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Monday, 9 March 2015

Robert Ritter von Greim

Robert Ritter von Greim

Career:

Branch: Luftwaffe
Born: 22 June 1892 in Bayreuth, Germany.
Died: 24 May 1945 in Salzburg, Austria.

Ranks:
Generalfeldmarschall 25 April 1945
Generaloberst 16 February 1943
General der Flieger 19 July 1940
Generalleutnant 1 January 1940
Generalmajor 1 February 1938
Oberst 20 April 1936
Oberstleutnant 1 September 1935
Major 1 January 1934
Hauptmann 15 February 1921
Oberleutnant 17 January 1917
Leutnant 25 October 1913
Fähnrich 7 January 1912

Decorations:
Iron Cross 1914
2nd Class 26 November 1914
1st Class 10 October 1915
Knight's Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords 29 April 1918
Knight's Cross of the Military Order of Max Joseph 23 October 1918
Pour le Mérite 14 October 1918
Cross of Honor
Iron Cross 1939
2nd Class
1st Class
Combined Pilots-Observation Badge in Gold with Diamonds 17 April 1945
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Knight's Cross 24 June 1940
Oak Leaves 2 April 1943
Swords 28 August 1944

Commands:

Personal Information:

Robert Ritter von Greim was born on 22 June 1892 and became a German Field Marshal, pilot, army officer, and the last commander of the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) during the Second World War.

Early years

Born in Bayreuth, son of a Bavarian police captain, Robert Ritter von Greim was an army cadet before World War I and initially served in the artillery before transferring to the German Air Service (Fliegertruppe) in 1915.

While flying two-seaters in FFA 3b as an artillery spotter observer, Robert Ritter von Greim claimed his first aerial victory: a Farman, on 10 October 1915. He also served with FAA 204 over the Somme. After taking pilot training Robert Ritter von Greim joined FA 46b in February 1917.

Robert Ritter von Greim then joined Jagdstaffel 34 in April 1917. He scored on 25 May 1917, and became an ace by 16 August 1917. By 16 October, his victory tally totalled 7.

There was a lull in his successes until February 1918. On the 11th, he had an unconfirmed victory and on the 18th he notched up number 8.

In March 1918 he became CO of Jagdgruppe 10. His ninth victory came on 21 March 1918. He flew with them until at least 18 June, when he notched his 15th claim. In June 1918, Robert Ritter von Greim had an encounter with a Bristol Fighter, and his aircraft lost its cowling. This struck and damaged his top wing, along with the lower left interplane strut, but he managed to land the machine successfully.

By 7 August 1918 he was commanding Jagdgruppe 9, and scored his 16th victory. On 23 August, he cooperated with Vizefeldwebel Johan Putz in what was arguably the first successful assault by aircraft on armored tanks. On 27 September, he scored his final (and 25th) victory while flying with Jagdgruppe 9.

He returned to Jasta 34 in October 1918, after the Jasta had been equipped with 'cast-offs' from Jagdgeschwader (JG) I, the unit which had been commanded by Manfred von Richthofen until his death in action on 21 April. Even though the machines were second-hand, they were warmly welcomed by Jasta 34 as being superior to the older Albatros and Pfalz fighters that they had been previously equipped with. His final three victories came during this time.

By the war's end he had scored 28 victories, and had been awarded the Pour le Mérite on 8 October, as well as the Bavarian Military Order of Max Joseph (Militär-Max Joseph-Orden). This latter award made him a Knight (Ritter), and allowed him to add both this honorific title and the style 'von' to his name. Thus Robert Robert Ritter von Greim became Robert Ritter von Greim.

Between the wars

After the war, Robert Ritter von Greim was unsuccessful in finding a place in the Reichswehr, the 100,000-man army that the Versailles Treaty permitted Germany. As a result he focused on a career in law, and succeeded in passing Germany's rigorous law exams. However, he was asked by Chiang Kai-Shek's government to come to Canton, China to help build a Chinese air force. Robert Ritter von Greim went with his family to China where he founded a flying school and initiated measures for the development of an air force. Robert Ritter von Greim's opinion of his Chinese pupils was not high, perhaps because of the contemporary belief among Europeans that Asians were unable to operate complicated machinery. He said in a letter that The Chinese will never make good fliers, they have absolutely no fine touch with the stick. Even before the Nazis came to power, Robert Ritter von Greim realised that his proper place was not in the expatriate community in China, but in Germany, and he returned to his native country.

In 1933, Robert Ritter von Greim was asked by Hermann Göring to help rebuild the German Air Force and in 1934 was appointed to the command of the first fighter pilot school, following the closure of the secret flying school established near the city of Lipetsk in the Soviet Union during the closing days of the Weimar Republic. (Germany had been forbidden to have an air force under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, so it had to train pilots in secret.)

In 1938, he assumed command of the Luftwaffe department of research. Later, Robert Ritter von Greim was awarded command of Jagdgeschwader 132 Richthofen (later JG 2), based in Doeberitz, a fighter group named after Manfred von Richthofen.

World War II

When the war began, Robert Ritter von Greim was given command of a Luftflotte (Air Wing) and was involved in the invasion of Poland, the Battle for Norway, the Battle of Britain and Operation Barbarossa.

In late 1942, his only son, Hubert Greim, a Bf-109 pilot with 11./JG 2 Richthofen was listed as missing in Tunisia. He was shot down by a Spitfire flown by a Royal Australian Air Force pilot,Flt.Lt. Robert Maxwell Brinsley, but bailed out and spent the remainder of the war in a prison camp in the United States.

Robert Ritter von Greim's greatest tactical achievement was his Luftflotte's involvement in the battle of Kursk and his planes bombing of the Orel bulge. It was for this battle that Adolf Hitler awarded Robert Ritter von Greim the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Das Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern des Eisernen Kreuzes), which made him one of the most highly decorated military officers.

The end of the war

On 26 April 1945, when Soviet forces had reached Berlin and the Reich was all but doomed, Generaloberst (Colonel-General) Robert Ritter von Greim flew into Berlin from Munich with the noted female pilot (and also his intimate companion) Hanna Reitsch, in response to an order from Adolf Hitler. Their Fieseler Storch was hit by anti-aircraft fire over the Grunewald and Robert Ritter von Greim was wounded in the leg. Hanna Reitsch took over the aircraft and landed on an improvised air strip in the Tiergarten near the Brandenburg Gate.

Adolf Hitler promoted Robert Ritter von Greim to Generalfeldmarschall (Field Marshal), making him the last German officer to achieve that rank, and then appointed him head of the Luftwaffe to replace Hermann Göring. Adolf Hitler had recently dismissed Hermann Göring in absentia for treason. Von Robert Ritter von Greim thus became the second man to command the German Air Force during the Third Reich. However, with the end of the war in Europe fast approaching, his tenure as Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe lasted only days.

On 28 April, Adolf Hitler ordered Robert Ritter von Greim to leave Berlin and have Hanna Reitsch fly him to Plön so that he could arrest Heinrich Himmler for treason. That night, they only just managed to get away, taking off from the Tiergarten strip before the eyes of soldiers of the Soviet 3rd Shock Army - who initially feared they had just seen Adolf Hitler's escape. Later, in an interview, both Robert Ritter von Greim and Hanna Reitsch kept repeating: It was the blackest day when we could not die at our Führer's side. Then they added as tears kept running down Hanna Reitsch's cheeks: We should all kneel down in reverence and prayer before the altar of the Fatherland. When asked what the Altar of the Fatherland was, completely taken aback, they responded: Why, the Führer's bunker in Berlin....
On 8 May, the same day as the surrender of the Third Reich, Robert Ritter von Greim was captured by American soldiers in Austria. Robert Ritter von Greim was slated to be part of a Soviet-American prisoner exchange program and, fearing torture and execution at the hands of Joseph Stalin's NKVD, committed suicide in Salzburg, Austria, on 24 May. His final words before taking Potassium cyanide were: I am the head of the Luftwaffe, but I have no Luftwaffe.

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