With His "Mickey Insigne" On His Me109
"I dove from about 800
meters above them, approaching at high speed, and fired at the far left
aircraft in the rear flight, continuing fire until point blank range.
Finally, large pieces of metal flew off the Hurricane. As I shot past the
aircraft, I found myself in the middle of the enemy squadron, which was
flying in stepped formation. I immediately attacked the right-hand
aircraft of the leading flight of three. Again, metal panels broke off;
the aircraft nosed over and dove earthward, ablaze. The remaining English
pilots were so startled that none as much as attempted to get on my tail;
rather, the entire formation scattered and dove away."
-Adolf Galland, 104 total victories
Adolf Gallant with Goering
The best known of
Germany's Second World War fighter pilots and air leaders, Lieutenant
General Adolf Galland played a major role in the ebb and flow of Germany's
aerial fortunes. When Galland had his way, Germany's fortunes flowed; when
Goering had his way, those fortunes ebbed...
Galland was a brilliant
pilot, an exceptional marksman, and a top tactician, and able to marry
these talents to the capacity to grasp the larger strategic factors
involved in command of the Luftwaffe. He became General of the Fighter Arm
before he was thirty. He had the unique abilities to probe deeper and see
further than his contemporaries, and also to put those insights to
practical use. Of the old school, Galland would fit our contemporary
definition of "an officer and a gentleman."
Born in 1912, Galland
wanted to become a pilot early in life and began with gliders in the
nineteen twenties. After graduating from the Gymnasium at Buer/Westphalia,
he was given a glider of his own.
Oberst Keller, one of
Germany's most famous WWI pilots, was managing the German Commercial Air
Transport School at Brunswik in 1932 when Galland became a pupil there.
Under Keller's guidance many of Germany's most famous fighter pilots
received their first training. The prestige of Keller's "Blue Max" was not
lost on the pupils of that day.
Not long afterward,
Galland was sent to Italy for pilot training (an effort to avoid the terms
of the Versailles Treaty). Galland was a member of a group of about thirty
pilots, all of them except he being veterans trained in the USSR. By the
end of 1934 his formal transfer to the still-camouflaged Luftwaffe was
Two years alter he volunteered for service with the Condor Legion in
Spain. He was called the "guide" of four hundred Germans on their way to
Spain, sailing from Hamburg to assist Franco's rebellion. He had his
introduction to aerial combat in the uniform of a Captain, since Condor
Legion personnel wore Spanish-looking uniforms of special design and
officers were formally promoted to the next grade.
Galland's career began formally in a position of aerial inferiority,
flying the obsolescent Heinkel 51 biplane. The Loyalist forces were
equipped with vastly superior American Curtiss and Russian Polikarpov I-15
"Chato" and "Rata" fighters. Combat was avoided by Gallands group, whose
orders were to provide close support to Franco's ground troops.
During his stay in
Spain Galland wrote a continuous series of reports on direct
ground-support operations. In these reports, which captured the bulk of
his experience in over three hundred operational sorties, he had compiled
a virtual manual on the subject. His work was well received, and led
directly to his promotion, flying a desk in the German Air Ministry! He
loathed the confinement and yearned to be back with the squadron.
In 1938 Galland was
assigned to organize, train, and equip two new ground-support wings to
assist in the Sudetenland invasion. He welcomed the assignment and was
glad be closer to the action. The Munich pact of 1938 eliminated the need
to throw the old machines into action.
But the following year
Galland was serving as a squadron leader (Staffel-kapitan) with a
Schlachtgruppe in Silesia when his unit was ordered to action in the
invasion of Poland. Equipped with the HS-123 (biplane Stuka) his unit took
part in the first live test of the direct-support use of air power as a
vital element in the Blitzkrieg.
The effects were
devastating. Polish air power was obliterated on the ground, leaving the
Polish infantry, cavalry, and transports at the mercy of the Luftwaffe.
The lessons of the Spanish Civil War had been learned well.
After these additional
successes, there was a high probability that Galland would spend his
flying days with direct-support aviation. He was too valuable for his own
good, and was an acknowledged expert in his field. He needed to do
something drastic if he wanted to come to grips with the enemy in the air.
Shortly after the
Polish campaign he feigned rheumatism. His Gruppe physician sent him to
Wiesbaden for treatment under the attention of a friend who understood his
problem. The medical report was clear: "No more flying in OPEN cockpits."
This short piece of medical advice vaunted Galland toward his appointment
significant for Galland in more ways than one. He met Werner Moelders
there for the third time. Moelders had already downed numerous Allied
aircraft in Spain and was a recognized master of air-to-air dogfights.
Galland took lectures with Moelders and later frankly stated: "Werner
Moelders taught me how to shoot in the air and bring down aircraft."
Shortly afterward Galland was posted to JG-27 at Krefeld, commanded by
Colonel Max Ibel.
served as Operations Officer to Ibel, the Wing Commander. Jealously he
watched his comrades taking off on operations while he waded through paper
on the ground "I had to literally steal away on any combat sortie I wanted
Galland During Battle Of Britain
On the 12th of May,
1940, west of Leige in Belgium, Galland scored his first aerial kill. He
took down two more Hurricanes on the same day, all RAF aircraft. Galland
later confessed to a twinge of conscience at the ease with which these
kills were made, contrasting them to later savage combat with British and
He was assigned to
command the 3rd Group of JG-26, which later became an elite formation, and
was known variously as "The Yellow Nose Bosy," "The Abbeville Boys," and
"The St. Omer Boys." JG-26 fought only on the Western Front throughout the
Making an impressive
entry to his new position, Galland downed two enemy fighters on his first
day. Gerhard Schoepfel, one of Galland's squadron leaders in the 3rd Group
of JG-26, remembers vividly:
"With Galland, a new era
began. Galland was throughout the war a fighter, and especially a
hunter.... he was not easy to fly with. He flew over Dover and the south
of England at one thousand meters and the flak was terrible. The close
detonations of flak were hard on the nerves, but he was the teacher and we
Galland was promoted to
Major on the 18th of July, 1940. By September he had forty confirmed kills
and was one of the leading Aces of the Luftwaffe. He won the coveted
Knight's Cross to his Iron Cross on August 1st, 1940, and on the 25th of
September was awarded the newly instituted Oak Leaves to his Knight's
Cross. Only two soldiers had proceeded him in his honour: General Dietl,
and Galland's friend Werner Moelders.
Note that the high
scores of these German aces has been questioned by some authors, but since
that time numerous investigators have spent years examining records,
logbooks, wing histories etc. and interviewing German aces, so as to leave
no doubt to the thoroughness and rigidity with which German pilots'
victories were claimed, recorded, and credited. The system was far more
rigid that either the British or American scoring procedures, and avoided
mythical creditations such as one half, one third, or three quarters of a
The German obsession
with precision eliminated controversy by a simple set of rules. Where more
than one pilot was involved in the downing of an aircraft, the pilots had
to decide between themselves who was to get the kill credit. In the event
of an impasse, the confirmed kill was awarded to the pilots' UNIT, with no
individual credit awarded.
One pilot- one kill.
The system was far more straightforward than even the later USAF system.
Confirmation procedures were similarly direct: without a witness, a
Luftwaffe fighter pilot had no chance to have his victory claim confirmed.
Such a claim, even if filed, would not pass beyond group level. The rule
applied all the way up the General of the Fighter Arm himself, Adolf
After his fiftieth
kill, Galland was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (Oberstleutnant) and
given command of JG-26 on November 1st, 1940. His promotion was part of
Goering's plan to replace the older wing and group commanders with the new
Chivalry was far from
dead in WWII, even if it was relegated mainly to combat pilots. Galland
was a passionate believer in fair play. When Goering felt him out in 1941
regarding a hypothetical order to shoot at parachuting enemy pilots,
Galland exploded with indignation.
"I should regard such
an order as murder," he told Goering, "and I would do everything in my
power to disobey such an order." Happily, the order never came.
Unfortunately, the same assurances cannot be given concerning American
fighter pilots, who actually were ordered to do so in the case of
parachuting Me-262 pilots.
Galland's chivalry is
clear in his wartime encounter on the ground with Wing Commander (later
Group Captain) Douglas Bader, the legless RAF ace. Shot down with several
squadron mates in a melee over the Pas de Calais, Bader fell into German
hands. Galland was one of the German pilots scoring kills in that action,
but the wildness of the engagement made it impossible to determine Bader's
Like many British
officers of the time, Bader was quite conscious of rank and was aware that
NCOs had taken part in the action. He was anxious to know who had shot him
down. Galland assured him that an officer had taken his measure, and a
suitable German candidate was selected as the "fall guy" and introduced.
parachuting from his plane Bader had damaged his artificial legs, and
asked for a spare set to be sent from England. Galland forwarded his
request with a recommendation for approval, and safe conduct was offered
for the aircraft bringing the legs. Sadly, the British concept of chivalry
had worn thin after the bombing of London, so the RAF dropped Bader's legs
along with some bombs targeting on the airfields of JG-26!!
As an interesting
aside, Bader was allowed to sit in the cockpit of an Me-109, and even
asked permission to fly it around the field a couple of times. Galland was
courteous, but denied the request.....