Military Wiki
Wolfgang Martini
Born (1891-09-20)20 September 1891
Died 6 January 1963(1963-01-06) (aged 71)
Place of birth Lissa, Province of Posen
Place of death Düsseldorf
Allegiance German Empire German Empire (to 1918)
Germany Weimar Republic (to 1933)
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Service/branch Luftwaffe
Years of service 1910–1945
Rank General der Luftnachrichtentruppe
Battles/wars World War I
World War II

Wolfgang Martini (September 20, 1891 – January 6, 1963) was a Career Officer in the German Air Force, and largely responsible for promoting early radar development and utilization in that country.

Early career[]

While attending the Gymnasium in his hometown of Lissa in the Province of Posen, Wolfgang Martini had been a radio enthusiast. Upon graduating in 1910, he joined the Army as a Cadet, and his talents were such that he soon became a Lieutenant and made Company Officer of a Telegraph Battalion. During World War I, he had a number of leadership positions in radio operations, being promoted to First Lieutenant and then Captain. At the end of the war, he was a Radio Specialist in the Grand Headquarters and Commander of the Army Signals School at Namur in occupied Belgium.

After the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, Martini was one of the few officers allowed to remain in the Army. For the next five years, he served as a signals instructor at several Army schools, and then from 1924 to 1928, he was the Signals Staff Officer with a District Command. Between 1928 and 1933, he was promoted to Major and served as an Equipment Advisor with the Reich Defense Ministry.

Lieutenant Colonel to General[]

Upon the formation of the Luftwaffe in 1933, Martini transferred to this new service and shortly became the Chief for the Board of Radio Affairs. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1934 and then Colonel in 1937, he served as Leader of the Department of Communication Affairs. In 1938, he was promoted to Major General and named Chief of Communication Affairs of the Luftwaffe. Martini was elevated to General der Luftnachrichtentruppe (General of the Air Signal Corps) in 1941, and remained in this position until the end of the war in May 1945.

Involvement with GEMA[]

In the mid-1930s, the firm Gesellschaft für Electroakustische und Mechanische Apparate (GEMA) started the development of a Funkmessgerät für Untersuchung (radio measuring device for reconnaissance). This pulse-modulated system was based on earlier work by Dr. Rudolf Kühnhold, a scientist with the Kriegsmarine (German Navy), and was conducted in the greatest secrecy, not even informing the other military services of its existence.[1]

GEMA's product, an early-warning system code named Seetakt, was eventually demonstrated to the Luftwaffe General Staff in November 1938. Martini was there and immediately recognized the great value to the military of this new technology. He ordered the development of a similar system (ultimately called Freya) for the Luftwaffe, and from this time on was the primary promoter of Funkmessgerät (radar) to the German High Command.

Beginning in 1941, in addition to other duties he was officially the High Command's Special-Agent for Radio-Ranging (Radar) Technology. Although not university educated, his grasp of this technology was instinctive and his involvement was perhaps the greatest impetus to the ultimate development of wartime radar in Germany.

In most of his activities, Martini reported directly to Hermann Göring, Commander of the Luftwaffe, but Göring never fully trusted him and the two often clashed over technical decisions. For example, as British radar became known to the Germans through Martini's Signals intelligence, they violently disagreed as to its importance. Concerning this, Göring had told other commanders that Martini was a fool, “It was the same with all specialists; they exaggerate the importance of whatever they are working on.”[2]

Post-war activities[]

Following the war, General Martini, like other officers at his level, was held by the United States, and then Great Britain until 1947; however, no charges were ever placed against him for his service to the Luftwaffe. For some time. he was engaged as a consultant to C. Lorenz AG in Stuttgart. With the formation of the Bundeswehr (Federal Defense Force), Martini served as a civilian advisor with the new Air Force in 1956, and later with NATO.[3] In late 1944, fearful that records of wartime radar development would be destroyed or lost after the eventual surrender of Germany, General Martini and Dr. Leo Brandt of GEMA had key documents buried in a waterproof metal casket. In the early 1950s, Martini recovered the casket from what was then the Russian Zone; then for several years, the recovered documents were given in papers and conferences.[4] In 1951, Martini was one of the founders of the Committee for Radiolocation Association in Düsseldorf (later becoming the German Society for Positioning and Navigation); much of the information from the buried documents was first released publicly at meetings of this Committee.

In these years, Martini established relationships with radar pioneers in several other countries. One of these, Sir Robert Watson-Watt, considered “the father of British radar,” included the following in his 1959 autobiography:

I have a very dear postwar friend in General Wolfgang Martini, a shy, modest, charming, and very perfect gentleman ... His many claims on my affectionate respect include his failure to endear himself to Göring, from whom the qualities I have just tried to summarize may have concealed General Martini’s very high technical competence, wisdom, and resource.[5]


  • Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords (February 1945)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Große Bundesverdienstkreuz) (February 1959)
  • Honorary Doctorate in Engineering from Hanover (1962)
  • 1941, the Lifesaving Medal on the Band (February 1944)
  • Honorary member of the British Institute of Navigation at the Royal Geographical Society (1961)
  • General Martini barracks in Osnabrück named after him

Martini died of a heart attack on January 6, 1963, in Düsseldorf.[6]

Footnote References[]

  1. Kroge, Harry von; GEMA: Birthplace of German Radar and Sonar, translated by Louis Brown, Inst. of Physics Publishing, 2000
  2. Fisher, David E.; A Summer Bright and Terrible, Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005, pp. 164-168
  3. Prichard, David; The Radar War: Germany’s Pioneering Achievement, Patrick Stephens Ltd.., 1989, p. 219
  4. Bekker, Cajus; Radar: Duell im Dunkel (Radar: Duel in Darkness), in German, Gerhard Stalling Verlag, 1958
  5. Watson-Watt, Sir Robert; The Pulse of Radar, Dial Press, 1959, p. 405
  6. Gestorben: Wolfgang Martini (”Obituary, General Wolfgang Martini”); Der Spiegel, 16 January 1963

General references[]

  • Karl Otto Hoffmann (1990). "Martini, Wolfgang" (in de). Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. pp. 301–302none , (full text online)
  • Brown, Louis; A Radar History of World War II, Inst. of Physics Publishing, 1999
  • Guerlac, Henry E; Radar in World War II, vol. 8 in the series The History of Modern Physics 1800-1950, American Inst. of Physics, 1987
  • Kummritz, H. “German radar development up to 1945,” in Radar Development to 1945, edited by Russell Burns, Peter Peregrinus Ltd, 1988
  • Trenkle, Fritz; Die deutschen Funkmessverfahren bis 1945 (The German radar procedures until 1945), in German, Motorbuch Verlag, 1978
  • Watson, Raymond C., Jr.; Radar Origins Worldwide, Trafford Publishing, 2009 (online at Google Books)

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