One of the most famous Stuka dive-bomber pilots of the Second World War was Kurt Kuhlmey. Born in Insterburg, East Prussia, he began his flying career at the age of 15 piloting gliders. By 1932, he received his glider pilot's license and began training in powered aircraft. He joined the Luftwaffe in April 1934 and was subsequently transferred to the reconnaissance school in Prenzlau. From April to July 1935, he attended fighter pilot school in Schleissheim. By the end of the year, Kuhlmey had achieved fighter and fighter-bomber qualification and entered the War School in Dresden as an officer candidate. He joined StG (Dive Bomber Wing) 162 at Schwerin in 1936, where he began his long association with the venerable Junkers 87 Stuka dive bomber.
In April 1938, he was assigned to StG 168 in Graz, Austria, until he was given command of an air base operation company at Insterburg in March 1939. When war began in September 1939, Oberleutnant Kuhlmey was Commander of 1st Staffel of StG 1. His unit participated in the blitzkrieg operations into Poland, Norway, and France, as well as the Battle of Britain in August 1940. Kuhlrney later flew in the Mediterranean campaign against Malta and led his unit in the successful attack on the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious , as well as numerous operations against enemy convoys in the Mediterranean. In North Africa, Kuhlmey's superior airmanship skills and leadership qualities became widely recognized by friend and foe alike.
In January 1942, his unit was reformed into 2nd Staffel, StG 3. By March 1943, he assumed command of StG 3 and continued to fly the Stuka in numerous campaigns including Greece, Crete, Yugoslavia, and the Crimea. He commanded Battle Unit Kuhlmey, named in his honor, against the Russian attack on Finland in the summer of 1944. The unit flew 1,242 sorties and achieved a 4-to-1 kill ratio against enemy aircraft. In March 1945, he became Wing Commander of SG (Fighter-Bomber Wing) 2 Immelmann, and from April until the end of the war he also served in the headquarters of the General of Fighter Bomber Pilots.
By war's end, he had flown about 500 combat missions, attained the rank of colonel, and had been decorated with the Knight's Cross. After the war, Kuhlmey worked for the German Intelligence Agency. When German military forces were reestablished, he became a member of the Defense Ministry and received flying training in the United States. He became Chief of Plans and Operations for the German Air Force, and later commanded the Second Air Division. After commanding the German Air Transport Command, he retired as a major general.
In August 1940, Kurt Kuhlmey led his unit of Ju 87R Stuka dive-bombers in the Battle of Britain. Flying out of the main base at Angers in northwest France, the Stukas crossed the Channel heading for targets in England. The fast and maneuverable British aircraft exacted a heavy toll on the Stukas, ultimately driving them out of the fight. Kuhlmey would later say that of his many missions against heavily defended land and sea targets, those flown against the British defenses were the most difficult.