Adolf Galland: The Authorized Biography

Article excerpt

Baker, David. Adolf Galland: The Authorized Biography. London: Windrow & Greene, 1996. 316pp. $29.95

Adolf Galland rose by ability and circumstance to become the youngest German general of the twentieth century. In November 1941, at age twentynine, he was appointed to command the Luftwaffe fighter arm, a position he retained for three years. Then, condemned by Hermann Goering, "Dolfo" finished the war where he began it: leading a combat unit in the air, as a two-star wing commander.

Although Galland has been the subject of previous biographies and wrote his own classic, The First and the Last, British author David Baker provides the definitive word. He worked extensively with Galland up to the general's death in February 1996. Baker's background in aviation literature includes some fifty books in addition to projects with NASA and the U.S. Air Force.

Throughout the text, Baker excels not only at describing Galland's actions and motives but at placing the man in context of his time. Like so many of his generation, the young Galland was absorbed in aviation, and he survived two crashes (one nearly fatal) to fly in the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War. There he excelled in close air support, as he did early in World War II.

However, Galland the dedicated hunter yearned for fighters; indeed, the German term is Jager. Combat success over France and Britain soon brought him to command of an Me-109 wing, Jagdgeschwader 26, which he led until his promotion to general in late 1941. At that time he was credited with ninety-four kills.

However, despite his exceptional combat success and love of the hunt, Adolf Galland was no war lover. He lost seven uncles in the First World War and two of his three brothers in the Second. With Germany burning down around him, his aircrews fought a losing battle against appalling odds, sustaining losses as high as 40 percent in aircraft and 25 percent in pilots per month. …