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.


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