Hitler's Fighter Pilot

Posted on Thursday 31st October 2013

In Galland’s opinion, and that of many others among the elite of the fighter force, Göring represented an utterly outdated First World War mindset about aerial combat, tactics, strategy and planning. Göring had been a fighter pilot in that war and, according to Galland, had lost contact with the realities of aviation development. The idea that the Bf 109, that excellent front-line weapon of the Luftwaffe fighter force through most of the Second World War, could be flown in air combat with the same sort of manoeuvrability as the fragile, wood and fabric aeroplanes of the earlier conflict, was absurd to Galland.
He knew from experience that the far greater speed and wing-loading of the 109 meant that it, and its opponents, could not be operated in that way. It was but one of many delusions of the Luftwaffe high command relating to the utilization of the fighter.
By July 1940, Galland had been promoted to the rank of Major and was bringing JG 26 into the most active and lethal days of the Battle of Britain, when he would raise his own tally to forty confirmed kills. He had become one of the greatest aces of the Luftwaffe and in relatively quick succession was awarded the Knight’s Cross to his Iron Cross, followed in September by the award of the Oak Leaves to the medal. He was only the third German soldier to have received the award.
From the perspective of the German leadership, the strategic necessity for the operation known historically as the Battle of Britain arose from its inability to reach an agreement with the British government to end the war. As they saw it, the tasks of the German Air Force in the Battle included the blockade of the British Isles in cooperation with the German Navy through attacks on ports and shipping, and the mining of sea lanes and harbour entrances; the achievement of air supremacy over England and the Channel preliminary to a German invasion (Operation Sealion); and possibly even the annihilation of England through total air warfare. Leading up to the Battle, the Germans had determined that the British possessed 3,600 war planes of which about 600 were fighters. They saw themselves at a numerical disadvantage with 2,500 available aircraft, but judged their fighters technically superior to those of their enemy. They had great faith in the Messerschmitt Bf 109 as being the best fighter plane in the world at that time.
In Berlin the leaders of the Reich were revelling in their early Blitzkrieg successes. Hitler was especially intrigued with the possibility of crushing his enemies from the air by bombing them into submission. In their minds attack was all that mattered; the enemy air force must be destroyed, preferably on the ground in surprise attacks. But such raids could only be carried out safely through providing the bombers with ample fighter support and protection. With the bomber seen as the all-important number one priority in German military aircraft production, only one-third of the entire warplane manufacture for Germany in the first year of the war was fighters. In 1940, of the entire German warplane output, just one-quarter was fighters. In terms of personnel too, the emphasis heavily favoured the bomber arm, with most of the best pilots in 1938 and 1939 being drained away from the fighter force to fly the Dornier Do 17 and Heinkel He 111 twin-engined bombers.
In Adolf Galland’s view, the emphasis on bombing, particularly on dive-bombing by the Ju 87 Stukas, was misplaced and its effect on the Battle of Britain highly overrated. While the Stuka was certainly able successfully to attack relatively small, difficult targets such as bridges, power stations, and ships, it was clear to Galland that truly effective and long-lasting results could only be achieved with saturation or ‘carpet bombing’ by horizontal bombers flying in tight formations at high altitude. Also, a primary drawback of the Stuka dive-bombing attack was that the aeroplane was required to leave its formation and dive very low and directly into the range of the enemy anti-aircraft defences, making itself a rather easy target for the AA guns and the enemy fighters. The German fighters were required to provide cover for the attacks of the bomber and Stuka formations on shipping and convoys vital to Britain’s survival. It was in these attacks that the slow speed of the Stukas in the dive became a major drawback. The suspended external bomb-load of the Ju 87 dictated a 150 mph maximum speed in its dive, which had to be started at between 10,000 and 15,000 feet. This slow, rather lengthy dive allowed many Hurricanes and Spitfires to catch and dispose of the German planes, often before they dropped their loads. The fighter pilots of the RAF quickly realized that the Stukas were nearly defenceless and quite vulnerable from the moment they peeled away from their formation to dive individually towards their targets, until they had rejoined their formation. Substantial fighter protection was needed for the Stukas; an extremely challenging task for the Bf 109s. As the 109 had no dive-brake it was not possible to dive and stay with the Stukas in their relatively slow descent. The Stukas simply could not be adequately protected throughout their dives. Predictably the Stukas suffered enormous losses before their entire dive-bomber force was finally withdrawn from participation in the Battle. And it was the German fighter pilots who were blamed by their High Command for the failure of the Stukas in that Battle.

Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3 and Bf 110

The Stuka did, in fact, perform with great efficiency throughout the war, both in support of the German Army and against enemy armour. But in the Battle of Britain it failed spectacularly. Galland:
This did not deter the German Command from continuing with the idea of the Stuka. The accompanying fighter pilots were blamed for the painfully high losses, although the limitations of the Stuka in action were obvious enough in the Battle of Britain. The fighter pilots were blamed, not the designers who continued to base their entire production of medium and heavy bombers on the Stuka idea. They not only went on to produce a twin-engined Stuka, the Ju 88, and the Do 217, but demanded full diving performance from all subsequent types of bombers, including the four-engined He 177, which entailed high stability, the fitting of dive-brakes, automatic pull-out apparatus, Stuka target-sighters, etc. Because of this blockheadedness – one cannot call it anything else – the development and production of the German long-range bomber was seriously delayed. To the claim that at the beginning of the war, four-engined bombers operating 500 miles to the west of Ireland accounted for no less than half the shipping losses in the North Atlantic, the famous North American air force expert P de Seversky, replied, ‘Luckily Hitler allowed himself to be talked out of the idea of long-range bombers...’ He should have added, ‘... and got all excited about the strategic Stuka idea.’
In its rather narrow bomber-oriented mindset, the German High Command continued to relegate its fighters to a strictly tactical agenda which included local air defence, the achievement of air superiority over the front and, if need be, assisting the army in conjunction with the Luftwaffe’s ground-support aircraft.
Though discontented by the top level mismanagement of the air war, Galland continued to manage his own and his unit’s participation in the Battle efficiently and successfully. Then, after roughly a month of action on the Channel coast, he was ordered to attend a war conference at Carin Hall, Göring’s estate in the March of Brandenburg. On arriving in Berlin, he was struck by the contrast between his recent days filled with air combat, and the calm, serene lifestyle being enjoyed in the German capital, where the war seemed to be making little difference. Most people continued to patronize theatres, cafés, restaurants and cinemas. Galland found the contrast deeply depressing.
At the Carin Hall meetings he and Mölders were drawn aside by Göring at one point and were presented with bejewelled gold Pilot Medals, after which the Reichsmarschall told the pair in no uncertain terms of his profound dissatisfaction with the performance of the German fighter force to date, with particular reference to bomber protection. He urged them to greater effort and told them of his intention to replace many at the command level of the force with younger, more aggressive and successful fighter pilots, beginning with the two of them.
Galland was promoted to Oberstleutnant, Lieutenant Colonel, and was made commander of JG 26, replacing Oberst Gotthardt Handrick, an older man whose prior claim to fame was having been a 1936 Olympic champion. His dismissal was in line with Göring’s programme replacing most of the World War One-era group and wing commanders with bright young stars like Mölders and Galland.
Two weeks after the Carin Hall conference, Göring visited Galland and Mölders on the Channel coast. The Luftwaffe was within days of beginning large-scale bombing attacks on British cities and targets and the Reichsmarshall registered his displeasure that the air supremacy needed for these raids had not been achieved. While RAF Fighter Command had suffered great losses to date, it was anything but beaten, and the German Stuka and fighter forces had suffered considerable losses of their own in personnel, aircraft and morale.
Göring roundly condemned his fighter pilots for lacking both confidence and spirit, reproaching them in the harshest terms. He demanded adherence to the close and rigid protection of the bombers. He and Galland argued over the comparative offensive and defensive capabilities of the 109 and the Spitfire, and he continued to berate Galland. At the end of the tirade he seemed to mellow a bit and asked what Galland and Mölders required for their squadrons. Mölders requested a new series of 109s equipped with more powerful engines. ‘And you?’ he asked Galland. ‘I should like an outfit of Spitfires for my squadron.’ Göring was speechless. He stamped off in a rage.
From the first days of the Battle of Britain it was obvious, to Galland at least, that the Luftwaffe would not have its way with the pilots and planes of RAF Fighter Command, as it had with the air forces of the countries the Nazis had already overrun. He believed that the British fighter arm had a considerable advantage over the Luftwaffe fighter force, being numerically stronger. It had superior control through Britain’s more advanced radar capability and the further advantage of fighting within relatively easy reach of its own airfields which, with very limited range and the need to frequently refuel to and rearm, was a real plus.
Galland was also greatly impressed by the fighting spirit of the RAF airmen. He felt that Hitler saw the campaign against Britain as merely a necessary evil. The real enemy lay to the east in the Soviet Union. In Berlin the top generals were divided over the need to attack England and the importance of invading and occupying her. As Germany did not possess a strategic heavy-bombing capability, it seems unlikely that Hitler or any of his general staff would have anticipated the sort of massive bombing effort that would be coming his way from the British, and the Americans (who were not even in the war yet). So the necessity for German occupation of England would certainly have been arguable. But Göring continued to exercise great influence over Hitler and temporarily persuaded him that everything necessary would be achieved by his Luftwaffe.
Down at the operational level, the initial phase of the Battle of Britain was concluded on 24 July and thereafter, until 8 August, a great fighter struggle ensued.

Junkers 87B-1

second phase
On the first day of this second phase, Oberst Galland led his squadron in action over England for the first time. As they approached the Thames Estuary they encountered a flight of Spitfires that was protecting a convoy. His Bf 109s had a height advantage over the British fighters and fell on them unobserved. Galland manoeuvred his plane in tightly behind a Spitfire on the left flank of the British formation and fired a single long burst. The Spitfire fell vertically and Galland followed it down until he saw the cockpit canopy come off and the enemy pilot bale out. He watched as the pilot fell all the way down to the sea, his parachute having failed to open. In the engagement, the German pilots downed three of the Spitfires, but lost two of their own aircraft and pilots.
It was a sobering experience for Galland and his comrades, leaving them in no doubt that the fighter pilots of the Royal Air Force would be a serious, determined adversary in the dramatic weeks to come.
Now the Battle was truly joined and the heat was on. JG 26 and other German fighter units operating from fields near the Channel coast were in virtually continuous action, with the pilots flying three sorties a day as a rule. The assignment: free chase over southeast England. Galland recalled the very high fatigue factor of his pilots in the situation; the extreme mental and physical strain they were under and the strain placed upon the ground personnel and the aircraft.
It used to take us roughly half an hour from take-off to crossing the English coast at the narrowest point of the Channel. Having a tactical flying time of only 80 minutes, we therefore had about 20 minutes to complete our task. This fact limited the distance of penetration. German fighter squadrons based on the Pas de Calais and on the Cotentin peninsula could barely cover the southeastern parts of the British Isles. Circles drawn from these two bases at an operational range of 125 miles overlapped approximately in the London area. Everything beyond was practically out of our reach. This was the most acute weakness of our offensive. An operating radius of 125 miles was sufficient for local defence, but not enough for such tasks as were now demanded of us. With additional fuel tanks, which could be released and discarded after use, as employed later by both sides and which we had already tried successfully in Spain, our range could have been extended by 125 to 200 miles. At that time this would have been just the decisive extension of our penetration. As it was, we ran daily into the British defences, breaking through now and then, with considerable loss to ourselves, without substantially approaching our final goal. Our fighter formations took off. The first air battles took place as expected and according to plan. Due to the German superiority these attacks, had they been continued, would certainly have achieved the attempted goal, but the English fighters were recalled from this area long before the goal was reached. The weakened squadrons of the RAF left their bases near the coast and used them only for emergency landings or to refuel. They were concentrated in a belt around London in readiness for our bomber attacks. Thus they evaded the attack in the air in order to counter more effectively the attack from the air, which would logically follow. The German fighters found themselves in a similar predicament to a dog on a chain who wants to attack the foe but cannot harm him, because of the limitation of his chain. As long as the enemy kept well back, our task could not be accomplished. Rather aptly we called the few bombers and Stukas, which from now onward accompanied our roving expeditions, ‘decoy ducks.’ Only with bombers was the war from the air over England a possibility, and to prevent such a development was the decisive aim of the British Command. To this end the RAF called out the fighters again, but the German hope of attracting them into annihilating combats was never realized. In the opening encounters the English were at a considerable disadvantage because of their close formation. Since the Spanish civil war we had introduced the wide-open combat formation in which great intervals were kept between the smaller single formations and groups, each of which flew at a different altitude. This offered a number of valuable advantages: greater air coverage; relief for the individual pilot who could now concentrate more on the enemy than on keeping formation; freedom of initiative right down to the smallest unit without loss of collective strength; reduced vulnerability, as compared to close formation; and, most important of all, better vision. The first rule of all air combat is to see the opponent first.
The British quickly realized the superiority of our combat formation and readjusted their own. At first they introduced the so-called ‘Charlies’: two flanking planes following in the rear of the main formation, flying slightly higher and further out, on a weaving course. Finally they adopted our combat formation entirely. Since then, without any fundamental changes, it has been accepted throughout the world. Werner Mölders was greatly responsible for these developments.
From the very beginning the English had an extraordinary advantage which we could never overcome throughout the entire war: radar and fighter control. For us and for our Command this was a surprise and a very bitter one. England possessed a closely knit radar network conforming to the highest technical standards of the day, which provided Fighter Command with the most detailed data imaginable. Thus the British fighter was guided all the way from take-off to his correct position for attack on the German formations. We had nothing of the kind. In the application of radio-location technique the enemy was far in advance of us. It was not that British science and technics were superior.
When we made contact with the enemy our briefings were already three hours old, the British only as many seconds old – the time it took to assess the latest position by means of radar to the transmission of attacking orders from Fighter Control to the already-airborne force. Of further outstanding advantage to the English was the fact that our attacks, especially those of the bombers, were, of sheer necessity, directed against the central concentration of the British defence. We were not in a position to seek out soft spots in this defence or to change our approaches and to attack now from this direction, now from that, as the Allies did later in their air offensive against the Reich. For us there was only a frontal attack against the superbly organized defence of the British Isles, conducted with great determination.
This Do 17 of KG76 came down in a field near Biggin Hill on 18 August 1940 after being damaged by Kenley airfield's anti-aircraft defences. Hurricanes of 111 Squadron pounced and finished it off. The crew survived and were taken prisoner.

Added to this, the RAF was fighting over its own country. Pilots who had baled out could go into action again almost immediately, whereas ours were taken prisoner. Damaged English planes could sometimes still reach their base or make an emergency landing, while for us engine trouble or fuel shortage could mean a total loss. Morale too and the emotions played a great part. The desperate seriousness of the situation apparently aroused all the energies of this hardy and historically conscious people, whose arms in consequence were directed toward one goal: to repulse the German invaders at any price!
Failure to achieve any noticeable success, constantly changing orders betraying lack of purpose, and obvious misjudgement of the situation by the Command, and unjustified accusations had a most demoralizing effect on us fighter pilots. We complained of the leadership, the bombers, the Stukas, and were dissatisfied with ourselves. We saw one comrade after the other, old and tested brothers in combat, vanish from our ranks. Not a day passed without a place remaining empty at the mess table. New faces appeared, became familiar, until one day these too would disappear, shot down in the Battle of Britain.
In summer and autumn of 1940 I shot down twenty-one Spitfires, three Blenheims and one Hurricane. The Battle was tough but it never violated the unwritten laws of chivalry. We knew that our conflict with the enemy was a life and death struggle. We stuck with the rules of a fair fight, foremost being to spare the life of a defenceless opponent. I remember the circumstances when Göring mentioned this subject during the Battle of Britain. Only Mölders was present when this conversation took place near the Reichsmarshall’s train in France. Experience had proved, he told us, that especially with technically highly developed arms such as tanks and fighter aircraft, the men who controlled these machines were more important than the machines themselves. The aircraft which we shot down could easily be replaced by the English, but not the pilots. As in our own case it was very difficult, particularly as the war drew on. Successful fighter pilots who could survive this war would be valuable not only because of their experience and knowledge but also because of their rarity. Göring wanted to know if we ever had thought about this. ‘Jawohl, Herr Reichsmarshall!’ He looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘What would you think of an order to shoot down pilots who were baling out?’ ‘I should regard it as murder, Herr Reichsmarshall,’ I told him, ‘and I should do everything in my power to disobey such an order.’ ‘That is just the reply I had expected from you, Galland.’ In World War One similar thoughts had cropped up, but were just as strongly rejected by the fighter pilots.
Sir Hugh C T Dowding, Commander-in-Chief, RAF Fighter Command, during the Battle of Britain:
This is perhaps a convenient opportunity to say a word about the ethics of shooting at aircraft crews who have baled out in parachutes. Germans descending over England are prospective prisoners-of-war and, as such, should be immune. On the other hand, British pilots descending over England are still potential combatants. Much indignation was caused by the fact that German pilots sometimes fired on our descending airmen (although, in my opinion, they were perfectly entitled to do so), but I am glad to say that in many cases they refrained.
Galland remembered with a smile how loudspeakers all over the greater German Reich in those days used to shatter the air with the song Bomben auf En-ge-land, and how his pilots hated it.

third phase
The Germans were now into the third phase of the Battle of Britain. It would last from 8 August to 7 September 1940 and its theme would be the complete destruction of the British air force on the ground by waves of German bombers overhead. Here again, in Galland’s view, the Germans were disadvantaged by the very limited range of their fighters, pointing out that the actual air battle over Britain was confined to an area representing less than ten per cent of England. This left ninety per cent of the country in which aircraft could be built and repaired, pilots trained, reserves built up and new squadrons formed to rearm and replenish the British air force virtually without German interference. And to get them into action the RAF needed only to vector its units and support to a relatively limited area around London. The lack of an efficient German long-range bomber exacerbated the difficulties of the Luftwaffe in trying to carry out their mission. Had such a plane been available to the Germans they would have been able to strike in large numbers at targets anywhere in Britain, preventing the RAF from restoring itself.
The positive side of the German aircraft range limitation was that the part of the country the Luftwaffe could reach, the southeastern corner, included the capital. London, one of the world’s great cities, came within range of the German bomber attacks with fighter protection, and as a major port, armaments and distribution centre, as well as the centre of the British High Command, it was a most tempting target.\

fourth phase
On 7 September the fourth phase of the Battle began. Hermann Göring again visited the Channel coast to give the order that would launch more than a thousand aircraft, horizontal bombers, Stukas, fighters and destroyers, the largest air armada ever assembled, in the first major mission on London. It was the first of thirty-eight such large-scale raids on the British capital and the targets were dock installations and oil storage facilities on the Thames. In the subsequent raids the total weight of bombs released in each attack averaged about 500 tons and it was normally delivered by a bomber force of between fifty and eighty aircraft being shepherded by one fighter wing. Galland:
The assembly of the bombers and fighters took place in the vicinity of our fighter bases over some landmark on the coast at a predetermined altitude and zero hour. It happened more than once that the bombers arrived late. As a result the fighters joined another bomber formation which had already met its fighter escort and thus flew doubly protected; while the belated formation had either to turn back or make an unescorted raid usually resulting in heavy losses. Radio or radar guidance for such an assembly was not available; even our intercom did not work most of the time. These difficulties increased with the deterioration of the weather in the autumn and finally assumed the proportions of a tragedy.
All formations had to take the shortest route to London, because the escorting fighters had a reserve of only ten minutes’ combat time. Large-scale decoy manoeuvres or circumnavigation of the British AA zone were therefore impossible. The anti-aircraft barrage around London was of considerable strength and concentration and seriously hampered the target approach of the bombers. The balloon barrage over and around the capital made low-level attacks and dive-bombing impossible. The bulk of the English fighters were sent up to encounter the German raiders just before they reached their target. I know of no instance in which they managed to prevent the bombers from reaching their target, but they inflicted heavy losses on them and the German escort fighters.
While returning from London on one such raid, Galland spotted a flight of twelve Hurricane fighters north of Rochester and attacked from 2,500 feet above and behind them. At extremely close range he fired on an aircraft at the rear of the formation, ripping large sections from the plane. His greater speed carried him right over the top of the flight of Hurricanes and down the length of their formation. He dropped his nose slightly and fired into another of the enemy fighters. He received no return fire and as he broke away he noticed two pilots descending in their parachutes.
When Galland was summoned to Berlin to receive the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross, the award was presented to him by Adolf Hitler in the new Reich Chancellery. The two had met once before, but the other occasion had been on Galland’s return from Spain with the Condor Legion. That had been a large reception, but this was a private meeting of just the two. Galland remembered it being a lengthy conversation. ‘The first time I met him I was not very impressed; short, grey-faced and not very strong. He did not allow me to smoke, nor did he offer anything to drink. He had little understanding of the air force, and for air combat none at all. He couldn’t think in three dimensions. He was an army man.’
He recalled expressing to Hitler his admiration for the British enemy and mentioning his disdain for the fallacious and insidious commentaries and representations that were being made on German radio and by the press, that referred to the Royal Air Force in a condescending manner. He anticipated an angry response or contradiction from Hitler when he offered the Nazi leader his own very different impressions. But Hitler just listened intently and then told Galland that the comments confirmed his own beliefs. He told the fighter leader that the decision to launch the campaign against Britain had been especially difficult in view of his own admiration for the British. He referred to it as a ‘world historical tragedy’, saying that it had been impossible to avoid the war ‘despite all his sincere and desperate attempts’ and how, if Germany won the war ‘a vacuum would be created by the destruction of Great Britain, which it would be impossible to fill.’ According to Galland, Hitler expressed his ‘sympathy for the English race and his admiration for the class of political and industrial leaders which down the ages had developed on a much broader base than anything that had so far existed in Germany. In their political development, favoured by different circumstances, the English were a hundred years ahead of the Germans.’ He thought that ‘all the virtues an eminent race had developed over long periods became manifest during critical phases in its history, as England was going through then.’

A Messerschmitt Bf 109E over the Isle of Wight.

Following his session with the Nazi leader, Galland flew to see Göring at the Reichsmarshall’s hunting lodge in the Rominterheide. At the estate he met Werner Mölders who told him that Göring had detained him there for three days and how anxious he was to get back to his command, the 51st Fighter Wing on the Channel coast, to resume his combat flying. He said that Göring had promised to detain Galland at least as long. Soon Göring appeared, dressed, as Galland described, ‘in a green suede hunting jacket over a silk blouse with long puffed sleeves, high hunting boots, and in his belt a hunting knife in the shape of an old Germanic sword.’ He noted that the Reichsmarshall was in a good mood, with the unpleasant memory of their last meeting, and his concerns about the Luftwaffe’s progress in the Battle of Britain, seemingly forgotten. He granted Galland permission to hunt one of his royal stags, a Reichsjägermeister-stag, and admitted having promised Mölders to keep Galland there for at least three days, thus giving Mölders an advantage in the German ace race. By ten the next morning, however, Galland had bagged his stag and there was no real reason for him to stay on at the lodge. But Göring kept his word to Mölders, compelling Galland to remain there for the three days, during which the Reichsmarshall received the latest Battle reports from his 2nd and 3rd Air Force Group commanders. They were not happy reading, reporting especially heavy losses in the most recent major raid on London. Disheartened, Göring relented, allowing Galland to return with his stag to the war front.
The conclusion of the fourth phase of the Battle of Britain came on 20 October with the ending of the main day-bombing campaign and the beginning of the night blitz.
It was to be another testing time for the German fighter force, elements of which were to be converted to ‘fighter-bombers’. This decision was based, according to Galland, on the Luftwaffe High Command rationale that, as the fighter arm had been unable to provide sufficient protection to the German bombers, it should be required to deliver bombs to England on its own account. The fighters were being asked to do this job as a stopgap measure while preparations for a major night-bombing campaign against England were being made. Galland felt that this use of fighters as bombers could only be a political rather than a military policy decision. And, while he saw the value of the fighter-bomber in certain contexts, assuming the availability of a surplus of fighter aircraft, this to him was merely a weakening of the fighter force when it should have been strengthened to help achieve the essential German aim of air superiority over England.
Each of the seven German fighter wings then participating in the Battle of Britain were now ordered to equip either one squadron per wing, or one flight per squadron, as fighter-bombers, which translated into the conversion of one-third of these fighter-wing aircraft into fighter-bombers. It would be perhaps the most severe test of Luftwaffe fighter pilot morale in the entire war. Galland believed that the pilots had done all they could to keep up with and surpass their very capable and aggressive British counterpart. They had never ceased their demands for long-range fuel drop-tanks which would have greatly enhanced their ability to escort effectively their bombers and engage the RAF fighters for longer periods over England and now they had to operate at only two-thirds of their former fighter strength. And the entire German fighter-bomber force for use over Britain numbered fewer than 250 aircraft.
In the effort, the converted Bf 109 carried a single 500-pound high explosive bomb, while the Me 110 carried two 500-pounders and four 100-pound bombs. The pilots knew that these light loads would achieve little in destructive results, and probably even less for the fact that there was almost no time to train them to drop bombs. Most would drop their first live bomb during an actual raid on London or another British target. At the start of these operations, the fighter-bombers flew together in ordinary bomber formations with their separate wing escort fighter protection, but this soon proved unsafe with the fighter-bombers too vulnerable to the attentions of the enemy fighters. Thereafter the fighter-bombers were dispersed through the escort fighter formation. Doing so hampered the performance of the escort fighters more; their speed, rate of climb, and manoeuvrability reduced to that of the far heavier fighter-bombers to whom they were tied operationally.
Göring was, of course, wholly unsympathetic with his fighter pilots. He took the view that they had failed in the job of adequately protecting his bombers and they now opposed him over escorting his fighter-bombers, a task that had resulted from their own inability to do the first job. He made it known that, if they were not up to escorting the fighter-bombers, it would be better to disband the fighter force entirely.
The deteriorating relations between the fighter pilots and the Luftwaffe Command became much worse. The superb and courageous pilots had fought brilliantly and with deadly effect for several weeks in the murderous battle, chalking up many victories and suffering devastating losses. Many of the young pilots were now openly critical of the Luftwaffe leadership.
Adolf Galland. All his 104 confirmed aerial victories were scored against British- and American-flown aircraft. Few German pilots lived to score 100 victories on the Western Front.

Adolf Galland


'We saw one comrade after the other, old and tested brothers in combat, vanish from our ranks.'

A downed Bf 109E which has made a successful wheels-up landing in England.

Adolf Galland tribute.

Battle of Britain documentary, part one of five.

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This book examines the reality behind the myths of the legendary German fighter aces of World War II. It explains why only a small minority of pilots - those in whom the desire for combat overrode everything - accounted for so large a proportion of the victories. It surveys the skills that a successful fighter pilot must have - a natural aptitude for flying, marksmanship, keen eyesight - and the way in which fighter tactics have developed. The book examines the history of the classic fighter aircraft that were flown,…
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