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The Luftwaffe and its Allied Air Forces in World War II: parallel war and the failure of strategic and economic cooperation.

The coalition aspect of conducting aerial warfare is one of the less explored subjects in the history of the Second World War. The U.S.-British relationship in conducting the strategic bombing campaign is the one subject written about in great detail. Other aspects of coalition air war are beginning to receive appropriate attention. For example, Mark Conversino's Fighting with the Soviets provides an in-depth study of U.S. Army Air Forces (AAF) and Soviet Air Force relations in World War II and Air Marshal Probert's book, The Forgotten Air War, does a fine job in describing the U.S. and British air cooperation in Southeast Asia. (1)

The Luftwaffe had several important allies in the air war: In particular, Italy, Finland, Hungary, and Rumania made great sacrifices and took heavy losses fighting alongside the Luftwaffe. Yet, despite the thousands of aircraft Germany's allies put into combat, from the far north to the Mediterranean, the relationship between the Luftwaffe and its coalition allies has received little attention. (2) This article is a contribution towards understanding this aspect of the history of aerial warfare.

A full list of Germany's allied air forces, the forces that flew alongside the Luftwaffe or under Luftwaffe command, would include Slovakia, Croatia and Bulgaria alongside the Italians, Rumanians, Finns and Hungarians. However, this article will concentrate on the latter four air forces and their relationship with the Luftwaffe. These four nations not only had moderately large air forces but also had indigenous aircraft industries and significant industrial potential to produce aircraft. On the other hand, the Bulgarian, Slovakian and Croatian contribution to the aerial war was insignificant and none of those nations had an aviation industry that could have made an impact on the war. In this article, I will concentrate on the relationship between the Luftwaffe with its major allies (Italy, Finland, Hungary and Rumania) to include the an overview of the battle performance of allied air forces, German assistance to its major allies and the Luftwaffe's policy towards the aviation industries of its allies. Germany's allies had the potential to deploy significant forces and production capability to support the German war effort. For the most part, the actual and potential force of Germany's allies was ignored or misused by the Luftwaffe throughout the war. Indeed, one of the primary causes for German defeat, and specifically Germany's defeat in the air, was due to the Third Reich's inability to effectively lead a coalition war.

The Luftwaffe's Understanding of Coalition Warfare

Several factors affected the Luftwaffe's relationship to its wartime allies and inhibited the Luftwaffe from developing an effective relationship with allied air forces. First of all was the influence of Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht culture. Before the war, Luftwaffe officers failed to seriously study coalition operations and the Wehrmacht as a whole suffered from a lack of interest in coalition operations within the senior military leadership. Another factor that inhibited Germany's ability to exploit the capability of coalition allies lay in the Nazi concept of Mitteleuropa that guided German foreign relations. Germany's long-term ambition was to fully control the economy of Central Europe, and this vision had no place for technologically advanced allies with aviation industries that could compete with Germany. Finally, the Germans fought under the concept of parallel war, each allied nation would largely fight its own war in its own sector with little strategic coordination or common direction.

In the 1920s, the German army established a three-year general staff course that provided a thorough education for officers in the operational art, and at the operational level of war. The army general staff course covered tactics from battalion to army levels, military history, operational planning, and joint operations. It was arguably the best education in the world in the operational art of combat command. However, very little emphasis was placed on logistics or the industrial-economic side of warfare in the general staff course, and grand strategy--including coalition warfare--was scarcely mentioned. When the Luftwaffe established its general staff academy in 1935, its emphasis--like that of the army's general staff training--was on the operational side of aerial warfare, with little time devoted to grand strategy. War Minister Werner von Blomberg and Luftwaffe Chief of Staff Walter Wever recognized the deficiency of both the army and air force general staff curricula in educating officers to serve as strategists and staff officers for the Wehrmacht. At the urging of both generals, the war ministry established the Wehrmachtakademie in 1935 to educate officers for service on a joint strategic staff. The one-year course, which was intended for a select group of experienced general staff officers drawn from all services, would emphasize grand strategy, war economics, and politics. From 1935 to 1938, only a handful of officers were sent to the course. (3)

The death of Wever in 1936, and the dismissal of von Blomberg in 1938, eliminated the German military's strongest advocates for creating a true Wehrmacht strategic staff. The Wehrmachtakademie was shut down in 1938, largely as a result of interservice rivalry, and of Hermann Goering's dislike of any staff that might interfere with the direction of "his" Luftwaffe and air ministry. When the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) was formed in 1938, it would not be a staff to coordinate grand strategy, but rather a small, personal staff for the Fuhrer. In short, the Wehrmacht never developed a program to produce strategists or any coherent vision of grand strategy. (4)

A central goal of Nazi foreign relations was to ensure German domination of the economies of Central Europe to include Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia. Through its foreign trade and investment policies of the 1930s Germany made a conscious effort to push out British and French trade and influence in the region and supplant it with German domination. >From the German viewpoint, countries like Hungary and Rumania that were mainly agricultural lands should produce food for Germany. The Central European nations were also seen as providers of raw materials to German industry. The Central European nations had many of the vital resources that Germany lacked. For example, Rumania was a major off supplier to Germany and Hungary developed its oil fields in the 1930s. Hungary was, as well, one of the world's major producers of bauxite. (5) Besides providing Germany with food and raw materials, the small Central European states were also seen as a market for German industrial goods and machines. Before the outbreak of the war, the German strategy for the economic domination of Central Europe was quite successful. Austria and Czechoslovakia were absorbed into the German Reich and by 1938 Germany had become the dominant economic influence in both Rumania and Hungary. (6)

There was little subtlety in the German policy of asserting its dominance in Central Europe. >From the time Hitler took power the Rumanian and Hungarian governments were highly suspicious of Germany. Rumania had been closely linked with France after World War I and maintained its alliance into the 1930s. (7) Hungary had a strong democratic tradition and valued its trade links with Britain. Nevertheless, from the perspective of the Rumanian and Hungarian governments, Britain and France were far away while Germany was next door. The small nations had to make realistic accommodations with Germany in order to survive so, in 1940 when the Soviet Union occupied the Rumanian province of Bessarabia, the Rumanians had no alternative but to turn to Germany for help in regaining their territory. Hungary could only turn to Germany to adjudicate a return of territory stripped from Hungary by Rumania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia in the aftermath of World War I.

In the prewar period, the Wehrmacht and the air ministry devoted virtually no effort to coalition war planning or to discuss coordinated military production with coalition partners. After the Nazi accession to power in 1933, fascist Italy was viewed as a natural ally and in 1933-1934 a group of senior German officers visited Italy to discuss the possibility of standardizing some equipment between the two countries. Yet nothing came of the discussions and the Germans never pressed the issue. (8) Thus, when Italy went to war as Germany's ally in June 1940, none of Italy's major equipment items or their means of communication were compatible with Germany's. Since the Luftwaffe failed to plan for a coalition war with its largest and most obvious ally, there was bound to be even less effort to develop Germany's military relationship with smaller powers. Indeed, prior to the outbreak of the war the Air Ministry's primary interest in the small nations of Central Europe was as a market for obsolete or surplus German aircraft. Germany urgently needed foreign exchange for its rearmament program and became a major aircraft exporter by the mid-1930s. Hungary and Rumania, then rebuilding their air forces, were eager to buy the latest German aircraft models and to obtain licenses to build German equipment. However, before 1938 the air ministry refrained either from selling front-line Luftwaffe aircraft or from allowing license production of its latest models. (9) As a consequence, Rumania was offered Heinkel He 51 fighters in 1935. As the He 51 was already known as one of the Luftwaffe's least successful aircraft and was in the process of being replaced so the Rumanians sensibly rejected the German offer and bought better fighters from the Italians. (10) Yet the Rumanians kept trying to buy modern aircraft from Germany and finally in 1939 the Luftwaffe allowed the Rumanians to buy 24 modern Heinkel He 112 fighters since it was a model that the Luftwaffe had little interest in and was thus approved for export. (11) However, a Rumanian request to buy 50 Ju 87Bs was turned down by the Air Ministry that same year. (12) The story with the Hungarians is similar. Between 1934 and 1940 several Hungarian missions to buy German aircraft resulted in the purchase of some older aircraft considered surplus to the Luftwaffe's needs. In 1939 Rumanian overtures to license-build the Me 109 fighter and Junkers Jumo 211 aircraft engine were rebuffed.

As a result of German arms sales policies, Rumania and Hungary turned to Italy, France, and the United Kingdom to purchase and to license-build aircraft for outfitting their fighter and bomber units. Hungary and Rumania considered Germany an unreliable aircraft supplier and, faced with the German attitude, Hungary, Finland, and Rumania all took steps to improve the capability of their indigenous aircraft industries in order to become as self-sufficient as possible. The Hungarian and Finnish governments opted to license-build fighter planes and some bombers. Hungary started licensed production of the Italian Regianne 2000 fighter and the Caproni Ca 135 bomber before its entry into the war. Finland's state aircraft factory entered into an agreement to license-build the Fokker D XXI fighter in 1937. Rumania took a different tack by developing a modern fighter plane, the IAR 80, for production by the Rumanian state aircraft company. Hungary and Rumania also took steps to design and build their own trainers along with light liaison and reconnaissance aircraft. Hungary and Rumania worked to adapt foreign airframe designs to their own engines, usually variations of license-built French aircraft engines although none of the domestic-designed or license-built aircraft or engines made by Rumania, Hungary or Finland were equal to the German aircraft or engines available in 1939 or 1940. However, German sales and licensing policy combined with a distrust of Germany ensured that, for the small nations, self-sufficiency took precedence over efficiency in the prewar rearmament programs.

Parallel War and Germany's Allies

Germany never developed a clear grand strategy to fight a coalition war. Indeed, Germany's allies had little in common with the Third Reich and each nation allied itself with Germany in order to fulfill very limited war aims. For example, Finland aligned itself with Germany in order to regain the territory it had lost to Russia in the 1939-1940 Winter War. Rumania sought to regain the province of Besserabia, annexed by Russia in 1940. Hungary served the German cause in repayment for Germany's ensuring the return of formerly-Hungarian territories seized by Rumania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia at the end of World War I. Italy wanted to become the dominant power in the Mediterranean and to expand its empire at the expense of France, Greece, and Albania. Since the Italians believed that Germany was likely to defeat Britain and France in 1940, their best chance to realize Mussolini's ambitions would be to join the war on Germany's side.

In contrast to the British-American alliance and other allied commands formed during World War II, in which the allied nations jointly crafted strategy and closely coordinated their efforts, Germany never formed a combined staff with its allies. Germany and its allies never coordinated efforts through conferences such as the Allies held at Casablanca, Quebec, Teheran and Yalta. Throughout the war, Hitler and the Wehrmacht staff dealt with each ally on a purely bilateral basis. Hitler met with Mussolini and the leaders of Rumania, Hungary, and Finland on several occasions, and the Wehrmacht exchanged military representatives with coalition partners, but that was the extent of German strategic coordination. Unlike the U.S.-UK alliance, no German forces served under the command or strategic direction of a foreign commander. Hungarian and Rumanian forces served on their own fronts in Russia under the direction of German army groups. The Finns conducted their war alongside the Germans, but without German direction or command. The Italians discussed the possibility of providing forces to serve under German direction against France during the campaign of 1940, but the Wehrmacht saw an Italian army in the Rhineland as more trouble than it was worth. When Italy finally joined the war, it was agreed that Germany and Italy fought parallel wars, each nation commanding its own forces on its own front. (13)

Given their size and limited contribution to the war effort, Rumania and Hungary could not expect to be anything but subordinate junior partners. The status of Italy was different. Italy was the major power in the Mediterranean in 1940 and basically saw itself as an equal partner to Germany. On several occasions, Italy proposed the creation of a combined staff or headquarters in which some German forces in the Mediterranean theater might serve under Italian command or direction but this was consistently opposed by the Germans and command arrangements in the Mediterranean remained separate. (14) Italian forces sent to other theaters, such as the air corps sent to Flanders in 1940 to assist the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain and the Italian army and air corps sent to Russia in 1942-1943, served under German command.

>From the start of their wartime alliance, the open distrust between the Germans and Italians at the strategic level was palpable. Neither government kept the other informed of major strategic plans or operations. As late as three weeks before the German invasion of Russia, the German foreign ministry informed Count Galeazzo Ciano, the Italian foreign minister, that there were no imminent plans to invade Russia. (15) On the Italian side, Mussolini refrained from informing his German ally in 1940 of his plan to invade Greece. (16) Mutual mistrust was apparently the foundation for Germany's military relations with its allies.

The Italian Air Force: The Luftwaffe's Strongest Ally

In 1939-1940 the Italian armed forces were unprepared to go to war. The Italian navy, which possessed some modern battleships, cruisers, and destroyers as well as a sizable submarine fleet, was the best-prepared service. The Italian army of 67 divisions, poorly-trained and very poorly-equipped, was the service least prepared for war. The Italian air force, the Regia Aeronautica, was a significant force on paper in reality, however, scarcely more fit than the army to fight a modern war against major powers. (17) In June 1940 the Italian air force had 1,796 combat aircraft in the Mediterranean: 783 bombers, 594 fighters, and 419 reconnaissance aircraft. (18) There were 84,000 total personnel, including 3,040 officer pilots and 3,300 NCO pilots. Though impressive, the total numbers belie the true state of the Regia Aeronautica. Most of the aircraft available in 1940 were obsolete and inferior to the air forces of Britain and France. The primary fighter in 1940 was the CR 42 biplane, a good aircraft for the mid-1930s -but too slow and lightly-armed to face the modern monoplane fighters of France and Britain. (19) Some of the Italian fighter force consisted of Fiat CR 32 biplanes, an early 1930s design that was long outdated. (20) The only modern monoplane fighters deployed by the Italians as of June 1940 were 118 Fiat G 50 fighters and 156 Macchi MC 200 fighters. (21) Although these were adequate aircraft, they were unlikely to confront British Hurricanes and Spitfires on even terms. The Italian bomber force still contained many long-obsolete SM 81 trimotor bombers--276 as of 1939. (22) Other bombers, such as the Fiat BR 20, were clearly inferior to the German and British medium bombers of the time. (23) Only in the Savoia-Marchetti SM 79--of which they had 594 available in June 1940--did the Regia Aeronautica have an effective bomber. (24)

The Italian aviation industry was in no state to manufacture aircraft of the quality, or in the quantity required for a major war. The Italian aircraft industry consisted of some twenty-four aircraft firms and four major engine firms. (25) Even the largest manufacturers suffered a lack both of working capital and of capacity. In addition, production methods were outdated. When the air force ordered a large number of different aircraft models, the planes had to be built, virtually by hand, in small quantities. Unlike the other major powers, that had progressed to building bombers with all metal, stressed-skin fuselages, the primary Italian bomber, the SM-79, still used a steel-tube frame covered with wood and fabric. (26)

One of the greatest weaknesses of Italian airpower was the state of their engine industry. Italian engines were generally radials, largely adapted from French designs, but Italy was unable to produce large in-line engines equal to those of the Germans or French. Indeed, Italy had trouble producing aircraft engines exceeding 1,000 horsepower. This inability to produce powerful engines forced the Italians to adopt the trimotor design as the only means of obtaining adequate speed for their bombers. (27) The lack of large, robust engines doomed the 1939-1940 Italian dive-bomber project: the Breda 88. This twin-engine aircraft was so underpowered and so unreliable under North African conditions, that production was halted after only 105 aircraft had been produced. (28) Because the Italian aircraft industry could not produce a dive bomber, in 1940 the Italians negotiated a deal with the Germans to buy Ju-87 dive bombers. (29) The German air ministry then sold the Italians well-worn, early-model Ju-87B aircraft, considered surplus since the Luftwaffe was being re-equipped with the Ju 87 D and R models.

The aircraft industry remained a weak link in the Italian war effort. There was a significant disconnect between the grandiose plans of the Fascist leadership and their inability to acquire sophisticated equipment. In late 1938, the Italian leadership called for 12,885 aircraft and 22,542 engines to be produced for 1939 yet the actual production figures were 1,750 aircraft and 4,191 engines. In 1940 production increased to 3,257 aircraft and 5,607 engines, but this was only a quarter of the equipment required.(30) Of all the major powers, Italy had, by far, the weakest aviation industry. The condition of the Italian industry and infrastructure also assured a very low serviceability rate for aircraft because the aircraft industry could not provide an adequate supply of spare parts and the air force possessed few facilities for aircraft repair. Moreover, the air force suffered from a severe shortage of trained mechanics and an inadequate training program. Owing to these factors, the squadrons committed to combat--especially the squadrons fighting at the end of a long supply line in North Africa or Russia--normally had less than half of their aircraft in flyable condition.

The weakness of the Italian air force and aircraft industry was well-known to the Luftwaffe leadership when Italy entered the war A study by the Luftwaffe general staff in May 1939 assessed the Italian air force as "inferior to the British and French air forces by a wide margin."(31) Italian aerial rearmament was proceeding very slowly and, although their fighter pilot training was rated to be good, but Italian bomber pilots were mediocre and had poor night and bad-weather flying and navigation skills. In addition, the Italian anti-aircraft force was thoroughly obsolete. Essentially, the Luftwaffe viewed Italy as a weak nation that would likely hinder the German war effort. Nevertheless, Italy served two strategic purposes: first, the Italians could disrupt British and French transport in the Mediterranean; secondly, the Italians could help divert French and British sea power. Little more could be expected. (32) Perhaps because of Italy's weak position, the Luftwaffe general staff devoted no effort to plan to work with the Italians if war broke out. Thus, when Italy joined the war there were no arrangements for liaison or cooperation between the two air forces. Three months after Italy became a German ally, the Luftwaffe sent General Ritter von Pohl to serve as liaison officer between the two air staffs. The first instance of coalition air operations came in October 1940, when the Italians committed an air corps to the Battle of Britain, placing their force under the command of General Kesselring's Luftflotte 2. It was a short and disappointing campaign for the Italians. Though the Italian air corps flew only a few raids, they suffered heavy losses when their bombers and fighters proved no match for British defenses.

The Italian air force proved no match for the RAF in North Africa, either. In late 1940 the Italian army in North Africa was virtually destroyed by the British. Although the Regia Aeronautica outnumbered the RAF, with 327 combat aircraft to 197 in the theater, the RAF won air superiority because its two Hurricane squadrons were superior to the Italian fighters. (33) With the situation in North Africa collapsing, Germany decided to aid its ally by sending the Tenth Air Corps to the Mediterranean. Throughout 1941 the German effort in the Mediterranean broadened. One primary mission of the Tenth Air Corps was providing air escort for the ships that brought reinforcements and supplies to the Afrika Corps and the Italian forces in Libya. Axis shipping suffered heavy losses from British air and naval units based on Malta. The Luftwaffe insisted that a single air command be created for convoy protection, and that Italian air units be placed under German direction. The Italian air force refused, promising to cooperate with, but not to serve under the Germans. (34) The lack of a unified command resulted in mediocre protection of the convoys. (35)

>From 1940 through Italy's surrender in 1943, cooperation between the German and Italian air forces remained fairly ineffective. While the German and Italian higher air force staffs in the Mediterranean theater had liaison officers, there were no liaison officers at the wing or group level. (36) German and Italian air units that shared airfields or were stationed in close proximity worked out arrangements for mutual support. Italian fighters often flew escort for German bombers. (37) In the battle for Tobruk in June 1942, Italian Stuka units flew alongside German Stuka units to support Rommel's attack. (38) At the tactical level, the Regia Aeronautica showed a willingness to work with the Germans. Although the courage and fighting ability of the Italian army and navy were often disparaged by German accounts of the war, the courage and aggressiveness of Italian air force pilots in aerial combat was often praised. (39) The Italian problem was equipment. It was not until November 1941, when the Macchi Mc 202 fighter was deployed to North Africa, that the Italians had an aircraft capable of meeting the RAF Hurricanes and P-40s on equal, even superior terms. (40)

In any event, the Italian aircraft industry could not supply enough of the new fighters, such as the Macchi Mc 202 or Fiat G 55, to make a difference against the ever-increasing Allied air superiority. The low production levels of Italian aircraft firms could not meet the demand posed by heavy combat attrition. On 2 March 1943, with the situation in North Africa rapidly approaching catastrophe, the Italian High command sent Hitler a long message outlining Italy's precarious position and demanding a large quantity of modern equipment from the Germans, to include modern aircraft for the air force. Hitler replied the next day promising large quantities of German material to include reequipping the hopelessly obsolete Italian bomber force with Ju 88 bombers. (41) As usual, Hitler's grandiose promises meant little. In the six months before the Italian surrender, the Luftwaffe managed to provide only 40 Ju 88s to reequip one Italian bomber group. By the time of the Allied landings in Sicily in July 1943, the Regia Aeronautica had a paper strength of 1,042 aircraft. Official strength returns belied the reality. The Italian bomber force of 400 planes was considered so inferior to the Allies that it could not be used in combat. Much of the fighter arm was obsolete and, of the 530 modern fighters (Macchi 200s, 202s and 205s), only 130 were operational when the Allies landed. (42) The Italians could only play a minor role in defending their own homeland. By Italy's surrender in September 1943, the Regia Aeronautica possessed only 1,306 combat aircraft, less than half the number with which they had started the war. (43)

Italian-German cooperation was hampered by other factors. For instance, since German and Italian radios were incompatible, Italian aircraft flying missions with the Luftwaffe could not communicate with their partners. (44) In North Africa, no system existed for joint control of fighter operations, partially due to Luftwaffe reluctance to share technology with the Italians. For example, the Luftwaffe in North Africa had Freya radar units for early warning and aircraft control, but the Germans did not provide the Italians with radar, or radar operators, until the Tunisian Campaign of 1943. (45)

German-Italian Production Cooperation

The Italian aircraft industry had some very capable aircraft designers but the problem with the Italian aircraft industry was its inability to keep up with the British, Americans, and Germans in the production of large, powerful engines. (46) The best Italian fighters in 1940 were the Macchi Mc 200 and Fiat G 50. These modern, maneuverable metal monoplanes were handicapped by their Fiat A.74RC38 engines, capable of only 840 horsepower, while their contemporary, the Me 109E, was powered by the Daimler Benz DB 601, an engine capable of 1,050 horsepower. The Alfa Romeo 126 R3 34 engines in the SM 79 bomber produced only 780 horsepower, while the Junkers Jumo engines in the Ju 88 produced 1,200 horsepower. (47)

The initiative to employ German technology in Italian fighters came from the Italian engineers. One of Italy's top aircraft designers, Mario Castoldi of Macchi, arranged in 1940 for a DB 601 A-1 inline engine to be bought from Germany and installed in an Mc 200 fighter. The Italian airframe was tested with the German engine in August 1940, and the resulting aircraft was such an improvement over the Mc 200 that it was ordered into immediate mass production as the Macchi Mc 202 (Folgore). (48) Italy finally had an aircraft that could match the Me 109. Alfa Romeo obtained a license to produce the DB 601 engines, but ran into numerous production problems. By early 1942, Alfa Romeo was still unable to deliver more than 50 engines per month and Germany was willing only to provide a few engines surplus to its own needs. (49) The lack of adequate engines was so serious that the Regia Aeronautica continued production of the Mc 200, an aircraft already recognized as obsolete, (50) The Macchi Mc 202, with a maximum speed of 372 mph, finally went into service in November 1941. It had little impact on the air war, since its production levels remained low and only 1,100 Mc 202s were produced between 1941 and 1943P1 By Italy's surrender in 1943, only 122 Folgores were on the books of the Regia Aeronautica, and of these, only 53 were operational. (52)

Combining Italian airframes with German engines proved a winning formula in developing other aircraft. In 1942 Mario Castoldi mated an Mc 202 fuselage with a German DB 605 1,475-horsepower engine, creating the Macchi Mc 205 Veltro: a maneuverable fighter with a top speed of more than 360 mph. (53) Fiat obtained the license to build the Daimler Benz 605 A engine. As with the Mc 202, engine production and import problems ensued. Only 262 Mc 205s were produced before Italy's surrender. (54) Only in 1943 did the German air ministry begin to seriously examine the possibility of producing aircraft for the Luftwaffe in Italy. In early 1943, the Luftwaffe ordered eighty-five Caproni Ca 313s, a variation of the Caproni Ca 310 light bomber designed in the late 1930s. (55) The Luftwaffe envisioned the Ca 313 as a multi-engine trainer and light transport aircraft and it was suitable for both roles. Production arrangements broke down, however, and of the 905 Ca 313s ordered by the Luftwaffe, the Italian factories produced only 271. (56)

When Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen arrived in Italy in mid-1943 to assume command of Luftflotte II he reported that the Italian aviation industry was underutilized and recommended that the Luftwaffe obtain Italian-designed and produced aircraft. One aircraft he had in mind was the Fiat G 55, another Italian airframe married to a German engine, that approximated the performance the American P-51. In early 1944, von Richthofen wrote to the Air Ministry of the possibility for Italian production of spare parts, attack aircraft and trainers for the Luftwaffe. (57) Von Richthofen's sensible recommendations met with a remarkable lack of interest. The Luftwaffe's response was to send an officer to Italy to serve as a contact point between Richthofen and the Luftwaffe staff on issues of Italian aircraft production but little came of this effort. (58) After the surrender of Italy the Luftwaffe seized some Savoia Marchetti SM 82 transports (SM 81 converted bombers) and Fiat G 12s as transport aircraft and by May 1944 the Fourteenth Air Corps had four transport groups equipped with 143 Italian aircraft. (59) By all accounts, Italian aircraft served the Luftwaffe effectively as transports.

The Rumanian Air Force

By 1940-1941, the Rumanians had developed one of the most advanced aviation industries in Eastern Europe. The Rumanian national military strategy was to develop self-sufficiency in armaments production. To this end, three aircraft companies were set up, with government support, in the 1920s and 1930s. IAR, (Industria Aeronautica Romana), which also manufactured aircraft engines, was a state-owned company. SET and ICAR also produced a variety of aircraft. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Rumanians had produced various trainers, observation planes and fighters. Rumania was allied with France in the interwar period and IAR built several French military aircraft under license. More importantly, Rumania obtained the rights to build the Gnome-Rhone 14K engine, which developed over 700 horsepower. During the 1930s the Rumanians would modify and develop the Gnome-Rhone engine as the IAR 14K 1000 A engine, which would attain 1,000 horsepower. (60)

In the late 1930s, the Rumanians developed light bomber-reconnaissance biplanes: the IAR-37, IAR-38 and IAR-39. The Rumanian-designed and built IAR-37 series aircraft were slow and obsolete, even by the standards of the 1930s, but would remain in production until 1944, seeing service first in combat roles and later, as liaison aircraft. In 1938, in order to build up its bomber force, Rumania obtained a license to build redesigned twin-engine versions of the Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM 79 bomber, known as the JRS.79B. The JRS.79Bs turned out to be inferior to the Italian version and, by 1941, was already obsolescent. However, it remained in production until 1944. (61) The greatest accomplishment of the Rumanian aviation industry was the design and production of the IAR 80 righter plane, which first flew in 1939. The IAR 80 was a fairly advanced aircraft powered by a 930 horsepower Rumanian engine. A low-wing metal monoplane with retractable landing gear, the IAR 80 was fairly fast for its time, about three hundred miles per hour. The IAR, however, was lightly-armed, unarmored, and underpowered. By the standards of the Eastern Front in 1941, the IAR 80 was an effective aircraft. It was, nevertheless, inferior to the new Russian fighters by 1942. Since the Rumanians had no reliable source of supply for modern aircraft, the IAR 80 and its variants remained in production until 1944. From 1939 to 1944, approximately 450 IAR 80s were built, making it one of the most numerous Rumanian aircraft. (62)

When Rumania entered the war against Russia in 1941, it fielded an air force of over 400 aircraft. It was an eclectic mix of modern and obsolete aircraft, including not only Rumanian-built and designed aircraft but also Italian, British, German, and French aircraft. The Rumanian air force had also absorbed ninety-three planes of the Polish air force, which had taken refuge in Rumania during the German invasion of 1939. The combat force included IAR 80s, twelve British Hurricanes, thirty-eight British Bristol Blenheim bombers and twenty-one French Potez 63 bombers. (63) The Rumanian air force suffered from deficiencies in training, aircraft armament, communications equipment and ground infrastructure. While potent on paper, it would be hard-pressed to carry out its two primary missions--supporting the Rumanian field army in Russia and air defense of the homeland.

The Rumanian air force was firmly drawn into the German orbit in Fall 1940, when a large Luftwaffe military mission headed by Lt. Gen. Speidel arrived. Speidel's mission was to ensure the air defense of the Rumanian oil fields, vital to the German war effort and to train and reorganize the Rumanian air force. (64) Speidel initially reported directly to the commander of the Luftwaffe and by 1941 the Luftwaffe force in Rumania had grown to approximately 50,000 men, including a reinforced flak division, two flak regiments, one Me 109 fighter group (III/JG 52), and special units for fighting oil fires, and providing ground support and communications, (65) Before the war in the east started, the Luftwaffe had essentially assumed control of Rumanian air defense. The other part of the mission, training the Rumanians, went less smoothly. Rumanian resentment of the Germans was never far below the surface. After all, Rumania, which had been Germany's enemy in World War I, had been overrun and occupied by German troops in 1916. Luftwaffe officers who wanted to visit Rumanian air bases or to observe training were regularly denied access. (66)

When the war broke out in June 1941, relations with the Rumanians improved and the Luftwaffe mission to Rumania came under the command of Luftflotte IV. The two Rumanian army corps in Russia were provided with Luftwaffe liaison officers, who passed information gained from Rumanian reconnaissance and battle reports to Luftflotte IV, and passed Luftwaffe intelligence to the Rumanians. (67) The Rumanian army came under the strategic direction of the German army and several squadrons of the Rumanian air force deployed to Russia and flew in support of the Rumanian army. Generally, the two air forces flew in their respective zones of the front. The Rumanian air force, however, did receive some fuel and support services from Luftflotte IV. (68) As the campaign in Russia progressed, Rumanians flew more often in combined operations with the Germans, at times supporting German troops. In 1942 Field Marshal von Richthofen, commanding Luflflotte IV, reinforced the Luftwaffengruppe Kaucasus with the 20th Rumanian Reconnaissance Squadron and the 43rd Rumanian Fighter Squadron. (69) At the tactical level, co-located German and Rumanian units worked out direct coordination procedures. The Luftwaffe had a group of seaplanes and flying boats stationed on the Black Sea coast for search and rescue and naval patrol. The Rumanian naval air units, equipped with Italian and German seaplanes and flying boats, willingly supported German naval air operations. (70)

The Rumanians were well aware that their own aircraft designs could not hold their own in battle with a major power. In 1939, Rumania requested the rights to build the Me 109 and was turned down. As Rumanian aircraft engines were mostly variations on the Gnome-Rhone 14 cylinder radial and could not be developed to produce more than 1,000 horsepower, Rumania asked the Luftwaffe for rights to build the BMW 801 radial engine that powered the FW 190 fighter--and was turned down again. Even a 1940 request to build the small Fiesler 156 "Storch" was turned down. Only when the war started to turn against Germany did the Reichsluftministerium (Reich Air Ministry) revise its policy and in March 1942 Rumania was granted a license to build the Fiesler "Storch". In November of that year the German air ministry sold the Rumanians the rights to build the Daimler Benz DB 605 engine, which was rated at over 1,400 horsepower. Finally, in 1943, Germany granted the Rumanians a license to build the Me 109, with the first 75 to be assembled in Rumania using German-made components. (71)

All of these licensing agreements came too late in the war to have much of an effect on Rumanian production. The shortage of machine tools in Rumania delayed production of German aircraft and engines. Some Me 109 components were delivered in 1944 but local production broke down and none were assembled before the Rumanian armistice of August 1944. Production of the DB 605 engine was scheduled for 1944 but never began. (72) Although the Fiesler Storch license was granted in May 1942, two years later only 10 had been built. (73) The Rumanians were forced to adapt S in various ways in order to cope with the German policies. When Germany refused Rumania a license to build the Ju 87 in 1939, the Rumanians initiated a program to modify the IAR 80 fighters as dive bombers and fifty of the modified fighters, the IAR 81, were delivered in 1941 and 1942. The IAR 81, not a very good dire bomber, saw service with two squadrons at the front. (74) Only when the Rumanian-German alliance was formalized did the Germans sell the Rumanians some first line aircraft. In 1940-41 the Rumanians received 30 He 111s that became the backbone of their bomber force and enough Ju 87s in 1941 to equip three squadrons. Like the Italians, the Rumanians received the "B" model that was going out of service with Luftwaffe squadrons. (75)

In 1941, Rumania's primary defense force for the oil fields was a squadron of Hawker Hurricanes. Lieutenant General Speidel, chief of the Luftwaffe mission to Rumania, requested that the Reichsluft-ministerium send the Rumanian Air Force the Hurricanes and spare parts that the Luftwaffe had just captured in Yugoslavia. In a letter of July 5, 1941, Speidel noted that the Rumanian Hurricanes had excelled by shooting down 18 Russian bombers attacking the oilfields with no losses to themselves. The Rumanians, Speidel said, needed reinforcement and support for their premier fighter unit and that, as the captured equipment cost Germany nothing, the Hurricanes should be immediately turned over considering the importance of the oilfields. (76) The German Air Ministry held firm to the policy of providing no equipment except for payment. (77) As the war worsened on the Eastern Front, Germany loosened its policy about selling modern equipment to the Rumanians. In 1942, Germany agreed to sell 64 Me 109s to Rumania and in 1943, Germany sold the Rumanians enough Me 109Gs to equip four squadrons. (78) The Rumanian ground attack group was able to replace its ineffective IAR 80 fighter-bombers with Henschel 129B attack aircraft in 1943. (79) That year Ju 88 bombers were sold to Rumania to replace the worn out Bleuheims and SM 79s of its bomber fleet. However, the flow of aircraft to Rummania in 1943 could not replace the heavy attention of the air traits at the front. The Me 109 losses were so heavy in 1943 and 1944 that by 1944 the four Me 109 squadrons had been reduced to one. (80)


Legally speaking, Finland was never a formal ally of Germany during world War II. As a democratic nation, the Finns viewed the Nazi regime with distaste and never signed a formal alliance with Germany. The Finns entered into the war against Russia determined to regain the territory lost to the Soviets during the 1939-1940 Winter War. Finland allowed the Germans to place military units in their territory but refrained from putting Finnish army or air units under German command. Neither did the Germans and Finns ever forma formal command relationship, nor develop a common strategy. German troops in Finland were referred to as "comrades in arms" rather than as "allies."

Finland was important to Germany for its exports of copper, nickel and lumber. Finland also offered strategic advantages to Germany with its proximity to the vital Soviet port of Murmansk and the industrial center of Leningrad. Yet, despite the common strategic interests, the German-Finnish relationship only began after Finland's defeat in the Winter War. Significantly, the earlier Finnish experience with a German alliance had hot been especially positive. German troops had helped the Finns defeat and expel the Soviets from Finland during the war for independence in 1918 but the Germans soon began to act more as occupiers than allies and the Finns were happy to see the German army depart in 1919. (81) In the 1920s, the Finns established the State Aircraft Factory in Tampere. It was a small, modern facility capable of manufacturing small series of foreign designs under license. During the 1920s, the State Aircraft Factory manufactured several French models under license as well as the British Gloucester Gamecock fighter. (82) The aircraft produced at the State Aircraft Factory contributed greatly to the Finnish air strength. In the years before the 1939 Winter War the State Aircraft Factory acquired the rights to build the Dutch Fokker D XXI fighter and the Bristol Blenheim bomber--both fine aircraft for their time. For trainers, the Finns relied on their own designs.

During the Winter War with Russia in 1939-1940 the Finns received considerable aid from the Western powers. Britain, France, Sweden and even Italy donated aircraft and military equipment. Germany remained aloof and refrained from exporting arms to Finland in compliance with the German-Soviet pact of 1939. The small but well trained Finnish Air Force had a superb combat record during the Winter War. With fewer than 200 combat aircraft, the Finns had faced thousands of Soviet aircraft and made 200 confirmed air to air kills for a loss of 67 aircraft. The Finns destroyed another 105 Soviet aircraft on the ground while 314 soviet planes were shot down by flak. (83) At the end of the Winter War, the Finnish Air Force was equipped with a diverse collection of aircraft from Britain (Hawker Hurricanes, Gloster Gladiator fighters, Bristol Blenheim bombers), Italy (Fiat G 50 fighters) and the United States (Brewster 239 fighters). France had donated 30 Morane Saulnier MS 406 fighters and Britain 30 Gloucester Gladiators. A variety of aircraft from the Netherlands, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Germany made up the training, reconnaissance and liaison aircraft. In March 1940 the Finns had 196 combat aircraft (fighters, bombers, reconnaissance). (84) Rearming and enlarging the air force became a high priority for the Finnish high command. Germany was willing to sell the Finns aircraft that had been captured in France and Norway during 1940-41. Germany supplied 44 U.S.-built Curtis Hawk 75 fighters along with 4 Dornier Do 22 Flying boats, 15 Do 17 bombers and 30 Focke Wulf FW 44 Steglitz trainers. (85)

During 1941 and 1942 the Finns bought 57 French Morane Saulnier MS 406s from the German stock of war booty. The MS 406 was one of the mediocre fighters of the day and in the 1940 campaign the plane proved clearly inferior to the Me 109. Although the Finns wanted better equipment they took what they could get. Thus, the MS 406 became one of the primary fighter planes of Finland. In 1943 the State Aircraft Factory embarked on a program to rebuild and redesign the MS 406s in order to maintain an effective fighter force against a Soviet air force that was quickly improving in the quality and quantity of aircraft. Forty MS 406s were modified to accept a larger Soviet Klimov engine, which was readily available from stocks of captured Soviet equipment. The rebuilt MS 406s were delivered in 1944 and were known officially as the Myrsky I and II although the Finns also nicknamed then the Morko-Moranes. As Finland's involvement with the war ended just as the Morko-Moranes were delivered, a combat test of the aircraft was never made. (86) Finland took other measures to ensure self-sufficiency and reduce dependence upon German purchases. For example, Finnish industries were contracted to design and build wooden propellers for their air force rather than rely upon purchasing propellers from Germany. (87)

The Finnish aerial rearmament program after the Winter War was fairly successful, considering the small monetary and industrial resources of the Finns. By June 1941 the Finnish air force had 471 aircraft; approximately half of these were combat aircraft. (88) The Finns were able to design and produce several basic and advanced trainers including the Tuiska (31 made), the Viima I and II (24 made), and the Pyry I and II (41 made). (89) The Finnish air force went to great lengths to maintain as much self-sufficiency as possible. One example is the Fokker D XXI fighter. In 1936 Finland acquired seven of the Fokker D XXI fighters along with a license to manufacture the model. (90) The D XXI was a good fighter by late-1930s standards but was clearly obsolete by 1941. However, with modern combat aircraft difficult to procure and Germany unwilling to provide Me 109s or Me 110s, the Finns kept the D XXI in production and delivered 50 to the air force in 1941. (91) The Finns also built 55 Bristol Blenheim bombers, one of the better medium bombers of its day, under license between 1941 and 1944. (92) The inability of the Finns to produce large aircraft engines led to some exercises in ingenuity to keep the force flying. A shortage of the Mercury engines used by the Blenheims and D XXIs was solved by modifying the D XXIs to take the 825 horsepower Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp engines that could be imported from Sweden. (93)

Finnish-German Cooperation

The Finnish and German air forces conducted combined operations on only a few occasions during the course of World War II. The war waged by the two nations was kept highly separate. In the far north, where the German army advanced on Murmansk, the air operations were conducted by the German Luftflotte 5 with its headquarters in Oslo, Norway. South of Finland, on the Baltic and on the Leningrad Front, the air operations were carried out by the German Luftflotte 1. The Finnish air force operated between the two German air fleets, mostly in southern Finland. Occasionally German and Finnish ground units were intermixed but, in general, it was truly a parallel war.

Marshal Mannerheim, the Finnish commander in chief, repeatedly requested Luftwaffe support for Finnish operations as the Finnish Air Force was usually overtasked with too few aircraft for too much front. However, the Luftwaffe was reluctant to provide support to the Finns because the German air fleets were also stretched thin. Reluctant support was provided by the Luftwaffe for the Finns only after intervention by Mannerheim at the top levels of the German command. (94) Indeed, the only liaison that existed between the two air forces was at the general staff level and no Luftwaffe liaison officers were assigned to the Finnish air groups or army corps. This practice of parallel war resulted in many lost opportunities for an effective use of airpower on the battlefield. One case of non-cooperation that infuriated Marshal Mannerheim was the Luftwaffe's refusal to interdict Russian forces retreating from the Finns by boat across Lake Ladoga in August 1941. The chance to destroy large Russian forces was passed up by the Luftwaffe. (95)

In March 1942 the Finns mounted an air and ground operations to capture islands held by the Russians in the Gulf of Finland. Again, the Finns asked the Luftwaffe for air support and were denied. After Mannerheim intervened with the German headquarters some Luftwaffe assistance was finally provided and the Finnish offensive was successful. (96) One of the primary concerns of the Finnish Air Force was defense of the homeland from Soviet air attack. Helsinki and other Finnish cities had been heavily bombed during the Winter War and the Finns had made strengthening their air defenses a top priority after the conclusion of the first peace with Russia in 1940. The Finns acquired 700 anti-aircraft guns from Germany and built up their fighter force. (97) The Soviets were in no position to bomb the Finnish cities in 1941 but by 1942, a revitalized Soviet air force was able to mount increasingly larger bombing raids against Helsinki and other cities. (98) The Soviet air attacks were severe enough that Mannerheim appealed directly to Goering and the Luftwaffe staff for radar equipment to protect the Finnish cities. (99) The Finnish demand, coupled with a realistic fear that the Finnish resolve to continue the war was weakening, convinced the Luftwaffe to supply the necessary equipment to the Finns. The Finnish air force commander, General Lundquist, visited Goering and the Luftwaffe staff in Berlin in January 1943 and won a German commitment to supply the Finns with radar as well as with Me 109G fighter planes to replace the worn out and obsolete Brewster Buffaloes and Fokker fighters. (100)

Between March 1943 and August 1944, the Reichsluftministerium sent 162 Me 109s to the Finnish Air Force, enough aircraft to fully equip more than two squadrons and assure replacement aircraft. (101) Twenty-four Ju 88s were provided in 1943 to reequip the Finnish bomber units. (102) The infusion of new material revitalized the Finnish Air Force, which was having an increasingly difficult time facing a larger and better-equipped Red Air Force with its collection of old Moranes, Fokkers and Brewsters. The combat record of the Finns as they faced overwhelming odds in 1943 and 1944 is impressive. The Finnish Me 109 squadrons destroyed 663 Soviet aircraft against combat losses of 27 aircraft. (103) Only in 1944 did the Luftwaffe make a significant attempt to support the hard-pressed Finnish air force. From June to August 1944 an experienced Luftwaffe ground attack force of 23 Ju 87s and 23 FW 190s was deployed to the Finnish front in Karelia to support the Finnish army which was facing a massive Soviet offensive. The Luftwaffe's "Battle Group Kuhlmey" provided valuable support to the Finns by interdicting and destroying whole Soviet motorized columns. (104) However, even at this late stage of German-Finnish relations the two air forces would not fly together. Only once did the Finns provide fighter cover for a Luftwaffe operation. (105) Yet, even successful air operations could not hold off the Soviet ground forces and in September 1944 the Finns concluded a separate peace with the Russians and expelled the Germans from their country.


After World War I, Hungary was virtually disarmed by the Allied powers and, like Germany, was net allowed to have an air force. However, during the 1920s, Hungary developed a small aircraft industry capable of producing light civilian aircraft and trainers. When Hungary began to rearm in the mid-1930s the government planned to build an air force by purchasing the best available foreign aircraft. An important consideration was the possibility of licensed aircraft production by Hungarian firms. A Hungarian Defense Ministry delegation visited the Reichsluftministerium in 1935 to discuss aircraft purchases. When the Germans offered to sell the Heinkel He 51 fighter, a thoroughly mediocre aircraft already being pulled from Luftwaffe service, the Hungarians sensibly declined. However, the Hungarians concluded a deal to buy 67 Junkers Ju 86 bombers--a good aircraft but also seen by the Germans as approaching obsolescence. Unhappy with the German Air Ministry's attitude towards sales, the Hungarians turned to Italy to obtain fighter planes. In 1936 the Royal Hungarian Air Force (RHAF) ordered more than 70 Fiat CR 32 biplane fighters. The CR 32 was a good aircraft for its time but, like the Ju 86, it was verging on obsolete when delivered. (106) Eager to build up their air force, the Hungarians bought a large number of short and long-range reconnaissance aircraft from Germany before the outbreak of the war. In 1936 the RHAF bought 36 Heinkel He 46 tactical reconnaissance planes. Some He 45 tactical observation biplanes and 18 Heinkel He 70 long-range reconnaissance aircraft were also ordered in 1936. (107) None of these aircraft were considered first-line Luftwaffe material when sold.

Faced with the German reluctance to sell current fighter and bomber models the RHAF turned to Italy. The RHAF began receiving the Fiat CR 42 fighter in 1939 and ordered 36 Caproni Ca 310 light bombers in 1938. Given the competition with Italy, in 1939 the German Air Ministry finally allowed the sale of more modern equipment to Hungary. The Hungarians ordered 16 Heinkel He 112 fighters and the defense ministry wanted to purchase the rights to manufacture the plane but the Germans declined the offer. (108) Again, Hungary turned to Italy in order to obtain a modern fighter for licensed production and in 1939 concluded a deal to buy 70 Reggiane RE 2000 fighters and to build the model in Hungary. Production of the Hungarian version, known as the Heja (Hawk) began late in 1941. The Hejas were adapted to take Hungarian-made K-14 Gnome-Rhone radial engines. (109) The RE 2000 was essentially an Italian copy of the American Seversky P-35 with a maximum speed of 329 mph and an armament of two machine guns. By the standards of 1939 it was an acceptable combat plane but the Heja was limited by the light armament and the lack of engine power. None of the engines available to the Italians or Hungarians could provide more than 1,000 horsepower. By the time the Heja went into combat in 1941, it was underpowered and under-armed compared to the average contemporary fighter. (110)

The Manfred Weiss Company was the primary producer of aircraft in Hungary and during the 1930s the company obtained the rights to manufacture French Gnome-Rhone engines. The Hungarians developed and manufactured some light civilian aircraft as well as a few military aircraft. A series of trainers, including the Levente, a high-wing monoplane, was developed in Hungary but production capacity was very small and only 70-80 Leventes were built. (111) The only combat aircraft to be designed and manufactured in Hungary was the WM 21 reconnaissance plane/light bomber and the WM 21 was unimpressive even by the standards of the 1930s. The WM 21 was made by the Manfred Weiss Company in Budapest as well as the MAVAG (Hungarian Rail Coach and Machinery) factory in Gyor. Production of the WM 21 began in 1939 and 128 were delivered by 1942. (112) The Hungarian aircraft firms also modified foreign aircraft, such as the He 70, to take Hungarian-built engines.

When Hungary allied itself with Germany for the war against Russia, the Germans finally granted the Hungarians permission to build late-model Luftwaffe aircraft. In 1941 the Hungarians bought the rights to build the Focke Wulf FW 58 as a twin-engine bomber/trainer. The most important production agreements reached were licenses to build the Me 109 fighter and the Me 210 fighter-bomber. In 1941 the Hungarian defense ministry concluded a deal with the German air ministry to build the Me 109 at the MAVAG plant. At first the Hungarians would produce the fuselage and landing gear while the Germans provided engines, radios, armament and instruments and eventually all components of the Me 109 would be made in Hungary. (113) In June the Hungarians agreed to build the Me 210, the Luftwaffe's replacement for the Me 110. (114) The Me 109 and Me 210 agreements 0 stipulated that most aircraft built under license in Hungary were to be delivered to the Luftwaffe with the Hungarians retaining approximately one-third of production for the RHAF. Other licensing agreements were concluded, including a program to build Ju 52 transports at the PIRT factory in Budapest. (115) Me 109 production began in late 1942 and by late 1944 approximately 800 had been built in Hungary although production was disrupted by U.S. AAF bombing raids in 1944. In addition to the Me 109, the Hungarian firms built 27 Ju 52s, 271 Me 210s and 70 FW 58 trainers. (116) Total production of Hungarian and licensed foreign aircraft during the war was 1,556. It took a long time for Hungary to achieve serial production of any aircraft. Of the military aircraft produced, 960 were manufactured in 1944:213 Me 210s, 720 Me 109s, and 27 Ju 52s.

Given its small size and lack of experience at the start of the war, the Hungarian aircraft industry did a credible job of producing airplanes from 1941 to 1944. The Hungarians built 128 WM 21 reconnaissance bombers and 87 indigenous trainers during the war and 180 RE 2000s in 1942-1943 although there were constant production problems. For example, due to the difficulty of redesigning the RE 2000 to accept Hungarian engines and adapting an Italian design for Hungarian-made, guns, radios and landing gear, the first Heja did not come off the assembly line until three years after the licensing agreement had been ratified. (117) By the time the Hejas were in full production, the aircraft was already obsolete.

During 1941, the RHAF's primary mission was to support the army corps that Hungary committed to the Russian campaign. With its RE 2000 and Fiat CR 42 fighters, W 21 reconnaissance planes and its Ju 86 and Ca 135 bombers, it was a weak and obsolete force. However, the RHAF performed adequately in the first year of the war as the Soviet Air Force also had mostly obsolete aircraft and in 1941 the RHAF managed to shoot down most of the Soviet aircraft that it encountered.

After the start of the war, the RHAF received a few modern German aircraft such as Do 17 bombers and He 111s for long-range reconnaissance. In 1942 the air battle intensified when the Hungarians committed their Second Army to the campaign in Southern Russia. By late 1942, the RHAF no longer faced a weak Soviet air force. With the enemy air force growing stronger, reequipping the RHAF became an urgent matter. During 1943 the RHAF received JU 87s, Me 109s and Ju 88s from Germany and was able to send its surviving WM 21s, CR 42s and Hejas back to Hungary to serve as trainers or in the air defense role. By the Spring of 1944 the American bombing offensive reached Hungary and the RHAF did what it could to oppose the American onslaught. Me 109s, Me 210s and even the hopelessly obsolete Hejas were thrown into the battle against the U.S. bombers and their escorts. (118)

The last stages of the war were a hopeless struggle for the RHAF. In April 1944, the Germans occupied Hungary in response to Hungarian attempts to negotiate a separate peace. The RHAF came under German command for the rest of the war and was quickly decimated in the attrition battle against the U.S. bomber offensive. The attrition was far worse than had been experienced in the worst days in Russia. On one day in June, 1944 28 RHAF fighters attacked the U.S. bombers and escorts for the loss of 13 fighters and rive pilots killed. (119) In the end, there was little that the RHAF could do. By late 1944, it was an ineffectual force.


The Luftwaffe's relationship with its coalition allies illustrates the lack of any coherent strategic vision or ability to plan for a long war. All of Germany's allied air forces performed well with the resources they had, although they entered into the war with air forces composed of mostly obsolete aircraft and weak infrastructures. For Finland, Hungary and Rumania, flying on the Eastern Front, their generally obsolete aircraft sufficed for the first year and a half of the Russian campaign when the Red Air Force was weak. The Italian Air Force, flying mostly in the Mediterranean, was outclassed from the start. In 1941, the Luftwaffe took over the brunt of the air war in that theater and the large, but poorly-equipped Regia Aeronautica, was generally relegated to secondary missions.

Germany's allies had a considerable potential for aircraft production that the Luftwaffe high command never seriously considered using. Rumania produced fewer than 1,000 aircraft from 1941-1944 and its primary aircraft factory was underutilized. Italy, which started the war with one of the world's largest air forces, produced only 13,253 aircraft from 1939-1943. (120) In its best year, 1941, the Italians managed to manufacture only 3,503 aircraft--about what the British aviation industry could make in a month. (121) The problem for all of Germany's allies was a lack of machine tools and technical assistance. The Italian, Rumanian and Hungarian programs to license-build German engines were slow to get started and suffered from low production due to a lack of machine tools, capital and technical assistance--all things that the German Air Ministry could have provided fairly easily. By means of comparison, one can look at Canada's aircraft production during World War II. In 1939 Canada had a minuscule aircraft industry which produced 60 light military aircraft that year. With a massive infusion of British and American capital and technical assistance, Canada became a major aircraft producer by 1942 when 3,622 aircraft were manufactured (more than Italy that year). The Canadian aircraft companies mass-produced a variety of American and British aircraft to include thousands of trainers but also Lancaster and Mosquito bombers, Hurricane fighters and Helldivers for the U.S. Navy. In 1939, Canada had no means to produce large aircraft engines, propellers or instruments. By the middle of the war, aircraft built in Canada had all Canadian manufactured components. Canadian military aircraft production from 1939 to 1945 totaled 15,828. (122) Rummania and Italy both started the war with larger aircraft industries than Canada. With a small amount of German assistance, those countries could have easily doubled or tripled their aircraft production.

It is notable that the Luftwaffe paid little attention to the state of its allied air forces before 1942 and 1943 when the war situation began to obviously deteriorate. Licensing agreements were finally forthcoming but had little effect. Only in 1943 when the political will of its allies started to collapse did the Luftwaffe find supplies of modern aircraft to ship to its allies. As with the licensing agreements, the shipments of Me 109s and Ju 88s to allied nations were too small and applied too late to reverse the downward trend.

Germany's allied air forces consistently fought well. Rumanian units flew direct support for the German army and Hungarian and Rumanian air force units aggressively defended their homeland against Allied bombers. The Finns put up probably the best sustained performance of any small air force in history. Armed with a small number of mostly obsolete aircraft, the Finns accounted for thousands of Soviet aircraft, Even the Italian air force did well considering its equipment and infrastructure. The German Air Ministry's relationship with its allied air forces illustrates the "short war" mentality that prevailed in the German leadership until the debacle at Stalingrad. The relationship with the German allies indicates that the Luftwaffe leadership was obsessed with fighting a 'war on the cheap". Actions such as selling obsolete captured aircraft to German allies for a high price as well as a reluctance to share technology such as radar contributed to an attitude of distrust among Germany's partners. Reichsmarshal Goering and State Secretary Erhard Milch seem to have been oblivious to any requirement to maintain cordial relations with coalition partners. This level of distrust helped push Germany's allies into maintaining production lines of locally-designed aircraft or obsolete licensed aircraft rather than accept too much German control or influence in their defense industries.

The Luftwaffe's greatest problem from 1941 on was a severe shortage of pilots. Although Germany's coalition partners represented a reserve of thousands of trained pilots, the Reichsluftministerium demonstrated little interest in exploiting this valuable resource. If coalition air forces had been equipped with first line German equipment early in the war, it would have made a major difference in the Mediterranean and Russian theaters. One need only to look at the very effective use of aviation manpower of the Western powers in which Free French and Polish pilots along with thousands of British Commonwealth pilots were organized into units and flew into battle with the first rate British and Americans equipment.

In summary, the relationship of the Luftwaffe with Germany's coalition partners indicates not only the lack of a strategic vision in the Luftwaffe's senior leadership but also a lack of understanding of basic economics. The Luftwaffe's operational commanders at the front, men like Speidel and von Richthofen, consistently argued for better relations with Germany's partners. The Air Ministry was urged to consider purchases of suitable foreign aircraft, such as some Italian aircraft that met Luftwaffe requirements admirably, and to provide more support to the coalition partners in the form of equipment and infrastructure. The Luftwaffe's senior leadership repeatedly ignored such advice. In ignoring the combat potential of its allied air forces, the German Air Ministry committed a huge strategic error. Given the nature of the Nazi regime and mentality, it was a case of arrogance and ideology that overrode common sense.


(1.) Mark Conversino, Fighting with the Soviets, (Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, 1996). Henry Probert, The Forgotten Air War, (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 1994).

(2.) For the best general overview of the Luftwaffe's relations with its allies see R.J. Overy, "The Luftwaffe and the European Economy 1939-1945" Militargeschichtliehes Mitteilungen, No. 21 (1979), 55-78. This article provides information about the aircraft production of Germany's allies. However, the main thrust of the article is about the Luftwaffe's use of captured industrial assets. Another useful article on this subject is Richard DiNardo, "The Dysfunctional Coalition: The Axis Powers and the Eastern Front in World War II," Journal of Military History (Oct. 1996), 711-30. DiNardo discusses the German coalition command relationships in detail but his emphasis is on ground operations.

(3.) Hans-Georg Model, Der deutsche Generalstabsoffizier, (Frankfurt a.M.: Bernard und Graefe Verlag, 1968), pp. 105-7.

(4.) See James Corum, The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War 1918-1940, (Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, 1997), pp. 253-54.

(5.) On German-Hungarian economic relations see Mario Fenyo, Hitler, Horthy and Hungary: German Hungarian Relations, 1941-1944, (New Haven, Conn.:Yale University Press, 1972) 93-95. In 1937 Hungary produced 13.3 % of the world's bauxite and in 1942 exported 962,123 tons to Germany. See Fenyo, p. 92.

(6.) For a good overview of the Mitteleuropa concept and German strategy see Gerhard Schreiber, "Political and Military Developments in the Mediterranean Area, 1939-1940", 5-302 and "Germany, Italy and South-East Europe: From Political and Economic hegemony to Military Aggression", 302-448 in Germany and the Second World War, vol. 3, ed. Militargeschichtliches Forschungsamt, (Oxford: Clarendon Press , 1995). The influence of Germany on the Hungarian economy grew steadily through the 1930s. In 1937 54% of Hungary's exports went to Germany, Austria, and Italy. By 1939 the percentage of both imports and exports to Germany exceeded fifty percent. See Fenyo p. 82.

(7.) See Martin Thomas, "To Arm an Ally: French Arms Sales to Romania, 1926-1940," Journal of Strategic Studies, vol. 19, no. 2 (June 1996) 231-59.

(8.) Maj. Gen Burkhart Mueller-Hillebrand, Germany and Her Allies in World War II: A Record of Axis Collaboration Problems, parts I and II, Historical Division, U.S. Army Europe (1954). reprinted in World War H German Military Studies, vol. 20, (New York: Garland Publishing, 1979), part I, p. 102.

(9.) On the German Air Ministry policy of restricting sales to the Central European nations, see Edward Homze, Arming the Luftwaffe, (Lincoln, Neb.:University of Nebraska Press, 1976), pp. 205-8.

(10.) William Green, Warplanes of the Third Reich, (New York: Galahad Books, 1970), p. 271.

(11) Ibid., p. 314.

(12.) Mark Axworthy, "On Three Fronts: Rumania's Aircraft Industry During World War II, Air Enthusiast, Issue 56 (Winter 1994) 15.

(13.) Walter Ansel, Hitler and the Middle Sea, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1972), p. 14.

(14.) A good overview of the command arrangements in the Mediterranean is found in Gen. Henmuth Felmy, Die Deutsche Luftwaffe auf dem Mittelmeer-Kriegsschauplatz, in US Air Force Historical Research Agency Doc. K 113.106-161 (1956).

(15.) See Malcolm Muggeridge, ed., "Conversation with Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, 2 June 1941" in Ciano's Diplomatic Papers, (London: Odhams Press, 1948), pp. 441-42.

(16.) Maj. Gen Burkhart Muelleir-Hillebrand, Germany and Her Allies in World War H, part I, p. 114.

(17.) For a good overview of the state of the Italian armed forces in 1939-1940, see MacGregor Knox, "The Italian Armed Forces, 1940-3," in Military Effectiveness, vol. 3, eds. Allan Millet and Williamson Murray, (Boston, Mass.: Unwin-Hyman, 1988), pp.136-79.

(18.) Schreiber, p. 83.

(19.) Jonathan Thompson, Italian Civil and Military Aircraft 1930-1945, (Los Angeles, Calif.: Aero Publishers, 1963), p. 150.

(20.) Ibid., p. 149.

(21.) Ibid., pp. 167-69, 183-84.

(22.) Ibid., p. 271.

(23.) The Italians sent 80 BR 20 bombers to Belgium in 1940 to take part in the Battle of Britain. In fewer than 300 hours of combat missions, the Italian air corps lost more than 20 BR 20s. Its slow speed and poor armament made it very easy prey for defending British fighters and flak. See Enzi Angelica and Paolo Matricardi, Combat Aircraft of World War II 1938-1939, (New York: Orion Books, 1987) p. 38.

(24.) Ibid., pp. 265-69.

(25.) C.G. Grey and Leonard Bridgman, eds. Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1940, (London: Low Marston and Co., 1941).

(26.) Philip Jarrett, ed., Aircraft of the Second World War: The Development of the Warplane 1939-1945, (London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1997) pp. 19-20.

(27.) Ibid, p. 19.

(28.) Thompson, p. 38.

(29.) Peter Smith, Into the Assault, (Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1985) p. 65.

(30.) Schreiber, p. 82.

(31.) Chef des Generalstab der Luftwaffe, Gedanken zur Luftlage in Europe (early 1939), in US Air Force Historical Research Agency K113.3111, vol. II, p. 34.

(32.) Ibid.

(33.) Bernd Stegemann, "The Italian-German Conduct of the War in the Mediterranean and North Africa," in Germany and the Second World War, vol. II, ed. Militargeschichtliches Forschungsamt, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995) p. 646.

(34.) Stegemann, p. 688.

(35.) Ibid., p. 659.

(36.) Mueller-Hillebrand, part II, pp. 35-36.

(37.) The best overview of German and Italian air operations in the Mediterranean is Karl Gundelach, Die deutsche Luftwaffe ira Mittelmeer 1940-1945, Vols. 1 and 2, (Frankfurt a.M.: Peter Lang, 1981).

(38.) Peter Smith, The Stuka at War, (New York: Arco Publishing, 1971), pp. 80-82.

(39.) Mueller-Hillebrand, pp. 68-69.

(40.) The Macchi MC 202 had a top speed of 372 mph. and was highly maneuverable. See Enxo Angelucci and Paolo Matricardi, Combat Aircraft of World War H 1940-1941, vol. IV, (New York: Orion Books, 1988), p. 56.

(41.) General Paul Deichmann, ed. Die deutsche Luftwaffe in Italien, Monograph, April 1956. U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency Doc. K113.310-8 1943-1945 Kapitel 1, 25.

(42.) Ibid., part II, p. 7.

(43.) Thompson, p. 299.

(44.) Mueller-Hillebrand, part II, p. 35.

(45.) Ibid., pp. 35-36

(46.) Lucio Ceva and Andrea Curami, "Luftstreitkrafte und Luftfahrtindustrie in Italien, 1936-1943," in Luftkriegfuhrung im Zweiten Weltkrieg, ed. Horst Boog, (Herford: E.S. Mittler, 1993), pp. 113-36.

(47.) Philip Jarrett, ed., Aircraft of the Second World War: The Development of the Warplane 1939-45, (London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1997), p. 21.

(48.) William Green, Famous Fighters of the Second World War, vol. II, (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, 1962), p. 54.

(49.) Ibid., p. 57.

(50.) Ibid.

(51.) Enzo Angelucci and Paolo Matricardi, Combat Aircraft of World War II 1940-1941, vol. IV, p. 56. 52. William Green, Famous Fighters of the Second World War, vol. II, p. 59.

(53.) Ibid., p. 58.

(54.) Ibid.

(55.) Ibid., p. 59.

(56.) Generalluftzeugmeister, Amtschefsbesprechung (13 April 1943), in US Air Force Historical Research Agency K 113.82, vol. III, 4. On the Caproni Ca 310 see also David Donald, ed., The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1997), pp. 231-32.

(57.) Donald, 231-232.

(58.) GL, Amtsbesprechung (18 January 1944), in US Air Force Historical Research Agency K113.82, vol. III, 3.

(59.) Ibid.

(60.) Alfred Price, The Luftwaffe Data Book, (London: Greenhill Books, 1997), pp. 127-28.

(61.) For the best overview of the Rumanian aircraft industry, see Mark Axworthy, On Three Fronts," pp. 8, 9.

(62.) Ibid., pp. 10-11, 21-22.

(63.) Ibid., pp. 114-20.

(64.) Martin Thomas, "To Arm an Ally: French Arms Sales to Rumania, 1926-1940," Journal of Strategic Studies (June 1996) p. 252.

(65.) General der Flieger a.d. Hellmuth Felmy, Die Deutsche Luftwaffe auf dem Mittelmeer-Kriegsschauplatz (1956), in US Air Force Historical Research Agency K 113.106-161, 36.

(66.) Ibid.

(67.) Mueller-Hillebrand, part II, p. 169.

(68.) Ibid., p. 164.

(69.) Joel Hayward: Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East, 1942-1943, (Lawrence, Kans.:University Press of Kansas, 1998), p. 248.

(70.) See Bezw. Kuban, Erfolge der Luftwaffengruppe Kaukasus (25 November 1942 to 6 February 1943), in BA/MA RL 8/59.

(71.) For a history of this subject see J.L. Roba and C. Craciunoiu, Seaplanes Over the Black Sea: German-Romanian Operations 1941-1944, (Bucharest: Editura Modelism, 1995).

(72.) Ibid., pp. 9,20.

(73.) Ibid., p. 14.

(74.) Ibid., p. 12.

(75.) Ibid., p. 15.

(76.) William Green, Warplanes of the Third Reich, p. 432.

(77.) Lt. Gen. Speidel, Letter to General Luftzeugmeister (5 July 1941), in NARAT 405, Reel 49.

(78.) Reichsmarschal Goering, Letter to Lt. Gen. Speidel (13 May 1942), in NARAT 405, Reel 55.

(79.) Green, Warplanes of the Third Reich, pp. 548 and 565.

(89.) Mark Axworthy, "On Three Fronts," p. 14.

(81.) Green, pp. 439, 565.

(82.) Richard Watt, The Kings Depart, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968), p. 381.

(83.) Christopher Shores, The Finnish Air Force 1918-1968, (New York: Arco Press, 1969), pp. 5-6.

(84.) Ibid., p. 7.

(85.) Ibid., p. 2.

(86.) Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman et al., Suomen Ilmavoimien Lentokoneet 1939-72, (Helsinki: Tietoteos, 1975), pp. 117-19.

(87.) Shores, pp. 11-14.

(88.) Ing. E. Wegelius, "Entwicklung van Schichtholz-Luftschrauben in Finnland," in Deutsche Luftwacht; Luftwesen, Band 10 (October 1943) pp. 273-79.

(89.) Ibid., p. 9.

(90.) Kalevi Keskinen, et al, p. 199.

(91.) Ibid., 117.

(92.) Shores, p. 8.

(93.) Kalevi Keskinen, et al., p. 118.

(94.) Shores, 8.

(95.) Mueller-Hillebrand, part II, pp. 113-14.

(96.) Ibid., p. 114.

(97.) Ibid., pp. 114-15.

(98.) The Germans sold the Finns 700 Bofors 37mm antiaircraft guns that they had captured from the Poles in the 1939 campaign. See Mueller-Hillebrand, part II, p. 110.

(99.) Waldemar Erfurt, Der Finnische Krieg 1941-1944 (Wiesbaden: Limes Verlag, 1950), p. 104-105.

(100.) Ibid., p. 134.

(101.) Ibid., p. 147.

(102.) Kalevi Keskinen, et al., p. 117.

(103.) Ibid., p. 118.

(104.) Kari Stenman, "Finland's Front Line," in Air Enthusiast, Issue 50 (1993), p. 59.

(105.) Kari Stenman, "The Short Saga of Battle Unit Kuhlmey,"Air Enthusiast, Issue 37 (1987), pp. 1-6.

(106.) Ibid., pp. 5-6.

(107.) George Punka, Hungarian Air Force, (Carrolton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1994), pp. 20, 35.

(108.) Ibid., pp. 44 and 48-49.

(109.) Ibid., pp. 20-21.

(110.) William Green and Gordon Swanborough, "RE 2000: The State of the Art Reggiane," in Air Enthusiast, Issue 41 (1989), pp. 54-69. See also Chris Szabo, "Hungary's Hawk: The Story of the Heja Fighter," Air Enthusiast, Issue 71 (Sept/Oct. 1997), pp. 36-41.

(111.) Green and Swanborough, pp. 55-66.

(112.) Punka, p. 54.

(113.) Ibid., pp. 48-49.

(114.) Ibid., pp. 21-22.

(115.) Ibid., p 41.

(116.) Ibid., p. 61.

(117.) Figures from George Punka, Hungarian Air Force.

(118.) Ibid., pp. 67-68

(119.) Chris Szabo, "Hungary's Hawk," p. 41.

(120.) Punka, p.15.

(121.) Schreiber, p. 82.

(122.) Ibid. Sec also R. J. Overy, The Air War 1939-1945, (Chelsea, MI: Scarborough House, 1980), pp. 40-42.

(123.) Figures drawn from K.M. Molson and H.A. Taylor, Canadian Aircraft Since 1909, (London: Putnam, 1982).

James S. Corum is professor of comparative military studies at the USAF School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Dr. Corum holds graduate degrees from Brown and Oxford Universities and a Ph.D. in history from Queen's University, Canada. He teaches air power history and low intensity conflict courses and is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve where he is on the faculty of the Army War College. His publications include: The Roots of Blitzkrieg: Hans von Seeckt and German Military Reform (University Press of Kansas, 1992), The Luftwaffe: Creating the Operational Air War, 1918-1940 (University Press of Kansas, 1997) and his latest book, with Wray Johnson, Airpower in Small Wars, (University Press of Kansas, 2003). Dr. Corum's articles have appeared in Air Power History, Airpower Journal, The Journal of Military History, and the Journal of Strategic Studies.
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