Rall, Günther

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Rall, Günther,  born in Gaggenau, on 10-03-1918, the son of a merchant, entered military service as an Fähnrich in the Army in 1936. The following year, he entered the War Collage at Dresden where he was influenced to transfer to the Luftwaffe. He qualified as a fighter pilot in 1938, in Hermann Goering’s  (did you know) Luftwaffe , and was sent to JG 52 which at the time was based near Stuttgart. He saw his first combat during the Battle of France, and it was during this particular campaign that he began his personal victory score when on 18 May he shot down a Curtiss Hawk 75A from GC II/5,  piloted by Czech pilot Sergeant Chef Otto Hanzlicek   which saved his live with chute). Two weeks later, when flying the first production Hurricane, Hanzlicek’s engine caught fire and he baled out into the River Mersey and was drowned. He was 29 years old. Shortly afterward, Rall’s unit was transferred to Calais to take part in the Battle of Britain (see Bomber Arthur Harris).  Shortly after beginning operations, he was given command of 8./JG 52  on 25th July and on 1st August he was promoted to Oberleutnant. By October, though, the Staffel had been withdrawn from combat operations in order to rebuild the losses suffered. After being brought back up to strength, the unit was sent to Romania to defend the oil refineries and bridges over the Danube during the German occupation of that country in the spring of 1941. In late May 8./JG 52 took part in Operation Merkur, the airborne assault on Crete, (see Bruno Bräuer  providing support for the German parachute and mountain troops. Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) was the most successful fighter wing of all time, with a claimed total of more than 10,000 victories over enemy aircraft during World War II. It was the unit of the top three scoring Fighter aces of all time,

Major, Erich “Bubbi” Hartmann     Major, Gerhard “Gerd” Barkhorn

    and Günther Rall. By this time Germany and the Soviet Union were at war and so once the Creten operation was over 8./JG 52 was hurried back to Romania, where Russian bombers were attacking the refineries. In five days Rall and his men destroyed some 50 Soviet bombers and were next sent to the southern sector of the Eastern Front. Here, however, Rall suffered a severe setback – after destroying his 36th enemy aircraft he himself was shot down by an I-16 and in the resulting belly-landing in a gully he broke his back in three places. He was paralyzed for a long time on the right side and the right leg. It was not until August 1942 that he was back in action, but in the first three months after returning to operational duty he raised his score to over 100 victories, being awarded by Adolf Hitler (did you know)  , on November 26th the Oak Leaves. In April of 1943 he was promoted to Hauptmann and given command of III./Jagdgeschader 52 on 6th July. He scored his 200th victory on 29-08-1943 during his 555th  mission, and on 12-09-1943, the Führer awarded him the Swords to his Knight’s Cross. In October 1943 alone, he downed over 40 Soviet planes. On 19-04-1944 Rall took over command as the Gruppenkommadeur of II./JG 11 which was at the time on Home Defense duties against the 8th Air Force  under Major General Carl Spaatz On 12th May while flying Bf 109 G-5 “Schwarz “, W.Nr.110 089, of Stab II./Jagdgeschwader 11  of commander Major Herbert Ihlefeld , he nearly succeeded in downing the commander of the famed 56th FG , Lieutenant Colonel Hubert Zemke  and did succeed in destroying two Thunderbolts of this unit. However, he himself was attacked by another pair of P-47s from this same unit and was shot down and forced to bail out over Frankfurt am Main, in the process having his left thumb shot off. In the operating room he suffered a severe infection that kept him hospitalized until November.

Herbert Ihlefeld died on 08-08-1995 in Wennigsen, Lower Saxony. His ashes were buried on the urn field near the chapel on the old cemetery in Kirchheim unter Teck, Baden-Württemberg.

Rall’is last command was Jagdgeschwader 300  out of Salzburg from 20-02-1945, until the end of the war.  he was taken prisoner by the Americans at the end of the war. He flew a total of 621 missions, and was shot down no less than 8 times, being wounded 3 times during which he shot down a total of 275 enemy aircraft, including 3 on the Western Front to become the third highest scoring fighter pilot in history.

Death and burial ground of Rall, Günther.

 

Whilst in a prisoner of war camp near Heidelberg, Rall was approached by the Americans who were gathering Luftwaffe pilots who had experience with the Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter. Rall was transferred to Bovingdon near Hemel Hempstead. Rall was then based at RAF Tangmere , where he met the RAF ace 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 01-01-1971 to 31-03-1974, he held the position of inspector of the Air Force and from 01-04-1974 to 13-10-1975, he was a military attache 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 publicized by German weekly magazine Stern. South Africa, despite its apartheid regime, 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”)  Günther Rall lived in Bad Reichenhall were he died at the old age of 91 after suffering a heart attack two days earlier, on 04-10-2009 and is buried with his wife Hertha, born Schön, who died age 74, on 04-07-1985, on the Cemetery Salzburgerstrasse in Bad Reichenhall. Close by the grave of General der Gebirgstruppe, Kommandeur LXVIII Heeres Gruppe, Rudolf Konrad.

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Cemetery and grave location of Rall, Günther.

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