Carl Gustaf von Rosen

Last updated
Carl Gustaf von Rosen
Bengt Nordenskiold o Carl Gustaf von Rosen.JPG
Carl Gustaf von Rosen (right) receiving a decoration from Bengt Nordenskiöld.
Carl Gustaf Ericsson von Rosen

August 19, 1909
DiedJuly 13, 1977(1977-07-13) (aged 67)
OccupationPioneer aviator, humanitarian, mercenary pilot
Spouse(s)Stina Maria Theresia (Mille) Wijkmark (19321936)
Johanna (Hanny) Franciena Krijgsman (19381943)
Gunvor Lilian Martin (19431977)
Parent(s) Eric von Rosen
Mary Fock

Count Carl Gustaf Ericsson von Rosen (August 19, 1909 July 13, 1977) was a Swedish pioneer aviator, humanitarian, and mercenary pilot. He flew relief missions in a number of conflicts as well as combat missions for Finland (whose first military aircraft his father had donated in 1918) and Biafran rebels. His flights for the Biafran rebels were notable for using the small Malmö MFI-9 in a ground attack role.

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, formal name: the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund, a strait at the Swedish-Danish border. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. Sweden has a total population of 10.3 million of which 2.5 million have a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi). The highest concentration is in the central and southern half of the country.

Mercenary Soldier who fights for hire

A mercenary, sometimes known as a soldier of fortune, is an individual who takes part in military conflict for personal profit, is otherwise an outsider to the conflict, and is not a member of any other official military. Mercenaries fight for money or other forms of payment rather than for political interests. Beginning in the 20th century, mercenaries have increasingly come to be seen as less entitled to protections by rules of war than non-mercenaries. Indeed, the Geneva Conventions declare that mercenaries are not recognized as legitimate combatants and do not have to be granted the same legal protections as captured soldiers of a regular army. In practice, whether or not a person is a mercenary may be a matter of degree, as financial and political interests may overlap, as was often the case among Italian condottieri.

Malmö MFI-9 aircraft

The Malmö Flygindustri MFI-9 Junior was a light aircraft produced in Sweden in the 1960s. The aircraft was also produced under license as the Bölkow Bo 208.


Early life and family

Von Rosen was born in Helgesta, Flen Municipality, Södermanland, Sweden and grew up on Rockelstad Castle. He was the son of the explorer Count Eric von Rosen (1879–1948), co-founder of National Socialist Bloc, and baroness Mary Fock (1886–1967). [1] He was nephew of Carin Göring, wife of Hermann Göring. Throughout his upbringing, Carl Gustaf appeared to have had serious differences in opinion with his family, with one author referring to him as the "black sheep of his family." [2] One brother, Björn (1905–1989), was a writer, graphic artist and painter. The sister Birgitta Wolf (1913–2009) was a writer and human rights activist. At an early age, Carl Gustaf was interested in mechanics; his subsequent fascination with flying machines was likely influenced by his uncle, who was a fighter ace during World War I (and later head of the German Luftwaffe).

Flen Municipality Municipality in Södermanland County, Sweden

Flen Municipality is a municipality in Södermanland County in southeast Sweden. Its seat is located in the city of Flen.

Södermanland Place in Svealand, Sweden

Södermanland, sometimes referred to under its Latin form Sudermannia or Sudermania, is a historical province or landskap on the south eastern coast of Sweden. It borders Östergötland, Närke, Västmanland and Uppland. It is also bounded by lake Mälaren and the Baltic Sea.

Rockelstad Castle

Rockelstad Castle is a castle in Sweden.

He was a student at Lundsbergs boarding school from 1920 to 1926 and at AB Aeromateriel's flight school in 1929 and took the pilot's license test in the same year. Von Rosen took the airline pilot exam in 1934. [1] Von Rosen himself started his flying career as a mechanic before becoming an aerobatic stunt pilot in a travelling circus.

Lundsbergs boarding school

Lundsbergs boarding school is a Swedish boarding school located in the Parish of Storfors north of Kristinehamn in Värmland, Sweden. Lundsberg was founded in 1896 with inspirations from classical English boarding schools, and has approximately 200 students today. The school is run by the Lundsbergs school Foundation, Stiftelsen Lundsbergs skola and is well known for its conservative atmosphere.

Second Italo-Ethiopian War, 1935-1936

When the Italians under Benito Mussolini attacked the independent empire of Ethiopia, von Rosen joined the Swedish Red Cross ambulance mission. He also repeatedly flew casualties out from the battlefield under extremely dangerous conditions. [3] This activity resulted in him receiving mustard gas burns due to the use of the gas by the Italian Air Force. [3]

Benito Mussolini Duce and President of the Council of Ministers of Italy. Leader of the National Fascist Party and subsequent Republican Fascist Party

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy from his golpe in 1922 to 1943, and Duce of Fascism from 1919 to his execution in 1945 during the Italian civil war. As dictator of Italy and founder of fascism, Mussolini inspired several totalitarian rulers such as Adolf Hitler.

Ethiopia Country in East Africa

Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country in the northeastern part of Africa, known as the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somaliland and Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, South Sudan to the west and Sudan to the northwest. With over 102 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent with a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi). Its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa, which lies a few miles west of the East African Rift that splits the country into the Nubian and Somali tectonic plates.

Italian Air Force Air warfare branch of Italys armed forces

The Italian Air Force is the air force of the Italian Republic. The Italian Air Force was founded as an independent service arm on 28 March 1923 by King Victor Emmanuel III as the Regia Aeronautica. After World War II, when Italy was made a republic by referendum, the Regia Aeronautica was given its current name. Since its formation, the service has held a prominent role in modern Italian military history. The aerobatic display team is the Frecce Tricolori.

After his return from the war in Ethiopia, he went to the Netherlands to join KLM, the first public airline in the world, and became one of their foremost pilots.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, legally Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V., is the flag carrier airline of the Netherlands. KLM is headquartered in Amstelveen, with its hub at nearby Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. It is part of the Air France–KLM group, and a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance. Founded in 1919, KLM is the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name and had 35,488 employees and a fleet of 119 as of 2015. KLM operates scheduled passenger and cargo services to 145 destinations.

Second World War

Von Rosen's happiness with Hanny ended with the outbreak of World War II. She joined the resistance, was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau in Germany. After the war she committed suicide[ citation needed ] in 1949.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Gestapo official secret police of Nazi Germany

The Geheime Staatspolizei, abbreviated Gestapo, was the official secret police of Nazi Germany and German-occupied Europe.

Dachau concentration camp Nazi concentration camp in Germany before and during World War II

Dachau concentration camp was the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in 1933, intended to hold political prisoners. It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory northeast of the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km (10 mi) northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany. Opened by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was enlarged to include forced labor, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews, German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded. The Dachau camp system grew to include nearly 100 sub-camps, which were mostly work camps or Arbeitskommandos, and were located throughout southern Germany and Austria. The camps were liberated by U.S. forces on 29 April 1945.

When the Soviet Union invaded Finland in 1939 in the Winter War, von Rosen quit his job to fly bombing missions for the Finns. He purchased a KLM Douglas DC-2, had it converted to a bomber in Sweden, and made one operational mission in March 1940 against the Soviet Union with it. [4] Later the same year, as the Germans attacked the Netherlands, von Rosen with a Dutch KLM-crew flew a DC-3 with Dutch government documents to England and applied for service with the RAF but was turned down, on account of his family relation to Hermann Göring. Carl Gustaf von Rosen went on flying for the Swedish airline AB Aerotransport (ABA) from August 1940 until the end of the war.

Post war

Between 1945 and 1956 von Rosen worked in Ethiopia as the chief instructor for the Imperial Ethiopian Air Force. [5] Afterwards von Rosen was employed by the Swedish charter airline Transair. The company was engaged by the UN during the Congo Crisis 1960. Von Rosen also served as the pilot for the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld. However, von Rosen was grounded by illness when Hammarskjöld was killed in an air crash while mediating in the Congo Crisis.

Biafran War

Von Rosen's involvement in Africa did not end with the Congo Crisis. He gained international fame seven years later when he flew relief missions for aid organisations into war torn Biafra, a breakaway republic of Nigeria. [4] These flights included flying a DC-7 from São Tomé to Uli at only a little above sea level in August 1968. [6]

Disgusted at the suffering the Nigerian government inflicted on the Biafrans and the continuous harassment of international relief flights by the Nigerian Air Force, he hatched a plan in collaboration with the French secret service to strike back at Nigerian air power. He imported five small civilian single engine MFI-9 planes produced by Malmö Flygindustri, at that time owned by SAAB, which he knew could also be used for a ground attack role in warfare. He had the planes painted in camouflage colours and fitted with license manufactured 68 mm SNEB type rockets, and proceeded with a crew of two Swedes and two Biafrans to form a squadron called 'Biafra Babies' to strike the air fields from which the federal Nigerian Air Force launched their attacks against the civilian population in Biafra. On May 22, 1969, and over the next few days, von Rosen and his five aircraft launched attacks against Nigerian air fields at Port Harcourt, Enugu, Benin and other small airports. The Nigerians were taken by surprise and a number of expensive jets, including a few MiG-17 fighters and three out of Nigeria's six Ilyushin Il-28 bombers, were destroyed on the ground. [7]

Despite his controversial methods, Count von Rosen would later be remembered for his efforts to modernize relief efforts to remote conflict zones. One of the notable figures assisting Count Carl Gustav von Rosen was Lynn Garrison, an ex-RCAF fighter pilot. He introduced the Count to a Canadian method of dropping bagged supplies to remote areas in Canada without losing the contents: a sack of food was placed inside a larger sack before the supply drop. When the package hit the ground, the inner sack would rupture, but the outer one kept the contents intact. With this method many tons of food were dropped to many Biafrans who would otherwise have died of starvation. Later models of the Malmö Flygindustri MFI-9 became the SAAB MFI-15 Safari, with official modifications, developed from the Biafran concept, to facilitate the dropping of food supplies from underwing hard points. Von Rosen was utilizing this type in Ogaden when he was killed during a rebel ground assault.

Grave to Carl Gustaf von Rosen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Carl Gustaf von Rosens grav.jpg
Grave to Carl Gustaf von Rosen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Return to Ethiopia

From 1974 to 1977 he flew aid for famine and drought victims in Ethiopia. [5]

The last action Count von Rosen saw was again in Africa in 1977, during the Ogaden War between Ethiopia and Somalia. Again flying famine relief for refugees, he was killed on the ground on 13 July 1977, during a sudden Somali army attack in Gode at the outbreak of the war. [8] [9]

He was buried in Gulale cemetery, Addis Ababa.

Personal life

von Rosen was married 19321936 to Stina Maria Theresia (Mille) Wijkmark (19111994) and 19381943 to Johanna (Hanny) Franciena Krijgsman (1912-1949). In 1943 he married Gunvor Lilian Martin (born 1917), daughter of the artist Seth Martin and baroness Lily Fock. von Rosen was the father of Nils Gustaf (born 1932), Margaretha (born 1938), Yvonne (born 1940), Astrid (born 1945), Eric (born 1950) and Carl (born 1953). [1]


von Rosen's awards: [1]

See also

Related Research Articles

Biafra secessionist state in Nigeria

Biafra, officially the Republic of Biafra, was a state in West Africa which existed from 30 May 1967 to January 1970; it was made up of the states in the Eastern Region of Nigeria.

Nigerian Civil War Conflict

The Nigerian Civil War, also known as the Biafran War and the Nigerian-Biafran War, was a war fought between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra. Biafra represented nationalist aspirations of the Biafran people, whose leadership felt they could no longer coexist with the Northern-dominated federal government. The conflict resulted from political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions which preceded Britain's formal decolonization of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963. Immediate causes of the war in 1966 included ethno-religious riots in Northern Nigeria, a military coup, a counter-coup and persecution of Igbo living in Northern Nigeria. Control over the lucrative oil production in the Niger Delta played a vital strategic role.

Jan Zumbach Royal Air Force flying ace

Jan Eugeniusz Ludwig Zumbach was a Polish-Swiss fighter pilot who became an ace and squadron commander during the Second World War. In the postwar period he became a mercenary in Africa and played a key role in forming the air forces of the breakaway states of Katanga and Biafra.

Eric von Rosen Swedish explorer

Count Carl Gustaf Bloomfield Eric von Rosen was a Swedish honorary doctor, patron, explorer, ethnographer and prominent figure in the Swedish upper class.

Carl Bonde Swedish Army officer, equerry and horse rider

Count Carl Gustaf Bonde af Björnö was a Swedish Army officer, equerry and horse rider who competed at the 1912 and 1928 Olympics.

Åge Lundström Swedish Air Force general and equestrian

John Åge Lundström was a Swedish Air Force general and horse rider who competed in the 1920 and 1924 Summer Olympics.

Harar Meda Airport is an airport in Bishoftu, Ethiopia. It is the main base for the Ethiopian Air Force.

Archibald Douglas (1883–1960) Chief of the Swedish Army

Count Wilhelm Archibald Douglas was a Swedish Army lieutenant general and nobleman who served as Chief of the Army from 1944 to 1948.

Uga, Anambra Town in Anambra State, Nigeria

Uga is a town in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, Nigeria. It is 13 km South East of Igbo-Ukwu, 12 km South of Ekwulobia, and 45 km South of Awka, the Anambra State Capital. It has four (4) communities namely : Umueze, Oka, Umuoru and Awarasi. It has recognised landmarks and tourist attractions such as the "Obizi Uga", a natural spring and a spectacular scenery which was the site of an ancient tale in the Uga oral tradition. Uga is the site of an annual traditional celebration known as the "OBUOFOR" festival held every 26 December. Uga has one of the largest markets in the Aguata local government area known as "ORIE" which supports the economic activities of the local community and other surrounding towns.

Þorsteinn Elton Jónsson, DFM was an Icelandic fighter pilot and flying ace of the Second World War. He was the only pilot from Iceland to serve with Royal Air Force in the Second World War, and went on to a significant career in civil aviation.

Lynn Garrison Canadian pilot and political advisor

Lynn Garrison is a Canadian pilot and political adviser. He was a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot in the 403 City of Calgary Squadron, before holding jobs as a commercial pilot, film producer, director and mercenary. Later he became a political adviser in Haiti, and is now an author. With regard to flying, Garrison is known for his oft-repeated comment, "If it has fuel and noise, I can fly it."

The Fall of Enugu,, was a military conflict between Nigerian and Biafran forces. Enugu was invaded after the Biafran retreat from the Mid-Western Region only 14 days earlier after the Nigerian 2nd and 3rd Marine Division cleared them of the area.

The Siege of Owerri,, was a military conflict between Nigerian and Biafran forces. The capture was a major victory for the Biafrans because the victory opened up telephone lines, enhanced road telecommunications, and showed that with stiff resistance, Biafra could defeat Nigerian forces.

Biafran airlift Humanitarian relief effort

The Biafran Airlift was an international humanitarian relief effort that transported food and medicine to Biafra during the 1967-70 secession war from Nigeria. It was the largest civilian airlift, and after the Berlin airlift of 1948-49, the largest non-combatant airlift of any kind ever carried out. The airlift was largely a series of joint efforts by Protestant and Catholic church groups, and other non-governmental organizations (NGO)s, operating civilian and military aircraft with volunteer (mostly) civilian crews and support personnel. Several national governments also supported the effort, mostly behind the scenes. This sustained joint effort, which lasted one and a half times as long as its Berlin predecessor, is estimated to have saved more than a million lives.

Ogbunigwe also called Ojukwu Bucket was a series of weapons systems including command detonation mines, improvised explosive devices and rocket propelled missiles, mass-produced by the Republic of Biafra and used against Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 in the Biafran War.

Ogbugo Kalu was a former army officer who served in both the Nigerian Army and Biafran Army. Kalu was also commander of the Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC) in Kaduna following the 1966 Nigerian coup d'état.

Sven Lampell Swedish Air Force officer

Sven Hjalmar Lampell was a Swedish Air Force officer.

Sten-Eggert Vergenhanns Nauclér was a Swedish Army officer who served in various conflict areas, in Swedish service, Ethiopian service and as a volunteer. After a few years in the Swedish Army, Nauclér volunteered for service in the Winter War and later in the Continuation War in Finland. He returned to Sweden where he was promoted to captain in 1948 before travelling to Ethiopia to train officers for Emperor Haile Selassie's Imperial Guards. Nauclér was deployed in Korea with the Kagnew Battalion during the Korean War in 1951 and also served as head of the Ethiopian Liaison Section in Tokyo. In 1956 he was deployed in Egypt with the Swedish UN Battalion during the Suez Crisis and later in the Congo where he was commander of the Swedish UN Battalion during the Congo Crisis. Nauclér retired from the military in 1963 and then worked for a mining corporation in Liberia. During the Biafran War he led a Red Cross team with relief efforts.

Biafran Armed Forces military force of the secessionist state of Biafra, Nigeria

The Biafran Armed Forces (BAF) were the military of the secessionist state of Biafra which existed from 1967 until 1970.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Davidsson, Åke, ed. (1966). Vem är vem?. 4, Skåne, Halland, Blekinge [Who is Who?. 4, Scania, Halland, Blekinge] (in Swedish) (2nd ed.). Stockholm: Vem är vem. p. 704.
  2. Mockler (2003). Haile Selassie's War. New York: Olive Branch Press. p. 72.
  3. 1 2 Spencer, John (2006). Ethiopia at Bay: A Personal Account of the Haile Selassie Years. Tsehai Publishers. p. 173. ISBN   978-1-59907-000-1.
  4. 1 2 "How to Build an Instant Air Force". Time . Time Inc. Jun 6, 1969. Retrieved 4 August 2009.
  5. 1 2 Partee, Charles (2000). Adventure in Africa: the story of Don McClure : from Khartoum to Addis Ababa in five decades. University Press of America. p. 446. ISBN   978-0-7618-1809-0.
  6. Ryman, Björn (2005). Nordic folk churches: a contemporary church history. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 89–90. ISBN   978-0-8028-2879-8.
  7. Gary Brecher. Biafra: Killer Cessnas and Crazy Swedes Archived 2008-01-14 at the Wayback Machine 15 October 2004.
  8. All Africa. "Ethiopia: Remembering Carl Gustaf Von Rosen" . Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  9. Swedish Voluntary Aviators. "History of Swedish Voluntary Aviators: Luutnantti Carl-Gustaf Ericsson von Rosen" . Retrieved 18 August 2016.