Commander, Luftflotte 2, Generalfeldmarschall Albert
Kesselring, the son of school teacher, was born in Bayreuth,
Germany, on 8th August, 1881. He joined the German Army in
1904 and became an officer cadet in the 2nd Bavarian Foot
Artillery Regiment at Metz.
During the First World War Kesselring was transferred to the
German Army Air Service where he trained as a balloon
observer. While in this post he developed a close friendship
with Hermann Goering.
Kesselring remained in the armed forces and was promoted to
major general in 1932. The following year he joined the
recently established Luftwaffe where he served under Erhard
Miltch. In June 1936, despite the objections of Miltch,
Goering appointed Kesselring as the organization's chief of
On the outbreak of the Second World War Kesselring became
commander of 1st Air Fleet and provided air support to
General Fedor von Bock and Army Group North in the invasion
of Poland. The following year he moved to the 2nd Air Fleet
and supported the infantry in the invasions of Belgium,
Holland and France. Despite criticisms for his performance
during the Dunkirk evacuations, Kesselring was made a field
marshal on 19th July 1940.
During Operation Barbarossa Kesselring and his 2nd Air Fleet
supported General Fedor von Bock and Army Group Centre in
the invasion of the Soviet Union. He then moved to be
commander of all German land and air forces in the
Mediterranean. On 10th May he ordered the mass bombing of
Malta. However, he was forced to abandon the campaign eleven
days later when Adolf Hitler decided that the Luftwaffe had
to concentrate its efforts in the Soviet Union.
Kesselring remained in North Africa where he supported
General Erwin Rommel in the Desert War. On 10th November
1942 Kesselring was appointed to serve under Benito
Mussolini as deputy commander of Italian forces. In this
position he was unable to prevent the loss of Tunisia and
In August 1943 Kesselring led the retreat from the southern
regions of Italy. In September his troops came close to
stopping General Mark Clark establishing a beachhead at
Salerno. He also secured all airfields around Rome that
resulted in the Allies calling off their planned airborne
assault. Throughout the winter of 1943-4 Kesselring
successfully contained the Anzio beachhead.
In the winter of 1943 Kesselring withdrew his forces to what
became known as the Gustav Line on the Italian peninsula
south of Rome. Organized along the Garigliano and Rapido
rivers it included Monte Cassino, a hilltop site of a
sixth-century Benedictine monastery. Defended by 15 German
divisions the line was fortified with gun pits, concrete
bunkers, turreted machine-gun emplacements, barbed-wire and
On 25th October 1944 Kesselring was seriously injured when
his car collided with a gun coming out of a side road. He
was in hospital for three months and his command in Italy
was taken over by General Heinrich Vietinghoff. When he
recovered Adolf Hitler named Kesselring as supreme commander
in the south of the country.
Kesselring, the only one of the early field marshals not to
be sacked by Hitler, was taken prisoner on 6th May 1945.
Tried as a war criminal he was found guilty on 6th May 1947
and condemned to death. Soon afterwards this sentence was
commuted to life in prison and was released for health
reasons in October 1952. The following year he published his
autobiography, A Soldier to the Last Day (1953). Albert
Kesselring died on 16th July 1960.