1. Galland talking with the famous aircraft designer, Professor Kurt Tank, who also worked for the Argentine Government.(W. Held)
2. With his German-speaking liaison officer and friend, Captain Luis Mario Grieben,while delivering a lecture to Argentine Air Force officers (W. Held)
3. The Galland Family House: In the suburbs of Buenos Aires is located the wonderful garden-town of EL PALOMAR (Ciudad Jardín). Here Galland moved into a house and started his new life (Walter Marcelo Bentancor).
The following article was published in the Revista Internacional de Ejércitos, Armamentos y Tecnología “DEFENSA” (Spain, June 2005, Issue 326) under the title Ayer noticia, hoy historia……1948-1955. El “as” de la caza alemana, Adolf Galland y la Fuerza Aérea Argentina (Yesterday news, today history…..1948-1955. The German “ace” Adolf Galland and the Argentinean Air Force) by Walter Marcelo Bentancor.
The author wishes to thank the valuable collaboration of the following persons and institutions:
Dr. Atlilio Enzo Marino, Mr. Comodoro Gert Kleissen, Mr. Ricardo Kleissen, Mr. Comodoro Luis Mario Grieben, Mr. Vicecomodoro ® Daniel Pedro Aubone, Mr. Ricardo Burzaco, Fuerza Aérea Argentina, Glider's Club: “Cóndor”. And everyone who, one way or another, made this personal accomplishment possible.
This site is dedicated to the memories of my maternal grandfather Subofficer Major ® Antonio Prividera and to my father’s, Pedro Oscar Bentancor.
“Argentina lost the battle, but its pilots were victorious in the air. They were brilliant young men, willing to quickly learn and assimilate the essence of the air combat” (Adolf Galland, in reference to the performance of the Argentinean Air Force in the Falklands conflict)
One of the politics of Juan Domingo Peron's government was to boost the modernization of the Argentinean Armed Forces, one of them, the Air Force had become independent from the Army on January 4th 1945.
The Argentinean Republic was at that time in an economic and financial situation favourable in comparison to the European countries, since during World War II, it supplied many things - mostly food – to the Allies, especially to the United Kingdom.
Since it was impossible for the English to clear the outstanding debt with currencies, the government of London, proposed to send different types of military material, even though the US was strictly against it. After reaching an agreement, several commissions of Officials and Sub-Officials travelled to the British Isles to get used to the new material that would soon be equipping the Argentinean Armed Forces, specially the Air Force.
Also, during this post-war era, the Argentinean Air Force (FAA) experienced an outstanding growth: The combat order was renewed with modern combat and transport planes, to be more specific the Gloster Meteor FMk-IV, Avro Lancaster and Lincoln, Fiat G-55, DC-3, DC-4, Vickers Viking, Bristol 170 and De Havilland Dove, among others.
The aeronautics industry was also affected by this boost, and would soon be designing and manufacturing planes like the trainer IAe DL.22, the light bombers IAe. 24 Calquín (similar to the famous British Mosquito) and the legendary IAe.27 Pulqui I and IAe. 33 Pulqui II, the first two jets built in South America.
But this sudden growth, in order for it to be useful, should be accompanied, among other things, with an update of the tactics, according to the experiences harvested during the course of the yet recent World War II.
Rescue operation: The Tank Group
The phone rings once again in the pilots’ room of the JV-44, the one called Luftwaffe’s Experts Unit: A formation of six Me-262s led by the young Lieutenant General Adolf Galland takes off to intercept a formation of American Marauders. It was April 26th 1945. The six jet fighters are guided towards the target from a small Interception Room. The Germans are received by a fierce fire. Galland picks his prey and opens fire with his guns. Few seconds go by. The one who had been the Luftwaffe`s Fighter Wing Inspector (General der Jagdflieger) hadn't noticed the escort planes. A Mustang hits the Me-262 from above and Galland feels a piercing pain in his knee. The control panel is torn to pieces. The second engine takes another hit. The damaged plane starts losing bits of its fuselage and Galland considers bailing out, but dismisses the idea once he has checked that the commands are still responding.
When he dives through the clouds he sees the city of Munich and the airfield to the left. One engine short, being attacked by Thunderbolts and with a thick smoke trail coming out of the Me-262, he manages to land even though one of the tires was destroyed. A mechanic reaches the plane on a motorcycle and rescues the pilot. Stucked inside an improvised trench in the middle of the low level attacks of the enemy fighters, Lieutenant General Adolf Galland comes to the end of his participation in the World War II, having acquired 104 confirmed victories.
After surrendering to the Allies, he is made P.O.W (Prisoner of War) in the Field 7 of LATIMER (Buckinghamshire) and later in the RAF (Royal Air Force) Station in Tangsmere. He is put for questioning by the US intelligence services who succeed to get some very valuable information regarding the use in combat of the jet fighters.
On August 24th 1945, a B-17 takes off from another airbase located in Bovingdon (UK) carrying Galland and the famous bomber pilot Werner Baumbach as its passengers. The final destination is Kaufbeuren in Baviera.
During 1946 and 1947, Galland works for the North American Army Forces’ Historic Division of the European Theatre, and at the same time, he falls in love with the baroness Gisela Von Donner, the widow of the Lieutenant Coronel Conrad Hinrich von Donner, and friend of Galland, killed in combat in March 1944. The attractive lady, lived in a farm that was part of his husband’s family patrimony in Schleswig-Holstein.
Gisela had demonstrated a remarkable devotion towards Galland during his first two years as POW. She had travelled in cargo trains to visit him and underwent several problems and humiliations to be by his side.
During the European summer of 1948, the former Engineers Chief of the Focke-Wulf Factory, Professor Kurt Tank, contacted Galland to pay him a visit. After a fully detailed explanation of the plans the Argentinean government had to build a new combat aircraft, Tank managed to convince Galland to join his team, as a test pilot. He told the veteran plane designer: “It will take many years for life in Germany to return to normality”.
As it is known, General Peron had demonstrated a clear affection towards the Axis Powers during World War II, and after it was over, he ordered to send a delegation to Europe, to recruit German brains to collaborate in different areas, both scientific and military. The president’s idea threw very good results and soon, thousands of ex soldiers, scientifics and citizens of the vanquished German III Reich succeeded to escape to Argentina. Kurt Tank and his team had abandoned Europe through different places and mediums. Now it was Galland’s turn, who had arrived to Genova embarked in that Italian port with a passport given by the International Red cross, supported by the Vatican itself and for the Argentinean consul, who had also given him the ticket of the ship that would take him to the República del Plata. Towards the middle of October 1948 under the name of Rolf Jaeger (meaning Rolf Hunter) Galland sailed on in the ship Andrea C, of the Italian sea line Costa.
On November 1948, the Andrea C was mooring in Buenos Aires' port. A new period in the famous pilot’s life was starting, a new period that he would later qualify as “one of the happiest”.
From test pilot to consultant
Two days later, Galland was received by the Secretary of Aeronautics, Brigadier César Raúl Ojeda, who delivered President Peron’s regards. The warm welcome given shocked Galland, who would later write: “When by the end of 1948, immediately after my arrival, I was received in the Aeronautics Ministry, I was deeply impressed by the respect and the fellowship that characterized that welcome. All over the world there were barriers towards everything that was German. However, in the Argentinean Armed Forces, we didn’t come across any prejudices of any sort. Before the Argentinean colleagues’ eyes we had lost the war, but not the honor. None of us will ever be able to forget the innate gentlemanliness of the Argentinean Nation that was totally clear in that reception”.
The Liutenant General Galland, whose contract was for a period of four years with an option for an extra two, then joined the FAA as hired personnel.
That is how Galland, who arrived to be a part of the Tank Group as a test pilot (position soon to be filled by Otto Behrens), came to work as a tactics and doctrines’ consultant for the Fighter-Interception Arm.
Under the direct orders of the Commander in Chief of the FAA, the German ace begins his labour working along with the foreign aeronautics missions (British, Americans and Italians). Working by his side as a linking Officer and assistant, the 1st Lieutenant Luis Mario Grieben, who speaks perfect German. A transport pilot, Grieben was to be dedicated completely to Galland, and soon mutual affection and friendship would grow between them.
In Argentina, life was very nice. Galland was able to enjoy the peace and the free time. The FAA gave him a beautiful house in Ciudad Jardín in El Palomar, west of Buenos Aires, where Argentinean aviation was born: the I Brigada Aerea. The house had a beautiful garden and maid service. Later, when Gisela von Donner and her children, Conrad, Gitz and Angelica arrived, the family was completed.
On January 25th anxious to fly again, Galland passed his flight exam in a Piper PA-12, getting his flying license, the number 925. At last he would be able to soar over the great Argentinean land without worrying about being shot down by a Spitfire or a Mustang. A month later, in February, he obtains his Argentinean ID with his real name by command of President Peron. Mr. Jaeger was part of the past.
One of his main tasks as consultant was to give conferences about the war and his specialty: air defense. These conferences used to last two or three hours and were followed with enthusiasm by the military aviators from the different air brigades that he visited. They have heard a lot about the Fighters’ General and his rudeness towards the German’s command, and now they had the chance to hear him live.
Another thing that aroused interest was a series of articles published in the “Revista Nacional de Aeronáutica” (National Aeronautics Magazine). Articles like “La Batalla de Inglaterra”(The Battle of England) , “Causas de la derrota de la Luftwaffe” (Reasons why the Luftwaffe lost the war) and “La utilización por parte de Alemania de aviones a reacción”(Germany’s use of jet planes) showed the World for the first time, the opinión of a high ranked main figure of the vanquished side.
Meanwhile, the FAA kept on adding new material. The group of one hundred jet fighters Gloster Meteor FMk-IV was being completed and progressively they were put in service. Since there were only twelve pilot instructors that had received the basic instruction in the United Kingdom, and the scarce mediums available made the adaptation process to the new jet fighter a very slow one. In order to fly the Meteor, the Argentineans fighter pilots made an advanced trained stage in the Fiat G-46 and later they got used to the tricycle gear in the De Havilland Dove. The combat tactics used until then went back to the pre-war era, when the main fighter in the FAA had been the Curtiss Hawk 75-0.
With the fighter pilots
At the beginning of the 50’s Lieutenant General Galland was feeling pretty comfortable with his Argentinean colleagues. In contrast to the other German ace, the famous Stuka pilot Coronel Hans Rudel (who had also come to Argentina with the Tank Group and had formed a German political party in the exile), Galland always kept a low public profile, despite the heavy social life that he carried with the baroness Gisela von Donner. The active night of Buenos Aires was worth their presence and it was very hard not to see the couple in parties and events. Even though he had many contacts, he never used his excellent relation with General Peron to obtain a benefit for himself. To the Argentineans’ eyes, Galland was a nice and kind General.
He kept an attentively watch on everything that affected his homeland. Normally he would send letters to other ex comrades, who informed him of the allied authorities’ intentions to appoint him Commander in Chief of the future Luftwaffe.
In the meantime, next to Captain Grieben, he was able to fly Dove planes, that were used as transport planes by the FAA. Most of those flights’ destination was the province of Córdoba, where the IAME (Industrias Aerotécnicas y Mecánicas del Estado) was placed. There, professor Tank and his team of engineers and specialists were giving birth to the jet-fighter project Pulqui II (Arrow in a native language), a plane derived from the German Ta-183.
Finally, on February the 8th 1951, the new nacional fighter was introduced to General Juán Domingo Perón in the Aeroparque de la ciudad de Buenos Aires, having being that one and historical event to the aeronautics industry in Argentina. The German community obviously attended and Galland was among the honor guests.
After the demonstration flights, performed by Tank himself, Galland was greeted by Perón who said to him: So you are the famous Fighters’ General? I swear that if I come across you in Florida street I would take you for a criollo (in clear reference to his not so Germanic features)
On another subject, the situation was getting stranger day after day. Even though Peron's government had equiped the Argentinean Armed Forces with new material and welfare, the intrusion of politics inside the barracks generated uneasiness among its personnel. To many, the only way to bring down Peron was a coupe d’etat.
On September 28th 1951 Meteor pilots of Fighter Groups 2 and 3 placed in the VI Brigada Aerea of Tandil (Buenos Aires province), were anxiously awaiting the visit of Adolf Galland but, there was the possibility of joining the revolutionary movement that was growing in the Army roaming inside their heads.
Early in the morning, a Dove that was landing in the grass runway of the Brigada was carrying Lieutenant General Galland, who could see through the window the powerful Meteors aligned and shining under the sun.
In an improvised conference room, the young fighter pilots from Groups 2 and 3 gathered to hear the German ace, but there was a problem: the language. And that is because this time, misteriously, Captian Grieben was not accompanying Galland, and there was no one to translate his words. That’s how Liutenant Gert Kleissen offered himself to do the translation, since he, just like Grieben, spoke perfect German.
At the beginning of his speech, Galland took a scale model of a P-51 and having removed its propeller he exclaimed: ¡chorro! (jet! His Spanish was very poor).
Based on his experiences with the Me-262, he continued to learn about the formation flight techniques of the jet planes, attacks to formations of bombers and the famous formation called hand fingers widely used by the Luftwaffe.
Suddenly, an order came indicating that a Gloster Meteor squadron should be deployed in order to counteract a coup d’etat attempt that had just occurred. In the middle of the pandemonium, the pilots headed to their planes and Galland was left alone. But the moment was perfect to apply what had just been learned, and that ‘s how the squadron lead by Captain Daniel Aubone, applied the formation hand fingers, in the navigation flight from Tandil to Ezeiza international airport, and also, when they were over the Capital Federal they performed 90° and 180° turns. The coup d’etat was not strong enough and failed, but Galland had just missed his linking Officer: Captain Luis Grieben was arrested for conspiring against the government and imprisoned in a regular jail in the south of the country. On December 1951, the General requested the German passport. The return to his homeland was being born.
Air Defense Command
The organization of the FAA was also adapting to the new era. On January the 9th 1951 the Air Defense Command is created by decree 112. As its name indicates, it gathered different combat units like interceptor fighters, alert systems, air traffic control and anti-air artillery, here is where Galland works as a consultant. He depends directly of his Commander, the Brigadier Juan Francisco Fabri. The two of them had a relation of mutual respect. Galland listened to Fabri’s advices and he convinces him to write his war memories. Along with Gisela, Captain Grieben (before the failed coup d'etat we mentioned before) and with Wilfred von Oven’s (who had been Joseph Goebels’ assistant) aid, he starts to put some material together and he begins to write his autobiographic book that would be called: “The First and the Last” – Fighter pilots in the Second World War - (“Die Ersten und Die Letzten Die Jagdflieger im zweiten Weltkrieg)” in its original German version.
At the beginning of 1952, VII Brigada Aérea is created in Morón, Province of Buenos Aires. The brand new unit would be the base for Fighter Groups 2 and 3, both equipped with Meteors, previously in Tandil, Having being Galland their first distinguished visitor. On july 19th the legendary Luftwaffe ace gives a conference in the Officer’s Casino.
The FAA was putting into paper and into several directives all the operational experiences provided by Galland. During the course of that year, many operational exercises were made, in which the different procedures could be tested. For example, the heavy bombers Avro Lincoln were used as enemies and the Meteors were to intercept them. There were also air combats between sections and squadrons, target practice and low fly attacks against airfields. But Galland needed to feel the sensation “like being pushed by angels”. It was one thing to write the operational experiences and other too different, to be able to check and adjust them in person during a flight. Captain Kleissen was appointed Galland’s new linking Officer and destined to work with Galland in the Air Defense Command. Kleissen was an excellent fighter pilot with a lot of experience in Meteor, and he looked up to his new superior from whom he knew all his heroic deeds of the war.
On November 20th 1952, Kleissen convinced Galland to fly the Gloster Meteor. They went together to the VII Brigada Aérea of Morón and alter a brief side by side coaching, he was ready to soar the Argentinean skies in a jet made in Britain, that had been originally conceived to face the Me-262. Galland was extremely surprised when he observed in the target calibrator the letters Me. The flight lasted about an hour and when it was finished, he said: If the Me-262 had had the Meteor's engines, it would have been the best fighter in the world! He qualified the plane of being very good and of having very refined lines. The I-057 wouldn’t be the only Meteor flown by Galland: On March 24th 1953 he made a forty minute flight in the I-072, as well as in the I-088, all of them were made from the VII Brigada Aérea.
In 1952 the Argentinean Air Force begins to make flights over the Antartic Continent. Therefore, the FATA (Fuerza Aerea de Tareas Antarticas – Antartic Task Air Force) is created and equipped with Avro Lincoln, Lancastrian, Douglas C-47 and Beechcraft AT-11 planes, and it was placed in the BAM (Base Aérea Militar - Military Air Base) Rio Gallegos. During that year, Adolf Galland had the chance to be a part of a Lincoln crew that flew over those remote spaces in a flight that, according to him, would never forget.
The FAA had, on the other hand, a unique model of the Fiat G-59 fighter. Nicknamed El Aguila, this plane had many similarities with the Spitfire, and became Galland's favourite, and eventhough there are no testimonies to affirm this, it was also flown by the Italian aeronautic attaché in Argentina.
Leaving military airplanes aside, Galland used to fly the Piper PA-12 that belonged to the century of the Aero Club Argentino, being one of his favorites the one with the license LV-RNU. In his own words: “During the weekends the skies are put in danger by the Sunday aviators of the air clubs, by those who rent an air-cab or by those who own a small plane. I belong to them too. I have my pilot’s license that enables me to travel and play sports. I see then, the earth from above on Sundays. I love to invite friends to fly with me and see them enjoying these flights”.
In the town of Merlo, within Buenos Aires, the most important gliders’ center of the country was placed: the Club de Planeadores Albatros. Within its facilities there was another club of German origin called: Cóndor. Galland couldn’t resist the temptation to be again on a glider's seat and had the chance to do it in the models Baby II Chimango and Meise Olimpia of that club.
The first and the last
Storms were coming into his family life. His relationship with Gisela von Donner was experiencing harsh times. The regular love affairs of the pilot forced Gisela to move back to Germany. Galland used his license and on July 1953 he returned to his homeland, during that time he would see his parents once again. He also took the chance to launch his autobiographic book in German, edited by Franz Schneekluth. The book was well received, despite the strong anti-military feeling present in the post war Germany.
The text was the direct narration of a soldier, totally without political justifications or propaganda. Galland described the war both from within a combat cockpit as well as from a high command place.
This unique and wide perspective caught the attention of British and French editors, who translated the book in 1955. Its prologue is dedicated to the Argentinean Republic. Even though his contract with the FAA had expired in 1952, Galland renewed it for two more years. The loss of Gisela wasn’t regretted for a long time. Again in Argentinean soil, the still young General soon found love again: the duchess Sylvina von Donhoff who was a noble lady born in Oriental Prusia, whose father was a German diplomatic and her mother was Argentinean. They got married during February 1954, but before the end of 1953, Galland received a heavy blow: Coronel Werner Baumbach, hired by Fabricaciones Militares (Military Fabrications – Argentinean Army), died tragically in a plane crash. Baumbach, guided weapons specialist, was working on a glider bomb PAT-1 (similar to the German Henshel HS 293). It was during one of this gadget’s test when one of the engines of the mothership plane, an Avro Lancaster, caught fire and the pilot decided to land on Rio de la Plata’s water. Baumbach was in the bomber’s place and he drowned.
Galland saw the body of his friend off in the German cemetery of Buenos Aires. During 1954 he travels to Europe on an Argentinean Government request to test a series of trainer planes that were included on a list of possible acquisitions. One of them was the Fiat G-80, a two-seater jet. On professor Tank’s, interested in building a low cost aircraft under license in Argentina, request he tests the Piaggio P-149, plane in which he participates in an air rally that took place in Italy, obtaining the second place.
But his romance with Argentina – a seven year old romance – is ending. The promise to become Luftwaffe's future inspector lay before him, so he decides to return to his homeland. As a farewell, two acts were celebrated. On January 5th 1955, with the assistance of many superior Officers and military Aeronautics Chiefs, the first act took place in the parade ground of the VII Brigada Aérea. After the Ministerial Resolution that awarded Galland with the title of Military Aviator Honoris Causa was read, the Air Defense Commander, Brigadier Major Armando Bustos Videla spoke. Later Galland thanked the honor received, the maximum that a foreign aviator or an allied country can receive, and he remembered the pleasant moments lived with the military Argentinean aviators. It was clear that the emotion had possessed the German ace. Lieutenant General Galland had managed to dim, but not to forget, among the Argentinean aviators, the nostalgia and the pain caused by the circumstances that lead to the development of the German life after the war. Some touching words sealed the beautiful ceremony. A dinner was offered the same day, in the Círculo de Aeronáutica, by the Commander in Chief of the FAA, Brigadier General Carlos F. Mauriño. The Federal Republic of Germany’s ambassador Dr. Hermann Terdenge was invited as a special guest. Brigadier Major Fabri (Air Force´s Estado Mayor General Chief) exponed the FAA gratitude towards the aviator that generously transmitted the experience acquired during World War II. Galland pronounced some words remembering the marvelous hospitality received from the Government, the Armed Forces and the people in general during bitter times for his country. During desert, Brigadier General Mauriño, handed the military aviator badge over to the honoree.
On January 8th 1955, in an Aerolineas Argentinas’ flight with Frankfurt as its destination, Galland left the country leaving as a legacy his combat experiences and an endless number of teachings that several generations of Argentinean military pilots would use in years to come…
“After the forced halt that the first years after the war imposed to my aeronautic activity, I owe to Argentina the freedom from that feeling of dullness and impotence that means to every military aviator the loss of his contact with the evolution and the progress of his weapon” (Lieutenant General Adolf Galland, 1953)
An ace’s legacy
Many foreign historians, authors of authorized biographies, name Galland the father of the modern Argentinean Air Force. Even though there were no standardized methods of instruction when the General arrived, there were always outstanding aviators within the FAA personnel, as he himself recognized: Argentina never lacked outstanding aviators. What the Argentinean Air Force was lacking was combat experience. The experience with jets used in combat, made Galland's arrival together with one hundred Gloster Meteor fighters a cocktail worth of respect. The FAA was transformed into a big power among the Ibero-american air forces. The air instruction was in a very high level. The first “Fighter Pilots’ Manual” was made based upon Galland’s experiences and adjusted to the capacities of the Meteors. Unfortunately, this experiences were used by the pilots of the FAA in the revolutionary events of June and September 1955. There, they were tested in real combat: attacking Navy’s ships in the Rio de la Plata, or attacking airfields like Pajas Blancas in Córdoba or the international airport Ezeiza in low level flights. Also, the political division within the core of the FAA made Galland’s experiences not to be fully used. After those unfortunate events, drastic changes were made in the FAA personnel. Many of the officers that had been students of the German ace were forced to retire, but the doctrines continued to last, keeping their effectiveness until our days. Lets remember that the FAA incorporated a certain amount of North American F-86 Sabre fighters, so the tactics provided by the USAF consultants were taken into account. However, Galland’s advises were also very present in the Air Defense Command, and they had a strong effect as regards the use of radars combined with anti-aircraft artillery. On May 1st 192, the FAA engaged in combat with a British Task Force in the Falklands, and Galland’s teachings were still present. It is as he himself wrote: The Argentinean is a brilliant rider, a good car driver, but also has very good qualities as an aviator.
About the AUTHOR: Walter Marcelo Bentancor was born in March 19th 1965 in the City of Buenos Aires. He is a Subofficer in the Fuerza Aérea Argentina, where he acted as a crewmember in airships such as: Fokker 27; Fokker 28; C-130 and FMA IA 50 Guaraní II. Currently, he carries out his functions in the Instituto Nacional de Aviación Civil (National Institute of Civil Aviation) in Morón, Province of Buenos Aires.
Aeronautic historian, in the year 2002 he began his research project on the life and works of the German ace Adolf Galland in Argentina. After six years of research he published, in March 2008, the book called EL GENERAL DE LOS CAZAS-Adolf Galland en Argentina 1948-1955, in which he narrates this little known period in the life of the Luftwaffe’s ace and the legacy he passed to the Fuerza Aérea Argentina.