Wolfram von Richthofen


Wolfram von Richthofen

Infobox Military Person
name=Wolfram von Richthofen
born=birth date|1895|10|10|df=y
died=dda|1945|7|12|1895|10|10|df=y
placeofbirth=Barzdorf, near Striegau, Germany
placeofdeath=Bad Ischl, Austria


caption="Generalfeldmarschall Wolfram von Richthofen"
nickname=
allegiance=flagicon|German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
flagicon|Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
flagicon|Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
serviceyears=1913-1918, 1933-1944
rank="Generalfeldmarschall"
commands=Condor Legion, Fliegerkorps VIII, Luftflotte 2, Luftflotte 4
unit=Jasta 11
battles=World War I
World War II
*Invasion of Poland
*Battle of France
*Battle of Britain
*Battle of Greece
*Battle of Crete
*Operation Barbarossa
*Battle of Stalingrad
awards="Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub"
laterwork=

Generalfeldmarschall Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen (10 October 189512 July 1945) was a German Field Marshal General of the Luftwaffe during World War II.

Von Richthofen was a distant cousin of the German World War I flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, popularly known as the "Red Baron" (who shot down 80 enemy aircraft before being killed in action in 1918), and the baron's younger brother Lothar von Richthofen, who shot down 40 enemy aircraft.

Early life and World War I

He was born on the Barzdorf estate, near Striegau, Lower Silesia. During World War I he served in a German cavalry unit. In 1918 he learned to fly fighter aircraft and was transferred to the air force. In March 1918 he was assigned to Jasta 11 fighter squadron, and by the end of the war he had shot down eight aircraft, which gave him the title of flying ace. Von Richthofen studied engineering from 1919 to 1922. On 18 September, 1920, he married Jutta von Selchow (1896 - 1991) at Breslau (now the city of Wrocław in Poland). The couple had three children.

Condor Legion

In 1933 von Richthofen joined the Luftwaffe, becoming one of the commanding officers in the Condor Legion in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. He commanded the combat formations, and during his command in 1937 the Condor Legion bombed the Basque town of Guernica, with great loss of civilian life, an action that became a worldwide symbol of the horrors of aerial bombing. Von Richthofen was appointed Chief of Staff to Hugo Sperrle, and was heavily involved in drawing lessons from the Civil War that would serve the Luftwaffe well in World War II. In September 1938 he was promoted to Generalmajor and served as an advisor to General Francisco Franco until he returned to Germany in May 1939 to assume command of the now returned Condor Legion.

World War II

At the outbreak of World War II on 1 September 1939 von Richthofen commanded "Fliegerkorps VIII" during the Invasion of Poland.For an explanation of the terms "Fliegerkorps" and "Luftflotte" see Luftwaffe Organization] He directed the attempt to destroy Warsaw from the air.

During the Battle of France from 10 May 1940 the Junkers Ju 87 dive bombers of "Fliegerkorps VIII" supported Walther von Reichenau and his Sixth Army in Belgium and Paul von Kleist's "Panzergruppe von Kleist" in France. During the Battle of Britain von Richthofen's unit took part in the unsuccessful attempt to subdue the Royal Air Force.

In April "Fliegerkorps VIII" were tasked with supporting the Battle of Greece and the Battle of Crete. Following the successful conclusion of this campaign von Richthofen, now a General, became the 26th recipient of the Knight's Cross with Oakleaves ("Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub") on July 17 1941. Following the Balkans campaign, von Richthofen was appointed commander of "Luftflotte 2",For an explanation of the terms "Fliegerkorps" and "Luftflotte" see Luftwaffe Organization] based in Italy.

Barbarossa

On 22 June 1941 Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Richthofen had refined the close support tactics and ground liaison methods that he had developed since the Spanish Civil war, and his air corps provided critical support for the army's Moscow offensive (Operation Typhoon) and the subsequent desperate defensive actions after the Soviet counter-offensive. He was promoted to Generaloberst in February 1942, thereby holding the same rank as air fleet commanders and the highest Luftwaffe staff officers (Jeschonnek and the late Udet). In May/June 1942, "Fliegerkorps VIII" also played an important role in Erich von Manstein's successful campaign in the Crimea and the capture of Sevastopol. Richthofen worked closely with Manstein during the campaign and each held the other in the highest professional regard. Manstein later described Richthofen as "certainly the most outstanding air force leader we had in World War II." [Hayward, Joel S.A.: "Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East 1942-1943", p. 73. University Press of Kansas, 1998]

At the end of June 1942, Richthofen was appointed commander of "Luftflotte 4", which supported Army Group South in its advances towards the Stalingrad and Caucasus regions. In the winter of 1942 the Sixth Army under Friedrich Paulus were surrounded by a Russian counter-attack during the Battle of Stalingrad. Hitler was assured by Field Marshal Hermann Göring that the Luftwaffe could supply the Sixth Army by air, and as a result, Hitler denied the request of Paulus to retreat from the city. Wolfram von Richthofen tried in vain to overturn this decision to try to supply the entire German Sixth Army by air, without success. Although the air bridge did manage to deliver over 8,300 tons of supplies during a 72 day period, this was much too little for the besieged army. The operation cost Luftflotte 4 nearly 500 aircraft and 1,000 crewmen.

After the failure of the air-bridge, and the failed Operation Wintergewitter to relieve the city, Hitler promoted Paulus to field marshal in his besieged Stalingrad headquarters in an effort to convince his commander to commit suicide rather than surrender. When Paulus surrendered anyway on 31 January 1943, Hitler declared, "That is the last field marshal I make in this war!"Fact|date=February 2007

However on 16 February 1943, only two weeks later, Hitler promoted von Richthofen to the rank of "Generalfeldmarschall", he became one of only six officers in the "Luftwaffe" in the history of the Third Reich to be promoted to this rank(The others were Hermann Göring, who had held the rank from 1938 until his promotion to "Reichsmarschall" in July 1940, Albert Kesselring, Erhard Milch, Hugo Sperrle, and when the Third Reich was within days of falling, Robert Ritter von Greim). Von Richthofen was 47 at the time and the second-youngest person to be promoted to the rank of field marshal in Nazi Germany, after Hermann Göring (who was promoted when he was 45). Von Richthofen was retired on medical grounds in late 1944. He subsequently died of a brain tumor whilst being held in American captivity at Bad Ischl on July 12, 1945.

Notes

References

*cite book |author=Hayward, Joel S.A. |title=Stopped at Stalingrad: The Luftwaffe and Hitler's Defeat in the East, 1942-1943 |publisher=University Press of Kansas |location=Lawrence |year=1998 |pages= |isbn=978-070061146-1 |oclc= |doi=
* [http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERrichthofen.htm Wolfram Richthofen : Nazi Germany ] at www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk
* [http://www.richmond.edu/~wgreen/ECDrichthofen.html Electronic Encyclopaedia of Civil Defense and Emergency Management ] at www.richmond.edu


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