Johannes Steinhoff : biography
Johannes "Macki" Steinhoff (15 September 1913 – 21 February 1994) was a German Luftwaffe fighter ace of World War II, and later a senior West German Air Force officer and military commander of NATO. He played a significant role in rebuilding the post war Luftwaffe, eventually serving as chief of staff from 1966 – 1970 and then as chairman of NATO's Military Committee from 1971 – 1974.
Steinhoff was one of very few Luftwaffe pilots who survived to fly operationally through the whole of the war period 1939–45. He was also one of the highest-scoring pilots with 176 victories, and one of the first to fly the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter in combat as a member of the famous aces squadron Jagdverband 44 led by Adolf Galland. Steinhoff was decorated with both the Oak Leaves and Swords to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. He played a role in the so-called Fighter Pilots Conspiracy when several senior air force officers confronted Hermann Göring late in the war.
After World War II
After the war he married Ursula, and they had one daughter, also named Ursula - later the wife of retired Colorado State Senator Michael Bird.
Steinhoff meanwhile recognised the situation of postwar Germany, and was invited by West Germany's new interim government to rebuild the Luftwaffe within NATO, eventually rising to the rank of full general. Steinhoff served as Chief of Staff and acting Commander Allied Air Forces Central Europe (1965–1966), Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe (1966–1970) and later as Chairman of the NATO Military Committee (1971–1974). He retired in 1974.
He wrote a book called The Final Hours (ISBN 1-57488-863-3) detailing a late-war plot against Hermann Göring. He also wrote a vivid account of his time in Italy; "Messerschmitts over Sicily: Diary of a Luftwaffe Fighter Commander" (Stackpole Military History Series Paperback)
Steinhoff received numerous honours for his work on the structure of the post war Luftwaffe and the integration of the German Federal Armed Forces into NATO, including: The Order of Merit with Star, the American Legion of Merit and the French Légion d'honneur.
- Knight's Cross on 30 August 1941 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 4./JG 52Scherzer 2007, p. 721.
- 115th Oak Leaves on 2 September 1942 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of the II./JG 52
- 82nd Swords on 28 July 1944 as Oberstleutnant and Geschwaderkommodore of JG 77
Jagdgeschwader 73 "Steinhoff"
In 1990 the former Royal Air Force Gatow in Berlin Gatow, was named General Steinhoff Kaserne on being taken over by the German Federal Armed Forces. On 18 September 1997 the Jagdgeschwader 73 (fighter wing 73) of the German Air Force, was named "Steinhoff" in his honor. Steinhoff is one of only a handful of pilots honored in this way, along with Manfred von Richthofen and Max Immelmann.
World War II
His first combat experience was in 1939 when he fought RAF Vickers Wellington bombers that were attacking coastal industry in the Wilhelmshaven region, shooting down several. He was also appointed Staffelkapitän of 10./JG 26For an explanation of the meaning of Luftwaffe unit designation see Luftwaffe Organization
in this period. In February 1940, he was transferred to 4./JG 52 where he served in both the French campaign and the Battle of Britain. By the end of the Battle of Britain, Steinhoff's score had advanced to six kills. Steinhoff's great strength was in his ability to pass on his knowledge and training to novice pilots, equipping them with the skills to survive and ultimately become experienced fighter pilots.
In June 1941 JG 52 were on offensive operations against the Soviet Union, becoming one of the highest scoring units in the Luftwaffe. Steinhoff himself claimed 28 Soviet aircraft shot down in the first month. By August 1941 Steinhoff had attained 35 victories and been awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. In February 1942, as a Hauptmann, he was appointed to command II./JG 52, and claimed his 100th victory on 31 August, and his 150th on 2 February 1943.
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