Born: 30 March 1892 in Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
Died: 25 January 1972 in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Generalfeldmarschall 19 July 1940
Generaloberst 1 November 1938
General der Flieger 20 April 1936
Generalleutnant 28 March 1935
Generalmajor 24 March 1934
Oberst 28 October 1933
Hauptmann 18 August 1918
Oberleutnant 18 August 1915
Leutnant 18 August 1911
Fähnrich 18 October 1910
Erhard Milch was born on 30 March 1892 and became a German Generalfeldmarschall who oversaw the development of the Luftwaffe as part of the re-armament of Germany following World War I, and served as founding Director of Deutsche Luft Hansa. Erhard Milch supposedly was one of the few high ranking half-Jews (or mischling) in the Wehrmacht. Erhard Milch was born in Wilhelmshaven, the son of Anton Milch, a pharmacist in the Kaiserliche Marine, and Clara Erhard Milch, née Rosenau.
Erhard Milch enlisted in the German Army in 1910, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant in the artillery. He later transferred to the Luftstreitkräfte and trained as an aerial observer. Although not a pilot, he was appointed to command a fighter wing, Jagdgruppe 6, as a Captain in the waning days of the war.
Erhard Milch resigned from the military in 1920 to pursue a career in civil aviation, and with squadron mate Gotthard Sachsenberg, formed a small airline in Danzig under the banner of Lloyd Luftdienst, Norddeutscher Lloyd's union of regional German airlines. The airline, which linked Danzig to the Baltic States was simply called Lloyd Ostflug. In 1923, he became managing director of its successor company, Danziger Luftpost when Lloyd Luftdienst merged with its rival firm Aero Union to form Deutsche Aero Lloyd. From there, Erhard Milch and Sachsenberg went to work for rival Junkers Luftverkehr, where Sachsenberg had been appointed managing director. Sachsenberg only held the position until 1925, when Erhard Milch took over from him. It was in this position that Erhard Milch oversaw the merger of Junkers Luftverkehr to his previous firm of Deutscher Aero Lloyd in 1926, making him the first managing director of Deutsche Luft Hansa.
In 1933, Erhard Milch took up a position as State Secretary of the newly formed Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Reich Aviation Ministry - RLM), answering directly to Hermann Göring. In this capacity, he was instrumental in establishing the Luftwaffe, originally responsible for armament production although Ernst Udet was soon making most of the decisions concerning contracts for military aircraft. He quickly used his position to settle personal scores with other aviation industry personalities, including Hugo Junkers and Willy Messerschmitt-specifically, Erhard Milch banned the latter from submitting a design in the competition to choose a modern fighter aircraft for the new Luftwaffe. Nevertheless, Willy Messerschmitt proved an equal in political manipulation skills and managed to circumvent Erhard Milch's ban to successfully submit a design. As the Willy Messerschmitt designed Bayerische Flugzeugwerke corporate entry, the Bf 109, proved to be the winner, Willy Messerschmitt retained a very high position within the German aircraft industry, until the failure of the Me 210 aircraft. Even after that it was not necessarily Erhard Milch as the leader who did not depose of him, but, put him in an inferior position. The personal score against Messerschmitt is one of the likely reasons that Willy Messerschmitt was not allowed to personally acquire the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke BFW until July 1938, resulting in the continued use of the Bf prefix for Messerschmitt aircraft designed before Willy Messerschmitt acquisition of the company, hence the Bf- prefix being the only one used for the Messerschmitt Bf 109, as one example, in all official German documents throughout the entirety of World War II in Europe, dealing with all pre-July 1938 origin Messerschmitt aircraft designs.
In 1935, Erhard Milch's ethnicity came into question because his father, Anton Milch, was rumoured to be a Jew. This prompted an investigation by the Gestapo that Hermann Göring suppressed by producing an affidavit signed by Erhard Milch's mother stating that Anton was not really the father of Erhard and his six siblings, and naming their true father as Karl Brauer, her deceased uncle. These events and his being issued a German Blood Certificate, by Adolf Hitler, prompted Hermann Göring to say famously Wer Jude ist, bestimme ich (I decide who is a Jew).
At the outbreak of World War II Erhard Milch, now with the rank of general, commanded Luftflotte 5 during the Norwegian campaign. Following the defeat of France, Erhard Milch was promoted to field-marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) and given the title Air Inspector General. Erhard Milch was put in charge of the production of planes during this time, and his many mistakes were key to the loss of German air superiority as the war progressed. Due to changing the designs and aircraft requirements frequently, manufacturers like Messerschmitt were unable to focus on aircraft output: additionally, the Germans failed to put their production on a war footing, continuing to run factories only for eight hours a day and failing to include women in the workforce. German aircraft production did not rise as steep as the Allied and especially the Soviet ones, who out produced the Germans in 1942 and 1943. In 1944 Erhard Milch sided with Joseph Goebbels and Heinrich Himmler in attempting to convince Adolf Hitler to remove Hermann Göring from command of the Luftwaffe following the failed invasion of the Soviet Union. When Adolf Hitler refused, Hermann Göring retaliated by forcing Erhard Milch out of his position. For the rest of the war, he worked under Albert Speer. Albert Speer's reforms were able to increase German military output drastically, including aircraft production, but it was too late by then.
Following Adolf Hitler's suicide, Erhard Milch attempted to flee Germany, but was captured by Allied forces on the Baltic coast on 4 May 1945. On surrendering he presented his baton to the Commando Brigadier Derek Mills-Roberts, who was so disgusted by what he had seen when liberating the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp that he broke the baton over Erhard Milch's head.
In 1947, Erhard Milch was tried as a war criminal by a United States Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. He was convicted of two counts:
1. War crimes by participating in the ill-treatment and use for forced labor of prisoners of war and the deportation of civilians to the same ends
2. Crimes against humanity by participating in the murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, imprisonment, torture, and use for slave labor of civilians who came under German control, German nationals, and prisoners of war.
Erhard Milch was sentenced to life imprisonment at Landsberg prison. His sentence was commuted to 15 years imprisonment in 1951, but he was released in June 1954. He lived out the remainder of his life at Düsseldorf, where he died in 1972.
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