Military Wiki
Oberkommando der Luftwaffe
OKLw2 links.svg
Flag for the Supreme Commander of the German Air Force, 1938-1940
Active 1935–1945
Country  Nazi Germany
Branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Engagements Invasion of Poland,
Eastern Front,
Battle of Britain,
Defence of the Reich,
Unternehmen Bodenplatte
Chief of the OKL See list
Ceremonial chief See list

The Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL), translated as the High Command of the Air Force (lit.Upper Command of the Air Force), was the high command of the Luftwaffe.


Luftwaffe was organized in a large and diverse structure led by Reich minister (German language: Reichsminister) and supreme commander of the Luftwaffe (German language: Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe) Hermann Göring. Göring through the Reich Air Ministry (German language: Reichsluftfahrtministerium /RLM/) controlled all aspects of aviation in Germany including civilian and military aviation. The organization of this organization was from the peacetime period dating prior to involvement in Spanish Civil War.[1]

In early 1937, Göring announced reorganization of the Reich Air Ministry into military and civilian branches. The military branch was to be led by the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (Supreme H.Q. of Air Force). A chief would be leading the general staff. However, the separation of military from civil aviation was not complete and it was fragmented. Some parts of the military branch were left under the control of Air Inspector General Field Marshal (German language: Generalfeldmarschall) Erhard Milch. These were

  • Central Branch
  • General Air Office
  • All the inspectorates[2]

The reasons for this formation was primarily to undermine Milch, who was getting favorable attention from the Party. However, later during the year and early next year, Göring again changed the organization structure by removing three offices from Milch's and General Staff's control. He brought under his own direct control. These were

This change made these offices to be additional power centers in RLM further fragmenting the top Luftwaffe organization. It also crippled important functional areas.[2]


To gear-up for the European war as the air arm of the combined Wehrmacht armed forces of Nazi Germany, the Luftwaffe needed a high command equivalent to the Army (Oberkommando des Heeres OKH) or Navy (Oberkommando der Marine OKM). Thus on 5 February 1935, Air Force Command (German language: Oberkommando der Luftwaffe OKL) was created. Then in 1939, the Luftwaffe was again reorganized. The credit for the formation of a true Air Force High Command (German language: Oberkommando der Luftwaffe OKL) goes to General der Flieger Günther Korten commander of Air Fleet 1 (German language: Luftflotte 1) and his Chief of Operations General der Flieger Karl Koller. They both campaigned to carve out a command out of Goring's all-encompassing Reich Air Ministry. The intent was to put Luftwaffe on a true wartime footing, by grouping all the essential military parts of the RLM into a single command. It included following branches.[1][3]

  • General Staff
  • Operational Staff
  • All the Weapon's Inspectorate
  • Quartermasters Branch
  • Signals Service[1]

Other areas such as training, administration, civil defense and technical design remained under RLM's control. The new organization proved to be more efficient and lasted until the end of the war.[1]

OKL like OKH or OKM reported to Supreme High Command of the Armed Forces (German language: Oberkommando der Wehrmacht OKW). The OKW was answerable to Hitler for the operation command of the three branches of the armed forces. OKL was divided into forward Echelon (German language: 1. Staffel) and rear echelon (German language: 2. Staffel). The forward echelon moved with the theater of operations while rear echelon remained almost exclusively in Berlin.[3][4]

OKL was also the operational branch of the Luftwaffe. It was divided operationally into air fleets at a high level. Initially it was divided into four air fleets (German language: Luftflotte) that were formed geographically and were numbered consecutively. Three more Luftflotten were added later on as German territorial expansion grew further. Each Luftflotte was a self-contained entity. The leader of each was in charge of overall air operations and Support activities. However a fighter leader (German language: Jagdfliegerführer) was in charge of all the fighter operations and reported to the Luftflotte Leader.[5]

Each Luftflotte was further divided into air districts (German language: Luftgaue) and flying Corps (German language: Fliegerkorps). Each Luftgau had 50 to 150 officers led by a Generalmajor. It was responsible for providing administrative and logistical structure as well as resources to each airfield. The Fliegerkorps on the other hand were in charge of the operation matters related to flying such as unit deployment, air traffic control, ordnance and maintenance.[5]

Since this structure was making ground support structure available to flying units, the flying units were freed from moving the support staff from one location to another as the unit relocated. Once the unit arrived at its new location, all the airfield staff would come under the control of the commander of that unit.[5]

Chiefs of OKL and Commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe

Commander-in-chief Took office Left office Time in office
Hermann Göring
Göring, HermannReichsmarschall Hermann Göring
1 March 193524 April 194510 years, 54 days
Robert Ritter von Greim
Greim, Robert RitterGeneralfeldmarschall Robert Ritter von Greim
29 April 19458 May 19459 days

Chiefs of the OKL General Staff

Flag for the Chief of the OKL General Staff

Chief of the OKL General Staff Took office Left office Time in office
Walther Wever
Wever, WaltherGeneral der Flieger Walther Wever
1 March 19353 June 1936 †1 year, 94 days
Albert Kesselring
Kesselring, AlbertGeneral der Flieger Albert Kesselring
5 June 193631 May 1937360 days
Hans-Jürgen Stumpff
Stumpff, Hans-JürgenGeneral der Flieger Hans-Jürgen Stumpff
1 June 193731 January 19391 year, 244 days
Hans Jeschonnek
Jeschonnek, HansGeneraloberst Hans Jeschonnek
1 February 193918 August 1943 †4 years, 198 days
Günther Korten
Korten, GüntherGeneral der Flieger Günther Korten
25 August 194322 July 1944 †332 days
Werner Kreipe
Kreipe, WernerGeneral der Flieger Werner Kreipe (Acting)
2 August 194428 October 194487 days
6Koller, KarlGeneral der Flieger Karl Koller
12 November 19448 May 1945177 days
Hans-Jürgen Stumpff
Stumpff, Hans-JürgenGeneral der Flieger Hans-Jürgen Stumpff (Acting)
8 May 194523 May 194515 days




  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Caldwell & Muller (2007), pp.144–145
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mitcham (2007), pp.21–22
  3. 3.0 3.1 United States War Dept., (1995) p. 15
  4. Lepage (2009), pp.16–17
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Stedman (2002), pp.5–6
  6. Mitcham (2007), p. 24


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