Hitler Youth Personal Account: Hans (Flieger-HJ)

A HBC reader has provided us this fascinating account of a Flieger-HJ boy. Fortunately survived the War. Sadly his older brother who was in the Luftwaffe was killed trying to fly supplies into the 6th Army surrounded at Stalingrad.

Occupation Duty

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.

School

Hans was from Berlin and went to school there. Most of his schooling was in Berlin, but I don't know much about it. [HBC note: While we know nothing about Hans' schooling, HBC has compiled considerable information about NAZI education.]

Flieger-HJ

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. The Flieger-HJ wore destinctive Luftwaffe-blue uniforms. The Flieger-HJ was designed to teach boys the basic principles of flying. I believe Hans was in the Flieger-HJ. All I am positive about, however, that he was in the Hitler Youth and he trained in flying gliders. This could have meant that he was in the Fliger-HJ or that he was drafted by the Lutwaffe and trained to fly gliders there as part of pilot training. He said he really enjoyed flying gliders. It was in Bavaria near the Alps where they trained and they can easily pick up the updrafts.

Uniform

The Flieger-HJ had a blue uniform. Other than the color, I am not sure if there wereany other similarities with the Luftwaffe uniform. I am not sure, however, if this just meant a blue rather than a brown shirt. We have few details about th Flieger-HJ uniform. The boys did wear short pants, although I am not sure if they were black.

Final Months of World War II

Allied armies from east and west had breached the defenses of the Reich in early 1945 and were pouring into Germny. Bombers had pulverised German cities. By the final months of the War there were few industrail targets left standing. German cities looked like wastelands. Hitler Jugend boys and old men were called up or volunteered for the Volkstrum in a futile effort to stop huge armies of well-equipped and trained men.

Secret Weapons

Hitler by late 1944 no longer spoke to the German people in sharp contrast to earlier years when he ws a constant presence on German radio. His deteriorating physical condition, relentlessly depressing reports from the fronts, and the destructon of German cities by Allied bombing were all factors. Hitler's mouth piece Josef Goebbels became his spokesman. Goebbels raged about vengenance and secrt weapons. There were indeed secret weapons. The world's first combat jet, the ME-262, was introduced in 1944. It was an inovative extremely effective fighter and if properly used could have severely impaired the Allied air campaign. Hitler's interference, however, prevented it from being effectively used. The V1 were used to target London and other British cities after the D-Day landings in June 1944. The V1 could be shot down, but there was no defense against the V-2 balistic missles which soon followed. There were many other projects under development or on the drawingboards. Especially significant was a new generation of jet fighters. Only the Allied bombing camapign prevented some from actually being built.

Allied Bombing

One of the countroversies surrounding World War II is the Allied bombing campaign of Germany. Of course it was the Germans who began bombing civilian populations as a terror tactict to destroy civilian morale. This began even before the World War II during the Spanish Civil War with the bombing of Guernica in 1937?. Once the World War II began the tactic was used on Warsaw (September 1939), Rotterdam (May 1940), and on numerous British cities (1940-41). Once America joined the War in December 1941, a much larger bombing campaign was launched on Germany which by 1943 began to inflict serious civilian casulties. After D-Day (June 1944), the Allied bombing campaign was significantly intensified. The Americans bombing by day, attempting to hit specific targets using the Nordon bomb sites. The British bombed by night and at best could hit specific cities. Large numbers of German civilians were killed, injured, or rendered homeless. Contrary to popular conceptions, the German economy was not effectively harnessed for war. Only when Albert Speer was put in charge did German industry begin to reach some of its potential. The Germans, as a result, despite the bombing were able to expand war production. Here the question that should be asked is how much more they could have expanded production had it not been for the bombing. The bombing significantly clearly disrupted the economy and the ability of the NAZIs to persue their development of new weapons.


Figure 1.--The ME-163B Komet was the only operational rocket-powered aircraft of World War II. The plane was capable of spectacular performance, it had higher climb rates and speeds than any other plane deployed in the War. It was also the most dangerous.

The ME-163B Komet

One of the secret German weapons was the Messerschmitt (ME) 163B rocket plane, the first combat rocket plane. The plane was not ready for comat use as the Allies poured into Germany. The Luftwaffe was, however, desperate and pushed by the NAZIs, deployed it against Allied bombers. The ME-163B Komet was the only operational rocket-powered aircraft of World War II. The plane was capable of spectacular performance, it had higher climb rates and speeds than any other plane deployed in the War. It was also the most dangerous. It used highly combustible rocket fuels and was difficult to land. One especially serious problem was the wheels were part of a undercarriage that was jetesoned after takeoff.

Luftwaffe Pilots

The Luftwaffe never ran out of aircraft in World War II. Their major problem was fuel and pilots. Supplies of fuel was severely disrupted by Allied bombing. Fuel shortages forced the Lutwaffe to cancel a parachutte drop that was susposed to be part of Operation Autumn Mist--the German December 1944 offensive in Belgium known to Americans as the Battle of the Buldge. In addition to the fuel shortages, pilots were being shot down in record numbers by late 1944. Luftwaffe pilot losses became increasingly heavy with the American introduction of the P-51 Mustang in 1944 which could accompany the bomber formations all the way to Berlin and other targets in Germany. Luftwaffe Commander Reichmarchal Goerring is reported to have first realized that the War was lost when the P-51 fighters first appeaed over Berlin. Luftwaffe pilots were being shot down faster than they could be trained and replaced. The fuel shortage meant that in addition to limiting operations, effective training programs were impossible. Thus new Luftwaffe pilots in 1944 and 1945 were generally poorly trained and fared poorly against experienced Allied pilots.

Flieger-HJ Pilots

In the final months of the War in 1945 young boys, members of the Fliger-HJ were pressed into service. Everything was falling to pieces in Germany during March and April of 1945. HBU asked Rob de Bie, who has put together a wonderful web site on the ME-163B Komet, if he had any information about using Flieger-HJ boys as pilots in the closing months of the War. Given the dangers of the Komet, you would think they might have been reluctant in using increasingly hard to find trained pilots. Rob replied, "That's a very good point, which I hadn't considered for this page. I've made a note to update the page with some remarks about it. The only HJ-related things I can come up with are the following. I did get a question once whether I could confirm that a certain HJ member had actually flown a Komet at Peenemunde. But that turned up nothing. The links page contains a link to "Joe Valmar's story" which sounds like HJ pilots being readied for Komet operations. And possibly Mr Kurz, the man who built the flying replica, was in a similar situation. That's all!" [DeBie]

Hans' Flieger-HJ Group

Han's group was pressed into the war effort. He was only 16 years old at the time. He just turned sixteen and the rest of his group were in the same age bracket. Hans was made a pilot of the ME-163B Komet rocket plane. He had no qualifications other than his membership in the Fliger-HJ and the fact that he had begun flying gliders.

Training

Hans' commanders rushed him into flying the rocket 163. This plane was launched by a rocket sled and had six rocket pods for propulsion. Two to gain altitude then glide in a hovering position; two pods were used to attack the bombers, and two pods to get back to base. Hans indicated his instructors tried to make them fly in formation, but the rocket pods had a different burning ratio and some flew faster which did not suit their flying instructors. Hans spoke mostly of German regimentation, everything had to be done according to the rules and regulation. Just like flying in formation, but the rocket burning ratio was different for each plane.

Flight Suits

The dangerous fuels used in he ME-163 Walter rocket engine made it necessary for pilots to wear protective clothing or flight suits. The ME-163 cockpit and center fuselage contained T-Stoff tanks. T-Stoff is a highly concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide. When it comes in contact with most materials, including most common fabrics and skin, it decomposes and releases oxygen. Very quickly the oxygen content of the enclosed cockpit exceeded a level where spontaneous combustion of cloth fabrics would occurs. The effect on unprotected skin was also a matter of great concern. T-Stoof had a strong etching effect, similar but much stronger than the use of modern diluted solutions of hydrogen peroxide to bleach hair. As a result, the ME-163 pilots were issued protective overalls. They were made from 'PC-fibers/'PVC-fibers' depending on the source. The suits, however, did not ofer complete protection. [DeBie]

Combat Mission

Hans' first and only mission was a disaster. He reached his altitude position and when he saw the B-17s flying in formation he attacked. Before he could get his sights on any of the B 17ís he flew right by at such a speed he didnít even fire his weapons. Then he used up his last two pods; however, he was too far from his base and finally crashed. When Hans ME 163 ran out of fuel, the ME 163 became a glider and this was the most vunerable time to be shot down. Hans was gliding and he knew he was being followed by P-51 Mustang, but this person didn't fire his weapons on him knowing the aircraft couldn't reach his field and the territory below was in Allied hands. Fifty five years later in Los Angeles, there was a meeting of World War II veterans of both sides and Hans met the fighter pilot who followed him down and when he crashed his ME 163. They are now friends.

Capture

Hans managed to land his plane--a notable accomplishment. He was captured by the British. He took off his flying suit and he was wearing the HJ short trouser uniform. Hans just turned 16-years old and he was small in stature and looked like a little boy. The British were amazed because he looked so young. Like I said he probably looked like a 12-year old. He was treated well by the British. The War ended in May and the British just sent him home.

After the War

The second part of his story was when he came back to Berlin, an intelligence unit of US military contacted him and wanted him to come to the United States, becuase he was one of the few living pilots that flew the ME 163; however, he asked if he could bring his mother, sister and his brother and this was refused. (This was similar to Werner Von Braun).

Hans as older teen ager also wore short pants. He commonly wore lederhosen when I knew him in 1946-47. During the summer months the majority of boys wore shorts. The years right after the war, especially 1946 was terribly hard for the Germans. Clothing was scarce and the lederhosen never wore out, in fact they got more comfortable with age. That is the reason almost all the youngsters wore lederhosen, if not regular short trousers. Germany was occupied by the four powers, the British, Soviets, French, and Americans. The Soviets were actively dismantling most of the industry and shipping it back to Russia. The war trials in Nuremberg and the De-Nazification courts were going on throughout Germany. Most of the cities were destroyed. In Nuremberg when you drove through the walled city the width of the road was no wider than a jeep and it was not a straight line. It wasn't until the Marshall Plan (1948) began to be implemented that Germany and Europe turned around economically.

Later Life

I met Hans in Ludwigsburg. The city of Ludwigsburg was one of the few city that wasn't bombed. Ludwigsburg is about 20 kilometers from Stuttgart.He attended the Stuttgart Institute of Engineering where after the war, half day was clearing the rubble and construction. The second half of the day was for their education. He did that for 3 years. After his sister got married to my friend, Hans and his younger brother (about 11) came to the United States in 1951. My friend sponsored his wife's family. Shortly thereafter he was drafted by the US Army and served his time in Europe with the US Army Corps of Engineers. The youngest brother (Wolfgang) now is an owner of Mercedes Benz Auto Dealership and Hans was a successful General Contractor.

Sources

Rob de Bie, "Me-163-B Commet," internet site accessed Auguat 10, 2002.

Rob de Bie, e-Mail, Auguat 15, 2002.







HBU





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Created August 9, 2002
Last updates: March 12, 2003