Hans Rudel : Germany's Greatest Stuka Pilot
Germany's Most Successful Stuka Pilot
Known as the "Stuka Pilot" Hans Rudel would become the most decorated serviceman in all the German armed forces during Second World War. While defending Berlin from the Red Army in the final days of the Reich, Rudel's plane would take a direct hit from anti-aircraft artillery losing his right leg below the knee, just six weeks later he was back in his Stuka flying combat missions. Rudel was the wing commander for the elite tank-hunter squadron within the German Luftwaffe, known as the Stuka "fire brigade" thrown into the front line wherever the latest Red Army breakthrough threatened disrupt the German Army's fragile front line. During his career in the Luftwaffe, Rudel flew over 2,530 combat missions, shot down 11 enemy aircraft, destroyed 519 Soviet tanks, 150 self-propelled artillery pieces, over 1,000 military vehicles and a Soviet Battleship. Rudel was responsible for such huge loses to the Red Army that Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, place a 100,000 Ruble price tag on his head. His personal bravery and toughness during the Second World War was unparalleled which ranks him as one of the most extraordinary pilots in military history. Rudel's most famous quote was: "Verloren ist nur, wer sich selbst aufgibt" (Lost are only those, who abandon themselves).
The Stuka Dive Bomber
Tank Buster Stuka
The Russian battleship Marat
Hans Rudel Tank Buster
During the epic Battle of Kursk in July 1943, Rudel tested the first Stuka equipped with a 37mm cannon under each wing. On the 5th of July 1943, Rudel attacked a column of 12 T-34 tanks with his new cannon equipped Stuka and destroyed them all. Soon after the battle of Kursk the Luftwaffe would create an entire squadron of tank-buster Stukas with Rudel as their leader. He would write the book on how to attack tanks from the air during he Second World War. He would determine that best way to knock out tanks was to hit them from the back or side where the tank's armor is the thinnest. By the end of the war Rudel would destroy 519 Soviet tanks alone with his cannon equipped Stuka.
Rudel with Peron and his wife in Argentina
Hans Rudel Survives The War And Relocates To South America
After the end of the Second World War with the help of "Odessa" in1948 Rudel would travel to Cordoba, Argentina, and become a consultant in the Argentine aviation industry. When the regime of General Juan Peron collapsed in the early 1950s, Rudel would return back to West Germany. During his stay in South America Rudel became acquainted with the notorious Nazi concentration camp doctor and war criminal Joseph Mengele, whom he would later help relocate to Brazil by setting up an introduction to Nazi supporter Wolfgang Gerhard.
Josef Mengele the Mad Doctor of Auschwitz
Rudel's Nazi Connection
When the Second World War began, Mengele was a medical officer with the SS, an elite squad of Hitler's bodyguards who would emerge as a secret police force who would wage a campaign of terror throughout the Second World War. In 1943, Mengele was granted a position that would earn him a well known place in history, as one of the most infamous people to ever walk the planet, as the Chief Doctor of the Auschwitz death camps in Poland. Rudel was a great pilot, but was a very poor judge of character due to the fact he was devoted follower of Adolf Hitler and friend of Josef Mengele. Rudel was an ardent Nazi, a character flaw that would cause most to never really honor his accomplishments on the battlefield. In the final days of the Second World War, it was rumored Rudel offered to fly to Berlin and rescue Hitler when the Red Army was within a mile of his bunker. His plan was to land on one of the few streets still in German hands near Hitler's bunker and fly out with he before the Red Army over-ran his bunker. But Hitler wouldn't grant Rudel permission to carry out the mission, believing Rudel was too important to the cause to risk his life that late in the war. Dr. Mengele would inject thousands of death camp inmates with everything from petrol to chloroform to study the chemical effects on his victims. He plucked out the eyes of Gypsy corpses to study eye pigmentation, and conducted numerous gruesome studies on twins. Mengele would escape a death sentence after the war by moving to South America with the help of "Odessa", he would become a citizen of Paraguay in 1959. With Rudel's help Mengele would later move to Brazil, and meet up with another former Nazi party member, Wolfgang Gerhard. Mengele at some point in time during his hiding he would assume Gerhard's identity to escape capture. Josef Mengele would die of a stroke while swimming in the ocean off the coast of Brazil in 1979.
Rudel and the A-10 Warthog
Rudel worked with American engineers during the design of the A-10 Warthog, which was so successful against Iraq during the first Gulf War it would decimate Iraqi troops as they attempted to leave Kuwait, the escape route would later be termed the Highway of Death. During the Second World War, Rudel flew the first anti-tank Stuka, armed with two 3.7 cannons beneath its wings, during the battle of Kursk in July 194, it was the first time this type of aircraft was used in combat, and with great success in one day Rudel destroyed 12 Soviet tanks.
The Highway of Death Desert Storm April 1991
The Stuka's Pilot Final Salute
Hans Rudel died in Rosenheim, West Germany on December 18, 1982, of heart failure. He was buried in Dornhausen on December 22, 1982. During Rudel's burial ceremony, two West German Phantom jets appeared to make a low altitude fly-over of his grave. Although Dornhausen was directly in the middle of West German military airspace government officials closed the air lanes during Rudel's funeral out of respect for his decorated military career. Four mourners were photographed giving the Nazi salute at the funeral, exposing one of the darkest chapters in world history.