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General Galland and his role and attitude towards the close support arm

 

Oberleutnant Galland's career started in the ground attack role when he was transferred to a He 51 Staffel, the 3. J 88, of the Legion Condor. His first mission was against AA positions in July 1937.

The former fighter pilots including Galland, which were de-graded to the ground attack role after their He 51 became obsolete and the new Me 109 Ds took over the fighter role, were very disappointed about it and called themselves "narrow gauge fighters". Despite the very high popularity of the Schlachtflieger with the Nationals' infantry, who called the pilots respectfully "trabajadores" (workers), and the fact that the German close support squadron became a indispensable part of every National offensive, morale amongst the pilots was low.

Despite the reluctance of the pilots this 'intermezzo' was of considerable significance for the development of the close support arm.

Armed with two .30 calibre machine guns and six 10kg bombs, they operated successfully and even experimented with carpet bombing and the dropping of 120 l fuel tanks filled with fuel and oil.

 

He 51 in Spain

 

As the Czech 'crisis' loomed, the RLM summoned the most experienced man for Schlachtflieger-duties to Berlin. It was Olt. Galland, the squadron leader of the only Schlachtstaffel - to very dismay of Galland himself. But he was not discontent about leaving but about the fact that he was the most experienced man and as a result the nucleus for a branch the he disliked- to say the least.

Based on the experiences in Spain, guidelines for the organisation, training and deployment of Schlachtunits should have been developed. Five groups, forming two wings, were in a matter of weeks created from scratch.

Galland was awarded with the post of Adjutant (2nd CO) and Ia officer. The second most senior post available!

But he was very dissatisfied with the outlook to "be a Schlachtflieger again in the next war".

Soon he was released a got the chance to from I. JG 433, later I. JG 52, in Bavaria.

He was only a Staffelkapitän now (of 3rd squadron) but much happier about this command than the former.

A thing that should follow in the summer of 1939 was the awarding of decorations to former 'Spaniards'.

Galland was awarded only the golden version. To his dismay he was not one of the seven, who received the diamond version. Two weeks after the ceremony he was summoned to Göring and the ambitious Galland finally was 'properly' rewarded, with the diamond version.

Lt. Steinhilper, then member of the 3./JG 52 of Galland clearly remembers these two weeks:

Galland felt it an injustice being rewarded only with the golden version despite flying 300 missions, whereas others with seven or more air-victories were given the diamond version. He thought that he has done his share in the Schlacht-arm and that others should now take the role of the Schlachtflieger.

After returning proudly with the diamond version he "explained that under the new conditions he was prepared to assume command of the Henschel Squadron" (181/82).

Ironically Galland received this 'upgrading' due to his merits in building up the Schlachtflieger arm.

But his delight about being a member of I./JG 52 was short-lived. His records were full of how important he was for the ground attack arm, and as a consequence he was again transferred to the II./(Schlacht) LG 2, a Schlachtfliegergruppe and saw action with it in Poland.

He flew around fifty missions in Poland and was awarded the EK II. But for the man that wanted to be the No. 1 fighter pilot this was not good enough and he finally managed to get his transfer to JG 27. Not without deception. He pretended to get rheumatism while flying in open cockpits of the Hs 123 - the doctor believed him and he was transferred to a Me 109 unit, JG 27, with closed cockpits.

His distaste of the 'Schlacht'-business was not only enhanced by his ambition for being in the spotlight but also by his history in the Legion Condor.

Galland came and took over from the then leading ace Olt. Harder and after he left his squadron, lead now by the Olt. Werner Mölders, it converted to the Me 109 and was again in the dogfight business. Even more Werner Mölders should become the leading German ace in Spain. This fact of falling in between the two top aces and missing the chance to score definitely bothered the future ace.

Despite he himself describing Poland as a "brilliant and absolutely innovative co-ordination between the army and the Luftwaffe" and acknowledging the devastating effect of close support in Spain and in Poland he saw it as a mere downgrading of the Luftwaffe to the role of a 'flying artillery' for the army. Toliver and Constable even praised him for this critical senses that revolted against this tendency (p. 59).

It seems that the tactic value of ground support was not fully seen and understood, not by Galland nor other leading personalities of the Luftwaffe at that time. Most of the contemporary authors unfortunately go the same way.

The possibility of a clear judgement of the value of the Schlacht-arm passes in the background due to rivalry of the Luftwaffe and the Army.

Furthermore the business of ground attacks was not as glamorous and rewarding as the being a part of the 'elite' fighter arm, which was also well covered in the press.

This business was not for a man of the character of Galland. The next years should show how right he was in choosing the fighter arm for receiving medals and merit. He was rewarded with the diamonds of the Knightscross and became the youngest General in the Luftwaffe at the age of 30. As complained by him after Spain, Schlachtflieger were rarely 'properly' rewarded.

His colleges in the Schlachtgeschwader received few Knightscrosses. Often the most experienced pilots only wore the EK I. Those rewarded with the Knightscross had at that time flown usually over 300 missions.

Furthermore his opinion about the secondary role of the ground support was quickly abandoned after the ambitious Galland was awarded the diamond version of the Spain cross.

 

Galland was surely the right man when he had to take over the post of the General of the Fighter pilots from the deceased Mölders. The fate was that at the same time he was in this role the Commander of all Schlacht units.

A man that fought a personal two year long war against being one of the Schlachtpilots with the opinion of seeing the ground attack role as a secondary and inferior role was to be the leader of the Schlacht units.

Consequently the Schlachtflieger received few attention in the years up to fall 1943. The should be no surprise as the now General pulled out of the arm in 1938 as the leading and most experienced man of the active pilots.

As General he watched jealously over 'his' branch, the fighters. As a consequence the ground attack units were not supplied in scale with the new Fw 190 and were largely neglected.

The be fair. The German fighter arm suffered enormous losses before Galland came to power. This was paired with a neglect of training of new pilots, problems with higher commanding officers and an over-stretching of the fighter arm from Murmansk to North Africa and the Channel to Moscow and the Black Sea. Galland had to face enormous problems, but despite these he surely did not do the close support branch any 'favour'.

At the time the ground support role was becoming independent and upgraded by incorporating the dive-bomber arm, the ground situation was unreversably changed. The ground attack role was pushed in the role of the defence. Instead of actively shaping the outcome on the ground the Schlacht-units were to re-act passively. Precious time in 1942 and 1943 was wasted.

 

Sources:

Galland, A.; 1993: Die Ersten und die Letzten (The first and the last)

Obermaier, E.; 1989: Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe 1939-1945, Bamd I Jagdflieger

Steinhilper, U. / Osborne, P.; 1990: Spitfire on my tail: A view from the other side

Toliver, R. / Constable, T.; 1992: Adolf Galland: General der Jagdflieger / Biographie

 

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