Keller, Alfred, born 19-02-1882 in Bochum, became a cadet in a military school and after his graduation in 1902, age 20, he served in the 17th
Battalion Infantry in Thorn as a Fähnrich. While serving in Thorn, Keller became attracted to heavier-than-air aircraft, and made his first flight in the school at Metz
, becoming an observer in 1912. In the following year, Keller concluded his training as a pilot in the school of Niederneuendorf, gaining his pilot’s wings. When the First World War begun in August 1914, Hauptmann Alfred Keller
was serving in a Western Front bomber unit Kagohl 5, Kampfstaffel (Kasta) 27
, with which he would fly his first combat missions. Keller participated in the first air reconnaissance mission of Paris in October 1914, which served to obtain evidence in the absence of anti-aircraft defences in the French capital. This factor was decisive for Keller and the unit’s pilots to initiate attacks on the French cities, one of which, against Paris, gaining for him the Cross of Iron 2nd
. On the Verdun and Somme fronts Keller performed some missions of reconnaissance and offensive patrolling, which led to him in September 1915 being nominated Kommandeur of Kagohl 7, Kampfstaffel (Kasta) 40, unit that he would help to consolidate in the following months. On 01-09-1917, after some attacks of its airplanes against the enemy lines, Keller s decorated with Cross of Iron 1st
Class, also in recognition for his performance as an organizer. Assuming the command of Bombengeschwader der Obersten Heeresleitung der OHL – Bomber wing of the OHL) BG 1 (new designation for bomber squadrons)
from April 1917 until the end of the war, Keller’s, nickname Iron Keller” unit become the first German bombers to operate night missions, which was noted for the missions against Dunkirk and the British forces concentrated there, with his sudden delivery in the silence of the night of 100,000 kg of bombs on the port, causing considerable damage in September 1917 and forced a British retreat to Calais.
For planning, organization and leadership in this attack and others he was decorated with the Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern with Swords, and on the on 04-12-1917, with the even more desirable Order Pour le Mérite
. On the night of 30–31 January 1918 Keller, in spite of the fierce anti-aircraft opposition, again attacked Paris, causing a great panic in the civilian population, the pilots of Bogol I turned safely though. These multiple attacks by Keller on Paris would compel the French to remove some anti-aircraft batteries from the front and use them in the defense of the city. The end of First World War found Keller in command of the Luftreederei, a logistics unit. In the years following the Armistice, Keller left the army and became first director/conductor of the “Abteilung Luftverkehr der Junkerswerke” ground-air service of the German air shipping company , the first German airline founded by Hugo Junkers
. In 1923 he changed direction of his business by offering air shipping company services and was a managing director in Danzig, offering air mail service in Germany for the first time. During 1925 Keller operated an air traffic control school in Berlin, but in 1928 moved it to Braunschweig. Here he began, as a means of resistance to Allied conditions of Armistice the secret training of new military pilots, and he would be one of the first men called by Hermann Goering
(see Did you know
) (see Peter Goering
and (Carin Fock
to help in the reconstruction of the Luftwaffe, as soon as the Nazis had assumed power in 1933. With the organization of the Luftwaffe, Keller was commissioned with the rank of Oberst, and assumed the command of the first bomber squadron, during the winter of 1936, KG 154 “Boelke” after Oswald Boelke a German flying ace of the First World War
. Boelke crashed on 28-10-1916, age 25, near Douai. Soon after Keller was appointed commander of the Air Force command East Prussia.
In September 1939, when World War II begun, the then General Alfred Keller commanded the Kagohl 5, Kampfstaffel (Kasta) 27, during Campaign in Poland, assuming this command on 13-10-1939. The following campaigns, during campaigns against Norway, Holland, Belgium and the Battle of France, he commanded Luftflotte 2
with Generalfeldmarschall der Flieger, Albert Kesselring
as his superior. By his superlative performance during these campaigns, Alfred Keller was decorated by Adolf Hitler
with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on 24-06-1940 as General Kommandierender of the IV Fliegerkorps
. Shortly afterwards, on 19-07-1940, he was promoted Generaloberst. On 19-08-1940, during the Battle of Britain (see Bomber Harris
Alfred Keller was appointed as the commander of Luftflotte 1
and Air Force commander – East. Keller led this formation very energetically during the invasion of the Balkans Campaign and later during the Operation Barbarossa where he predominantly supported Army Group North. Keller remained with Luftflotte 1 until 12-06-1943, when he retired from active service at the age of 61, replaced by the 16 years younger Generaloberst der Flieger, Stafchef of the Luftwaffe
, Günther Korten
However he continued to perform important functions in NSFK (Nationalsozialistische Fliegerkorps – Organisation of Aerial National Socialist, a paramilitary unit that he organized to form a civil reserve of pilots. He was Korpsführer of the NSFK from 26-06-1943, until the German surrender on 08-05-1945. Towards the end of the war Keller was the responsible one for the antitank weapons department of the Luftwaffe.With the German capitulation Keller became a British prisoner, being kept as a POW until 1947. In the 1950s he become one of the first presidents of the Ordensgemeinschaft der Ritterkreuzträger (Association of Knight’s Cross Recipients).
Death and burial ground of Keller, Alfred “Iron Keller”.
Keller living in Berlin died at the old age of 91, on 11-02-1974 and is buried with his wife Emmy, born Schenck, who died at the very old age of 99, in 2008, on the Waldfriedhof of Zehlendorf. Close by the graves of the Generalmajor der Wehrmacht, Inspector of Motor Vehicles, Friedrich Starke
, and Generalleutnant der Artillerie, Commander 265th
Infantry Division, Werner Junck
. Also buried there, Mayor of West Berlin and later Chancellor Willy Brandt
and famous actress and singer 1940-1945. Hildegard Knef.