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Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel

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Includes one Ju 87 Stuka with Ju 87D or Ju 87G options, one Aircraft die, one Rudel Warrior inlay, one Plastic flight stand, two Rare-earth magnets & Rudel decal sheet.

Hans-Ulrich Rudel was born on 2 July 1916. In late 1936, he joined the Luftwaffe as a cadet. During basic training, he had difficulty learning fighter piloting techniques and was eventually listed as unsuitable for aerial combat missions. In 1939, he was transferred to a reconnaissance unit and began his wartime career observing and taking pictures of enemy positions during the invasion of Poland.

In 1940, his numerous applications to be transferred to the dive-bombers were finally approved and he was then stationed in Caen, France during the Battle of Britain. A frustrated Rudel spent the entire battle assigned to a non-combat role. He then moved to the Mediterranean theatre where he once again sat on the sidelines during the battle of Crete.

Finally on 23 June 1941, Rudel flew his first combat missions in the opening days of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. It took him less than a month to win the Iron Cross, First Class, in recognition of his abilities on the battlefield.

On 23 September 1941, Rudel and a fellow dive-bomber pilot scored hits that resulted in the sinking of the Soviet battleship Marat, while it lay in the Leningrad harbour. By 1942, Rudel had over 400 missions under his belt and had been awarded the Knight’s Cross, Germany’s highest honour.

In early 1943, Rudel, now with a world record of 1000 combat sorties flown, traded dive-bombing for anti-tank missions, using the specialised Ju-87G Kanonenvogel (Cannon Bird) Stuka armed with two 3.7cm cannon, each carrying six rounds. He took to the job with ease, claiming over 100 destroyed Soviet tanks at the Battle of Kursk alone.

By March 1944, Rudel had clocked over 1800 sorties and 204 tanks destroyed. He was now the commander of his group, III. Gruppe, 2. Sturzkampfgeschwader (3rd Group, 2nd Divebomber Wing). He was such a success that Hitler wanted him grounded for fear of losing the popular war hero. Rudel refused and the Führer backed down.

In November 1944, Rudel was wounded and flew several missions with his leg in a plaster cast. Then, in February 1945, Rudel’s Stuka was hit by anti-aircraft fire. Badly wounded once again in the leg, he crash-landed behind German lines before losing consciousness. He was saved by his observer and gunner, Ernst Gadermann who, by a stroke of luck, was a trained doctor. Gadermann applied first aid, but in the end Rudel lost his leg below his knee.

Rudel recovered and by 25 March 1945, he was flying again. He claimed an additional 26 tanks before the war in Europe ended in May. To this day, Rudel’s record remains staggering. He was the most highly decorated German serviceman of the war, to the extent that the German military had to invent a new device to add to his full Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds. He would be the only person to be awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds.

Rudel flew 2530 combat missions claiming at least 2000 targets destroyed. These included 800 vehicles, 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, 70 landing craft, nine aircraft, four armoured trains, several key bridges, a destroyer, two cruisers, and the Soviet battleship Marat.