Luftwaffe female pilots?

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Post by Heimatschuss » 27 Jan 2007 20:04


here's another pic of the countess, this time displaying the ribbon of her Iron Cross. She wears it similar to men clad in panzer or assault gun wrappers, wrapping one end around the jacket lapel's rim. The lapel seems to be missing the uniform's button hole so the other end is sewn to the lapel (or attached with a security pin.)


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Post by Heimatschuss » 27 Jan 2007 20:17

Hello faf_476,

you asked:
Was, there any women from Luftwaffe, serving in Africa?
If there is could someone, tell me the name and some info about her?
I don't think there were any female German pilots in North Africa during the war. None were admitted to combat or transport units, The only job that may have brought some outside of Germany occasionally was working as a transfer pilot for new and repaired aircraft. But I highly doubt that any female was ever ordered to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

To the best of my knowledge the only German female pilot with some Africa experience was Elly Beinhorn. She had been there twice during expeditions in the 1930s and even had to spend some days with the local population after an emergency landing. But she didn't work during WWII only tending her family.

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Post by faf_476 » 28 Jan 2007 00:36

Heimatschuss wrote:Hello faf_476,

you asked:
Was, there any women from Luftwaffe, serving in Africa?
If there is could someone, tell me the name and some info about her?
I don't think there were any female German pilots in North Africa during the war. None were admitted to combat or transport units, The only job that may have brought some outside of Germany occasionally was working as a transfer pilot for new and repaired aircraft. But I highly doubt that any female was ever ordered to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

To the best of my knowledge the only German female pilot with some Africa experience was Elly Beinhorn. She had been there twice during expeditions in the 1930s and even had to spend some days with the local population after an emergency landing. But she didn't work during WWII only tending her family.

Well, thanks for that anyway.

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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by Heimatschuss » 08 Mar 2010 00:13


some more photos of Countess Stauffenberg I found on Wehrmacht Awards. ... ht=melitta
Melitta Countess Schenk von Stauffenberg 4.jpg
Melitta Countess Schenk von Stauffenberg 5.jpg
Melitta Countess Schenk von Stauffenberg 6.jpg
BTW, a proposal for her bestowal with the Iron Cross 1st Class was handed in by the Luftkriegsakademie (Air Warfare Academy) Berlin-Gatow already in January 1944 (Zegenhagen, 2007, p.145). The text of the proposal can be found on the Stauffenberg family's homepage
Luftkriegsakademie Berlin Gatow, den 11. Januar 1944

Betr. Vorschlag auf Verleihung des EK I. an Flugkapitän Gräfin Stauffenberg

An Reichsluftfahrtministerium
Berlin W 8

In Würdigung der überragenden Leistungen
und der Einsatzbereitschaft von

Flugkapitän Gräfin Stauffenberg

wird der Vorschlag auf Verleihung des Eisernen Kreuzes 1. Klasse eingereicht.

Seit Kriegsbeginn hat St. rund 2000 Sturzflüge und eine große Anzahl sonstiger Flugerprobungen durchgeführt, die nachstehend aufgeführt werden:

1. Erfassung des Windeinflusses für den Bombenwurf aus dem Sturzflug (Januar 1940)

2. Sturzflugmessungen mit einem windunabhängigen stabilisierten Stuvi und ihre Auswertung (März 1940)

3. Die Versuchstechnik der Sturzflugerprobungen von Zielgeräten für den Bombenabwurf aus dem Sturz (III)

4. Nichstationäre Flugzustände beim Zielflugsturz (V.40)

5. Anwendung einiger Beziehungen zwischen den Größen Wurfweite, Höhe, Fallzeit und Fluggeschwindigkeit für eine vereinfachte Bestimmungsmethode der Wurfweiten (Juni 40 - Askania)

6. Trefferbilder aus Sturzflügen mit JU 87 und Stuvi A 3 (August 1940)

7. Die Aussichten der Gleitbombe im Vergleich zur normalen Bombe (September 1940 - Askania)

8. Anstellwinkelveränderungen beim Sturzflug in gekrümmter Bahn (Januar 1941)

9. Trefferbilder aus Sturzflügen mit JU 87, Serie II und III (August 1941)

10. Das Bombenrevi (Mai 1941)

11. Flugzustände von Flugzeugen, die mit automatischen Steuerungen versehen sind, bei Ausfall eines Seitenmotors (Askania 41)

12. Windmessungen im Sturzflug (Oktober 1942)

13. Die Probleme des Bombenabwurfes aus dem Sturzflug (zusammenfassende Arbeit 1942)

14. Trefferbilder der ME 11o (Spezialausführung für Sturzflug) und Hohlspiegelvisier aus dem Sturz

15. dasselbe im Tiefflug

16. Trefferbilder mit JU 88 und BZA 1

17. Trefferbilder mit JU 87 und BZA 4

18. Erprobung der BZA 20 von Steinbeil in der ME 109

19. Erprobung des Bremsfallschirmes in der Do 17 Z

20. Trefferbilder mit der Do 217

21. Seitenwindmessungen im Sturzflug

22. Erprobung von Zielfernrohren für Sturzvisiere

23. Untersuchungen mit Teilelementen des DVL-Stuvis

24. Untersuchungen und Erprobungen mit Windrichtkeil und BZA 1

25. Untersuchungen über die Tiefsturzanlage (TSA)

gez. Knauhs, Generalleutnant und Kommandeur
Evelyn Zegenhagen
>>Schneidige deutsche Mädel<<. Fliegerinnen zwischen 1918 und 1945.
Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen, 2007

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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by Heimatschuss » 11 Mar 2010 23:58


looking for further information on German female pilots I found a recent article by Evelyn Zegenhagen that offers a good synopsis of her 2007 Ph.D. thesis on female aviation. It provides a few more details on several female Luftwaffe pilots not so well known:

- Liesel Bach
- Lieselotte Georgi
- Lotte Hogeweg
- Thea Knorr
- Anneliese Lieben-Höppner
- Lisl Schwab

plus NSFK glider pilots

- Marga Hempel
- Marie-Luise Müller-Maar
- Margaret Schmidt

Though I don't embrace all details given by Zegenhagen (widespread firearms training in the League of Geman Girls, Captain's rank and uniform for all female Luftwaffe pilots in 1944) it's worth reading. The end of the original article seems to have contained several pilot photos not included in the copy file I found. Perhaps someone has the chance to bring them here from the original paper edition.

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Source: ... &user=&pw=

Evelyn Zegenhagen


Air Power History. Rockville: Winter 2009. Vol. 56,
Iss. 4; pg. 11, 17 pgs

Abstract (Summary)

[The web site seems to have a wrongly inserted text block here, so omitted. Torsten]

Today it is almost unknown that women pilots actively contributed to Germany's war effort during World War II, other than perhaps Hanna Reitsch (1912-1979), the exceptional test pilot of the 1930s and 1940s. But she was not the only German woman pilot flying between 1939 and 1945. At the onset of the war women pilots had trained alongside men to become ferry pilots for the paramilitary NS Flying Corps (Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps, NSFK). The Flying Corps also employed women pilots as managers of its aircraft repair yards and in other auxiliary functions. Towards the end of the war at least five women worked as ferry pilots within the Luftwaffe, holding a captain's rank and wearing uniforms. Women also worked as company test pilots and two of them were experimental test pilots, receiving their assignments from the Luftwaffe. They performed stunning flights to test novel dive brakes, cut the cables of barrage balloons, test pilot visibility and improve bombing accuracy. In 1944, after the Luftwaffe had lost the air superiority contest, at least sixty women were recruited by the NS Flying Corps and were employed as glider instructors to advance training for Luftwaffe recruits. By war's end in May 1945 many more women were still in instructor training, waiting for their chance not only to be employed but also to regain access to flying - a privilege they had been denied since the war had started in September 1939. The number of German women involved in aerial warfare seems meager when compared to their American counterparts. But in the context of the National Socialist state which had long tried to cement traditional gender role assignments and to relegate women strictly to the functions of wives and mothers, these numbers are significant.(1)

The story of the German women's readiness, their employment and motivation sheds an interesting light not only on the military history of World War II but also on the workings of gender issues, in Nazi Germany as well as in traditionally "male" fields of technology, aviation and the military. Reconstructing the history of German women pilots in World War II presents some difficulties. The most significant one of course is the dearth of sources. German women sports pilots had made many headlines in the years around 1930. But by the mid-1930s most of them faded out of public awareness and sank into obscurity as a direct result of gender role pressure by the Nazi regime. Also, they were replaced in media headlines by the newly founded Luftwaffe which better represented Germany's eager militaristic agenda than did smiling women pilots.(2) For war purposes, the potential of female pilots was mostly ignored; no serious effort was made to utilize it until very late in the war. Few records regarding concepts and practices of the deployment of women pilots survived. Most of these records were lost due to Allied bombing and their destruction by Luftwaffe at the end of the war. The Deutsche Dienststelle / Wehrmachtsauskunftsstelle in Berlin, in charge of maintaining the documents of all former members of the German Armed Forces until 1945, and the German Federal Military Archive (Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv) in Freiburg contain almost no information on women's activities with or for the Luftwaffe. Also lost is all documentation of the NS Flying Corps in the framework of which women had worked as ferry pilots and glider instructors.

After the war the exceptional position of wartime women pilots, so contrary to their traditional gender stereotypes, was quickly forgotten: The professional claims and accomplishments of women pilots were outdated in an era that was dedicated to the restoration of traditional gender roles. But while women pilots were afraid to be stigmatized as "Nazi aviatrixes", male pilots found new employment in the re-founded Luftwaffe of 1957 where their talents were needed to restore Germany's military power within the framework of the Western alliance. The "Cold War" was on the rise. Like their counterparts in the U.S., Great Britain, and the USSR German women pilots fell victim to a "cultural amnesia" that quickly obscured their involvement in the air war during World War II. While the women remained behind in the age of propeller planes, men took off into the jet era. This is a first attempt to tell the story of German women pilots during World War II, based mostly upon interviews with the few surviving women pilots as well as upon rediscovered and unpublished diaries, notebooks and the only five still extant flight logs of women pilots.

Preparation for War

By 1935 the Reich Labor Service Law (Reichsarbeitsdienst-Gesetz) had prepared the voluntary mobilization of German women in case of war, assigning them to inferior civilian administrative tasks that did not require any special knowledge or abilities.(3) In 1936, with a foreword by Generaloberst Werner von Blomberg, Reich war minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Wehrmacht, Marie Elisabeth Lüders (1878-1966) published her study 'Das unbekannte Heer' (The Secret Army), an analysis of women's war service based on experiences with the employment of women in World War I.(4) Lüders, who was very active in the German "bourgeois women's movement" and a popular author concluded that as modern wars became increasingly more technological the inclusion of women into the war effort was unavoidable. To organize and train women in peacetime would be the most efficient way to use them during the war - as "comrades" beside the men, but still in specifically assigned "female" fields of employment. Accordingly the secret "Guidelines for the Employment of Women in War" developed in fall 1938 by the Reich Economic Ministry stated that in wartime women should not be employed in areas that required technical understanding.(5) Instead, they should be employed in areas deemed appropriate to their "female virtues" - welfare, nursing, civil air defense, undemanding administrative tasks and the armaments industry.

Throughout the 1930s young German women had been prepared for their forthcoming roles as housewives and mothers which ultimately meant their exclusion from the battlefield. Yet at the same time, within the framework of the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls, BDM), they underwent a rigid paramilitary training that often included training with hand weapons. Similar ambivalence applied in the case of women pilots. The NS Flying Corps founded in 1937 did not accept women as full members. Even when they were actively flying they were only allowed to be "supporting members" (fördernde Mitglieder), in accordance with the roles ascribed to them - to support their flying husbands and sons. Yet the League of German Girls planned to have 500 female BDM leaders trained in gliding. This would have created the cornerstone of a female glider movement which was to bring the physical and emotional virtues of gliding to an even larger number than the thousands who were already active in gliding clubs all over Germany. It would also have formed a distinctive, National Socialist branch of the German women's gliding movement. Due to the war however these plans were not realized and the contradictions continued.

While women were seriously discouraged from taking up flying careers and directed towards only menial positions in aviation the Luftwaffe utilized the talents of two of them, Hanna Reitsch and Melitta Schiller-von Stauffenberg (1903-1945), for highly specific research tasks, and the Nazi state made Reitsch a poster child of its propaganda efforts. Therefore it might also not come as a surprise that although German efforts to utilize the female labor force for war purposes obviously had begun early, until the end of the war female employment to a large degree took place in an improvised, uncoordinated manner far below the women's actual level of professional training and capabilities. The mobilization of German women for the war remained far below its potential, last but not least because Adolf Hitler himself refused to order their mobilization. One exception was the Luftwaffe. Even before the outbreak of World War II, in spring 1939, the Reich Air Ministry began to organize the employment of women in the Luftwaffes air space surveillance (Luftwaffen- und Flugmeldedienst). Thus over the course of the war the Luftwaffe became the largest employer of female auxiliary forces among all three branches of the military - about 130,000 women were employed in non-flying positions as employees, workers and female Luftwaffe assistance specialists (Luftwaffehelferinnen).(6) At the outbreak of the war in September 1939 there were no plans to tap into the considerable potential of women pilots. At the time in Germany about eighty women held sports pilots' (or A2-)licenses and some 1,000 women were glider pilots with different degrees of skill.

The Luftwaffe did not bother to consider this potential mainly for three reasons. First, at the onset of World War II, the Luftwaffe saw no need to request the services of women. Contrary to the Allies Germany had a large number of young, well trained pilots eager to fight - although the official numbers claimed by Germany in 1938-39 should be read with care. Therefore the Luftwaffe's general staff had never considered the actual employment of women pilots or,
as a well-informed German journalist put it in much glossier terms in 1940 "There are no female war pilots in Germany, and there will never be because this ... is incompatible with the ethos of the new German".(7) Later on in the war when Luftwaffe sustained increasing losses, it was too late to register and recruit women pilots efficiently. Secondly, there were too many rival institutions - Luftwaffe, NS Flying Corps, Reich Youth Leadership, League of German Girls to only mention a few - competing for their share in recruiting additional pilots and also blocking each other's efforts. And thirdly there was - as compared to the U.S., USSR and Great Britain - no women pilots' organization and no prominent aviatrix (such as the Americans Jackie Cochran or Nancy Harkness Love) who might have been instrumental in suggesting and implementing the employment of female pilots for war-related purposes. None of the available German women pilots had the professional expertise, the political significance, and the personal ambitions necessary to create an organized employment of German women pilots during wartime.

German Women Motor Pilots

In early 1940, women sport pilots were questioned for the very first time about their possible utilization "in ferrying planes from aviation companies to assembly locations near the frontline".(8) In close cooperation with the Reich Air Ministry, the NS Flying Corps had sent out a "strictly confidential" circular that inquired about their piloting skills and
"readiness for action." The women were offered opportunities to ferry planes - provided that they had logged at least thirty flight hours as A2-(sports) pilots. "I don't think I need to describe the cheering which began among us demoted women pilots", Germany's most famous woman sports pilot Elly Beinhorn (1907-2007) declared, describing the
feelings of her comrades at that time. "Of course they couldn't do it without us, we realized with satisfaction when we received our draft notices".(9) Since before the war women pilots had only been allowed to obtain sports pilots' licenses and were only prepared to fly a very limited range of aircraft. Therefore Beinhorn, like a number of other women pilots, voluntarily attended one of the transition training courses that took place at Berlin-Rangsdorf and other airfields all over Germany. Here women pilots but also male pilots who had not yet been drafted into the Luftwaffe obtained B1/B2 licenses which enabled them to fly, respectively, one- to four-seater planes of 1,000 to 2,500 kilogram weight (B1) or one- to eight-seated airplanes with a weight from 2,500 to 5,000 kilograms (B2).(10) Woman pilot Eva-Essa von Dewitz's (1907-1989) flight log survived to document the training program schedule. The future ferry pilots were trained to fly smaller planes such as Bücker Bu 131 Jungmann, Heinkel He 72 Kadett, Siebel Si 202 Hummel and Focke-Wulf Fw 44.(11)

The "Instructions for the Takeover of Aircraft owned by the Reich from Industry for ferrying to Luftwaffe
supply bases by pilots of the NS Flying Corps" dated March 29, 1940,(12) regulated the organizational linkage as well as the duties and tasks of the retrained pilots. The ferry pilots of the Flying Corps remained civilians flying in a paramilitary environment. They were allowed to fly only during "appropriate" weather conditions and only before dark - clearly an indication that the Flying Corps did not expect too much with regards to the abilities of its pilots. Consequently, very quickly disillusionment set in among the women who had applied as Elly Beinhorn described: "Not much emerged from the examination. Some of us were found worthy to ferry repaired trainers from the companies to the supply bases where they were taken over by the Luftwaffe. ... But nothing really came out of that. Except for a few girls who didn't have anything better to do, all the others disappeared back into their private lives."(13)

Some of the women who had completed transition classes found positions as company pilots where they were hired to replace male pilots. One of them was Charlotte Hogeweg (1898-1986) who from 1940 to early 1942 was employed as a ferry pilot with the Reich Air Ministry's Supply Office (Nachschubamt), probably in a military or quasi-military function.(14) Lisl Schwab (1900-1967) attended a transition class in Rangsdorf in 1939 and then worked as a company pilot with the Letov Company in Olmütz, Moravia and the Bohemian-Moravian Machine Company in Prague where she also ferried planes as large as the Junkers W 34. In 1943 she was awarded the War Merit Cross Second Class (Kriegsverdienstkreuz Zweiter Klasse). Until summer 1944 Schwab then worked as chief pilot for the Leichtbau Inc. in Budweis, mainly test-flying the company's Fieseler Fi 156. For the next several months Schwab served with the ferrying wing at the Commander's Office at the Berlin-Tempelhof air base, and from September 1944 to May 1945 with the Luftwaffe's Ferrying Wing 1, Group South-East, at air bases in Prag-Gbell, Bad Vöslau, Linz-Pöstlingberg, Hörsching and Klagenfurt.(15) In May 1945, Schwab was arrested by U.S. troops but escaped from captivity in June.(16) Pilots
Beate Uhse (1919-2001) and Thea Knorr (dates unknown) also started out as company test and ferry pilots. Both women ferried various types of light airplanes, mainly Klemm and Bücker aircraft and the Fieseler Storch, from production sites and repair yards to and from airbases near the front line. As the surviving flight logs of Uhse and Knorr prove the employment of women pilots was irregular and inefficient. Both women worked only a few days per month, completing test flights that lasted between five and less than twenty minutes. Sometimes both women, at least according to their records, did not fly for months. Knorr's flight log (whose entries are most likely incomplete) shows 214 flights between June 11, 1940 and October 8, 1944 including test flights as well as ferry flights. Obviously female pilots were not needed to a degree that would have required their daily services. Persistent rumors that large aviation companies such as Junkers and Messerschmitt employed dozens of female company and ferry pilots seem rather unlikely in light of these research results.

Women pilots who had been retrained to fly B1/B2 planes also found other niches open to them, mainly within the NS Flying Corps. In most cases they worked at or headed repair yards that provided aircraft supply for the Luftwaffe. In all of these positions they replaced male pilots who had been drafted. In 1939 renowned aerobatics pilot Vera von Bissing (1906-2002), employed by the NS Flying Corps since 1937, became the head of a regional repair yard of the NSFK Group 6, Eschwege with approximately 100 planes. After the war she described her job as follows: "I test-flew all planes which were due for repair or overhaul, was in charge of arranging the materiel supply for the yard, of keeping the records of aircraft cabins and engines, of distributing and checking parachutes and headed a so-called ferrying center, the task of which was to ferry smaller air craft (A2 and B1 planes) from the production sites to the Luftwaffe supply parks. Mainly we ferried Kl 32, He 72, Fw 52 and Fieseler Storch."(17) Von Bissing fulfilled her job eagerly and dutifully, commanding about 100 male ferry pilots.(18) For ferrying 1,000 planes without a single accident von Bissing was decorated in 1944 with the War Merit Cross. Like Schwab she was arrested in 1945 by Allied troops but released within a few days. Woman pilot and flight mechanic Anneliese Lieben-Höppner (1910-1989) held a similar position as a civilian employee at the Luftwaffe's air service unit (Luftdienstkommando) 1/6 at Münster-Loddenheide, where starting in 1943 she worked as a pilot and head of aircraft maintenance. Her field of activity consisted of the "execution of technical matters affairs, concerning aircraft maintenance, test flights and anti-aircraft target shooting practice", and her superior stated "Reich Employee (Reichsangestellte) Höppner has many years of experience in flying and can put all her experiences to use as the head of maintenance (Wartungsleitung)".(19) The fleet of Lieben's Luftdienstkommando consisted of at least thirty-five planes: four Heinkel He 111, one Junkers Ju 86, twelve Dornier Do 17, one Focke-Wulf Fw 58, one Focke-Wulf Fw 190, one Messerschmitt Bf 108, eleven Klemm Kl 35, one Junkers W 34 and three Avia B 71.(20) As the head of maintenance flight mechanic Lieben was in charge of maintaining that complex stock of airplane types. However, Lieben's case proves that there was no imperative need for female services even in the middle of the war. In August 1943 the Luftwaffe reduced Lieben's working hours to six five-hour days per week; and shortly thereafter accepted her request to quit her job because she was getting married.

In winter 1943 German losses mounted, especially after the battle of Stalingrad, and led to the proclamation of "total warfare" which among other things resulted in a compulsory registration of women between the ages of 17 and 45 (later 50) for labor. (The measure was restricted to registration and was never fully put into practice.) In the context of this measure for the first time the potential of women motor and glider pilots was seriously considered. The women were asked whether they were qualified and interested in serving as auxiliary pilots.(21) But, as a result of different entities and agencies competing for the employment of women pilots, no clear plan existed suggesting whether to use the women in a civilian or military capacity, or what kinds of tasks they would have to perform. Most likely women were planned to be utilized as ferry pilots and as pilots of cargo gliders that delivered supplies, but also troops to the frontlines.

In spring and summer of 1944 those women who had taken the initiative to apply, were "drafted" and enlisted as members of the ferrying units of the Luftwaffe. The names of eight women ferry pilots are confirmed by records. Five of them - Liesel Bach (1905-1992), Lieselotte Georgi (1920-1982), Thea Knorr, Lisl Schwab and Beate Uhse - served among the forty pilots of the Ferrying Wing 1 of Central Ferrying Group (Überführungsgruppe Mitte) which was stationed in Berlin-Tempelhof.(22) Wearing uniforms and holding the rank of Captain they worked under the same conditions as male Luftwaffe pilots.(23) As Uhse describes in her memoirs the women were originally assigned to the third squadron of the ferrying wing which ferried trainers, but - like their American counterparts, the WASPs - quickly moved to more challenging tasks. Within five months Uhse switched to the second squadron which ferried fighter planes.

However, Beate Uhse's and Thea Knorr's flight logs - the only surviving logs of women ferry pilots in the Luftwaffe - show that the overwhelming majority of their ferry flights were short-distance with daily flight times of only a few hours. Ferrying flights to areas outside the 1939 borders of the Reich were extremely rare. Uhse ferried about sixteen different types of planes including the Klemm Kl 31, Kl 32, Kl 35 and Kl 36, Bücker Bü 131, Bü 133, Bü 180 and Bü 181, Siebel Si 104 and Si 202, Heinkel He 72, Focke-Wulf Fw 44 and Fw 190, Messerschmitt Me /Bf 108 and 109 as well as Junkers Ju 87. She had at last one training lesson on the new fighter jet Me 262 - on April 30, 1945, one week before the end of the war. Knorr ferried Kl 25, Kl 35 und Bü 181. In all, she flew significantly fewer missions than Uhse. Although the women were only supposed to ferry planes and were not trained for combat often their flights were performed under wartime conditions in the midst of enemy air supremacy. Liesel Bach recollects: "Our flights towards the end of the war, mainly in western Germany, were almost always suicide missions. [...] It is true that my plane was armed for cases of emergency. But it wasn't our task to shoot and to get into air battles. We had to deliver the airplanes safe and sound and to avoid any contact with the enemy. Most of the time I accomplished this by flying my plane at low altitude above the trees. And when I saw an enemy plane I disappeared in the next tree line."(24) Beate Uhse adds: Ferrying flights had become dangerous missions. We were chased by enemy fighters. My airplane was fully armed. But I was well aware that without any fighter training I could only lose in an air battle with a 'Spitfire'. Therefore it was better to disappear. I flew as low as possible, below the tree lines. At this low altitude it was hard to see me. But one danger remained: Instead of being shot down, I could crash into a hill, a pole or a building.(25)

Two women had crossed deeper into male territory: Hanna Reitsch and Melitta Schiller-von Stauffenberg became experimental test pilots.(26) While they remained civilians, their work was performed in close cooperation with the Luftwaffe. Despite their marked personal differences, Reitsch and Schiller shared some similarities: Both women moved seamlessly from civilian to military research, both were awarded high military decorations, and both were honored with the prestigious title "Flight Captain."

Although Hanna Reitsch did not possess the requisite professional qualification - an engineering degree or training in
aeronautics - as did most of her male colleagues, she became a military experimental test pilot in 1937 when she was sent to the Luftwaffes Flight Test Center in Rechlin. Here she tested a variety of aircraft. Among her tasks were test flights in the cargo glider DSF 230. Reitsch not only proved the full potential of this plane but also became instrumental in developing guidelines for the training of cargo glider pilots - an achievement which significantly contributed to the battlefield success of this plane, especially during the battle for the Belgian fortress Eben Emael in 1940, where the cargo gliders and their pilots succeeded spectacularly. Reitsch also performed dangerous tests in cutting the cables of barrage balloons with tools attached to the wingtips of planes, such as the Dornier Do 17 and Heinkel He 111. In 1942, she test-flew the Messerschmitt Me 163 B, a version of the world's first rocket-powered interceptor, and one year later the other version, the Me 163 A.(27) While Reitsch was not one of the originally designated experimental test pilots for the Me 163 [these were Heini Dittmar (1911-1960) and "Rudy" (also: Rudi) Opitz (born in 1909)] she flew the Me 163 at least eight times during transition training flights and company test flights. At least one of these flights was a powered flight.(28) Both Opitz and Dittmar had suffered severe injuries flying the Me 163, and Reitsch did not fare better: After a severe crash she spent the next five months in a hospital and her future as a pilot looked grim. After her recovery, in 1943, Reitsch successfully tested a manned version of the V-I robot bomb (a cruise missile). Reitsch received prestigious military decorations, among them the Iron Cross Second and First Class and the Golden Military Flying Medal with Diamonds in a Special Setting. Towards the end of the war she was instrumental in trying to form a unit of German Kamikaze pilots, a project which was never fully realized. In 1945 Reitsch was arrested by U.S. troops and interrogated.(29)

Melitta Schiller's talents as a physicist, flight engineer and pilot were also put to full use. As a pilot at the Rechlin Test Center and from 1942 on at the Luftwaffe's Technical Academy in Berlin-Gatow, Schiller's research focused on the continuous improvement of the efficiency of German bombing methods. For that purpose Schiller performed more than 2,500 dangerous dives, mainly with Junkers Ju 87 and Ju 88, sometimes up to fifteen per day, starting at about 4,000 meters and diving down to less than 1,000. Quite often she was attacked by Allied planes entering the air space over Berlin. In 1944, Melitta Schiller became the head of the newly founded Experimental Center for Aircraft Special Devices (Versuchsstelle für Flugzeug-Sondergerät e.V.) in Berlin-Adlershof. Her tasks now included the research on automated triggers for dropping bombs on tanks, on dive-bombing and level-bombing aiming devices, on blind bomb release, night fighter and visual night landing procedures, and on aiming devices for attacking massive bomber formations. For her work Schiller was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class and the Military Flying Medal in Gold with Diamonds and Rubies. She was also recommended for the Iron Cross First Class, but was shot down by Allied planes during a ferrying flight in April 1945 and died before she was able to receive this prestigious medal.

Very late in the war, in November 1944 and January 1945 the High Command of the Luftwaffe established guidelines
for the selection and employment of women as aircraft technical personnel - no doubt in response to the enormous loss of male pilots and other personnel at that time.(30) Again, no plans were made to utilize the potential of female pilots more efficiently. The guidelines included among others the recruitment of fifty women for the Chief of Supply (Chef Nachschub) where they probably were to be trained among others as ferry pilots, most likely to follow the footsteps of above-mentioned Charlotte Hogeweg. An even greater number of women were to be trained as "assistant chemical technicians" (Hilfs-Chemo-Technikerinnen), a term which most likely included training as aircraft mechanics as well as aircraft technical and operational personnel. At that stage of the war the Luftwaffe also made plans to recruit about 150,000 suitable women to replace 112,000 of Luftwaffe's regular enlisted men. By March 1945, fifty percent of the airplane mechanics and thirty percent of the air engine mechanics (Flugmotorenschlosser) were to be replaced by women. This way younger soldiers could be released for battle. At the same time soldiers less fit for war, who had not stood the test as "aircraft technical personnel" were to be replaced by the women "most suited for this employment ... who voluntarily had decided to do this job". However, the High Command's plans stretched much further as was announced early in 1945: "For the long term it is planned to train the best of the female employees as special personnel. For that purpose special courses will be established at the technical flight schools (fliegertechnische Schulen)."(31) Although the wording of the decree indicates that these plans might also have regarded the training as ferry pilots, the final collapse of the Reich meant that none of the ideas were pursued further.

German Women Glider Pilots

Gliding had had a longstanding tradition among German women, with the first women's glider clubs established around 1930. Over time an extensive infrastructure developed, with women's gliding clubs founded in many German cities, and probably training thousands of women. After 1933 all support and all material supply were gradually transferred to men's gliding as it provided future Luftwaffe pilots. Although women such as Hanna Reitsch, Liesel Zangemeister (died 1935), Inge Wetzel (1912-?) and Feodora "Dolly" Schmidt (1914-1997) had established European and world records, women's gliding in Germany became enormously restricted and ceased to exist with the outbreak of the war in September 1939. After that time, the women's clubs were reduced to social functions only.(32) In 1943 women glider pilots like women motor pilots were asked about their interest in supporting the Luftwaffe in an auxiliary function. The women's employment was intended to help solve the Luftwaffe's recruiting problems by aiding in the efforts to pre-train new recruits in gliding. This substantially shortened the general training time for pilots, a measure meant to counterweigh the losses of Luftwaffe pilots which increased monthly.

The demand to train more pilots was accompanied by attempts to increase aircraft production. In response to the emergency created by the Allied Combined Bomber Offensive, on March 1, 1944 the Armanents and Air Ministries
created the Fighter Staff (Jägerstab) program (33) which was to produce between 1,000 and 4,000 fighters per month; in early 1945 production was to be increased to almost 10,000 planes a month. In this context desperate plans like the "People's Air Militia" (Volkssturm der Lüfte) were born. Young male pilots, all of them members of the Flying Hitler
Youth (Flieger-HJ), were to be pre-trained to fly simple but often very difficult to maneuver planes against the enemy. Among these planes were the Me 163 B, the Me 328, the manned version of the Fieseler Fi 103 (V1 Reichenberg) and the Heinkel He 162 People's Hunter (Volksjäger), a jet plane with a plywood fuselage. All these planes presented enormous technological and piloting difficulties such as erratic performance at takeoffs and landings, extremely high speeds and difficult maneuverability. Many utilized enormously volatile fuels and were tremendously hard to fly even for experienced pilots.

Experts such as the Chief of Fighter Forces, General Adolf Galland (1912-1996) and the Chief of Bomber Forces, General Werner Baumbach (1916-1953) therefore steadfastly protested the idea of training members of the Flying Hitler Youth as "fighter recruits for special purposes".(34) However, in the quarrel of competencies among the NSDAP, the Reich Youth Leadership, the Fighter Staff, the Luftwaffe, competing ministries and other institutions the NS Flying Corps saw the pre-training of Luftwaffe recruits in gliding as an opportunity to prove its raison d'etre and to gain significance within the framework of the German war effort. Therefore it ruthlessly continued its efforts which were halted only by the end of the war. The Flying Corps' immense demand in flight instructors was to be met by the inclusion and training of women, mostly women glider pilots, as gliding flight instructors and flight instructor assistants. But as in the case of the women motor pilots it took more than a year to develop any concrete plans.

In summer 1944 all eligible women who had expressed interest were contacted and in July 1944 were "drafted" by the Flying Corps at their own initiative.(35) The training of the first class of women gliding instructors started in August 1944 at the gliding school in Grünau, Silesia. The class consisted of fifty German (and formerly Austrian) women glider pilots. Up to the end of the war, more classes followed. At least one more unit with 120 women is known for fall 1944
in Grünau,(36) and a class with twenty to twenty-five female participants in the fall at the Wasserkuppe/Rhön. Most likely additional classes were formed at other locations. Not all participants were experienced glider pilots although the latter seem to have formed the majority in the first classes. Other participants were motor pilots or had been instructors of the NS Flying Corps already before the war, such as Elisabeth Hartmann (1897-?), mother of renowned fighter pilot Erich Hartmann (1922-1993).(37) Largely following a Reich Air Ministry guideline stating that only unmarried women should be assigned to war services, and married women only on a voluntary basis and if they had no children, the NS Flying Corps drafted women who were unmarried or widowed, and usually childless.(38) The women wore the blue uniform of the NS Flying Corps and were trained for two months in close cooperation with the Luftwaffe. The training was conducted almost exclusively by men and included lessons in aviation, aerodynamics, navigation, instruments, reading and handling of instruments, meteorology, air traffic law, splicing, welding and wood and metal processing. The women also had gliding lessons at three different levels: beginners, advanced and experts in one- and two-seated gliders.(39)

The graduates were sent to various schools in Germany to "teach flying to two or three dozens of rascals" as Margaret Schmidt (dates unknown), one of the instructors, described it.(40) None of the women felt as if they were discriminated against by their male superiors, colleagues or flight students. All insisted that instead they were treated with respect and appreciation. "We were fully accepted and nobody tried to stop us in any way" reports glider pilot Marga H. (born 1914) who in 1945 attended one of the last training classes for female gliding instructors.(41) However, at their duty stations women instructors always had to work in close cooperation with male instructors and were never on their own. Marie-Luise Müller-Maar (1911-2001), a graduate of the first women's class at Wasserkuppe, described her duties at the gliding school as follows: there was one principal, one flight instructor, two of us from the Wasserkuppe group and furthermore two girls in the kitchen and about forty-five flight students between the ages of 14 and 17. The boys were all nice and enthusiastic about flying. We rose early, early morning exercise, breakfast and then up the hill. The planes were pushed out of the hangar and the starts began. Singing, we marched down the hill for lunch, one hour of rest and then up the hill again until dinner. Each had a group of about fifteen boys, and the comradeship was excellent. After dinner, we had an hour of theory, and then there was some written homework to do, until we went to bed early ....(42)

Due to the approaching end of the war the female instructors were not employed efficiently anymore; neither were the overwhelming majority of their students. Evacuated away from the approaching enemy and sent from flight school to flight school, the women's final job became releasing the students and destroying the gliders - but they did not always follow the latter order. By the end of April 1945, the last women instructors were dismissed and often arrested by the Allied troops since their uniforms seemed to indicate an affiliation with the Luftwaffe. However, members of the NS Flying Corps - as long as they were not simultaneously members of the Luftwaffe - were legally considered members of a corporation under public law and thus were non-combatants. Thus, women gliding instructors were usually released within days. Their contributions to the war effort, no doubt, were considered insignificant by the Allies.
[to be continued]
Last edited by Heimatschuss on 12 Mar 2010 09:30, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by Heimatschuss » 12 Mar 2010 09:19

[Continuation of Zegenhagen article]
Women Pilots' Motivation and Gains

It is obvious that, while their number was insignificant, the quality of the employment of German women pilots in World War II was substantial. In no branch of the German armed forces were women able to rise professionally as they did with the Luftwaffe. They became company and experimental test pilots, ferry pilots, heads of repair yards or gliding instructors in para-military services. As the youngest and most innovative branch of the Armed Forces, the Luftwaffe had experimented early on in the war with the employment of women for specific tasks and had gradually increased its demands. As more and more male pilots were drafted or were killed, more and more niches opened up for women. And while the need for innovative approaches to fill war-created gaps was the Luftwaffe's motivation to open up to women, women pilots had their own reasons to involve themselves. Their reasons were threefold: the opportunities offered to them by an affiliation with the Luftwaffe's needs, the women's patriotic feelings, and their attempt to prove equality with men - not only in the air, but in society in general. I will analyze each in turn.

First, an affiliation with Germany's air war needs proved fruitful for those women who took advantage of it. Flying for the Luftwaffe or the NS Flying Corps allowed women pilots access to aircraft that otherwise would have been completely out of reach, and increased their number of flight hours tremendously. Ferry pilot Beate Uhse declared after the war: "My sport flying had become impossible due to the war.... Therefore I gratefully seized the opportunity offered to me by Luftwaffe to be deployed in a ferrying wing. To fly all the aircraft types there which one never could have accessed otherwise. ... With this variety of experience, and all these hours logged, I thought back then, one would have great chances in professional and sport aviation after the war."(43) Pragmatically Liesel Bach argued: "The most important thing was that we were able to fly, and [that] we were allowed to continue flying during the war. As far as flights to the frontlines were concerned we were allowed to make our own decisions. All opportunities were opened up to us."(44)

The gains in flight experience are documented in the women's flight logs: Before the war, between 1937 and 1939, Lisl Schwab had logged in 166 flight hours, including the 1939 transition training in Rangsdorf where she - in addition to Klemm light planes (Kl 25 and Kl 31) she had flown before - learned to fly the Me/Bf 108. During the war Lisl Schwab participated in more than 3,000 missions, flying all kinds of planes from Me/Bf 109 and Fw 190 up to transport planes. She not only increased her number of flight hours enormously but also gained considerable experience flying a broad
variety of aircraft. Pilot Beate Uhse's flight log shows 686 flights during her career as company and test pilot between August 1937 and the outbreak of the war on September 1, 1939. For the wartime era, until April 30, 1945, the flight log registers 1,072 entries, comprising of test flights as a company pilot, transition flights and ferrying flights with the Luftwaffe.(45) Uhse flew a wide diversity of aircraft including the afore mentioned training/conversion flight on the Messerschmitt Me 262. The flight logs also show a wide variety of tasks assigned to the pilot, including ferrying, weather and demanding test and control flights. Uhse's expectation to gain enormous experience in her wartime employment was definitely not disappointed. Glider pilots were eager to seize the opportunity to take up flying again.

"When so many German pilots had died that even the last available gliding instructor had been drafted", glider pilot Margret Schmidt wrote in her memoirs, "then, suddenly, the higher-ups remembered us demoted flying girls.... And, unfortunately, they hadn't been wrong."(46) As instructors the women gained enormous knowledge in the theoretical and practical aspects of soaring, and had access to many advanced gliders which otherwise they would never have been able to fly. Furthermore the women according to their own statements - had not only been longing to soar, but also cherished the company of their old friends and instructors. They had known each other from training courses and competitions before the war and had cultivated an intense social life that had stretched far beyond soaring. By applying for instructor classes and being drafted they saw a chance to renew their personal relationships, to escape from the rather harsh wartime reality that kept them in mediocre and boring jobs far away from their interests and friends.(47) Consequently, women sometimes even signed up in groups for instructor training. Experiencing once more the long-missed sense of community that is so common among glider pilots and engaged in a rigid schedule, most women glider pilots lived in a world of illusion towards the end of the war: They enjoyed flying, the comradeship and the sense of being needed even as their world fell into ruins. True to their patriotic mission not one of them seemed to have questioned their mission.

Secondly, patriotism: For most of the women pilots, patriotism - or rather, misguided nationalism - was an important source of motivation. Patriotic and nationalistic feelings had been central to German aviation since the end of World War I, when the Treaty of Versailles had placed heavy restrictions on Germany in general, and on aviation in particular. With the outbreak of World War II patriotic feelings peaked in many Germans, male and female. In 1940 woman glider pilot Karin Mannesmann (1908-1942) wrote into her diary, unaware that she was referring to a completely false rumor: "It is so very disappointing that I can experience this time only as a spectator. Today somebody spoke about a Canadian woman pilot who was shot down over Berlin and who had lost both her legs. Allegedly she asked if she had hit [the] Siemens [factory] because then she could die in peace. What a pity that among us there are no opportunities for such employment."(48) When offered the chance to show their patriotism women were more than eager to do so. For some of them their actions were just a continuation of pre-war activities that went along with their political beliefs, an outlet for their nationalist and/or National Socialist beliefs.

Liesel Bach, who had been an ardent follower of Adolf Hitler since 1932, stated that she would rather work dangerous
missions as a ferry pilot than suffer passively the air raids on German cities.(49) And pilot Lisl Schwab, who had pursued all her flying career in close connection with Nazi state leaders and institutions and who had ferried wounded Wehrmacht soldiers from Hungary to Germany towards the end of the war, after the war expressed great satisfaction about this humanitarian mission which she considered a matter-of-course action for every true German.(50) But political statements that confirm the women pilots' patriotic intentions and efforts are rare. The overwhelming majority of women - glider and motor pilots alike - kept silent after the war with regard to their contributions and the details of their employment: They were afraid of being stigmatized as "Nazi aviatrixes" and feared to be held responsible for their involvement with the regime. Rather they claimed that their intentions had been completely apolitical. The attempt to disconnect one's biography from the political context can also be found in the memoirs of ferry pilot Beate Uhse, who wrote, "I let myself be deceived - like millions of others, too ..... As a German, one did his duty in this horrible war. Depending where one had been put, as a mother, a farmer, a soldier, a pilot. That's the way I thought, like millions of others."(51) Vera von Bissing used the same strategy of exculpation when summarizing her wartime activities as head of a ferrying yard during her denazification trial in 1947: "This was, in short, my area of activities, obviously completely focused only on aviation. I have never been politically active.... Except for a few newspaper articles which I had read about the relationship between Adolf Hitler and Leni Riefenstahl and which were not taken seriously, I have never heard anything."(52) This strategy of depoliticizing one's actions was common among Germans after World War II: In self-explication, one's individual actions became the result of external influences for which one was not responsible, and which one could not have changed. Conditions and consequences of one's actions therefore can be separated from one's responsibility.

Such escape from reality camouflages, diminishes, and blurs the women's role in the war effort. But it also camouflages, diminishes and blurs the third factor: the functioning of gender in the role of women pilots during the war. The influence of the gender aspect on German women pilots at war cannot be underestimated. German wartime women pilots found themselves at the heart of areas considered almost or exclusively male domains: technology, aviation and the military/warfare. Living in a patriarchal dictatorship that assigned rather strict gender roles to men and women, women pilots' intrusion only became possible due to the demands of war. Yet working side by side with men they still did not experience gender equality; traditional - and even more so Nazi - gender role assignments remained powerful. This is shown by attempts to regulate the exclusion - at least in theory - of women from combat and combatlike conditions according to the non-combatant status the Nazis had reserved for their female auxiliary forces. In practice women ferry and experimental test pilots' worked under combat-like conditions, in planes that often were fully equipped with weapons and ammunition and flown in a sky in which the enemy held air supremacy. But even then women were strictly forbidden to engage in combat. To kill in combat remained a strictly male privilege. There is no doubt that the official emphasis on the "non-combatant" deployment of women and the orders not to shoot at the enemy, indeed to avoid any direct enemy contact, was a farce that revealed the regime's paternalist character: The state proved its allegedly protective intentions towards women, while at the same time manifesting the exclusively male privilege to kill.(53) German women pilots accepted their exclusion from combat as well as they had always accepted any condescending attitude of male colleagues. In fact, German women pilots flying before World War II had acknowledged their inferior status in aviation to a much larger degree than their American and British counterparts. Most women pilots declared that issues of th "Fatherland" were more important than attempts to achieve emancipation in the air, especially since emancipation was seen as a very unpatriotic attitude.(54) During the war, the women continued and intensified this approach. Thus all their attempts were directed towards assimilating into their male military environment. They wanted to prove their values as worthy comrades who could take the male environment, including the exposure to air battle, like a man."

Germany's female experimental test pilots are a case in point for this assimilationist behavior. Hanna Reitsch always presented herself as a comrade of the flying man who was on equal terms with him. She left no doubt that she was willing to do her duty - like all the (male) soldiers fighting on the front lines. Whether she was test-flying, visiting troops at the Eastern Front, or fulfilling propaganda assignments, Hanna Reitsch stressed her equality with men, and her belonging to the chosen group of - male - citizens fighting for the fatherland - an aspect which became an important part of her identity. Referring to her tasks as an experimental test pilot, she stated for instance: "These test flights fulfilled me and thrilled me spiritually like almost no other task before, because I knew that I flew every test for the lives of my comrades who did their duty."(55) On another occasion, she said about her test-flying assignments: "Here for the first time I was given a task which had been an exclusively male privilege. Even when this task only temporarily had the character of soldiership it seemed to me a patriotic obligation the weight and responsibility of which meant more to me than any honor or rank could have."(56)

The effort not to be judged by gender but by merit is even more obvious in the case of Reitsch's competitor, Melitta Schiller. Brought up as a Protestant and German nationalist, but considered a "quarter Jew" by the Third Reich's racial standards, Schiller found herself in a precarious position. The more the persecution of Jews in Germany increased, especially during the war, the riskier Schiller's test flight projects became. Officially, the racial background of Germany's most professional female experimental test pilot was never discussed and in 1944 Schiller was rewarded her "equalization with Aryan people", a legal document which "expunged" her "Jewish" heritage and awarded her the rights and privileges of "Aryans". Schiller herself never mentioned her background, instead focusing on the contributions she made to the German war effort. In a lecture in 1943, she stated: "I believe that I am able to say this in the name of all German women pilots, that in us the hierarchy of the values of all womanhood in no way has been altered and that aviation never [was] a thing of making a sensation or even of emancipation: We women pilots are no suffragettes."(57) And she distanced herself even more from her gender by declaring herself to be a "messenger of my 'people in arms'" whose work was only possible because she was willing to give "the final - one might say, soldierly - effort, even if it were sacrificing my life."(58) Schiller's 1936 marriage into the Stauffenberg family whose members for centuries had held high-ranking positions in the German military and public service had served two purposes: to show her devotion to the Fatherland and to stabilize her racial status in society. The Stauffenberg family turned out not to be the best protection either when her brother-in-law Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg organized the 1944 conspiracy to kill Adolf Hitler - a plan Melitta intimately was involved with. After the assassination attempt failed the conspirators were killed and their families arrested. Melitta Schiller was arrested too but six weeks later, with almost all of her relatives still in prison, she returned to her dive bombing job which she continued until her death in April 1945.

The attempt of the women to blend into their male environment took the edge off their intrusion into the male sphere. Since the women acted "like men" (and were expected to act "like men") their achievements took on a male connotation. By way of meritocracy the women were integrated into the male world - not as representatives of their gender - but as rare exceptions who willingly subordinated themselves into their role as female tokens in a male world. This way the contribution of women to aviation in general and to military aviation in particular was even more marginalized and this seemed to confirm the traditional gender role ascriptions: men fly, women don't; men fight, women don't. Instead of helping to lift traditional hierarchical attributions of gender and authority women pilots' accomplishments during the war cemented them even more.The question of whether the patriotism of Germany's women pilots served as a camouflage for their attempts to achieve emancipation cannot be fully answered yet. However, Germany's women pilots and their actions cannot be interpreted as emancipated or feminist in the way we understand it today - a conscious decision to achieve the equality of both genders, for all men and all women. By integrating themselves into the male world they secured exceptional positions for themselves but surrendered any progress they - perhaps - might have made for their gender.

But there was also a second aspect in the women's attempt to act "like men". When Hanna Reitsch presented herself as a pilot equal to the men fighting on the front and Melitta Schiller declared herself to be a "messenger of her 'people in arms'", and when women pilots felt proud to have been "drafted" all of them despite their disregard for emancipation laid claim to a privilege that women had been denied for centuries. For many female pilots service to the state was a way to prove their value as citizens in a society that considered them second-class citizens. Since the rise of bourgeois society, constitutions had partly based men's citizenship on the right and duty to serve in the military. Women had been excluded from this privilege of citizenship and had thus been excluded from being actively involved in many aspects of their nation's development and politics. For them questions of gender and nation had become closely intertwined. Both are artificially constructed in a process of inclusion and exclusion, by the promise of participation and the threat of omission - all these factors shaping the existence of the individual. For men gender identity and national identity had been intertwined in their identities as citizens and soldiers. For women this connection was not as obvious. Since they did not have citizenship rights or acquired them only gradually over time they had to prove their identity as citizens much more than men. Again, I would argue, this was more a political than emancipatory approach. Serving their state at a time of need seemed to be an opportune way for women pilots to show their loyalty and to lay claims on being respected as fully responsible citizens who wanted to contribute their share to their nation's needs - no matter what their actual gender was. Although this motivation has emancipatory undertones it has to be seen primarily in the light of the political events that shaped Germany during the first half of the twentieth century.

Unfortunately the experiment of German women pilots at war failed to have a lasting influence. With the end of World War II the women's efforts and accomplishments were ignored and quickly forgotten when Germany wanted to do away with its Nazi past. In a rather brief and cursory process of denazification dictated by the needs to integrate both German states into the frontlines of the "Cold War", the political and military past of the women pilots was declared insignificant. Only Hanna Reitsch who had been especially prominent during the Hitler era was singled out as a "Nazi criminal" in the public process of dealing with the past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung): Biographical elements, dynamic power structures, the ideological mechanisms of manipulation, not to mention the complex individual and societal entanglements of guilt that defined the Nazi regime, were completely neglected. The other women pilots simply disappeared into oblivion. The question of whether they were (co-)perpetrators in the crimes of the Third Reich, and if so, to what extent, still remains largely unanswered. Although there is no doubt today that the Nazi regime was an ensemble of men and women, and a "broad spectrum of multiple amalgamated activities, which together made the National Socialist dictatorship happen,"(59) the exemplary role of women pilots during the Nazi era, and their contribution to our understanding of gender roles, is still completely understudied. Yet, the fact that women pilots had been able to master military aircraft as well as men - that they had performed their missions under combat-like conditions - was quickly forgotten because of the gender aspects involved. The threatening knowledge that women could master military aircraft and risk their lives in war and combat as well as men was not welcome in the late 1940s and 1950s, when both German societies returned to more conservative family and gender values. Male pilots, even those with a compromising Nazi era career, were needed in the newly founded Luftwaffe of 1956; women were not. And while the men took off into the jet age, society defined a new "dream job in the air" for young German women - that of a stewardess, a "housewife in the air".(60) Only at the end of the twentieth century, more than fifty years after the end of World War II and the accomplishments of their predecessors, two women were accepted into training as military pilots
with the Luftwaffe.

A group of female gliding instructors in uniforms of the NS
Flying Corps, April 1945, at Schäferstuhl, Germany.

AND 1945

Woman pilot Vera von Bissing (right) as head of the repair yard/ferrying site of the NS Flying Corps in Eschwege, Germany, during World War II. (Karl Koessler photo.)

A group of female gliding instructors in uniforms of the NS Flying Corps, during training with a Zögling glider at the Wasserkuppe in fall of 1944. (Marga Hempel photo.)

Woman gliding instructor at the Wasserkuppe, fall 1944. (Marga Hempel photo.)


Female gliding instructors of the NS Flying Corps, at the end of the war, April/May 1945. (Marga Hempel photo.)


Woman pilot Anneliese Lieben, in 1943 head of aircraft maintenance at Luftdienstkommando 1/6 at Münster-Loddenheide, was a well-known aerobatics pilot in the mid-1930s.

German soaring champion and experimental test pilot Hanna Reitsch in 1938, after winning the Reman out-and-about soaring competition in gliding. Next to her (in white coverall) is famous glider pilot Otto Bräutigam. On the very right is one of her mentors, Generalluftzeugmeister Ernst Udet. (Photo from Deutsche Luftwacht Luftwelt, vol. 5, no. 6, June 1938, p. 190.)


Melitta Schiller, "quarter-Jewish" physicist, flight engineer, and test pilot at the Luftwaffe Test Center in Rechlin and the Luftwaffe's Technical Academy in Berlin-Gatow, in 1943. (Photo from Deutsche Luftwacht Luftwelt, vol. 10, no. 6, March 1943, p. 138.)


Lisl Schwab, chief pilot for Leichtbau Inc., Budweis, in front of one of the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch airplanes she test-flew for the company until summer 1944. (Karl Koessler photo.)


Luftwaffe ferry pilot Lisl Schwab in front of a Junkers W 34, the largest airplane she was allowed to fly during World War II.


The first page of Thea Knorr's flight log, showing test flights at the Klemm factory in Böblingen in July, 1940. (Author's copy.)


Liesel Bach, European aerobatics champion of the 1930s, and ferry pilot with the Luftwaffe in 1944/45.


Lieselotte Georgi (left), ferry pilot with the Luftwaffe in 1944/45, during aerobatics training with her flight instructor Hans-Jürgen Uhse in summer 1939. (Deutsche Luftwacht - Luftwelt, vol. 6, no. 5, May 1939, p. 161.)




1. For a detailed comparison on the development of women's aviation in the U.S., Great Britain and the USSR between 1918 and 1945, see the author's "Schneidige deutsche Mädel." Fliegerinnen zwischen 1918 und 1945, Göttingen: Wallstein-Verlag 2007, chapter 2 (in German).

2. For more information on the pre-war activities of German women pilots, see author's article "'The Holy Desire to Serve the Poor and Tortured Fatherland': German Women Motor Pilots of the Inter- War Era and Their Political Mission," in: German Studies Review, vol. XXX, no. 3, October 2007, pp. 579-596. For a more detailed study covering the years 1918 to 1945, see author's publication [footnote 1].

3. See here especially Jeff M. Tuten, Germany and the World Wars, in: Nancy Loring Goldman (ed.), Female Soldiers - Combatants or Noncombatants. Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, Westport London: Greenwald Press 1982, pp. 47-60.

4. Marie Elisabeth Lüders, Das unbekannte Heer. Frauen kämpfen für Deutschland 1914-1918, Berlin: Verlag von E.S. Mittler und Sohn 1936, and Marie Elisabeth Lüders, Volksdienst der Frau, Berlin: Hans-Bott-Verlag 1937.

5. Runderlaß no. 426/38 ASt. of the Reich Economic Ministry, Richtlinien für die Beschäftigung von Frauen im Mobfall (Guidelines for the Employment of Women in War), October 10, 1938, in: BA Koblenz, R 13/1/1016. For more information, see Ursula von Gersdorff, Frauen im Kriegsdienst, 1914 bis 1945, Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt 1969,
p. 47, and p. 285ff (reprint of the document).

6. In 1943/44, about 8.000 female communication aides and about 12.500 female staff assistant specialists (Stabshelferinnen) served in the Field Army and in the occupied areas; and in the Navy including the female Navy aides (Marinehelferinnen) about 20,000 women. The Luftwaffe during the war mobilized approximately 130,000 women. See
Ursula von Gersdorff, Frauen im Kriegsdienst, 1914 bis 1945, p. 74 f. In the same source, see also the following documents relevant for the employment of women with the Luftwaffe: "Schreiben des Reichsbevollmächtigten für den totalen Kriegseinsatz. Wehrmachtersatzprogramm und Wehrhilfsdienstgesetz", Oct. 19, 1944, p. 455 ff.; and "Entwurf einer Anordnung Hitlers. Einsatz von Luftwaffenhelferinnen (Luftwaffenhelferinnen-Einsatzordnung)," Nov.
1944, p. 460 f.

7. Rolf Italiaander, Drei deutsche Fliegerinnen, Berlin: Gustav-Weise- Verlag 1940, p. 9.

8. See letter of Theo Croneiß, Führer of NS Flying Corps, Group 13, to woman pilot Lisl Schwab, Feb. 19, 1940; copy in author's possession.

9. Elly Beinhorn, Ich fliege um die Welt, Berlin: Ullstein Verlag 1952, p. 204.

10. A B1-license enabled pilots to fly one- to four-seated airplanes of 1,000 to 2,500 kilogram weight; B2-licenses allowed access to one- to eight-seated airplanes with a weight range from 2,500 to 5,000 kilogram. A-licenses sport pilots licenses comprised of A1 (one- and two-seated planes up to 500 kilogram weight) and A2 (one- to three-seated planes up to 1,000 kilogram weight.)

11. See flight log of Eva-Essa von Dewitz, copy in author's possession. Von Dewitz's flight log confirms 78 transition training flights in April and May 1940 on four different types of aircraft, but does not indicate if von Dewitz finished her training.

12. "Merkblatt für die Übernahme von reichseigenen Flugzeugen aus der Industrie zur Überführung zu den Nachschubdienststellen der Luftwaffe durch Flugzeugführer des NS-Fliegerkorps," copy in author's possession.

13. Elly Beinhorn, Ich fliege um die Welt, p. 204.

14. Hogeweg's service at the Nachschubamt is registered with the Deutsche Dienststelle/Wehrmachtsauskunftstelle in Berlin which indicates that her work was of military character. See letter by Deutsche Dienststelle to author, July 29, 2003.

15. According to affidavit by Maria Elisabeth [Lisl] Schwab, Oct. 19, 1966, copy in author's possession, confirmed by various other Schwab documents including salary slips and tax documents. For further information, the author thanks Karl Koessler, Cremlingen, and Stadtmuseum Ingolstadt.

16. Affidavit Lisl Schwab, Oct. 19, 1966.

17. Spruchkammerakte Vera von Bissing, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, call-no Abt. 529 Eg, Nr. 3159, p. 6 (biography).

18. For a rare example of the public presentation of a female pilot's contribution to the war effort, see the article about von Bissing in the Archive of the Deutsche Museum in Munich, Germany, collection Luftfahrt - Persönlichkeiten - Frauen, letter B (no source for article noted in the collection).

19. Luftdienstkommando 1/6, Münster, Major und Kommandoführer Wenig, Bitte um Höhergruppierung für Reichsangestellte/Flugzeugf.[ührerin] Anneliese Höppner, Aug. 3, 1943. Interestingly, no official document ever named Lieben as the head of maintenance; the quoted evaluation by her supervisor is the only proof that she was not only one among all flight mechanics, but actually in charge of all maintenance work.

20. Startklarmeldung Luftdienstkommando 1/6 Münster-Loddenheide (undated, probably from 1943), copy in author's possession.

21. The existence of this questionnaire - and the attempts to employ women pilots, whether in a civilian or military capacity - is confirmed by the statements of women pilots Elly Beinhorn, Eva Gustafson-Mahlkuch-Heise, Marga H., and Rose-Marie S.

22. Due to an extremely scarce record situation, the structure and history of the Ferrying Wing 1 of the Ferrying Group Mitte can not be reconstructed. It is not known when exactly this wing was founded and stationed in Berlin-Tempelhof. Neither Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv Freiburg, record group RL 10, Fliegende Verbände, nor Gemeinschaft der Jagdflieger, Vereinigung der Flieger deutscher Streitkräfte e.V. (according to Colonel [ret.] Wilhelm Göbel, consultant on history, tradition and search services) have any information on record regarding Ferrying Wing 1.

23. Based on statements of woman pilot and Luftwaffe Captain Beate Uhse in Mit Lust und Liebe. Mein Leben, Frankfurt/Main: Ullstein-Verlag 1992, p. 78.

24. Liesel Bach, Den alten Göttern zu, Köln: Greven Verlag 1954, p. 18.

25. Beate Uhse (with Ulrich Pramann), Mit Lust und Liebe, p. 78.

26. No substantial academic research has ever been done on Hanna Reitsch. The most comprehensive sources are still her memoirs: Fliegen - Mein Leben (covering the era until 1945) and Höhen und Tiefen. 1945 bis zur Gegenwart (covering the period after 1945). Both books were published multiple times by different publishers after the war, and
are republished in 2009. Schiller's piloting accomplishments have been studied, mainly under technical and technological aspects, in Gerhard Bracke, Melitta Gräfin Stauffenberg. Das Leben einer Fliegerin. Höhen und Tiefen eines außergewöhnlichen Frauenlebens, Frankfurt/Main - Berlin: Ullstein 1993.

27. See Reitsch's memoirs, Fliegen - Mein Leben, p. 272-283, as well as the introduction to her report by Wolfgang Späte, from 1942 head of Test Command 16, as such in charge of the practical evaluation of the Me 163 interceptor [Führer des Erprobungs-Kommandos 16 und Typenbeauftragter für die Entwicklung des Raketenjägers Me 163], in:
Wolfgang Späte (ed.), Testpiloten, Planegg: Aviatic Verlag, 1993, pp. 45-47.

28. Opitz remembers that Reitsch flew the Me 163 B in four transition training flights in Regensburg (the location of the Messerschmitt company) in summer 1942, and the Me 163 A four times probably in November/December 1943 in Bad Zwischenahn, the base of Test Command 16; the last flight was a powered flight. (Letter of Mike Opitz, son of Rudy Opitz, to author, January 10, 2009. His recollections can also be found in Jeffrey L. Ethell, Komet. The Messerschmitt 163, New York: Sky Book Press, 1978.) Hanna Reitsch herself claims to have flown both versions "multiple" times, and the Me 163 A fully fuelled four to five times. (Hanna Reitsch, letter to "Herr Winter", February 15, 1977, NASM Archive, collection Hanna Reitsch).

29. For a published version of these interrogations see Office of the United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality, Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, vol. VI, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946: Document 3734-PS, October 8, 1945. Summary of interrogation: The Last Days in Hitler's Air Raid Shelter, source: Flugkapitaen Hanna Reitsch, pp. 551-569; as well as Robert E. Work, "Hitler's Dilemma: His last days in his bunker," in: Public Opinion Quarterly, Winter 1946/47, pp. 565-581.

30. See "Richtlinien des Oberkommandos der Luftwaffe. Auswahl und Verteilung der für den Einsatz als fliegertechnisches Personal vorgesehenen Frauen," Nov. 1, 1944, p. 461 ff. See also attachment "Richtlinien für die Auswahl und Verteilung der für den fliegertechnischen und Werfteinsatz vorgesehenen Frauen," and "Erlass des Oberkommandos der Luftwaffe. Ausbildung von Frauen als fliegertechnisches und Funktionspersonal. Erfahrungen im Bereich des Generals der Fliegerausbildung," Jan. 9, 1945, all in: Ursula von Gersdorff, Frauen im Kriegsdienst, 1914 bis 1945, p. 487 ff.

31. Ibid., p. 488.

32. Members of the Berlin women's gliding club report an interesting story: In Winter 1941/42, due to private contacts of one of their members, the women had the chance to join pilots of the Flying Hitler-Youth during flights in two-seated gliders at the Saarmund training center near Berlin. These planes were usually restricted to the training of military pilots. Quickly, the women and the flight instructor, Mr. Zicke, were denounced: The women were banned from the Saarmund training center, and the flight instructor was told that he would lose his license would he ever allow women access to glider planes again. Based on the recollections of Ruth D., Margot Will, and Charlotte Wittig. For a more detailed version, and photographs of the event, see author's book "Schneidige deutsche Mädel" p. 419-421.

33. The Jägerstab was founded on March 1, 1944, by agreement between Reich Armament Ministry and Reich Air Ministry. Its task was the creation of all conditions for a significant increase of the production numbers of fighter planes. Beside direct interference with production at the manufacturers' sites, this meant among others the construction of bomb proof underground production and assembly facilities, and the utilization of new labor forces, like tens of thousands of concentration camp inmates.

34. (Jagdflieger-Nachwuchs für Sonderzwecke), as the unit was called by Fritz Saur, head of "Jägerstab", according to Georg Cordts, Junge Adler, p. 214.

35. The voluntary character of these "drafts" is confirmed in the author's interviews with women pilots Gerda B. and Marga H., and the diary of Marie-Luise Müller-Maar, as well as in Margret Schmidt, Mädchen am Steuerknüppel, Stuttgart: Kreuz-Verlag 1953, p. 84.

36. Margret Schmidt, Mädchen am Steuerknüppel, p. 86.

37. Erich Hartmann, with 352 aerial kills the most successful fighter pilot of World War II, and his brother Alfred had taken their first lessons in flying (gliding) at a flight school opened by their mother in 1939 in Weil/Schönbuch in Southern Germany.

38. See OKW- (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, Wehrmacht Supreme Command) order "Stellung der Frau in der Wehrmacht," Sep. 5, 1944, and attachment "Der Reichsbevollmächtigte für den totalen Kriegseinsatz, Der Leiter des Planungsausschusses," in: Ursula von Gersdorff, Frauen im Kriegseinsatz, 1914 bis 1945, p. 441 f.

39. Author's interview with Marga H., Jan. 30, 2005.

40. Margaret Schmidt, Mädchen am Steuerknüppel, p. 85.

41. Marga H., 'Was hat mich bewogen, fliegen zu lernen?" (unpublished), p. 2. See also the recollections of Margret Schmidt about her time as instructor at the gliding school in Rannay near Brüx, in Mädchen am Steuerknüppel, p. 91.

42. Marie-Luise Müller-Maar, "Mein Fliegerleben im Telegrammstil" (unpublished), p. 10 f.

43. Beate Uhse, Mit Lust und Liebe, p. 73.

44. Liesel Bach, quoted according to A. Richter, Frauensport in Köln - Sechs Lebensbilder, in Gabi Langen (ed.), Vom Handstand in den Ehestand, Köln: Emons-Verlag 1999, p. 86.

45. Copy of Uhse's flight log in possession of the author.

46. Margret Schmidt, Mädchen am Steuerknüppel, p. 83 f.

47. See for instance author's interview with Marga H. in January 2005: Marga H. had been informed about the chance to attend instructor classes by one of her former flight instructors, and attended because she was bored of her job as a hospital nurse and wanted to fly again. Marie-Luise Müller-Maar attended because she missed flying and wanted to work closely with her former female gliding friends. (Marie-Luise Müller-Maar, "Mein Fliegerleben im Telegrammstil," p. 6.) See also Margaret Schmidt, Mädchen am Steuerknüppel, p. 83f.

48. Karin Mannesmann, diary (unpublished), entry for Nov. 13, 1940.

49. Liesel Bach, Den alten Göttern zu, p. 18.

50. See Christa Niklas, "Thérèse und Lisl Schwab. Die Malerin und die Pilotin," in: Jahrbuch des Historischen Vereins Ingolstadt, vol. 113 (2004), Ingolstadt 2005, pp. 289-300, esp. p. 298.

51. Beate Uhse (mit Ulrich Pramann), Mit Lust und Liebe, p. 73.

52. Spruchkammerakte Vera von Bissing, biography, pp. 6r, and 41.

53. For a general analysis of the gender factor in World War II, see the study by D'Ann Campbell: 'Women in Combat: The World War II Experience in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and the Soviet Union," in: The Journal of Military History, no. 57 (April 1993), pp. 301-323, which pays special attention to mixed-gender anti aircraft units.

54. For more detailed information, see author's article [footnote 2].

55. Hanna Reitsch, Fliegen - mein Leben, Frankfurt/ Main- Berlin: Ullstein-Buch 1996, p. 263.

56. Ibid. p. 192.

57. Quoted after Gerhard Bracke, Melitta Gräfin Stauffenberg, p. 40.

58. Ibid, p. 150.

59. Heinsohn, Kirsten, and others (eds.), Zwischen Karriere und Verfolgung. Handlungsräume von Frauen im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland, Frankfurt/Main and New York: Campus-Verlag 1997, p. 11.

60. See Elly Beinhorn's book Madlen wird Stewardess. Ausbildung und Abenteuer einer Flugbegleiterin auf internationalen Luftlinien [Madlen becomes a stewardess. Training and adventures of a stewardess on international flights], Berlin: Ullstein AG 1954, and media campaigns after the foundation of Germany's Lufthansa airline in 1952. [Author Affiliation]

An historian and journalist, Dr. Evelyn Zegenhagen is currently the Verville Fellow at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C, where she is working on a scholarly biography of Hanna Reitsch. Dr. Zegenhagen graduated summa cum laude in 2006, from the University of the German Armed Forces in Munich, Germany. In 2008, she received the Hugo-Junkers Award of the German Aviation Press for her dissertation on German women sport pilots from 1918 to 1945. Her publications include:

"Schneidige Deutsche Mädel:" Fliegerinnen zwischen 1918 und 1945 ["Dashing German Girls:" Women Pilots between 1918 and 1945], (Göttingen: Wallstein-Verlag, 2007);

Deutsche Luftahrtpioniere 1900 bis 1950 [German Aviation Pioneers 1900 to 1950], coauthored with Jörg-M. Hormann, (Bielefeld: Delius-Klasing-Verlag, 2008);

"The Holy Desire to Serve the Poor and Tortured Fatherland: German Women Motor Pilots of the Inter-War Years and Their Political Mission." in: German Studies Review

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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by Heimatschuss » 13 Dec 2011 17:18

Hello all,
Heimatschuss wrote: The end of the original article seems to have contained several pilot photos not included in the copy file I found. Perhaps someone has the chance to bring them here from the original paper edition.
I just found a scan of the article above including the pictures. It's at . Quite interesting shots of female pilot overalls and the late war NSFK glider trainers. The uniforms of the latter look like the hodgepodge of Luftwaffe items (both male and female) you find in late war Flakhelferinnen. Just the cap eagle is that of the NSFK/NSDAP.

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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by parahist » 15 Nov 2019 13:27

Old post... but I try to find more
Did any of those German female pilots used parachute in war time?

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Post by Stephan » 12 Dec 2019 20:36

Doktor Krollspell wrote:
14 Nov 2005 18:43
Hello again Gentlemen!

While I'm at it... I visited the library a while ago and looked through some pages of the "Almanach de Gotha", the book(s) on german nobility. There I found a picture of a woman in Luftwaffe uniform with the title of Flugkapitän. The name of this woman, if memory serves me right was Sibylline, or Sabine von Jagow. I've tried searching the Net but so far nothing... I will look it up in due time at the library, but my question is if any Forum member have any kind of information on this woman?


I have seen a photo on her somewhere. Pinterest?
They had difficult to find sure info on her, and a commentator mentioned the uniform details werent typical.

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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by peeved » 12 Dec 2019 20:52

Dis one?



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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by Stephan » 12 Dec 2019 21:35

Yes I think so.

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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by Doktor Krollspell » 16 Dec 2019 23:02

peeved wrote:
12 Dec 2019 20:52
Dis one?


Thanks, Markus! That's the exact photograph of Sibylle von Jagow that I saw in the "Almanach de Gotha" back in 2005.

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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by peeved » 17 Dec 2019 06:51

Thank you Krollspell,

But most of the credit should go to Stephan for bumping the thread.

Over 14 years to answer a question; A forum record maybe.


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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by Lemnos1944 » 17 Feb 2020 07:03

I was interested in the discussion on female pilots in the Luftwaffe. An Australian soldier who was serving during the Greek campaign - Sergeant Alfred Huggins of thr 2/3rd Casualty Clearing Station - recalls the downing of a German plane at Nafplio during the Allied evacuation in late April 1941. He specifically recalls that their unit having recovered the body of the pilot from the wreckage only to discover that the pilot was female. They then buried the pilot nearby. Why would a female pilot be in a Luftwaffe plane over Nafplio during a bombing raid? May she have been an aerial photographer? I am interested to hear any thoughts. He also took two photos of the downing and the wreckage.

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Re: Luftwaffe female pilots?

Post by Seppo Koivisto » 17 Feb 2020 10:31

Other topic on Sibylle von Jagow. Interesting last post not so long ago.

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