Mölders's greatest contribution to aerial combat occurred during his service in Spain. He realized that the tactics of World War I were obsolete and ineffective with high-speed modern aircraft. Rather than keeping his planes in a tight, three-plane "V" formation, he experimented with flying them widely spaced and paired in four-plane flights. This formation has been called the "Finger Four" and is still used by air forces to this day. The formation allowed the wingman to cover the lead pilot as he made his attack, without trying to maintain formation. This tactical innovation would eventually be adopted by every air force. Such tactics enabled Mölders to emerge from the Spanish Civil War as its leading ace, with 14 victories.
After the start of World War II, Mölders began a rapid rise through the Luftwaffe ranks, culminating with his appointment as general of the fighters in September 1941, at age 28. Along the way, he had been awarded the Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds to his Knight's Cross and had scored 115 victories. A serious and dedicated professional, Mölders was nicknamed "Vati" (Daddy) by his subordinates, despite his youth. Summoned back to Berlin from the Eastern Front to attend the funeral of Ernst Udet, Mölders was killed in a plane crash at Breslau-Hundsfeld Airfield in Germany on 22 November 1941.
M. R. Pierce
Musciano, Walter. Messerschmitt Aces. New York: Arco Publishing, 1982.; Toliver Raymond F., and Trevor J. Constable. Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe. Fallbrook, CA: Aero Publishers, 1977.