The Luftwaffe’s airlift capability emerged almost by accident. Influenced by the airpower concepts of Giulio Douhet—the famous strategic bombing theorist—it was believed a country’s bomber force could be developed from its fleet of domestic airliners.
Germany’s Ju 52 became a widespread international airliner in the 1930s, so it seemed logical to use this durable and widely-produced aircraft as a bomber. Service in the Spanish Civil War revealed the Ju-52s limitations in this role, although they were handy to have around.
When World War II began in September 1939, the Luftwaffe had 550 of them. Lufthansa, the Reich’s national airline, possessed another 200. The Luftwaffe would gradually acquire these airliners for war duties; all were in military service by 1944.