In October 1934 he was commissioned as a lieutenant and led a squadron during the Spanish Civil War. In the Asturias campaign in September 1937, he experimented with new bombing tactics. This became known as carpet bombing (dropping all bombs on the enemy from every aircraft at one time for maximum damage). He also took part in the bombing of Guernica on 26th April, 1937. Between May 1937 and July 1938 he carried out 280 combat missions in Spain.
Flying a Messerschmitt Bf109 he obtained his first three kills on 12th May, 1940. This was followed by ten more during the Western Offensive. During the Battle of Britain he was Germany's highest scoring pilots with 57 victories. On the death of Oberst Moelders on 22nd November 1941, Galland succeeded him as General of the Fighter Arm.
On 19th November 1942 Galland became Germany's youngest general. He also commanded the German fighters that opposed the Allied landings in Sicily in July 1943.
In 1943 Galland began to argue that the Luftwaffe needed to change to a more defensive strategy. Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering disagreed and after a series of arguments Galland was sacked as General of the Fighter Arm in December 1944.
Galland returned to front-line duty and now flying the Messerschmitt Me 262 shot down two more Allied aircraft on 26th April 1945 bringing his score to 103.
At the end of the war Galland was captured and spent two years as a prisoner of war. After his release he became a military adviser in Argentina (1947-55) and published his autobiography, The First and Last (1954).
Galland returned to Germany in 1955 and was employed as a aerospace consultant, airline president and business executive. Adolf Galland died on 9th March, 1996.
The colossus of World War II seemed to be like a pyramid turned upside down, and for the moment the whole burden of the war rested on the few hundred German fighter pilots on the Channel coast.
Though the air battles over England were perhaps a triumph of skill and bravery so far as the German air crews were concerned, from the strategic point of view it was a failure and contributed to our ultimate defeat. The decision to fight it marks a turning point in the history of the Second World War. The German Air Force was bled almost to death, and suffered losses which could never again be made good throughout the course of the war.
A wave of terror radiated from the suffering city and spread through Germany. Appalling details of the great fire was recounted. A stream of haggard, terrified refugees flowed into the neighbouring provinces. In every large town people said: "What happened to Hamburg yesterday can happen to us tomorrow". After Hamburg in the wide circle of the political and the military command could be heard the words: "The war is lost".
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!"