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Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff (15 September 1913 – 21 February 1994) was a Luftwaffe fighter ace during World War II, German general, and NATO official. He was one of very few Luftwaffe pilots who survived to fly operationally through the whole of the war period 1939–45. Steinhoff was also one of the highest-scoring pilots with 176 victories, and one of the first to fly the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter in combat as a member of the Jagdverband 44 squadron led by Adolf Galland. Steinhoff was decorated with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords, and later received the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and several foreign awards including the American Legion of Merit and the French Legion of Honour. He played a role in the so-called Fighter Pilots’ Revolt late in the war, when several senior air force officers confronted Hermann Göring.
Steinhoff joined the West German government’s Rearmament Office as a consultant on military aviation in 1952 and became one of the principal officials tasked with rebuilding the German Air Force through the Cold War. In retirement, Steinhoff became a widely read author of books on German military aviation during the Second World War and the experiences of the German people at that time.
Steinhoff was invited by West Germany’s new interim government to rebuild the Luftwaffe within NATO, eventually rising to the rank of full general. Steinhoff became the German Military Representative to the NATO Military Committee in 1960, served as Acting Commander Allied Air Forces Central Europe in NATO 1965–1966, as Inspector of the Air Force 1966–1970 and as Chairman of the NATO Military Committee 1971–1974.
Steinhoff received numerous honours for his work on the structure of the post war German Air Force and the integration of the German Federal Armed Forces into NATO, including: The Order of Merit with Star, the American Legion of Merit and the French Légion d’honneur.
One of Steinhoff’s contributions was dealing with the high accident rate the air force was having with its F-104 Starfighters. Upon researching the issue, Steinhoff, who had always been a good teacher, deduced that the problem was not the aircraft but poor training for pilots on that particular aircraft. He addressed the problem with an intensive training regime and the accident rate dropped dramatically.
In May 1985, Steinhoff met Ronald Reagan, then President of the United States, during a visit to the WWII Kolmeshöhe Military Cemetery near Bitburg. The event was planned to be an act of reconciliation on the 40th anniversary of V-E Day. Reagan and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl were to pay their respects at the German military cemetery.
Job-Wilhelm Henning Dietrich von Witzleben (4 August 1916 – 1999) was a German army officer and a military historian.
During the Second World War, Witzleben served in the Wehrmacht. After being commissioned as a lieutenant, he was assigned to an anti-aircraft battery. Afterwards, while stationed in the 192. Grenadier Regiment of the 56th Infantry Division with the rank of a captain, Witzleben was awarded the German Cross in Gold on 24 April 1943. In autumn 1943, he returned from the Eastern Front to be trained for General Staff duty in the Prussian War Academy. Soon after his arrival, he visited his uncle, Field Marshal von Witzleben, who notified him of his intention to remove Adolf Hitler by force. The younger Witzleben was promoted to the rank of major and posted in the General Staff.
Job von Witzleben claimed that he was not personally involved in the 20 July Plot and that he was not made privy to its planning. Yet, under the new Sippenhaft laws and after his uncle was executed, he was interrogated by the Gestapo. Though nothing came of the investigation, he was temporarily discharged from the Wehrmacht. He was then recalled and relegated back to the Eastern Front; Witzleben told an interviewer that he was expected to “prove himself once more.” He was appointed as First Staff Officer, a role roughly equivalent to that of an operations officer, of the 69th Infantry Division on 26 February 1945. The division, with the rest of Army Group North, was already besieged by the Red Army in the city of Königsberg.
In early April, the corps’ chief of staff informed Witzleben that he is to be flown out of the pocket and face court-martial in Vienna, that would probably result in an execution. Witzleben ordered a radio operator to contact the Soviets. On 9 April, he met with a Soviet delegation which crossed the lines and defected to the Red Army. On the very same day, the remains of the division surrendered. He was held in relatively comfortable condition while in captivity.
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