General der Flieger Albert Kesselring Albert Kesselring was born in Marktsheft on 20 November 1885. He joined the army as an officer cadet at the age of 23 and served in the 2nd Bavarian Foot Artillery Regiment. During the course of World War I, Kesselring served as a balloon observer an extremely dangerous role. Whilst on the Western Front he met and developed a strong and lasting friendship with the then fighter pilot Hermann Goring. Transferring to the Eastern Front in 1918 he served as a divisional staff officer. He remained in military service after the end of World War I and became chief of staff to the defence minister. By 1932 he had achieved the rank of Generalmajor. Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring - known as 'Smiling Albert', for obvious reasons. This photograph shows him in tropical service dress during his tenure as Commander-in-Chief of German forces in the Mediterranean. The award around his neck is actually the Oak-Leaves Swords and Diamonds Clasp awarded to him in 1943. One year later he transferred to the air force as a Chilian director of administration, where he served under General Erhard Milch. His friendship with the commander-in-chief stood him in good stead, however, and in 1937 he was personally appointed by Goring as Chief of Staff of the Luftwaffe. With the attack on Poland in September 1939, Kesselring was appointed commander of Luftflotte 1. In recognition of the part played by his forces in the success of the campaign, he was decorated with the Knight's Cross on 30 September that year. In 1940, Kesselring transferred to command Luftflotte 2 during the Westfeldzug (the Western campaign) and throughout the Battle of Britain. He was promoted to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall in July 1940. With the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Kesselring took his Air Fleet eastwards but in December of that year was appointed commander of all German air and land forces in the Mediterranean. He oversaw the attack on Malta and supported Rommel's forces in North Africa. Kesselring also commanded German forces in Italy during the retreat there, his troops coming very close to thwarting the Allied successes at Salerno and Anzio. He was commander-in-chief of German forces in Italy as well as of Army Group C (Heeresgruppe C). He was seriously injured in a road accident in October 1944 but post-recovery returned to Italy in 1945, and was appointed by Hitler as Supreme Commander South (Oberbefehlshaber Sud). At war's end, he was charged with war crimes in respect of reprisal killings carried out by SS troops on Hitler's orders whilst he was commander in Italy. He was sentenced to death but this was commuted to life imprisonment and he was released soon afterwards due to his failing health: he died on 16 July 1960. Kesselring was one of Germany's most decorated soldiers. After the award of the Knight's Cross he went on to earn the Oak-Leaves, Oak-Leaves with Swords and the rare Oak-Leaves with Swords and Diamonds.