JV 44; was a special fighter unit of top German fighter ace pilots in the Luftwaffe during the last months of World War II. The main aircraft used by the unit was the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. They were known by various nicknames, including “Der Galland-Zirkus” (The Galland Circus).
The commander of JV 44 was General Adolf Galland (103 victories) the former General der Jagdflieger (General of Fighter pilots) who had recently been sacked from his staff post by Hermann Göring for relentlessly criticizing the operational policies, strategic doctrine, and tactics mandated by the Luftwaffe High Command. It may have been hoped by Galland’s superiors that his return to combat-flying in a front-line command would result in his death in action. Galland was charged with setting up a small Me 262 unit of staffel strength to demonstrate that the jet could be developed into the superior fighter it promised to be. The unit was to be independent of all other Luftwaffe commands, including division, corps or air fleets. Galland inspected a number of facilities, and eventually settled on Brandenburg-Briest airfield, west of Berlin for its initial base.
In late February, Galland discussed his personnel and logistical requirements with the Luftwaffe Chief of General Staff. The staff approved the establishment of JV 44, with its cadre of pilots provided through the normal channels, and ground personnel provided from 16 Staffel, JG 54. Col. Johannes Steinhoff was also recruited as Operations Officer, who had just been replaced as Kommodore of JG 7.
Galland also compiled a list of experienced pilots whom he considered to be competent enough to convert quickly to the Me 262. The list included some of the Jagdwaffe’s most skilled and successful formation leaders. Thus JV 44 eventually comprised a core of highly experienced pilots chosen from Galland’s former staff or otherwise recruited from units which had been disbanded or were being re-equipped. With an aircraft that could make devastating strikes on bombers and easily escape any Allied fighter, and would be flown by a collection of the Luftwaffe’s top surviving aces, JV 44 performed with great success during its brief history, achieving a 4-to-1 kill ratio. However, it had relatively few operational jet planes available for any single sortie and was repeatedly forced to relocate due to the approach of Allied ground forces. At war’s end the unit was disbanded and its brief history came to an end.