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Hugo Sperrle (7 February 1885 – 2 April 1953) was a German field marshal of the Luftwaffe during World War II. His forces were deployed solely on the Western Front and the Mediterranean throughout the war. By 1944 he had become Supreme Commander of the Luftwaffe in the West, but was subsequently dismissed when his heavily outnumbered forces were not able to significantly hamper the Allied landings in Western Europe.

Hugo Sperrle
Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1987-121-30A, Hugo Sperrle.jpg
Hugo Sperrle in 1940
Born(1885-02-07)7 February 1885
Ludwigsburg, Oberamt Ludwigsburg, Kingdom of Württemberg, German Empire
Died2 April 1953(1953-04-02) (aged 68)
Munich, Bavaria, West Germany
Allegiance German Empire (1903–18)
 Weimar Republic (1918–33)
 Nazi Germany (1933–44)
Service/branchImperial German Army (1903–14)
Luftstreitkräfte (1914–18)
Reichswehr (1918–35)
Luftwaffe (1935–44)
Years of service1903–18
UnitCondor Legion
Commands heldLuftflotte 3
AwardsKnight's Cross of the Iron Cross
Spanish Cross


World War I and inter-war yearsEdit

Born in Ludwigsburg, he joined the German Army in 1903 and transferred to the Luftstreitkräfte (German Army Air Service) at the outbreak of World War I, ending the war as commander of the air components of the German 7th Army. After the war, Sperrle joined the Freikorps and then the Reichswehr. He entered the newly formed Luftwaffe in 1935 where he was soon promoted to Generalmajor.

Sperrle, with Wolfram von Richthofen, in Spain, 1936

He was the first commander of the Condor Legion during the Spanish Civil War until October 1937, with Wolfram von Richthofen serving as his chief of staff; Sperlle was directly responsible for the infamous bombing of Guernica, which involved the deliberate bombing of civilian targets by a military air force. Afterwards, he was promoted to General der Flieger. [1]

World War IIEdit

At the outbreak of the war, he led the German Luftflotte 3 (Air Fleet 3). This unit saw no action during the Poland campaign, but was committed from May onwards in France, playing an important role as tactical bombing support unit. In July 1940, he was made a Generalfeldmarschall of the Luftwaffe during the 1940 Field Marshal Ceremony. Air Fleet 3, stationed in northern France, played a major role in the Battle of Britain from June 1940 to October 1940, and the Blitz, to May 1941. In September, Sperrle engaged in a heated debate with the other Luftwaffe commanders, particularly with its Supreme Commander Hermann Göring, arguing for a continuation of the attack on British airfields and the Royal Air Force. However, Göring ordered a change in the Luftwaffe strategy, switching to assault the British cities. His forces continued to bomb Britain until the autumn of 1941.[2]

He stayed with his units in France for the next three years, living in luxury at the Luxembourg Palace. His major part in the war, however, was over. He supported Erwin Rommel in the North African Campaign and eventually took full command of the German air forces in Western Europe in 1944, shortly before Allied landings in Western Europe. His forces were badly hampered due a massive lack of aircraft, experienced crews, and fuel. Although an initial Nazi supporter, he became increasingly disillusioned with the German war effort. On D-Day, he only had 319 operational aircraft left to face the Allied armada of over 9,000 planes. Due to the subsequent inability of his units to thwart the Allied landings, he was dismissed from command in August 1944.[3]

Sperrle during the High Command Trial in Nuremberg, 1948

Sperrle was captured by the Allies and charged with war crimes in the High Command Trial at the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials but was acquitted. After the war, he lived quietly and died in Munich in 1953.[3]




  1. ^ Williamson (2006), p. 44–45
  2. ^ Williamson (2006), p. 45
  3. ^ a b Williamson (2006), p. 46
  4. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 404.


  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
  • Williamson, Gordon; McGregor, Malcolm (2006). German Commanders in World War II (2). Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-597-X.

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of 1. Flieger-Division (1934–1935)
1 April 1934 – 31 March 1935
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Commander of Luftflotte 3
1 February 1939 – 23 August 1944
Succeeded by
Generaloberst Otto Deßloch