Erhard Milch, born 30-03-1892 in Wilhelmshaven, the son of Anton Milch, a pharmacist of Jewish descent, in the Kaiserliche Marine, and Clara Milch, born Rosenau. Milch entered the German Army in 1910, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant in the artillery. He later transferred to the Luftwaffe and trained as an aerial observer. Although not a pilot, he was appointed to command a fighter wing, Jagdgruppe 6, as a Captain in the waning days of the of the war. Milch resigned from the military in 1920 to pursue a career in civil aviation, and with squadron mate Gotthard Sachsenberg, he died 23-08-1961, age 69, formed a small airline in Danzig under the banner of Lloyd Luftdienst, In 1923, he became managing director of its successor company, Danziger Luftpost when Lloyd Luftdienst merged with its rival firm Aero Union to form Deutsche Aero Lloyd. From there, Milch and Sachsenberg went to work for rival Junkers Luftverkehr, where Sachsenberg had been appointed managing director. Sachsenberg only held the position until 1925, when Milch took over from him. It was in this position that Milch oversaw the merger of Junkers Luftverkehr to his previous firm of Deutscher Aero Lloyd in 1926, making him the first managing director of Deutsche Luft Hansa. In 1933, Milch took up a position as State Secretary of the newly formed Reichsluftfahrtministerium, answering directly to Hermann Goering (see Goering) (did you know). In this capacity, he was instrumental in establishing the Luftwaffe , originally responsible for armament production although Ernst Udet (see Udet)
was soon making most of the decisions concerning contracts for military aircraft. He quickly used his position to settle personal scores with other aviation industry personalities, including Hugo Junkers (see Junkers), he died age 75 on 03-02-1935 and Willy Messerschmitt (see Messerschmitt) specifically, Milch banned the latter from submitting a design in the competition to choose a modern fighter aircraft for the new Luftwaffe. Nevertheless, Messerschmitt proved an equal in political manipulation skills and managed to circumvent Milch’s ban to successfully submit a design. As the Messerschmitt-designed Bayerische Flugzeugwerke corporate entry, the Bf 109, proved to be the winner, Messerschmitt retained a very high position within the German aircraft industry, until the failure of the Me 210 aircraft. Even after that it was not necessarily Milch as the leader who did not depose of him, but, put him in an inferior position. The personal score against Messerschmitt is one of the likely reasons that Willy Messerschmitt was not allowed to personally acquire the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke until July 1938, resulting in the continued use of the Bf prefix for Messerschmitt aircraft designed before Messerschmitt’s acquisition of the company, hence the “Bf-” prefix being the only one used for the Messerschmitt Bf 109, as one example, in all official German documents throughout the entirety of World War II in Europe, dealing with all pre-July 1938 origin Messerschmitt aircraft designs. In 1935, Milch’s ethnicity came into question because his father, Anton Milch, was rumoured to be a Jew. This prompted an investigation by the Gestapo that Goering suppressed by producing an affidavit signed by Milch’s mother stating that Anton was not really the father of Erhard and his six siblings, and naming their true father as Karl Brauer, her deceased uncle. These events and his being issued a German Blood Certificate, by Adolf Hitler (see Adolf) (did you know), prompted Hermann Goering to say famously “Wer Jude ist, bestimme ich” , I decide who is a Jew. At the outbreak of World War II Milch, now with the rank of general, commanded Luftflotte 5 during the Norwegian campaign. Following the defeat of France, Milch was promoted to field-marshal and given the title Air Inspector General.