Why the Luftwaffe Will Lose!

by Archduke Franz Josef of Austria
as told to Donn Hale Munson
Archduke Franz Josef, a veteran sportsman pilot, has flown extensively in Europe and has owned several airplanes. Now in the US as a refugee, he lives quietly in New York, still fears the Gestapo. — Ed.
Greatest weakness of the German Air Force is lack of replacement pilots and loss of individualism, says this royal Austrian refugee.

The German Luftwaffe will lose the war in the air to England's Royal Air Force. I feel as certain of that as I am that tomorrow will dawn. The failure of Hitler's air arm will be traced to one thing — inferiority.

Planes, pilots, ground crews and training — numerically strong as all those factors are — will not lead to a German victory in the air. From my observations in Germany and in England, there is a marked inferiority on the part of the Germans that all their blustering cannot cover. As an airman and an Austrian living many years of my life close to Germany, I have had many occasions to observe the workings of the German air arm. As a visitor to England, also, I have been permitted to see much.

While some air experts place the value of the English fighting machine as compared to the German craft at three and four to one, I am inclined to raise those figures and favor the English at six to one. I have read and heard stories of the supposed ersatz materials the Germans are said to be using but take no stock in them. I know, too well, that German ingenuity and determination would not permit the use of them. But there is a deeper inferiority. While it is true that the Messerschmitt Me-109 is a powerful and highly-maneuverable craft, my observation of it as compared to the British Spitfire leads me to believe that it is inferior in flying ability and construction.

I think I can detect defects in many of the German machines. The poor grade of aluminum used in Germany, the clever and intentional lack of endurance in the craft, the inability to take the pounding of high-speed fighting ….

More important than the inferiority of the machines is the inferiority of the men who fly them. I am always more interested in the pilot than the plane because, no matter how good the machine, the man is the real threat. The Germans are a regimented race. They always fight in numbers; their precision depends on mass. Cut one German flyer off from his fellows and you have him.

Mass-minded, the German flyers I have seen falter when faced with an individual problem. It is then that the British strike. The German is a poor hand-to-hand fighter but the Englishman is superb. He is the rugged individualist almost always. I have seen both Luftwaffe and RAF flyers in training and favor the RAF at tremendous odds. The German youth is given an early training but not so thorough as the RAF lad. He has less hours in the air when he goes into combat and, more or less, leans on his squadron members and his group training.

I have seen huge flights of German war machines wheel high up in European skies. But these large masses of planes failed to impress me as much as one daring RAF boy, fairly tearing his plane to pieces as he pursued his training programs. Foreshadowing what was to come, I once saw approximately 300 German planes blot out the sun for a minute as they flew over Austria. It impressed me then but I am happy today to know that the same number have been routed by fewer RAF planes.

For all their inferiority, the Germans can teach the world something about aircraft and flying personnel. Having received my own flight training in Europe, I am familiar with the German technique. I approve of the training of boys — small boys — and urge America to follow the German example by more encouragement of youth in aviation; by having the Government provide training for boys younger than the college men and women now being trained.

I approve thoroughly of using small, light planes like Cubs, Aeroncas, Taylorcrafts and the like in primary training but would advise this country to go one step further; follow the German idea of training boys on gliders. Always a devotee of soaring and gliding, my interest is high in that field, both as a sport and as a training measure.

By starting youngsters on primary or secondary type gliders, the US could educate its youth faster and for much less money. Twice as many youths could be trained. It is only natural that the small plane follows the glider, the heavy craft follow the little ship.

One of the most important factors of a glider education is the meteorology the pilot learns. I think one reason the German forces are so successful is because the Germans have put much emphasis on weather flying. The Luftwaffe pilots are better acquainted with winds and clouds and other weather elements than are their enemies. They know how to take advantage of each little current, each cloud formation and each form of precipitation. However, it is true the English are learning fast … as all the world cheers them on.

With the increasing aid to England being given by the US, the Luftwaffe's life grows shorter and shorter. Unfortunately, I am not permitted to see as much of American aviation as I would like. As a visiting alien it is hard for me to get close-up views of the aircraft industry here. To ask questions is to lead myself into trouble. I depend on American magazines like Flying and Popular Aviation for my news of United States' progress.

I would like to point out, however, that American flyers are quick to understand my interest. They do not, as do some non-pilots, immediately suspect me of being a foreign spy. They accept me as a brother pilot.

Beside all the major factors which will soon lead to a German defeat — more disgraceful than their last — are all the little things typical of the Germans. For instance, clothing. I know the value of keeping warmly clad while flying. The Germans do not, to my knowledge, serve their flyers with as good clothing as the RAF. The Luftwaffe flying jackets I have seen are thin compared to the thick leather and fur-lined suits worn by the English pilots.

Experience taught me the value of warm flying togs. I learned to fly in 1928 on a Henriot, known in Spain as a "bird cage" because of its elaborate wire rigging. Gradually I progressed to the English Avro, then to Martins, finally Blackburns which were then used for torpedo carrying.

As a civilian observer attached to the Spanish navy's air arm, I had an opportunity to fly many types of military machines. I flew French, German, Italian and other European-made craft. Then I began to learn their faults. The Italian Macchi flying boats, for instance, had the nasty habit of shedding their motor mounts on hard landings so the pusher engine would drop forward on the pilot's neck and back.

After my flying service, during which I instructed in Spain, I began to fly the various English de Havilland Moths and owned several. This particular winter day I was flying from London to Paris, en route to Spain. I was in the south of France and despite its latitude, it was extremely cold. I was wearing thin clothing.

My reflexes were affected considerably and I had difficulty in keeping coordination as the ship bounced around in rough air. Over the town of Dijon my engine suddenly sputtered and went dead. I was but a few miles from an airdrome but had no chance of reaching it with my motor dead. So I hastily looked for an emergency field. I found only one.

Shivering, I headed for it, side-slipping desperately as the cold wind whipped into the open cockpit. I was so cold I could hardly move. Just as I was about to set my plane down, I saw a peasant riding a bicycle across the field. I knew I would hit him because he did not give any sign of hearing me. Trying to dodge the man, I piled my plane up in a ditch which I normally could have avoided. But my hands and feet were so cold I could not make the proper moves at the proper times.

It has been interesting to me to note the way the Germans have systematically established bases just outside of each country they have swallowed. While flying cross-country in private planes, I often saw German planes scouting the country but thought nothing of it at the time. I know now they were mapping, planning for these days. The ease with which one can fly from one country to the next, bomb and kill and flee home to bases, will never be accomplished anywhere but in Europe. Germans would have a difficult time of running rampant through America as they have in Europe, simply because of the vastness of this land. And because they are definitely inferior to American flyers.

The bases I saw established are playing a very important part in the German conquest. Again I advise America to follow more rapidly some part of that German technique. The taking over of Greenland recently was one of the wisest moves America has made, I believe. I now hope to see the same procedure repeated in South and Central Americas where real danger lies. The establishing of Caribbean bases, too, was a wise move on America's part. By organizing air bases in the south through friendly pacts with the landowners, such as the recent Mexican transaction, mutual protection can be afforded the little countries and this country.

There is no real danger to the east immediately, I feel. The only commendation I can make of the Japanese is that they were wise enough to have some pilots trained in England in earlier days.

While the Germans are reported to be turning out huge numbers of planes in mass production system, I am inclined to discount much of those reports. If the planes are really rolling out as fast as Dr Goebbels would have you believe, be certain something is lost in the making of them. They are almost sure to fail to measure up to English and American planes. However, again I point begrudgingly to the Germans and plead with America to hasten its production. I am acquainted well enough with modern air war to know, or at least suspect, that we who are fighting Nazism are perhaps concentrating a little too hard on mechanical superiority.

I would not like to see any reduction in quality in fighting craft built here and in England, but I would like to see smaller, lighter and faster planes built. There is, I believe, entirely too much concentration on big ships. From the bases I have already mentioned it would be possible to operate small, fast planes with more success than the few large bombers which are now operating.

Light bombers like the splendid Lockheeds I have seen en route to England appear to be more valuable in my opinion than the tremendously large and tremendously expensive planes. This is a war of speed, not only in the air and on land and on the sea but in production. The Luftwaffe had a head start on the world and we must now catch up. We can do so by turning out the smaller ships. I am immensely interested in the development of plastics and hope we enemies of barbarism may find our answer there.

Another interesting and important inferiority of the German fliers is the psychological angle. With regimentation drilled into him from the time of his birth, he does not consider himself an individual. On the contrary, the German flier considers himself merely a cog in the wheel of the big state machine. He does not value his life as much as the person's whom he opposes. He is ready to die an allegedly glorious death for National Socialism and Hitler. In that kind of a psychological makeup, that certain spark born of real freedom is lacking. It detracts from fighting character. Is it not true that the man fighting to defend his home, his loved ones, his country, puts forward a more valiant and more fierce battle than the attacker?

Witness the Finns against the Communists, the Greeks against the Italians and my own countrymen who fell fighting in the streets before the invaders. The German pilot lacks the true individualistic fighting heart and breaks first in the dogfight when it becomes man-to-man. Eventually it will cost the Luftwaffe the victory of which it dreams.

This article was originally published in the August, 1941, issue of Flying and Popular Aviation magazine, vol 29, no 2, pp 14-15, 84, 86.
The original article includes a small portrait of the Archduke and 3 photos. Photos credited to Acme, International, British Combine.