He tells me that a large scale offensive is in preparation in my sector... approximately three hundred tanks are to be employed in this operation... The number three hundred flabbergasts me... I reply that I find some difficulty in believing it... He says to me, half in earnest, half in jest: "If I didn't know you, for two pins I would have you put under arrest for saying such a thing. But we will soon find out." He goes to the telephone and is connected with the Chief of the General Staff. "You have just given the Fuhrer the figure of three hundred tanks for operation X." "Yes I did." "I want to know the names of the divisions concerned with their present strength in tanks. I have somebody with me who is well acquainted with the position." ... the Chief of the General Staff has the bad luck to begin with the 14th armoured division. He says it has sixty tanks. Goering can hardly contain himself. "My man reports that the 14th has one!" A lengthy silence at the other end of the line. "When did he leave the front?" "Four days ago." Again silence. Then "Forty tanks are still on their way to the front. The rest are in repair shops on the line of communications, but will certainly reach their units by zero day, so that the figures are correct." He has the same answer for the other divisions. The Reichsmarschall slams down the receiver in a rage. "That is how it is!" The Fuhrer is given a totally false picture based on incorrect data and is surprised when operations do not have the success expected... The South Eastern zone with its network of communications is being incessantly blanketed by the enemy's bomber formations. Who knows how many of those forty tanks, for example, will ever reach the front or when? Who can say if the repair shops will get their spare parts in time and if they will be able to complete their repairs within the specified time?
In ministries and departments, however, mistakes are denied on principle.
Another confirmation of the truth of our old Stuka maxim: "Nothing comes off - except what you have practised."
We have long since ceased to develop practice from theory; we do just the opposite.
The fitters have their hands full, for the aircraft have been heavily damaged by flak. The life of such an aeroplane will always be limited.
Little by little I discover all the tricks. Skill is often the result of getting hurt.
I now see that perfectly plainly. We are alone to possess this knowledge; the responsibility is ours.