Flak 88 in 25 Images


One of the most fearsome and reliable weapons of the Second World War came in the form of a German anti-aircraft gun whose very name struck fear into the hearts of Allied bombers.

The legendary 8.8 cm Flak, better known by its field name Flak 88, first entered service in 1936. It was based on a prior design that dated back to the First World War.

Although the gun itself was produced in several generations prior to and during WWII, the basis stayed the same ― an easily recognizable long barrel on a cruciform mount, firing 88 mm shells at both aerial and ground targets.

World War I Commonwealth troops with a captured, German 8.8 cm Flak 16 anti-aircraft cannon, August 1918

Usually placed on a four wheeled carriage during transport, the gun was easy to set up in less than two-and-a-half minutes. Additionally, the gun could still serve as a powerful anti-tank weapon even while in transport mode.

The success rate of the Flak 88 against armored units led to further development and adaptation by Rheinmetall, which finally resulted in using the gun as the main armament of the Tiger I tank in 1941.

88 being emplaced, with both bogies already detached.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-724-0135-16 / Briecke / CC-BY-SA 3.0

From that point on, the Flak 88 reigned supreme. Even as it protected the skies over the Reich, it also became the trademark of one of the most successful tank designs of the war.

Also, the gun influenced the designs of two more highly successful anti-tank platforms ― the PaK 43 and KwK 43. The former was adapted for vehicles such as the Elefant and Jagdpanther tank destroyers, while the latter provided firepower for the Tiger II.

North Africa, towed behind a SdKfz 7, with its side outriggers lifted for transport visible behind the gun shield.Photo: Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-783-0109-19 CC BY-SA 3.0

As for its anti-aircraft use, the Flak 88 had an effective firing range of up to 26,240 ft (8,000 m) into the air, jeopardizing even the highest-flying bombers of the Allied air forces.

In total more than 21,310 units were produced in the period between 1933-1945, not counting the ones that were integrated as the main armament of the Tiger I.

An 88 mm gun in a direct fire role, USSR, 1942.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B21685 / Lachmann / CC-BY-SA 3.0

According to Paul Fussell, Jr., an American cultural and literary historian who had been a serviceman during WWII, “[The American soldiers] knew that the greatest single weapon of the war, the atomic bomb excepted, was the German 88 mm flat-trajectory gun, which brought down thousands of bombers and tens of thousands of soldiers. The Allies had nothing as good.”

This was the extent of the Flak 88’s infamy among the Allies. However, the tides of war were changing in late 1943 and 1944, and by spring 1945, there wasn’t a gun in the world that could prevent the demise of the Third Reich.

An “old type” (they were rechangeable) barrel on a Flak 36 cruciform mount. At the Imperial War Museum London.Photo: Hal9001 CC BY-SA 3.0


88 mm battery FlaK, the deadly German anti-aircraft pieces used with considerable success even for anti-tank shooting. Notice the white stripes on the cannon in the foreground, indicating the number of planes and destroyed enemy tanks.


8,8 cm Flugabwehrkanone (FlaK) 37 L 56 on display at the Deutsches Panzermuseum Munster , Germany.Photo: baku13 CC BY-SA 3.0


8,8cm-antiaircraft battery in Berlin with gunner and loader on the gun 1944


8,8cm-antiaircraft battery in Berlin-Karow, entrenchments (1943)


8.8 cm High-explosive shell.Photo: BrokenSphere CC BY-SA 3.0


88 with crew, France, 1944.Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-496-3469-24 Zwirner CC-BY-SA 3.0


A burnt out German 88 mm FlaK 36 gun and its SdKfz 8 half track near El Alamein, Egypt.


A damaged muzzle brake of a German 88mm gun, located in one of “Utah” Beach’s gun emplacements. Photographed on 15 September 1944, more than three months after U.S. troops landed there on “D-Day”


A German 88 mm FlaK 36 gun which had been used as a tank attack weapon near El Aqqaqir, Egypt. The whole crew were killed and were found buried alongside the gun.


A German 88 mm Flak 36 near Moutn Vesuvius, Italy, in 1942.
An 8.8cm on display at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Great Britain.Photo: John CC BY 3.0


Captured German 88-MM Dual Purpose Gun.


Flak 18 gun in position at Bir Hakeim, North Africa, June 1942.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-443-1574-26 Zwilling, Ernst A. CC-BY-SA 3.0


Flak battery in firing position, Germany, 1943.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-635-3999-24 Walther CC-BY-SA 3.0


In the Panzergrenadieren “Greater Germany” UBz .- Training on the Vierlingsflak, a weapon that is used because of their strong combined fire effect, for air and earth targets.Photo: Schwahn CC BY-SA 4.0


Loading the Gun. Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-496-3491-36 Röder CC-BY-SA 3.0


Manhandling an 88 on the Russian front.Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-724-0135-13 Briecke CC-BY-SA 3.0

Read another story from us: Unstoppable! – Soldier Eliminates 2 German MG nests, Mortar team, Sniper and 88mm Gun

The PaK 43 41 used an intermediate split-trail mount with gun shield, instead of the cruciform mount.Photo: Balcer CC BY 2.5
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