I’ve never understood how some of history’s most courageous, gallant and yes, honorable, warriors could have fought for such an evil regime as Nazi Germany, and remained loyal to devil-incarnate Adolf Hitler. I know there were complex motives and psychology involved, and sweeping political dynamics. But its still hard for me to get my head around…
One of those great warriors was Adolfo “Dolfo” Galland, one of the Luftwaffe’s highest-scoring aces and Chief of the day fighter force. He started his combat experience in Spain flying biplanes, and ended flying the Me-262 jet, racking up 104 kills. Through courage and leadership he rose quickly to became General der Jagdflieger. In that position, he pushed hard to focus on defending Germany against allied bombers. In that effort he often clashed with Herman Goering, and at times with Hitler himself.
Here’s a video interview with Galland, where he relates some of those “disagreements” with his Nazi overlords. Also, below the fold, read the account of a classic argument between Galland and Goering.
From ‘Inside the Third Reich’, by Albert Speer:
I witnessed a dramatic scene between Goering and General Galland, who commanded his fighter planes. Galland had reported to Hitler that day that several American fighter planes accompanying the bomber squadrons had been shot down over Aachen. He had added the warning that we were in grave peril if American fighters, thanks to improved fuel capacity, should soon be able to provide escort protection to the fleets of bombers on flights even deeper into Germany. Hitler had just relayed these points to Goering.
Goering was embarking for Rominten Heath on his special train when Galland came along to bid him good-by.
“What’s the idea of telling the Fuehrer that American fighters have penetrated into the territory of the Reich?” Goering snapped at him.
“Heir Reichsmarschall,” Galland replied with imperturbable calm, “they will soon be flying even deeper.”
Goering spoke even more vehemently: “That’s nonsense, Galland, what gives you such fantasies? That’s pure bluff!”
Galland shook his head. “Those are the facts. Herr Reichmarschall!” As he spoke he deliberately remained in a casual posture, his cap somewhat askew, a long cigar clamped between his teeth. “American fighters have been shot down over Aachen. There is no doubt about it!”
Goering obstinately held his ground: “That is simply not true, Galland. It’s impossible.”
Galland reacted with a touch of mockery: “You might go and check it yourself, sir; the downed planes are there at Aachen.”
Goering tried to smooth matters over: “Come now. Galland, let me tell you something. I’m an experienced fighter pilot myself. I know what is possible. But I know what isn’t, too. Admit you made a mistake.”
Galland only shook his head, until Goering finally declared: “What must have happened is that they were shot down much farther to the west. I mean, if they were very high when they were shot down they could have glided quite a distance farther before they crashed.”
Not a muscle moved in Galland’s face. “Glided to the east, sir? If my plane were shot up…”
“Now then, Herr Galland,” Goering fulminated, trying to put an end to the debate, “I officially assert that the American fighter planes did not reach Aachen.”
The General ventured a last statement: “But, sir, they were therel”
At this point Goering’s self-control gave way. “I herewith give you an official order that they weren’t there! Do you understand? The American fighters were not there! Get that! I intend to report that to the Fuehrer.”
Goering simply let General Galland stand there. But as he stalked off he turned once more and called out threateningly: “You have my official order!”
With an unforgettable smile the General replied: “Orders are orders, sir!”
And here’s another reference, an interview with Galland published by WWII Magazine. Lot’s of interesting stories about his stormy relations with Goering and Hitler.