Monday, November 24, 2008

Generalleutnant Adolf Galland 1912-1996

Adolf “Dolfo” Galland was born on 19 March 1912 at Westerholt, Westphalia. At the age of 17 he started flying gliders. He began flying for Lufthansa after graduating from the German Commercial Air Transport School at Brunswick. This was at a time when the German Air Arm was created, following Hitler's rise to power, and students were sent clandestinely to the Soviet Union and Italy. In February 1934, he joined the Luftwaffe, an accomplished pilot and instructor, at the Fighter Pilot School at Munich-Schleissheim. By April 1935 he was a fighter pilot with Jagdgeschwader 2 “Richtofen”. In 1937, he volunteered for service with the Condor Legion in Spain. Galland was put in command of 3 Staffel of J/88, equipped with the Heinkel He-51 biplanes, which were used in the ground attack and support role. He distinguished himself, especially on the Asturias, Teruel and Ebro fronts, completing 280 combat sorties before being relieved by Werner Mölders in mid-1938. He had met Mölders in the hotel "Cristina" where they were billeted, and they were to become firm friends. Galland’s many original contributions to ground support techniques brought him to the attention of the Luftwaffe High Command. However, his reward for the innovative work in Spain was flying a desk in the Air Ministry working out directives for the organisation of close support units and the training of fighter pilots in direct support operations. When World War 2 broke out Oberleutnant Galland was a Staffelkapitän of 4.(S)/LG 2 equipped with the Henschel Hs 123, a biplane Stuka. He took part in the invasion of Poland flying 50 ground attack missions. Galland was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class for his efforts. Galland was posted away to JG 27 at Krefeld, arriving there on 15 February 1940. He was assigned to the Geschwaderstab and assumed the role of Geschwader Adjutant. On 12 May, west of Liege, Belgium, he scored his first aerial victory. Two more victories followed that day. All three victims were RAF Hurricanes. By the end of the French campaign he had accumulated 14 victories. On 6 June 1940, Hauptmann Galland was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 26. Promoted Major on 18 July, Galland stayed with III./JG 26 through the Battle of Britain.

On 24 July, Galland led III./JG 26 over the north coast of the Thames Estuary. Here they engaged Spitfires and Galland was able to shoot one down to the north of Margate. He had shot down the British ace P/O “Johnny” Allen (7.333 confirmed and 5 unconfirmed destroyed victories) of 56 Sqn, RAF, who was killed in the crash-landing that followed this combat. On 28 July, RAF fighters were scrambled to intercept a large German bomber formation headed for Dover. When confronted by the RAF fighters, the German bomber formation promptly headed for home. The RAF fighters were thus left to combat the escorting German fighters of I. and II./JG 51 and III./JG 26. Galland claimed a Spitfire shot down near Dover for his 17th victory. He had shot down another British ace, Sub-Lt Francis Dawson-Paul (7.25 confirmed and 1 unconfirmed destroyed and 1 damaged victories), a Royal Navy pilot on loan to the RAF. Dawson-Paul was shot down into the Channel where he was picked up by a German E-boat, but he died from the wounds received in this combat on 30 July. Galland was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 1 August for 17 victories. It is thought he again shot down a notable RAF pilot on 15 August, when he brought down the New Zealand ace F/Lt “Al” Deere (17.333 confirmed and 2.5 unconfirmed destroyed, 4 probable and 7.5 damaged victories) of 54 Sqn, RAF. Deere baled out of his Spitfire between Dover and Folkestone. On 24 September, Galland downed his 40th victim, another notable RAF pilot, Harold Bird-Wilson (5.2 destroyed, 3 probable and 3 damaged victories) of 17 Sqn, RAF who baled out badly burned near Chatham. Galland was awarded the newly instituted Eichenlauben on 25 September. By the end of September he had 42 victories. On 1 November 1940, Galland was promoted to Oberstleutnant and given command of JG 26. He had 50 victories to his credit. JG 26 was escorting the Bf 110 fighter bombers of EprGr 210 on a raid of Martlesham Heath on 17 November. The formation was intercepted by RAF Hurricanes. In the ensuing combat, Galland claimed a Hurricane shot down. The pilot, ace Count Manfred Czernin (17 destroyed, 3.5 probable and 3.833 damaged victories) of 17 Sqn, RAF, baled out unhurt. On 21 June 1941, Galland shot down a Spitfire east of Boulogne. He, in turn, was shot down, by the Polish ace Boleslaw Drobinski (7.133/1.333/0 victories) of 303 Sqn, RAF, and baled out wounded. Shortly after, he was awarded the Schwerten to his Ritterkreuz. Galland had, by now, been ordered by Hitler and Göring not to fly combat missions. However, he disregarded these orders and continued to rack up aerial victories.

On the death of Oberst Werner Molders (115 victories, RK-Br) on 22 November 1941, Galland was named General der Jagdflieger. Before settling into his new job, Oberst Galland directed the fighter protection for the Channel dash of the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, from Brest. Operation Donnerkeil was a striking success. He was awarded the Brillanten to his Ritterkreuz on 28 January 1942 with his victory tally at 94. As General der Jagdflieger, he commanded a small unit operating Fw 190s. He flew about 10 combat missions and, it is thought, he gained two victories over USAAF B-17 bombers during 1944. It remains unsure whether his claims during this period were submitted or confirmed. Stab G.d.J claimed two B-17s shot down on 8 March 1944 and it is thought Galland may have been one of the claimants. Galland became one of the most controversial figures of his time through his skirmishes with Reichsmarschal Göring and his frank addresses to Hitler when he emphasized the need for more fighters to oppose the increasingly intense allied bombing raids over Germany. Galland’s contemporaries in combat commands eventually began planning to force Göring’s resignation, by seeking an audience with Hitler. Although Galland took no direct part in such activities, he was aware that all this was in train. In the denouement, Göring attributed the incipient mutiny to Galland, sacked him and prepared a trial in which blame for the collapse of the Jagdwaffe would be directed to the General der Jagdflieger. Hitler intervened but then insisted, as an end to the “Galland affair”, that he be given command of a unit of jet fighters. Galland led JV 44 until 26 April 1945 gaining up to seven victories flying the Me 262 jet fighter. On this day Generalleutnant Galland led 12 rocket-equipped Me 262s from München-Reim to intercept a formation of B-26 medium bombers targetting the airfield at Lechfeld. He claimed two of the bombers, but with cannon-fire rather than the rockets with which his Me 262 was armed. During his initial approach, Galland had failed to deactivate a safety switch which prevented him from firing the rockets. During his attacks on the bombers, Galland’s Me 262 was struck by return fire. Disengaging from the bombers, he was bounced by a P-47 flown by 1st Lt James J Finnegan of the 50th Fighter Group, USAAF. Galland was wounded in the right knee and his aircraft received further damage. He was able to bring his crippled jet back to München-Reim and successfully land, albeit with a flat nose wheel tyre. He was forced to leap from his aircraft and take shelter because the airfield was under attack by American fighters. The wound suffered in this encounter were serious enough to end his combat flying. Galland surrendered himself to American forces at Tegernsee on 5 May 1945. He was held in military custody for two years. He was released in 1947. In October 1948, Galland took a position with the Argentine Air Force. There followed many offers to act as consultant to armament firms who would equip the new Luftwaffe. He made his choices and settled down to prosperous and lively decades as a businessman. In his final years he divided his time between his home in Germany and his bungalow by the Alicante coast of Spain. Adolf Galland passed away on 9 February 1996 at Remagen-Oberwinter.
Adolf Galland achieved 104 aerial victories in 705 missions.

Major Rolf-Günther Hermichen 1918-2014

Rolf-Günther Hermichen was born on 25 July 1918 at Wernigeroge. After finishing pilot school Leutnant Hermichen was posted to 6./ZG 1 to fly Bf 110s. He shot down his first enemy aircraft on 10 May 1940 during the French campaign. He had recorded four victories by the time of the French capitulation. With the same unit, but renamed 9./ZG 76, he took part in the Battle of Britain. Hermichen shot down his fifth victim on 12 August 1940. On 25 April 1941, 9./ZG 76 was redesignated 6./SKG 210. Hermichen took part in Operation Barbarossa with the unit undertaking numerous fighter bomber and ground attack missions. He also recorded three aerial victories during his time in Russia. Oberleutnant Hermichen joined III./JG 26 on 1 November 1941. He was assigned to 7./JG 26. In March 1942 he was Adjutant to Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 26, Hauptmann Josef Priller (101 victories, RK-S), on the Western Front. On 1 May, he became Staffelkapitän of 3./JG 26. His score stood at 13 victories. Over Dieppe on 19 August 1942 he achieved his 17th and 18th victories. On 6 December he achieved his 20th victory.

After moving with I./JG 26 to the Eastern front in January 1943, he added eight Soviet fighters to his tally. I./JG 26 relocated back to the Channel front in June.
Hauptmann Hermichen was appointed temporary Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 26 on 15 June 1943. He relinquished command to Hauptmann Klaus Mietusch (75 victories, RK-EL, killed in action 17 September 1944) on 4 July 1943. He returned to 3./JG 26 as Staffelkapitän. On 16 October 1943, Major Hermichen was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 11 based at Husum. On 20 February he shot down four B-24s , on 6 March he shot down three B-17s and on 8 March again shot down four four-engined bombers in 20 minutes. On 26 March 1944, after his 61st victory, he was awarded the Ritterkreuz. His 64th, and last, kill was over a P-51 on 24 April. He ended operational flying in May. In the dying days of the war he became Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 104. With this unit he was awarded the Eichenlaub on 19 February 1945 (Nr 748).
Rolf-Günther Hermichen flew 629 combat missions and shot down 64 enemy aircraft.

Oberst Hannes Trautloft 1912-1995

Hannes Trautloft was born on 3 March 1912 at Groß-Obringen near Weimar in Thüringen. On 1 April 1931 he joined the Deutsche Verkehrfliegerschule at Schleißheim and learned to fly. In 1932 he spent four months at the secret training base in Lipezk, Russia. He returned to Germany to serve in the army until 1934 when he was transferred to Jagdfliegerschule Schleißheim as a Leutnant.

Trautloft was one of six pilots that sailed aboard the Ursaramo arriving at Cadiz, Spain on 7 August 1936 to support Franco’s Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. Initially flying He 51 biplane fighters Trautloft and Kraft Eberhardt (seven victories, killed in action 13 November 1936) recorded the first German victories in Spain by each claiming a Breguet XIX shot down on 25 August 1936. On 30 August, Trautloft claimed a Potez 540 for his second victory but became the first German pilot shot down over Spain. He baled out and landed near Nationalist forces and returned unharmed. In December 1936, four prototype Bf 109s were delivered to counter the Russian SB twin-engine bombers and the I-15 and I-16 fighters supporting the Spanish Republican forces. Trautloft went on to record three more confirmed victories flying the Bf 109 for a total of five victories in Spain. Perhaps more importantly, Trautloft was responsible for developing tactics for the deployment of the Bf 109 in service. He was awarded the Spanienkreuz in Gold mit Schwertern for his service in Spain.
On his return to Germany, Trautloft served with different units, including winning the international round-the-alps air race in Switzerland as part of the “Dreier-Patrouille” flying Bf 109s, before being appointed Staffelkapitän of 12./JG 132 on 1 July 1938. 12./JG 132 was redesignated 2./JG 331 on 1 November 1938. At the outbreak of World War 2, Trautloft was serving with 2./JG 77. He participated in the Polish campaign. He gained his first victory in the new conflict when he shot down a Polish PZL P.23 attack aircraft near Warta. Trautloft was promoted to the rank of Hauptmann and became Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 20 on 19 September 1939. He gained two victories with the unit during the French Campaign. I./JG 20 was to be redesignated III./JG 51 on 4 July 1940. The Battle of Britain saw Trautloft record two further victories to raise his victory total to five in World War 2 and 10 overall. On 25 August 1940, Trautloft was appointed Kommodore of the newly formed JG 54, a post he would hold until July 5, 1943. He led the Jagdgeschwader during the remainder of the Battle of Britain.

Trautloft flew 120 missions over the Channel before JG 54 was relocated to Germany for rest and refit. He recorded three further victories over England to raise his overall victory total to 13. Trautloft and JG 54 participated in the Balkans campaign and Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. Major Trautloft was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 27 July 1941 for achieving 20 victories and outstanding leadership. By the end of 1941 he had recorded 26 victories. He recorded 19 victories in 1942, including his 30th victory on 16 March, his 40th on 9 May and his 50th on 15 February 1943. On 6 July 1943, Trautloft was appointed Inspizient Ost with the General der Jagflieger’s office. He was appointed Inspekteur der Tagjäger on 27 November. Trautloft's involvement in the so-called “Mutiny of the Fighter Pilots” in 1945 led to his removal and subsequent posting to 4 Flieger-SchulDivision based at Strassburg. He ended the war with this unit based at Döberitz-Elsgrund. Post-war, Trautloft joined the Bundesluftwaffe on 1 October 1957 with the rank of Brigadegeneral. During the 1960's, Trautloft served as the Inspector General of the Bundesluftwaffe. He retired on 30 June 1970 with the rank of Generalleutnant. Trautloft was active in many veterans’ organizations until his death on 11 January 1995 at Bad Wiessee near München. Hannes Trautloft was credited with 58 victories in 560 missions.