Military History German Air Forces
Richard L. DiNardo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 February 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0109


Certainly few military establishments have generated as much literature as that of Germany and its component parts in the 20th century. The German Air Force of World War I has sadly received relatively short shrift. Outside of the outstanding personalities such as Manfred Baron von Richthofen, studies of the German air arm in the Great War are lacking. Far more attention has been devoted to the air arm of the Third Reich, both in terms of the leading personalities and how it was employed. These works have been supplemented by a veritable avalanche of memoirs of varying degrees of mendacity. Looking at the Luftwaffe of World War II is also complicated by the fact that the Luftwaffe also fielded ground forces, although these usually fought, especially later in the war, under army command. What follows is an extensive bibliography, but given the sheer volume of publications, this can hardly be considered exhaustive.

General Overviews

As noted in the Introduction, the German Luftstreitkräfte of World War I has not garnered a great deal of attention, outside of older works in German or reprints of older works (Hoeppner 1994). The literature of the German Luftwaffe of World War II has generated two broad schools of thought. The older one, often fueled by memoirs or studies by captured German officers such as Paul Deichmann (Deichmann 1968), regards the Luftwaffe as a service that was primarily an auxiliary to the army. The newer school of thought on the Luftwaffe, spearheaded by the likes of Horst Boog (Boog 1982), Klaus Maier (Maier 1985, cited under Anthologies), Williamson Murray (Murray 1985), and James Corum (Corum 1997), takes a more nuanced view. For these writers the Luftwaffe was a strategic force, although its value in that regard was within the narrow context of a war fought in central or western Europe. Some other works may cover the Luftwaffe from the standpoint of technology or aircraft (Homze 1976, Hooton 1994, Hooton 1999). In addition, other works have illuminated previously unexamined aspects of the Luftwaffe as an organization, such as Westermann 2001 on Flak. Perhaps the only notable work missing from this section is the German “semiofficial” history of World War II. Given the multiplicity of authors who are contributors to that effort, the ten-volume work is listed in the Anthologies section under Militärgeschichtlichen Forschungsamt 1979–2008.

  • Boog, Horst. Die deutsche Luftwaffenführung, 1935–1945: Führungsprobleme; Spitzengliederung; Generalstabsausbildung. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1982.

    The most thorough command study of the Luftwaffe available, by one of the most capable military historians from the Militärgeschichtlichen Forschungsamt, the German Bundeswehr’s office of military historical research. For anyone doing serious work on the Luftwaffe, this is the starting point.

  • Corum, James S. The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918–1940. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1997.

    A fine work, supported by meticulous research, covering the German Air Force from the last year of World War I to the French campaign of 1940. Corum’s work focuses mainly on theory and doctrine, especially at the operational level of war.

  • Deichmann, Paul. German Air Force Operations in Support of the Army. Edited by Littleton B. Atkinson, Noel F. Parrish, and Albert F. Simpson. New York: Arno, 1968.

    A reprinted edition of a study written for the US Air Force by a former Luftwaffe staff officer. One of the most influential works in propagating the image of the Luftwaffe as a one-dimensional force.

  • Hoeppner, Ernest Wilhelm Arnold von. Germany’s War in the Air: The Development and Operations of German Military Aviation in the World War. Nashville: Battery, 1994.

    A translation of a short narrative overview of the German Air Force and its operations in World War I, by the first chief of the German air service.

  • Homze, Edward L. Arming the Luftwaffe: The Reich Air Ministry and the German Aircraft Industry, 1919–1939. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1976.

    Excellent history of the German Air Force during the interwar period, with a particular emphasis on aircraft development and production.

  • Hooton, E. R. Phoenix Triumphant: The Rise and Rise of the Luftwaffe. London: Arms and Armour, 1994.

    A good general history of the Luftwaffe from its creation and early development up through the early campaigns of World War II.

  • Hooton, E. R. Eagle in Flames: The Fall of the Luftwaffe. London: Brockhampton, 1999.

    A continuation of Phoenix Triumphant. This book begins with the Battle of Britain and goes up to the collapse of the Luftwaffe in 1945. Both volumes are well researched.

  • Murray, Williamson. Luftwaffe. Baltimore: Nautical & Aviation, 1985.

    Murray’s work was among the first to challenge the image of the Luftwaffe as a force whose principal mission was to provide support to the German Army. Murray demonstrates that the German Air Force’s leadership was every bit as dedicated to the concept of strategic bombing as its British and American counterparts.

  • Westermann, Edward B. Flak: German Anti-Aircraft Defenses, 1914–1945. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001.

    This work is included here because ground-based antiaircraft defense was also the province of the German Air Force. In this ground-breaking study, Westermann covers the critical part played in the defense of Germany by antiaircraft artillery. The work is marked by careful and detailed research, as well as crisp analysis.

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