Jeschonnek, General Hans, 1899-1943

Jeschonnek served as the German Chief of Air Staff from 1939-43. He was a World War I flying ace who had been picked by GOERING to help build up the Luftwaffe. He was very hard-working and anxious to prove the value of air power. The rivalry between the Luftwaffe and the German Army led to a serious mistake in May 1940: HITLER gave the Luftwaffe a free hand to clear the Dunkirk pocket and thus gave the British Expeditionary Force a chance to escape. Goering and Jeschonnek were the architects of this fiasco. Jeschonnek had his own feud with MILCH and on the whole was more successful in obtaining Hitler’s ear but as German fortunes declined so the pressure on Jeschonneck and his Air Force to counter the bombing offensive increased. Jeschonnek was not used to planning defensive operations and too often his fighters arrived too late to intercept a bombing mission over the Reich. Goering lost confidence in him and very rarely consulted him. Finally the situation became intolerable: Jeschonnek gave orders for the Berlin air defenses to fire on 200 German fighters who had mistakenly assembled there during a catastrophic raid on the Peenemunde Rocket Station. Jeschonnek shot himself on the next day.

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