Günther Rall was the third most successful ace in fighter pilot history. In this rare interview, Rall explains the reality of Germany and the Luftwaffe in the second world war. He describes his experiences during the war in the Messerschmitt Bf 109. He claimed all of his victories in the Messerschmitt Bf 109.
Günther Rall was born on March 10, 1918, in Gaggenau, a small village in the Black Forest. In 1939 he finished training as a fighter pilot on a base east of Berlin and was transferred to Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52). He had his first contact with the enemy in May 1940 over France. He later said:
"I was lucky in my first dogfight, but it did give me a hell of a lot of self-confidence... and a scaring, because I was also hit by many bullets."
Rall flew Messerschmitt Bf 109s during the Battle of Britain, during which he was made a squadron commander at the age of 22. His squadron was then moved to defend the Romanian oil fields and then on to the battle for Crete. With his score in the mid-thirties, he was shot down by Russian fighters, during which his back was broken in three places. His flying career was considered over as a result of the accident; however, sheer determination saw him back with his old unit after a nine month rehabilitation process in August 1942. A month later he was awarded the Knights Cross with his victory total at 65. He shot down his 100th victim in October 1942.
His 200th victory came in August 1943, with his 250th following just three months later. In May 1944 he was shot down by a Thunderbolt and lost a thumb. He ended the war flying Me 262 jets in defense of the Reich. Rall said of the campaign of 1943–1945:
"In my experience, the Royal Air Force pilot was the most aggressive and capable fighter pilot during the Second World War. This is nothing against the Americans, because they came in late and in such large numbers that we don't have an accurate comparison. We were totally outnumbered when the Americans engaged, whereas at the time of the Battle of Britain the fight was more even and you could compare. The British were extremely good."
He finished World War II as the third-highest-scoring fighter ace of all time with 275 aerial victories and held the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. His capture by the Americans was the beginning of a second career for him as a pilot. After retiring from the new German Air Force, General Rall began working in an advisory capacity for several well-known companies.
Günther Rall died at his home in Bad Reichenhall on 4 October 2009, aged 91.