Interview with Adolph Galland

Title

Interview with Adolph Galland

Description

General Adolph Galland remembers his early life and subsequent career as a Luftwaffe pilot. Recounts various episodes: flying gliders as a young boy; changes in Luftwaffe fighting tactics during the Spanish civil war; the Luftwaffe refraining from engaging Fighter Command as to bomb London; arguments he had with Herman Göring and other high-ranking officers over the conduct of war. Explains how the Allies day and night operation strategy forced the Luftwaffe to build up a night-fighter force, previously non-existing. Tells of his brothers and their military careers. Remembers his encounter with Group Captain Douglas Bader. Compares technical performance of German and British aircraft, particularly Fw 190, Me 262 and Spitfire. Discusses the downsides of the planned 162 aircraft. Remembers the struggles to turf wars to rebuild the Luftwaffe at the end of both World Wars.

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Contributor

Peter Schulze

Rights

This content is a transcription of a video interview taped by a third party. It is available here as derivative work under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

Transcription of 01:55:40 video recording

Language

Type

Identifier

VGallandAJF[Date]

Conforms To

Transcription

Interviewer: General Galland, on behalf of everyone at the Yorkshire Air Museum, may I thank you for granting us this interview. It is greatly appreciated.
AG: Ok. It is my pleasure.
I: I may start with the first question. Is there a military tradition in your family?
AG: Not at all. My, we came, my family came from France, we were Huguenots. And one of this Frenchmen who came over, one Galland was, was a French captain, the chivalry, it was the only [unclear] we have as military.
I: Right. When did you first fly in an airplane?
AG: Oh, I did fly my first time when I was sixteen. I flew in gliders, not very far from my home there were some, an area in which gliding course was done. And I started there in ’20, ’28, I was sixteen years old.
I: I understand you set a record in your gilder.
AG: Ja, that’s right, that’s right. A record in endurance. This area did not have very high mountains, there were only hills and I did for more than two hours, two hours twenty minutes, something like this. This was an area record.
I: Ok.
AG: With my own plane. I got a plane when I finished, [unclear]Schule, I finished
UI2: Like University.
AG: Ja.
I: When did you decide to become a professional pilot and how did you achieve this?
AG: I did it all during my schooltime. Before I left school, I decided to be a commercial pilot and I told this one Sunday, walking with my father outside and he asked me: ‘What do you want to be later on?’. And I said: ‘I want to be a commercial pilot in an airline’. ‘Ah’, he said, ‘don’t you want to study?’. I said, ‘No, I want to make my exam as a professional pilot’. And he said. ‘You can do this, but I have not learned that this is a profession. You can teach me, do you expect a regular fee or do you fly for tips?’
[UI laughs]
AG: You can see how the times have changed. Now the airlines, they don’t like this joke. But they are making a lot of money also. And it is a fine profession. Also today, I think so.
I: So you then go from the airline directly into the Luftwaffe?
AG: No. The first year, at the end of the first year we were told that this was a commercial pilot school. The students were offered to become military pilots. We were told, commercial pilot doesn’t have good aspects for the future, but we will soon have military pilots and you can decide to switch over to the military career. I didn’t like this very much but there was no other questions. This was a strong invitation.
I: [laughs] There must have been many applications to become a professional pilot in those days.
AG: For the commercial side or the military?
I: For the military.
AG: For the military. No, we didn’t have any military organisation at that time at all, everything was, inexistent, was private, commercially or private or it was camouflaged, military.
I: The black Luftwaffe.
AG: The black Luftwaffe did start already in these days.
I: Yes.
AG: But most of the pilots were trained in Russia as you know, Lipezk, a Russian base, we had an agreement with Russia and we trained our people there.
I: Were you there?
AG: No, I have not been there. When Göring came in power, he cancelled this agreement with Russia and he started with Italy an agreement on a similar base. So, I was in the first group which was sent to Italy to be trained there, militarywise. We did not learn too much there in Italy. This agreement was not based on a good understanding between Göring and Balbo, maybe they had language problems, so the Italians did believe we were beginners and we knew already to fly. I remember one day, a French acrobatic pilot that had set up a record [unclear] inverted, invertedly and for two hours or so and we at this time did make acrobatics also there. So I decided when I was, when it was my turn to fly, I went up and go this way, I moved around the airfield all the time invertedly. To make a joke then they sent another airplane up, dropped down [laughs].
I: [laughs] Did you break the record?
AG: No [laughs]. I didn’t have fuel for this. I flew for ten minutes or so, but I showed.
UI2: What type of aircraft were you flying at that time, sir?
AG: Italian aircraft.
UI2: Italian aircraft. Macchi and [unclear].
I: When the Luftwaffe was formed officially in 1935, what was your first unit and what aircraft did you fly?
AG: When I had finished the training, I was ordered to go to the first fighter group which was built close to Berlin, in Döbritz. This was the first group of the fighter wing Richthofen, of the new fighter wing Richthofen. So, I came to this wing as, I was lieutenant, but I was released as Leutenant and we were installed again as Kettenführer.
I: Flight Commander.
AG: Ja, something like this. But, very soon later die Tarnung, the camouflage was taken away and we were made Lieutenants again.
I: I see. You would fly the Heinkel 51?
AG: No, at this time we had the Arado 65. And then we had the Arado 68 and then came the 51.
I: Heinkel 51.
AG: The second group later was set up in Jüterbog, south of Berlin, as the second group that have the 51s already.
I: Did you have any flying accidents in the early days?
AG: [laughs] I had many accidents and many damages. Sometimes they called me the millionaire of the new Luftwaffe, it was for the value of the airplanes I had damaged or destroyed.
[All laugh]
AG: But this was overdoned a little bit. I had one terrible accident, with a Stieglitz, with a biplane by doing acrobatics. I was very good in acrobatics and I had to train for flight demonstrations, which were set up in different towns and I had to show there acrobatics in the Stieglitz. And in this case I had modified the horizontal stabilizer in order to get better flight conditions in inverted flights, but this resulted that the aircraft did have a complete [unclear] conditions in spin. And I couldn’t recover, I could not recover the plane from spin earlier enough so I hit the ground in this position about 45°, this was a terrible accident.
I: I understand that after that [unclear] you are very good at passing eyetests.
AG: [laughs], ja, it is true. In this case I had, the plane had an open cockpit and I had glasses and I destroyed one eye with a splinter from [unclear] glasses and I had a damage on the eye and this resulted in a shorter sight of this eye. And I knew I had to pass a new physical and so to be sure I learnt the numbers and the, was ist Buchstaben?
I: Letters.
AG: The letters. I learned the letters from the table and I knew them by memorising them and I passed my exam very fine. [laughs]
I: The doctors they were bewildered.
AG: Yes [laughs]
I: [laughs]. Yes Can you tell us something about the airfighting in Spain with the Condor legion and just how much influence did Mölders have on evolving tactics for the Luftwaffe?
AG: [clears throat] Mölders became my successor as squadron leader and he, my squadron was equipped with 51s and we did ground attacks. And we were very successful in, we were helping the army, the Spanish army in their advances. Mölders arranged to change the missions to real fighter missions and so his, my other squadron was equipped then with 109s and Mölders started then to find a new tactic. He really invented the open flying formation, finger-four formation and he also had set up a, set up the methods to train the pilots in this way. So we flew in a very open formation, two planes at the same altitude, about onehundred, onehundredfifty meters apart
I: Apart.
AG: From the other and we moved all the time this way in the air in a very open formation. And this had the advantage that the number two could see also, could observe the airspace. In a close formation, number two and number three are seeing nothing, nothing but the guide only. So the next two they are flying from here to there also in this open formation. And this was really invented and explored by Mölders, this is his merit, is no question. By the way, was later on also a very good formation leader. We have pilots, and another example is Hartmann, Hartmann was not a leader at all, he could only fly by his own, and many pilots, Udet was also such a pilot, couldn’t lead a formation, I was told. Mölders once told me: ‘I will tell you one thing, you can become a Richthofen, you can become a new Richthofen, I wanted to be a Boelcke’, this means he wanted to fly with his head, so he was convinced that he was taktisch. And he was [unclear].
I: Did you ever fly the Heinkel 112?
AG: No, I was there when these people were doing [screams] this, the Olympic heroes there but I could not, I could not be pleased by looking at the athletics. So I decided to sell my ticket, sold it. I went up to Warnemünde or in the North, on the East Sea and I did chase Swedish girls, was more pleasant.
I: We have heard of your reputation. [laughs] Is another Galland legend. Did you ever fly the Heinkel 112?
AG: No.
I: Would it have been a better fighter than the Messerschmitt 109?
AG: Ja, ja, it’s no question, would have been a much better fighter than the other plane but the plane was more expensive to be built. The wing profile was changing all the time. The wing of the 109 was much more, much easier to build and for much less money to build. And this was one of the reasons why it has been decided in favour of the 109. Especially the undercarriage of the 109 was very narrow and the plane did have a terrible tendency to loop, to break out in taking off and landing, specially with crosswind. The aircraft lost an unbelievable number of planes by, of 109s by accidents during the war.
I: Would the extra range of the Heinkell had been an advantage to you in the battle of Britain?
AG: Of course, it would have been, would have been an advantage, but it wouldn’t have been decisive. The outcome of the battle would have been more or less the same because the Luftwaffe was not build and was not equipped for a battle like battle of Britain, was not build for strategic airwar. The Luftwaffe was for defense, for air defense and also for helping the army.
I: Tactical support.
AG: Ja, tactical support.
I: After Dunkirk, and the fall of France, did you think that the Luftwaffe could win the battle of Britain?
AG: No, we did not believe this, we did hope it but we learned very soon that this was not possible. Lord Dowding was a very, very cleaver man in guiding his fighters the right way and he did not use the fighters so much as Göring did. He was a much better tactician than Göring. There’s no question.
I: And yet he was sacked, he was discharged shortly after the battle of Britain by the High Command.
AG: Yes. Dowding?
I: Downing.
AG: But he came back.
I: Yes. Well, he was never honoured as he should have been for his part in the battle of Britain. Because mainly of Leigh-Mallory.
AG: Ah ja. This are [unclear] conditions and we learned during the battle that Dowding was a very, very cleaver man and Göring had the intention, first to bring the English Fighter Command down and then to bomb England and bomb London by using this medium bombers we had, the Heinkel 111 mostly [unclear] we had the Junkers 88. But the [clears throat] the Stukas had to withdrawn from the battle very soon because they detect high losses, they could not be escorted [unclear]. So the next decision in favour of the Stukas was a mistake. Another mistake was the set up of the 110 formations, what we called Zerstörer, destroyer. It was supposed to be an escort fighter, but a twin-engine fighter aircraft cannot be compared with a single engine fighter. Is always less maneuvrable and has not the acceleration, he has better armament but in fact the 110 as an escort fighter had to be escorted by single engine fighters and we had to withdraw first the Stukas, Junkers 87, and then the 110 from the battle they could not stand the too high losses.
I: Did this come as a major shock to the crews of the 110s?
AG: Ja, it was a shock, but we knew that it would come. We knew this from exercises. Before the war. We could learn in this maneuvers that the Stuka and the 110 would not, would not be used for long time to [unclear] because the performance were not. Performance were compared to single engine fighters were too low.
I: Your famous comment about the, to Göring about the Spitfires, giving you a squadron of Spitfires, you feel that perhaps would not have made the difference either?
AG: Göring came during the battle of Britain with this special train in the Pas-de-Calais and he ordered Mölders and myself to come. And he blamed us for half an hour for not performing the escort. Our bombers wanted to have the fighters sitting on their wing, on their wing tips but by doing this with the 109 we could not stay, we could not fight, we needed speed and this, our speed was not higher than the bomber formation speed, with outside bomb, so the bombs were hanging there. We had to cross over the and below the formation, but was a higher speed and the bombers did not like it. And Göring blamed us, we should sit on their wing tip, we should not leave this position, we should defend the bombers, and I told him we can only defend the bombers by being aggressive, by being offensive, we have to attack the enemy fighters. And this we can only do when we have a higher speed. And Göring said: ‘Don’t talk such a bla bla, you have the best fighter of the world, the Messerschmitt 109 and everybody knows it, this world war I fighter aircraft’. And finally after half an hour he finished this blaming and he asked Mölders: ‘What can I do to improve the fighting capacity of your wing commanders at this time?’. And Mölders said he wanted to have the Messerschmitt 109 with the more powerfull Daimler-Benz 605 M engines, that was an engine with a higher capation [unclear] and this octane 100 fuel. And Göring said to his aide: ‘Take a note, Mölders will get the first engines’. And then he said: ‘What can I do for your wing?’. And I said: ‘Please Reichsmarschall equip my wings with Spitfires’. [laughs] I do not know, what gave me the courage. [all laugh] Göring was standing there, he was unable to say anything. He looked at me, he turned around and [unclear], trying to restrain.
I: That is legend, sir, it is legend now.
AG: But, I never did get the Spitfire. Mölders did get the engines, but I never got. But I was not punished, [unclear], I was not punished, I expected.
I: You were respected for us. In your opinion, if Leigh-Mallory had controlled 11 Group with his big wing tactics and Keith Park had controlled 12 Group in the battle of Britain, the two group commanders, do you think the outcome would have been the same?
AG: Ja, this is, as I said, true English question. I know this and I believe it would have been good to have a bigger formation than only one wing, only one squadron. But not the only group in one wing. So wings with forty, more or less, forty aircraft or twenty to forty, that would be the best in my opinion.
I: Why were Messerschitt 109s not fitted with dropable fuel tanks during the battle of Britain?
AG: That was a real mistake, absolutely was forgotten or they were not available, we have used in Spain already as I told you, but for the 109 we did not, we did not [unclear]
I: And yet it would have helped your range.
AG: It would have helped but we would have, had to drop the tanks already when we came over England.
I: Yes.
AG: Because the dogfight, fighter against fighter, with drop tanks ist not very [unclear]. So later on when we got them, Göring extended an order not to drop the tanks, only when we were attacked.
I: One of the major factors was that the Luftwaffe didn’t concentrate its attack on the communications network and particularly the radar stations. Why was that so?
AG: A mistake.
I: Again a mistake.
AG: Absolutely a big mistake.
I: You knew about them.
AG: Ja, we knew of them, we had photos and it was a mistake. It was a mistake to finish the attack against Fighter Command was a mistake also, we should have continued. Ensure the british fighters did not come up when we came only by fighter. We had to use some bombers to go with us, to drop some bombs, to force the british fighters to come up. But to switch over from the battle against Fighter Command to the attacks on London was a terrible mistake.
I: How would you compare the Messerschmitt 109e with the Mark I Spitfire and Hurricane? I believe yours actually had Mickey Mouse on its, why did you have Mickey Mouse as your logo?
AG: When I was in Spain, Mickey Mouse had just come up everywhere and one of the pilots already in operations had the Mickey Mouse. And I did like this, I said, I will take the Mickey Mouse also, modified it a little bit and then I was told I should not use the Mickey Mouse because it was an American.
I: Yes, quite.
AG: Toy and this did make me decide to have it at all, to keep it and I kept it all the time.
I: Yes, indeed.
AG: I still today in my car [laughs].
I: And how do you think the 109 compared to the Spitfire then? The 109e?
AG: The e was not the best, the g was later better, g4. The Messerschmitt was, besides bad conditions in taking off and landing, based on this narrow undercarriage. The Me 109 had only one advantage, that was the fuel injection of the engine. We could easily use, manoeuvre was negative g, [unclear]
I: Yes.
AG: And the engine would drive perfectly, would not stop. We knew it was the carburator immediately when you get negative g and it stops. So, we could, when we were fired, we dropped only the nose down, and always more down and we could escape. This was a advantage. In other flying conditions both types, the Spitfire and the 109 were more or less equal. Acceleration. Manouvreability was better in the Spitfire, the Spitfire had a lower wingload, had a lower wingload and was better in manoeuvre, but acceleration were more or less the same.
I: Yes. I understand, Sir, that you had three brothers who were also fighter pilots with the Luftwaffe. Did they see service throughout the war with you?
AG: Ja, Ja. First came my younger brother to my wing. He started as a anti-aircraft and he was unhappy there, I took him out and he got a special training and then he came to my wing. And he became very soon a very capable, very good fighter pilot, very good. He had in his time 57 victories between b7, four-engine B-17s, was a high number. And he got the Ritterkreuz, this decoration we had. And my younger brother, the youngest brother, he had some difficulties, he came also from the anti-aircraft and had also a special training. I took him in my wing and in the beginning he had very high difficulties and he asked me to help him. So, I went with him to his 109 and he was sitting in the aircraft, immediately I saw he was sitting in the wrong way in the cockpit. When you had not the right position, then, the, what is when you are shooting?
I: Gunsight.
AG: Gunsight. Gunsight. He was sitting wrong behind the gunsight and this resulted in a mistake of his balance, of his shooting.
I: Yes.
AG: So, I corrected this [unclear] he got in the aircraft and from one day to the other he shot up.
I: Really?
AG: He was so happy. I also. He was a very young fellow, he died with twentythree years, he had 17 victories. And the elder one, he was, was a bad fighter. He was really a bad fighter, he wasn’t able to do anything, he was hopeless, so I managed to get him to the air reconnaissance 109. He flew there but he was not successful [unclear].
I: Did the two other brothers today survive the war with you?
AG: Only the elder, only the elder one but in the mean time he died also. Ten years ago.
I: Alright. I understand that at one time your crew chief was actually given a rocket for saving your life. What’s the story behind that?
AG: He one time did install an additional
I: Armour plate
AG: Plate,
I: Armour?
AG: Armour, armour plate behind me. And this armour blade went over my head and he didn’t tell me when I crossed the cockpit and were taking off, I shut the roof and I hit my head terribly and I blamed him: ‘You did not tell me you installed this’. ‘Wait, when I’m back I will tell you something’. And during this mission, I was shot down and I got an impact on this plate, exactly on this plate. [everybody laughs] So I didn’t blame him, I gave him zweihundert Marks and a special leave.
I: Yes. There is one well-known photograph of your Messerschmitt with a modification of a gunsight. It’s a well-known photograph.
AG: Was a mistake.
I: Was it?
AG: Was absolute a mistake. I thought I could use it for shooting on a longer distance but I learned immediately it is good for nothing, it wasn’t even good to identify the planes. When you have a plane in front, sometimes it is difficult to decide is it 109, or is it Spitfire. So, I thought when I looked through this, I can make it out [unclear] you cannot get it concentrated in anything so I decided to get [unclear]. But this aircraft, many times it has been photographed and many times on many photos it appears with the gunsight. We had not, we had a simple gunsight I have to [unclear] this was a fixed gunsight but what we had needed was a gunsight which was directed by
I: Gyro,
AG: BY gyro,
I: By gyroscope.
AG: By gyro. This we have needed terribly. We got it finally late in ’44 but it didn’t work properly. So this was an advantage on the british you had this gyroscopic gunsight, which made shooting in terms much easier.
I: Without Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, would the American 8th Air Force and Bomber Command, in your opinion, have been able to sustain the bomber offensive?
AG: No, no. We were already so much beaten at this time, we would have more fighters available for the air defense and the losses would have been higher on the other side but we could, would not have been able to stop the air offensive. The western allies, the English, the British, they did a very clever thing, to split up the air offensive in day and night offensive and the british concentrated completely on the night. This was very clever, very clever. So, we had to build up a nightfighter airforce, nightfighter force, which did not exist at the beginning of the war. Göring said: ‘Nightfighters? We don’t need them. It will never be a night bombing’. So, when he made the decision, it was a decision, it was [unclear] this. He did not accept anything what was critical or negative of the airforce, everything was first class what he did.
I: Were you ever in charge of the night fighters?
AG: Ja, I was in charge and this after the catastrophe of Hamburg. In this case, Kammhuber, general Kammhuber was responsible for the night fighters and he was a very stupid man, he didn’t fly himself and he gave orders which the night fighters didn’t accept anymore. He was using one night fighter against the incoming bombers and he could only guide one fighter. And at this time, when the Bomber Command switched over to the bomber stream, all the night fighters wanted to follow the stream, they could see it by night, depending from the visibility but with lighting from the ground and with the fire over the towns, our night fighters could see the bomber stream and by the bombers they shoot their fire, they could follow this stream but Kammhuber did not allow our night fighters to go with the stream, to follow. So, they came, the night fighters came to me and they said: ‘You must help us. Our commander, Kammhuber, he bind us on one radar, in the range of one radar, in a circle of 120 km, he bind us and we want to follow’. We used Window the first time in Hamburg and this did lead to a complete catastrophe of Kammhuber’s tactic. So I had to tell this Göring and Kammhuber was released of the [unclear] and he went over to fleet commander, airfleet commander North, 5th airfleet.
I: In Norway.
AG: Norway. And he blamed this on me, Kammhuber, they said. He didn’t say to me but he was convinced I had originated this trouble. And I had, so we had not a very good relationship [unclear]. And after the war Blank was the first man who did set up the beginning of the air force and Blank wanted to have me as the first commander of the air force. And he invited me to come and talk to me and he said: ‘I did not want to have high ranking officers of World War I in the new air force, they are too old. So, everybody has voted for you, you should be the first commander of the air force, when you accept it’. And I said: ‘I am coming from Argentina, I have no idea what is going on here, I must be, first get a complete information what is done, what is planned and so on’. And then finally this was done and I decided to go up to do it, that [unclear] did say this to Blank. Then came a stop on the rebuilding of our new air force because the French blocked, they blocked this, was the European Defense Committee, Community and [unclear] came up this time. And the French did stop the European Defense Committee. So, and this was one time delayed and then this time Kammhuber came as the first commander of the air force because Blank did change against Strauss, Strauss being Bavarian he brought Kammhuber with him, who was also Bavarian and he was [unclear] over. Kammhuber did build up the air force. Was a nice story. When Kammhuber was in charge of the night fighters, I had to see him in order to use his night organisation also during daytime. Kammhuber did denie this completely, he said: ‘No, I have set up for the night fighters and you are day fighter, and they will set up your organisation, radar and everything’. And I said: ‘No, that is not true, we are not so rich that we can do this. This is a hotel with a hotel organisation, we have a night porter and a day porter, you are the night porter, I am the day porter’. We blamed for hours, we could not convince, and then he said: ‘ [unclear] I will show a complete new radar installation I have just set up’. And we went in his car, a big Mercedes, open Mercedes, his big flag as commanding general on front and there was a soldier of the infantry [unclear] He blocked us and said: ‘Your passport’. Kammhuber said: ‘Don’t you know me?’ ‘No. Passport’. [unclear] said: ‘Do you know this flag? I am your commanding officer’. He said: ‘This can be said by everybody. Passport.’ Kammhuber made a head like this and finally he said: ‘Do you know him?’. He looked at me and said: ‘Ah, I believe I have seen him on a [unclear], on a newspaper, in front of a newspaper, a big photo. I think that this is Major Mölders, then you can go’. [unclear] He was [unclear] also, Major Mölders.
I: I’ve been asked by some of the veterans who flew from the Yorkshire fields, where we are from, from 5 Group and 6 Group veterans, what were your feelings towards the night bomber crews, when you were general of night fighters?
AG: I didn’t understand too much about night fighting, I must say this, I’m a complete day fighter, and [coughs] we had a saying as dayfighters: the night is not good for fighter pilots, the night is good for bitches, but not for fighters. But really this was a good organisation and also the guiding systems we had in the night fighters they were very fine, very very fine. And the night fighters did have a better fighter, leading fighter, guiding organisation than any fighters had but they did not need it.
I: This was Wild Boar and Tame Boar.
AG: Ja.
I: After the raid on Schweinfurt-Regensburg, did you think the 8th Air Force could be stopped by the Luftwaffe?
AG: No, I did not believe this, there were too many mistakes done and too many things were not performed. When Hamburg occurred, everybody, Göring did call a big meeting and all important men were present at this meeting. There was a unique opinion, we have now to change the priority and we have to give the air defense first priority. And we have to stop everything else but we have to concentrate all our power on air defense. Göring was convinced and he decided to bring this up to Hitler immediately. This meeting was in Hitler’s headquarters, Wolfsschanze in East Prussia. So Göring went to Hitler. He came back after one hour, he was completely destroyed, he broke down in his quarter and finally he ordered [unclear] and myself to come and he said: ‘Hitler has not accepted our plan. Hitler has decided to build up a new attack air force, a new bomber air force to bomb England. Bombing can only be stopped by bombing, not by air defense’. And he had explained this to me and Hitler has right. He fall down completely, he is right as he is always right. The way through air defense is too far away and we were stopped, we were blocked from continue bombing aim. So Peltz, general Peltz, a young fellow was made the attack guidance, the attack commander in England. This was immediately after Hamburg.
I: 1943.
AG: Ja. Unbelievable, unbelievable.
I: Was this the beginning of what they call the Bedeker Raids?
AG: Ja.
I: Where they used the Bedeker Atlas to bomb.
AG: Ja.
I: May I ask you general?
AG: Göring was not stupid, he was a clever man. He knew this was wrong, but he has never resisted Hitler. When Hitler gave an order, he immediately was of the same opinion, because Göring was not a man for combat, was not a man for fight, was not a man for war. Göring wanted to continue his life as the most richest man in Europe, he wanted to be brilliant and he didn’t like the war at all.
I: Without a western front to defend, could Operation Barbarossa have succeded?
AG: Could?
I: If Germany had not been fighting on two fronts, could you have succeeded with the attack on the Soviet Union?
AG: With the attack on the Soviet Union. It is difficult to decide but we were close to win the battle, but we have been blocked again by beginning the offensive against Russia by the Italians. When you have the Italians as your allies, you have 50% of the war already lost, you we can be sure. [UI and UI2 laugh] Really. The Italians have started the war in Africa, so this did force us to go to Africa. Then, Germany wanted to take over Malta. Mussolini said: ‘No, Malta, we will take over. You can take Greece’. And we took Greece with much losses and it was not good for nothing, I know. And the Russian campaign has been delayed by the Italians again, this time by the war in the Balcans, by attacking Albania. And we had to go to the Balcans. This [unclear] a delay of half a year. Again our allies deterred us. So I still am going to say, if we could have won the war, I think we could have broken the power of Russia, we could have. We were close to Moskow and if we would have started half a year earlier, everything would have been much more in favour.
I: A huge country of course.
AG: Ja.
I: You were a pallbearer at the funeral of Ernst
AG: I knew the war was lost, was probably or was not to be won, there is a difference, already in 19, in the second war Russian campaign, this was
I: 1942. 1942.
AG: 1942. In this year I remember conversations I had with the chief of staff of the Air force, Jeschonnek, who told me: ‘You can believe me the war cannot be won anymore’. I said: ‘I agree competely’. But we were not allowed to talk about this, to tell this anybody. And we, ourselves, we fighters, young people, we knew the war could not be won anymore but we hoped, did heartly hope, that the war could be brought to an better end. This means, the unconditional surrender condition, this was something we are fighting against up to the last man.
I: You were a pallbearer at the funeral of Ernst Udet. When did you realise that he had committed suicide and what are your memories of Udet?
AG: When we at the funeral of Udet, we were told by Göring, Göring could difficultly close his mouth if he wanted to talk. So, he did tell us what has happened and some weeks, three weeks before, I was with Udet one night in the special train of Göring in East Prussia. And Udet was completely broken, completely broken, he was blamed to be responsible for the armament which were not going up and [unclear] and this was true. Udet was responsible for the development, for test, and for armament, for building, for the industry, and this he could not do, he was not able to do this at all, he could not organise the industry and he did not have the help to do this correctly. And therefore, he missed completely, lost completely this order to build up the industry. But this was not the responsibility of Udet, this was the responsibility of Göring to make him responsible for this. There were other people, Milch is an example, was absolutely more capable to do this and the production went up when Milch took over the post of Udet. So, is this the answer?
I: What are your memories of him as a person?
AG: Oh, he was a wonderful man. He was a wonderful, charming man, he was an artist. He was joking, he was very much liked by everybody. He was a great flier, pilot and you could have a lot of joke with him. And we did have.
UI. Yes.
AG: He did like the whiskeys.
I: And the ladies?
AG: Also.
I: [laughs] I understand that Douglas Bader was a guest of Geschwader 26 for a while.
AG: Ja. I have the date here when he was shot up, that was in 1943. There was an incoming English Royal Air Force attack, Blenheims with escort of Spitfires, and we had a big fight over the Pas de Calais. This was my wing and the wing Richthofen, but in this case only my wing 26 was involved, we did shot down I think 6 Spitfires and 2 or 3 Blenheims, I shot a Blenheim down. And I shot, I combat also with Spitfires but I think [unclear] off 3 Blenheims and 6 Spitfires downed. And in the afternoon one of my group commanders phoned me and said: ‘We have shot down one incredible man, an English wing commander, by the name Bader, he said, Bader said wanted only to be called Bader. He has two wooden legs and you must invite him to come immediately, bring him my invitation. And Bader had to bail out and he left one of his wooden legs in the Spit and the Spit landed with out him and my mechanics could repair this wooden leg a little bit. So, I was called some days later, Bader can come now and visit you. And I did send him my biggest car and a good looking, first Lieutenant. Bader came on. I had informed myself a little bit about him and it was absolutely a great impression, from the first moment, this stepped on his two wooden legs. And Bader said to me: ‘Can you send a message to our side that I am safe in your hands and I wanted to have a second set of my legs, which I have in my [unclear] and a good pipe and tobacco’. I said:’ Yes, I will try it’. So, then I phoned Göring in the evening and said: ‘We have Wing Commander Bader here, a man with two wooden legs, unbelievable man, sympathic and [unclear] the rules [unclear] immediately’. And I said: ‘We wanted, or he, he wanted that we communicate to the other side, to the English side, he is in our hands and he wants to have a spare legs’. And Göring said: ‘You can do this, we have done this in world war one, many times, you can do this, I like this, I like this’, the meaning was [unclear]. So, we put it on the way of the international sea rescue. It was confirmed from the other side, I communicate this to Göring and he said: ‘How do you want to do this?’ I said: ‘We are waiting now that the English [unclear] and then we make a proposal, we make an open space with an airfield and we guarantee a safe landing and coming to our side and of course we will make some photos’. [laughs]
I: Doctor Goebbels [laughs]
AG: This, our message was confirmed through the other side and nothing happened two, three days and then came in the same way, in the same way, the same frequency, a message: in this present attack we are doing, we drop not only bombs, we drop also a case with the spare legs from Bader. They dropped our airfield [unclear], no, not [unclear], Saint-Omer, dropped a case with a parachute, I have photos of this, there were the spare legs, that was not very nice, we were disappointed. So Bader many time has visited me, for tea and then I showed him the aircraft from my wing and showed especially mine, my 109 and he wanted to step out, he mounted the cockpit immediately with his wooden legs, this is unbelievable. And as he was sitting in the aircraft, Heidi, you must being the photos, and he said, I showed him everything, explained [unclear] please can you start the engine [all laugh] all around the place, only around the place. I said, no wing commander, let’s stop this nonsense because I have two 109s for my own personal use and if you take off I would have to follow you. And I would have to shot at you again and I do not want to do this. He was laughing. Of course he has never expected that we would start it. Then he was brought back to the hospital and he made an escape from the hospital, on the sheets from the prisoners, he did borrow the sheets and came down from the second floor to the ground and the last sheet did broke and he did fall down and he hurt one leg again and he had to go the hospital. So, he was immediately captured again. When I heard this, that he had escaped again, I was [unclear] because I had shown him to much [unclear]. I would have had [unclear] perhaps but he came back and he did make another escape. This man was unbelievable.
I: On that engagement when Bader was shot down by your Geschwader, there was another pilot and our research indicates that you shot him down and he lives in Sheffield, which is quite near to the Yorkshire museum. He is still alive today and he sends his best wishes to you.
AG: Oh, thank you. That was on this occasion?
I: Yes. Buck Kassen was his name and he was shot down and made prisoner of war the same time as Douglas Bader. And we interview him as part of this tape.
AG: What is the name of this Spitfire pilot shot down in?
I: [unclear]
AG: My victory 56. He calls himself your victory 56.
I: [unclear]
FS: I’ll take some.
I: May I ask you why did most of the Luftwaffe’s very high scoring aces, such as Hartmann, Barckhorn, Rall, why did they fly the Messerschmitt 109 rather than the Focke Wulff 190?
AG: In the beginning, the 190 was not available, the 190 was only available for wings from April ‘43, so up to this date they could only use the 109. The 190 came later, it was not, was not ready for being used by the operational units.
I: But even later, even later many of the aces still preferred the 109.
AG: Maybe. I personally flew the 190 the last months of the war and my latest was the 262 of course.
I: Yes.
AG: But the 190 was much better for attacks on bombers. The 109 was absolutely better for fighting fights against fighters. Danke. The 190 had a lot of protection against the bomber fighter, the Spit [unclear] engine gave you a feeling of safety.
I: Why did the death of one man, general Wever, bring about the scrapping of the german strategic bomber program and what were Göring’s and Jeschonnek’s views after the battle of Britain?
AG: Wever was an army general but as an army general he had a great understanding for air war and Wever was also a follower of Douhet, this Italian general, the inventor of the strategic air war. And Wever did promote the four-engine big bomber, he did promote this. Unfortunately, he killed himself in a flying accident. He started a Heinkel 70 with the rollers blocked in Dresden, came down immediately. If he would have lived perhaps we would have had a four bomber air force also. I believe this. But then Udet went to the States and he was convinced by the American navy air force, which were, they were using these dive bombers, and Udet was convinced by them that was the way for people which have not big reserves on raw material, like Germany, to get the same result by picking up pinpoint targets. And really Udet did influence the air force, the top air force men, including Göring, that this was the way for Germany to have the Stukas instead of the four-engine bomber. [unclear] we can get the same result if we had the power station of a big plant or we destroyed your plant. This is the same result. So, at this time, an order was given that all the German aircraft, even the twin-engine Junkers 88, could have been used, should have been used in dive attacks. Also the Heinkel 177, which was the German four-engine bomber, in which two engines were blocked, bound together, they should also go in dive-bombing, which was a mistake, of course.
I: When you were promoted to general in charge of fighters, sir, how old were you? You were a very young man, I believe. And how do you feel about succeeding Mölders?
AG: 29, 29 years and I was practically the immediate successor of Mölders.
I: How did you feel about that, sir?
AG: I was not happy, I was absolutely unhappy in these days because I wanted to continue as wing commander. I was very unhappy in this position. I wanted to fight, only to fly. I already upset with, myself with Göring when I was made wing commander, because I did believe I so much paperwork to do that I could not fly anymore. My intention was to fight.
I: Hitler awarded you the Germany’s highest award for bravery, the diamonds to your knight’s cross following your 94th victory. But I understand there was more to it than just the diamonds. You had quite a collection of diamonds in the end.
AG: Ja. The first diamond I got was the Spanish cross with diamonds. That was a german award very nice with diamonds in the middle. This was awarded, I think, nine times.
I: [unclear]
AG: And next I got the diamonds to the oak leaves to the knight’s cross. And when I got this, Göring did had not seen it before and I was sitting in Göring’s train [unclear] and Göring looked at me and said: ‘Are these the diamonds the Führer gave you as highest german award?’. I said ja. ‘It cannot be’, he said, ‘take it off’. I took it off and gave them to him [unclear]. ‘Terrible, terrible, The Führer knows everything, knows every carrier of the [unclear], of the german army, the german, he knows the complete trajectory, every gun, but diamonds, he has no idea, not enough. I tell you, these are splinters. Little splinters, these are not diamonds. Give it to me, I will, I have a jewelier in Berlin, who will make you another set. You will see what diamonds are looking like’. So I took it off and gave it to him. Some weeks later, I was ordered to come to his house in Carinhall. ‘Galland, look at here, this are the splinters of Hitler, these are the diamonds of Göring, who knows about diamonds?’. So, he gave me both sets back, I had now twice. Then, he must have told this to Hitler because some weeks later I was asked to see Hitler and Hitler said: ‘My dear Galland, finally I’m in a position to award you with the final edition of [unclear] decoration. Look at this’. He gave me this case. ‘Take a look, [unclear]’. I did not know for what is this order to come, I had the diamonds from Göring, the big ones. And he said: ‘Can you see the difference? These are splinters’. ‘This is obsolete’. ‘No, you can wear this every day. They are expensive, the big ones here. When you are flying daily, take the other ones. The splinters’. I was about to explode. He gave me both sets back, I did three times now. And then came a time, I was so upset with Göring, I had so big fights with him. And he had in one big meeting in Munich Schleissheim, there were about forty officers in this meeting and he blamed the fighters in a terrible way. He said we were not anymore brave, we were scapegoats and good for nothing, we were decorated highly at the beginning of the war and we did not pay for it. And most of the pilots had with lies made their high decorations over England. When he said this, I took my decoration off, I was sitting opposite to him and hit it on the table. Göring finished this meeting and he tried to calm me down, but I said: ‘No, you should refuse this [unclear]’. I said: ‘Göring, I cannot do it, I cannot do it, [unclear] I cannot take my decoration on anymore’. And I did hang this number three [unclear] in my office in Berlin and this Olympic game installation and hang it on the neck of the wooden [unclear]and It was hanging there, I didn’t take my decoration for, I think, five months. And then Hitler one day saw a photo of mine on a newspaper, Berliner Illustrierte, and said:’Why is Galland not showing his decoration?’. And Hitler was told the Royal Air Force was bombing Berlin. And Hitler said: ‘You should [unclear] immediately and get a new [unclear]. I had to see Hitler without. And Hitler said finally: ‘Bad luck, but you have a new set’. But this is was number four. [laughs] And by the end of this war I was wearing this number four and I took this as prisoner of war with me, until we were asked to take it away. But I could keep this with me and [unclear] till today. That is the only set. The other sets, one was burned, two sets, [unclear] was liberated at the end of the war by the americans,
I: They might be somewhere in America still, probably.
AG: I talked to one man who has one set.
I: Really? Amazing story. You were responsible for the fighter screen when the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen made the famous Channel dash. How was this success achieved under the eyes of the RAF?
AG: I was made responsible for this fighter escort, is true and I was in a meeting with Hitler and Hitler at the end of the meeting he took me away and said: ‘Do you believe this operation can be performed?’ And I told him: ‘It is possible, but the first condition, first and most important condition is complete, this operation is completely secret. And the English should not know about the operation, should not know when is going on and so on, completely secret and Hitler said: ‘Yes, I agree 100%’. ‘But’, I said, ‘there is a lot of risk in war’. Hitler said: ‘In all my operations, the last years, the biggest risk was the [unclear], it was true, he always was playing with this risk, in an incredible [unclear]. Hitler agreed and when the operation were prepared very much in detail and seriously, very seriously. And I invented the callname, the codename for this operation.
I: Really?
AG: I invented Donnerkeil. This was not accepted by the navy. The navy called it, what was it?
I: Cerberus.
AG: Cerberus, Cerberus, they called it Cerberus. And this was good and in so far as the British secret service knew about this was [unclear], not in detail but they knew, we were preparing it. They did believe this were two different operations, they did not bring the two operations together, so this was an advantage. And then our highest chief of the communication, Martini, he did use for the first time a big system of disturbing the English radar and this disturbation gave the English the impression we were coming in with big [unclear], with big offensive formations and this did help a lot. And the weather did help a lot, it was a miserable weather and on the English side, not in France, nothing, this did help us also. So, we had finally the success based on a lot of luck, lot of luck and our fighters were brave, fighting very very brave. I remember I had my two brothers in this operation and they told me.
I: And a very british Victoria cross was ordered in that operation too. What are your memories of the ace Hans-Joachim Marseille? And how did you regard him as a fighter ace, in comparison to Hartmann?
AG: In my book, the virtuoso, [unclear] but he was a single fighter, also was not a [unclear], nobody could follow him, he did fly like Richthofen, more than Richthofen
I: As a loner, as we would say.
AG: He was not able to guide four fighters there. And he got so impacts I think in his last [unclear] and he did make a mistake by escaping from the aircraft. He didn’t make a [unclear] but he did in the beginning. And was pulling out and he hit the tail. Later, I personally did escape twice by our new method took the nose up, engine down, nose up and then we pushed the bottom very strongly unclear], the aircraft did make this motion and in this situation the pilot was ejected really, the pilot was flying up ten meters, thirty feet and this was this [unclear] method risky.
AG: Ja, we’re finished now.
I: We could move to the end of the war. So, Germany’s experience with jet fighters where of course the Messerschmitt 262 was the first operational combat jet fighter in the world. Do you feel that that aircraft, if it had been available in sufficient numbers in 1943, could have altered the bombing offensive? And what was it like to fly? What was it as an aeroplane?1
AG: I’ve known this airplane I think in June ‘43 the first time and I have made a report on this, I have a copy of this. On Saturday the 22 of May ’43. I’ve flown this aircraft in Ausgburg, taking off in Ausgburg, is a Messerschmitt plant and this a report about this first flight addressed to Feldmarschal Milch. He was responsible man for armament and for development. And I am saying, this aircraft [unclear] us complete new tactical possibilities, this is a revolution and I recommend therefore to stop the messerschnitt 262 development completely and to take this out of the plan. Concentrate only on the Focke Wulff 190 D development and all capacity and concentrate from now on to the 262. This will give us greatest chances supposed that the allies, the Americans and the English [unclear] continuing their operation on piston, only on piston driven fighter base and bombers. WE knew that they were also developing the Meteor and did not know when they were ready. But the 262 would have given us the biggest chance if we would have the time. The development of this project was stopped and delayed, later delayed by order of Hitler, because he was of the opinion that the war was shortly before to be won and developments would take more than one year to be finished, would come too late [unclear]. That was his argument. And without this [unclear] development, which was done by Messerschmitt and by Henkel, was done without being known by Hitler, was done in secret [unclear] of Hitler. Only in the last months of the war, when the aircraft was there, when the RAF made this first light tests, and this report, then he decided to use it only, only as [unclear] against the invasion. This is the aircraft, with which I will fight the forthcoming invasion, he said in my presence, this is the aircraft. I order this aircraft to not be used in any other form and should not be imagined in another operation as [unclear].
I: What was your opinion, sir, of the two other jet fighters that did see operational service or limited, the 162, the Heinkel 162 and of course the incredible Messerschmitt 163 Komet, the jet, rocket jet fighter?
AG: The 163, the rocket fighter was already under development and I knew about this and this would have been a compliment for the anti-aircraft, only for the defense of certain objects, like the derrick oil plants. I was of the opinion that this plane could be used for this object protection with a certain success. It would have been that a lower flight plane target with flight time, with power was only 6 or 8 minutes but the aircraft was then so high up that it could make one or two attacks and then go down. This was only an additional aircraft for the air defense but the 162, this was a political development. It was supposed to set the Hitler
I: Hitler Youth.
AG: Hitler Youth on these planes then only with the training of gliders, which was completely wrong, completely wrong, I was against this development because I said youngsters cannot fly this plane with success, this is absolutely impossible. Secondly, the engine BMW 003 is not so practical, [unclear] that it can be used only one engine on one aircraft, we need two engines. And certainly the 163 with this engine behind the pilots and without the exit seat, this would result, every pilot who tried to bail out would land in the engine. So, I have fought against this plane because the concept was only based on a political wrong thinking, absolutely wrong thinking. And this should have been performed and executed by a, the youngsters and responsible for this was the fieldmarshal or the general, colonel general Keller.
I: From the first world war.
AG: Ja, from the first world war. And I took Keller with me to Nowotny on the day in which there was a , was shot down, hit the ground. In order, my intention was to show him what a jet operation does mean, more complicated than this and at the end of the war, when I was leading my JW 44 in Munich Ried, two or three handful of this 162 came to me and said we want to fly with you. They didn’t have any success at all. So this was, the 162 was a complete wrong concept from the beginning. A political development.
UI. We’re getting near the end, sir, but can you very briefly tell us about JV 44? Is it correct that all the pilots have the night’s cross?
AG: No, no, this is not correct. We had several pilots with the knights cross and most their officers and at the end of the war, pilots who were in hospitals or were in, wie heisst das [unclear]? the recovery stations, they came to me and said:’We want to be, we want to fly under you’, they all said: ‘we want to fight the end of the days with you’. And I have accepted this. So, in the last week or two last weeks, I only accepted such pilots who wanted to continue to fly. Pilots who said, [unclear] for family reasons or something like this and I do not want to fly anymore, he could do this, he would not be punished at all. This were only Freiwillige, free will pilots, [unclear]
I: Volunteers.
AG: Volunteers, volunteers. And Steinhoff had this terrible accident, he was the man who was responsible for operations in my group 44, strong and he believes he had hit a [unclear]. I believe he pushed the wrong button, Steinhoff was used to take off with flaps in and only when he reached, came close to the take off speed, then he dropped the flaps, this [unclear] a little bit [unclear] the take off. But in the Messerschmitt are two buttons, one is for undercarriage, one is for flaps and they are close together, you can see on old cockpits. I think, yes, he pushed the undercarriage. Then he tried to take off, he made a jump, restored its speed, came down with too early engines about 2000 feet after he came lifted from the ground, came down, he hit the ground and burned out.
I: Did you see the crash?
AG: Ja. I was number one, he was number four in my wing. This was the last, my last mission. Finnegan believes he should, this American guy, he came, I shot down two more others in this mission and I didn’t know if the second one was already finished so I made a turn, looked at this [unclear] and [unclear] gave me some shots [unclear].
[All laugh]
I: Five more questions.
AG: Finnegan or when the Americans say, you were shot down by Finnegan, that is not true, I could manage to get home, one engine was hit, ja, that is correct but I could manage to come down and manage a perfect landing with one engine on my base on which I had taken off, is not a victory.
I: Not at all, an American-type victory.
UI2: Unconfirmed probably.
[All laugh]
I: Five more questions, if I may. You are now 82 years of age?
AG: Ja, unfortunately.
I: How do you feel about the events of 55 years ago, during the battle of Britain, when you were fighting for your life, all this time, all this long distance from battle, how do you feel?
AG: At this time when this had happened, we did never believe we would survive. Even in the last days of the war, when I flew the 262, I didn’t believe I would survive the war. I was real ready with my life, had a good life and [unclear] success, [unclear] success in my life and I always wanted to be better than others and I got the feeling to be better than others [unclear]. So, I am thankful for my life and I think it was an extraordinary class of life which I performed. And I thank God for being with you now and have survived all situations. And I have the experience of what I say. I have had so much responsibility during my military life and when I saw the terrible destructions of the allied airwar in Germany and I saw the people who did suffer in such terrible form, I had only the wish and the intention to fight up to the last minute in order to compensate, not to win the war.
I: General Adolf Galland, this has been a real pleasure, sir, we greatly appreciate it. Thank you. Marvellous sir.
I: Thank you sir. You are part of aviation history.
AG: [unclear]
I: Yes, yes, we do, we have some presentations for you.
I: On the way here, sir, I had to pinch myself to make sure that it is real, that I am meeting Adolf Galland. A small gift, sir, on behalf of the Yorshire air Museum.
AG: Thank you.
I: Our air museum plan.
AG: I’ve got quite a collection already.
Unknown interviewer: General Galland, on behalf of everyone at the Yorkshire Air Museum, may I thank you for granting us this interview. It is greatly appreciated.
AG: Ok. It is my pleasure.
I: I may start with the first question. Is there a military tradition in your family?
AG: Not at all. My, we came, my family came from France, we were Huguenots. And one of this Frenchmen who came over, one Galland was, was a French captain, the chivalry, it was the only [unclear] we have as military.
I: Right. When did you first fly in an airplane?
AG: Oh, I did fly my first time when I was sixteen. I flew in gliders, not very far from my home there were some, an area in which gliding course was done. And I started there in ’20, ’28, I was sixteen years old.
I: I understand you set a record in your gilder.
AG: Ja, that’s right, that’s right. A record in endurance. This area did not have very high mountains, there were only hills and I did for more than two hours, two hours twenty minutes, something like this. This was an area record.
I: Ok.
AG: With my own plane. I got a plane when I finished, [unclear]Schule, I finished
UI2: Like University.
AG: Ja.
I: When did you decide to become a professional pilot and how did you achieve this?
AG: I did it all during my schooltime. Before I left school, I decided to be a commercial pilot and I told this one Sunday, walking with my father outside and he asked me: ‘What do you want to be later on?’. And I said: ‘I want to be a commercial pilot in an airline’. ‘Ah’, he said, ‘don’t you want to study?’. I said, ‘No, I want to make my exam as a professional pilot’. And he said. ‘You can do this, but I have not learned that this is a profession. You can teach me, do you expect a regular fee or do you fly for tips?’
[UI laughs]
AG: You can see how the times have changed. Now the airlines, they don’t like this joke. But they are making a lot of money also. And it is a fine profession. Also today, I think so.
I: So you then go from the airline directly into the Luftwaffe?
AG: No. The first year, at the end of the first year we were told that this was a commercial pilot school. The students were offered to become military pilots. We were told, commercial pilot doesn’t have good aspects for the future, but we will soon have military pilots and you can decide to switch over to the military career. I didn’t like this very much but there was no other questions. This was a strong invitation.
I: [laughs] There must have been many applications to become a professional pilot in those days.
AG: For the commercial side or the military?
I: For the military.
AG: For the military. No, we didn’t have any military organisation at that time at all, everything was, inexistent, was private, commercially or private or it was camouflaged, military.
I: The black Luftwaffe.
AG: The black Luftwaffe did start already in these days.
I: Yes.
AG: But most of the pilots were trained in Russia as you know, Lipezk, a Russian base, we had an agreement with Russia and we trained our people there.
I: Were you there?
AG: No, I have not been there. When Göring came in power, he cancelled this agreement with Russia and he started with Italy an agreement on a similar base. So, I was in the first group which was sent to Italy to be trained there, militarywise. We did not learn too much there in Italy. This agreement was not based on a good understanding between Göring and Balbo, maybe they had language problems, so the Italians did believe we were beginners and we knew already to fly. I remember one day, a French acrobatic pilot that had set up a record [unclear] inverted, invertedly and for two hours or so and we at this time did make acrobatics also there. So I decided when I was, when it was my turn to fly, I went up and go this way, I moved around the airfield all the time invertedly. To make a joke then they sent another airplane up, dropped down [laughs].
I: [laughs] Did you break the record?
AG: No [laughs]. I didn’t have fuel for this. I flew for ten minutes or so, but I showed.
UI2: What type of aircraft were you flying at that time, sir?
AG: Italian aircraft.
UI2: Italian aircraft. Macchi and [unclear].
I: When the Luftwaffe was formed officially in 1935, what was your first unit and what aircraft did you fly?
AG: When I had finished the training, I was ordered to go to the first fighter group which was built close to Berlin, in Döbritz. This was the first group of the fighter wing Richthofen, of the new fighter wing Richthofen. So, I came to this wing as, I was lieutenant, but I was released as Leutenant and we were installed again as Kettenführer.
I: Flight Commander.
AG: Ja, something like this. But, very soon later die Tarnung, the camouflage was taken away and we were made Lieutenants again.
I: I see. You would fly the Heinkel 51?
AG: No, at this time we had the Arado 65. And then we had the Arado 68 and then came the 51.
I: Heinkel 51.
AG: The second group later was set up in Jüterbog, south of Berlin, as the second group that have the 51s already.
I: Did you have any flying accidents in the early days?
AG: [laughs] I had many accidents and many damages. Sometimes they called me the millionaire of the new Luftwaffe, it was for the value of the airplanes I had damaged or destroyed.
[All laugh]
AG: But this was overdoned a little bit. I had one terrible accident, with a Stieglitz, with a biplane by doing acrobatics. I was very good in acrobatics and I had to train for flight demonstrations, which were set up in different towns and I had to show there acrobatics in the Stieglitz. And in this case I had modified the horizontal stabilizer in order to get better flight conditions in inverted flights, but this resulted that the aircraft did have a complete [unclear] conditions in spin. And I couldn’t recover, I could not recover the plane from spin earlier enough so I hit the ground in this position about 45°, this was a terrible accident.
I: I understand that after that [unclear] you are very good at passing eyetests.
AG: [laughs], ja, it is true. In this case I had, the plane had an open cockpit and I had glasses and I destroyed one eye with a splinter from [unclear] glasses and I had a damage on the eye and this resulted in a shorter sight of this eye. And I knew I had to pass a new physical and so to be sure I learnt the numbers and the, was ist Buchstaben?
I: Letters.
AG: The letters. I learned the letters from the table and I knew them by memorising them and I passed my exam very fine. [laughs]
I: The doctors they were bewildered.
AG: Yes [laughs]
I: [laughs]. Yes Can you tell us something about the airfighting in Spain with the Condor legion and just how much influence did Mölders have on evolving tactics for the Luftwaffe?
AG: [clears throat] Mölders became my successor as squadron leader and he, my squadron was equipped with 51s and we did ground attacks. And we were very successful in, we were helping the army, the Spanish army in their advances. Mölders arranged to change the missions to real fighter missions and so his, my other squadron was equipped then with 109s and Mölders started then to find a new tactic. He really invented the open flying formation, finger-four formation and he also had set up a, set up the methods to train the pilots in this way. So we flew in a very open formation, two planes at the same altitude, about onehundred, onehundredfifty meters apart
I: Apart.
AG: From the other and we moved all the time this way in the air in a very open formation. And this had the advantage that the number two could see also, could observe the airspace. In a close formation, number two and number three are seeing nothing, nothing but the guide only. So the next two they are flying from here to there also in this open formation. And this was really invented and explored by Mölders, this is his merit, is no question. By the way, was later on also a very good formation leader. We have pilots, and another example is Hartmann, Hartmann was not a leader at all, he could only fly by his own, and many pilots, Udet was also such a pilot, couldn’t lead a formation, I was told. Mölders once told me: ‘I will tell you one thing, you can become a Richthofen, you can become a new Richthofen, I wanted to be a Boelcke’, this means he wanted to fly with his head, so he was convinced that he was taktisch. And he was [unclear].
I: Did you ever fly the Heinkel 112?
AG: No, I was there when these people were doing [screams] this, the Olympic heroes there but I could not, I could not be pleased by looking at the athletics. So I decided to sell my ticket, sold it. I went up to Warnemünde or in the North, on the East Sea and I did chase Swedish girls, was more pleasant.
I: We have heard of your reputation. [laughs] Is another Galland legend. Did you ever fly the Heinkel 112?
AG: No.
I: Would it have been a better fighter than the Messerschmitt 109?
AG: Ja, ja, it’s no question, would have been a much better fighter than the other plane but the plane was more expensive to be built. The wing profile was changing all the time. The wing of the 109 was much more, much easier to build and for much less money to build. And this was one of the reasons why it has been decided in favour of the 109. Especially the undercarriage of the 109 was very narrow and the plane did have a terrible tendency to loop, to break out in taking off and landing, specially with crosswind. The aircraft lost an unbelievable number of planes by, of 109s by accidents during the war.
I: Would the extra range of the Heinkell had been an advantage to you in the battle of Britain?
AG: Of course, it would have been, would have been an advantage, but it wouldn’t have been decisive. The outcome of the battle would have been more or less the same because the Luftwaffe was not build and was not equipped for a battle like battle of Britain, was not build for strategic airwar. The Luftwaffe was for defense, for air defense and also for helping the army.
I: Tactical support.
AG: Ja, tactical support.
I: After Dunkirk, and the fall of France, did you think that the Luftwaffe could win the battle of Britain?
AG: No, we did not believe this, we did hope it but we learned very soon that this was not possible. Lord Dowding was a very, very cleaver man in guiding his fighters the right way and he did not use the fighters so much as Göring did. He was a much better tactician than Göring. There’s no question.
I: And yet he was sacked, he was discharged shortly after the battle of Britain by the High Command.
AG: Yes. Dowding?
I: Downing.
AG: But he came back.
I: Yes. Well, he was never honoured as he should have been for his part in the battle of Britain. Because mainly of Leigh-Mallory.
AG: Ah ja. This are [unclear] conditions and we learned during the battle that Dowding was a very, very cleaver man and Göring had the intention, first to bring the English Fighter Command down and then to bomb England and bomb London by using this medium bombers we had, the Heinkel 111 mostly [unclear] we had the Junkers 88. But the [clears throat] the Stukas had to withdrawn from the battle very soon because they detect high losses, they could not be escorted [unclear]. So the next decision in favour of the Stukas was a mistake. Another mistake was the set up of the 110 formations, what we called Zerstörer, destroyer. It was supposed to be an escort fighter, but a twin-engine fighter aircraft cannot be compared with a single engine fighter. Is always less maneuvrable and has not the acceleration, he has better armament but in fact the 110 as an escort fighter had to be escorted by single engine fighters and we had to withdraw first the Stukas, Junkers 87, and then the 110 from the battle they could not stand the too high losses.
I: Did this come as a major shock to the crews of the 110s?
AG: Ja, it was a shock, but we knew that it would come. We knew this from exercises. Before the war. We could learn in this maneuvers that the Stuka and the 110 would not, would not be used for long time to [unclear] because the performance were not. Performance were compared to single engine fighters were too low.
I: Your famous comment about the, to Göring about the Spitfires, giving you a squadron of Spitfires, you feel that perhaps would not have made the difference either?
AG: Göring came during the battle of Britain with this special train in the Pas-de-Calais and he ordered Mölders and myself to come. And he blamed us for half an hour for not performing the escort. Our bombers wanted to have the fighters sitting on their wing, on their wing tips but by doing this with the 109 we could not stay, we could not fight, we needed speed and this, our speed was not higher than the bomber formation speed, with outside bomb, so the bombs were hanging there. We had to cross over the and below the formation, but was a higher speed and the bombers did not like it. And Göring blamed us, we should sit on their wing tip, we should not leave this position, we should defend the bombers, and I told him we can only defend the bombers by being aggressive, by being offensive, we have to attack the enemy fighters. And this we can only do when we have a higher speed. And Göring said: ‘Don’t talk such a bla bla, you have the best fighter of the world, the Messerschmitt 109 and everybody knows it, this world war I fighter aircraft’. And finally after half an hour he finished this blaming and he asked Mölders: ‘What can I do to improve the fighting capacity of your wing commanders at this time?’. And Mölders said he wanted to have the Messerschmitt 109 with the more powerfull Daimler-Benz 605 M engines, that was an engine with a higher capation [unclear] and this octane 100 fuel. And Göring said to his aide: ‘Take a note, Mölders will get the first engines’. And then he said: ‘What can I do for your wing?’. And I said: ‘Please Reichsmarschall equip my wings with Spitfires’. [laughs] I do not know, what gave me the courage. [all laugh] Göring was standing there, he was unable to say anything. He looked at me, he turned around and [unclear], trying to restrain.
I: That is legend, sir, it is legend now.
AG: But, I never did get the Spitfire. Mölders did get the engines, but I never got. But I was not punished, [unclear], I was not punished, I expected.
I: You were respected for us. In your opinion, if Leigh-Mallory had controlled 11 Group with his big wing tactics and Keith Park had controlled 12 Group in the battle of Britain, the two group commanders, do you think the outcome would have been the same?
AG: Ja, this is, as I said, true English question. I know this and I believe it would have been good to have a bigger formation than only one wing, only one squadron. But not the only group in one wing. So wings with forty, more or less, forty aircraft or twenty to forty, that would be the best in my opinion.
I: Why were Messerschitt 109s not fitted with dropable fuel tanks during the battle of Britain?
AG: That was a real mistake, absolutely was forgotten or they were not available, we have used in Spain already as I told you, but for the 109 we did not, we did not [unclear]
I: And yet it would have helped your range.
AG: It would have helped but we would have, had to drop the tanks already when we came over England.
I: Yes.
AG: Because the dogfight, fighter against fighter, with drop tanks ist not very [unclear]. So later on when we got them, Göring extended an order not to drop the tanks, only when we were attacked.
I: One of the major factors was that the Luftwaffe didn’t concentrate its attack on the communications network and particularly the radar stations. Why was that so?
AG: A mistake.
I: Again a mistake.
AG: Absolutely a big mistake.
I: You knew about them.
AG: Ja, we knew of them, we had photos and it was a mistake. It was a mistake to finish the attack against Fighter Command was a mistake also, we should have continued. Ensure the british fighters did not come up when we came only by fighter. We had to use some bombers to go with us, to drop some bombs, to force the british fighters to come up. But to switch over from the battle against Fighter Command to the attacks on London was a terrible mistake.
I: How would you compare the Messerschmitt 109e with the Mark I Spitfire and Hurricane? I believe yours actually had Mickey Mouse on its, why did you have Mickey Mouse as your logo?
AG: When I was in Spain, Mickey Mouse had just come up everywhere and one of the pilots already in operations had the Mickey Mouse. And I did like this, I said, I will take the Mickey Mouse also, modified it a little bit and then I was told I should not use the Mickey Mouse because it was an American.
I: Yes, quite.
AG: Toy and this did make me decide to have it at all, to keep it and I kept it all the time.
I: Yes, indeed.
AG: I still today in my car [laughs].
I: And how do you think the 109 compared to the Spitfire then? The 109e?
AG: The e was not the best, the g was later better, g4. The Messerschmitt was, besides bad conditions in taking off and landing, based on this narrow undercarriage. The Me 109 had only one advantage, that was the fuel injection of the engine. We could easily use, manoeuvre was negative g, [unclear]
I: Yes.
AG: And the engine would drive perfectly, would not stop. We knew it was the carburator immediately when you get negative g and it stops. So, we could, when we were fired, we dropped only the nose down, and always more down and we could escape. This was a advantage. In other flying conditions both types, the Spitfire and the 109 were more or less equal. Acceleration. Manouvreability was better in the Spitfire, the Spitfire had a lower wingload, had a lower wingload and was better in manoeuvre, but acceleration were more or less the same.
I: Yes. I understand, Sir, that you had three brothers who were also fighter pilots with the Luftwaffe. Did they see service throughout the war with you?
AG: Ja, Ja. First came my younger brother to my wing. He started as a anti-aircraft and he was unhappy there, I took him out and he got a special training and then he came to my wing. And he became very soon a very capable, very good fighter pilot, very good. He had in his time 57 victories between b7, four-engine B-17s, was a high number. And he got the Ritterkreuz, this decoration we had. And my younger brother, the youngest brother, he had some difficulties, he came also from the anti-aircraft and had also a special training. I took him in my wing and in the beginning he had very high difficulties and he asked me to help him. So, I went with him to his 109 and he was sitting in the aircraft, immediately I saw he was sitting in the wrong way in the cockpit. When you had not the right position, then, the, what is when you are shooting?
I: Gunsight.
AG: Gunsight. Gunsight. He was sitting wrong behind the gunsight and this resulted in a mistake of his balance, of his shooting.
I: Yes.
AG: So, I corrected this [unclear] he got in the aircraft and from one day to the other he shot up.
I: Really?
AG: He was so happy. I also. He was a very young fellow, he died with twentythree years, he had 17 victories. And the elder one, he was, was a bad fighter. He was really a bad fighter, he wasn’t able to do anything, he was hopeless, so I managed to get him to the air reconnaissance 109. He flew there but he was not successful [unclear].
I: Did the two other brothers today survive the war with you?
AG: Only the elder, only the elder one but in the mean time he died also. Ten years ago.
I: Alright. I understand that at one time your crew chief was actually given a rocket for saving your life. What’s the story behind that?
AG: He one time did install an additional
I: Armour plate
AG: Plate,
I: Armour?
AG: Armour, armour plate behind me. And this armour blade went over my head and he didn’t tell me when I crossed the cockpit and were taking off, I shut the roof and I hit my head terribly and I blamed him: ‘You did not tell me you installed this’. ‘Wait, when I’m back I will tell you something’. And during this mission, I was shot down and I got an impact on this plate, exactly on this plate. [everybody laughs] So I didn’t blame him, I gave him zweihundert Marks and a special leave.
I: Yes. There is one well-known photograph of your Messerschmitt with a modification of a gunsight. It’s a well-known photograph.
AG: Was a mistake.
I: Was it?
AG: Was absolute a mistake. I thought I could use it for shooting on a longer distance but I learned immediately it is good for nothing, it wasn’t even good to identify the planes. When you have a plane in front, sometimes it is difficult to decide is it 109, or is it Spitfire. So, I thought when I looked through this, I can make it out [unclear] you cannot get it concentrated in anything so I decided to get [unclear]. But this aircraft, many times it has been photographed and many times on many photos it appears with the gunsight. We had not, we had a simple gunsight I have to [unclear] this was a fixed gunsight but what we had needed was a gunsight which was directed by
I: Gyro,
AG: BY gyro,
I: By gyroscope.
AG: By gyro. This we have needed terribly. We got it finally late in ’44 but it didn’t work properly. So this was an advantage on the british you had this gyroscopic gunsight, which made shooting in terms much easier.
I: Without Operation Barbarossa, the attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, would the American 8th Air Force and Bomber Command, in your opinion, have been able to sustain the bomber offensive?
AG: No, no. We were already so much beaten at this time, we would have more fighters available for the air defense and the losses would have been higher on the other side but we could, would not have been able to stop the air offensive. The western allies, the English, the British, they did a very clever thing, to split up the air offensive in day and night offensive and the british concentrated completely on the night. This was very clever, very clever. So, we had to build up a nightfighter airforce, nightfighter force, which did not exist at the beginning of the war. Göring said: ‘Nightfighters? We don’t need them. It will never be a night bombing’. So, when he made the decision, it was a decision, it was [unclear] this. He did not accept anything what was critical or negative of the airforce, everything was first class what he did.
I: Were you ever in charge of the night fighters?
AG: Ja, I was in charge and this after the catastrophe of Hamburg. In this case, Kammhuber, general Kammhuber was responsible for the night fighters and he was a very stupid man, he didn’t fly himself and he gave orders which the night fighters didn’t accept anymore. He was using one night fighter against the incoming bombers and he could only guide one fighter. And at this time, when the Bomber Command switched over to the bomber stream, all the night fighters wanted to follow the stream, they could see it by night, depending from the visibility but with lighting from the ground and with the fire over the towns, our night fighters could see the bomber stream and by the bombers they shoot their fire, they could follow this stream but Kammhuber did not allow our night fighters to go with the stream, to follow. So, they came, the night fighters came to me and they said: ‘You must help us. Our commander, Kammhuber, he bind us on one radar, in the range of one radar, in a circle of 120 km, he bind us and we want to follow’. We used Window the first time in Hamburg and this did lead to a complete catastrophe of Kammhuber’s tactic. So I had to tell this Göring and Kammhuber was released of the [unclear] and he went over to fleet commander, airfleet commander North, 5th airfleet.
I: In Norway.
AG: Norway. And he blamed this on me, Kammhuber, they said. He didn’t say to me but he was convinced I had originated this trouble. And I had, so we had not a very good relationship [unclear]. And after the war Blank was the first man who did set up the beginning of the air force and Blank wanted to have me as the first commander of the air force. And he invited me to come and talk to me and he said: ‘I did not want to have high ranking officers of World War I in the new air force, they are too old. So, everybody has voted for you, you should be the first commander of the air force, when you accept it’. And I said: ‘I am coming from Argentina, I have no idea what is going on here, I must be, first get a complete information what is done, what is planned and so on’. And then finally this was done and I decided to go up to do it, that [unclear] did say this to Blank. Then came a stop on the rebuilding of our new air force because the French blocked, they blocked this, was the European Defense Committee, Community and [unclear] came up this time. And the French did stop the European Defense Committee. So, and this was one time delayed and then this time Kammhuber came as the first commander of the air force because Blank did change against Strauss, Strauss being Bavarian he brought Kammhuber with him, who was also Bavarian and he was [unclear] over. Kammhuber did build up the air force. Was a nice story. When Kammhuber was in charge of the night fighters, I had to see him in order to use his night organisation also during daytime. Kammhuber did denie this completely, he said: ‘No, I have set up for the night fighters and you are day fighter, and they will set up your organisation, radar and everything’. And I said: ‘No, that is not true, we are not so rich that we can do this. This is a hotel with a hotel organisation, we have a night porter and a day porter, you are the night porter, I am the day porter’. We blamed for hours, we could not convince, and then he said: ‘ [unclear] I will show a complete new radar installation I have just set up’. And we went in his car, a big Mercedes, open Mercedes, his big flag as commanding general on front and there was a soldier of the infantry [unclear] He blocked us and said: ‘Your passport’. Kammhuber said: ‘Don’t you know me?’ ‘No. Passport’. [unclear] said: ‘Do you know this flag? I am your commanding officer’. He said: ‘This can be said by everybody. Passport.’ Kammhuber made a head like this and finally he said: ‘Do you know him?’. He looked at me and said: ‘Ah, I believe I have seen him on a [unclear], on a newspaper, in front of a newspaper, a big photo. I think that this is Major Mölders, then you can go’. [unclear] He was [unclear] also, Major Mölders.
I: I’ve been asked by some of the veterans who flew from the Yorkshire fields, where we are from, from 5 Group and 6 Group veterans, what were your feelings towards the night bomber crews, when you were general of night fighters?
AG: I didn’t understand too much about night fighting, I must say this, I’m a complete day fighter, and [coughs] we had a saying as dayfighters: the night is not good for fighter pilots, the night is good for bitches, but not for fighters. But really this was a good organisation and also the guiding systems we had in the night fighters they were very fine, very very fine. And the night fighters did have a better fighter, leading fighter, guiding organisation than any fighters had but they did not need it.
I: This was Wild Boar and Tame Boar.
AG: Ja.
I: After the raid on Schweinfurt-Regensburg, did you think the 8th Air Force could be stopped by the Luftwaffe?
AG: No, I did not believe this, there were too many mistakes done and too many things were not performed. When Hamburg occurred, everybody, Göring did call a big meeting and all important men were present at this meeting. There was a unique opinion, we have now to change the priority and we have to give the air defense first priority. And we have to stop everything else but we have to concentrate all our power on air defense. Göring was convinced and he decided to bring this up to Hitler immediately. This meeting was in Hitler’s headquarters, Wolfsschanze in East Prussia. So Göring went to Hitler. He came back after one hour, he was completely destroyed, he broke down in his quarter and finally he ordered [unclear] and myself to come and he said: ‘Hitler has not accepted our plan. Hitler has decided to build up a new attack air force, a new bomber air force to bomb England. Bombing can only be stopped by bombing, not by air defense’. And he had explained this to me and Hitler has right. He fall down completely, he is right as he is always right. The way through air defense is too far away and we were stopped, we were blocked from continue bombing aim. So Peltz, general Peltz, a young fellow was made the attack guidance, the attack commander in England. This was immediately after Hamburg.
I: 1943.
AG: Ja. Unbelievable, unbelievable.
I: Was this the beginning of what they call the Bedeker Raids?
AG: Ja.
I: Where they used the Bedeker Atlas to bomb.
AG: Ja.
I: May I ask you general?
AG: Göring was not stupid, he was a clever man. He knew this was wrong, but he has never resisted Hitler. When Hitler gave an order, he immediately was of the same opinion, because Göring was not a man for combat, was not a man for fight, was not a man for war. Göring wanted to continue his life as the most richest man in Europe, he wanted to be brilliant and he didn’t like the war at all.
I: Without a western front to defend, could Operation Barbarossa have succeded?
AG: Could?
I: If Germany had not been fighting on two fronts, could you have succeeded with the attack on the Soviet Union?
AG: With the attack on the Soviet Union. It is difficult to decide but we were close to win the battle, but we have been blocked again by beginning the offensive against Russia by the Italians. When you have the Italians as your allies, you have 50% of the war already lost, you we can be sure. [UI and UI2 laugh] Really. The Italians have started the war in Africa, so this did force us to go to Africa. Then, Germany wanted to take over Malta. Mussolini said: ‘No, Malta, we will take over. You can take Greece’. And we took Greece with much losses and it was not good for nothing, I know. And the Russian campaign has been delayed by the Italians again, this time by the war in the Balcans, by attacking Albania. And we had to go to the Balcans. This [unclear] a delay of half a year. Again our allies deterred us. So I still am going to say, if we could have won the war, I think we could have broken the power of Russia, we could have. We were close to Moskow and if we would have started half a year earlier, everything would have been much more in favour.
I: A huge country of course.
AG: Ja.
I: You were a pallbearer at the funeral of Ernst
AG: I knew the war was lost, was probably or was not to be won, there is a difference, already in 19, in the second war Russian campaign, this was
I: 1942. 1942.
AG: 1942. In this year I remember conversations I had with the chief of staff of the Air force, Jeschonnek, who told me: ‘You can believe me the war cannot be won anymore’. I said: ‘I agree competely’. But we were not allowed to talk about this, to tell this anybody. And we, ourselves, we fighters, young people, we knew the war could not be won anymore but we hoped, did heartly hope, that the war could be brought to an better end. This means, the unconditional surrender condition, this was something we are fighting against up to the last man.
I: You were a pallbearer at the funeral of Ernst Udet. When did you realise that he had committed suicide and what are your memories of Udet?
AG: When we at the funeral of Udet, we were told by Göring, Göring could difficultly close his mouth if he wanted to talk. So, he did tell us what has happened and some weeks, three weeks before, I was with Udet one night in the special train of Göring in East Prussia. And Udet was completely broken, completely broken, he was blamed to be responsible for the armament which were not going up and [unclear] and this was true. Udet was responsible for the development, for test, and for armament, for building, for the industry, and this he could not do, he was not able to do this at all, he could not organise the industry and he did not have the help to do this correctly. And therefore, he missed completely, lost completely this order to build up the industry. But this was not the responsibility of Udet, this was the responsibility of Göring to make him responsible for this. There were other people, Milch is an example, was absolutely more capable to do this and the production went up when Milch took over the post of Udet. So, is this the answer?
I: What are your memories of him as a person?
AG: Oh, he was a wonderful man. He was a wonderful, charming man, he was an artist. He was joking, he was very much liked by everybody. He was a great flier, pilot and you could have a lot of joke with him. And we did have.
UI. Yes.
AG: He did like the whiskeys.
I: And the ladies?
AG: Also.
I: [laughs] I understand that Douglas Bader was a guest of Geschwader 26 for a while.
AG: Ja. I have the date here when he was shot up, that was in 1943. There was an incoming English Royal Air Force attack, Blenheims with escort of Spitfires, and we had a big fight over the Pas de Calais. This was my wing and the wing Richthofen, but in this case only my wing 26 was involved, we did shot down I think 6 Spitfires and 2 or 3 Blenheims, I shot a Blenheim down. And I shot, I combat also with Spitfires but I think [unclear] off 3 Blenheims and 6 Spitfires downed. And in the afternoon one of my group commanders phoned me and said: ‘We have shot down one incredible man, an English wing commander, by the name Bader, he said, Bader said wanted only to be called Bader. He has two wooden legs and you must invite him to come immediately, bring him my invitation. And Bader had to bail out and he left one of his wooden legs in the Spit and the Spit landed with out him and my mechanics could repair this wooden leg a little bit. So, I was called some days later, Bader can come now and visit you. And I did send him my biggest car and a good looking, first Lieutenant. Bader came on. I had informed myself a little bit about him and it was absolutely a great impression, from the first moment, this stepped on his two wooden legs. And Bader said to me: ‘Can you send a message to our side that I am safe in your hands and I wanted to have a second set of my legs, which I have in my [unclear] and a good pipe and tobacco’. I said:’ Yes, I will try it’. So, then I phoned Göring in the evening and said: ‘We have Wing Commander Bader here, a man with two wooden legs, unbelievable man, sympathic and [unclear] the rules [unclear] immediately’. And I said: ‘We wanted, or he, he wanted that we communicate to the other side, to the English side, he is in our hands and he wants to have a spare legs’. And Göring said: ‘You can do this, we have done this in world war one, many times, you can do this, I like this, I like this’, the meaning was [unclear]. So, we put it on the way of the international sea rescue. It was confirmed from the other side, I communicate this to Göring and he said: ‘How do you want to do this?’ I said: ‘We are waiting now that the English [unclear] and then we make a proposal, we make an open space with an airfield and we guarantee a safe landing and coming to our side and of course we will make some photos’. [laughs]
I: Doctor Goebbels [laughs]
AG: This, our message was confirmed through the other side and nothing happened two, three days and then came in the same way, in the same way, the same frequency, a message: in this present attack we are doing, we drop not only bombs, we drop also a case with the spare legs from Bader. They dropped our airfield [unclear], no, not [unclear], Saint-Omer, dropped a case with a parachute, I have photos of this, there were the spare legs, that was not very nice, we were disappointed. So Bader many time has visited me, for tea and then I showed him the aircraft from my wing and showed especially mine, my 109 and he wanted to step out, he mounted the cockpit immediately with his wooden legs, this is unbelievable. And as he was sitting in the aircraft, Heidi, you must being the photos, and he said, I showed him everything, explained [unclear] please can you start the engine [all laugh] all around the place, only around the place. I said, no wing commander, let’s stop this nonsense because I have two 109s for my own personal use and if you take off I would have to follow you. And I would have to shot at you again and I do not want to do this. He was laughing. Of course he has never expected that we would start it. Then he was brought back to the hospital and he made an escape from the hospital, on the sheets from the prisoners, he did borrow the sheets and came down from the second floor to the ground and the last sheet did broke and he did fall down and he hurt one leg again and he had to go the hospital. So, he was immediately captured again. When I heard this, that he had escaped again, I was [unclear] because I had shown him to much [unclear]. I would have had [unclear] perhaps but he came back and he did make another escape. This man was unbelievable.
I: On that engagement when Bader was shot down by your Geschwader, there was another pilot and our research indicates that you shot him down and he lives in Sheffield, which is quite near to the Yorkshire museum. He is still alive today and he sends his best wishes to you.
AG: Oh, thank you. That was on this occasion?
I: Yes. Buck Kassen was his name and he was shot down and made prisoner of war the same time as Douglas Bader. And we interview him as part of this tape.
AG: What is the name of this Spitfire pilot shot down in?
I: [unclear]
AG: My victory 56. He calls himself your victory 56.
I: [unclear]
FS: I’ll take some.
I: May I ask you why did most of the Luftwaffe’s very high scoring aces, such as Hartmann, Barckhorn, Rall, why did they fly the Messerschmitt 109 rather than the Focke Wulff 190?
AG: In the beginning, the 190 was not available, the 190 was only available for wings from April ‘43, so up to this date they could only use the 109. The 190 came later, it was not, was not ready for being used by the operational units.
I: But even later, even later many of the aces still preferred the 109.
AG: Maybe. I personally flew the 190 the last months of the war and my latest was the 262 of course.
I: Yes.
AG: But the 190 was much better for attacks on bombers. The 109 was absolutely better for fighting fights against fighters. Danke. The 190 had a lot of protection against the bomber fighter, the Spit [unclear] engine gave you a feeling of safety.
I: Why did the death of one man, general Wever, bring about the scrapping of the german strategic bomber program and what were Göring’s and Jeschonnek’s views after the battle of Britain?
AG: Wever was an army general but as an army general he had a great understanding for air war and Wever was also a follower of Douhet, this Italian general, the inventor of the strategic air war. And Wever did promote the four-engine big bomber, he did promote this. Unfortunately, he killed himself in a flying accident. He started a Heinkel 70 with the rollers blocked in Dresden, came down immediately. If he would have lived perhaps we would have had a four bomber air force also. I believe this. But then Udet went to the States and he was convinced by the American navy air force, which were, they were using these dive bombers, and Udet was convinced by them that was the way for people which have not big reserves on raw material, like Germany, to get the same result by picking up pinpoint targets. And really Udet did influence the air force, the top air force men, including Göring, that this was the way for Germany to have the Stukas instead of the four-engine bomber. [unclear] we can get the same result if we had the power station of a big plant or we destroyed your plant. This is the same result. So, at this time, an order was given that all the German aircraft, even the twin-engine Junkers 88, could have been used, should have been used in dive attacks. Also the Heinkel 177, which was the German four-engine bomber, in which two engines were blocked, bound together, they should also go in dive-bombing, which was a mistake, of course.
I: When you were promoted to general in charge of fighters, sir, how old were you? You were a very young man, I believe. And how do you feel about succeeding Mölders?
AG: 29, 29 years and I was practically the immediate successor of Mölders.
I: How did you feel about that, sir?
AG: I was not happy, I was absolutely unhappy in these days because I wanted to continue as wing commander. I was very unhappy in this position. I wanted to fight, only to fly. I already upset with, myself with Göring when I was made wing commander, because I did believe I so much paperwork to do that I could not fly anymore. My intention was to fight.
I: Hitler awarded you the Germany’s highest award for bravery, the diamonds to your knight’s cross following your 94th victory. But I understand there was more to it than just the diamonds. You had quite a collection of diamonds in the end.
AG: Ja. The first diamond I got was the Spanish cross with diamonds. That was a german award very nice with diamonds in the middle. This was awarded, I think, nine times.
I: [unclear]
AG: And next I got the diamonds to the oak leaves to the knight’s cross. And when I got this, Göring did had not seen it before and I was sitting in Göring’s train [unclear] and Göring looked at me and said: ‘Are these the diamonds the Führer gave you as highest german award?’. I said ja. ‘It cannot be’, he said, ‘take it off’. I took it off and gave them to him [unclear]. ‘Terrible, terrible, The Führer knows everything, knows every carrier of the [unclear], of the german army, the german, he knows the complete trajectory, every gun, but diamonds, he has no idea, not enough. I tell you, these are splinters. Little splinters, these are not diamonds. Give it to me, I will, I have a jewelier in Berlin, who will make you another set. You will see what diamonds are looking like’. So I took it off and gave it to him. Some weeks later, I was ordered to come to his house in Carinhall. ‘Galland, look at here, this are the splinters of Hitler, these are the diamonds of Göring, who knows about diamonds?’. So, he gave me both sets back, I had now twice. Then, he must have told this to Hitler because some weeks later I was asked to see Hitler and Hitler said: ‘My dear Galland, finally I’m in a position to award you with the final edition of [unclear] decoration. Look at this’. He gave me this case. ‘Take a look, [unclear]’. I did not know for what is this order to come, I had the diamonds from Göring, the big ones. And he said: ‘Can you see the difference? These are splinters’. ‘This is obsolete’. ‘No, you can wear this every day. They are expensive, the big ones here. When you are flying daily, take the other ones. The splinters’. I was about to explode. He gave me both sets back, I did three times now. And then came a time, I was so upset with Göring, I had so big fights with him. And he had in one big meeting in Munich Schleissheim, there were about forty officers in this meeting and he blamed the fighters in a terrible way. He said we were not anymore brave, we were scapegoats and good for nothing, we were decorated highly at the beginning of the war and we did not pay for it. And most of the pilots had with lies made their high decorations over England. When he said this, I took my decoration off, I was sitting opposite to him and hit it on the table. Göring finished this meeting and he tried to calm me down, but I said: ‘No, you should refuse this [unclear]’. I said: ‘Göring, I cannot do it, I cannot do it, [unclear] I cannot take my decoration on anymore’. And I did hang this number three [unclear] in my office in Berlin and this Olympic game installation and hang it on the neck of the wooden [unclear]and It was hanging there, I didn’t take my decoration for, I think, five months. And then Hitler one day saw a photo of mine on a newspaper, Berliner Illustrierte, and said:’Why is Galland not showing his decoration?’. And Hitler was told the Royal Air Force was bombing Berlin. And Hitler said: ‘You should [unclear] immediately and get a new [unclear]. I had to see Hitler without. And Hitler said finally: ‘Bad luck, but you have a new set’. But this is was number four. [laughs] And by the end of this war I was wearing this number four and I took this as prisoner of war with me, until we were asked to take it away. But I could keep this with me and [unclear] till today. That is the only set. The other sets, one was burned, two sets, [unclear] was liberated at the end of the war by the americans,
I: They might be somewhere in America still, probably.
AG: I talked to one man who has one set.
I: Really? Amazing story. You were responsible for the fighter screen when the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen made the famous Channel dash. How was this success achieved under the eyes of the RAF?
AG: I was made responsible for this fighter escort, is true and I was in a meeting with Hitler and Hitler at the end of the meeting he took me away and said: ‘Do you believe this operation can be performed?’ And I told him: ‘It is possible, but the first condition, first and most important condition is complete, this operation is completely secret. And the English should not know about the operation, should not know when is going on and so on, completely secret and Hitler said: ‘Yes, I agree 100%’. ‘But’, I said, ‘there is a lot of risk in war’. Hitler said: ‘In all my operations, the last years, the biggest risk was the [unclear], it was true, he always was playing with this risk, in an incredible [unclear]. Hitler agreed and when the operation were prepared very much in detail and seriously, very seriously. And I invented the callname, the codename for this operation.
I: Really?
AG: I invented Donnerkeil. This was not accepted by the navy. The navy called it, what was it?
I: Cerberus.
AG: Cerberus, Cerberus, they called it Cerberus. And this was good and in so far as the British secret service knew about this was [unclear], not in detail but they knew, we were preparing it. They did believe this were two different operations, they did not bring the two operations together, so this was an advantage. And then our highest chief of the communication, Martini, he did use for the first time a big system of disturbing the English radar and this disturbation gave the English the impression we were coming in with big [unclear], with big offensive formations and this did help a lot. And the weather did help a lot, it was a miserable weather and on the English side, not in France, nothing, this did help us also. So, we had finally the success based on a lot of luck, lot of luck and our fighters were brave, fighting very very brave. I remember I had my two brothers in this operation and they told me.
I: And a very british Victoria cross was ordered in that operation too. What are your memories of the ace Hans-Joachim Marseille? And how did you regard him as a fighter ace, in comparison to Hartmann?
AG: In my book, the virtuoso, [unclear] but he was a single fighter, also was not a [unclear], nobody could follow him, he did fly like Richthofen, more than Richthofen
I: As a loner, as we would say.
AG: He was not able to guide four fighters there. And he got so impacts I think in his last [unclear] and he did make a mistake by escaping from the aircraft. He didn’t make a [unclear] but he did in the beginning. And was pulling out and he hit the tail. Later, I personally did escape twice by our new method took the nose up, engine down, nose up and then we pushed the bottom very strongly unclear], the aircraft did make this motion and in this situation the pilot was ejected really, the pilot was flying up ten meters, thirty feet and this was this [unclear] method risky.
AG: Ja, we’re finished now.
I: We could move to the end of the war. So, Germany’s experience with jet fighters where of course the Messerschmitt 262 was the first operational combat jet fighter in the world. Do you feel that that aircraft, if it had been available in sufficient numbers in 1943, could have altered the bombing offensive? And what was it like to fly? What was it as an aeroplane?1
AG: I’ve known this airplane I think in June ‘43 the first time and I have made a report on this, I have a copy of this. On Saturday the 22 of May ’43. I’ve flown this aircraft in Ausgburg, taking off in Ausgburg, is a Messerschmitt plant and this a report about this first flight addressed to Feldmarschal Milch. He was responsible man for armament and for development. And I am saying, this aircraft [unclear] us complete new tactical possibilities, this is a revolution and I recommend therefore to stop the messerschnitt 262 development completely and to take this out of the plan. Concentrate only on the Focke Wulff 190 D development and all capacity and concentrate from now on to the 262. This will give us greatest chances supposed that the allies, the Americans and the English [unclear] continuing their operation on piston, only on piston driven fighter base and bombers. WE knew that they were also developing the Meteor and did not know when they were ready. But the 262 would have given us the biggest chance if we would have the time. The development of this project was stopped and delayed, later delayed by order of Hitler, because he was of the opinion that the war was shortly before to be won and developments would take more than one year to be finished, would come too late [unclear]. That was his argument. And without this [unclear] development, which was done by Messerschmitt and by Henkel, was done without being known by Hitler, was done in secret [unclear] of Hitler. Only in the last months of the war, when the aircraft was there, when the RAF made this first light tests, and this report, then he decided to use it only, only as [unclear] against the invasion. This is the aircraft, with which I will fight the forthcoming invasion, he said in my presence, this is the aircraft. I order this aircraft to not be used in any other form and should not be imagined in another operation as [unclear].
I: What was your opinion, sir, of the two other jet fighters that did see operational service or limited, the 162, the Heinkel 162 and of course the incredible Messerschmitt 163 Komet, the jet, rocket jet fighter?
AG: The 163, the rocket fighter was already under development and I knew about this and this would have been a compliment for the anti-aircraft, only for the defense of certain objects, like the derrick oil plants. I was of the opinion that this plane could be used for this object protection with a certain success. It would have been that a lower flight plane target with flight time, with power was only 6 or 8 minutes but the aircraft was then so high up that it could make one or two attacks and then go down. This was only an additional aircraft for the air defense but the 162, this was a political development. It was supposed to set the Hitler
I: Hitler Youth.
AG: Hitler Youth on these planes then only with the training of gliders, which was completely wrong, completely wrong, I was against this development because I said youngsters cannot fly this plane with success, this is absolutely impossible. Secondly, the engine BMW 003 is not so practical, [unclear] that it can be used only one engine on one aircraft, we need two engines. And certainly the 163 with this engine behind the pilots and without the exit seat, this would result, every pilot who tried to bail out would land in the engine. So, I have fought against this plane because the concept was only based on a political wrong thinking, absolutely wrong thinking. And this should have been performed and executed by a, the youngsters and responsible for this was the fieldmarshal or the general, colonel general Keller.
I: From the first world war.
AG: Ja, from the first world war. And I took Keller with me to Nowotny on the day in which there was a , was shot down, hit the ground. In order, my intention was to show him what a jet operation does mean, more complicated than this and at the end of the war, when I was leading my JW 44 in Munich Ried, two or three handful of this 162 came to me and said we want to fly with you. They didn’t have any success at all. So this was, the 162 was a complete wrong concept from the beginning. A political development.
UI. We’re getting near the end, sir, but can you very briefly tell us about JV 44? Is it correct that all the pilots have the night’s cross?
AG: No, no, this is not correct. We had several pilots with the knights cross and most their officers and at the end of the war, pilots who were in hospitals or were in, wie heisst das [unclear]? the recovery stations, they came to me and said:’We want to be, we want to fly under you’, they all said: ‘we want to fight the end of the days with you’. And I have accepted this. So, in the last week or two last weeks, I only accepted such pilots who wanted to continue to fly. Pilots who said, [unclear] for family reasons or something like this and I do not want to fly anymore, he could do this, he would not be punished at all. This were only Freiwillige, free will pilots, [unclear]
I: Volunteers.
AG: Volunteers, volunteers. And Steinhoff had this terrible accident, he was the man who was responsible for operations in my group 44, strong and he believes he had hit a [unclear]. I believe he pushed the wrong button, Steinhoff was used to take off with flaps in and only when he reached, came close to the take off speed, then he dropped the flaps, this [unclear] a little bit [unclear] the take off. But in the Messerschmitt are two buttons, one is for undercarriage, one is for flaps and they are close together, you can see on old cockpits. I think, yes, he pushed the undercarriage. Then he tried to take off, he made a jump, restored its speed, came down with too early engines about 2000 feet after he came lifted from the ground, came down, he hit the ground and burned out.
I: Did you see the crash?
AG: Ja. I was number one, he was number four in my wing. This was the last, my last mission. Finnegan believes he should, this American guy, he came, I shot down two more others in this mission and I didn’t know if the second one was already finished so I made a turn, looked at this [unclear] and [unclear] gave me some shots [unclear].
[All laugh]
I: Five more questions.
AG: Finnegan or when the Americans say, you were shot down by Finnegan, that is not true, I could manage to get home, one engine was hit, ja, that is correct but I could manage to come down and manage a perfect landing with one engine on my base on which I had taken off, is not a victory.
I: Not at all, an American-type victory.
UI2: Unconfirmed probably.
[All laugh]
I: Five more questions, if I may. You are now 82 years of age?
AG: Ja, unfortunately.
I: How do you feel about the events of 55 years ago, during the battle of Britain, when you were fighting for your life, all this time, all this long distance from battle, how do you feel?
AG: At this time when this had happened, we did never believe we would survive. Even in the last days of the war, when I flew the 262, I didn’t believe I would survive the war. I was real ready with my life, had a good life and [unclear] success, [unclear] success in my life and I always wanted to be better than others and I got the feeling to be better than others [unclear]. So, I am thankful for my life and I think it was an extraordinary class of life which I performed. And I thank God for being with you now and have survived all situations. And I have the experience of what I say. I have had so much responsibility during my military life and when I saw the terrible destructions of the allied airwar in Germany and I saw the people who did suffer in such terrible form, I had only the wish and the intention to fight up to the last minute in order to compensate, not to win the war.
I: General Adolf Galland, this has been a real pleasure, sir, we greatly appreciate it. Thank you. Marvellous sir.
I: Thank you sir. You are part of aviation history.
AG: [unclear]
I: Yes, yes, we do, we have some presentations for you.
I: On the way here, sir, I had to pinch myself to make sure that it is real, that I am meeting Adolf Galland. A small gift, sir, on behalf of the Yorshire air Museum.
AG: Thank you.
I: Our air museum plan.
AG: I’ve got quite a collection already.
I: I’m quite sure you must have.
AG: Thank you.
I: The history of our county town of York. You to have a look at.
AG: Oh ja.
I: We have to sign it.
AG: You know there is a collection of signatures there.
I: Yes. We are going to sign these as well.
I: These are other people at the museum.
AG: Oh ja.
I: Would you be so kind as to sign some bits for ourselves, sir?
AG: Ja.
I: [unclear]I’m quite sure you must have.
AG: Thank you.
I: The history of our county town of York. You to have a look at.
AG: Oh ja.
I: We have to sign it.
AG: You know there is a collection of signatures there.
I: Yes. We are going to sign these as well.
I: These are other people at the museum.
AG: Oh ja.
I: Would you be so kind as to sign some bits for ourselves, sir?
AG: Ja.
I: [unclear]

Collection

Citation

Ken Cothliff and David Tappin, “Interview with Adolph Galland,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 23, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/7968.

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