​​responsibility. In the early periods of the life of every Luftwaffe Fliegerkorps was divided into Fliegerdivision (divisions routes), however advanced in most of the cases and in the early months of the war at the level of Fliegerkorps. Conversely, one Jagdkorps (body hunting) was a specialized version of Fliegerkorps with command responsibility solely on fighter aircraft, with the employ of Jagddivision with operational tasks. There were a total of two Jagdkorps and eight Jagddivision which together formed the Jagdwaffe, or the strength of the Luftwaffe hunting.

Staying on the theme of “divisions”, the Luftwaffe had also specialized in testing new aircraft as well as war booty planes, anti-aircraft defenses and communication systems. These were simply called Lehrdivision (training division) and were not numbered and was later joined by various Erprobungskommando with similar functions. He could get into this type of unit only with the personal assets of fighting the war.

Tactical level: Geschwader, Gruppe and Staffel


Each Geschwader (flock) was commanded by a Geschwaderkommodore, simple appointment usually entrusted to an Oberst (Colonel), to an Oberstleutnant (Colonel) or to a Major (major). In aid of this figure was an officer of the general staff with administrative and operational functions. When in a Schwarm, a formation of four aircraft, flew the Geschwaderkommodore, this was called “Stabschwarm” (Schwarm command). The flocks of the Luftwaffe had to employ usually three to Gruppe (groups), but some flocks hunting he also had four or, more rarely, as many as five, for a total number of aircraft varying from 108 to 144.  During the war, the various sub-units of the Geschwader worked detached from each other and often in different theaters of war.

The Geschwader were distinguished from each other with an Arabic number after the word indicating the type of flock; sometimes a flock could also be entitled to people who had distinite in flight, such as Jagdgeschwader 2 which was called Jagdgeschwader 2 “Richthofen” in honor of the ‘German ace of the First World War.

Types of Geschwader





Reconnaissance Aufklärungsgeschwader? Three flocks all renamed in August 1939.

Hunting Jagdgeschwader JG Hunting during the day, but typically Messerschmitt Bf 109 or the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 adapted sometimes for ground attack; 42 units created in total.

Bombing Kampfgeschwader  KG Medium bombers; typically equipped with Heinkel He 111 and Junkers Ju 88; create 36 units in total. 

Training the bombing Kampfschulgeschwader KSG 

Dive bombing Sturzkampfgeschwader StG Dive bombers, equipped for the most part with Junkers Ju 87, October 18, 1943 were largely renamed Schlachtgeschwader; created 16 units in total. 

Freight Transportgeschwader TG Typically equipped with Junkers Ju 52 or Messerschmitt Me 323; these flocks were called before April 1943 Kampfgeschwader zur Verwendung besonderen (flocks battle for special tasks – KG zbV. – Rename all four units of transport, except for one loose in November 1939), 5 units created in total more than another does not complete. 

Training and testing of new aircraft Lehrgeschwader LG Test of new aircraft, also war booty, new anti-aircraft defenses and new communication systems, two units created in total, used to form a Sturzkampfgeschwader in November 1939. 

Glider Luftlandegeschwader LLG Among the gliders provided there was also the Gotha Go 242, two units created in total.

Night hunting Nachtjagdgeschwader NJG Typically equipped with Messerschmitt Bf 110 or Ju 88 equipped with radar to locate Allied bomber formations, created 12 units in total. 

Ground attack Schlachtgeschwader Schlg since 1943 SG Fighter-bombers, initially equipped with Henschel Hs 123 biplanes and then with Henschel Hs 129, fighter variants of the Bf 109 and Fw 190, 15 units created in total. 

Bombers fast Schnellkampfgeschwader SKG Typically equipped with Bf 109, Fw 190, Bf 110 Messerschmitt Me 210 and or employees to attack on the ground, two units created in total, a converted Schlachtgeschwader in October 1943 and the other in Zerstörergeschwader in January 1942. 

Zerstörer Zerstörergeschwader ZG Heavy fighters, typically equipped with Messerschmitt Me Bf 110 or 410, 6 units created in total. 


The various Gruppe (groups) were employed, each, of a Gruppenkommandeur, even this simple appointment entrusted to a Major or a Hauptmann (Captain) and this also assisted by a small state greater compound, often but not always, by personnel flight or riders in the group. For each Gruppe, there was a formation of three aircraft including the commander called Gruppenstab. Typically, a Gruppe occupied an entire airport and various Gruppe of the same Geschwader were stationed at airports adjacent to each other, all with repair crews, communications and administration, and rate of SS making functions military police.

The numbering of the Gruppe was in Roman numerals, flanked by the initials of the Geschwader membership: Group II of Jagdgeschwader 3 (3rd flock hunting) for example, was marked by the abbreviation “II. / JG 3” and, once transferred to Jagdgeschwader 1 and renamed. The group became the I. / JG 1. The planes of a Gruppe ranged from thirty to forty, divided into three Staffel (squadron, become four in the late 1944 units of the hunt, swollen up to 65/70 aircraft), there were between 35 and 150 crew members and pilots and between 300 and 500 men of the ground staff. Towards the middle of the war many Geschwader received an IV Gruppe with instructional tasks, but soon become real front-line units replaced by Ergänzungseinheiten, which absorbed the old functions, sometimes the Kampfgeschwader (flocks bomber) had a V Gruppe with instructional tasks (Ergänzungsgruppe). Although all of the same Gruppe Geschwader svolgessero the same role (fighter, bomber, etc.). These were not flying necessarily on the same type of aircraft, especially in flocks hunting.

Types of Gruppe





Coastal reconnaissance and anti-ship Küstenfliegergruppe Kü.Fl.Gr. Units with similar tasks to the RAF Coastal Command and equipped with seaplanes usually Heinkel He 115 and Dornier Do 18, as well as land-based aircraft of the type of the Dornier Do 17.

Search and destroy naval mines Minensuchgruppe Msgr Junkers Ju-52 with ring Mausi capable of detonating naval mines.

 Bordfliegergruppe BFGr Arado Ar 196 embarked in the cruisers and battleships.

Long-range reconnaissance Aufklärungsgruppe (F), then Fernaufklärungsgruppe / FAGR 

Reconnaissance Aufklärungsgruppen (H), then Nahaufklärungsgruppe / NAGr Initially seconded to the army (Heer), they provided to provide reconnaissance (also photographic) and were then renamed Nahaufklärungsgruppe; typically equipped with Messerschmitt Bf 109, Bf 110 and Ju 88, even if it was used a large number of aircraft, including the Focke -Wulf Fw 189.

 Trägergruppe TRGR Junkers Ju 87C-1 and Bf 109T which was scheduled for shipment in the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin; dissolved in 1940 following the abandonment of the project of the ship.

Replacements and training Ergänzungsgruppen ERgGr 

Test of new aircraft and aircraft of war booty Erprobungsgruppe Mtl Weft 

Ground attack Night Nachtschlachtgruppe NSGr Most widely used anti-tank and anti-personnel roles.

Maritime reconnaissance Seeaufklärungsgruppe SAGR 


A Staffel (squadron) had nine aircraft in gender, number that sometimes decreased to five or six times, and increased up to twelve / sixteen, and was controlled by a Hauptmann, by a Oberleutnant (Lt.) or by a Leutnant (lieutenant) appointed Staffelkapitän. The Staffel were numbered consecutively according to the Gruppe to which they belonged (I Group – 1st, 2nd and 3rd Staffel – II Gruppe – 4th, 5th and 6th Staffel etc..) And they had a code characterized by its own number flanked by the abbreviation of the Geschwader membership: the 6th Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 27 was shortened, for example, 6./ JG 27.

A Staffel hunting had about 150 men while a bomber had about 80, because some tasks were acquitted by the units detached from the local Luftgau. Often a Staffel also had a section (Zug) for repairs: in the cases of these bombers. Staffel consisted of twelve mechanics, two mechanical engineers, a mechanic for the on-board instrumentation, you’re gunsmiths, gunsmiths six reps bombs, two mechanics employees to radio equipment and an experienced parachute.

Besides the normal squadrons, the Luftwaffe it also utilized special to cope with various tasks. After mid-1942 were established to emulate the operations of Störkampfstaffeln ground attack night of ‘Soviet Air Force, the same as in this Nachtschlachtgruppe, operating on biplanes and training aircraft such as the’ Heinkel He 46, l Arado Ar 66 , the Focke-Wulf Fw 56 and the Gotha Go 145, the Luftbeobachtungstaffel, then renamed Wettererkundungsstaffel (Weku or Wekusta), had meteorological tasks, a squadron known as “92 Staffel” was equipped with the P version of the Ju 88 equipped with an anti-tank cannon 75 mm, the Jagdbomberstaffel (Jabo) were specialized in the attack on the ground and, after work ace Heinz Knoke, against the Allied bombers, and finally there were a few squadrons created specifically for the defense of specific factories.

Schwarm, Routes and Kette

A Staffel was divided into three Schwarm (literally “swarm”) composed of four or six aircraft. One Schwarm contained in turn two or three Routes of two planes each. The Routes of the basic unit was the unit of hunting, in which he flew a pilot and his wingman.

One of bombers Schwarm was divided into Kette (literally “chain”) of three planes in formation “V”.

The training “four fingers”

During the Spanish Civil War, the Luftwaffe aces Werner Mölders and Günther Lützow began to develop a new training consists of two routes (then four planes, ie a Schwarm) arranged as to form the image of “four fingers”. The training ensured every driver the best possible visibility and, thanks to the two routes, enjoyed excellent flexibility being able to separate into two units, each with a pilot and a gregarious, at all times. In the head Schwarm was the leader of a Routes (Rottenführer), flanked on the left, a little more behind, from his gregarious and right, at the same height of the gregarious, secondly Rottenführer, followed on the right by its gregarious.

The four-finger training was useful during the Battle of Britain, but in Spain, the Soviet pilots they copied to their benefit.


The men enrolled in the Luftwaffe basic training followed the same for all, after which they were directed to a particular specialization chosen based on personal skills and the needs of the armed force. Who was able to do the pilot followed another course and then to another to attend graduate school (heavy fighter, dive bomber, etc..), While those who were deemed unsuitable for this role was being diverted to other addresses including schools involved in the flight crews (mechanical board, on-board radio operators, gunners aboard or observers).

Often the various schools shared the same home with its airport and barracks, and not infrequently the entire flight crew training took place simultaneously in the same plane.

In what follows in the next paragraphs we must take into account that by mid-1942, the resources available for training centers were reduced in favor of the units at the front. As a result, since then the training programs were compressed and the drivers, but not only, patented with fewer flight hours behind and increased fatalities in training.

Basic training

At least in its origins, a few men joined the Luftwaffe for ideological reasons related to the Nazi party, seen rather as an institution capable of offering shelter from the economic hardships of the time or, more importantly, able to offer the opportunity to become a pilot, privilege for which, after all, join the NSDAP was a small price to pay. During the early years of clandestine pilot’s license was granted by Verkehrsfliegerschule (commercial aviation school) in Berlin Lufthansa, extremely selective: about 90% of the candidates were rejected during the ten-day course required to enter; in 1932, for example, , about 4,000 people who made ​​the request for admission to the pilot only 18 were admitted (including the future ace Adolf Galland). This policy deliberately severe secured an initial core of the Luftwaffe pilots around which grow extremely capable.

Already since 1935, the year it was made public the existence of the Luftwaffe, the German air weapon had among its priorities the acquisition of new pilots, priority was reflected in the recruitment system. First, the recruit was recruited at a Flieger-Ersatz-Abteilung (battalion replacements aviators, abbreviated Fl.Ers.Abt) where, after learning the use of the uniform and the structure of the base and having attended a ceremony entrance, was vaccinated within one or two weeks against tetanus, smallpox, typhoid, paratyphoid fever, the dysentery and cholera. In addition to speed, the use of firearms and military discipline, the soldier also learned the rudiments of cartography and the use of radio equipment.

After this initial period of six months, all recruits were screened for possible advancement to the role of pilot. Who had the characteristics was sent to a Flug-Anwärterkompanie (translated as “company aspiring to fly”) where he was subjected to a basic teaching on the flight with the relevant examinations, and who was deemed unfit to be a pilot but still good characteristics envisaged for be a member of a flight crew went to a Ausbildungs-Flieger-Regiment (“airmen training regiment”, abbreviated Fl.AR.) to undergo two months’ teaching concerning air navigation, radio communications, mechanics, and the use aircraft armament, after which it was selected for the specialty in which he had proven worthy. Around December 1940, the recruitment of these important groups of specialists and pilots were sped through a rationalization and a compression system: they eliminated the stage of Fl.Ers.Abt whose functions were absorbed by Fl.AR., which was followed three months later (increased to four in 1943) only for the riders leg of the Flug-Anwärterkompanie, and who, otherwise, it was deemed unfit to be the pilot, was hijacked towards Fl.Ers.Abt to complete basic training and choose another task within the Luftwaffe.

Selection and pilot skill

Before presenting the generic method for the selection of pilots, it should be clear that every school had a program and different types of aircraft that came from the others.

Once admitted to the Flug-Anwärterkompanie, the aspiring pilot received more theoretical teaching on the flight and, if worthy, advancing to Flugzeugführerschule-A / B (abbreviated FZS-A / B but commonly called “A / B-Schule”) soon, a position in it (usually after two months) to begin flight training itself, divided into four levels, each with a final exam which conditioned the entrance to the upper level. If all went well, in a period ranging from fourteen to seventeen months, the candidate entered in the levels “A” (introduction to basic flight with an instructor in a dual control aircraft, takeoff and landing, exit from deadlocks, etc..) “A2” (theoretical concepts such as aerodynamics, meteorology, aeronautical laws and conventions and practical work experience in aeronautical engineering, navigation, use of radio and Morse code accompanied by further training flights of single-engine planes), “B” (advanced on plane flights single-and twin-engine) and “B2” (which ended after 100/150 flight hours). In the late 1940’s, however, as it was for basic training, this system was reformed to meet the needs of war remained the same access requirements to Flug-Anwärterkompanie, was instead cast A2 level in the other three levels , so that the level A now lasted only three months, in B1 the training was only on single-engine planes and B2 also provided for the flight on a twin-engine, the big news was the stage entrance of the level K1 on the learning of stunts to raise awareness of the main evasive techniques in combat. The course also gave way K1 instructors to identify the most capable pilots, which was devoted more attention.

After the A / B-Schule, which now lasted from ten to thirteen months, the candidate was officially granted the military pilot and the coveted badge pilot.

At this point the pilots of single-engine planes were “routed” to the graduate school that best would have enhanced capabilities. Who was suitable for fighter planes came in Jagdfliegerschule, while those adapted to the fighter-bombers were confidential Schlachtfliegerschule, with further specialization for candidates for piloting dive bombers: the latter were devoted to the Sturzkampffliegerschule which, with various and severe methods that differed from school to school, testavano in a period ranging from four months to one year the physical and psychological state of pilots, possibly rejecting the unsuitable schools to air transport (Transportfliegerschule), finishing at up serving times in “battle flocks with special tasks” (Kampfgeschwadern zur besonderen Verwendungs ​​- including transportation).

Twin-engine aircraft pilots were instead required a period of additional training (two to six months) to be held in Flugzeugführerschule-C (also known as “C-Schule”), often in airports with other flight schools. The C-Schule provided education about advanced aircraft instrumentation, astronomical navigation and the use of on-board radar to detect other aircraft. The flight hours were typically 50/60, increased to 70 in 1941, and provided for the rotation of the tasks of the two crew members. Concluded the C-Schule airmen went to a Blindfliegerschule (school of flying blind) to undergo four to six weeks (35-60 hours) within intensive courses on navigation based only on-board instruments and dead reckoning. At this point, these were the most trained pilots of the Luftwaffe and were ready to move on to a flight school specific to a particular discipline (bombing, transport, reconnaissance or heavy fighter).

Selection and specialization of the other members of the flight crew

As already mentioned, who was unfit to serve as the pilot was sent into Flieger-Ersatz-Abteilung to complete basic training and choose another role, in accordance with the personal abilities and preferences, but often relegated to second plan with respect to the needs of the Luftwaffe, which sent most men to FlaK, the flak. Who, however, had yet to fly the features, such as those excluded from the A / B-Schule, was sent to Flieger-Regiment-Ausbildungs ​​to undergo two months’ specific teachings, at the end of which was selected for specialization in which had proved most capable. Towards the middle of the war the lack of men gave him the opportunity to who was a member of another branch to apply for entering the flight crews.

Bordfunker”” (radio operator on board)To become Bordfunker it was necessary to carry out a course of nine months at a Luftnachrichtenschule (school communications routes) together with the staff assigned to other roles, with whom he studied the radio, Morse code, and rudiments of navigation and on-board instrumentation; teaching practical occurred in another school with access to an airport.

Beobachter (observer). The men selected for the role of an observer attended Aufklärungsschule (school survey) were not created until the fall of 1942 four Kampfbeobachterschule (translated as “schools for observers from battle). The course lasted from nine to twelve months and aimed to understand his students as navigation, mapping and studying the photographs for reconnaissance, as well as basic elements of air tactics and hints on the use of machine guns on board, as well as the ‘use of all the navigation tools and pointers for dropping the bomb. The great importance of the role meant that in 1937 the Beobachter were appointed commanders of the aircraft in which they flew and covered about a high degree of Feldwebel (sergeant) or Leutnant (second lieutenant).

Bordmechanik”” (mechanical board)The mechanic on board learned the craft in a Fliegertechnischeschule over nine months. In addition to in-depth studies on a variety of internal combustion engines and aerodynamic outline of the student was sometimes sent directly in the factories, where was no way to get advice from engineers and test firsthand the concepts learned in theory.

Bordschütze (gunner on board). The gunners on board attended a course of five months at the Fliegerschützenschule (since renamed Bordschützenschule January 1942). In this period of time with a familiarization with a wide variety of firearms, including the Mauser Karabiner 98k rifle, machine gun MG 13 and guns with caliber 9 × 19 mm, at the same time making practical tests in flight with aircraft machine guns against targets driven, aided by the use of tracer ammunition, were also planned mock attacks by fighters to teach gunners the likely maneuvers that would carry riders opponents. As was the case for other specializations, even the gunner received notions not strictly related to its family-radio, navigation and engine technology, to ensure that in the event of losses during the flight each man could perform the functions of the fallen comrade.

Bordmechanik, Bordfunker and Bordschütze were generally Gefreiter (airmen selected) or Unteroffizier (sergeants). Finished the training, each specialist received its distinctive, as was the case for the drivers, and went into one of five Große Kampffliegerschule (translated as “high school bombing”) based in Titov, Hörsching, Greifswald, Thorn and Parow, except made for radio operators that could be sent at a Sturzkampffliegerschule.

Life in the barracks

In general the living conditions in the barracks were very good. The rooms for six men were furnished with a table, chairs and iron beds equipped with blankets and sheets properly spaced from one another. For each room was appointed a manager who reported directly to the Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) about the cleanliness of the room and of orders every day. The cleaning staff was done in a shared room, flowing with hot water, equipped with large sinks, showers and sometimes even bathrooms. Even the meals were usually of good quality, although in wartime rations were reduced in favor of the troops at the front. The classic breakfast was of sandwiches, coffee and jams, soups and main meals included with a high content of potatoes. During the week were also dispensed sausages and Sunday it was possible to eat roast beef with vegetables.

The little free time was usually filled by writing letters home, play pool or the even more popular card game Skat, someone also had the hobby of modeling. Many barracks had equipment for photography, reading and fitness. Who was able to play, or recite was often involved in recreational events, even if the opposite were often visiting theater companies or mobile cinemas. In 1939, Göring forbade his men to smoke in public, and although available in the canteen, alcohol was significantly rationed, with penalties for drunk who went up to two days in jail. Disorder, delays and non-fulfillment of daily duties entailed extra work, removal of free outputs and even the obligation to wear a parachute with some tear during training flights, and in severe cases the pay was reduced and licenses to go home revoked.

In addition to Luftwaffenhelferinen (female auxiliary service of the Luftwaffe), for men the only other chance of meeting women you had during your free time. In North Africa there was only one house of tolerance allowed for the German military personnel in Tripoli, entirely composed of women by Italian law on the Protection of German Blood and Honor that prevented women from attending “indigenous”. Sometimes, in the case of long stay outside the home, wives and girlfriends were moving for a few days in the city where the soldier was based, but were not allowed in the barracks. Often couples saw fit to wait until the end of the war before marriage, while those who were not of the same opinion usually organized group marriages. After the usual inquiries about the racial purity of the bride, soldiers were given a few days (or hours) license to get married, for those serving overseas was easier instead celebrate the event on the phone. The distances and long periods of absence they tested every relationship, and many soldiers had extramarital sexual or took a new wife. From November 30, 1935 who had not joined the Nazi Party was legally divorced and unable to fly.

The soldiers sent to the Western Front enjoyed more comfort than their colleagues sent to other fronts: relatively close to Germany, serving in countries with highly civilized inhabitants sometimes willing to establish a peaceful coexistence and communication routes that allowed travel during licenses (Paris with the top preference). In North Africa the licenses were very limited, while on the eastern front the harsh winter Soviet expounded the staff, in particular that of the earth, to enormous hardships and privations, partly mitigated by the friendship shown by the Belarusian and Ukrainian populations who saw the Germans as liberators, a friendship but soon cracked the ethnic cleansing committed by the Einsatzgruppen.


The staff of the Luftwaffe was salaried every 10, 20 or 30 of each month with a salary that varied greatly from soldier to soldier because of various allowances and other factors. For example, in addition to basic pay (Grundgehalt), the soldier could be seen credited, in peacetime or during the service is not active, even a housing allowance to offset the expenses of the house in case the barracks had been filled. Who was allocated in Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna received an extra contribution of 3% compared to the base pay due to the high cost of living in these three cities. Again, specific qualifications contained a salary increase while, as already said, indiscipline not imply a reduction. The only career soldiers hung a daily fee proportionate to the degree (50 Pfennig for a Flieger, 75 Pf for a Gefreiter etc..), which, however, was not applied to conscripts in time of war. If injured or convalescent hospital in the soldier’s pay was reduced by 10-20% (for the generals to 35%) to support medical expenses, food and laundry. In case of death of the deceased belonged to the family of a pension and other tax breaks. The pay for active service, dubbed “Kopfgeld”, was added to the basic salary, as was the case for the pay of war for the service at the front and the pay of flight (Fliegerzulage).

Given the limited opportunities for spending, usually the money was sent to the family.

Taking as reference the middle of World War II, the base salary of a Flieger was 65 Reichsmark ( ), a Gefreiter 77, that of a Obergefreiter wandered from 98 to 105 while he took a Hauptgefreiter 118.70. Among the non-commissioned officers (Unteroffizier) the pay of an Unteroffizier and a Unterfeldwebel respectively hovered around 128-160 and 170-180 , increased to 195 for a Feldwebel, while Oberfeldwebel took only 5 in more; originally the Hauptfeldwebel were paid the same way as Oberfeldwebel with a surcharge of 5 per month for a total of 205 , but in May 1942 the basic salary of Hauptfeldwebel was increased to 250 and stopped the bonuses, the last and highest able among the non-commissioned officers, the Stabsfeldwebel earning between 212,50 and 244,50 after a period of service with this degree varies from 13 to 18 years. The salary of the officers were divided into various levels for each grade, which created overlapping with the salaries of a few degrees higher or lower: the seventh and final level of pay of a Leutnant, the lowest grade officer, corresponded to the same pay a Oberfeldwebel, with the other six levels to rise about 25 each up to 300 ; the lowest of the four levels from Oberleutnant started from 283,34 , increasing to 25 to level up to 350 ; the three levels Hauptmann called for a salary of 400, 500 and 575 , while a Major could receive from 641.67 to 700 per month, with 808.34 overtaken by Oberstleutnant Oberst and the with 1,050.

The staff stationed in North Africa was paid in Italian lire.

Symbols and camouflage

Early years

After the re-militarization of the Rhineland in March 1936, the Luftwaffe finally ceased to “wear” insignia civilians and did nothing to hide the identity of its planes, now they all had one Balkenkreuz edged in white and black on both sides of the fuselage and in the upper and lower part of each wing, and a swastika inserted in a white circle in turn on a red background drawn in both sides of the fin and rudder. At the same time changed the identification codes of the aircraft, albeit for a short time and effectively only on the planes of the hunt, painted on both sides of the fuselage and wings. It was adopted a five-character alphanumeric code: two numbers, a letter and two numbers. For example, the symbol “+ A13 53” was to indicate a plane framed in the 3rd Staffel (3) of the I Gruppe (1) of the third Geschwader (3) created within the Luftkreis V (5), the “A “was the individual letter of the aircraft. Sometimes instead of the last two codes appeared one “0K” which identified a plane, part of a Stabschwarm (formation of the commander of Geschwader). A year earlier, in 1935, the engine cowling and the back of the fuselage of the fighter, to the tail, were painted with a color that varied from department to department, sometimes randomly assigned, sometimes with specific reason (e.g. the Jagdgeschwader 132, heir of Jagdgeschwader 1 of the First World War where he served the Red Baron, had as its own the color red).

As expected, the identification system proved difficult to read in flight and long journey, being also too complicated to understand in a short time where it came from the plane. In July, 1936 and then a directive authorized the maintenance of color on hunting, but forced to change the identification system: each hunting of a squadron had to “wear” in both sides of the “nose” and in the top center and bottom of each wing a number, ranging from 1 to 12, white colored with the black contour. The number 1 was assigned to Staffelkapitän. In addition, squadrons 2, 5 and 8 of each group had to have a white band in the engine cowling and in the rear of the fuselage, while for the squadrons 3, 6 and 9 was expected, in the same areas, a white disk; hacks had to be adopted for the squadrons 1, 4 and 7. Exceptions were the fighters of Staffelkapitän, who had not in any case no bandwidth or disk. To identify the groups, however, were painted symbols in the fuselage, between the number of single plane and Balkenkreuz: for Group I of each Geschwader was not expected any symbol, for a horizontal bar II, III for a horizontal bar wavy (replaced in 1941, sometimes only on paper, by a simple vertical bar) and for the IV, when present, a small cross or a disc. The various commanders Geschwader and Gruppe were recognizable by a combination of bars and gallons, white and outlined in black, painted on the sides of the fuselage and in the upper and lower surfaces of the wings.

Between 1937 and the outbreak of World War II, the Luftwaffe used a wide variety of camouflage schemes on their own aircraft. Checking on vintage photographs, it was possible to establish that the application of paints and various symbols or emblems was poorly coordinated at the global level and lacked a top-down control by the competent authorities. The most common in hunting camouflage pattern entered service in 1937 and in 1938 was a mere veil of light gray applied in all side and top surfaces, and was placed in the lower light blue paint. At the beginning of 1938, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM – Reich Air Ministry) issued a directive ordering them to cover the upper and side surfaces with paint color “schwarzgrün” (literally “black-green”, in fact a very dark green) , preserving the lower surfaces. Always in 1938 some plane was covered with paint color “dunkelgrün” (a dark green slightly less strong than the schwarzgrün), a practice that became predominant in until the end of 1939. Always towards the beginning of 1938 were abandoned the old colors identified the various Geschwader and was assigned a color to each Staffel part of a Gruppe: the individual letter of a plane of the 1st Staffel was white, the 2nd Staffel red (although during the early stages of the Second World War, the red disappeared in favor of black), the 3rd Staffel yellow. In theory, the individual letter of the plane was supposed to have been repositioned before Balkenkreuz, but in practice there were many exceptions and put it in the front or the back of the plane, and vary in size depending on the unit to which they belong. In this period also disappeared the white circle and red stripe placed as a background to the swastika, too visible.

After the reorganization of Luftwaffenkommando in Luftflotte in February 1939 also changed the numbering of the Geschwader, assigned in batches of twenty-five to each Luftflotte: 1 to 25 to Luftflotte 1, 26-50 to Luftflotte 2, 51-75 to Luftflotte 3 and 76 to 99 to the Luftflotte 4. On July 4, following an order was issued that he went to change the identification codes of the aircraft (in the meantime decreased from five to four with the creation of Luftflotte), but excluding the units fighter and ground attack. The first two alphanumeric codes, those to the left of Balkenkreuz, represented now Geschwader or self-Gruppe of belonging, for example, the code “1H + GT” indicated that the plane was in the organic Kampfgeschwader 26, while if instead of ” 1H “there had been” U5 “this meant that the plane was Kampfgeschwader 2, and so on for the other units. The individual letter of the plane, in the example above the “G” painted immediately to the right of Balkenkreuz, was followed by a letter representing the color of the Stabskette Gruppe or Staffel (in our case “T”). Below is the outline of the meanings of this letter:

A: Stabskette of Geschwader

B: Stab the I Gruppe

H: 1. Staffel

K: 2. Staffel

L: 3. Staffel

Q: Stab the III Gruppe

R: 7. Staffel

S: 8. Staffel

T: 9. Staffel

C: Stab of II Gruppe

M: 4. Staffel

N: 5. Staffel

P: 6. Staffel

E: Stab the IV Gruppe

U: 10. Staffel

V: 11. Staffel

W: 12. Staffel

The first, second and fourth code were virtually always blacks, but the third code, ie, the individual letter of the plane, was often painted with a color of Staffel consideration of belonging as already explained (in addition there is the blue for the command of the Geschwader and green for the control group). The entire code was usually reported even under the wings, and sometimes appeared above the individual letter.

Spanish Civil War

For the Spanish Civil War the Legion Condor replaced the Balkenkreuz with a black circle, dividing the code numbers painted on the fuselage: the first two indicated the type of aircraft (the Junkers Ju 52/3m had a “22”, the Junkers Ju 86 D a “26”, the Heinkel He 51 a “2” Messerschmitt Bf 109 and a “6”) while those who followed the circle reflected the sequence of that type of aircraft. For example, acronyms like “22 • 7” meant that the plane was on the seventh Ju 52/3m sent to the Condor Legion. On the top and bottom surfaces of the wings which replaced the Balkenkreuz the circle was cut, at times, by a white cross of Saint Andrew, this black instead of white background in the drift and rudder. Sometimes within the black disk appeared or personal symbols of the various units, in particular, during the Spanish Civil War, the Luftwaffe did for the first time extensive use of the symbols of the squadron.

The hunting camouflage schemes adopted by the Condor Legion, gathered in Jagdgruppe 88 were varied: the upper and side surfaces of some Heinkel He 51 were covered with light gray, while in the lower surfaces of the paint was applied light blue, while others had the same camouflage pattern modified by adding portions of dark green and brown and still others had a different shade of gray in the upper and side surfaces. Over time, following the inevitable deterioration of paint, the aircraft was used to camouflage any type of paint became available.

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