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Old 27th August 2005, 15:37
Raimo Malkamäki Raimo Malkamäki is offline
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Re: Graf or Steinhoff?


personally I think that Hermann Graf is one of the most interesting personalities of the German fighter aces, not least because there are so many controversies regaring him, pow-years etc.

Anyway, here is one view to the mutiny of the aces. This is a translation of pages 244-247 from a book in Finnish language by Karl Bartz: "Taivas on liekeissä". Kustannusosakeyhtiö Tammi, Helsinki. KK:n kirjapaino, 1956.

The original title in German language is "Als Der Himmel Brannte". This book is old but quite good and different than most WW II books. It has a nice "touch", it is well written and it covers many sides of the war, both personal experiences and strategy. It is not a Luftwaffe history in < scientific sense, but more like a collection of stories from interesting incidents.

I made this fast translation for my good friend Christer Bergström when he was writing his Graf-book. I´m not a translator by profession, but the basic idea of the text is surely correct.


Pages 244-247: Aces in mutiny

The blame of Bodenplatte´s great and irreplaceable losses was put on bomber general Peltz and also general Schmidt. Why would one send so concentrated formation to fly low over the enemy territory, when they thus were easy targets for the most concentrated aaa-fire?
How was it possible that the formation leaders were told to fly the fixed routes and not let them freely choose the best way to target? Why weren´t the pilots informed of the V-weapon areas?

Among the front commanders Göring had long ago lost his authority. Everybody knew, that he could not support the Luftwaffe. When Göring demanded during one conference (when all high ranking officers were present) that everything must change and he told these men who had so many times risked their lives, that they should have fanatics of the Soviet army as an example, everything was at the end. Bitterly and scornfully the officers took this mocking. For them, Göring´s fairy tale was finished.

All this and bad leadership, the ignorance of the stab about the front situation and finally the wrong commands regarding the Bodenplatte had started the idea of demonstration against Göring. The last drop was the fact that Galland was sacked from the GdJ-post.

So several Luftwaffe obersts got together (Galland had made the iniative, but he stayed behind the scenes) in order to write a memo and to told Göring directly what are the problems, and to insist the problems to be fixed. These men had the highest medals and they all had faced death many times... They were obersts Graf, Lützow, Neumann, Rödel and Trautloft.

Trautloft and Lützow wrote the memo, which the other obersts supplemented.
Honest, honourable and slim oberst Lützow was chosen to present the memo.
It started with a fact that jagdwaffe was going thru a crisis because of the allready made and planned personnel changes. The following reasons had led to this crisis:
The units can´t understand the "leave" of general Galland, because he is the leading brain of the jagdwaffe, he is known as a good leader and despite his toughness, is popular among the fighter pilots. One reason for crisis was accusation "many times repeated by Göring that the fighter pilots are cowards, allthough jagdwaffe had perhaps greater proportional losses than any other part of the whole Wehrmacht".

Next came the demand that the bomber general who had led the jagdwaffe since the beginning of the western attack (17.12.1944) must be relieved from his duty. Since that day 2 kommodore, 14 kommandeur and 63 staffelkapitan had died.

According to opinion inside jagdwaffe, these losses are mainly due to leader´s mistakes. Never could the bomber general achieve the trust of the fighter pilots, (although he had great personal achievements) because he had kept the IX Fliegerkorps out of the battle during these difficult times. At the same time he had ruthlessly sent the badly trained day fighters to the battle. (IX Fliegerkorps had been trained to use Me 262 as a bomber, with no results). Also, bomber general is no fighter pilot. He had supported the idea that Me 262 should be used as a bomber. He had close co-operation with a person, who was known as an enemy of the fighter pilots and who called them pigs.

In the memo Gordon Gollob, Galland´s succesor was also mentioned.

Gollob has shot down many planes, but he never was a good superior. He considers personal matters more important than the main facts. The proof is that when he was not satisfied, he didn´t try to live with it, but instead he wanted to change to another arm (SS).

Oberst Herrmann would also never be popular among fighter pilots. As a commander of the dispanded 30. Jagddivision he had had great losses and minimum results, and he had not told his superiors the faults of the system, but instead had kept them secret for personal reasons.

The jagdwaffe is convinced that the "close ring" of Reichmarschall gives him wrong info. So jagdwaffe demands, that all officers must be changed, specially those without no combat experience. According to new situation, the new officers must be chosen among the experienced fighter pilots.

The meeting begins. Göring arrives with Koller and some other officers. Obersts salute. Göring doesn´t respond. He says only: Sit down. With red face he reads the memo.

So brave Lützow begins to speak with calm and friendly voice, without permission and against all military tradition.

Herr Reichmarschall: In the name of the soldiers at present, I must ask you to give me 50 minutes time to speak without interruptions. Otherwise our aim to give you information is useless.

Göring´s face gets even more red: This is outrageous, he shouts. Something like this has never happened. Are you going to say that I have not established a strong air force?

Lützow stands without a move and looks Göring straight in the eyes: Yes, Reichmarschall, he says, and stresses every word by knocking his finger on the board. You have started strong Luftwaffe and had success in Poland and in France. But since then you have been sleeping.

Göring´s eyes seem to blow. His face is blue-red and he hits his fist on the table. What do you say? he shouts. I´ve had it. This is mutiny. I´ll have you shot.
Then he leaves the room.
Lützow and Trautloft were sacked. Gollob was made the last GdJ.

Then Hitler interfered. Galland didn´t get his job back. But he got the opportunity to start a new Me 262-unit and prove his point about Me 262 being so good as a fighter plane. And Galland said yes. He could pick his pilots. He took the "Aces in mutiny" with him and started JV 44 at Branderburg-Briest in January 1945. There were many aces among the pilots, Steinhoff, Lützow, several majors, kapitans, leutnants, unteroffiziers. They wanted to fly as an ordinary pilots...
At the end of March the unit flew to München. During the last days of war Steinhoff got burned badly. Lützow died. At the beginning of May the unit flew to Salzburg.
When the americans got closer, the jets were burned.

Further evidence, or should I say counter-evidence, is presented by Alfred Price in his book "The Last Year of the Luftwaffe. May 1944 to May 1945."

Page 131: A few days later a deputation of senior leaders, led by oberst Lützow and including Oberst Graf (JG 52), Oberst Rödel (Commander of the 2nd Fighter Division), Oberst Steinhoff (JG 7) and Oberst Trautloft asked for and received an audience with Göring.

So, this question still waits the final answer. I wonder if we are ever going to get one.

Best regards from Helsinki,
Raimo Malkamäki
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