Fw 190D9 of Stab SG2 flown by Obst. Hans-Ulrich Rudel Grobenheim Airfiel, April 1945
Pilots SG2 Hans Ulrich Rudel 01
Pilots SG2 Hans Ulrich Rudel 02
Skins Compatibility: IL2 Sturmovik Forgotten Battles (FB), Ace Expansion Pack (AEP), Pacific Fighters (PF), 1946
Rudel was extremely fortunate to avoid capture by the Soviets, who had put a 100,000 ruble bounty on his head, payable dead or alive. The 'Stuka Ace' died in Germany in 1982. In 1984, his diary was published again and two of the greatest Allied fighter pilots, Douglas Bader and Pierre Clostermann wrote a warm and praising foreword to this edition, (surely being unaware of Rudel's political activities.) Rudel's famous quotation was 'Verloren ist nur, wer sich selbst aufgibt' ('Lost are only those, who abandon themselves').
Sources:Tom Cleaver, T. Hugo Werner.
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Asisbiz Database of aerial victories for Hans-Ulrich Rudel
A brief summary of Colonel Rudel's exploits...
His story is remarkable to me in this regard: it shows that a man, even when controlled by the most evil political masters, can attain the peak of military success while exemplifying absolute adherence to personal standards of honor, integrity, and faith to his comrades in arms.
His story is especially inspiring when one considers that the man who began the war as a near-washout in pilot training, who was barred from combat flying by his first squadron commander, ended the war as history's most highly decorated aviator.
History has not chosen to make his story widely known because he fought for the losing side, and history is, as we all know, written by the winners
A note for my Israeli friends: Rudel's story is presented here because of his military exploits, and for no other reason. I do not seek to glorify or apologize for the atrocious crimes committed by the German political leadership against Europe's Jews and other religious and ethnic minorities from 1933-45. Hans Ulrich Rudel was not a member of the Nazi party, participated in no war crimes, did not go into hiding after the war, and was never even accused of any such activities by any organization or Nazi-hunter, including the Shin Bet.
Rudel logged 2,530 combat missions, and was granted almost no leave throughout his four years of active duty. Unlike his Allied counterparts, there was no magical number of missions which would mean a furlough home, once attained. For Rudel, as well as for all German pilots, it was a matter of 'fly and fight until the war ends, or you are killed': consequently, almost all eventually fell, and today only a tiny handful survive.
Rudel's personal victories as a ground-attack pilot were achieved exclusively against the Soviets, and despite the most primitive conditions imaginable, including operations solely from dirt, mud, and snow covered airfields, his confirmed victories (those witnessed by two or more fellow pilots) include:
Through direct action, he saved tens of thousands of German infantrymen from certain encirclement and annihilation during the long retreat which began in July 1943 and lasted until the war's end, almost two years later.
+ Shot down 32 times.
March 44: Disaster struck when Rudel landed behind Soviet lines to retrieve a downed German aircrew. Snow and mud bogged down the airplane, making it impossible to take off. Approaching Soviet troops forced everyone to flee on foot, but barring their escape was the 900 foot wide river Dnjestr. The Germans stripped to their longjohns, and swam across the ice-clogged river. Rudel's close friend and crewman, Erwin Henstchel, drowned a few feet from the far shore. They had flown 1490 missions together at the time of Hentschel's death. His body was never recovered.
Rudel was pursued by hundreds of Soviet troops who were intent on collecting the 100,000 ruble bounty which Stalin had placed on his head, and he was shot in the shoulder while they chased him with dogs and on horseback. Through incredible ingenuity, audacity, and raw determination, Rudel escaped and made his way, alone and unarmed, back home, despite being more than 30 miles behind Soviet lines when he began his 24 hour trek. He was barefoot and almost naked in the sub-freezing winter weather, without food, compass, or medical attention. His escape stands as the single most legendary example of personal bravery and luck during the Second World War, but he never fully recovered emotionally from Hentschel's death, for which he blamed himself throughout the remainder of his life.
Unlike the situation with the Soviets, German decorations were awarded without regard to rank. And in contrast to the Western Allies, they were never awarded for single acts of conspicuous bravery, but rather for a consistent record of personal gallantry and success in combat.
+ 15 Jan 42: Knight's Cross
+ 14 Apr 43: Knight's Cross with Oakleaves
+ 25 Nov 44: Knight's Cross with Oakleaves & Swords
+ 29 Mar 44: Knight's Cross with Oakleaves, Swords & Diamonds
+ 1 Jan 45: Knight's Cross with Golden Oakleaves, Swords & Diamonds
Rudel was extremely fortunate to avoid capture by the Soviets, who had put a 100,000 ruble bounty on his head, payable dead or alive. Many other pilots who had the misfortune of being captured by the Soviets, or who were handed over to them by the Americans later, during the Summer of 45, suffered up to 11 years of forced labor in the Siberian gulags after the war. Hundreds of thousands of German soldiers, from generals to privates, died in post-war captivity behind the Iron Curtain. There has never been a complete accounting, and many are still listed by the modern German government as MIAs.
Joined former members of Focke-Wulf aircraft corporation in Argentina; close personal friend of Juan Peron.
Despite being disabled, Rudel made a name for himself as a mountaineer in the Andes, even climbing the highest peak in the Americas, Aconcagua (7,020 meters), as well as three times up the highest volcano on Earth, Llullay-Yacu in the Argentine Andes (6,920 meters), the final time to bury a climbing companion who didn't survive the second climb. Discrimination against former war heroes forced Rudel to become a ski instructor after returning to Kufstein, Tirol, Austria in the early 1960s.
Hans Ulrich Rudel finally followed Hentschel across the river in the early 1980s.
This webpage was updated 26th September 2012
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