luftwaffe fighter ace

“Stuka Ace” Hans-Ulrich Rudel, far left. The most highly decorated German serviceman of the war, Rudel was one of only 27 military men to be awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, and the only person to be awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. He was a legendary teetotaler and nonsmoker, and fellow pilots coined the phrase “Hans-Ulrich Rudel, he drinks only sparkling water.”.

Rudel flew 2,530 combat missions claiming a total of 2,000 targets destroyed; including 800 vehicles, 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, 70 landing craft, nine aircraft, four armored trains, several bridges, a destroyer, two cruisers, and the Soviet battleship “Marat”. After the war, his input was sought in the development of the A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog”.