Wolfgang Thonke

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Wolfgang Thonke
GenMaj-DrW-Thonke 1990.JPG
Born (1938-12-28) 28 December 1938 (age 78)
Schneidemühl (Piła), Province of Pomerania Germany
Allegiance Flag of East Germany.svg GDR

Flag of NVA (East Germany).svg NPA

Emblem of aircraft of NVA (East Germany).svg NPA Air Force
Years of service 1957-1990
Rank GDR AF OF6MajGen Fly-suit.JPG Major general
Commands held
Patriotic Order of Merit GDR ribbon bar bronze.png

GDR Combat-Order for Merit for the Nation and Fatherland - Silver BAR.png GDR Combat-Order for Merit for the Nation and Fatherland - Bronze BAR.png GDR Verdienstmedaille NVA 1 BAR.png

GDR Verdienstmedaille NVA 2 BAR.png GDR Verdienstmedaille NVA 3 BAR.png GDR Brotherhood in Arms Medal - Silver BAR.png CombatCooperationRibbon.png

GDR Ehrenmedaille 30 Jahre National Volksarmee BAR.png GDR Med-Faithful-Serv-NPA bar-20y.pdf GDR Med-Faithfol-Serv-NPA bar-15y.pdf GDR Med-Faithfol-Serv-NPA bar-10y.pdf

Badge GenStaffCol SU.png

GDR AF Mil-pilot Lev1-1500.JPG

Wolfgang Thonke (born December 28, 1938), is a journalist, graduated military scientist, major general (ret.), and was the last Deputy Commanding General (A3) of the National People's Army Air Force in the former German Democratic Republic. He was a military aviator/fighter pilot of “performance level I” (highest level) with more than 1,500 flight hours.[1]


Thonke was born in Schneidemühl, (modern Piła, Poland), as a child of a worker's family. After World War II he was expelled from his hometown and fled to relatives in Bautzen.

Military career[edit]

He successfully passed the school-leaving examination of the secondary school and joined the National People's Army in 1957 as a volunteer. There he became a professional soldier and applied for the attendance of the Air Force Officer's School in Bautzen. In 1958 he became a member of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.

Education and first assignments[edit]

After graduation with distinction in 1959, he became a professional officer and served as flight instructor in the 3rd Fliegerausbildungsgeschwader of the Air Force Officer's School. From 1961 to 1965 it was followed by an assignment as instructor flight tactics/ weapon's control (German: Leiter Lufttaktik/ Luftschießen) of the Fliegerausbildungsgeschwader 15 on aerodrome Rotenburg/Görlitz.

Service as tutor/ instructor and staff officer[edit]

Due to his permanent excellent performance as tutor/ instructor and pilot, to train and educate officer students, possible future military pilots, on ground and on air, Thonke was promoted to captain, andin 1963 became A3 of the Air Force Officer's School.

After this assignment he served as deputy commander on flight training of the Air Force Officer’s School from 1968 to 1973.

Because he performed on this staff position excellent as well, he was delegated to high-school study on the Military University Friedrich Engels in Dresden from 1973 to 1975. Here he passed all examination with excellence and graduation in military science (de: Diplommilitärwissenschaftler, Dipl.-Mil.).

After successful graduation lieutenant colonel Thonke was appointed to Commander of the Jagdfliegergeschwader 1 (JG-1) from 1973 to 1975. Hereafter Thonke was assigned to the command and general staff officers course to the General Staff Academy (Russia) from 1975 to 1977. After successful study and promotion to military scientist Dr.rer.mil. colonel Thonke was assigned as chief of the flight inspection department of the Kommando LSK/LV.

Sequence of assignment to commander of the JG-1
Preceded by
Major Siegfried Mittelbach
actual assignment
LtCol Wolfgang Thonke

Succeeded by
LtCol Eberhard Köllner

This was followed by an engagement as A3 of the fighter aircraft units in 1981, and after that he became commander of the fighter aircraft units also in the Kommando LSK/LV. He served in this position until 1986.


Service as general[edit]

In 1986 W. Thonke was appointed to commander of the Officers high school „Otto Lilienthal” in Bautzen, and on October 7, 1987, he was appointed to major general. The final assignment on general rank from 1989 to 1990 W. Thonke performed as Assistant Commander in Chief A3 of the Air Force in the Kommando LSK/LV in Strausberg.

Sequence of assignment to Deputy Commander in Chief A3 of the Air Force
Preceded by
Colonel Dieter Kleemann
(Nov. 1, 1988 – Jan. 31, 1990)
actual assignment
Major general Wolfgang Thonke

(Feb. 1, 1990 – Oct. 2, 1990)
Succeeded by


With the disbandment of the National People's Army, Major General Thonke retired with effective date of October 2, 1990.

Orders and decorations[edit]

Among numerous orders and decorations major general Lothar Engelhardt was awarded with:


Thonke is married and has with his wife Karin three children. Since 1990 he has been working as a freelance journalist and is member of the Fliegerstammtisch Strausberg

Sources, references[edit]

  1. ^ „Aviator stories – from take oft to landing“, matters of fact and experiences – recorded by members of the NPA Air Force, Strausberg in 2013, original edition (page 80): ISBN 978-3-9814822-3-2, Strausberg, Berlin, 2013.
  • Schönbohm, Jörg. Two Armies and One Fatherland. Peter and Elfi Johnson, translators. Berghahn Books, Providence, Rhode Island, 1996 (originally published in 1992 in Germany as Zwei Armeen und ein Vaterland)