Steinhoff, Johannes “Macky”, born on 15-09-1913 in Bottendorf, Thuringia, the son of a millworker and a housewife. He had two brothers, Bernd and Wolf. Before World War II, he studied to become a teacher at the University of Jena but unable to find a job, he enlisted in the Kriegsmarine, where he served for one year as a naval flying cadet. Steinhoff transferred to Hermann Goering´s (did you know) Luftwaffe after Hermann Goering (see Peter Goering) became its Commander in Chief in 1935. After completing his pilot training he was posted to Jagdgeschwader 26. His first combat experience was in 1939 when he fought RAF Vickers Wellington bombers that were attacking coastal industry in the Wilhelmshaven region, shooting down several. He was also appointed Staffelkapitän of 10./JG 26, nickname “Schlageter” in this period. In February 1940, he was transferred to 4./JG 52 with which he served in both the French campaign and the Battle of Britain (see Bomber Harris). By the end of the Battle, Steinhoff’s score had advanced to six kills. Steinhoff’s great strength was in his ability to pass on his knowledge and training to novice pilots, equipping them with the skills to survive and ultimately become experienced fighter pilots. In June 1941 JG 52 were on offensive operations against the Soviet Union, becoming one of the highest scoring units in the Luftwaffe. Steinhoff himself claimed 28 Soviet aircraft shot down in the first month. By August 1941 Steinhoff had attained 35 victories and been awarded the Ritterkreuz. In February 1942, as a Hauptmann, he was appointed to command II./JG 52, and claimed his 100th victory on 31 August and his 150th on 02-02-1943. Steinhoff remained with Jagdgeschwader 52 until March 1943, when he took over Jagdgeschwader 77 as Geschwaderkommodore, then operating over the Mediterranean. Only a short time after taking command Steinhoff was shot down by Spitfires and had to crash land his damaged aircraft. He had been shot down only once earlier, during the Battle of Britain. On 28-07-1944, Steinhoff received the Swords to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. He ended the war as a jet pilot, first being posted to Kommando Walter Nowotny in October 1944, and then, with the rank of Oberst, as Geschwaderkommodore of Jagdgeschwader 7, nickname “Nowotny” in December. JG 7 was equipped with the Me 262 jet fighter and Steinhoff was allowed to hand pick several Staffelkapitäne, including Heinz “Pritzl” Bär, crashed, age 43, on 28-04-1957 and Gerhard Barkhorn. After the heavy losses suffered during Operation Bodenplatte, Steinhoff and other fighter leaders fell into disfavor following the so-called ‘Fighter Pilots Revolt’ against what was perceived as the incompetence of Luftwaffe high command, and Hermann Goering in particular. Steinhoff was relieved of his command. In early 1945 Steinhoff transferred to the Jet Experten unit JV 44 then being put together by General der Flieger, Adolf Galland
. Steinhoff initially acted as recruiting officer for the unit, persuading a number of the best Luftwaffe pilots around to join the unit. On 18 April 1945, after achieving six kills with the unit, Steinhoff’s Me-262 suffered a tire blow-out, crashing on take-off from Munchen-Riem airfield. Steinhoff suffered severe burns, spending two years in hospital which left him visibly scarred despite years of reconstructive surgery His eyelids were rebuilt by a British surgeon after the war. His wartime record was 176 aircraft claimed destroyed, of which 152 were on the Eastern front, 12 on the Western front and 12 in the Mediterranean. He also flew 993 operational sorties. During his career as a fighter pilot, Steinhoff was shot down 12 times, but had to bail out only once.
Steinhoff’s sister Charlotte was married to Ludwig Hahn, Ludwig Hermann Karl Hahn (23-01-1908 – 10-11-1986) was a German Nazi War criminal who participated in the destruction and evacuation of the Warsaw Ghetto. He was originally a German lawyer, who held multiple political and Nazi defense positions. After the Germans were driven out of Poland Hahn, under the command of Jürgen Stroop, was made chief of police in Wiesbaden. Hahn was captured by British forces whilst in this role but escaped and would later emerge as a lawyer in Hamburg. He was arrested in 1960 by the government of West Germany for his involvement in war crimes Hahn died in prison in 1986, age 78..
Steinhoff played a major part in the controversial Ronald Reagan US Presidential visit to Kolmeshöhe Cemetery near Bitburg, in 1985. Planned as an act of reconciliation in light of the 40th anniversary of V-E Day that week by Reagan and then West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, it was discovered that 22 Waffen-SS graves were among the 2.000 military interments
. . After severe national and political pressure to cancel the visit from Jewish groups and World War II American veterans on Reagan, the visit was preceded by Ronald Reagan and Kohl visiting the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Along with Kohl, 90-year-old General Mattew Bunker Ridgway, who had commanded the 82nd Airborne in World War II and Steinhoff; Reagan placed a wreath at a wall of remembrance in the cemetery.
Death and burial ground of Steinhoff, Johannes “Macky”.
Johannes Steinhoff died in hospital in Bonn on Monday 21-02-1994, from complications arising from an earlier heart attack.
He was 80, and had lived nearby in Bad Godesberg, and is buried with his wife Ursula, born Daevers, who died old age 85, on 12-08-2002, on the local cemetery of Wachtberg-Villip. Close by the grave of the flyer ace Oberfeldwebel, JG 27, Heinrich Bartels.
Cemetery and grave location of Steinhoff, Johannes “Macky”.