A great passion for flying and aeronautics has consumed me since boyhood. Fascinated by the exploits of the world's great pioneer aviators, and stimulated by the deeds of combat pilots, I began my career in aviation flying gliders at the tender age of fifteen.
After leaving school in 1932 I graduated through Airline Pilot School and went on to complete basic military training, flying fighters, and joined the newly-formed "Richtholen" Fighter Wing as a Lieutenant.
Between April 1937 and July 1938 I flew combat missions as a Squadron Leader, in the Spanish Civil War and Polish War. I then participated in the Western Campaign where as a Group-Commander I led three Squadrons of Fighter Wing 26 (JG-26).
During the Battle of Britain in 1940 I became Major, and soon Lieutenant Colonel, then Wing Commander of JG-26, with nine Squadrons, and was credited with 57 victories. By December of 1941 this had risen to 94.
In November 19411 was appointed "Inspector General of the Fighter Ann" with the rank of Colonel. Being now responsible for the inspection of our fighter units, this became a decisive turning-point in my military career, considerably enlarging my duties and responsibilities. In February 1942 I organised and conducted the fighter escort for the spectacular "Channel Dash" - the breakout of the German battleships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen through the English Channel.
Thereafter I visited all fighter units in the different theatres of war (Norway, Russia - from Leningrad to the Crimea and the Caucasus - Rumania, Bulgaria, Africa, Sicily, Italy and France) to become fully briefed as to their operational capability. Like the other Weapon-Generals (bombers, reconnaisance, anti-aircraft-artillery etc) I was responsible for everything cxccpt the immediate operational command.
In 1943 I was given the responsibility for Fighter Operations in Sicily just before the Allied landings, but with the Allied air superiority established, this was an impossible task. I then moved on to concentrate my efforts on the air defence of Germany.
RAF Bomber Command was operating large forces by night. Meanwhile the American 8th Air Force was flying missions out of England by day. I was given the responsibility for the Night-Fighter Arm too and was, in the same rhythm as the war, working 24 hours a day.
The RAF and USAAF steadily gained air superiority during a time when greater fighter production was badly needed. However, by the time this was achieved fuel shortages, due to the incessant air attacks, became our problem.
I never succeeded in convincing Hitler to concentrate the entire effort on air defence, and even when the advanced Me262 became available, my efforts to use this purely in a fighter role were strictly refused by Hitler.
The war had already been lost years previously, and the earlier introduction of the jet fighters would not have changed its course. Even if we had prevented the day offensive of the USAAF, the war would simply have been prolonged, allowing Russia to occupy even more German territory.
By the end of 1944 I was relieved of my position and told to set up an Me262 fighter unit. Thus I started the war as a First Lieutenant leading a Squadron, and ended it as a Lieutenant General leading a Squadron.
Since 1948 I was adviser for the Argentine Air Force for six years and thereafer was a consultant to the Aerospace Industry.
German Decorations: Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords & Diamonds
Published by the Military Gallery