How Ideologically Serious Were German officers? And Galland's "First and the Last"

May 2018
Reading Adolf Galland's "The First and the Last", it seems that Galland had a somewhat antagonistic relationship with both Goring, and most of German High Command. Now, such claims in an autobiography of a former Nazi German General must necessarily be taken with a grain of salt, but in spite of soliciting evidence to to contrary on Historum, Galland comes across as one of the genuinely "clean" Wehrmacht officers: Guilty of being a German General in WWII, but committed no war crimes and (like Rommel), it seems he didn't join the Nazi Party. Unlike generals like Guderian or Manstein, who served on the Eastern Front (and almost certainly committed War Crimes), Galland served almost exclusively on the Western front, and all his aerial kills were against Western allies.

This does not preclude the chance that evidence may surface at a later date which implicates Galland in War Crimes. You never can tell with Nazi Generals in WWII. But for purposes of this discussion, assume Galland can't be linked to any war crimes with any degree of acceptable legal certainty.

In reading Galland's autobiography, one thing that strikes me is that the general cynicism and lack of respect for very senior officers (something common in the U.S. Army, trust me...we all told JCS jokes about the Pentagon and "The Good Idea Fairy") among many fighter pilots, including Galland himself, even as a lieutenant general in command of the Luftwaffe fighter arm. The complaints made by German pilots are not too dissimilar to complaints by NCOs and smart "joes" I knew in Iraq or Afghanistan: command doesn't care, they are out of touch, and those of us on the ground have a better idea of reality than fools in offices in Berlin Washington. The same complaints of lower enlisted/junior pilots against their senior command, in almost any war or army.

A civilian outsider should not make too much of this cynicism, or lack of respect for the chain of command. To a certain extent, "grumbling" among the lower ranks is tolerated: enlisted "joes' will be "joes."

It can see a certain tolerance for this behavior in the army of liberal democracy (USA, UK, or most allied powers in practice except the Soviet Union), but one might think the Luftwaffe might take a harsher view on such insubordination. Apparently, not the case. It is somewhat amazing that the July 20 plot (and other plots against Hitler) were generally kept secret by the officers involved. Frequently, officers who disagreed with such actions still would not turn others in (at least, not until **** hit the fan and Hitler started arresting people). At times, I get the feeling that Galland and most of his (smart) fighter pilots were entirely sick of Goring, whom German pilots openly mocked as "the fat guy."

Sometimes it makes me wonder: what was the Germany Army's version of the "Reflective Belt" that often appears among GWOT veteran humor, particularly Army and Marine Corps. We all remember E-7s being detailed by stupid FOB CO's Mayor Cells to "monitor the PX" for soldiers not wearing their reflective PT belts. In a war zone. With Albanian snipers in the area (no bullshit). The "Reflective Belt Phenomena" that infected 1SGs and CSMs throughout the Army was a cultural tidal wave that took the U.S. Army by storm. The whole mess started off on the logic that there will be fewer vehicular accidents if all soldiers were reflective PT belts. I am not kidding in the least: Generals at the Pentagon actually thought this was a good a war zone.

*The infamous "Good Idea Fairy" is responsible for more extra PT, extra duty, bullshit details and more people that "hate the Army" after they get out than any other entity in the U.S. military's entire history. The "Good Idea Fairy' is the entity that whispers in your average 2LT's ear that "making a sandbag command post" would "really impress the CO", which results in innocent joes filling sand bags after getting off a 48 hour mission. That was only 48 hours because EOD took 18 hours to show up...(another story).
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Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
It is hard for a fighter pilot in WW2 to qualify as a war criminal, so it is really no big achievement of Galland

according to theirvarious memoirs and other works german generals hated each other and most people above them (including of course Adolf)... the rare time any 2 of them seemed to agree on anything is when these 2 hated a common third one more than they hated each other.... most times when a german general expresses praise for another one, it is to contrast him with one he hates more (praise A to downgrade B)

german high command resembled a pack of hyenaes or if you prefer a business equivalent a band of high performing sales guys / traders operating in the same territory and in constant competition with one another
Apr 2018
I suppose the question could be broadened into how ideologically serious were most germans.For the youth of both genders brought up in the nazified schools and youth organizations the answer is yes.For the adults many would regard hitler as a saviour even into the darker years of the war but many might see the road hitler was taking germany down and publicly tow the party line while privately despising hitler and his cronies but knowing enough to keep their mouths shut.

There was the Party one way and the Gestapo and the Camps the other.

I remember a scene from a war movie as clear as day even 10 years after seeing it.The plot concerns an american businessman who had prewar experience with german firms co-opted into the role of a reluctant spy.In the end he has to flee germany and is guided by germans sympathetic to his plight aboard a tug bound for sweden along with a terminally ill escaped jew.During a routine stop by a german mtb the jew who is hurriedly shoved into a space behind a false panel below decks coughs repeatedly and is given a rag to muffle his noise.Unfortunately his ragged coat with a yellow star is left on a bench.A german seaman comes down the ladder and spots the coat.What follows is a gripping scene the tension of which you could cut with a knife.Both men are silent initially.The only sound is the tick tick tick of the tugs idling engine.The american with a look of defeat says in a quiet voice "he just wants to die free." The seaman is silent deep in thought.(It seemed to me that those seconds were stretching into agonizing hours).Finally a voice from above queries in german "Anything?" The seaman calls up "Nichts" and with one last look at the american who manages a grateful thank you he climbs the ladder and is gone.(When the panel is removed the jew is dead.Rather than give himself and the others away he had held the rag over his nose and mouth and suffocated himself).

Maybe this was just a hollywood film.Or maybe that german seaman along with countless other nameless german civilians and military personnel exercised their individual moral and ethical beliefs in the face of an authoritarian state that demanded absolute obedience and unthinking adherence to their creed, with dire consequences for non compliance.

At Nuremburg the magistrates opinion in response to the "defense of superior orders" followed this rationale:a soldier is not an automaton and while it is recognized that discipline and obedience to lawful superior orders is essential in a military organization it does not preclude an individual's choice, even duty, to protest, even refuse to carry out orders which he perceives as criminal or unlawful in nature.
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