Oberkommando der Luftwaffe

The Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (lit.'Upper Command of the Air Force'; abbreviated OKL) was the high command of the air force (Luftwaffe) of Nazi Germany.

Air Force High Command
Oberkommando der Luftwaffe
OKLw2 links.svg
Flag for the Supreme Commander of the German Air Force, 1938–1940
Founded26 February 1935
Disbanded23 May 1945
Country Nazi Germany
BranchAir force (Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe)
Part ofHigh Command of the Armed forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht)
Chief of the OKLSee list
Chief of the General StaffSee list


The Luftwaffe was organized in a large and diverse structure led by Reich minister and supreme commander of the Air force (German: Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe) Hermann Göring. Through the Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrtministerium) Göring controlled all aspects of aviation in Germany, civilian and military alike. This organization was established in the peacetime period predating the German involvement in the Spanish Civil War.[1]

In early 1937, Göring announced the reorganization of the Reich Air Ministry into military and civilian branches. The military branch was to be led by the Air Force High Command (Oberkommando der Luftwaffe) with its chief and general staff. However, the separation of military from civil aviation was incomplete and fragmented. Some parts of the military branch were left under the control of the General Inspector of the Air force, Field marshal general (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 1938, Göring again changed the organization structure by removing three offices from Milch's and General Staff's control, bringing them under his own direct control.

These were:

After the change these offices became additional power centers in RLM, further fragmenting the top Air force organization. It also crippled important functional areas.[2]


To gear-up for the European war as the air arm of the combined armed forces of Nazi Germany (Wehrmacht), the German Air force needed a high command equivalent to that of the Army (Oberkommando des Heeres) and the Navy (Oberkommando der Marine). Thus on 5 February 1935, the OKL was created, and in 1939 the structure of the German Air force was newly organized. The credit for the formation of a true high command goes to Air force general (General der Flieger) Günther Korten commander of Air Fleet 1 (Luftflotte 1) and his Chief of Operations, Karl Koller. They both campaigned to carve a command out of Goring's all-encompassing Ministry of Aviation. The intent was to put the German Air force 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 its army and navy counterparts, reported to the High Command of the Armed Forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht; OKW), which in turn was answerable to Hitler for the operation command of the three branches of the armed forces.

OKL was divided into Forward echelon (1. Staffel) and Rear echelon (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 German Air force. It was divided operationally into Air fleets at a high level. Initially it was divided into four Air fleets (Luftflotten) that were formed geographically and were numbered consecutively. Three more Air fleets were added later on as Germany controlled territory grew further. Each Air fleet was a self-contained entity. The leader of each was in charge of overall air operations and support activities. However a Fighter leader (Jagdfliegerführer) was in charge of all the fighter operations and reported to the chief of the Air fleet.[5]

Each Air fleet was further divided into Air districts (Luftgaue) and Flying Corps (Fliegerkorps). Each Air district had 50 to 150 officers led by a major general. It was responsible for providing administrative and logistical structure as well as resources to each airfield. The Flying Corps 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 organization was making the 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]

Chief of OKL and Commander-in-Chief of the LuftwaffeEdit

No. Portrait Commander-in-Chief Took office Left office Time in office Ref.
1Göring, HermannReichsmarschall
Hermann Göring
1 March 193524 April 194510 years, 54 days
2Greim, Robert RitterGeneralfeldmarschall
Robert Ritter von Greim
26 April 19458 May 194512 days[6]

Chief of the OKL General StaffEdit

Flag for the Chief of the OKL General Staff
No. Portrait Chief of the OKL General Staff Took office Left office Time in office Ref.
1Wever, WaltherGeneralleutnant
Walther Wever
1 March 19353 June 1936 †1 year, 94 days
2Kesselring, AlbertGeneral der Flieger
Albert Kesselring
5 June 193631 May 1937360 days
3Stumpff, Hans-JürgenGeneral der Flieger
Hans-Jürgen Stumpff
1 June 193731 January 19391 year, 244 days
4Jeschonnek, HansGeneraloberst
Hans Jeschonnek
1 February 193918 August 1943 †4 years, 198 days
5Korten, GüntherGeneral der Flieger
Günther Korten
25 August 194322 July 1944 †332 days
Kreipe, WernerGeneral der Flieger
Werner Kreipe
2 August 194428 October 194487 days
6Koller, KarlGeneral der Flieger
Karl Koller
12 November 19448 May 1945177 days[7]
Stumpff, Hans-JürgenGeneral der Flieger
Hans-Jürgen Stumpff
8 May 194523 May 194515 days



  1. ^ a b c d Caldwell & Muller 2007, pp. 144–145.
  2. ^ a b Mitcham 2007, pp. 21–22.
  3. ^ a b United States War Department 1995, p. 15.
  4. ^ Lepage 2009, pp. 16–17.
  5. ^ a b c Stedman & Chappell 2002, pp. 5–6.
  6. ^ Joachimstahaler 1999, pp. 116–117.
  7. ^ Mitcham 2007, p. 24.


  • Caldwell, Donald; Muller, Richard (2007). The Luftwaffe Over Germany: Defense of the Reich. MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-85367-712-0.
  • Joachimstahaler, Anton (1999). The Last Days of Hitler: The Legends - The Evidence - The Truth. London: Brockhampton Press. ISBN 1-86019-902-X.
  • Lepage, Jean Denis G. G. (2009). Aircraft of the Luftwaffe 1935–1945: An Illustrated History. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-3937-9.
  • Mitcham, Samuel Jr. (2007). Eagles of the Third Reich: Men of the Luftwaffe in World War II. Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-7864-3937-9.
  • Stedman, Robert; Chappell, Mike (2002). Luftwaffe Air & Ground Crew 1939–45. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-404-3.
  • United States War Department (1995). Handbook on German Military Forces. LSU Press. ISBN 0-8071-2011-1.