Hans-Ulrich Rudel, Germany’s most highly decorated combat pilot, only Hans- Ulrich Rudel pulls his Junkers JuB Stuka out of a dive after. Hans Ulrich Rudel was a Stuka dive-bomber pilot during World War 2. The most highly decorated German serviceman of the war, Rudel was one of only The year-old Silesian pastor’s son, Ulrich Rudel began his pilot training for the German Luftwaffe in Rudel volunteered for the new.

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Until very recently the remote forward airstrip had been deep inside Soviet Russia, but now it was Nazi territory. The men of Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 StG. It would be nothing like raining bombs and fear over fleeing enemy infantry and civilians, as Stukas had across Spain, Poland, Belgium and France.

The Day That Stuka Pilot Hans Ulrich Rudel Sank The Soviet Battleship Marat

And Rudel had flown his first combat mission just three months earlier. Young Rudel, an avid skier and athlete, came of age in early s Germany at the same time as Nazism and the dive bomber. Plummeting from on high with sirens wailing and bombs whistling, Stukas struck terror long before they struck targets. Yet withstanding rapid changes in air pressure as he plunged thousands of feet, not to mention near-blackout on pull-up, proved difficult for Rudel.

He spent the Polish invasion as a backseat observer in reconnaissance planes, and sat out the Battle of Britain and the Balkan and Styka campaigns. Not until the invasion of Russia was he at last given a combat seat. With near-complete air superiority on its side, the Stuka was back in its element—relentless blitzkrieg.

In his first day of battle, Rudel flew four missions. In a little over a month he flewreceiving the Iron Cross First Class and new respect from his flying mates. The Stukas had caught Marat out in the Gulf of Finland.

On the morning of September 23,a reconnaissance plane spotted the dreadnought undergoing repairs in Kronstadt Harbor, the largest naval base in the Soviet Union, with more than 1, shipboard and land-based guns. If I reach the target, I am determined to stukq it.

His backseat gunner, Sergeant Alfred Scharnowski, was with him all the way. The young East Prussian, the 13th child in his family, was accustomed to having the odds against him. On target approach the flak was so intense that the Stukas, bobbing, weaving and dodging, broke formation. From miles away they could see Marat tied up with the heavy cruiser Kirov at its stern.

Wing-mounted dive brakes extended for greater jans and accuracy, Steen pitched over into the attack, with Rudel right behind him. The airspeed indicator wound up as the altimeter wound down. Now all their A. Steen closed his brakes, trying to get down through the flak before it blew him out of the sky.

I am right on his tail, traveling much too fast and unable to check my speed. Sailors are running across the deck…. Now I press the bomb release switch on my stick and rudrl with all my strength.

They had pulled out a dozen feet or so above the water. Behind them Rudel saw a 1,foot pillar of smoke and fire billowing from the battleship.


Stuka Pilot

His bomb had exploded in an ammunition magazine. Although Marat would contribute to the defense of Leningrad as a floating battery, it never steamed out of Kronstadt again.

The Stukas regrouped at their field for a go at the cruiser Kirov. Rudel had to watch as the CO took off, with Scharnowski still in back. In the midst of their attack dive, they took a hit in the tail. Unable to pull out, Steen aimed the Stuka at Kirovbut hit the sea alongside. Sunk in shallow water, Marat was refloated in a few months and used as a stationary gun battery.

After 16 months the encirclement of Leningrad was broken.

Stuka Pilot by Hans-Ulrich Rudel

By that time Adolf Hitler had other goals: Meanwhile Rudel—now a mission veteran—survived his first Russian winter and a summer commanding a Stuka training unit. By the time he rejoined StG.

Stuka bombing precision was essential in this situation. On the morning of November 19,answering a massive Soviet barrage north of the city, Rudel and his pilots overflew their Romanian allies fleeing a wave of Russian infantry. Within days the Sixth Army was encircled.

Rudel flew 17 sorties, stopping the last tank himself uldich a few yards short of his own runway. In FebruaryRudel flew his 1,th mission, for which the wing gave him a chimney sweep and a pig both lucky and an honor goblet full of milk.

He was then invited to Rechlin, Germany, to help test a new concept in anti-tank warfare. Armed with two pound cannon pods, the Stuka became slow and unwieldy, unable to dive or carry bombs, but its 6-foot gun barrels could put 37mm tungsten-core shells through square-foot targets from the air at more than rucel. Rudel got off to a bad start, shot down by flak on his first combat test, but he made short work of Russian landing craft on the Kuban front.

As thousands stuja German and Russian tanks wheeled rudsl fired at point-blank range below him, Rudel circled behind the enemy armor formations to attack from the rear. In polot first attack he disabled four tanks, and by the end of the first day he had bagged 12—the equivalent of a Soviet armor company.

The Luftwaffe already intended the faster Focke-Wulf FwF to replace the JuG in the ground attack role and Rudel would pilpt fly itbut his name would always be linked to the Stuka. His back-seater, Sergeant Erwin Hentschel, became the most successful gunner in the Luftwaffe, with more than 1, missions and several enemy aircraft to his credit. Yet the Stukas were unable to halt the relentless Soviet offensives leading into the winter of Terrible weather shielded the enemy from aerial attack.

Hentschel scouted a nearby road jammed with German truck traffic. Many of them think pllot are seeing a ghost plane. Leaving Hentschel to guard the plane, Rudel caught a ride to base and returned to take off when the weather lifted. In late MarchStG. On his eighth sortie that day, sfuka Rudel saw one of his crews forced down on the wrong side of the river and landed to pick them up. But with two extra passengers, his Stuka bogged down in the mud. With Soviet troops closing in, Rudel, Hentschel and the rest ran several miles in full gear.


Doffing flight suits and boots, they slid down riverbank cliffs into the water. The yard-wide Dniester was in full flood, a few degrees above freezing and full of ice. His athletic training saved him: Last into the water, he was second to reach the far bank.

Eighty yards short, gunner Hentschel threw up his arms and went under. The others were soon captured. Lurich had been shot in the shoulder, and was wet, barefoot and freezing. Rude deep in enemy territory, he refused to be taken prisoner. Rudel sheltered among refugees and locals who had no love for Stalinist Russians, and barely survived his trek across some 30 miles of enemy territory to reach German lines.

His feet were so badly injured that when he next flew he had to be helped into his plane. Reluctant to risk his hero pllot, Hitler grounded him, but relented when Rudel said he would refuse the medal if forbidden to fly.

Marking his 1,th mission, Rudel—who was a teetotaler—would have left the champagne to his backseater Erwin Hentschel, then celebrating his 1,th.

Germany needed heroes that summer ofand Rudel did not disappoint. Shot down over Latvia, he crash-landed with his gunner, Ernst Gadermann. Both men were wounded, and both were immediately back in the air. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and appointed commanding officer of SG. By now he had flown 2, missions and notched tank kills, approximately equal to three Soviet tank corps. Alfred Jodl, Grand Adm. No other German soldier has ever received it. Again Hitler ordered him grounded; again Rudel refused.

But be careful, the German people need you. On February 8, with his leg still in a cast, Rudel shot up a dozen tanks that had breached the Oder River. He used his last cannon round to score an unlucky 13th, a Stalin, but his Stuka was hit by Soviet 40mm anti-aircraft fire.

Rudel woke up in a hospital with his leg amputated below the knee. His subsequent tank kills were attributed to the squadron anonymously.

By April 26, it was barely possible to fly into the embattled capital. Hitler refused, and within the week was dead. Though Rudel would have preferred to lead his wing on a glorious suicide mission against a Soviet headquarters, instead he sent his men to flee overland, west toward the American lines, on May 8. He and a half-dozen other pilots deliberately crash-landed their planes on an American-held airfield and surrendered.

In all, Hans-Ulrich Rudel was credited with 2, missions, one battleship, one cruiser, a destroyer, 70 landing craft, some vehicles, gun positions, numerous armored trains and bridges, tanks and nine aircraft. He had been shot down more than 30 times never by an enemy pilot and wounded five times.

With a bullet through his shoulder, his comrades gone and enemy troops closing in fast, he remained defiant: Frequent contributor Don Hollway recommends for further reading: This feature originally appeared in the July issue of Aviation History. Your email address will not be published. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Your email address will not be published.