Knights Cross with Oakleaves, Swords and Diamonds
Hartmann was born in Weissach in Württemberg. Most of his childhood was spent in the Far East, as his father was a doctor working in China. Hartmann returned to Germany in 1928, and as many youths he joined the sailplane training programme of the fledgling Luftwaffe. He got his pilot's license in 1939, and started his education in Luftkriegsschule II in late 1940.
Hartmann got his 'wings' in 1941 and was assigned to the fighter wing Jagdgeschwader 52 in October 1942. JG 52 was stationed on the Eastern Front in the Soviet Union and was equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf-109G.
III./JG 52's commander, Major Hubertus von Bonin, placed Hartmann under the experienced Oberfeldwebel Alfred Grislawski. After a few days of intensive mock combats and practice flights, Grislawski admitted that although Hartmann had much to learn regarding combat tactics, he was a quite talented pilot.
Hartmann was assigned to the 7th Staffel JG52 to serve as wingman to the Luftwaffe ace Walter Krupinski, who became his mentor and friend. He shot down his first Soviet plane on 5 November 1942, against an Il-2 from 7 GShAP. At year end he had added only one more kill, and as with many top aces took some time to gradually establish himself as a consistently scoring fighter pilot.
On July 7, 1943, he shot down seven planes in a single day during the massive air dogfights in the Battle of Kursk. He had reached 50 kills by August 1943, and in that month claimed another 48 kills. He was then promoted to Staffelkapitän of 9./JG 52 in September 1943. He was shot down and captured after 90 victory claims in late August 1943, but he managed to escape his Russian captors and make his way back to the German lines. In October 1943, he claimed another 33 kills, and Hartmann was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 29 October 1943, after 148 kills. At the end of the year his toll stood at 159.
In 1944, Hartmann continued scoring at an even greater pace. His spectacular rate of kills raised a few eyebrows even in the High Command of the Luftwaffe; his claims were double- and triple-checked, and his performance closely monitored by an observer flying in his formation. In March, he reached 202 kills. By this time the Soviet pilots were familiar with Hartmann's radio call-sign of 'Karaya One' and the Soviet Command had put a price on the German pilot's head. For a while Hartmann added a black 'tulip' design around the spinner of his aircraft, though once this was recognised as Hartmann's fighter by his opponents they were often reluctant to stay and fight. Therefore this aircraft was often allocated to novices to fly in relative safety.
His 300th kill came on 24 August 1944, a day he shot down 11 aircraft. After reaching 300 victories, he was grounded by Luftwaffe chief of staff Hermann Göring, who was fearful of the effect on German morale should such a hero be lost. However, Hartmann successfully lobbied to be reinstated as a combat pilot. For having achieved over 300 kills, Hartmann became one of only 27 German soldiers in WWII to receive the diamonds to his Knight's Cross.
Throughout 1944, Hartmann claimed 172 victories, an all-time record for one year. That June, he had engaged American aircraft for the first time, downing four P-51 Mustang over Romania, but the next month he was forced to do an emergency landing when other Mustangs ran him out of fuel.
In early 1945, Hartmann was asked by General Adolf Galland to join the Me-262 units forming to fly the new jet fighter. Hartmann declined the offer, preferring to remain with JG52. At war's end Hartmann (as Gruppenkommandeur or CO of I./JG 52) and his unit surrendered to the 90th US Infantry Division.
Hartmann flew 825 sorties, losing 14 aircraft from combat damage and hard landings. He was never wounded and never bailed out ("I never took to the parachute and never became another pilot's victory"). His kill tally included some 200 various single-engined Soviet-built fighters, more than 80 American-built P-39s, 15 Il-2 ground attack aircraft, and 10 twin-engined medium bombers. He often said that he was more proud of the fact that he had never lost a wingman in combat than he was about his rate of kills.
Hartmann was a master of stalk-and-ambush tactics. By his own account, he was convinced that 80% of the pilots he downed didn't even realize what hit them. He relied on the powerful engine of his Messerschmitt Bf-109 for high-power sweeps and quick approaches, occasionally diving through entire enemy formations to take advantage of the confusion that followed in order to disengage. His favourite method of attack was to hold fire until extremely close, then unleash a short burst with all his weapons. As opposed to long-range shooting, this technique allowed him to:
* reveal his position only at the last possible moment
* compensate for the low muzzle velocity of the Bf-109 cannons
* place his shots accurately with minimum waste of ammunition
* prevent the adversary from taking evasive actions
It also implied the risk of having to fly through the debris of a damaged or exploding aircraft, thereby damaging his own fighter in the process (much of the damage Hartmann sustained in combat was caused by collision with flying debris). If it was dangerous to dog-fight further he would break off and content himself with one victory. His careful approach was described by himself by the line "See - Decide - Attack - Coffee Break": observe the enemy, decide how to proceed with the attack, make the attack and then disengage to re-evaluate the situation.
Famously, Hartmann once described dog-fighting as "a waste of time".
After his capture, the U.S. Army handed Hartmann, his pilots and groundcrew over to the Soviet Union, where he was imprisoned in accordance with the Yalta Agreements which stated that airmen and soldiers fighting the Russians had to surrender directly to them. Hartmann was charged with war crimes (specifically, deliberate shooting of Russian civilians) and was subjected to harsh treatment during the early years of his imprisonment, including solitary confinement in total darkness. Despite this, Hartmann refused to confess to these charges, which were later dropped. More subtle efforts by the Soviet authorities to convert Hartmann to Communism also failed. He was also offered a post in the East German (DDR) Air Force which also failed. During his long imprisonment Hartmann's 3 year-old son, whom he had never seen, died. After spending ten and a half years in Soviet POW camps, he was among the last batch of POW's to be released in 1955 and returned to West Germany, where he was reunited with his wife, to whom he had written every day of the war.
When he returned to West Germany, he became an officer in the West German Air Force where he commanded West Germany’s first all jet unit, the Jagdgeschwader 71, equipped with U.S. made Lockheed F-104 Starfighters. He also made several trips to the U.S., where he was trained on U.S. Air Force equipment.
Hartmann considered the Lockheed F-104 a fundamentally flawed and unsafe aircraft and strongly opposed its adoption by the German Air Force. Although events subsequently validated his low opinion of the aircraft (282 crashes and 115 German pilots killed on the F-104 in non-combat missions; allegations of bribes culminating in the Lockheed scandal), his outspoken criticism proved unpopular with his superiors, and he retired in 1970.
Erich Hartmann died on September 20, 1993, at age 71. Russia exonerated Erich Hartmann in January 1997. It was stated that his conviction had not been lawful.
General Adolf Galland Ritterkreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten Knights Cross with Oak Leaves Swords and Diamonds
General Adolf "Dolfo" Galland, who has died aged 83, was one of the Luftwaffe's most celebrated aces with 104 "kills".
He became the youngest General der Jagdflieger (General of Fighters) in 1941 at the age of 29. In January 1945 he was dismissed following an open disagreement over tactics with Hitler and Goering.
Galland saw himself in the chivlrous mantle of Manfred von Richtofen (the "Red Baron" of the First World War). Courageous in combat, Galland was fearless to the point of recklessness in his relations with his commander-in-chief Goering, and with Hitler.
When the RAF began to get the upper hand in the Battle of Britain, he infuriated Goering by asking to be re-equiped with a wing of Spitfires. Later, when summoned after his 40th kill to be invested with the Oak-leaves to his Knight's Cross, Galland incensed Hitler by asking him to order the cessation of radio disparagement of the RAF.
Galland tilted with the RAF's best, including Bob Stanford-Tuck, Douglas Bader, Sailor Malan and Johnnie Johnson. He repected his adversaries, and after the war established friendships with them. Holidays on Tuck's mushroom farm were reciprocated with boar-hunting forays in Germany. The old enemies Tuck, Bader and Galland lectured together in America.
When, on Jan. 28, 1942, Stanford-Tuck had been brought down by ground gunners near St. Omer, Galland invited him to dinner in the mess. Before Tuck was taken away as a prisioner, Galland presented him with a bottle of whiskey.
Galland himself might well have become Tuck's prisoner during the Battle of Britain. One one mission, under Goering's orders to fly close escort to bomber formations, he found that the erratic wandering of the longer-range bombers had all but drained the tanks of his Me-109. Desperately short of fuel, Galland considered landing in Kent but risked the Channel crossing, crash-landing on the beach at Cap Gris Nez.
Decended from old Huguenot family, Adolf Galland was born on March 19, 1912 in Westphalia.
in 1932 he was accepted by the commercial air transport school, in Brunswick, run by Colonel Keller, a celebrated First World War pilot. His tales of bombing London determined Galland to become a military pilot. As the Versailles Treaty had inhibited service training, he was sent to Italy for a covert course. After Hitler came came to power in 1933, Germany began to rearm openly, and the next year Galland became an instructor at the Schleissheim fighter pilot school in Bavaria. In 1935 he was posted to the Luftwaffe's first fighter wing, named after Richtofen.
One day, flying to low and too slow, Galland crashed injuring his head and left eye. On another occasion, he collided with a lamp-post.
With the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Goering took the opportunity to blood young pilots in the Condor Legion, which supported Franco. Lieutenant Galland joined a Heinkel 51 ground attack unit, rising to command a squadron.
Galland did not relish the ground attack role. In one low-level attack, his aricraft was hit by rifle fire. A bullet went through a wing, another buried itself in the instrument panel, and a third pierced one of his boots.
Recalled to Germany in the run-up to the invasion of Poland, Galland was frustrated to be retained in a ground attack role. But he flew some 50 He123 sorties in the brief Polish campaign, was promoted captain and awarded the Iron Cross Second Class.
Galland badgered his superiors to have him transferred to fighters, and early in 1940, his persistence was repaid with a posting to JG 27. This came in time for the onset, on May 10, of the blitzkrieg which was to take German forces to the Channel coast.
His reputation as a fighter pilot was established when he destroyed three Belgian Hurricanes on the same day. By June 3 his score was 12.
On July 10, when the Battle of Britain began, he received the command of a Group in JG 26, based at Caffiers. A week later he was promoted major, and on August 1 - his score by now 17 - he received the Knight's Cross.
Early in 1941, the removal of his unit to Brest reducedhis chances of scoring against fighters, but in the summer he returned to the Pas de Calais.
On June 21 he had shot down two Blenhiem light bombers, when attacking Spitfires sent him into a crash-landing. That same afternoon he revenged himself on a Spitfire although in the process he was himself shot down and wounded. He was awarded the Swords to his Knight's Cross.
At this point Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Galland was promoted to major-general and given contrlol of fighter operations on the eastern front, in the Balkans, and in the Mediterranean and the West.
By now, with his score at 94, he had been invested personally by Hitler with the Diamonds to the Knight's Cross. Goering then told him the stones were fake and had real diamonds sent from his own jeweller.
In February 1942, Hitler in a daring gamble, sent the warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen from Brest through the Channel. He chose Galland to supervise the massive fighter cover which, coupled with bad weather, assured the sucess of the "Channel Dash".
Galland feared that an escalation of RAF night bombing offensives would reveal Germany's neglect of night fighter defences. His forbodings were realised in the week following July 24, 1943, when the bombing of Hamburg preceded devastating night raids on Germany.
Finally, Galland's counsel prevailed, and he swiftly moved to bolster defences with units withdrawn from other fronts. Allied night and day losses increased steeply until RAF night counter-measures and American day long-range fighter escorts began to restore the balance.
Galland then fell into disfavour. Goering accused him of disloyalty and of introducing un-sound tactics. He was placed under house arrest, and had resolved to commit suicide when Hitler intervened.
Galland, through relieved of his overall command, led an èlite "squadron of squadrons" (it's pilots included ten holders of the Knight's Cross) equiped with the new Me 262 jet fighter. Despite heavy losses, the jets caused havoc among Allied bomber formations.
Shortly before VE Day on May 8 1945, Galland flew his last combat sortie, leading six Me 262's in a head-on attack on a formation of American B-26 maurauders.
His jet was badly damaged by escorting Mustang fighters. Forced down, Galland's aircraft dipped into a bomb crater. His injuries put an end to his fighting war.
Taken prisoner, Galland was not released until 1947. The next year he was recruited by Argentina to develop it's air force.
He returned to Germany in 1955 and joined Air Lloyd, subsequently becoming it's chairman. Throughout the post-war years, he was much in demand as an aviation consultant.
He wrote a book called The Final Hours (ISBN 1-57488-863-3) detailing a late-war plot against Hermann Göring. He also wrote a vivid account of his time in Italy; "Messerschmitts over Sicily: Diary of a Luftwaffe Fighter Commander" (Stackpole Military History Series Paperback)
Steinhoff received numerous honours for his work on the structure of the post war Luftwaffe and the integration of the German Federal Armed Forces into NATO, including: The Order of Merit with star, the American Legion of Merit and the French Légion d'honneur.