Born: 2 July 1916 in Konradswaldau, Kingdom of Prussia.
Died: 18 December 1982 in Rosenheim, Germany
General der Flieger
General der Infanterie
Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe in Gold and Diamonds with Pennant
Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe 20 October 1941
Wound Badge in Gold
Combined Pilots-Observation Badge in Gold with Diamonds
German Cross in Gold 2 December 1941
Iron Cross 1939
2nd Class 10 November 1939
1st Class 18 July 1941
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
Knight's Cross 6 January 1942
Oak Leaves 14 April 1943
Swords 25 November 1943
Diamonds 29 March 1944
Golden Oak Leaves on 29 December 1944
Hungarian Gold Medal of Bravery 14 January 1945
Italian Silver Medal of Military Valor
Hans-Ulrich Rudel was born on 2 July 1916 in Konradswaldau, Kingdom of Prussia and became one of the most famous Stuka dive-bomber pilot during World War II and a member of the National Socialist Party. The most highly decorated German serviceman of the war, Hans-Ulrich Rudel was one of only 27 military men to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, and the only person to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit goldenem Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten).
Hans-Ulrich Rudel flew 2,530 combat missions claiming a total of 2,000 targets destroyed including 800 vehicles, 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, a destroyer, two cruisers, one Soviet battleship, 70 landing craft, 4 armoured trains, several bridges and nine aircraft which Hans-Ulrich Rudel shot down. Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the son of Lutheran minister Johannes, was born in Konradswaldau (Silesia), Germany. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was raised in a number of different Silesian parishes. As a boy he was a poor scholar but a very keen sportsman. In August 1936, after his Abitur University preparatory high school diploma, Hans-Ulrich Rudel joined the Luftwaffe as an officer cadet, and began basic training at the School of Air Warfare at Wildpark-Werder.
During June 1938 Hans-Ulrich Rudel joined I./Sturzkampfgeschwader 168 in Graz as an officer senior cadet. Hans-Ulrich Rudel had difficulty learning the new techniques and was considered unsuitable for combat flying, so on 1 January 1939, Hans-Ulrich Rudel was transferred to the Reconnaissance Flying School at Hildesheim for training in operational reconnaissance. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was promoted to Lieutenant (Second Lieutenant) on that date. After completing training Hans-Ulrich Rudel was posted to the Fernaufklärungsgruppe 121 (Long-range Reconnaissance Group) at Prenzlau.
Hans-Ulrich Rudel was a teetotal and non-smoker. His fellow pilots coined the phrase Hans-Ulrich Rudel, er trinkt nur Sprudel (Hans-Ulrich Rudel, he drinks only sparkling water).
During the Polish Campaign at the start of World War II, Hans-Ulrich Rudel flew as an observer on long-range reconnaissance missions over Poland from Breslau. Hans-Ulrich Rudel earned the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 11 October 1939. After a number of requests Hans-Ulrich Rudel was reassigned to dive bombing, joining an Aviation Training Regiment at Crailsheim and then Hans-Ulrich Rudel was assigned to his previous unit, I./Sturzkampfgeschwader 3 (StG 3), at Caen in May 1940. Hans-Ulrich Rudel spent the Battle of Britain as an Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) in a non-combat role. Still regarded as a poor pilot, Hans-Ulrich Rudel was sent to a Reserve Flight at Graz for dive bombing training. Assigned to I./Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 (StG 2), based at Molaoi, his poor reputation, by then unjustified, preceded him and Hans-Ulrich Rudel also spent the invasion of Crete in a noncombat role.
Ju 87 G-2 Kanonenvogel with its twin Bordkanone BK 3.7, 37 mm guns. Hans-Ulrich Rudel flew his first four combat missions on 23 June 1941, during the German invasion of the Soviet Union. His demonstrated piloting skills earned him the Iron Cross 1st Class on 18 July 1941. In 23 September 1941, Hans-Ulrich Rudel and another Stuka pilot sank the Soviet battleship Marat, during an air attack on Kronstadt harbour in the Leningrad area, with hits to the bow using 1,000 kg bombs. By the end of December, Hans-Ulrich Rudel had flown his 400th mission and in January 1942 received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. During February 1943, Hans-Ulrich Rudel became the first pilot in history to fly 1,000 sorties. Around this time Hans-Ulrich Rudel also started flying antitank operations with the 'Kanonenvogel', or G, version of the Ju-87, through the Battle of Kursk, and into the autumn of 1943, claiming 100 tanks destroyed.
During March 1944, Hans-Ulrich Rudel was already Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of III./StG 2 appointed on 19 July 1943 and had reached 1,800 operations. At that time Hans-Ulrich Rudel claimed 202 tanks destroyed.
During March 1944 Hans-Ulrich Rudel may have been involved in aerial combat with the Hero of the Soviet Union, Lev Shestakov. Shestakov failed to return from this mission and was posted as missing in action. From Hans-Ulrich Rudel's memoirs:
? he shot down by Ernst Gadermann Hans-Ulrich Rudel's rear gunner, or did he go down because of the backwash from my engine during these tight turns? It doesn't matter. My headphones suddenly exploded in confused screams from the Russian radio the Russians have observed what happened and something special seems to have happened. From the Russian radio-messages, we discover that this was a very famous Soviet fighter pilot, more than once appointed as Hero of the Soviet Union. I should give him credit: he was a good pilot.
During November 1944, Hans-Ulrich Rudel was wounded in the thigh and flew subsequent missions with his leg in a plaster cast. On 8 February 1945, a 40 mm shell hit his aircraft. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was badly wounded in the right foot and crash landed inside German lines. His life was saved by his observer Ernst Gadermann who stemmed the bleeding, but Hans-Ulrich Rudel's leg was amputated below the knee. Hans-Ulrich Rudel returned to operations on 25 March 1945, claiming 26 more tanks destroyed before the end of the war. Determined not to fall into Soviet hands, Hans-Ulrich Rudel led three Ju 87s and four FW 190s westward from Bohemia in a 2 hour flight. Landing at Kitzingen airfield, held by the US 405th Fighter Group, Hans-Ulrich Rudel had his men lock the brakes and collapse the landing gear to make the aircraft useless to the Americans and to render the airfield unusable by blocking the airstrip. Then Hans-Ulrich Rudel surrendered to U.S. Forces, on 8 May 1945.
Eleven months in prisoner of war camps followed. Released by the Americans, Hans-Ulrich Rudel moved to Argentina in 1948.
According to official Luftwaffe figures, Hans-Ulrich Rudel flew some 2,530 combat missions a world record. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was never shot down by another pilot, only by antiaircraft artillery. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was shot down or forced to land 32 times, several times behind enemy lines.
According to his autobiography, on one occasion, after trying a landing to rescue two downed novice Stuka crewmen and then not being able to take off again due to the muddy conditions, Hans-Ulrich Rudel and his three companions, while being chased for 6 km by Soviet soldiers, made their way down a steep cliff by sliding down trees, then swam 600 meters across the icy Dniester river, during which his rear gunner, Knight's Cross holder Hentschel, succumbed to the cold water and drowned. Several miles further towards the German lines, the three survivors were then captured by Soviets, but Hans-Ulrich Rudel, knowing there was a bounty on his head, again made a run for it. Despite being barefoot and in soaking clothes, getting shot in his shoulder, and being hunted by several hundred pursuers with dog packs, he eventually managed to make his way back to his own lines.
In total, Hans-Ulrich Rudel was wounded five times and rescued six stranded aircrew from enemy territory, although the two mentioned above were recaptured. The vast majority of his missions were spent piloting the various models of the Junkers Ju 87, though by the end of the war, Hans-Ulrich Rudel often flew the ground-attack variant of the Fw 190.
Hans-Ulrich Rudel went on to become the most decorated serviceman of all the fighting arms of the German armed forces the only person more highly decorated was Hermann Göring who was awarded the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross, earning by early 1945 the Wound Badge in Gold, the German Cross in Gold, the Pilots and Observer's Badge with Diamonds, and the Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe with 2,000 sorties in Diamonds. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was the only recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds the highest-scoring ace of World War II, Erich Hartmann, also held the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds but his Oak Leaves were not gold. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was also promoted to Oberst (Colonel) at this time.
For a complete list of sources