Details about Autograph historical ONE OF A KIND Hans Ulrich Rudel Luftwaffe Knights CrossSee original listing
Oct 11, 2013
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Wardensville, West Virginia, United States
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Have to let this one go to pay for dental implants for one of the kids! Inscribed by Hans Ulrich Rudel!
Hans-Ulrich Rudel (2 July 1916 – 18 December 1982) was a Stuka dive-bomber pilot during World War II. The most highly decorated German serviceman of the war, 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), Germany's highest military decoration.[Note 1]
Rudel flew 2,530 combat missions claiming a total of 2,000 targets destroyed; including 800 vehicles, 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, 70 landing craft, nine aircraft, 4 armored trains, several bridges, a destroyer, two cruisers, and the Soviet battleship Marat.
Rudel, the son of Lutheran minister Johannes, was born in Konradswaldau (Silesia), Germany. He 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), he joined the Luftwaffe as an officer cadet, and began basic training at the "School of Air Warfare" at Wildpark-Werder.
In June 1938 he joined I./Sturzkampfgeschwader 168 in Graz as an officer senior cadet. Rudel had difficulty learning the new techniques and was considered unsuitable for combat flying, so on 1 January 1939, he was transferred to the Reconnaissance Flying School at Hildesheim for training in operational reconnaissance. He was promoted to Leutnant (Second Lieutenant) on that date. After completing training he was posted to the Fernaufklärungsgruppe 121 (Long-Range Reconnaissance Group) at Prenzlau.
Rudel was a teetotaler and non-smoker. His fellow pilots coined the phrase Hans-Ulrich Rudel, er trinkt nur Sprudel (Hans-Ulrich Rudel, he drinks only sparkling water).
World War II
During the Polish Campaign at the start of World War II, he flew (as an observer) on long-range reconnaissance missions over Poland from Breslau. Rudel earned the Iron Cross 2nd Class on 11 October 1939. After a number of requests he was reassigned to dive bombing, joining an Aviation Training Regiment at Crailsheim and then he was assigned to his previous unit, I./Sturzkampfgeschwader 3 (StG 3),[Note 2] at Caen in May 1940. He spent the Battle of Britain as an Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) in a non-combat role. Still regarded as a poor pilot, he 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 he also spent the invasion of Crete in a non-combat role.
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. On 23 September 1941, he and another Stuka pilot sank the Soviet battleship Marat, during an air attack on Kronstadt harbor in the Leningrad area, with hits to the bow using 1,000 kg bombs. By the end of December, he had flown his 400th mission and in January 1942 received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. On 10 February 1943, he became the first pilot in history to fly 1,000 sorties. Around this time, he also started flying anti-tank 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.
By March 1944, he was already Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of III./StG 2 (appointed on 19 July 1943) and had reached 1,800 operations. At that time he claimed 202 tanks destroyed.
Around this time, Hitler thought Rudel was too valuable to be engaged in combat. Hitler, through Göring, gave the order to ground Rudel permanently. Rudel refused to accept this command and Hitler had no choice but to reluctantly rescind his order.
On 13 March 1944 Rudel may have been involved in aerial combat with the Hero of the Soviet Union Lev Shestakov. Rudel flew into a valley to evade him, at times flying only 10 feet above the ground, constantly performing brutal evasive maneuvres. Prior to this engagement, his rear gunner's machine guns had been jammed. Rudel was flying so low that he had to evade trees and it was here that his rear gunner realized that Shestakov had crashed. Shestakov failed to return from this mission and was posted as missing in action. From Rudel's memoirs:
In November 1944, he 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. He 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 Rudel's leg was amputated below the knee. He 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, he 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, 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 he surrendered to U.S. forces, on 8 May 1945.
Eleven months in prisoner of war camps followed. Released by the Americans, he moved to Argentina in 1948.
According to official Luftwaffe figures, Rudel flew some 2,530 combat missions (a record score at that time).[Note 3] He was never shot down by another pilot, only by anti-aircraft artillery. He 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, he 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 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, he 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, he often flew the ground-attack variant of the Fw 190.
He 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. He 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). He was also promoted to Oberst (Colonel) at this time.
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