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Martin Harlinghausen
Martin Harlinghausen
Born (1902-01-17)17 January 1902
Died 22 March 1986(1986-03-22) (aged 84)
Place of birth Rheda, Westphalia
Place of death Gütersloh
Allegiance  Weimar Republic (to 1933)
 Nazi Germany (to 1945)
 West Germany
Service/branch  Reichsmarine
Years of service 1923–1945
Rank Generalleutnant
Unit X. Fliegerkorps
Commands held AS 88 (Condor Legion)
Fliegerführer Atlantik
Fliegerführer Tunesien

Spanish Civil War
World War II

Awards Spanish Cross in Gold with Diamonds
Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub
Great Cross of Merit

Martin Harlinghausen (17 January 1902 – 22 March 1986) was a Luftwaffe Commander during World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. It was Germany's highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Martin Harlinghausen.[Note 1]

Early life

Martin Harlinghausen was born on 17 January 1902 in Rheda, Westfalia as the son of the manufacturer Wilhelm Harlinghausen. After four years of elementary school he attended the Humanistisches Gymnasium (secondary school) in Gütersloh. He completed his secondary schooling in Soest and Gumbinnen, East Prussia. He received his Abitur (diploma) in 1922 and then studied one semester jurisprudence at the University of Göttingen.[1]

Military career

Harlinghausen joined the Reichsmarine (German Navy) on 1 April 1923. Staying in the military, he transferred to the Luftwaffe in October 1933. In December 1937, he took Command of AS 88, an anti-shipping unit in the Condor Legion and specialized in that type of aerial warfare.

World War II

During World War II, he operated as a pilot, gaining the Ritterkreuz on 5 May 1940 for sinking 100,000 gross register tons (GRT) of Allied shipping.[2] Sent to Italy in December 1940, he sank another 27,000 GRT of shipping and was awarded the Oak Leaves (Eichenlaub) 30 January 1941.

In March 1941 he was appointed Fliegerführer Atlantik, a post he held until July 1942. During his time as Fliegerführer Atlantik, Harlinghausen was held responsible for the Luftwaffe's failure to prevent the loss of the battleship Bismarck.

Harlinghausen was later appointed Fliegerführer Tunesien in July 1942. He remained in the Mediterranean theater until 18 June 1943, when disagreements with his superiors led to his replacement. He stood up to Hermann Göring in 1944, when Göring, without following proper procedure, arrested General Wilhelm Wimmer. Harlinghausen successfully demanded release of Wimmer.[3]

In December 1944 Harlinghausen was appointed Chef des Luftwaffenkommandos "West", a position he held until the cession of hostilities. He was captured by American troops and was released in 1947.

Postwar life

Harlinghausen served in the new West German Luftwaffe from 1957 to 1961. He was sent into retirement, having been politically uncomfortable during his post-war career, after demanding a proper investigation in the 1961 F-84 Thunderstreak incident, after which Oberstleutnant Siegfried Barth, commander of Jagdbombergeschwader (JaBoG) 32, was removed from his post without a proper investigation.[3]

Harlinghausen died in Gütersloh in March 1986.


Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht

Date Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording Direct English translation
Sunday, 3 November 1940 An der britischen Ostküste versenkte ein Kampfflugzeug ein Handelsschiff von 6000 BRT. Damit hat der Kommandant dieses Flugzeuges, Major i. G. Harlinghausen, sein 20. Handelsschiff und mit ihm eine Gesamttonnage von über 100 000 BRT vernichtet.[7] A combat aircraft sank a merchant ship of 6000 GRT on the British East Coast. The commander of this aircraft, Major in the general staff Harlinghausen, thus destroyed his 20th merchant ship with a total tonnage exceeding 100 000 GRT.


  1. Until late September 1941, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves was second only to the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross (Großkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes), which was awarded only to senior commanders for winning a major battle or campaign, in the military order of the Third Reich. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves as highest military order was surpassed on 28 September 1941 by the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern).


  1. Alman 1998, p. 121.
  2. Martin Harlinghausen
  3. 3.0 3.1 STRAUSS-BEFEHL: Bier-Order 61 (German) Der Spiegel, published: 9 May 1962, accessed: 30 November 2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 Thomas 1997, p. 246.
  5. Alman 1998, p. 123.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Scherzer 2007, p. 366.
  7. Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, p. 348.
  • Alman, Karl (1998) (in German). Ritterkreuzträger des Afrikakorps [Knight's Cross Bearers of the Afrika Korps]. Rastatt, Germany: VPM Verlagsunion Pabel Moewig. ISBN 978-3-8118-1457-8. 
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) (in German). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches]. Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Jackson, Robert (2002). The Bismarck. Weapons of War: London. ISBN 1-86227-173-9.
  • Kaiser, Jochen (2010) (in German and English). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Kampfflieger—Band 1 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Bomber Fliers—Volume 1]. Bad Zwischenahn, Germany: Luftfahrtverlag-Start. ISBN 978-3-941437-07-4. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007) (in German). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives]. Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Thomas, Franz (1997) (in German). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 1: A–K [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 1: A–K]. Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2299-6. 
  • (in German) Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 1, 1. September 1939 bis 31. Dezember 1941 [The Wehrmacht Reports 1939–1945 Volume 1, 1 September 1939 to 31 December 1941]. München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. 1985. ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2. 

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Commander of Fliegerführer Atlantik
31 March 1941 – 5 January 1942
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Wolfgang von Wild
Preceded by
Generaloberst Bruno Loerzer
Commander of II. Fliegerkorps
23 February 1943 – 12 June 1943
Succeeded by
General Alfred Bülowius

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