Martin Harlinghausen

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Martin Harlinghausen
Born(1902-01-17)17 January 1902
Rheda, German Empire
Died22 March 1986(1986-03-22) (aged 84)
Gütersloh, West Germany
Allegiance Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
 West Germany
German Air Force
Years of service1923–45
Unit10th Air Corps
Commands heldFliegerführer Atlantik
Fliegerführer Tunesien
Battles/warsSpanish Civil War

World War II

AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves Spanish Cross in Gold with Swords and Diamonds

Martin Harlinghausen (17 January 1902 – 22 March 1986) was a German general during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves of Nazi Germany.

Early life[edit]

Harlinghausen joined the Reichsmarine (German Navy) on 1 April 1923. He became a pilot in 1931 and an observer in 1934 and began working in training schools.[1] Staying in the military, he transferred to the Luftwaffe in October 1933. In December 1937, he took Command of AS 88, an anti-shipping unit in the Condor Legion and specialized in that type of aerial warfare. Under his direction AS/88 developed ship and coastal-attack tactics. A particularly well-used approach against land targets was to fly at high altitude with engines switched off, then dive and release the bombs at 1,000 ft (300 metres). Harlinghausen remained commander until March 1939.[2]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, he operated as a pilot. In March 1940 German aircraft attacked 57 merchant ships and 38 Trawlers. Seven of the former and one of the latter were seriously damaged. Despite being the chief of staff in Fliegerkorps X, Harlinghausen flew missions and sank two merchant ships of 6,827 grt, and severely damaged the 8,441 grt passenger ship Domala.[3] He was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 5 May 1940 for his service piloting Heinkel He 115s and commanding an ad-hoc group named Fliegerführer Stavanger.[4] Harlinghausen's command made a significant operational contribution to the German victory in the Norwegian Campaign by rendering Allied sea communications insecure.[5]

Harlinghausen developed ship-attack tactics that the Luftwaffe used over Great Britain in 1940. The bomber approached on the beam at low-level and released bombs to damage the ships below the water line. Lightships were also attacked, as were fishing boats which the Germans saw as legitimate targets. The number of ships attacked and damaged in 1940 rose to 127 in 1940 and to a peak of 164 in 1941.[6]

Sent to Italy in December 1940, he sank another 27,000 GRT of shipping and was awarded the Oak Leaves (Eichenlaub) 30 January 1941.

On 28 February 1941 he was appointed Fliegerführer Atlantik, a post he held until July 1942. He became recognised as the Luftwaffe's leading anti-shipping specialist. Harlinghausen barely had 100 aircraft available to him owing to Hermann Göring's intransigence. Among his duties was to coordinate attacks on convoys with the Kriegsmarine's U-Boats. Harlinghausen's command was effective, and often transmitted accurate locations of convoys but because of a paucity in submarines, they failed to respond. Harlinghausen remonstrated with Karl Dönitz who decided a more flexible approach was needed, rather than close cooperation. Harlinghausen frequently clashed with the Admiral over operational deployments, and opposed the shifting of air operations to interdict Gibraltar sea lanes as opposed to the Western Approaches.[7]

During his time as Fliegerführer Atlantik, Harlinghausen was held responsible for the Luftwaffe's failure to prevent the loss of the battleship Bismarck.

Harlinghausen was appointed Fliegerführer Tunesien in July 1942. He remained in the Mediterranean theater until 18 June 1943, when disagreements with his superiors led to his replacement.[8]

In December 1944 Harlinghausen was appointed Chef des Luftwaffenkommandos "West", a position he held until the cessation of hostilities. He was captured by American troops and was released in 1947.

Postwar life[edit]

Harlinghausen served in the new West German Air Force from 1957 to 1961. He was sent into retirement, having been politically uncomfortable during his post-war career, after demanding a proper investigation in the 1961 F-84 Thunderstreak incident, after which Oberstleutnant Siegfried Barth, commander of Jagdbombergeschwader (JaBoG) 32, was removed from his post without a proper investigation.[8]

Harlinghausen died in Gütersloh in March 1986.




  1. ^ Hooton 1994, p. 138.
  2. ^ Hooton 1994, p. 139.
  3. ^ Hooton 1994, pp. 215, 223.
  4. ^ Hooton 1994, pp. 231–232.
  5. ^ Hooton 1994, p. 236.
  6. ^ Hooton 1994, pp. 44–45.
  7. ^ Hooton 1994, pp. 47–50.
  8. ^ a b STRAUSS-BEFEHL: Bier-Order 61 ‹See Tfd›(in German) Der Spiegel, published: 9 May 1962, accessed: 30 November 2010
  9. ^ Thomas 1997, p. 246.
  10. ^ a b Scherzer 2007, p. 366.


  • Hooton, E.R. (1994). Phoenix Triumphant: The Rise and Rise of the Luftwaffe. Arms & Armour, ISBN 1854091816.
  • Jackson, Robert (2002). The Bismarck. Weapons of War: London. ISBN 1-86227-173-9.
  • 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 Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Thomas, Franz (1997). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6.
Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of Fliegerführer Atlantik
31 March 1941 – 5 January 1942
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Wolfgang von Wild
Preceded by
Generaloberst Bruno Loerzer
Commander of II. Fliegerkorps
23 February 1943 – 12 June 1943
Succeeded by
General Alfred Bülowius