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Aces of Aviation

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-1 of Adolf Galland

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-1 of Adolf Galland

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-1 piloted by Major Adolf Galland, Kommandeur of the III Gruppe of the Jagdgeschwader 26, in August 1940.

Wingspan: 9.83 meters.

Length: 8.64 meters.

Height: 2.50 meters.

Engine[s]: Daimler-Benz DB 601 A of 1100 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 550 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 10500 meters.

Range: 660 kilometers.

Armament: Two MG FF 20-millimeter cannons; one MG FF/M 20-millimeter cannon; two MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns.

Close friend and at the same time rival of the grand Werner Mölders, Adolf Galland earned the respect from both his companions and superiors thanks to his brilliant skills as fighter pilot, unit commander and, finally, Fighter General of the Luftwaffe between 1942 and 1945. He was the second person (after Mölders) who received the distinction of Ace for his Knight's Cross, becoming at the same time the youngest general on the German Armed Forces, at the age of thirty years.

Born in Westerholt, Westphalia, the 19th March 1912, Galland was one of the first German youngsters who volunteered in the 1930s for flying in the recently created Luftwaffe. He was appointed Staffelkapitän of the 3rd Flight (Staffel) in the 88th Squadron of the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War, during which he performed about 250 tactical support missions in the Heinkel He 51 biplane fighter.

His promotion to Major meant his transfer to the Fighter Command, initially as commander of the 3rd Group, and later, from the 22nd August 1940, as Commodore. It was his superior skill to command large formations of fighters along with his open efforts for seeking the offensive in the combat tactics (often against the opinion of the "old school" fighter commanders) which placed him at the front of the new generation of fighter commanders. The awarding of his Knight's Cross was known when he was still commanding the 3rd Squadron of the Jagdgeschwader 26, the 1st August 1940, during the early stages of the Battle of Britain. In that time he had already destroyed 17 enemy aircraft. The Oak Leaves distinction for his Knight's Cross followed the 25th September, when his record reached 40 victories.

Unlike many other fighter groups, those of Galland remained in the coast of the English Channel during the whole 1941. He was the first member of the German Armed Forces who was awarded the Swords distinction for his Knight's Cross, the 21st June of that year, when his record reached 69 victories. The awarding of the Diamonds distinction for his Knight's Cross arrived the 28th January 1942 and shortly after he was appointed as Fighter General, position which he kept until 1945, when he was given again the command of a combat unit. This time it was the singular 44th Fighter Unit, which was formed by elite personnel, mainly the surviving aces of the Luftwaffe, who piloted the Messerschmitt Me 262 turbojet fighter during the Defense of the Reich, the traumatic last weeks of the Second World War.

Unlike the largest part of contemporary German pilots, Galland spent the largest part of this combat career in the Western Front. His exceptional professionality, aparted from any national politics, earned him admiration among the pilots of the Allied air forces during the war, and for decades thereafter he was a familiar figure in any air event held in Germany and United Kingdom.