On This Day…March 10th
An M4A1 Sherman of 1st Armored Division on the road to Lucca, Italy, 10th March 1945.
Gunther Rall, the third most ‘successful’ wartime fighter pilot (after Barkhorn and Hartmann) was born today one hundred and one years ago. His victories massed despite a year long hiatus from fighting after being shot down and badly wounded at the Eastern Front in 1941. This was the first of three wounds received, having been shot down five times. Some people just don’t learn.
For most of WWII he flew with JG-52, and toward the end of the war he had command of Jagdgeschwader 11 and served in the Defence of the Reich.
In November 1944 Rall was appointed as an instructor and flew captured Allied fighter aircraft (in the ‘LuftRAF’) in order to prepare crib notes to Luftwaffe pilots about enemy aircraft performance.
Rall ended the war with an unsuccessful stint commanding Jagdgeschwader 300 near Salzburg, Austria, where he surrendered in May 1945.
During World War II Rall was credited with the destruction of 275 enemy aircraft in a combined 621 combat missions. He claimed all of his victories in a Messerschmitt Bf 109, (though he also flew the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 – see opening painting, ‘Swansong’ of Rall in a ‘Dora’). All but three of his claims were against Russian aircraft.
Rall met Adolf Hitler three times, and was quoted – at the time, repeated later several times, – as saying, “It was clear to me that this man was a little out of his mind” when they met for the last time, in 1944.
In the process of being shot down multiple times (some records say eight) during the war he sustained serious injuries. The last time was in 1944, when he had his left thumb shot off and his plane shot down during a dogfight with U.S. forces over Germany. He parachuted to safety, landing in a field near Berlin. His glove from this mission is in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
In recent decades, he was a popular presence at gatherings of World War II fighter pilots in the U.S., the U.K. and Russia. He became good friends with the American pilot Col. Hubert ‘the Hub’ Zemke, whose wingman had shot off Rall’s thumb.
Last word to Zemke; “To fighter pilots, politics didn’t matter. They just got together and got drunk.”
Fall in a test flight in the United States, 1971…
Well known photo of US Army soldiers T/5 William E. Thomas and Private First Class Joseph Jackson having fun marking artillery shells as Easter presents for Adolf Hitler, 10 March, 1945.
More ‘diorama bait’ – never seen a winter depiction of a battleship before…
Finnish coastal defense ship ‘Ilmarinen’ anchored at Turku harbor in Finland toward the end of the ‘Winter War’ – 10th March, 1940.
March 1943 ad for a model airplane competition.
IJN Battleship ‘Kirishima’ at Kure, Japan, 10th March, 1940.
A Junkers Ju 52 transport is prepared for take-off on an airfield on the Eastern Front, March 10th, 1944.
Reconnaissance squads head the German advance into Luxembourg, on May 10, 1940.
Vought F4U 1D Corsairs VMF 222 line up Samar Philippines 10th March 1945