Galland's home in Remagen, Germany
1 October 1991
Present: Josef Buerschgens, a pilot in JG 26 1938-1940
What was your impression of JG 26 upon your arrival from
JG 26 was a good fighter wing - I wouldn't say it was the
best fighter wing, but it was a good fighter wing. The units
were well trained; it had not been built up too fast, like
other formations; it had been based in the west, in Cologne
and Duesseldorf. Wing commanders were von Schleich, followed
for a short time by Witt, and then Handrick. Handrick's
story is a little bit tragic. You see, Goering didn't like
him. He was in love with one of Goering's secretaries. His
former wife was an aristocrat, a von Treuberg. Goering wasn't
much impressed with his sporting abilities - he was the
Funfkampfsieger in '36. I was acquainted with Handrick in
Spain; he was commander of the fighter unit J/88, and he
was an excellent fighter commander. It was not necessary
in Spain for the commander of a unit to be airborne every
day. It was absolutely unnecessary, because fights took
place in small numbers, two, four, or six fighters, no more
than one squadron. These did not need to be guided in the
air. So Handrick in this situation did an excellent job
in Spain, no question about it. It's disappointing to compare
this with what he did in JG 26. He didn't fly at all; at
the first opportunity, Goering fired him. The very first
possibility came when Goering made Moelders and myself the
first of the new generation of wing commanders. By the way,
I didn't like this. I asked Goering to remain in my position
as Gruppenkommandeur, but he refused. Moelders was very
enthusiastic about his new position, and told me, "You
want to be a new Richthofen - good luck. I prefer to be
a Boelke." You know this story. JG 26 was a wing that
in my opinion had a stronger foundation than JG 27, but
these are personal impressions.
JG 26 seemed to have a very strong ground staff, that carried
it all the way through the war - good serviceability records
That is absolutely right, and it is good that you mention
this. The ground staff, even with officers of the reserve,
was very, very strong. Viktor Causin, the Hauptmann beim
Stabe, was one.
Causin died very early - after the war I tried to make contact
with him by telephone, but he was so upset, he didn't want
to hear anything...
What can you say about Walter Horten, your Technical Officer?
He was a very curious man. He had his own ideas about displacement
shooting. He reputedly had a special ability to do it. Everyone
tried it; not all were successful. To do it right one really
needed a gyroscopic sight. [demonstration with fixed Revi
sight] With the old aircraft you had to go in advance -
to lead the target. With a gyroscopic sight, which came
in 1944, the entire assembly moved. The only thing you had
to do was make this circle, which was expandable, fit exactly
the span of the enemy aircraft. Then one had only to keep
the sight on the target.
Horten claims that very little deflection shooting was taught
in the prewar Luftwaffe. Is that correct?
This system came only very late in the war, after very
The gyroscopic sight, yes, but even the Revi could be
used for deflection shooting just by estimating the distance
within the sight.
Yes, except for the fact that at large angles the target
is completely outside the sight; thus, it couldn't handle
big leads. Also, the trajectories of the shells were not
straight, and the sight was absolutely misleading. Horten
was my TO for a long time. He always had problems with the
engine and aircraft; he was flying only theoretically. But
he was a good man and a good TO. He's still alive; his brother
lives in Argentina. What else?
By the end of the Battle of Britain JG 26 had established
a reputation as an "elite" unit, a reputation
that it maintained (to Allied intelligence, at least) until
the end of the war. How did you bring JG 26 to the head
of the pack?
The original wing commanders and group commanders were excellent
officers in peacetime, but were in no way the best leaders
in air battles. Replacement of commanders was the necessary
first step. From then on, I led every wing strength operation
and mission. I knew exactly what was needed and what was
possible in the big air battles.
my next step I established, documented, and carried out
a wing system for bomber escort which was well-known and
well-liked as the best one possible. And in 1941, when we
had to defend our bases and other targets against escorted
RAF bomber formations, I developed fighter defense tactics
which had the objective of attacking at one time and in
the same air space with the largest force of fighters possible.
What was the Galland escort formation?
JG 26 was known as the most reliable wing for fighter escort,
which was one of the most difficult tasks for a fighter
wing. It needs a lot of discipline, and I know that all
the bomber wings asked to be escorted by 26. So I think
you can say that in 1940, at least, 26 was the best wing
for escort. I organized this thing myself, because we didn't
have any experience or rules to follow. I split up the escort
between direct escort, which flies in direct contact with
the bombers, mostly at the same speed, which was much too
low. This was about one-third of the numbers - one Gruppe.
They stayed with the bombers, and defended them - not the
best way, but this was the way that the bombers wanted it.
Better is the erwiderte escort ["detached" escort],
which keeps the bomber stream in sight, but can go to one
side, and if it finds the enemy, can go attack. Even so,
after the combat, it must try to reestablish contact with
the bombers after the fighting. And then we had the freie
Jagd, which flew in advance of the bombers. This was many
times the most successful escort. Of course, it was not
seen by the bombers, and the bomber crews didn't trust it.
I have discussed these tactics with the bombers many, many
times, without success. They kept complaining to Goering,
who listened to them. For more than forty minutes outside
his train Goering blamed Moelders and myself:
do you want?"
can't even slow down to the bomber speed, without sacrificing
all my mobility."
You have the best fighter in the world!"
this was the occasion that, when Goering asked Moelders
and myself what he could do to improve the capability of
our wings, Moelders wanted his wing equipped with the DB
601N, and I said I wanted a wing of Spitfires. Of course,
that was the end of the discussion.
Why, exactly, did you say that?
Why? He said we had the best fighter in the world. I said
that the Spitfire was better able to slow down, because
of its lower wing loading. It was also better able to turn
at lower speeds. Our advantage was not in turning, but in
flying straight ahead, diving, and climbing. Our turns were
not tight enough. So when he said, "We have the best
fighter in the world! Don't blame me!" I tried to tell
You already had some Messerschmitts with DB 601Ns in 26,
didn't you? How many?
I had many special aircraft, with special armament.
In the Battle of Britain? I thought your special armament
came in 1941. Could you describe some of these aircraft?
Were they 109Es?
I don't know if it was the E model. You can see it in the
That was in 1941, I believe, that you experimented with
your armament, since you felt that the firepower of the
Bf 109F was too light. I thought that the armament of the
E was quite effective - the British certainly thought so.
The E had a good armament. It had two cannons, which fired
shells that exploded when they hit. You could see them.
Did you fly the same aircraft throughout the Battle, once
you got the E-4/N with the DB 601N engine?
It was not the same aircraft - I changed aircraft.
During the course of the Battle of Britain Reichsmarschall
Goering lost confidence in the Jagdwaffe - completely and
permanently. The conventional explanations for this are
well known, but seem inadequate. Could Goering's bitter
feelings toward his fighter pilots have been the result
of a suspicion that victory claims were being deliberately
Your theory is almost correct, but incomplete. I must defend
the really overstated claims of the fighters by telling
you that there was an enormous difference between the first
claims, right after the mission, and finally confirmed victories.
Goering and most of his staff, however, calculated and assumed
always the worst for the enemy and the most optimistic facts
for our side.
overestimated the capabilities and possibilities of the
Luftwaffe. He also was incapable of admitting that fundamental
mistakes had been made in planning, equipping, and setting
it up. The slow medium bombers had very poor self-defense
capabilities. The Zerstoerer, which were specialized for
bomber escort, failed completely and themselves had to be
protected by fighters. Penetration of the bomber formations
was therefore limited by the range of the single-engine
fighters - without drop tanks. Knowing more-or-less all
these insufficiencies, Goering and his staff continued the
Battle of Britain, and made the fundamental mistake of leaving
Fighter Command and switching targets to London.
What were your feelings when you were named General of the
In December 1941, when I was taken away from my fighter
wing, Goering was in Paris, and I could influence him to
come over and say a few words. Goering was full of praise
for JG 26 on that occasion. I may still have the speech
and included as Appendix 1].
Did you look after JG 26, once you got to Berlin?
I had such strong ties to JG 26 that every time I had the
occasion I went back to JG 26. I had problems when I left
26. I wasn't prepared; I didn't have a successor. We had
problems. I knew Schoepfel was not the right man. He was
a nice guy, but not a strong leader. Many people have told
me that the break was too sharp. The next one, Priller,
was better. He was the aggressive type. So I believe, without
polishing my own shoes, that it depends to a great extent
on the leader - a great, great extent. If the guy on top
is strong, this filters through to the last pilot.
What were the most important functions of the General of
the Fighter Arm?
This is my reconstructed War Diary. I wrote this immediately
after the war, as a prisoner of war in England, and it was
not taken from me. I used it in my interrogation, which
resulted in the so-called Galland Report. Do you know it?
By Squadron Leader Whitten? Is that the one? I have a copy
of it! I found it at Maxwell Air Force Base.
Good! It is very important. It was the basis for my
What records did you have with you when you wrote your book?
None. I got documents when I asked for them, but mainly
documents from the other side. It was an excellent situation.
I had this very capable and nice man Whitten to check everything,
and he did everything possible to keep my work going. I
think this is an excellent report; it is also in Freiburg.
Were you able to keep any of your personal documents - your
Flugbuecher? Your Abschussberichte?
No; I had nothing with me except cigars - perhaps 800 cigars.
Here is a list of my duties; is it OK if I give it to you
Yes indeed. [See Appendix
2.] Was your office part of the RLM, or the OKL?
My office, when I took over from Moelders, was in Berlin,
Lindenstrasse Nr. 3. This had been the building of the Social
Democrat newspaper Vorwaerts! [Forward!] which I think was
a good name for the fighter office. So I took this over.
Here was located only that staff which could work without
immediate contact with the front - writing official instructions,
etc. The operational staff was in the train Robinson, which
was the headquarters of the Air Force. Here I had a special
rail car. Later, when we had too many files, we had in addition
to the car, one wooden building, near the train. We didn't
move very often; I remember one important move, to Vinnitsa
in the Ukraine. Both Goering and Hitler had moved there.
So your office was part of the OKL?
The OKL was in Berlin.
But if you drew an organizational chart... I decided earlier
that I couldn't sort it out, so in my book I just said,
"High Command", or "Berlin".
Only part of it was in Berlin. Of course, the Quartermaster
was always in Berlin.
I'd like to ask a few questions about the period of the
invasion. How closely did your office follow the operations
or the serviceability of the individual Geschwader on the
Invasion front? Who decided when to remove them for re-equipment
and resting? Was it your office?
No, I didn't do that.
It's taken a long time to piece the data together, but it
appears that nearly every Gruppe on the invasion front suffered
so much damage that it had to be withdrawn to Germany for
re-equipment - except the First and Third Gruppen of JG
26, which remained on the invasion front from the first
day to the last. I was wondering if you knew of this?
No, the times were too turbulent. However, the majority
of the Gruppen had been training for the Big Blow [der grosse
Schlag], and were absolutely not trained for any battle
such as the invasion - against such a majority, nothing
could be done. The Allied High Command was looking for air
dominion - not just air superiority, but air dominion. The
relation was no less than twenty to one. So we couldn't
put any fighters over the invasion front at all, because
Allied aircraft were just hanging, hanging over our airfields.
Any movement was hit immediately.
Der grosse Schlag was, of course, a product of your office.
Der grosse Schlag was my own idea, after I was unable to
get the 262 for fighter missions. I said, the only opportunity
was to bring an immense number of modern aircraft into one
area for combat. We were already forced to fly in so-called
Gefechtsverbaende, which were formed from three or four
wings. Of course, to assemble such a number of fighters
takes time, during which the fighters are vulnerable to
attack; many times, they were attacked. But we had also
the Sturmjaeger, not the Rammjaeger. The Rammjaeger were
born out of the wilde Sau, and I rejected this ramming theory
completely, by arguing that if you are going to approach
a bomber formation to such a close distance, then you can
shoot two down, and still have a chance to escape, instead
of ramming and being lost.
You made a good comment, sir, in the latest Jaegerblatt.
It is very, very instructive, and just as you said - the
difference between Sturm and Ramm. Caldwell should study
it. Hajo Herrmann - he was the man that wanted to ram. It
came up in the Jaegerblatt again, and the General had to
say something against it.
I'll certainly read the article in Jaegerblatt when
I get it, and get the benefit of the feelings you express
there. [See Appendix 3.]
I have one last question: When did you know that Germany
had lost the war?
Very, very early. I had open discussions with Jeschonnek
about this, when we were preparing the spring offensive
in 1942. Every reserve in Germany was to become active in
this offensive. We had to stop our training, by taking out
every instructor - fighters, bombers, and especially transports.
All were made operational. And Jeschonnek said that since
we were destroying our training capabilities, if we did
not win this offensive against Russia, then the war is lost.
Jeschonnek said that?
Jeschonnek said that - officially. Of course, one could
do nothing but follow this order, and sacrifice the training
organization. Jeschonnek took the consequences and committed
suicide. But the war was continued. And the offensive didn't
even take place, because the Russians advanced their own.
From this time on, I knew that at the least, this war could
not be won. But we did fight. We fought because we felt
we had to, for better conditions. Unconditional surrender
was the very worst thing. I always hoped to split the Russians
from the Western Allies. It was our hope in the dark. If
the Western Allies had said, "We agree to certain conditions",
the war would have been shorter.
Even in the most favorable circumstances for Germany, what
effect could the Me 262 have had on the war?
In the case of the 262, there is no question that many mistakes
were made. The design and development of the plane were
delayed for a year by an order of Hitler, who wanted to
accelerate short-range developments and cancel long-range
projects. But this was completely wrong in the case of the
262. Hitler had little understanding of the Air Force at
all, and for air combat - none at all. He couldn't think
in three dimensions. He was an army man. If everything had
been done perfectly, we would have gained 4-5 months development.
We would have gained 2-3 months production. We could have
had about 600-800 Me 262s ready for combat, on permanent
bases, by the end of 1943. This would have delayed the invasion,
of course, without question, and would have changed the
air dominion of the Allies, but the result would have been
that the [Western] Allies would have moved more slowly,
and the Russians would have come farther, certainly to the
Rhine. There would have been more destruction. And so ultimately,
this order of Hitler's that was completely wrong had a good
Big Blow was the replacement for the 262. I finally won
Goering's assent and convinced him not to throw every possible
fighter against the enemy every day, which was the rule
up to the time of the invasion. Every time, we sent this
full force up to fight; there was no reserve, no time to
recover, no training, and finally I got permission to build
up this fighter reserve, which came up to 2000 prop fighters.
These forces were not trained to fight on a battlefront,
like in France; but they were sent there on order of Hitler
immediately, and as you know, they didn't arrive, they missed
the airfields, the airfields had been taken over by the
enemy. Terrible disorganization; hundreds and hundreds of
aircraft were lost every day by accident.
And at that time, how was the training? How many hours had
the average pilot?
Ah, it was very short, very short. We had plenty of planes;
up to 3000 single-engined fighter planes per month. But
we didn't have fuel. And we didn't have time. But most important,
we didn't have the fuel for training. So we had to bring
them into combat with 40 hours total flying time. And our
intention was to train them in combat, on the spot, which
was difficult at that time. For this work, we especially
needed the experienced pilots; we couldn't leave it to the
Were some of the problems on the invasion front due to lack
of planning or lack of execution on the part of Luftflotte
3? Were the airfields in France ready?
They were ready; they were ready. There was no lack of airfields;
there were many, many prepared and semi-prepared airfields.
But they were not known; they were not visible; they were
not found. They were under fire, and were controlled by
the Allies completely. Completely. Another problem at the
time was the bad weather. We didn't have bad weather capabilities.
For the same reasons - fuel and time.
After the fighters were pulled back to Germany, and the
strength of the units was built back up, you tried again
to build your reserve for the Big Blow. But this time, the
aircraft were taken away for Bodenplatte, and put under
Peltz. Did you know this was going to happen in advance?
How did you find out about it?
I didn't know of this intention until about ten days before
the start of the Ardennes offensive. And I was completely
against it. I hated the idea of starting an offensive in
the West. I thought we should fight with everything we had
against the East, and open the West. I told everybody this,
and was looking for people of the same opinion. And I was
warned that this could bring me jailing or death. Because
at this time, speaking against an order of Hitler was the
most dangerous thing you could do. You shouldn't even think
it. I learned that Peltz was preparing Bodenplatte; it was
impossible for me to influence this at all. I saw it, and
I was terrified at what they had in mind. But it turned
out to be even worse than I had thought, because it was
so poorly prepared that the German antiaircraft shot down
a lot of our planes whose courses were over the fields of
the V-2s. Terrible, terrible. And this was absolutely the
end of the Luftwaffe.