Sperrle returned from Spain in 1937 to command Luftflotte (air fleet) 3, a command he would retain until 1944. Luftflotte 3 remained in the west for the Polish Campaign but spearheaded the German army's attack on France and the Low Countries in 1940. Sperrle's Luftflotte 3 and Major General Albert Kesselring's Luftflotte 2 bore the brunt of the fighting during the air campaign against England. Following the Battle of Britain, Sperrle and his command stayed in France when the rest of the Luftwaffe transferred to the east for Operation barbarossa.
Promoted to General der Fliegers (U.S. equiv. lieutenant general) in October 1935 and to field marshal in July 1940, Sperrle was known for his voracious appetite for the good life. He established his headquarters in Paris and maintained a lavish lifestyle. As the fortunes of war turned against Germany, Sperrle became increasingly indolent and detached from his responsibilities. Following the Allied breakout from Normandy, Sperrle was blamed for the Luftwaffe's failures and relieved of his command in August 1944. He was captured by the British in May 1945 and tried for war crimes at Nuremberg but was acquitted in 1948. Sperrle died in Munich on 2 April 1953.
M. R. Pierce
Bekker, Cajus. The Luftwaffe War Diaries. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.; Faber, Harold. Luftwaffe: A History. New York: New York Times Books, 1977.; Mitcham, Samuel W. Eagles of the Third Reich: The Men Who Made the Luftwaffe. Novato, CA: Presidio, 1997.