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Aces of Aviation

Junkers Ju 87 B-2 of Hans-Ulrich Rudel

Junkers Ju 87 B-2 of Hans-Ulrich Rudel

Junkers Ju 87 B-2 from the III Gruppe of the Stukageschwader II, piloted by Captain Hans-Ulrich Rudel the 23rd September 1941.

Wingspan: 13.80 meters.

Length: 11.10 meters.

Height: 4.01 meters.

Engine[s]: Junkers Jumo 211 of 1200 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 383 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 8000 meters.

Range: 790 kilometers.

Armament: Three MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns; one 500-kilogram bomb.

The achievements of Hans-Ulrich Rudel during the Second World War have not been equalled by any other aviator in History and earned him the only Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves ever awarded. Albeit having enlisted in the Luftwaffe in 1936 and received training as bomber pilot, he spent the largest part of the following three years flying as observer. Until 1941 he was not destined to the Junkers Ju 87 dive bomber (popularly known as Stuka).

The first day of Operation Barbarossa, 22nd June 1941, he flew on his first four combat missions, piloting the Ju 87 B. The 23rd September, flying as Technical Officer of the III Gruppe, Rudel attacked some units of the Soviet Navy in Kronstadt, sinking the 23600-ton battleship Marat; in subsequent attacks he sank a cruiser and a destroyer. The 6th June 1942 he was awarded the Knight's Cross after having completed over 400 operative missions.

Then Rudel enjoyed a short rest time, after which he was promoted to the rank of Staffelkapitan of the 9th Staffel in the Caucasus. He performed his 500th mission the 24th September and the 1000th one the 10th February 1943, frequently flying on the Ju 87 D. In 1943 Rudel began to pilot the Ju 87 G anti-tank bomber, armed with two 30-millimeter cannons. The 14th April he was awarded the Oak Leaves for his Knight's Cross.

Rudel's record of enemy tanks destroyed began to rise quickly from the first day of the Battle of Kursk, the 5th July 1943. In his first mission he destroyed four T-34 tanks, and at the end of the day his tally had reached twelve. The 12th August he performed his 1300th mission (whereas Erwin Hentschel, his radio operator, performed his 1000th one) and the following month Rudel took the command of the III Gruppe. The 30th October he destroyed his 100th Russian tank while flying on the Ju 87 G. To this followed the awarding of the Swords for his Knight's Cross, the 25th November, and the promotion to the rank of Major, the 1st March 1944.

The 26th March Rudel destroyed 26 tanks on his own, rising to 202 his record of destroyed tanks. The 1st June he departed for his 2000th mission, in which he destroyed his 301th tank; this earned him the Diamonds for his Knight's Cross, the Pilot's Badge in Gold and the Mission Clasp in Gold and Diamonds. The 19th August Rudel was shot down and suffered injuries in the legs, but remained in the front, being sent to command the SG 2 "Immelmann" as Lieutenant Colonel. Eventually, the 29th December he was awarded the Golden Oak Leaves for his Knight's Cross.

In February 1945 Rudel had performed over 2400 combat missions and his record of enemy armored units destroyed had reached 505, but the 8th February he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire near Lebus. He saved his life thanks to his rear gunner, Dr. Gadermann, but had his right foot amputated in a first-line aid station. Despite the unhealed wound, Rudel remained in the battlefield and managed to destroy another 26 tanks before the end of the war put an end to such a remarkable career.