Birthday: July 2, 1916
Died At Age: 66
Sun Sign: Cancer
Born Country: Poland
Born in: Kondratów, Poland
Famous as: Pilot
Spouse/Ex-: Ursula née Bassfeld, Ursula (m. 1942 - div. 1950), Ursula née Daemisch (m. 1965 - div. 1977)
father: Johannes Rudel
mother: Martha Rudel
children: Christoph, Hans-Ulrich, Siegfried
Died on: December 18, 1982
place of death: Rosenheim, Germany
Cause of Death: Stroke
awards: Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves
Swords and Diamonds
German Cross in Gold
Who was Hans-Ulrich Rudel?
Hans-Ulrich Rudel was Nazi Germany’s most decorated ground-attack pilot, who was the sole recipient of Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds from Hitler. He was born to a clergy man during the First World War, joined Hitler’s youth wing at the age of 17, became a Stuka pilot at 25 and rose to the rank of colonel by 28. He fought mostly on the eastern front, helping Germany to fight Soviet Union. He was credited with flying 2,530 ground-attack missions, destroying more than 800 vehicles, including one Soviet battleship, 519 tanks, 70 landing crafts and 150 artillery emplacements. Ruden was so dedicated to Hitler’s cause that even an amputated leg could not come in the way. He returned to duty around 45 days after it was smashed by an enemy shell. He spent the last years of his life in South America, writing books, helping those who had been accused of war crime and intermittingly returning to Germany to keep his German citizenship alive. Until his death at the age of 66, he remained a staunch supporter of the Nazi philosophy.
Childhood & Early Life
Hans-Ulrich Rudel was born on July 2, 1916, in Konradswaldau village, now located in Lower Silesian Voivodeship in south-western Poland. His father’s name was Johannes Rudel, who was a Lutheran minister, and his mother was called Martha nee Mueckner. He had two older sisters; Ingeborg and Johanna.
Educated at a Gymnasium in the nearby town of Lauban, he was never good in studies, but excelled in sports. Some sources claim that he was quite timid as a child and overcame his nervousness only after his sisters began to tease him.
In 1933, while studying at the Gymnasium, 17 years old Rudel joined Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth), which was not only the youth organization of the Nazi Party, but also considered a paramilitary organization. It is possible that the Nazi philosophy was ingrained in him during this period.
In August 1936, after graduating from the Gymnasium, Rudel undertook six months’ compulsory training at Reichsarbeitsdienst (Reich Labour Service) before joining Luftwaffe as a cadet. It was here that he received his basic training in aerial warfare.
In June 1938, he joined Sturzkampfgeschwader 168, which was Luftwaffe’s dive-bombing squadron. For some reason, he was transferred to the Reconnaissance Flying School at Hildesheim on 1 January 1939. He received training in operational reconnaissance there.
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During Second World War
In September 1939, as Germany invaded Poland, Hans-Ulrich Rudel flew on long-range reconnaissance missions over that country. In the following year, he served as a regimental adjutant for the 43rd Aviators Training Regiment.
In 1941, after completion of his training as a Stuka pilot, he was posted to 1 staffel Sturzkampfgeschwader 2. Later in the same year, he moved with his unit to German-occupied Poland in preparation for the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
From May 1941 to January 1942, he flew 500 missions, including a successful attack on the Soviet battleship Marat in September 1941. He was credited for sinking the ship. Later in 1942, he took part in the Battle of Stalingrad, known as the largest confrontation in the World War Two.
In February 1943, Rudel flew his 1000th combat mission, becoming a national hero for achieving this feat. In July-August, he took part in the Battle of Kursk, claiming 12 Soviet tanks on July 12. In October, he destroyed his 100th tank and by November, he was part of the Kerch–Eltigen Operation.
On 22 February 1944, while serving as an Oberstleutnant (Lieutenant Colonel), he was appointed Gruppenkommandeur, a position equivalent to a wing commander. Concurrently, he continued to fly over the enemy territories.
On 20 March 1944, he was forced to land behind the Soviet lines. However, he was able to escape, eventually reaching the German line after successfully swimming across the Dniester River. On December 29, he was promoted to Oberst.
On 8 February 1945, while on a sojourn, he was badly wounded in his right leg, which had to be amputated below the knee. Undeterred, he returned to the duty on March 25, destroying 26 more tanks by the end of the war in May.
On 8 May 1945, after the defeat of the Axis forces in Europe, Rudel fled from an airfield near Prague and landed in the US-controlled territory. There, he surrendered to the US forces and for the next one year, he lived in different camps in England and France as a prisoner-of-war.
In April 1946, Hans-Ulrich Rudel was released from the US custody. Thereafter, he became a businessman. But in 1948, he decided to go to Argentina, reaching Buenos Aires on June 8. He traveled via Austria and Italy, buying himself a fake Red Cross passport bearing the name, Emilio Meier.
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In Argentina, he lived in a rented house in Villa Carlos Paz, where he operated brickwork. He also set up a relief organization called ‘Kameradenwerk’ in order to help those who had been identified as war criminal.
Rudel became a close confidant of Juan Perón, the President of Argentina, and with his help, he secured profitable contracts with the Brazilian military. Eventually, he also developed friendship with Alfredo Stroessner, the Dictator of Paraguay, becoming his active military advisor.
In 1953, he returned to West Germany to become a leading member of the Deutsche Reichsparte (DRP), a Neo-Nazi nationalist political party, contesting under its banner. However, he lost the election and returned to South America.
After Perón stepped down from his position as the President of Argentina in 1955, Rudel moved to Paraguay. Around this time, he became a military adviser and arms dealer, supplying weapons to Bolivia and Chile. He also acted as the foreign representative for several German companies.
While living in Argentina, Hans-Ulrich Rudel wrote three books. However, he is most remembered for his wartime memoir ‘Trotzdem’ (Nevertheless), in which he supported the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Originally published in November 1949, it was later re-edited and published as ‘Stuka Pilot’ in the United States, possibly in 1965.
Awards & Achievements
On 20 October 1941, Hans-Ulrich Rudel received Honor Goblet of the Luftwaffe as Oberleutnant in a Sturzkampfgeschwader.
In April 1943, he was awarded the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross by Hitler himself. Later on November 25, he was given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.
On 29 March 1944, Rudel received the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, once again personally from Hitler.
On 1 January 1945, he was once again decorated with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Incidentally, he was the only person to receive such an honor.
Family & Personal Life
Hans-Ulrich Rudel married thrice and interestingly, all his wives were named Ursula. In 1942, he married the first Ursula, who was nicknamed "Hanne". The union produced two sons, Hans-Ulrich and Siegfried. The couple divorced in 1950.
In 1965, he married his second wife, Ursula née Daemisch. They had a son named Christoph, born in 1969. Rudel divorced her in 1977.
His third wife was Ursula née Bassfeld. However, little is known about her.
On 18 December 1982, Rudel died in Rosenheim, Germany, after suffering a stroke. He was buried in Dornhausen on 22 December 1982. He was 66 years old at the time of his death.