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General Gunther Rall (deceased)
|A young pilot with III/JG52 at the outbreak of war. He quickly demonstrated his natural ability and leadership qualities, scoring his first air victory early in the Battle of Britain, and by July 1940 was leading 8/JG52. After transfer to the Eastern Front his air victories mounted at an astonishing rate. A crash hospitalised him but within nine months he was back in the cockpit, and, when commanding III/JG52, gained the Wings 500th victory. Gunther fought throughout the war to become the 3rd highest Ace in history with 275 victories. He was awarded the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. Gunther Rall was born on March 10, 1918 in the small Bavarian town of Gaggenau, Baden. Immersing himself in Boy Scout activities during the difficult economic times in Germany following WW 1, Rall finished school in 1936 and joined the German Army. Influenced by a friend, who was a young officer in the Luftwaffe, Rall entered pilots school in 1938. His initial posting was with JG52. He attained his first aerial victory during the Battle of France in May of 1940. During the Battle of Britain JG52 absorbed many casualties, and Rall was promoted to Squadron Commander at the young age of 22. With his fair-hair and smooth complexion the young officer looked even younger than his years. But behind this pleasant exterior was a fierce competitor with the heart of a tiger. Later, Ralls squadron would support the attack on Crete, followed by deployment to the Southern Sector on the Eastern Front. Ralls victory totals began to mount. Following his 37 th victory, GiInther was himself shot down. He was lucky to survive the crash, but with a badly broken back he would spend most of the next year in various hospitals. In Vienna at the University Hospital he would meet his future wife, Hertha. Miraculously, Rall recovered and returned to the Luftwaffe in August of 1942. By November his score exceeded 100 and he was awarded the Oak Leaves to accompany the Knights Cross he was awarded only weeks earlier. As the War progressed against Russia, Rall began to encounter ever more experienced Soviet pilots flying better performing aircraft. Despite this fact, and being shot down several more times himself, Ralls victory tally kept rising. By March of 1944 the ace had attained 273 aerial victories. With the War now going badly for Germany, Rall was transferred to the Western Front. He was able to attain only two more victories against the swarms of Allied bombers and fighter escorts which now pounded Germany every day and night. In May of 1944 Rall was shot down by a P-47. Losing his thumb in the battle he remained out of combat until later in 1944. Ralls final assignments included flying 190Ds as Kornmodore of JG300, and flying the Me-262 jet. Ralls 275 aerial victories (attained on less than 700 combat sorties) make him the third highest scoring ace of all time. If not for the down time suffered as a result of his broken back, Rall might have actually equaled or exceeded Erich Hartmanns alltime record of 352 aerial victories. Rall was not much for socializing during the War. He was a fierce competitor with a businessmans attitude about flying. He was an excellent marksman, and possibly the best deflection shot expert of the War. He continued to fly with the Bundeslufwaffe following the War, serving as its Commander-In Chief in 1970-74. Sadly Gunther Rall died on 4th October 2009.|
|The Aircraft :|
|Mustang||The ubiquitous North American P-51 Mustang, which many consider to be the best all-around fighter of WW II, owes its origins to the British Air Ministry. Following Britains entry into WW II in 1939, the RAF was interested in purchasing additional fighter aircraft from American sources, particularly the Curtiss P-40. Curtiss, which was busy, was unable to guarantee timely delivery so the British approached North American Aviation as a possible second source for the P-40. North American chose to propose its own fighter design which would use the same Allison engine as the P-40. Utilizing new laminar flow wings, the North American fighter was expected to have performance better than the P-40. Developed in record time the new aircraft was designated as a Mustang I by the Brits, whereas the USAAF ordered two for evaluation which were designated XP-51 Apaches. Intrigued with the possibility of using this aircraft also as a dive bomber, North American proposed this to the USAAF which decided to order 500 of the P-51 aircraft to be modified for dive bombing use. Designated as the A-36 Invader, this version of the Mustang utilized dive flaps, and bomb racks under each wing. Some reinforcing of the structural members was also required because of the G-forces to be encountered in dive bombing. A-36s entered combat service with the USAAF prior to any P-51s. In early 1943 the 86th and 27th Fighter Bomber Groups of the 12th Air Force began flying A-36s out of Northern Africa. Despite some early problems with instability caused by the dive flaps, the A-36 was effective in light bombing and strafing roles. It was not, however, capable of dog fighting with German fighters, especially at higher altitudes. Despite these drawbacks one USAAF pilot, Captain Michael T. Russo, who served with the 16th Bomb Squadron of the 27th Fighter Bomber Group, was credited with five confirmed aerial victories in the A-36, thereby becoming the first mustang ace.|
|Fw190||The Focke-Wulf 190 development project began in 1937. Conceived as a hedge against total dependence on the Messerchmitt 109, the 190 was designed by Kurt Tank utilizing a radial engine. This was against generally accepted design criteria in Germany, and many historians believe that the decision to produce a radial engine fighter was largely due to the limited manufacturing capacity for in-line, water-cooled engines which were widely used on all other Luftwaffe aircraft. Despite these concerns, Tanks design was brilliant, and the 190 would become one of the top fighter aircraft of WWII. The first prototype flew in mid-1939. The aircraft had excellent flying characteristics, a wonderful rate of acceleration, and was heavily armed. By late 1940 the new fighter was ordered into production. Nicknamed the butcher bird, by Luftwaffe pilots, early 190s were quite successful in the bomber interceptor role, but at this stage of the war many Allied bombing raids lacked fighter escort. As the war dragged on, Allied bombers were increasingly accompanied by fighters, including the very effective P-51 Mustang. The Allies learned from experience that the 190s performance fell off sharply at altitudes above 20,000 feet. As a result, most Allied bombing missions were shifted to higher altitudes when fighter opposition was likely. Kurt Tank had recognized this shortcoming and began working on a high-altitude version of the 190 utilizing an in-line, water-cooled engine. Utilizing a Jumo 12-cylinder engine rated at 1770-HP, and capable of 2,240-HP for short bursts with its methanol injection system, the 190D, or Long Nose or Dora as it was called, had a top speed of 426-MPH at 22,000 feet. Armament was improved with two fuselage and two wing mounted 20mm cannon. To accommodate the changes in power plants the Dora had a longer, more streamlined fuselage, with 24 inches added to the nose, and an additional 19 inches added aft of the cockpit to compensate for the altered center of gravity. By mid 1944 the Dora began to reach fighter squadrons in quantity. Although the aircraft had all the right attributes to serve admirably in the high altitude interceptor role, it was not generally focused on such missions. Instead many 190Ds were assigned to protect airfields where Me-262 jet fighters were based. This was due to the latter aircrafts extreme vulnerability to Allied attack during takeoff and landing. The 190Ds also played a major role in Operation Bodenplatte, the New Years Day raid in 1945 which destroyed approximately 500 Allied aircraft on the ground. The High Command was impressed with the 190Ds record on this raid, and ordered most future production of the Doras to be equipped as fighter-bombers. In retrospect this was a strategic error, and this capable aircraft was not fully utilized in the role for which it was intended.|
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