21.02.

1994: Johannes Steinhoff – Luftwaffe Fighter Ace who Became the Head of NATO

1994: Johannes Steinhoff – Luftwaffe Fighter Ace who Became the Head of NATO
Photo Credit To http://portal-militaergeschichte.de/sites/default/files/field/image/General%20Johannes%20Steinhoff.jpg

Johannes Steinhoff performed almost 1,000 combat missions as a member of Nazi Germany’s air force – the Luftwaffe. He shot down as many as 176 enemy planes. It is interesting that the German air force is still called the Luftwaffe today, and uses the Iron Cross (German: Eisernes Kreuz) as its symbol.

 

German air force general Johannes Steinhoff died on this day in 1994. He is interesting because he held very high positions in NATO and the German Bundeswehr (armed forces) despite the fact that he had previously been a fighter ace in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Namely, Steinhoff performed almost 1,000 combat missions and shot down as many as 176 enemy planes. He was awarded the high decoration called the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern).

 

After the end of World War II Steinhoff served in the West German air force. It is interesting that the German air force is still called the Luftwaffe today, and uses the Iron Cross (German: Eisernes Kreuz) as its symbol (the armed forces as a whole were renamed from “Wehrmacht” to “Bundeswehr”). Furthermore, the parade uniform of Luftwaffe officers is not significantly different from the one that was used in the Third Reich, apart from some details (of course, it no longer includes a swastika!).

 

Johannes Steinhoff reached the rank of Luftwaffe General (German: General der Luftwaffe after the end of World War II, and later became its Chief of Staff. That position is today called “Inspekteur der Luftwaffe” in Germany today, just like the head of the Bundeswehr is called the “Generalinspekteur der Bundeswehr”. Namely, the Germans sought to remove the titles “Chief of Staff” after the war, so that titles using the word “Inspector” were introduced.

 

In 1971 General Steinhoff even became the head of the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee. He died on this day in Bonn, aged 80.

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