Oberkommando der Luftwaffe
|Oberkommando der Luftwaffe|
Flag for the Supreme Commander of the German Air Force, 1938-1940
|Founded||26 February 1935|
|Disbanded||23 May 1945|
|Part of||Oberkommando der Wehrmacht|
|Chief of the OKL||See list|
|Chief of the General Staff||See list|
The Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL), translated as the High Command of the Air Force (lit. 'Upper Command of the Air Force'), was the high command of the Luftwaffe.
The 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 Generalmajor Robert Ritter von Greim
- Air Defense - under General der Flakartillerie Günther Rüdel
- Technical Office - under Generalmajor 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-up for the European war as the air arm of the combined Wehrmacht armed forces of Nazi Germany, the Luftwaffe needed a high command equivalent to the Army (Oberkommando des Heeres OKH) or Navy (Oberkommando der Marine OKM). Thus on 5 February 1935, Air Force Command (German: Oberkommando der Luftwaffe OKL) was created. Then 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 General der Flieger 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-encompassing 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. 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 Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe
|No.||Portrait||Commander-in-Chief||Took office||Left office||Time in office|
|1 March 1935||24 April 1945||10 years, 54 days|
Robert Ritter von Greim
|29 April 1945||8 May 1945||9 days|
Chiefs of the OKL General Staff
|No.||Portrait||Chief of the OKL General Staff||Took office||Left office||Time in office|
|1 March 1935||3 June 1936 †||1 year, 94 days|
|2||General der Flieger|
|5 June 1936||31 May 1937||360 days|
|3||General der Flieger|
|1 June 1937||31 January 1939||1 year, 244 days|
|1 February 1939||18 August 1943 †||4 years, 198 days|
|5||General der Flieger|
|25 August 1943||22 July 1944 †||332 days|
|-||General der Flieger|
|2 August 1944||28 October 1944||87 days|
|6||General der Flieger|
|12 November 1944||8 May 1945||177 days|
|-||General der Flieger|
|8 May 1945||23 May 1945||15 days|
- Caldwell, Donald; Muller, Richard (2007). The Luftwaffe Over Germany: Defense of the Reich. MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-85367-712-0.
- Lepage, Jean Denis G. G. (2009). Aircraft of the Luftwaffe 1935–1945: An Illustrated History. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-3937-9.
- Mitcham Jr., Samuel (2007). Eagles of the Third Reich: Men of the Luftwaffe in World War II. Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-7864-3937-9.
- Stedman, Robert; Chappell, Mike (2002). Luftwaffe Air & Ground Crew 1939–45. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-404-3.
- United States War Department (1995). Handbook on German Military Forces. LSU Press. ISBN 0-8071-2011-1.