Aviation History

LUFTWAFFE’S FIGHTER GENERAL

WITH HIS SLICKED–BACK BLACK HAIR AND MATCHING MUSTACHE, BROKEN NOSE AND PERENNIAL CIGAR, LIEUTENANT GENERAL ADOLF GALLAND WAS THE PERSONIFICATION OF THE LUFTWAFFE FIGHTER ARM DURING WORLD WAR II.

His Messerschmitt 109s bearing the incongruous Mickey Mouse emblem became iconic images for generations of historians, artists and modelers. Yet those were superficial manifestations of his personality; the man beneath the image was far more intriguing.

Galland was born into a western German family of French descent in March 1912. His father was fortunate to survive World War I, losing seven brothers between 1914 and 1918.

The second of four sons, Adolf Jr. was enamored with aviation from childhood. He joined a glider club and soloed at 17, calling the experience “the most important moment of my life.” As he summarized, “The saying that the gods demand sweat and tears before they grant success has no truer application than in the sport of gliding.”

Galland’s success led to qualification for Lufthansa, the national airline, in 1932. He was among 18 pilots accepted from 4,000 applicants.

However, the budding airman’s career seemed to careen toward expulsion from flight school after a particularly bad landing and a collision between two friends while Galland led an unauthorized formation flight. At that point, expecting the worst, he applied to Germany’s small army and was accepted, but Lufthansa refused to let him go. “The incident was soon forgotten and I breathed freely again,” he said.

After a brief stint piloting flying boats, in 1933 Galland was recruited into a clandestine program designed to build a new German air force. His detachment went to Italy for military flight training before returning to Lufthansa. The instrument experience he gained flying transports later proved invaluable.

In October 1935 Galland crashed severely in a Focke-Wulf Fw-44

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