Military Training in Specialized Divisions: Flieger HJ


Figure 1.--The first step in the Flieger-HJ was to build and fly model gliders. His uniform looks to be just like an ordinary HJ uniform. The shirt, however, may have been blue.

Soon after Hitler's appointment as chancellor, the Hitler Youth organization (HJ) seized control of the German youth movement. An air division, the Flieger program, was establlshed within the HJ. It proved to be a very popular program. Older HJ boys began working with gliders. Thus when Hitler formally announced the creation of the Luftwaffe (1935), a program was in place that was producing recruits with aeronautical experience for the Luftwaffe. The program was very popular with HJ boys. World War II accounts of the air war generally focus on the planes involved. Less well covered is the preparation of the pilots. The German Luftwaffe began the War with the bestvtrained as most effective pplots and air crews of the War. (The one exception was the small elite pilots of the Japanese First Air Fleet.) Part of the reason for this was the experience of the Luftwaffe in Spain. But a major reason was the large Flieger HJ program which meant that the Luftwaffe had access to large numbers of young men with basic aviation experience.

Weimar Era (1919-33)

World War I created a tremendous interest in aviation. This was not just in Germany, but throughout Europe and America. People like Charles Lindburg, Wiley Post, Amelia Aerhart, and Jimmy Doolittle were drawn into aviation during the inter-war era. The Versailles Treaty prohibited a German air force, but there were no limitations on gliding. As a result, gliding, became a popular activity in Germany. Gliding clubs sprung up all over Germany. We are not sure to what extent the German military was involved in promoting gliding activities during the Weimar era, butbelkieve they were. The Germans trained pilots in the Soviet Union under the Rapallo Treaty. The glider clubs allowed training to take place in Germany. The Deutsche Luftsportverband (German Airsport Association--DLV) was the most important organization promoting gliding. They actively recruited young people into the program.

Nationalsozialistisches Flieger Korps--NSFK (1932)

NAZI aviation enthusiasts organized the the Nationalsozialistisches Flieger Korps (National Socialist Flying Corps--NSFK) as a official NSDAP (NAZI) Party unit (January 1932). It began as a Party flying/gliding sports club. We are not sure about who was involved, but it appears to have been an initiative by Party members rather than an order from Hitler or other Party leader. It was admitted to the Deutscher Luftsport Verband (DLV). The stated purpose of the NSFK was to promote an interest in aviation throughout the country. The NSFK was organized into three divisions: powered flight, gliders and ballooning. It was, like much of the main-line NAZI units, a male group, but girls and women were allowed to participate in events. Available photographic images suggest that such participation was limited. The NSFK worked closely with the expanding Hitler Youth movement, but wa not part of it. The NSFK organized a range of activities, including glider model building and flying competitions for the completed gliders. The NSFK organized an educational program including classes on aeronautics. Those who cimpleted the class work could build and fly actual gliders. Gliding was the NSFK's principal activity, butv they also organized ballooning and balloon competitions. As was common in NAZI organizations, a range of sporting events were oromoted. As part of this effort, the NSFK operated a ski school at Zell-am-See in Austria. There were about 4,000 glider flying sites located throughout Germany. And the NSFK conducted activities at many of these sites. The NSFK as it developed opened 16 gliding/aviation schools and 4 larger State Soaring Schools (Reichssegelschulen). The soaring school at Wasserkuppe in the Rhon mountains bcame well known. The Fliegerdenkmal was built as a memorial to Germany's World War I aviators. After Hitler seized power , he issued a Fuhrer decree establishing the NSFK as a legal Reich corporation providing access to state funding (1937). Hitler subsequently disbanded another German aeronautical organization--the Deutsche Luftsport Verband (DLV). The NSFK was headed by a Korpsfuhrer. The first Korpsfuhrer was Friedrich Christiansen. He was a World War I seaplane ace who claimed downing 20 Allied planes and an airship. Only 13 of his air victories were confirmed. With the outbreak of the War he was called up for military service and given command of the Wehrmacht in the Netherlands (1940-45). He was arrested after the War for war crimes and given a 12 year sentence. After the NAZI take over, the NSFK with state fundung expabded its aeronautical educational activities. And they continued to organize aviation events. This included model flight competitions, glider competitions and events called flying days. The NSFK members were also exposed for the first time with powered flight (both single and dual engined aircraft). Membership in the NSFK was voluntary. The Members of the NSFK were prohibited from being members of other associations or NAZI units like the SS, the SA or the National Socialist Motor Corps (NSKK). We are not sure why the SA and SS were excluded or how these organizations reacted to this action. NSFK members could earn a pilot license, but this license was not recognized by the Luftwaffe. NSFK pilots thus had to complete Luftwaffe flight training to become a military pilot. NSFK aircraft and gliders largely shared airfield space with Luftwaffe units and squadrons. The NSFK is of some importance because it helped create a pool of trained pilots that the Luftwadfe could draw on. One of the Luftwaffe's major advantages in the Battle of Britain was the larger pool of well-trained pilots. Large numbers of Luftwaffe pilots were first attracted to aviation as a result of NSFK activities as well as received their first pilot training in the NSFK. Some 16,000 gliders were produced by Germans, mostly youth, during World war II. Boys could begin their training toward earning a glider pilots rating at age 14 years. As the HJ grew and was made compulsory (1936), almost all of these boys would have been HJ members.

Luftwaffe Created (1933-35)

The new Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, soon after taking office appointed one of his cloest associates, Herman Göring, as National Commissar for Aviation and former Lufthansa employee, Erhard Milch, to be his deputy. This enabeled Göring and Milch not only to coordinate the programs alread secretly in place by the German military, but to use the vast new sums approved by Hitler for aew German airforce. Soon afterwards, Hitler created the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM - Reich Air Ministry) (March 1933). The RLM was created to developm and produce new aircraft. Its cover was that it was working on civilian aviation. A test site was opened at Rechlin. Hitler looked on Göring with his World War I experience for expertise in aviation. As a result, Göring had absolute control over all aspects of aviation in the Reich. The NAZIs next seized control of the Deutschen Luftsportverband (DVLA--German Air Sport Association) March 23, 1933). It proceeded to absorb all private and national organizations, while retaining its 'sports' title. The RLM scretly took control of all military aviation organizations (May 15, 1933). While not announced at the time, this was n fact the creatioin of the Luftwaffe. At this time members of the Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps (NSFK--National Socialist Flyers Corps) transferred to the Luftwaffe. As these men were NAZI Party members, this gave the Luftwaff from its very creation, a NAZI core. While the there was considerable support for the NAZIs in the Heer, the other services did not have a NAZI core. Luftwaffe a strong Nazi ideological base in contrast to the other branches of the German military. Göring despite his leadership post, left the development of the new service to Milch and other subordinates with actual expertise. Führer Adolf Hiter ordered Reichmarshal Herman Göring to formally establish the Luftwaffe (February 26, 1935). The Versailles Treaty was still theoretically in force. Göring announced the existence of the until then secret Luftwaffe (March 10). This must have been carefully coergraphed with Hitler in advance. It is unclear why it was Göring who made the announcement. Of course he was the head of the new Luftwaffe, but an announcement of such significane you would think would be made by Hitler. As a violation of the Versailles Treaty, it could have meant Allied intervention. Presumably because Göring made the announcement, Hitler had some room for maneuver if the Allies threatened to intervene, but they did not. This left Hitler free to make an event more important announcement. Shortly after Göring's announcenent and following the celevbation marking the return of the Saarland to Germany, Hitler announced his the new Luftwaffe to the German public. Sureptitious steps taken by the German military before and after the NAZI takeover made this a less daunting proposition than it might seem. The personnel was lrgely drawn from the Heer. This had the consequence of creating a tctical support mentality in the new Lutwaffe which bwould have significant consequences for World War II. (The American and British air forces had a more strategic vission.) Hitler also announced a new military conscription program. Both were flagrant violations of the Versailles Treaty. This would have justified the Allied reoocupation of Germany. Britain and France took no action beyond purfunctoary diplomatic protests. Allied kleaders as erll as the general public had no stomache for it. In fact Britain, bent on appeasing Hitler, proceeded to reward him with a naval treaty.

Early HJ Air Activities (1933-36)

A range of activities air activities were devised for interested DJ and HJ boys from an early point. This began even before the Luftwaffe and Fliger-HJ was established. DJ and HJ boys built gliders and then participated in annual glider flying competitions. Here they participated in the already existing prograns established by the NSFK, a kind of NAZI Party gliding/flying club. Gliding clubs had been an important feature of sport in Germany during the 1920s. Thev HJ from an early stage worked closely with the NSFK which had begun as nore of aouth/young adult group. The HJ arranged for HJ boys as young as 14 years of age to join (1934). Younger boys could participate in NSFK-organized competitions. Both DJ and HJ boys built and flew model gliders. Some 1,550 boys participated in the 1936 copetition and this was before the HJ became compulsory. The boys after the Luftwaffe was made public (1935) created visited Luftwaffe facilities, usually air fields where they could admire the new planes rolling off the production lines. Some boys were able to go on rides in the planes, both fighters and bombers.

Flieger HJ Foundation (1937)

The HJ was an exciting experience for many younger boys. But after a few years, many boys found the repetitive routine rather boring. Reichsjugendführung Baldur von Schirach took note of reports of boys being bored with the standard HJ program. The HJ leadership thus came up with specialized uniys to provide a more varied program as well as to meet the growing needs of the rapidly expanding German military. The regular HJ had a minor program providing some flying activities, but it was not an air dedicated program. The boys were also involved in the standard HJ programs. Hitler approved making the Nationalsozialistisches Flieger Korps (NSFK) a state organization (1937). The NSFK was for older teenagers. Firm an early point it wirked with the HJ Movement. The success of the NSFK inspired the HJ to create the Flieger-HJ (1937). The HJ seized upon this potential and thus created the Flieger-HJ in 1937 shortly after the NSFK was made a state organization.

Popularity

One of the most popular and largest HJ divisions was the Flieger-HJ (Hitler Youth Flyers). Boys interested in airplanes and flying signed up for the Flieger-HJ.

Membership

The Flieger-HJ was open to any HJ member interest in aviation. As origininally constituted, interested boys had to successfully complere 2 years in the HJ Jungvolk bedefore applying to join the Flieger-HJ. This changed after the War began. The HJ requirement was reduced to 3 months. We are not sure just how many boys joined the Flieger-HJ. As far as we know only boys participated. We do not know if any boys could join or if there were restrictions such as eye sight. We are not sure how many boys joined the Fliger-HJ. One report indicated that there were 80.000 members (1944).

Membership Fees

HJ members paid small fees to help finance some of the activities. HJ-Flieger members paid slightly higher membership fees. This was primarily because the Flieger activuities involved greater expenses.

Activities

The Flieger-HJ program was designed to teach boys the basic principles of flying. Younger boys began by building building model airplanes for the first 2-years of the program. Here the focus was model gliders that the boys could actually tesst out. This helped to stimulate interest as well as to present basic principles of aeronautics. They were also instructed in the theory of flight. The younger boys would help man the catapults that launched older boys in actual glider training. After the younger boys completing the model phase of the program they proceeded to prepare to fly actual gliders. The boys worked on A, B, and the advanced C level of glider certifications. The boys that were successful with gliders would progress into the Luftwaffe. Gliding was very useful in honing flying skills. Many Luftwaffe's pilots began as glider pilots and the Flieger-HJ provided greatly expanded opportunities for boys to work with gliders. The HJ organized an annual Flieger-HJ aviation competition. The boys competed to find who built the best model airplanes. The primary competition was to find whose model glider could fly the longest distance. The awards given were highly prized bythe boys. In one year there were 1,500 paticipants in the competition.

World War II

The War significantly altered the Fliger-HJ activities, especially after the War began to go against Germany. Fliegerabwehrkanone (FLAK) anti-aircraft batteries were at first manned by Luftwaffe personnel. As more men were needed at the front, the Luftwaffe began to us HJ members and other civilian personnel. As the air war inteensified over Germany, all Flieger-HJ members were liable for service as "Luftwaffenhelfer" in manning German FLAK guns (1943). Actual experience depended on location. It was the older boys who manned the guns. The younger Flieger-HJ boys were given support assignments such as communications and manning searchlights. Communications was important because the bombing could knock out telephone lines. The boys thus served as couriers. The German Luftwaffe wasworking on several advanced weapons system at the end of the War. One of the most suceesful was the ME-262 jet fighter. This was a very complicatecplane to build and required a very experienced pilot. The Germans were developing less complicated jets. The Americans essentially defeated the Luftwaffe in early 1944 with the intriduction of the P-51 Mustang escorts. This left the FLAK batteries as the primary firce defending German cities. The FLAK batteries could extract a price, but could not stop the bombers. The Germans hoped to win back control of German air space by introducing large numbers of new jets. Hitler authorized Luftwaffe Chief Göring to prepare the entire 1944 class of Flieger-HJ boys to be prepared for jet aircraft (September 1944). The plan was was to prepare the qualifying Flieger-HJ boys for combat duties with the Luftwaffe as the Soviets and Western Alles reached the borders of the Reich. . There were several new jets. The mainstay of the new jet defense was the Heinkel HE-162 Volksjäger. Fliger-HJ boys were primarily to be prepared for the HE-262, but some boys were assigned to other aircraft. Production of the HE-162 began (early January 1945). The Luftwaffe set up a HJ-Flieger training facility for jet aircraft certification at Trebbin. Units equipped with He 162s began to become operational (April 1945), but by this time it was too late. German cities were piles of rubble. The Soviets and Allies were poring into German. Hitler committed suiside (April 30) and the NAZIs surrendered (May 7). He 162 was a very effective plane which given a few more months could have done agreat deal of damage.

Luftwaffe Role

The Luftwaffe supported close relationships between its personnel and those of the Flieger-HJ. This is understandable because the Luftwaffe wanted to train them as pilots and other specialties.One report suggests that Luftwaffe recruiters "quietly evaluating the best and the brightest students for future transfer to the new Luftwaffe". We are not sure how this was done. We have noted reports of Luftwaffe men taking up Flieger-HJ boys in actual aircraft, both flifgters and bombers. Presumably the Liftwaffe set up a program to create official contacts with Fliger-HJ units. This may have orimarily been with units clise to air bases, but we have few details at this time. We are not sure just how this was organized. The Luftwaffe a;so sponsored "open house" visits for Flieger-HJ members. During and after these events, the Luftwaffe would take Fliger-HJ boys aloft as "observers". Of course this would impress any young boy. Especially promising boys were made a future Fahnrich, or officer cadet. This guaranteed that when they reached the age for military service that would join the Luftwaffe.

Uniform

We have few details about the Flieger-HJ uniform. The Flieger-HJ wore destinctive Luftwaffe-blue uniforms piped in sky-blue. Other than this we know nothing about the uniform. And unfirtunately this dies not show up well in the black-and-white photography of the day. We are not sure if this just means that they wore a blue rather than a brown shirt. We do not note any any other aspects of the uniform was similar to the Luftwaffe uniform. Some HJ-Flieger units were had destinctive flags or pennants.

Individual Experiences

Flieger-HJ: Hans

A HBC reader has provided us this fascinating account of a Flieger-HJ boy. In 1946 when I was with the 1st US Infantry Division, 26th Infantry I met Hans who was living in Ludwisgburg, Germany. His sister who became one of the first German war brides was married to my good friend and I was their best man. Hans told ne how he was not only in the Flieger-HJ, but flew the ME-163 rocket plane.

Significance

When Hitler formally announced the creation of the Luftwaffe (1935), a program was in place that was producing recruits with aeronautical experience for the Luftwaffe. The program was very popular with HJ boys. World War II accounts of the air war generally focus on the planes involved. Less well covered is the preparation of the pilots. The German Luftwaffe began the War with the bestvtrained as most effective pplots and air crews of the War. (The one exception was the small elite pilots of the Japanese First Air Fleet.) Part of the reason for this was the experience of the Luftwaffe in Spain. But a major reason was the large Flieger HJ program which meant that the Luftwaffe had access to large numbers of young men with basic aviation experience. HJ and other glider training gave Luftwaffe and advantages over many of their opponents in aerial combat, especially battles during the critical first year of the War over France and Britain. The Flieger-HJ played a major role in the defense of the Reich by manning FLAK batteries. Flier-HJ boys were being prepared to fly new jets when the War ended.







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Created: August 9, 2002
Last updated: 5:38 AM 7/29/2013