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Adolf Galland
Adolf Galland
"It's as if an angel is pushing you..."
-Genlt. Adolf Galland's comment after flying the Me 262

Last Wartime rank: Lt. General
Unit(s): JG 27, JG 26, JV 44
Theatre(s): Western
Decoration: The Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross
    with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
Born: March 19th, 1912
Passed: February 9th, 1996
Kills: 104
   58 France and Battle Of Britain,
   46 Western Front Including
   Four-Engine and 7 with Me 262

Total Sorties: 425
Strike Rate: 4.09 (Sorties per victory)
Born in Westerholt, Westphalia, Adolf Galland was the second of four sons of a land manager. Two of his brothers also became fighter pilots. Paul Galland died in action in 1942, and Wilhelm Galland in 1943. He developed an early interest in aviation, flying home-built gliders (at the time the only type of aircraft allowed in Germany under the terms of the Versailles Treaty) from an improvised field near his hometown. Galland graduated from Hindenburg Gymnasium (high school) in Buer in 1932 and joined the aviation school of Germany's national airline, Lufthansa, before transferring to the new and technically illegal Air Force (Luftwaffe) in 1933. Despite a bad crash, he completed his training in Italy in 1935 and was posted to Jagdgeschwader 2 Richthofen, then based at Döberitz airfield near Berlin.

During the Spanish Civil War, Galland was appointed Staffelkapitän of a Legion Condor squadron, 3. Staffel J/88, on the Nationalist side at Ferrol from mid-1937, flying ground attack missions in Heinkel He 51s. In Spain, Galland first displayed his dashing style—flying in swimming trunks, clenching a cigar between his teeth, flying an aircraft gaily decorated with a Mickey Mouse figure. But he was no mere show off; he flew over 300 missions in Spain, developed early gasoline and oil bombs, suggested the quartering of personnel on trains to aid in relocation and was awarded with the Spanish Cross in Gold with Diamonds following the Nationalist victory.

Adolf Galland mickey mouse symbol

Just before the outbreak of World War II, Galland was promoted to Hauptmann and took part in 50 ground-attack missions during the Invasion of Poland with 4.(S)/LG 2 equipped with the Henschel Hs 123, a "biplane Stuka", from 1 September 1939 onwards. He was transferred to the fighter unit Jagdgeschwader 27 in February 1940, as Adjudant. On 12 May 1940, near Liege, Galland scored his first aerial victory. By the end of the French campaign he had 14 victories. On 1 August Galland became the third fighter pilot to receive the Ritterkreuz.

From June 1940 on, Galland flew as a Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 26, fighting the Battle of Britain flying Messerschmitt Bf 109 "Emils" from bases in the Pas de Calais. In July, Galland was promoted to major. By mid August, Luftwaffe commander Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring's dissatisfaction with the performance of the fighter arm led him to replace several of his pre-war Jagdgeschwader Commanders with the current wave of younger high-achievers. Thus on 22 August Galland replaced Major Gotthard Handrick and became Geschwaderkommodore of JG 26. A month later, on 25 September, Galland was awarded the Eichenlaub to the Ritterkreuz for 40 kills.

By the end of 1940, he had 58 victories. Promoted to Oberstleutnant, Galland continued to lead JG 26 through 1941 against the RAF fighter sweeps across Northern Europe. In early 1941 most of the fighter units of the Luftwaffe were sent east to the Eastern Front, or south to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, thus leaving JG 26 and Jagdgeschwader 2 Richthofen as the sole single-engine fighter Geschwadern in France.

Adolf Gallands Bf 109s

By this time JG 26 were starting to re-equip with the new Bf 109F, normally equipped with a 15mm (or later a 20mm) cannon firing through the propeller hub and two cowl mounted 7,9mm MG17. Galland felt the model was grossly under-armed and so tested a series of 109 "specials;" one with a unique armament of a MG 151/20 cannon and two cowl mounted 12.7mm MG 131 machine guns, and another with integral wing mounted 20mm MG-FF cannons.

For the next two years these two Geschwadern were the main adversaries to the RAF's day offensives over Occupied Europe. Galland's careful husbanding of his resources and astute tactical awareness meant JG 26 kept their losses to a minimum while inflicting maximum damage on the RAF's tactical fighters through 1941. This became even more evident with the arrival of the potent Focke-Wulf Fw 190A to units in late 1941 - early 1942, which completely outclassed the current Spitfire Mark Vb in service with the RAF.

On the morning of 21 June 1941 Galland was first shot up by a 303 Squadron Spitfire and had to crash land, then in the afternoon shot down by a 145 Squadron Spitfire, this time bailing out, suffering slight injuries. The Schwerter (Swords) award to the Ritterkreuz followed the same month.

On 2 July 1941 Galland led JG 26 into combat against a formation of Blenheims. A Spitfire of the bomber escort ( probably of 308 Squadron) managed to hit Galland's plane with a 20 mm shell. The armour plate mounted on the fighter just days earlier saved Galland's life. Galland landed at base, where he was hospitalised for the second time in a few days. Experiences like this taught Galland to respect his opponents.

In November 1941, following his 94th official victory, he was chosen by Hermann Göring to command Germany's fighter force as General der Jagdflieger, succeeding renowned ace Oberst.Werner Mölders who had just died in an air crash (having himself just succeeded another German aviation legend, Ernst Udet). In November 1942 a promotion to Generalmajor made Galland the youngest officer to attain General rank in Germany. Galland was now responsible for deciding the ongoing tactical and operational doctrine of the Luftwaffe's fighter strategies. No longer flying operationally, one of his first tasks was organising the successful air protection for the Channel Dash of the German battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and the cruiser Prinz Eugen.

In 1942, Galland flew an early prototype of the Messerschmitt Me 262, the world's first operational jet fighter. After the flight, he described his experience: "It was as if an angel is pushing you..." and he became an enthusiastic supporter of this aircraft.

During 1943 Galland became more involved with the organization of the air defence of the Reich against the increasing USAAF day bombing offensive. As General der Jagdflieger, he had at his disposal a small staff flight operating Fw 190s. In order to experience the operational conditions under which his pilots flew, Galland flew a dozen or so combat missions through 1942-44 and probably gained two more victories over USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress heavies sometime during early 1944, although on one occasion, flying with Hannes Trautloft, he narrowly avoided being shot down by the USAAF escort fighters.

By mid 1944, the catastrophic aircrew losses suffered by the Luftwaffe prompted Galland to carefully husband a last reserve of 1,000 pilots and fighter planes in order to strike a potentially decisive single blow at the Allied bomber streams. However the daring operation, planned for late 1944, never came about as the reserves were squandered during the ill-fated Operation Bodenplatte.

Typically open, blunt and a consistent critic of his superiors, as the war progressed, Galland soon became distanced from the Nazi hierarchy, who no longer tolerated his outspoken views. While a patriotic German, he increasingly found himself at odds with them over how they ran the war as it began to turn against Germany. In January 1945, he was finally relieved of his command and put under house arrest following the "Fighter Pilots Revolt". Galland's high standing with his fighter pilot peers led to a group of the most decorated Luftwaffe leaders loyal to Galland (including Obersts Johannes Steinhoff and Günther Lützow) confronting Göring with a list of demands for the survival of their service, coupled with their concern over the Reichsmarschall's lack of understanding and unwillingness to support his pilots against accusations of cowardice and treason.

The Oberkommando der Luftwaffe appointed the more politically acceptable Gordon Gollob to succeed him as General der Jagdflieger. Although professional contemporaries, Gollob and Galland had a mutual dislike, and after Galland had removed the Austrian from his personal staff earlier in the war Gollob started to gather evidence to use against Galland, detailing his gambling, womanizing and private use of Luftwaffe transport.

Galland was returned to frontline duties in disgrace, and was initially assigned to command a Staffel of JG 54, at that time stranded behind Soviet lines in the Courland pocket. He never took up this command, however, but was tasked to form JV 44 (Jagdverband) in March 1945. He was allowed to handpick a number of formidable experten for the unit, including such highly decorated experten as Johannes Steinhoff, Heinrich Bär and Gerhard Barkhorn. Achieving seven kills over the USAAF, Galland led JV 44 until his last mission on 26 April 1945 when he was wounded in a dogfight with an American P-47 Thunderbolt and sustained a knee injury crash-landing his Me 262. Command was transferred to Bär, but Galland was concerned about his men and tried to negotiate a separate surrender for the JV 44 pilots to Allied forces in early May.

Galland's 103 victory claims included seven with the Me 262. His claims for aircraft destroyed include 55 Spitfires, 30 Hurricanes, and five French Armee de L'air aircraft. All seven of his Me 262 kills were against American aircraft, two of which were heavy bombers.

Galland was captured by the US Army on 14 May 1945 and remained a prisoner of war until 1947. His first job after captivity was to lecture on tactics for Britain's Royal Air Force. From 1948 to 1955, he and other ex-Luftwaffe experts worked as consultants to the Argentine Air Force and the nascent Argentine aircraft industry. Following the termination of Argentina's attempt to establish an indigenous aeronautical industry, Galland returned to Germany and had a successful career running his own aviation firm and consultancy. Through the postwar years Galland built up lasting respect and friendship with many of his former adversaries, particularly Robert Stanford Tuck, Johnnie Johnson and Douglas Bader.

Galland married Sylvinia von Donhoff in February 1954. In 1984, he married his second wife, Heidi Horn, who remained with him until his death.

In his private home museum, Galland had many souvenirs of his dogfights (such as pieces of American aircraft he shot down) and his service in the war, including German newsreels from that time. He also had two almost identical oil painting portraits that were made of him during the war. They feature Galland in his Luftwaffe uniform, but in the first painting he was holding one of his ubiquitous cigars. Hitler was adamantly opposed to smoking and ordered the second portrait made without the cigar.

His autobiography, The First and the Last (Die Ersten und die Letzten), was published in 1954 and is widely regarded as the most insightful World War II aviation memoir from the Axis side and one of the best overall. The English translation of this very successful book was reprinted in 2005 by Cerberus Press.


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