Hans Jeschonnek

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Hans Jeschonnek
Born (1899-04-09)9 April 1899
Hohensalza, Posen
Died 18 August 1943(1943-08-18) (aged 44)
Goldap, East Prussia
Allegiance  German Empire
 Weimar Republic
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Years of service 1914–43
Rank Generaloberst
Commands held Chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Relations Gert Jeschonnek (brother)

Hans Jeschonnek (9 April 1899 – 18 August 1943) was a German Generaloberst and a Chief of the General Staff of Nazi Germany′s Luftwaffe during World War II. He committed suicide in August 1943 after mistakenly ordering anti-aircraft guns to fire upon German fighter planes gathered near Berlin.

Early life and career

Jeschonnek was born in the Prussian Province of Posen, the son of a teacher. He studied at the cadet institute of Lichterfelde and was commissioned as a Leutnant in 1914. He began his flying career in 1917. By the time World War I ended, Jeschonnek had shot down two enemy aircraft and received the Iron Cross 1st Class and the Iron Cross 2nd Class.[1] With the creation of the Reichswehr, Jeschonnek participated in the Silesian Uprisings as a member of the Reichswehr's cavalry forces.[2] He then worked under Kurt Student in the Army Ordnance Department and studied at the General Staff training, graduating in 1928.[2]

Upon graduation, Jeschonnek worked for a department of the Reichswehr Ministry which was responsible for the building of airplanes prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles. He became the adjutant of Erhard Milch in 1933 and was a protégé of Walther Wever. He was promoted to captain in Bomber Wing 152 in March 1934 and to major on 1 April 1935. Jeschonnek served as the commodore of Training Group III of Air Administrative Area I in Greifswald, which tested aircraft, from 1 October 1936 – 1 October 1937. In the latter year he returned to the Luftwaffe ministry and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Jeschonnek became the chief of the Luftwaffe Operations Staff on 1 February 1938 and was promoted to Oberst in November of the same year. On 1 February 1939, Jeschonnek replaced Hans-Jürgen Stumpff as the Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe, a position he held until his death. On 14 August 1939, he was promoted to Generalmajor.

World War II

On the first day of the invasion of Poland beginning World War II, Jeschonnek called the German Embassy in Moscow to request that the Soviet Union keep its Minsk radio station continually identifying itself, so that German pilots could use it for navigational purposes against Polish targets.[3] He received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 27 October 1939, after Poland was defeated. With the success of the Luftwaffe in Poland and during the Battle of France, Jeschonnek was promoted to General der Flieger on 19 August 1940.

Although the Luftwaffe had great success during the invasion of Poland and the Battle of France, the poor logistics of the Luftwaffe began to show during the campaigns against Britain, the Soviet Union, and the Mediterranean, especially with the high losses in manpower and materiel. Jeschonnek and Hermann Göring were to blame, as they had underestimated the logistics involved with the campaign.[4] Because Britain continued to resist "the Blitz", Jeschonnek suggested in September 1940 that the Luftwaffe should terror bomb London's residential suburbs, a suggestion declined by Adolf Hitler.[5] Despite the Luftwaffe's failure in the Battle of Britain, Jeschonnek was promoted to Generaloberst on 1 March 1942.

Hermann Göring at Jeschonnek's funeral

Devotedly loyal to Hitler and feuding with Milch and Göring, Jeschonnek received mounting criticism by Hitler toward the Luftwaffe in general as the branch's capabilities declined during the war.[6] Field Marshal Albert Kesselring explained:

During the war years, the most impressive personality among the Chiefs of the General Staff was Generaloberst Jeschonnek — an unusually intelligent and energetic person. Even Jeschonnek, however, was not strong enough to oppose Goering successfully (occasionally he did succeed in opposing Hitler) in matters of decisive importance. A very definite lack of harmony brought effective coordination to a standstill.[7]

Jeschonnek's grave in Gołdap, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Poland.

As part of Operation Crossbow, Allied bombing raids struck Peenemünde on the night of August 17–18, 1943; Jeschonnek ordered Berlin's air defenses to fire upon 200 German fighters, in the belief it was enemy aircraft, who had mistakenly gathered near the Reich's capital. When he realized his mistake, Jeschonnek shot himself on August 18, 1943 at Luftwaffe Lager Robinson headquarters in Goldap, East Prussia.[4] After his death, he was replaced by General der Flieger Günther Korten and, simultaneously, Oberst Eckhard Christian was moved to Luftwaffe-Führungstab (staff for the direction of air operations). One year after, on 1 September 1944, the latter was promoted to Generalmajor and chief of the Luftwaffe-Führungstab at Hitler's request.[8]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Suchenwirth, 213
  2. ^ a b Suchenwirth, 214
  3. ^ Shirer, 821
  4. ^ a b Keegan, 85
  5. ^ Shirer, 1013
  6. ^ Suchenwirth, 278
  7. ^ Nielsen, 34
  8. ^ Joachimsthaler 1999, p. 299.

References

Military offices
Preceded by
none
Geschwaderkommodore of Lehrgeschwader 1
1 October 1936 – November 1936
Succeeded by
Oberst Dr. Robert Knauss
Preceded by
none
Commander of Fliegerführer Irak
6 May 1941 – 29 May 1941
Succeeded by
none
Preceded by
General der Flieger Hans-Jürgen Stumpff
Chief of the Luftwaffe General Staff
1 February 1939 – 19 August 1943
Succeeded by
General der Flieger Günther Korten
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