He was big, he was bad, he was the spitting image of a Prussian officer, the man who Hitler called, "One of my two most brutal-looking generals." Hugo Sperrle was born in Ludwigsburg in 1885, the son of a brewer. He joined the Imperial Army in Jun 1903 as an officer candidate and by the outbreak of the Great War had attained the rank of Oberleutnant. He was immediately transfered into the nascent Air Service and few as an observer in a two-seater reconnaissance unit. By the end of the war he had become Kommandeur der Flieger in 7.Armeeoberkommando.
Sperrle served in the Reichswehr and, since there was no air force to speak of, served with the transportation corps and in the infantry. He was, however, also attached to an army department that was exploring theoretical problems of aerial warfare and when Hermann Goering became the Minister of Aviation, Sperrle joined the new Air Ministry and by 1935 was promoted to Generalmajor. It was in this capacity that he became first commander of the Condor Legion, Hitler's 'volunteer' force of air and armored units that were sent to support Franco in the Spanish Civil War. By November 1937 he was a full General der Flieger and his successful leadership earned him the Spanish Cross in Gold with Diamonds.
At the outbreak of WW2, Sperrle's Luftflotte III was held in reserve along Germany's southern defenses in the West. When the war in the west opened in May 1940, Sperrle's Stuka dive-bombers wrought havoc on the Allied defenders and paved the way for Von Rundstedt's Heeresgruppe A to blitz through their enemy's shattered lines. For his part in the German victory in the West, Sperrle received the Knight's Cross and was promoted to Generalfeldmarschal in July 1940. But this marked the high water mark of his career for even as he was accepting his marshal's baton, his pilots were fighting a bitter and eventually futile battle in the skies over Britain. Just as Dowding, Park and Leigh-Mallory squabbled over tactics, so Goering and Kesselring disagreed with Sperrle over target priorities and tactics for fighting the battle. Goering and Kesselring's underestimation of the RAF's surviving fighter strength led them to press for attacks on British cities while Sperrle's overestimation of RAF strength meant he was for the correct strategy of continuing attacks on the RAF airfields. In the end, Dowding, Park and Sperrle were the 'biggest losers' in the battle for strategy to fight the battle of Britain - Sperrle remained in command of air units in the West but with the shift in priorities from the West to the East, he would see his once proud air corps reduced to skeletons of their former selves as veteran crews and planes were fed into the Soviet meatgrinder.
As one of the top German commanders in the west, Sperrle lived in the palatial Luxembourg Hotel in Paris. His usual vitality was sapped by relative inactivity and his previous enthusiasm for the Nazi regime turned sour as he saw the direction the war was taking. He became increasingly outspoken about what he saw as incompetent direction of the air war which naturally won him no points with Goering. By June 6, 1944, Sperrle only had a total of 319 operational aircraft with which to repel the Allied invasion whose air strength alone numbered nearly 9,000 planes. The Allies easily won and held air superiority in Normandy and the Luftwaffe's failure in the face of impossible odds led to Sperrle's dismissal in August 1944. Like Rommel, Sperrle had flirted with Nazism only to be disillusioned in the end but unlike Rommel, he was lucky to survive the eventual collapse of the so-called Thousand-Year Reich.
Sperrle was arrested by Allied troops in Bavaria and, like other ranking Nazi generals, charged with and tried for war-crimes. Happily for him, senior Allied officers gave testimony that he had been fair in honourable in the conduct of his campaigns and he was acquitted of all charges on October 27, 1948. After this, Sperrle lived quietly in retirement until he passed away in April 1953.
GFM Sperrle was one of the many projects I've had 'kicking around' forever. With my wife and I planning my move from Dallas to Orlando by the end of summer I'm trying to get as many of these long overdue projects done and boxed up so that the many little knick-knacks that I've collected to complete them will be with the figures rather than mixed up with other stuff in storage. The genesis of this project was of course the release of 3R's Goering figure. I'd gotten a bunch of aftermarket Goering uniforms from Jason and I was wondering what to do with them. I knew I wanted to do some Luftwaffe officers but not which officer. Another little piece that inspired it was the DiD "Keitel" figure. This figure inexplicably came with the Spanish Cross decoration so I began to think maybe a Condor Legion bash. Then I thought, why not the Condor Legion commander? Finally when I saw the picture in Osprey's German Commanders of WW2, I decided on Sperrle.
The mighty and the lowly on the workbench: Luftwaffe Field Marshal Sperrle and Luftwaffe Medic Steiner.
A while back, I got a bunch of old 'Soldiers of the World' bodies. While I was never happy with the large off-scale figures and uniforms now they've become a valuable - and dwindling - resource in their own right as they are the bodies I use for overweight/oversize figures. The heads are either kept or changed, while the arms are completely redone. In Sperrle's case, I cut off the hand from the palm to the fingers and glued the hand from the bottom palm to the forearm to the elbow joint, giving him two arm joints which would enable him to execute the complicated movement of a salute. Later on, however, I discovered that with the jacket on, that would be kinda difficult to do anyway so he just sorta waddles around and gesticulates.
Newly 'armed' Sperrle
New forearms were made by wrapping up white cloth so there's just enough space to put a bendy or otherwise more modern 1/6th hand in. All my updated action figures use this and I'm looking to use this for movable feet too. A white 'dress shirt' with collar, black tie and the Ritterkreutz were permanently attached to the body. To give him an even more realistic look, I used some of my hair as his 'real hair'. The monocle was scratchbuilt from clear plastic.
For his shoes, I permanently glued the rubber boots to his legs - the SotW figures are notoriously weak jointed and can often come apart at the knees or ankles or elbows and Sperrle himself I know has had, errrrm "Knee Replacement Surgery" - painted them over with 3-4 coats of dull acryllic black then spraypainted it with Gloss black doublecoat.
Sperrle... I'm afraid we can't hire you as a Chippendale dancer.
GFM Sperrle's cap was modified from an old Goering visor cap. I kinda wish I'd kept it for Hermann the German but I really wanted to finish this project and since I'd bought the cap specifically for Sperrle, to Sperrle it went. Insignia are from the 3R Goering uniforms and the decorations are aftermarket from Monkey Depot.
Now before any controversy starts, as far as I know as long as the figure is not of a War Criminal then its okay to post him here. From what I can tell, Sperrle was politically something like Erwin Rommel - I don't think anyone would complain if the Desert Fox was here in the main section of the boards but in case he should go to Luitpold Arena, I wouldn't mind in the slightest, its just that from what I've read, he should be non-controversial enough.
My two custom made Nazi generals - the admiral is the one who is always removing his gloves (like so) and the Luftwaffe fieldmarshal is the one who is always being fitted for a new uniform. Given their role in the war, I highly doubt they qualify as "World Peacekeepers" - and no they are definitely not $10 at Big Lots!
Now that Sperrle's done, interestingly, he gave me an idea for a 'buddy-bash' to go along with him, another WW1 flying ace grown old and more than a bit nutsy - playboy, aviation acrobat, Stuka-proponent and tragic bird-in-a-gilded-cage, Ernst Udet. The body's nearly done, the uniform is again another Goering rework and I'm excited to see how this bon vivant - quite a change from Sperrle's massive scowling persona - turns out!