Adolf Gallant

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 made.

 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 with history.

 Wiesbaden became 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.

 Unfortunately, he 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 to make."

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 American fighters.

 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 war.

 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 followed him..."

 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 victory.

 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 Galland.

 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 generation.

 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 conqueror.

 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.

 Unfortunately, in 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.....