Major Gunther Rall attacked by American P-47 Thunderbolts
A veteran of the Eastern Front, Gunther Rall was moved west in 1944 to face Anglo-American airpower. On 12 May, a flight of three Thunderbolts jumped his Me109 as he flew a patrol over Germany. In a dazzling display of aerobatics, he shot down two, including the ace commander of the U.S. 56th Fighter Group, “Hub” Zemke, but when more Thunderbolts appeared, he found himself in the fight of his life. After a bullet severed his thumb, Rall unbuckled his seat belt and bailed out. He never returned to combat again. German high command was fearful that his death in battle would have a debilitating effect on morale.
In February 1945, just months before the war ended, he took command of a new fighter wing but spent the bulk of his energy in attempting to spare his pilots from needless operations. Despite his absence from the aerial battleground for nearly a year, he ended the war as the No. 3 ace in the Luftwaffe, with 275 enemy planes downed in combat (only five kills were needed to become an ace).
He served with the post-war Luftwaffe der Bundeswehr, eventually reaching the rank of general. He died on 4 October 2009.
A jovial man, Rall frequently appeared on Discovery Channel’s aircraft shows in his later years. (Photo: Bundesarchiv)
An SBD Dauntless prepares to takeoff from the USS Hornet in the Pacific.
British Aerospace Harrier Mk. II
The Rolls-Royce Pegasus engine is the most integral part of this aircraft.
The Gee Bee and the Goblin
The Gee Bee racer epitomized pre-war American racing in the late 1930′s and the 1940s. The 1950′s-era Goblin was a more radical machine. In theory it was supposed to be carried in a B-36 heavy bomber as a defensive unit and launched to combat enemy fighters. In reality the idea never worked, especially when the diminutive fighter attempted to re-dock with the bomber.
The Santos-Dumont Demoiselle
The “Damselfly” first flew in 1908. One could be built in just 15 days and its maker, Alberto Santos-Dumont, released the aircraft blueprints for free convinced that advancing aviation would herald a prosperous age for humankind. But Santos-Dumont’s fortunes declined after a return to his native Brazil in 1916. A post-World War I plane crash killed several members of the Brazilian scientific party who were flying out to greet him, heightening his growing depression and disillusionment with aircraft. Once the most famous man in the world, Santos-Dumont became a virtual recluse and when he died in 1932, it was within sight of his dreams of a golden age of aviation.