Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle, 1885-1953

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Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle (1885-1953) was a senior Luftwaffe officer best known as the commander of Luftflotte 3 during the Battle of Britain. Sperrle was born in 1885 in Ludwigsburg, the son of a brewer. He joined the German army and served as an infantry officer, before becoming a pilot during the First World War. In 1919 he commanded the aircraft possessed by one of the Freikorps, the independent military forces that thrived in the post-war anarchy of Germany. When the Treaty of Versailles banned Germany from possessing military aircraft he returned to the infantry.

In 1935 Sperrle joined the infant Luftwaffe with the rank of Generalmajor. In 1936 he was spent to Spain to take command of the Condor Legion, the Luftwaffe's contribution to the Spanish Nationalist side during the Civil War. He remained in Spain until 1 November, when he was recalled to Germany and replaced by General Volkmann. Once back in Germany Sperrle was promoted to General of Flyers and given command of Luftflotte 3, which was then based at Munich.

By this point Sperrle had grown into a large brutal-looking man, described by Hitler as one of his 'two most brutal-looking generals'. His air fleet was not used during the invasion of Poland, but in 1940 it took part in both the invasion of France and the Battle of Britain. In both battles Sperrle operated alongside Kesselring, who commanded Luftflotte 1 during the attack on the west and Luftflotte 2 during the Battle of Britain.

After the conquest of France Sperrle and Luftflotte 3 moved to the north and north-west of France, from where they could threaten the south-west and south of England, while Kesselring focused on the south-east. Sperrle and Kesselring both performed well during the Battle of Britain, but without success. When Hitler's attentions began to turn east Sperrle was left behind as commander of the Luftwaffe in the west, with responsibility for both the bombing campaign against Britain and the first line of defence against British and later Allied aerial attacks on occupied Europe (including the raid on Dieppe in August 1942). During this period the forces at his disposal were slowly eroded, until by D-Day he only had 198 bombers and 125 fighters in his entire fleet.

Like Goering Sperrle spent much of his time indulging himself, living the high life in Paris. This had already come to Hitler's attention by the start of 1943, but Sperrle remained in command until 18 August 1944 when he was replaced by Otto Dessloch. After the war Sperrle was tried for war crimes at Nuremberg, but was acquitted. He died in Munich in 1953.

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 February 2011), Field Marshal Hugo Sperrle, 1885-1953 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_sperrle_hugo.html

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