Chapter One —- The Three Fighter Pilots

       An Introductory Sketch

Lieutenant Hermann Goering, 25-year-old Commander of Germany’s famous (Red Baron) Manfred von Richthofen’s  Squadron, received orders  to have all the Squadron’s airplanes flown to Darmstadt, Germany and surrendered to the Americans. World War I was over—- Germany surrendered to the Allies. Goering did not want to comply with the order. It was November 11, 1918, and at 11 o’clock that morning, the fighting stopped. The surrender of their country to the allied nations surprised many Germans, including Goering. The German armies were fighting in France, not on German soil, and the government propaganda had led them to believe that Germany was wining.Now, suddenly, the government said that all was lost, Goering was ordered to  surrender, the war was over.The Armistice came as a shock.In defiance, disappointed that Germany had surrendered, Goering ordered his pilots to land their airplanes at Darmstadt bumpily to cause damage and not turn them over to the Americans in good condition. At his  squadron’s last meeting, Goering toasted the squadron and said, “We have a long and difficult way to go, but the truth will be our light. We must be proud of this truth and of what we have done. We must think of this. Our time will come again.” After drinking the toast, the squadron officers smashed their glasses.

Lieutenant Gill Robb Wilson, 26-year-old operations officer of the American Expeditionary Force, 163rd Squadron, in France, was taxiing his fighter plane, through a muddy airfield, leading the squadron for takeoff on a bombing mission of the German infantry lines.While he was waiting for the pilots to form-up at the departure end of the runway, one of the squadron’s men ran from a crowd that had gathered on the flight line and climbed on the wing of Wilson’s airplane to tell him of the Armistice. Wilson wrote:

Hell, all the morning’s work wasted. I felt no exultation-no sense of relief-nothing but that now we would have to taxi back to the hangers and unload. The weather was cold and a drizzle was falling. Unloading would be a miserable chore. Damn!

Interesting words for one, who was a Presbyterian minister before the war, and returned to the pulpit afterward.

Charles Lindbergh, 17 years old, managing the family’s land and animals in Minnesota, was attending a farmer’s auction. The auctioneer announced Germany’s surrender and suspended the sale so that the crowd could celebrate the tidings. The war was over. Lindbergh had expected that the war would be still going on in February 1919, when he would be 18 and had hoped to join the Air Service. Now that the war was over, Lindbergh thought he would study mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota.He dropped out of college and studied flying. In just 9 years after the end of the World War I, Lindbergh became the most famous man in the world because of his 1927 flight from New York to Paris, in a single engine small airplane, across the Atlantic Ocean, non-stop, alone.

The German capitulation announcement shocked Adolf Hitler, a 29-year-old Army Corporal, who had received a metal for bravery, fighting in the trenches, carrying messages between German units during battles. He was in the hospital recuperating from temporary blindness caused by poison gas. A chaplain told the patients that Germany had surrendered. The war was over.Hitler wrote in his book, Mein Kampf, that he cried for the first time since his mother’s death.

Hitler convinced himself that German Jews and Socialists, in powerful positions, had stabbed the German nation in the back. He vowed revenge and decided that he would become a politician.

The Armistice on November 11, 1918 occurred just 15 years after the  Wright brothers Kitty Hawk flight on December 17, 1903.World War I “The war to end all wars and make the world safe for democracy” was over. It had used a new weapon: the airplane, and left pilots like Lindbergh, Goering and Wilson enthusiastic about aviation’s future. However, the First World War did not end war. It was a prelude to a more wider, more exhaustive, more bloodier conflict– World War II.

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CHARLES  AUGUSTUS  LINDBERGH

In 1927, Lindbergh was the most famous man in the world. The newspapers and radio stations of many nations reported news of his record-breaking solo flight, in the Spirit of St Louis, from New York to Paris. He solicited publicity from the press before he departed on that record-breaking flight. After the flight, he spent a lifetime running from the press. He became so famous, that he didn’t need them anymore but they felt they needed stories about him. They hounded him continually, attempting to get stories and photographs of him, hoping to get a glimpse of him and his bride by using boats to circle his yacht when he was on his honeymoon, and breaking into the morgue, a few years later, to photograph his murdered young son.

He had been a barnstorming pilot, giving airplane rides in the rural countryside of Midwest America and had performed aerobatics at air shows. Lindbergh had flown the airmail and the Army trained him as a fighter pilot. In World War II, he flew fighter aircraft in the Pacific area of operations with the United States Navy and shot down at least one Japanese plane.

 

HERMANN WILHELM GOERING

During the Second World War, Goering was a high-ranking member of the German NAZI party; second only to the leader, Adolph Hitler.

Prior to becoming interested in politics, he had been a well-decorated, heroic fighter pilot in the First World War, shooting down 22 aircraft of the allied nations.  [(Goering World War I began the historical experience that has shown that about five percent of combat pilots account for most air to air victories in warfare, thus showing the importance of flying aces.) reword and include]

Goering commanded the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) before and during the Second World War.

GILL ROBB WILSON

Wilson was a fighter pilot and an Operations Officer in the First World War. Before the Second World War, Wilson saw the need for the United States to defend itself from German submarines. He organized  commercial pilots and civilian aircraft to fly against the submarines until the Navy and Army Air Corps obtained trained people, equipped to do the job.

He was a founder of the American Legion, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA),  (His AOPA membership number was #1.) The National Aeronautical Society elected him President. He was the first New Jersey State Aviation Director,  the National Association of State Aeronautical Directors also elected him as their President, Wilson founded the Civil Air Patrol, and served a lifetime in aviation.

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After Germany’s defeat in the First World War, the Allied powers’ surrender treaty (the Treaty of Versailles) specified limitations of Germany’s Air Force.  The German military found ways to deviate from the treaty’s requirements. They took steps to secretly, rebuild a modern Air Force without the knowledge of the League of Nations’ control commission or the knowledge of the German government or the German people.

When Adolf Hitler’s NAZI party gained control of the German government in 1933, they continued the secret development of Germany’s armaments, including air power.

One of Goering’s first appointments in Hitler’s Cabinet was that of Reich Minister of Aviation. His responsibility was to continue the secret development of the German Air Force. This development included major aeronautical advancements.

The Nazis began to take the wraps off their rearmament progress in 1935. They wanted the world to know, and fear, their military strength. In 1936, Goering invited both Charles Lindbergh and Gill Robb Wilson, by then, well-known American aviators, to visit German aircraft factories and airfields to see the German advancements of air power.

Both Lindbergh and Wilson thought that a European war was about to break out and that Germany was  stronger than Britain, France or Russia.

Lindbergh reported that the United States should stay out of the war. He saw no advantage to an American involvement in a war between the nations of Europe, that Germany was much stronger, in armaments and resolve than other nations in Europe, especially the English and French; the United States would unnecessarily suffer heavy losses if it became involved. The press considered Lindbergh to have over estimated Germany’s air power and called him unpatriotic.

Gill Robb Wilson reported that Nazi rearmament developments would cause a new war, and the European nations would drag the United States into it, as happened in the First World War. He thought that the best thing for the United States was to start preparations to defend the American east coast shipping against German submarines, and arm for general warfare. Many considered him a warmonger.

Starting in the late 1930s, Lindbergh and Wilson traveled the USA, giving speeches, about air power and Goering’s Luftwaffe’s advancements, to gain support, among influential Americans, for their opposite positions. Lindbergh was for staying out of the struggle because of Germany’s strength, especially air power, and Wilson was for building up war preparations, for a fight against the Germans.

At that same time, Adolph Hitler, the German Nazi leader, was planning a German campaign of European conquest and Hermann Goering was developing and training the Nazi air force, the largest in the world, to revenge the WWI German defeat.

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