Oberkommando der Luftwaffe
|Oberkommando der Luftwaffe|
Flag of the Chief of the General Staff
|Engagements||Invasion of Poland,
Battle of Britain,
Defence of the Reich,
|Chief of the General Staff||Walter Wever|
|Chief of the General Staff||Albert Kesselring|
|Chief of the General Staff||Hans-Jürgen Stumpff|
Luftwaffe was organized in a large and diverse structure led by Reich minister (German: Reichsminister) and supreme commander of the Luftwaffe German: Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe Hermann Göring. Göring through the Reich Air Ministry (German: Reichsluftfahrtministerium /RLM/) controlled all aspects of aviation in Germany including civilian and military aviation. The organization of this organization was from the peacetime period dating prior to involvement in Spanish Civil War.
In early 1937, Göring announced reorganization of the Reich Air Ministry into Military and civilian branches. The military branch was to be led by the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (Supreme H.Q. of Air Force). A chief would be leading the general staff. However, the separation of military from civil aviation was not complete and it was fragmented. Some parts of the military branch were left under the control of Air Inspector General Field Marshal (German: Generalfeldmarschall) Erhard Milch. These were
- Central Branch
- General Air Office
- All the inspectorates
The reasons for this formation was primarily to undermine Milch, who was getting favorable attention from the Party. However later during the year and early next year, Göring again changed the organization structure by removing three offices from Milch's and General Staff's control. He brought under his own direct control. These were
- Personnel Office - under General Robert Ritter von Greim
- Air Defense - under General Günther Rüdel
- Technical Office - under Major General Ernst Udet
This change made these offices to be additional power centers in RLM further fragmenting the top Luftwaffe organization. It also crippled important functional areas.
To gear for the European war, Luftwaffe needed a high command equivalent to Army (Oberkommando des Heeres OKH) or Navy (Oberkommando der Marine OKM). Hence In 1939, the Luftwaffe was again reorganized. The credit for the formation of a true Air Force High Command (German: Oberkommando Der Luftwaffe OKL) goes to Colonel General Günther Korten commander of Air Fleet 1 (German: Luftflotte 1) and his Chief of Operations General der Flieger Karl Koller. They both campaigned to carve out a command out of Goring's all compassing Reich Air ministry. The intent was to put Luftwaffe on a true wartime footing, by grouping all the essential military parts of the RLM into a single command. Thus on 5 February 1944, Air Force Command (German: Oberkommando Der Luftwaffe OKL) was created. It included following branches.
- General Staff
- Operational Staff
- All the Weapon's Inspectorate
- Quartermasters Branch
- Signals Service
Other areas such as training, administration, civil defense and technical design remained under RLM's control. The new organization proved to be more efficient and lasted until the end of the war.
OKL like OKH or OKM reported to Supreme High Command of the Armed Forces(German: Oberkommando der Wehrmacht OKW). The OKW was answerable to Hitler for the operation command of the three branches of the armed forces. OKL was divided into forward Echelon (German: 1. Staffel) and rear echelon (German: 2. Staffel). The forward echelon moved with the theater of operations while rear echelon remained almost exclusively in Berlin.
OKL was also the operational branch of the Luftwaffe. It was divided operationally into air fleets at a high level. Initially it was divided into four air fleets(German: Luftflotte) that were formed geographically and were numbered consecutively. Three more Luftflotten were added later on as German territorial expansion grew further. Each Luftflotte was a self-contained entity. The leader of each was in charge of overall air operations and Support activities. However a fighter leader (German: Jagdfliegerführer) was in charge of all the fighter operations and reported to the Luftflotte Leader.
Each Luftflotte was further divided into air districts (German: Luftgaue) and flying Corps (German: Fliegerkorps). Each Luftgau had 50 to 150 officers led by a Generalmajor. It was responsible for providing administrative and logistical structure as well as resources to each airfield. The Fliegerkorps on the other hand were in charge of the operation matters related to flying such as unit deployment, air traffic control, ordnance and maintenance.
Since this structure was making ground support structure available to flying units, the flying units were freed from moving the support staff from one location to another as the unit relocated. Once the unit arrived at its new location, all the airfield staff would come under the control of the commander of that unit.
Chiefs of OKL and Supreme Commander of the Luftwaffe
- Reich Marshal Hermann Göring, 1 March 1935 – 24 April 1945
- Field Marshal Robert Ritter von Greim, 29 April 1945 – 8 May 1945
Chiefs of the OKL General Staff
- General of the Flyers Walther Wever, 1 March 1935 – 3 June 1936
- General of the Flyers Albert Kesselring, 5 June 1936 – 31 May 1937
- General of the Flyers Hans-Jürgen Stumpff, 1 June 1937 – 31 January 1939
- General Colonel Hans Jeschonnek, 1 February 1939 – 19 August 1943
- General Colonel Günther Korten, 25 August 1943 – 22 July 1944
- General of the Flyers Werner Kreipe, 2 August 1944 – 28 October 1944
- General of the Flyers Karl Koller, 12 November 1944 – 8 May 1945
- Caldwell & Muller (2007), pp.144–145
- Mitcham (2007), pp.21–22
- United States War Dept., (1995) p. 15
- Lepage (2009), pp.16–17
- Stedman (2002), pp.5–6
- Caldwell, Donald; Richard Muller (2007). The Luftwaffe Over Germany: Defense of the Reich. MBI Publishing Company. p. 304. ISBN 1-85367-712-4.
- Lepage, G. G., Jean Denis (2009). Aircraft of the Luftwaffe 1935–1945: An Illustrated History. McFarland & Company. p. 402. ISBN 0-7864-3937-8.
- Mitcham Jr., Samuel (200). Eagles of the Third Reich: Men of the Luftwaffe in World War II. Stackpole Books. p. 347. ISBN 0-7864-3937-8.
- Stedman, Robert; Mike Chappell (2002). Luftwaffe Air & Ground Crew 1939–45. Osprey Publishing. p. 48. ISBN 1-84176-404-3.
- United States War Department (1995). Handbook on German Military Forces. LSU Press. p. 635. ISBN 0-8071-2011-1.