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Günther Rall

günther rall, günther rall bf 109
World War II

  • Battle of France
  • Battle of Britain
  • Balkans Campaign
  • Eastern Front
  • Defense of the Reich

Günther Rall 10 March 1918 – 4 October 2009 was a German lieutenant-general, the third most successful fighter ace in history and later head of the West German Air Force during the Cold War

He achieved a total of 275 victories during World War II: 272 on the Eastern Front, of which 241 were against Soviet fighters He flew a total of 621 combat missions, was shot down eight times and was wounded three times He fought 1940 in the Battle of France, the Battle of Britain, 1941 in the Balkan Campaign and over Crete By the end of the war, he reached the rank of Major and was the commander of Jagdgeschwader 300 when the war ended He claimed all of his victories in the Messerschmitt Bf 109

In 1956 he again became a pilot in the West German Air Force, and from the 1960s he held increasingly prominent command posts He served as Inspector of the Air Force 1971–1974 and as the German Military Representative to the NATO Military Committee 1974–1975 He attended the NATO Defense College in 1964


  • 1 World War II
    • 11 Eastern Front
    • 12 "Defence of the Reich"
  • 2 After the war
  • 3 Summary of career
    • 31 Aerial victory claims
    • 32 Awards
  • 4 Notes
  • 5 References
    • 51 Citations
    • 52 Bibliography
  • 6 External links

World War II

Rall was posted to Jagdgeschwader 52 of the Luftwaffe in July 1938 He first saw combat during the Battle of France, and on 12 May 1940, he scored his first victory Three French Curtiss H75-C1 P-36 Hawk fighters were attacking a German reconnaissance aircraft at a height of 26,000 feet Rall "bounced" them and shot down one He later said:"I was lucky in my first dogfight, but it did give me a hell of a lot of self-confidence and a scaring, because I was also hit by many bullets"

Later JG 52 was moved to Calais where it took part in the Battle of Britain Due to heavy losses in the unit, he was given command as a Staffelkapitän of 8/JG 52 on 25 July 1940 and was promoted to Oberleutnant a week later, on 1 August 1940 He fought with JG 52 over Britain until the unit was withdrawn to replace losses Rall then took part in the Balkans Campaign in the spring of 1941 He also partook in Operation Merkur, the airborne invasion and subsequent Battle of Crete in June 1941 After the successful conclusion of Merkur, JG 52 was transferred back to Romania to help defend the oil fields there from Soviet bombers

Eastern Front

Official portrait after the receipt of the Knight's Cross

During Operation Barbarossa, Rall scored his third, fourth and fifth victories in three days of June 1941 During a five-day period, Rall and his Staffel destroyed some 50 Soviet aircraft He had 12 victories in October JG 52 was then attached to the operations of Army Group South and continued operating on the southern flank of the Eastern Front

On 28 November 1941, Rall scored his 37th victory, but was himself shot down He tried to fly back to German lines with a damaged engine, but he crash landed and was knocked out A German tank crew rescued him from the wreck X-rays revealed he had broken his back in three places Doctors told Rall he was finished as a pilot and transferred him to a hospital in Vienna in December 1941 Despite the diagnosis that he would not be able to walk again, Rall defied the odds and returned to combat a year later During his treatment, he met a Dr Hertha Schön, whom he later married in 1943

He came back to 8/JG 52 on 28 August 1942 From August to November, Rall claimed another 38 victories, bringing his total to 101 On 3 September 1942, Rall was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes On 22 October 1942, Rall was credited with his 100th aerial victory He was the 28th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark On 26 November 1942, he was given the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub by Adolf Hitler personally In April 1943, he was promoted to Hauptmann and on the 20th of that month scored the Geschwader's 5000th kill He was appointed Gruppenkommandeur group commander of III/JG 52 on 6 July 1943 On 1 November 1943, Rall was promoted to Major, a rank he retained until the end of the war

"Defence of the Reich"

Günther Rall after his 250th aerial victory

On 19 April 1944, Rall was transferred to Jagdgeschwader 11 JG 11, where he took up the position of Gruppenkommandeur of II/JG 11 JG 11 was tasked with Reichsverteidigung Defence of the Reich and Rall led his unit against the bomber fleets of Eighth Air Force On 12 May 1944, Rall was leading a Staffel of Bf 109s and bounced a flight of three P-47 Thunderbolts led by Colonel Hubert Zemke, with Rall shooting down two Thunderbolts His squadron were then bounced by other P-47s and was shot down by pilots of the 56th Fighter Group Rall had his left thumb shot off and was hospitalized for many months because of the onset of infections

His last posting was with Jagdgeschwader 300 JG 300, operating from a variety of airfields in southern Germany during the last months of the war Lack of supplies prevented most planes from going on missions, and the fast progress of the Allies forced his squadron to move several times, and it is unlikely that he saw much combat action during this period Rall said of the campaign of 1943–1945:

In my experience, the Royal Air Force pilot was the most aggressive and capable fighter pilot during the Second World War This is nothing against the Americans, because they came in late and in such large numbers that we don't have an accurate comparison We were totally outnumbered when the Americans engaged, whereas at the time of the Battle of Britain the fight was more even and you could compare The British were extremely good

After the war

While in a prisoner of war camp, Rall was approached by the Americans who were recruiting Luftwaffe pilots who had experience with the Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter He was transferred to Bovingdon near Hemel Hempstead He was then based at RAF Tangmere, where he met the RAF fighter pilot Robert Stanford Tuck, with whom he reportedly became close friends

Rall rejoined the newly established West German military in 1956, after meeting a wartime friend and Luftwaffe pilot who encouraged him to return to flying He joined the new German Air Force One of his tasks was to oversee modifications to the F-104 fighter to comply with the requirement of the Bundeswehr, leading to the F-104G version He insisted on the replacement of the ejection seat due to safety concerns From 1 January 1971 to 31 March 1974, he held the position of Inspector of the Air Force and from 1 April 1974 to 13 October 1975, he was a military attaché with NATO

His enforced retirement in 1975 was as a result of a controversial three-week visit to South Africa, where he hosted meetings with South African politicians, of which his Air Force superiors claimed to be unaware The "private" nature of this visit was later publicised by German weekly magazine Stern South Africa, despite its policy of apartheid, was seen as strategically important to NATO and, although the visit was thought to be officially sanctioned, the political embarrassment following the concerted press campaign meant Defence Minister Georg Leber was forced to retire Rall in October 1975 By the end of his career, he attained the rank of Generalleutnant

In 2004, he wrote his memoir, Mein Flugbuch "My Logbook" Rall was interviewed in documentaries such as Thames Television's The World at War, and was a contributor to the Wings documentary television series produced by the Discovery Channel

Rall died at his home in Bad Reichenhall on 4 October 2009, aged 91, after suffering a heart attack two days earlier

Summary of career

Aerial victory claims

Matthews and Foreman, authors of Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims, researched the German Federal Archives and found records for 274 aerial victory claims, plus one further unconfirmed claim This number includes one claim over a French Air Force Curtiss P-36 Hawk and one claim over a United States Army Air Forces flown Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and 272 Soviet Air Forces piloted aircraft on the Eastern Front Victory claims were logged to a map-reference PQ = Planquadrat, for example "PQ 44793" The Luftwaffe grid map covered all of Europe, western Russia and North Africa and was composed of rectangles measuring 15 minutes of latitude by 30 minutes of longitude, an area of about 360 square miles 930 km2 These sectors were then subdivided into 36 smaller units to give a location area 3 × 4 km in size

  This and the ♠ Ace of spades indicates those aerial victories which made Rall an "ace-in-a-day", a term which designates a fighter pilot who has shot down five or more airplanes in a single day
  This and the – dash indicates unconfirmed aerial victory claims for which Rall did not receive credit
  This and the ! exclamation mark indicates information discrepancies listed by Prien, Stemmer, Rodeike, Bock, Matthews and Foreman


Rall visiting the German-Canadian Airforce Museum in 2004 in the Baden-Airpark
  • Iron Cross 1939
    • 2nd Class 23 May 1940
    • 1st Class July 1940
  • Wound Badge 1939 in Gold
  • Combined Pilots-Observation Badge
  • "Crete" Cuffband
  • Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for fighter pilots in Gold with penant "600"
  • Honour Goblet of the Luftwaffe Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe on 17 November 1941 as Oberleutnant and pilot
  • German Cross in Gold on 15 December 1941 as Oberleutnant in the 8/Jagdgeschwader 52
  • Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
    • Knight's Cross on 3 September 1942 as Staffelkapitän of the 8/Jagdgeschwader 52
    • 134th Oak Leaves on 26 October 1942 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän of the 8/Jagdgeschwader 52
    • 34th Swords on 12 September 1943 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur in the III/Jagdgeschwader 52
  • Two named references in the Wehrmachtbericht 29 August 1943 and 30 November 1943
  • Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany 1973


  1. ^ For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations see Organisation of the Luftwaffe during World War II
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co cp cq cr cs According to Matthews and Foreman claimed as a Lavochkin La-5
  3. ^ According to Matthews and Foreman claimed at 13:49
  4. ^ a b The "mH" refers to a Ilyushin Il-2 with rear gunner mit Heckschütze
  5. ^ According to Scherzer on 4 September 1942 as pilot in the III/Jagdgeschwader 52



  1. ^ Kaplan 2007, p 66
  2. ^ Toliver & Constable 1996, p 136
  3. ^ Kaplan 2007, p 61
  4. ^ Kaplan 2007, p 62
  5. ^ Kaplan 2007, p 63
  6. ^ Kaplan 2007, p 64
  7. ^ Weal 2002, p 67
  8. ^ a b Kaplan 2007, p 65
  9. ^ Obermaier 1989, p 243
  10. ^ Weal 2001, p 67
  11. ^ Kaplan 2007, p 69
  12. ^ Telegraph 11th Oct 2009
  13. ^ David Childs "General Günther Rall: Luftwaffe fighter ace who helped create the modern German airforce" The Independent Retrieved 16 April 2014 
  14. ^ Günther Rall @ FAZ
  15. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp 1003–1008
  16. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp 1003–1006
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h Prien et al 2006, p 557
  18. ^ a b c Prien et al 2003, p 68
  19. ^ a b c d e Prien et al 2006, p 559
  20. ^ a b c Prien et al 2003, p 69
  21. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al 2003, p 70
  22. ^ a b c d Prien et al 2006, p 560
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Prien et al 2006, p 561
  24. ^ a b c d Prien et al 2003, p 71
  25. ^ a b c Prien et al 2003, p 72
  26. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al 2003, p 74
  27. ^ a b c d e Prien et al 2006, p 562
  28. ^ a b Prien et al 2003, p 75
  29. ^ a b c Prien et al 2003, p 76
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Prien et al 2012, p 478
  31. ^ a b c d e Prien et al 2003, p 77
  32. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al 2006, p 551
  33. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp 1005–1008
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Prien et al 2012, p 479
  35. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al 2006, p 552
  36. ^ a b c d Prien et al 2006, p 553
  37. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Prien et al 2012, p 480
  38. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al 2006, p 554
  39. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al 2006, p 555
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h Prien et al 2012, p 481
  41. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, p 1004
  42. ^ a b c Prien et al 2006, p 556
  43. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, pp 1006–1008
  44. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Prien et al 2012, p 484
  45. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Prien et al 2012, p 491
  46. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Prien et al 2012, p 492
  47. ^ a b c d e f Prien et al 2012, p 485
  48. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al 2012, p 486
  49. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Prien et al 2012, p 493
  50. ^ a b c d e f g h i Prien et al 2012, p 487
  51. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Prien et al 2012, p 488
  52. ^ a b c d e f g Prien et al 2012, p 490
  53. ^ Matthews & Foreman 2015, p 1008
  54. ^ Prien & Rodeike 1996, p 1207
  55. ^ Prien & Rodeike 1996, p 1208
  56. ^ a b Thomas 1998, p 181
  57. ^ a b c d Berger 1999, p 277
  58. ^ Patzwall 2008, p 166
  59. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p 365
  60. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p 349
  61. ^ a b c Scherzer 2007, p 612
  62. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, pp 62, 476
  63. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p 41
  64. ^ Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, pp 550, 617
  65. ^ 1971–1974 Günther Rall


  • Amadio, Jill 2002 Günther Rall – a memoir – Luftwaffe Ace & NATO General Tangmere Productions ISBN 0-9715533-0-0
  • Berger, Florian 1999 Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges in German Vienna, Austria: Selbstverlag Florian Berger ISBN 978-3-9501307-0-6 
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer 2000 Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile in German Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6 
  • Kaplan, Philip 2007 Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe in World War II Auldgirth, Dumfriesshire, UK: Pen & Sword Aviation ISBN 1-84415-460-2 
  • Matthews, Andrew Johannes; Foreman, John 2015 Luftwaffe Aces — Biographies and Victory Claims — Volume 3 M–R Walton on Thames: Red Kite ISBN 978-1-906592-20-2 
  • Obermaier, Ernst 1989 Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 in German Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D; Scherzer, Veit 2001 Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II in German Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D Patzwall ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D 2008 Der Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg in German Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D Patzwall ISBN 978-3-931533-08-3 
  • Prien, Jochen; Rodeike, Peter 1996 Jagdgeschwader 1 und 11—Einsatz in der Reichsverteidigung von 1939 bis 1945—Teil 2—1944 in German Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck ISBN 978-3-923457-24-3 
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried 2003 Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 6/II—Unternehmen "BARBAROSSA"—Einsatz im Osten—226 bis 5121941 in German Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck ISBN 978-3-923457-70-0 
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried 2006 Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 9/II—Vom Sommerfeldzug 1942 bis zur Niederlage von Stalingrad—151942 bis 321943 in German Eutin, Germany: Struve-Druck ISBN 978-3-923457-77-9 
  • Prien, Jochen; Stemmer, Gerhard; Rodeike, Peter; Bock, Winfried 2012 Die Jagdfliegerverbände der Deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945—Teil 12/II—Einsatz im Osten—42 bis 31121943 in German Eutin, Germany: Buchverlag Rogge ISBN 978-3-942943-05-5 
  • Scherzer, Veit 2007 Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives in German Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2 
  • Spick, Mike 1996 Luftwaffe Fighter Aces New York: Ivy Books ISBN 978-0-8041-1696-1 
  • Thomas, Franz 1998 Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z in German Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9 
  • Toliver, Raymond F; Constable, Trevor J 1996 Fighter Aces of the Luftwaffe Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military/Aviation History ISBN 0-88740-909-1 
  • Weal, John 2001 Bf 109 Aces of the Russian Front Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing ISBN 978-1-84176-084-1 
  • Weal, John 2002 German Aces of the Russian Front Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing ISBN 978-1-84176-620-1 
  • Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939–1945 Band 2, 1 Januar 1942 bis 31 Dezember 1943 in German München, Germany: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co KG 1985 ISBN 978-3-423-05944-2 
  • "Generalleutnant Günther Rall" Bundeswehr in German Retrieved 17 February 2017 

External links

  • Günther Rall in the German National Library catalogue
  • A historynet interview with Rall
  • short biography at the official website of the German Air Force
  • Günther Rall's obituary
  • Gunther Rall – Daily Telegraph obituary
  • Imperial War Museum Interview
Military offices
Preceded by
Major Kurd Peters
Commander of Jagdgeschwader 300
20 February 1945 – 8 May 1945
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Major Carl-Heinz Greve
Commander of Jagdbombergeschwader 34 Allgäu
1 October 1964 – 31 March 1966
Succeeded by
Oberst Hans-Ulrich Flade
Preceded by
Generalmajor Erwin Wicker
Commander of 3 Luftwaffendivision Bundeswehr
1967 – 31 March 1968
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Günter Proll
Preceded by
Generalmajor Dr Konrad Stangl
Commander of 1 Luftwaffendivision Bundeswehr
1 April 1968 – 15 April 1969
Succeeded by
Generalmajor Hans Asmus
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Johannes Steinhoff
Inspector of the Air Force
1 January 1971 – 31 March 1974
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Gerhard Limberg

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