Hermann Goering in the cockpit of his fighter. Photo from the Federal Archives of Germany. Xnumx
FROM LEGION "CONDOR"
The famous German ace Adolf Galland (103 shot down the plane) was born in 1912 year. In 17 years he began to fly independently on a glider and later learned to control the aircraft. In the 1933 year after Hitler came to power, Galland completed a secret training course in Italy and obtained the qualifications of a civilian pilot, entered the Luftwaffe in 1934 and at the end of the year received the rank of second lieutenant. In April, 1935, he was appointed to the first fighter part of the revived Luftwaffe - 2-e fighter wing named after Richthofen.
In July, a civil war broke out in Spain 1936. Germany and Italy sent military equipment and their military personnel to help Franco nationalists; The Soviet Union, in turn, began to assist the Republican government.
Galland arrived in Spain in May 1937 of the year and was appointed commander of the 3 th fighter squadron armed with Heinkel-51 biplanes (by the beginning of 1937 of the German Legion Condor, which included Galland, had nine squadrons of various types of aircraft, including three fighter). The main task of the squadron was to directly support the ground forces, and its pilots sometimes made 6 – 7 sorties a day.
With 280 combat sorties in Spain, Galland left for Germany in July 1938. He spent some time on staff work in the Ministry of the Air Force; during battles with Poland in September 1939, he made 50 sorties on the Heinkel-123 attack aircraft and was awarded the Iron Cross of the II class and promoted to captain. All this time he sought transfer to a fighter Aviation and finally in October 1939 he began to serve in the 27th fighter wing. With the beginning of the German westward offensive, the wing began to take part in battles, and on May 12, 1940, Galland shot down three Hurricanes of the Belgian Air Force. At the end of the campaign in France, he accounted for 13 wrecked vehicles, and he was transferred to the 26th fighter wing. On July 24, he first participated in an air battle over England and shot down one Spitfire, and two months later his score grew to 24 downed planes, and Gallanda was awarded oak leaves to the Knight's Cross.
At the beginning of 1941, the 26-e wing was sent to Brittany to protect German ships in Brest and shelters for German submarines being built on the French coast from the air. In June 1941, after the German attack on the Soviet Union, most of the Luftwaffe air units were deployed on the Eastern Front, and only two fighter wings (including the 26) remained on the English Channel, the load on which increased significantly. Once at the end of June, it happened that during the course of a day Galland's life literally hung in the balance twice. At the beginning of the day, when the Germans intercepted British bombers and Galland shot down two Blenheim bombers, he himself came under attack by British fighters and landed a plane with an engine not working. In the afternoon Galland was again in the air and shot down two Spitfires, but was again attacked and wounded in the arm and head. The Spitfire aircraft that had fired at him disappeared, and Galland, who was at an altitude of 18 000 feet, made a U-turn to leave for his airfield when the fuel tank suddenly exploded and burning fuel poured into the cabin. Overwhelmed by the horror of the possibility of burning alive, Galland freed himself from the seat belts and tried to throw off the cockpit light, which he had eaten, and he flew away only on the second attempt. Galland began to get out of the plane, but could not do it, because the parachute caught on some protruding element of the cabin structure. The injured pilot was half in the burning cabin and half outside, holding the antenna mount with one hand and tugging on the parachute with the other. In the end, he fell out of the cabin and, with relief, he almost forgot to pull the parachute ring. Galland landed harshly but safely in the Bois de Boulogne and returned to his unit in the evening.
After this incident, the command of the Luftwaffe removed him from combat sorties, but he continued to command the 26 wing, and in November 1941 after the crash of Werner Mölders, the commander of the Luftwaffe fighter aircraft and the best German ace, in that crash, succeeded the German successor. Shortly thereafter, he began, in the strictest secrecy setting, coordinating the actions of all Luftwaffe fighter units to ensure that the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prince Eugen pocket battleships exit the French Brest and transfer them across the English Channel to German ports. In the ensuing operation, the German fighters acted excellently, and the ships safely passed the strait.
Most of the 1942 of the year for Galland went on inspection trips to the fighter units of the Luftwaffe in Italy, North Africa and the occupied territory of the Soviet Union. At the end of 1942, he was promoted to Major General, and 30-year-old Galland became the youngest general in the then German armed forces.
By this time, the major cities of Germany began to experience the increasing force of strikes from night raids by British bombers and the first daytime raids of the 8 BA BA bombers, which operated at the limit of their combat radius. It became clear to Galland that the German aviation industry needed to focus on the production of fighter aircraft. This led to an open conflict with Goering, who, like Hitler, believed that priority should be given to new bomber and attack aircraft. In the summer of 1943, feuds at the top of the Reich became even fiercer; the Allied strategic aerial attack on Germany was in full swing, but Hitler ordered the main Luftwaffe efforts in the west to focus on “repressive” raids on British targets. In the fall of 1943, Galland on the Focke-Wulf-190 took part in intercepting a day-raid by American bombers and shot down one B-17, but he returned to the base in disarray, realizing the futility of the Luftwaffe fighters against the force that the Allies sent daily to Germany . And although the Germans achieved some success in fighting day bombers - for example, 14 on October 1943, during a raid on Schweinfurt, 60 was destroyed and 138 B-17 bombers were damaged, the German losses in fighters increased, and the bombing caused more damage . Goering blamed only Luftwaffe fighter aircraft in everything, but Galland, as R. Jackson writes in his book, “sharply retorted the attacks of his superior, and violent clashes between them became common. One day, when Göring suggested that some fighter pilots received the Iron Crosses by falsifying their reports of the results of the battles, Galland could not stand it and threw the reichsmarschall onto the table for his awards; after this incident he did not wear them for half a year. ”
After the Allies landed in Europe, Galland’s disappointment and frankness exceeded the permissible level. He believed that the fighters should be used to perform the tasks of the German air defense, and not senselessly lost in air battles on the Western Front, where the Allies had complete supremacy. Galland's cup of patience overflowed in January 1945, when nearly three hundred Luftwaffe fighters were destroyed during the storming of allied airfields in France and Belgium, timed to coincide with the German offensive in the Ardennes. Galland was against this operation, for which he was removed from the post of commander of fighter aircraft.
However, the skill of Galland as a pilot and recognized leader of fighter pilots was not contested by anyone, and in January 1945, Hitler ordered him to form a new aviation unit armed with the last hope of the Luftwaffe - jet fighters "Messerschmitt-262", in developing the basics of combat use of which Galland took part . By the beginning of March, 45 fighter pilots were recruited, among which were the 12 best Luftwaffe pilots, including one lieutenant general, two colonels, a lieutenant colonel, three major and five captains; Of these dozen pilots, 10 people have already been awarded Knight Crosses. Jet fighters had no equal in the air, but unfortunately for the Germans, they began to fight too late and could not change anything.
As S. Tucker writes, Galland was captured by the Americans in May 1945, was released two years later, and served as an advisor to the Argentine Air Force from 1947 to 1955. He died in 1996 year.
When Galland left Spain in July 1938, his position as squadron commander in the Condor Legion was taken over by an 25-year-old officer named Werner Mölders. Prior to that, Mölders had fought in Spain for three months on the Heinkel-51, engaging in attacking ground targets and trying not to engage in Soviet-made fighter jets that had higher TTX. By July, 1938, however, all the fighter squadrons of the Condor Legion were reequipped on the Messerschmitt-109 and could now fight on equal footing with Republican fighters. 15 July 1938, Mölders shot down his first plane, which was the beginning of his relatively short but dizzying career.
It is rather strange that this man, who became one of the best German aces of the Second World War (115 downed aircraft), literally with great difficulty, made his way into military pilots. Mölders was born in 1913 year and from early childhood wanted to be a soldier. As R. Jackson writes, “... this desire was strongly opposed by his mother, whose husband, a teacher, was lost in the cycle of the First World War. She longed for her son to change his mind, and he really changed his mind, but not in the way his mother wanted. When Mölders turned 10 years old, his uncle took him on a flight by plane, and since then he had only one desire - to become a pilot. ”
German ace Hans-Joachim Marseille got the nickname Star of Africa
However, after the First World War, Germany, under the Treaty of Versailles, did not have the right to have its own air force, and Mölders began his military career as a soldier, enrolling in the 1932 year at the military academy in Dresden and ending it two years later. In the meantime, the fascists came to power, who, under the strictest secrecy, began to form the beginnings of the German Air Force. Mölders, without wasting time, made an attempt to enter a new type of armed forces. He easily passed the written examinations and medical examinations, but he collapsed on checking the vestibular apparatus, and the “unfit” stamp appeared in his medical card. Mölders did not want to give up and the whole next month loaded himself with endless physical exercises, trying to make himself as fit as possible for the flight profession. He re-passed the medical commission, and this time the conclusion of the doctors was positive. But the real test still awaited him: becoming a flight study, he constantly suffered from air sickness and several times was close to suspension from flying. He was saved by a combination of two factors - the innate makings of an excellent pilot and steel willpower. Gradually, bouts of vertigo became more rare, and by the time of the flight school had disappeared completely. Then Mölders served as an instructor for Junkers-53 transport for two years, and in the spring of 1938 he left for Spain.
He completed a business trip to Spain in October 1938, becoming the best ace of the Condor Legion with 14 aircraft shot down. But more important than the downed aircraft was his combat experience acquired in the Spanish sky. After returning home, Mölders and other German aces who passed through Spain literally rewrote the “Guide on tactics of fighter units”, which in the initial period of the world war showed a significant superiority of German tactics over the tactics of the actions of its opponents.
The outbreak of World War II caught Mölders as commander of a squadron of the 53 th Fighter Wing. 20 September Mölders shot down his first two French planes, which were the Curtis-Hock, and by May 10 1940 had already 25 machines on his account. In those days, the Germans launched their offensive in a westerly direction, and the next three weeks, Mölders went from victory to victory. He became a national hero, and awards fell on him; His subordinates worshiped him and were proud of the right to fight in his squadron. And 5 June 1940, the Mölders plane was shot down in the sky over the Compiegne Forest as a result of a surprise attack by French Lieutenant Pomière-Lirage on the D520 fighter. Mölders jumped out of a burning plane and after landing he was captured, in which he stayed only three weeks - he was released after the signed Franco-German armistice.
In July, 1940, Mölders was appointed commander of the 51-th wing, which was preparing for the upcoming air attack on England. When he was captured in France, he had 35 machines on his account, including airplanes shot down in Spain; By mid-October 1940, he added another Spitfire and Harrikeyn 24 to them, and the bill grew to 59 aircraft. Mölders and 51's wing remained in France until June 1941, and then they were transferred to Poland, from which the invasion of German troops into the Soviet Union soon began.
As R. Jackson writes, “... in the summer months of 1941, the Russian sky was for German fighter pilots a walking platform, since their opponent was absolutely not ready for war, - he had no combat experience, and therefore he suffered startling losses. German pilots reported on the phenomenal results of air battles, and Mölders was no exception. ” When he was descending from France to Poland, his score was 82 shot down aircraft (68 French and English plus 14 machines shot down in Spain). In the USSR, in just four weeks of fighting, he shot down another 33 aircraft, bringing his score to 115 machines. Later, the result of Mölders will be blocked in two and even three times, but in the summer of 1941, he seemed incredible and comparable only to the achievement of von Richthofen, who shot down the 80 aircraft in World War I. As S. Tucker writes, “Mölders was the first in stories the pilot who won more than 100 victories in air battles. ”
The command of the Luftwaffe decided that Mölders had to rest. At the end of July, he was recalled from the front and, as S. Tucker writes, “at the age of just 28 years they were given the rank of lieutenant general, having appointed Luftwaffe fighter aircraft as an inspector (commander).” German propaganda was fanning its successes; Mölders was the first of the Luftwaffe pilots to be awarded oak leaves with swords and diamonds, and everything foreshadowed his rapid career growth. However, Mölders did not become an armchair fighter and continued to fly, although these flights were not combat. He was constantly on the road, inspecting the fighter units at the front.
He was in the Crimea in November 1941, when he was informed of the accidental death of E. Udet, the celebrated ace of the First World War. Mölders was ordered to fly to Berlin to join the guard of honor at the funeral. He flew to Berlin on a Heinkel-111 bomber, which crashed during an instrument landing approach at an intermediate aerodrome. There were no survivors.
When Joachim Marcel (158 downed enemy planes) arrived at the 3 squadron of the 27 th Fighter Wing, its commander Captain E. Neumann met him with certain fears. There was no doubt that Marseille was a fighter pilot since the fall of 1940, and he already has eight British aircraft; undoubted was the fact that Marcel was still a cadet, although he should have been made an officer long ago. The reasons for the latter should be sought in the personal file of Marseille, where phrases such as “in the process of learning, demonstrated mock heroism and tricks” and “committed actions that violated the requirements of flight instructions” flashed one after the other, and some boss even called him “a flying hoax” . The worst feature was hard to earn — in the end, it could simply be thrown out of the Luftwaffe. Probably, Neumann decided, wit and careless charm - the two traits of the original Berliner joined to save him.
Certainly, the beginning of Marcel’s combat path was shaky. His eight English planes shot down over the English Channel had cost the Luftwaffe the loss of six Messerschmitts, because so many times he had left the plane with a parachute, either because of the combat damage to his plane, or because of a problem with the engine. And even when Neuman's squadron in April 1941 of the year was transferred to North Africa, bad luck seemed to follow him from Europe: when flying a squadron from Tripoli to a new base in Ghazal, its Messerschmitt-109 went berserk, and he was forced parachute over 500 miles from a new base. As R. Johnson points out in his book, “... Marcel did not lose heart, took advantage of a passing Italian truck and got to some rear base of the Germans. There, he introduced himself to the base commander, the general, as a fighter commander, who urgently needed to come to his unit. The general, of course, saw through the braggart, but he liked the pilot's fighting spirit, and he kindly offered him to use his car, the Opel Admiral. "You will return the debt to me," said the admiral, "if you knock down the 50 aircraft." Marcel promised, and none of them knew then that this wish would be exceeded more than three times. The next day, Marseille effectively appeared in Ghazal - just a couple of hours later, the aircraft of his squadron, which made a stop for the night in Benghazi on the way. ”
Discreet courtesy, but Marcel understood that his career depended on how many enemy planes he would destroy. He decided to prove to everyone that he possesses the qualities of a first-class pilot. Soon, he shot down a Hurricane over Tobruk, the first aircraft of the squadron after its flight to Africa. Marcel's zeal was also his weak point - time after time, despite the threat to life, he crashed into the middle of the ranks of British aircraft and often returned to the base on an airplane full of holes. He had to make forced landings on no man's land on a damaged aircraft, and emergency landings with an engine punched by bullets. Neuman spoke with Marcel: “You are alive only because you have more luck than common sense, but do not think that this can go on forever. You can rely too much on luck, just like on a plane. You have the data of a first-class pilot, but to become one, you will need time, maturity and experience. ”
These words were heard, and Marcel began to improve battle tactics. He practiced shooting at targets from any angles, and imitated the combat approaches to the planes of his squadron. His skill grew stronger, and during Rommel’s summer offensive in 1941, his score rose to 18 downed aircraft, with Marseille’s 24 September knocking down the Martin-Maryland bomber and four Harrikeyn in the first departure in the second sortie.
In October, along with the rains that flooded both German and English airfields, the Allied offensive began, which pushed Rommel's troops back to the positions from which he began the offensive a few months ago. During the battles of this defensive period for the Germans, Marcel's score grew to 48 machines, and he was awarded the Knight's Cross. In the squadron, Marcel flew a personal Messerschmitt, in which a distinct yellow 14 number was immediately displayed behind the cockpit. In April, 1942, Marcel was given the rank of lieutenant and was appointed commander of the 3 squadron of the 27 wing. After the defensive battles in the winter months, the wing was fully staffed with pilots and airplanes and had to support Rommel’s new offensive. Marcel's score grew, and his “yellow 14” soon became a legend on both sides of the front. In June, the troops of Rommel rushing to Cairo were stopped at Fort Beir Hakim, who steadfastly defended the First Brigade of Free France. During the nine days preceding the capitulation of the fort, the sky above it became the scene of fierce air battles. The 3 day of June, the Germans began with a raid of dive-bombers on Bir Hakim, over which they were intercepted by British and South African fighters, and began one after another to crumble to the ground. Then Marcel appeared on the scene with his follower, they broke into the South African fighter jets, who, assuming that they were attacked by superior forces, lined up in a protective circle. This did not help - Marcel turned sharply and hit the enemy with the first short burst. In less than 12 minutes, wreckage of six South African fighters burned in the desert sand. Slave Marcel said later: "... his calculation when firing on pre-emption was incredible: whenever he opened fire, I watched the shells first hit the nose of an enemy plane and then reach for the cockpit." After landing, it turned out that Marseille spent 10 shells on 20-mm guns and 180 machine-gun cartridges on six downed planes. So Marcel became a master of combat at low speeds. Absolutely confident in his ability to control the "Messerschmitt" at any speed and in any position relative to the enemy's aircraft, he deliberately reduced speed, receiving increased maneuverability in return, which allowed him to go all the time to the rear hemisphere of the enemy's aircraft and destroy it with excellent shooting at advance. In the sky over Bir Hakim, Marcel brought his score of victories to 81. Over the next three days, he shot down another 6 aircraft, June 15 hit the next 4 aircraft, June 16 new 4 aircraft and finally, June 17 another 6 aircraft for one departure, bringing the downed cars to 101. When, after landing, Marcel pulled into the parking lot, a mob rushed to his plane, ready to pull the ace out of the cabin and carry it on his hands. Marcel waved himself off the plane; he was wet with sweat and with a livid face. When he, with trembling hands, lit up, it seemed to those around him that he was about to collapse on the ground.
He returned to Africa 23 August 1942, when the German troops advancing on Cairo got bogged down at El Alamein, and on September 1 Rommel made the last attempt to break through. For Marcel, this day began on 08.28 — he shot down the P-40 fighter, then another P-40, and after a few minutes, a couple of Spitfires in 10. In the next sortie, escorting dive bombers, he shot down at least eight “P-10.55” in the 11.05 – 40 period, and finally, in the third flight of that day in the 17.47 – 17.53 period, he shot down another five “P-40”. Thus, his account for one day amounted to 17 downed aircraft, which was impossible to believe. As S. Tucker points out, “this result was then surpassed by only one German pilot”.
This phenomenal figure has been repeatedly questioned, and the British Royal Air Force was especially zealous in this, arguing that Marcel’s account exceeded all British losses in aircraft for that day. However, each aircraft shot down by Marcel was confirmed by his followers, who recorded the time and place, so that the issue of collusion disappears. Moreover, it later emerged that the total losses of the British and South Africans that day actually 10% exceeded the number of downed aircraft, reported by German pilots. Two days later, Marcel was awarded diamonds to the Knight's Cross, becoming the only Luftwaffe pilot who had such high awards - the Knight's Cross with oak leaves and swords and the Italian gold medal "For Courage", which only three people were awarded during World War II.
In September, Marcel shot down 57 aircraft, and his score reached 158 machines. September 30, when the Messerschmitts were returning from a mission, Marcel’s voice was heard in the pilots' head phones: “Smoke in the cockpit, nothing can be seen.” The pilots flying next to him told him how to fly the plane, behind which a dense stream of smoke stretched. When the fighters were over the territory occupied by German troops, Marcel said on the radio: "I must get out." He turned the plane over - the landing gear was on top, and the cabin was from the bottom - he dropped the cockpit light and fell out of it himself. From the side it seemed that the body of Marcel had touched the horizontal flank of the fighter and flew down without a parachute. He was buried in the wilderness, where he fell ...
Tucker writes: “... some consider Marcel to be the best ace of World War II, and although his score - 158 downed aircraft from 10 in May 1940 of the year to 27 in September of 1942 - was surpassed by several German pilots, but in most cases it took more a long time and happened on the Eastern Front. "