March 28, 2011
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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 Gee Bee and the Goblin
These illustrations were created in 2001 for an unfinished book on the RAF. The style is a little embarrassing now, but it was impressive to me then, a neophyte to the technological world, enthralled at what could be managed on computers.