Hajo Herrmann was one of the Luftwaffe’s boldest and most innovative air tacticians during World War II. He grew up in the seaport of Kiel, Germany, with an early interest in sailing. Unable to secure a naval commission, he began his military career at an infantry officer academy, but was commissioned in the newly formed Luftwaffe in 1935. His first operational assignment was to Junkers 52 bombers in KG (Bomber Wing) 4 in March 1936. Herrmann entered combat a few months later as a pilot with the German forces serving in the Spanish Civil War.
Returning to Germany in April 1937, he rejoined KG 4 and wrote several highly praised tactics reports based on his experiences in Spain. The beginning of World War II brought Herrmann into combat again, first flying Heinkel 111 bombers in Poland and Norway, then reequipped with the Ju 88 for the Battle of France. Following the defeat of France in 1940, he became Commander of the 7th Staffel of KG 4 and led numerous bombing attacks on England during the Battle of Britain. During this period, Herrmann’s portion of KG 4 was transferred to KG 30 and continued night attacks on England after the Battle of Britain.
In February 1941, his group deployed to Sicily and flew missions against Malta and Greece. In a daring raid on the Greek port of Piraeus, Herrmann placed a single bomb into a loaded munitions ship, causing an explosion which sank 11 ships and made the port unusable for months. During the summer of 1941, KG 30 returned to France, and Herrmann became Commander of III/KG 30 (Group III of KG 30). By early 1942, his group had arrived at Bardufoss, Norway, where he led raids against Allied convoys supplying Russia, including the famous attack which decimated convoy PQ 17. In July 1942, he was assigned to the general staff in Germany.
The following summer, the British introduction of chaff temporarily neutralized the Luftwaffe’s radar directed night fighter force. As a counter, Herrmann developed the “Wild Sow” tactic of boldly lighting up the target cities and attacking the bombers visually. Herrmann organized JG (Fighter Wing) 300 to employ this tactic and became an ace with 9 aerial victories in the Focke Wulf 190. In 1944, he was assigned as Inspector General of Night Fighters. Finally, near the end of, the war he commanded a daring mid-air ramming unit, and received the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. On 11 May 1945, Russian forces captured Herrmann and interned him as a prisoner of war until October 1955. Following his release, he studied law in both Germany and England, beginning his practice in 1965.