Generalfeldmarschall Hugo Sperrle
7 February 1885|
Ludwigsburg, Württemberg, German Empire
|Died||2 April 1953
Munich, Bavaria, West Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire (to 1918)
Weimar Republic (to 1933)
|Years of service||1903–18, 1925–44|
|Battles/wars||World War I
Spanish Civil War
World War II
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Hugo Sperrle (7 February 1885 – 2 April 1953) was a German field marshal of the Luftwaffe during World War II. His forces were deployed solely on the Western Front and the Mediterranean throughout the war. By 1944 he had become Supreme Commander of the Luftwaffe in the West, but was subsequently dismissed when his heavily outnumbered forces were not able to significantly hamper the Allied landings in Western Europe.
Early life and career
Born in Ludwigsburg, he joined the German Army in 1903 and was commissioned as Leutnant, later promoted to Oberleutnant. After the outbreak of World War I, he transferred to the Luftstreitkräfte (German Army Air Service), serving as an observer in a two-seater aircraft. During the war he rose through the ranks and at its conclusion was commander of the air components of the German 7th Army.
Between the wars
Sperrle joined the Freikorps at the end of the war after the disbanding of the Air Service, before rejoining the Reichswehr. Since Germany was not allowed to create aerial units, he served in logistics and army command positions. After the Nazis took over, a new air force, the Luftwaffe, was established.
He entered the newly formed Luftwaffe in 1935 where he was soon promoted to a Generalmajor (US equiv. brigadier general). He then was the first commander of the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War until October 1937, with Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen serving as his chief of staff. Afterwards he was promoted to General der Flieger (US equiv. Lieutenant general).
Second World War
At the outbreak of World War II he led the German Luftflotte 3 (Air Fleet 3). This unit saw no action during the Poland campaign, but was committed from May onwards in France, playing an important role as tactical bombing support unit. In July 1940, he was made a Generalfeldmarschall of the Luftwaffe during the 1940 Field Marshal Ceremony. Air Fleet 3, stationed in northern France, played a major role in the Battle of Britain, from June 1940 to October 1940 and The Blitz, to May 1941. In September Sperrle engaged in a heated debate with the other Luftwaffe commanders, particularly with its Supreme Commander Hermann Göring, arguing for a continuation of the attack on British airfields and the Royal Air Force to ensure a successful invasion of Britain. However, Göring ordered a change in the Luftwaffe strategy, switching to assault the British cities (which had the unintended effect of relieving German pressure upon the RAF). His forces continued to bomb Britain until the autumn of 1941.
He stayed with his units in France for the next 3 years, living in luxury at the Luxembourg Palace. His major part in the war, however, was over. He supported Erwin Rommel in the North African Campaign and eventually took full command of the German air forces in Western Europe in 1944, shortly before Allied landings in Western Europe. His forces were badly hampered due a massive lack of aircraft, of experienced crews, and of fuel. Although an initial Nazi supporter, he became increasingly disillusioned with the German war effort. At D-Day he had only 319 operational aircraft left to face the Allied armada of over 9,000 planes. Due to the subsequent inability of his units to thwart the Allied landings, he was dismissed from command in August 1944.
Field Marshal Sperrle was captured by the Allies and charged with war crimes in the High Command Trial at the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials but was acquitted. After the war he lived quietly and died in Munich in 1953.
Dates of Rank
- Fähnrich (Officer Candidate) - 25 February 1904
- Leutnant (Second Lieutenant) - 18 October 1904
- Oberleutnant (Lieutenant) - 18 October 1912
- Hauptmann (Captain) - 28 November 1914
- Major - 1 October 1926
- Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel) - 1 February 1931
- Oberst (Colonel) - 1 August 1933
- Generalmajor (Brigadier General) - 1 October 1935
- Generalleutnant (Major General) - 1 April 1937
- General der Flieger (Lieutenant General) - 1 November 1937
- Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal) - 19 July 1940
- Knight's Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords (31 March 1917)
- Iron Cross (1914) 2nd and 1st Class
- Ritterkreuz II. Klasse des Grossherzoglich-Badischen Ordens vom Zähringer Löwen mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern (18 May 1915)
- Ritterkreuz des Kgl. Württembergischer Militär-Verdienstordens (21 June 1915)
- Ritterkreuz I Klasse des Kgl. Württembergischer Friedrichs-Ordens mit Schwertern (21 June 1917)
- Preussisches Ehrenkreuz III. Klasse mit Krone und Schwertern
- Kgl. Preuss. Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen
- Kgl. Preuss Flieger Erinnerungs-Abzeichen
- Honour Cross of the World War 1914/1918
- Wehrmacht-Dienstauszeichnung 4th to 1st class
- Medalla de la Campaña de España
- Cruz de Guerra de España
- Kgl. Spanische Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen
- Medalla Militar Individual de Espana con Diamantes
- Pilot/Observer Badge in Gold with Diamonds (19 November 1937)
- Spanish Cross in Gold with Diamonds (4 June 1939)
- Clasp to the Iron Cross (1939) 2nd and 1st Class
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 17 May 1940 as General der Flieger and chief of Luftflotte 3
- Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht on 5 October 1940, 15 November 1940, 20 November 1940, 9 April 1941, 13 February 1942 and 15 February 1942
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|Sunday, 15 February 1942||Die Verluste der britischen Luftwaffe bei See- und Luftgefecht im Kanalgebiet am 12. Februar erhöhen sich auf 49 Flugzeuge. Mit dem Abschuß von weiteren feindlichen Flugzeugen in diesen Luftkämpfen ist zu rechnen. Bei den Kämpfen zeichneten sich die unter dem Oberbefehl des Generalfeldmarschalls Sperrle stehenden Verbände, geführt von General der Flieger Coeler und Oberst Galland, besonders aus.||The losses of the British Air Force in sea and aerial combat on 12 February increased to 49 aircraft. It is assumed that further enemy aircraft will be shot down in these aerial battles. Units under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Sperrle, led by General der Flieger Coeler and Oberst Galland, distinguished themselves in this combat.|
- Williamson (2006), p. 44
- Williamson (2006), p. 45
- Williamson (2006), p. 46
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 404.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, p. 35.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Williamson, Gordon; McGregor, Malcolm (2006). German Commanders in World War II (2). Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-597-X.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1. Januar 1942 bis 31. Dezember 1943 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 2, 1 January 1942 to 31 December 1943] (in German). München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2.
Media related to Hugo Sperrle at Wikimedia Commons
|Commander of 1. Flieger-Division (1934–1935)
1 April 1934 – 31 March 1935
|Commander of Luftflotte 3
1 February 1939 – 23 August 1944
Generaloberst Otto Deßloch