- Birth name:
- Hermann Wilhelm Göring
- Date of Birth:
- 15 October 1893 Rosenheim, Bavaria, Germany
- 5' 10" (1.78 m)
Hermann Göring was born on January 12, 1893, in Rosenheim, Bavaria, the son of a prominent judge. He entered the German Royal Military Academy at Gross Lichterfeide outside Berlin in his teens and graduated in 1911. At the beginning of World War I he saw service as an infantry lieutenant but soon transfered to the air corps. During the war he racked up 22 aerial kills, earning the coveted Blue Max and a promotion to commanding officer of Manfred von Richthofen's "Flying Circus" in 1918 after that famous ace was killed in action. In the years following World War I Göring became one of Adolf Hitler's most devoted followers. The former war hero was named head of Hitler's private army, the Brownshirts, a Nazi paramilitary organization similar to the Blackshirt fascist group in Italy commanded by Benito Mussolini, in 1922. Göring took part in the unsuccessful "Beer Hall Putsch" attempt to overthrow the Bavarian state government in 1923, was wounded and spent some time in prison. In 1933, after Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, Göring became commissioner for aviation and in 1935 commander in chief of the newly established German Air Force (the Luftwaffe). By the opening days of World War II, Göring had built the Luftwaffe into the largest air force in the world. His planes performed superbly in the "blitzkrieg" campaigns against Poland, the Low Countries, Norway and France. In recognition of his work, Göring was promoted to Reichsmarschall (a rank above field marshal) on June 19, 1940. The tall, heavyset Göring became well known for his garish, colorful uniforms and his devotion to the war aims of the Nazi party, rivaled only by Hitler's. Göring didn't confine his efforts on behalf of the Nazi party to purely military matters, however; he also developed much of Nazi Germany's anti-Jewish legislation.Unfortunately for Göring, his hour of military triumph was short-lived. He seriously botched the Battle of Britain in August and September of 1940 by overestimating the Luftwaffe's capability for long-range combat and underestimating the resolve of Britain's Royal Air Force, which resulted in the loss of huge numbers of his aircraft in daily air raids against England, not to mention the death or capture of thousands of his most experienced bomber crews. During the invasion of the Soviet Union in June of 1941, the Luftwaffe first held the upper hand against the undertrained and underequipped Soviet Air Force. However, it wasn't long before the tide turned, and before long the Russians were turning out thousands of fighters and bombers and inflicting serious damage on the Luftwaffe, which could ill afford such losses. Starting in 1943 Allied bombers had turned the tide of the air war against Germany, and Göring's vaunted Luftwaffe began losing increasing numbers of planes, not to mention experienced pilots, to the US and British air forces, and Allied bombing campaigns smashed many more German aircraft on the ground in addition to destroying many aircraft factories. In April 1945, with the defeat of Germany a certainty, Göring suggested to Hitler that he make peace with the Allies before they brought total destruction to Germany. Enraged, Hitler ordered his arrest. Göring managed to escape from Nazi custody but was captured on May 2, 1945, by soldiers of the U.S. 7th Army. He was eventually tried, convicted and sentenced to death for crimes against humanity during the war crimes trials at Nuremberg late in 1945. His lawyers fought for time with appeals and requests to overturn his death sentence, but they were all denied. On October 15, 1946, just two hours before the former Reichsmarshall was to face the hangman to pay for his crimes, the 53-year-old Hermann Göring committed suicide in his jail cell by taking poison that he somehow had smuggled in with him.