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Pages from David Irving's biography of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring reveal that the German air force carried out desperate kamikaze-type suicide operations in 1945.

[Operation Werewolf: Luftwaffe suicide operations against Allied bombers in 1945]


IN Göring's absence there emerged a crippling indecisiveness about certain secret Luftwaffe projects. Back in February [1945], acting on the advice of Speer and Baumbach, Hitler had agreed to go ahead with Project Mistletoe, which the air force had long been planning: 120 piggy-backed planes -- Ju 88s coupled with Me 109s -- were standing by in East Prussia to bomb the principal Soviet power stations at last. Göring too approved, and the fuel was set aside. But in mid-March Hitler decided to hurl these planes at the bridges across the Oder and Neisse rivers the moment the major Russian offensive began. Then he changed his mind; he would use twenty-six of them against the bridges across the Vistula, in the Russians' rear. General Koller objected that the project had originally been designed to wipe out Stalin's power supplies, and that the remaining Mistletoes would not suffice for this project. Hitler hesitated, and was lost -- torn between the immediate tactical needs of battle and his long-term strategic objectives, between inevitable defeat and possible ultimate victory. "Imagine," he told Koller on March 26, "if the enemy had bombed all our power stations simultaneously! I'll forego the Vistula bridges -- we can deal with them later."

"Ribbentrop," Hitler told his foreign minister, who was also anxious to end the war by diplomacy, "we're going to win this one by a nose." He mentioned the jet planes -- in March 1945 Himmler's underground factory at Nordhausen would in fact assemble five hundred Me 262's and in April twice as many. The first Type XXI submarines -- capable of cruising to Japan underwater and at high speed -- were about to enter service. By late 1945 bombproof underground refineries would be turning out three hundred thousand tons of synthetic gasoline per month. "If only," he remarked to Goebbels on March 21, "Göring had done more to rush the jets into service!" And he added bitterly, "He's just gone down to the Obersalzberg again with two trains, to see his wife."

Göring returned to Berlin keener on peacemaking than ever. When top civil servant Hans Lammers visited the Chancellery for the last time on March 27, he found the Führer very upset about the Reichsmarschall "attempting to start negotiations with the Allies." Emmy Göring certainly dropped hints to Görnnert, who stayed behind with the train, that her husband was thinking of contacting the Americans, and Göring confided to Speer that he was sure that the Americans knew he was on their side. One day, five American airmen parachuted into the Schorf Heath, and Göring ordered their captain brought to Carinhall. Perhaps he was thinking ahead, to ways of establishing links to the Americans. But this officer had only been a movie director in Hollywood, and Göring lost interest in him.

General Koller's diary establishes how concerned Göring was to end the bloodshed now that Germany appeared to have lost. "Nobody tells us anything," Koller complained to Göring on March 28. "We badly need directives from top level."

The Reichsmarschall agreed. He too is in the dark. F[ührer] tells him nothing, won't permit the slightest political step. For instance, a British diplomat tried to enter into talks with us in Sweden, but this was flatly forbidden by Hitler.

F has prohibited Reichsmarschall to use his own extensive contacts. . . . F has also rejected every opening that the foreign minister has reported to him.

Hitler ordered Göring to attend every war conference at 4:00 P.M., but he dealt preferentially with SS Gruppenführer Kammler. "Göring," wrote Goebbels on April 3, "has to listen day after day without being able to offer the slightest excuse."

Under pressure from every side, Göring made the decision to authorize Luftwaffe suicide missions. Volunteer pilots would ram the Luftwaffe's few remaining Me 109s into Allied bombers. In mid-March British code-breakers had already intercepted the message that Göring ordered all Geschwader commodores to read out secretly to pilots who had completed fighter training:

The fateful struggle for the Reich, our people, and our native soil is at its climax. Virtually the whole world is fighting against us and is resolved to destroy us and, in blind hatred, to exterminate us. With our last and utmost strength we are standing up to this menacing onslaught. Now as never before in the history of the German fatherland we are threatened with final annihilation from which there can be no revival. This danger can be arrested only by the utmost preparedness of the supreme German warrior spirit.

Therefore, I turn to you at this decisive moment. By consciously staking your own lives, save the nation from extinction! I summon you for an operation from which you will have only the slenderest chance of returning. Those of you who respond will be sent back at once for pilot training. Comrades, you will take the place of honor beside your most glorious Luftwaffe warriors. In the hour of supreme danger, you will give the whole German people hope of victory, and set an example for all time. GÖRING.

The first mission, code-named Werewolf, ran into pragmatic objections. General Koller pointed out that if the Me 109s were used up on this, all reconnaissance and conventional-fighter operations would collapse until Focke-Wulf's new Ta 152 and the Me 262 became available in large numbers. But Hitler gave the go-ahead. Several hundred volunteers were given ten days of ideological training at Stendal, and on April 4, General Pelz, whose IX Air Corps would control the mission, reported all ready for Werewolf. "For psychological reasons," Pelz told the Luftwaffe high command, "we should not delay too long with the actual operation." Three days later Werewolf was executed -- one of the most desperate Luftwaffe operations of the war. The Luftwaffe war diary confirms that 180 suicide crews took part, escorted into battle by their less-exalted comrades from JG7 and the first squadron of KG54(J). Astonished Allied radio monitors heard patriotic marches flooding the fighter-control wavelength and a female choir singing the German national anthem, while anonymous voices exhorted these 180 pilots to die -- now -- for the Führer and for Germany. Seventy of them did.

Such was the heroism of which Göring's young airmen were capable even on the threshold of national defeat. But there were also acts of a different hue. On March 30, Messerschmitt ferry-pilot Henry Fay picked up a brand new Me 262 jet to fly to Neuburg Airbase on the Danube. He deserted to the Americans and handed the top-secret plane over in return for a promise of immediate release to his mother. Fay also revealed to the Americans where the Me 262 and its fuel were manufactured, and described its most vulnerable points. "Aim for the engines," he recommended, "as they catch fire easily."


AT 5:00 A.M. on April 16, 1945, the final Soviet push across the Oder began. Sixty more suicide pilots crash-bombed their planes onto the Oder bridges in a desperate attempt to save Berlin.

But the decay of defeat had already reached the highest levels in the capital. Learning that even Speer had disobeyed orders to destroy bridges within Berlin, Hitler challenged him to say whether he still believed in victory.

"I cannot say that I do," the minister replied. But he agreed without enthusiasm that he still wished that the war could be won.

"I thank you for saying the best you could," replied Hitler. "But I can say only this" -- and Göring, watching, saw the perspiration standing out on his brow -- "We must hold on until the last hour! No matter how much Donner and Blitzen! I know we shall come through."



The passage is reproduced without editing apart from typographical

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