Hans-Ulrich Rudel (1916-1982) was a WWII, Luftwaffe pilot. Although he never flew a fighter aircraft in his military career, he became a well-known German ace and the most decorated pilot of the war. Flying his Junkers Ju 87G, a ground-attack aircraft, he carried out 2,530 sorties as he destroyed more than 2,000 military targets of all sorts; artillery pieces, ammunition depots, tanks, bunkers, trains, command posts, radio stations, etc. Thus, Hans-Ulrich Rudel is not considered a top ace in terms of enemy aircraft shot down, but in the number of successful combat missions he flew. Furthermore, he was the most highly decorated soldier of the war. He was a very skillful pilot who had unwavering self-control and steely determination in the most dangerous combat circumstances. Rudel’s motto was “you are only lost if you give up on yourself”.
Hans-Ulrich Rudel was born on July 2, 1916, in Konradwaldau, eastern Germany. In 1936, when he was twenty years old, he inlisted in the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and became a pilot. When World War II broke out, he flew reconnaissance aircraft during the Polish Campaign in September 1939, and the German invasion of France in 1940. Having been assigned to Sturzkampfgeschwader 2, he performed his first combat mission on June 23, 1941, during Operation Barbarossa. In September 1941, he sank the Soviet battleship Marat, delivering simultaneously four bombs that hit the target. In February 1945, a 40mm AA gun round partially destroyed his aircraft, forcing him to crash land. He was wounded and lost his leg, but he kept flying sorties until the end of the war. On May 8, 1945, he surrendered to US troops in Germany. After the war, he lived for a while in Argentina, but he went back to Germany where he died in 1982.
He had been decorated with the Iron Cross, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, among other awards. He had destroyed a battleship, a destroyer, more than 220 tanks, 50 military trains, and a great number of artillery pieces.
Hans-Ulrich Rudel in Action (footage)