Ernst Udet

Ernst Udet

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Ernst Udet was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on 26th April 1896. He joined the German Army Air Service in 1915. Flying a Fokker D-III , he scored his first victory on 18th March 1916 in a lone attack on 22 French aircraft. By the end of the First World War Udet had 62 victories. This made him the second highest German war ace of the war.

After the war Udet appeared with Leni Riefenstahl in the film SOS Eisberg. He was also active in the Richthofen Veterans' Association and caused great controversy when he campaigned to have Hermann Goering rejected for for making false claims of air victories during the First World War.

Udet joined the Luftwaffe in June 1935 as a colonel and a year later was appointed head of the Technical Office of the Air Ministry. In this post Udet was responsible for the introduction of the Junkers Stuka and the Messerschmitt Bf109.

During the Second World War he rose to the rank of colonel general and Director of Air Armaments. In 1940 pilots began to complain that the Spitfire was superior to German aircraft. Later Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering both accused him of being responsible for the defeat of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. He was also criticized for neglecting the development of new heavy bombers.

Udet became depressed by the performance of the Luftwaffe during Operation Barbarossa and the decision by Erhard Miltch to overrule his plans to develop the Focke Wulf FW 190. On 17th November, 1941, Udet shot himself in the head while on the phone to his mistress.

Adolf Hitler was embarrassed by Udet's death and the Nazi Government issued a statement that Udet had been accidentally killed while testing out a new weapon. The award-winning play, The Devil's General by Carl Zuckmayer, was based on Udet's life.

We met at the same altitude. As the sun caught it, I saw the other man's machine painted light brown. Soon we were circulating round each other playing for an opening. Below we probably looked like two great birds of prey indulging in spring-time frolics, but we knew it was a game of death. The first man to get behind the other's back was the winner. In the single-seater fighters you could only shoot forward, and if your opponent got on your tail you were lost.

Sometimes we passed so near to each other that I could see every detail of my opponent's face - that is, all that was visible of it below his helmet. On the machine's side there was a Stork and two words painted in white. The fifth time that he flew past me I managed to spell out the word, Vieux. And Vieux Charles was Guynemar insignia. Georges Guynemar had some 30 victories to his credit and I knew that I was in for the fight of my life.

I tried every trick I knew - turns, loops, rolls, sideslips - but he followed each movement with a lightning speed and gradually I began to realize that he was more than a match for me. But I had to fight on, or turn away. To turn away would be fatal.

For eight minutes we had been flying round each other in circles. Suddenly Guynemer looped, and flew on his back over my head. That moment I relinquished hold of the stick, and hammered with both hands at the machine-gun. I missed him and he again passed close over my head, flying almost on his back. Guynemer now knew I was his helpless victim. And then, to my great surprise, he raised his arm and waved to me. Guynemer gave proof that even in modern warfare there is something left of the knightly chivalry of bygone days.

Goering was not actually blind to reality. I would occasionally hear him make perceptive comments on the situation. Rather, he acted like a bankrupt who up to the last moment wants to deceive himself along with his creditors. Capricious treatment and blatant refusal to accept reality had already driven the first chief of Air Force Procurement, the famous fighter pilot Ernst Udet, to his death in 1941.

The Sad Story of the Stuka Dive Bomber

The Stuka’s reputation did not survive the war it helped kick-off as it proved less and less survivable in the face of capable opposition.

Here’s What You Need to Remember: Perhaps no weapon was as closely associated with the Nazi German in early in World War II as the Stuka dive bomber, infamous for howling, near-vertical dive attacks on warships, battlefield targets and defenseless civilian communities like merciless birds of prey.

However, the Stuka’s reputation did not survive the war it helped kick-off as it proved less and less survivable in the face of capable opposition.

The dive bomber was a solution to a timeless challenge in military aviation: how to ensure weapons dropped by fast-moving aircraft land anywhere near a point target like a warship, artillery battery or fortification. Precision was an especially big problem in an era where tactical aircraft could carry only light, unguided bombs.

In the early 1930s, German World War I ace and stuntmen Ernst Udet was impressed by American F11C Goshawk fighters he saw perform steep dive-bombing attacks. Upon joining the Nazi Party in 1933 he imported two Goshawks for test-flying and insisted the fledgling Luftwaffe develop a specialized dive bomber—an aircraft that could withstand the strain of pulling out of steep dives without smashing into the ground or ripping its wings off.

Engineer Hermann Pohlmann of the Junkers company devised a two-seat monoplane with fixed landing gear covered by spiffy ‘spats’ and distinctive inverted gull-wings that helped lift the fuselage high enough off the ground to accommodate its large propeller. In addition to two rifle-caliber machineguns in the wings, the radio operator had a rearward-facing gun to protect against enemy fighters.

Powered by a Jumo 211 engine, the Ju 87 beat out competing models in an aircraft design competition and saw initial combat-testing in the Spanish Civil War in 1938-1939. The Stuka was slow with a maximum speed of 200-240 miles per hour in level flight and had a short combat radius of only 245 miles. It typically carried a single 551-pound bomb under the fuselage (released by a crutch-like dispenser to avoid hitting the propeller) and four 110-pound bombs under the wings.

Stuka pilots spotted targets through a floor window, then rolled their aircraft completely around into a dive as steep as 90 degrees. Underwing dive brakes would extend automatically, controlling diving speed to just over 350 miles per hour, buying the pilot time to line up his attack using controls switched to ‘dive mode’ and lines etched into canopy side to judge his dive angle.

Special propeller-sirens on their landing gear called Trumpets of Jericho produced an infamous howling sound intended to terrorize bystanders on the ground. However, the sirens were later removed as they reduced speed by 5-10%.

Pilots typically released bombs at just 1,500 feet and then engaged an automated system to yank the Stuka upwards. This was vital, as such dives exerted five to six times the force of gravity on the pilot, constraining blood flow to the brain and causing temporary “grey-outs.”

Even the purpose-built Stuka was not immune to the dangers of this method of attacks. Two weeks prior to the invasion of Poland, thirteen Stukas and their crews were lost in training at Neuhammer when fog caused them to misjudge a dive.

The Luftwaffe fielded 336 Stukas at the onset of World War II and lost only 31 in the Polish campaign. They launched the first strikes of World War II and claimed the first air-to-air kill when a Stuka pounced on a Polish P.11 fighter taking off. When Polish forces counterattacked at the River Bzura with some success, Stukas and Panzers reacted swiftly to crush the threat.

The Ju 87B was the primary early-war model, but there were also folding-wing Ju 87C torpedo/dive bombers for the never-completed carrier Graf Spee, and longer-range Ju 87Rs.

The Stuka’s precision made it a deadly anti-ship weapon. Stukas sank most of the Polish Navy, crippled two cruisers and destroyed several Allied destroyers and sloops and during the invasion of Norway, and harried vessels evacuating Allied troops at Dunkirk.

Over 400 Stukas served as ‘flying artillery’ in the Battle of France and the Low Countries, helping forward units beyond the reach of artillery support, such as German paratroopers and fast-moving Panzer divisions, by knocking out artillery concentration, heavy British and French tanks units, and fortifications like Belgium’s Ebe- Emael that could impede their advance.

Despite the Stukas’ tactical utility, they were also associated early on with terror attacks on civilians. In 1938, three pre-production Ju-87A models were ‘combat tested’ in Spain by attacking villages of no military value, killing 38 civilians. Over Poland, Stukas obliterated 70% of the buildings in the town of Wielun despite it being devoid of military targets. In France, Stukas notoriously strafed columns of refugees, driving them into the path of Allied columns.

However, dive bombers are extremely slow and vulnerable when pulling out of a dive. Stuka losses were initially tolerable because German fighters had achieved air superiority over their foes. Even then, roughly 120 Stukas were lost over France and the Low Countries.

The Stuka’s limitations caught up with it during the ensuing Battle of Britain—the campaign to destroy the Royal Air Force in preparation for a German amphibious landing. Stuka units were tasked with knocking out British Chain Home early warning radars, and coastal convoys and airfields.

But the RAF’s modern Spitfire and Hurricane fighters were tough adversaries on their home turf, assisted by radar and the buffer of the English Channel. In just three weeks in August, the Luftwaffe lost 51 Ju 87s—including 16 in one day. The Stuka had to be withdrawn from the fight.

Battle for the Eastern Front:

Still, the Ju 87 remained successful in theaters where aerial opposition was weak, such as the Balkans, Mediterranean and Russia in 1941-1942. Stukas ravaged Allied forces in Yugoslavia, sank numerous British warships off Crete, destroyed much of the Soviet air force on the ground in June 1941, and blunted counterattacks by heavier Russia tanks. Germany also exported Stukas to allies including Bulgaria, Italy and Romania.

By early 1942 the improved Ju-87D model phased in boasting a more powerful Jumo 211J engine boosting range, speed and bombload. It also featured a streamlined canopy and nose, a twin-barrel MG-81Z tail gun, and additional armor plates.

To stem the thousands of tanks pouring out of Soviet factories, in 1943 there followed the tank-busting Ju-87G model, armed with a long-barreled 37-millimeter automatic cannon pod under each wing with a magazine of six tungsten high-velocity shells. These could penetrate Allied tanks if they struck the vulnerable top or rear armor.

Pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel claimed in his memoire Stuka Pilot to have destroyed 519 tanks, sunk the battleship Marat, and shot down 52 aircraft mostly while flying a Stuka. While Rudel’s claims are surely exaggerated given the tendency for tremendous over-claiming of air-to-ground kills during World War II, another statistic is equally telling: Rudel was shot down or crash landed 32 separate times.

The swan song of the Stuka came in July 1943 at the titanic tank battle at Kursk. Stuka Geschwaders 1, 2 and 3—half equipped with cannons—launched massive airstrikes on Soviet tank units alongside Fw-190 fighter bombers and Hs-129 anti-tank aircraft.

However, Soviet Il-2 Shturmovik bombers also claimed huge successes against German tanks at Kursk. Though superficially similar to the Ju 87, the Shturmovik was more heavily armored and had forward-facing cannons, ad even acquired a reputation for hunting Stukas.

Demise of the Dive Bomber:

Growing Allied air superiority made Stuka operations more and more perilous. Even American fighter pilots seeing their first action shot down dozens of Stukas over North Africa and Italy.

By 1944, the dive-bomber was largely replaced by far more survivable and hard-hitting ‘jabos’: robust, high-speed fighter bombers like the Fw-190F with maximum speeds exceeding 300 or 400 miles per hour.

While their high-speed, low-altitude attacks were not as precise a dive-bombing, late-war fighter bombers had punchier rockets and forward-firing cannons or .50-caliber machineguns to strike point targets and could carry heavier bombs to blast area targets. Most importantly, they weren’t sitting ducks when enemy fighters showed up.

By 1945, the Luftwaffe had only 100 operational Stukas out of around 6,000 built. These continued to harry Russian armies entering Germany, scoring occasional successes due to lapses in Soviet air superiority. Only three intact Ju 87s survive today.

The Stuka played an important role in the Wehrmacht’s early campaigns, knocking out obstacles to the relentless advance of German Panzer divisions with precision strikes. But white-knuckle dive-bombing tactics proved a dead end when facing significant aerial opposition. Though the Stuka led a respectable second career as a cannon-armed tank buster, the infamous warplane was doomed to be replaced by more versatile and survivable fighter-bombers.

Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States.

History Odds and Sods

Ernst Udet was one of the German flying Aces’ of World War I, unlike many of his contemporaries though he survived the fighting on the Western Front.

Udet was born in Frankfurt am Main on the 26th April 1896. There are conflicting stories about his childhood. Some sources say Udet’s father was violent, especially with his son, who was not the tall strong son he waned. Other sources say his father and mother, Paula, were loving parents providing their son with gifts as he wished for them.

His schooldays were nothing special, and academically he showed that he possessed a quick and agile mind. He did though lack the eye for detail and became frustrated with routine and the discipline of school. It was during this time that he first became fascinated with flying. Firstly he and his friends constructed model planes, but they soon found themselves hanging around at the Otto Flying Machine Works. There they got to talk to pilots and observe as planes were constructed. One of the pilots even allowed him to accompany him on a test flight in 1913.

Generaloberst Ernst Udet - Wikimedia
Any dreams that Udet may have had of being a pilot though were temporarily halted with the outbreak of the First World War. On the 2nd August 1914, at just over 18 years of age, Udet attempted to enlist in the German Army. At 5ft 4in tall (160cm) Udet found that he was too short and was turned away by the recruiters.

Still wishing to do his part Udet immediately turned to the role of dispatch writer. The German Automobile Club were asking volunteers to join up, if they could provide their own motorcycles. Udet was in the lucky position of owning a motorcycle, a gift from his parents following a school examination. Udet was immediately posted to the 26th Wrttembergischen Reserve Division, along with several of his friends. Being a messenger was a dangerous role, often requiring Udet to right up to the front line. Udet was in fact injured when his motorcycle hit a shell hole. Whilst recovering in hospital the army decided to end the volunteer system of dispatch riders, and thus once again Udet was without a role to play in the fighting.

Udet attempted to get into the German Air Force, he was will to take any role, from mechanic, to observer, to pilot. He was though turned down as every application. Though he did discover that if he were already a trained pilot he could immediately become a pilot in the Air Force. Udet returned to the Otto Flying Machine Works there he paid Gustav Otto, 2,000 marks to teach him how to fly. Udet was a natural pilot an in April 1915 he had obtained his civilian pilot’s license.

Joining the German Air Force, Udet met success and dismal failure. Udet became a pilot in an observation unit, flying with an observer to range in artillery attacks. Early on he was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd Class for returning from a sortie despite losing the use of one wing. Success though was quickly followed by failure, when Udet was court-martialled for losing his aircraft through his bad judgement.

Albatros D.Va of Ernst Udet, Jasta 37 - B. Huber - CC-BY-SA-3.0
The punishment was fairly minor though, as Udet was placed in the guardhouse for seven days. Before he could take his punishment though, he was asked to undertake another flight to observe a bombing raid. His observer made a mistake when throwing a bomb from their plane. The bomb became jammed in the landing gear of their aircraft, and to shift it Udet was forced to perform the aerobatics. This action prevented him going to the guardhouse and also saw him transferred to fighter command.

In 1916 Udet found himself stationed at Habsheim, flying Fokker D-IIIs. Initially he found it difficult to kill the enemy pilots, although this soon changed when he himself was wounded when a bullet grazed his cheek. On the 18th March 1916 Udet scored his first kill’ as he dived a French formation of 22 aircraft alone. Several more kills followed.

In the latter part of 1916, Udet transferred to Jasta 15. Jasta was the equivalent of the allied flying squadrons. During his time as Jasta 15, Udet claimed five more kills. He was though also fortunate. He had a duel at 5,000 metres, with the French ace, Georges Guynemar. Guynemar flew away from the dogfight though when he saw that Udet’s guns had jammed and was unable to return fire. Such was the chivalry found in the war in the sky.

Udet was forced to move from Jasta 15 to Jasta 17 in June 1917 when the war took its toil. Udet found that he and his commander were the only two pilots left from the whole of Jasta 15. By November 1917 Udet was famed as a triple ace, with fifteen confirmed kills, and was promoted to Jastafuhrer (Squadron commander) at Jasta 37.

As a triple ace, Udet came to the attention of the Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen who invited him to join his Flying Circus’. Udet was given the command of his own Jasta, Jasta 11. Richthofen demanded total loyalty, and Udet was more than willing to give it. A friendship grew between the two, with Udet holding the Baron in total respect. As a member of the Circus, Udet’s victories continued to rise.

Richthofen died in April 1918, whilst Udet was on sick leave, with an infected ear. Leadership of the Flying Circus eventually fell to Herman Gring, a man who would play a role in the future of Germany and Udet. Whilst on leave he fell in love with an old sweetheart, Eleanor “Lo” Zink, from then on he would fly with LO marked on his plane’s fuselage

Despite not having fully recovered from the ear infection, Udet returned to the front line and took command of Jasta 4 in May 1918. The death of his friend and mentor had a profound effect on Udet and in August 1918 alone, Udet claimed a further 20 kills.

The last few months of the war were not without incident though. In June 1918 Udet survived a crash with a French plane. Forced to bail out Udet would become one of the first pilots to use a parachute successfully. Although it came close to failure when the parachute didn’t open until he was only 250 feet above the ground, the resulting impact also caused him to sprain his ankle. Udet was also wounded in September 1918 when a bullet hit him in the thigh.

Udet survived to the end of the First World War, ending up with a confirmed 62 kills. This made him the second highest German ace of the war, behind Manfred von Richthofen, and also the fourth highest overall.

In post-war Germany, there wasn’t much for a war hero to do. Germany had no airforce so Udet joined a travelling show performing stunts for the viewing public. The show travelled all over the world, and Udet even performed in the United States. His lifestyle though soon saw him pigeonholed as a playboy, a regular on the party scene he would entertain other guests with feats of juggling and other party entertainment.

Udet also flew in movies, even appearing with Leni Riefenstahl in SOS Eisberg’, Die weie Hlle vom Piz Pal’, and Strme ber dem Montblanc’. These appearances proved to be good publicity, and Udet was soon invited to start manufacturing aircraft. Udet was interested in building places for the general public, although this was short-lived as the company moved away to more exclusive airplanes.
Udet was known as a playboy with numerous lovers. This was the primary reason that his 1920 marriage to Eleanor “Lo” Zink lasted only three years.

Udet joined the German Nazi party in 1933. This though was not from any political inclination but because his old commander, Gring, bribed him with the purchase of two Curtiss Export Hawk II. These planes had a profound effect on Udet, and the American designed influenced him to become a major pusher for a German dive bomber, which culminated in the Junkers Ju 87 (Stuka) bombers.
Udet became one of the most important individuals in the development of the Luftwaffe. By 1936 he was in charge of T-Amt’ the development wing of the German Air Ministry, with the rank of colonel. He found though that it was as bad as school had been with a daily routine accompanied by bureaucracy. Udet turned to alcohol, especially cognac and brandy, and amphetamines to break up the daily routine.

German industry was ill-equipped to deal with the demand for aircraft when the Second World War broke out. Production was well below what was needed, mainly caused by a lack of raw materials. Gring first lied about the situation to Hitler, but when Battle of Britain went against the Luftwaffe Gring simply blamed Udet.

Udet committed suicide in Berlin in the 17th November 1941, whilst on the phone to his mistress. Whether this was a forced suicide, arranged by the Nazi hierarchy, or a genuine suicide following depression is unconfirmed. Certainly Udet was being blocked from the developments he wished to make, with such planes as the Focke Wulf FW 190. He was also being blamed for the ineffectiveness of the Luftwaffe in general.

The Nazi regime rather than acknowledge the embarrassment of a suicide from one of their nation’s heroes, claimed that Udet had died a hero’s death whilst testing a new fighter plane. As such Udet was awarded a state funeral and was laid to rest in the Invalidefriedhof cemetery in Berlin, the same graveyard as the Red Baron as well as other national heroes.

There was one last ignominy though as a third of the cemetery was destroyed with the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, resulting in the gradual degradation of the cemetery. It is only since reunification that Udet’s grave and others have been maintained.

Udet was a hero on the losing side of the First World War. Joining the Nazi party has never diminished his hero status, as it was obvious that he was totally uninterested in politics, a nationalist he was purely concerned with the development of the Luftwaffe. His bravery and skills deserve to be recorded and recognised.

Ernst Udet – the Highest Scoring Surviving German Air Ace of WW I

Ernst Udet was a German pilot during World War I and a Luftwaffe Colonel-General (Generaloberst) during World War II. Udet joined the Imperial German Air Service at the age of 19, and eventually became a flying ace of World War I, scoring 62 confirmed victories by the end of his life. The highest scoring German fighter pilot to survive that war, and the second-highest scoring after Manfred von Richthofen, his commander in the Flying Circus, Udet rose to become a squadron commander under Richthofen, and later under Hermann Göring. Udet spent the 1920s and early 1930s as a stunt pilot, international barnstormer, light aircraft manufacturer, and playboy.

Image Source:

In 1933, Udet joined the Nazi Party and became involved in the early development of the Luftwaffe, where he was appointed director of research and development. Influential in the adoption of dive bombing techniques as well as the Stuka dive bomber, by 1939 Udet had risen to the post of Director-General of Equipment for the Luftwaffe. The stress of the position and his distaste for administrative duties led to Udet developing alcoholism.

With 62 victories, Ernst Udet was the second-highest-scoring German ace of WW1. Image Source:

The launch of Operation Barbarossa, combined with issues with the Luftwaffe’s needs for equipment outstripping Germany’s production capacity and increasingly poor relations with the Nazi Party, caused Udet to commit suicide on 17 November 1941 by shooting himself in the head. “Our defeat was caused by Udet,” Hitler would claim. “That man concocted the most nonsensical state of affairs ever seen in the history of the Luftwaffe.”

Germany’s second-highest-scoring ace of World War I, the colourful and boisterous Ernst Udet, had one of the most remarkable flying careers of the first half of the 20th century.

Munich Aero-Club. Image Source: Pinterest

Early Years – Connect With Aviation

Ernst Udet was born on 26 April 1896 (Sunday), in Frankfurt am Main, German Empire. He was what the Germans call a Sonntagskind (‘Sunday’s Child’)–lucky, happy and carefree. Udet grew up in Munich, and was known from his early childhood for his sunny temperament and fascination with aviation. In his youth he hung out at a nearby airplane factory and an army airship detachment. In 1909, he helped found the Munich Aero-Club. After crashing a glider he and a friend constructed, he finally flew in 1913 with a test pilot in the nearby Otto Works owned by Gustav Otto, which he often visited.

By 1909 a fascination with flight led a 13 year old Udet to experiment with his own home-made glider, the results were less than stellar. (Ullstein Bild via Getty Images). Image Source:

World War I – Struggles to Enlist

Shortly after the beginning of World War I, Udet attempted to enlist in the Imperial German Army on 2 August 1914, but at only 160 cm (5 ft 3.0 in) tall he did not then qualify for enlistment. Later that month, when the Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club appealed for volunteers with motorcycles, Udet applied and was accepted. Udet’s father had given him a motorcycle when he had passed his first year examination, and along with four friends, Udet was posted to the 26. Württembergischen Reserve Division as a “messenger rider.” After injuring his shoulder when his motorcycle hit a crater from an artillery shell explosion, he was sent to a military hospital, and his motorcycle was sent for repairs. When Udet tried to track down the 26th Division, he was unable to find it and decided to serve in the vehicle depot in Namur. During this time, he met officers from the Chauny flying sector, who advised him to transfer as an aerial observer. However, before he received his orders, the army dispensed with the volunteer motorcyclists, and Udet was sent back to the recruiting officials.

Private Flying Training – Joins Air Service

Udet tried to return to the fighting, but he was unable to get into either the pilot or aircraft mechanic training the army offered. However, he learned that if he were a trained pilot, he would be immediately accepted into army aviation. Through a family friend, Gustav Otto, owner of the aircraft factory he had hung out around in his youth, Udet received private flight training. This cost him 2,000 Deutsche Marks (about $400 in 1915 U.S. dollars) and new bathroom equipment from his father’s firm. Udet received his civilian pilot’s license at the end of April 1915 and was immediately accepted by the Imperial German Air Service.

Starts Flying for Artillery Ranging

Udet at first flew in Feld Flieger-Abteilung 206 (FFA 206) – a two-seater artillery observation unit, as an Unteroffizier (non-commissioned) pilot with observer Leutnant Justinius. He and his observer won the Iron Cross (2nd class for Udet and 1st class for his lieutenant) for nursing their damaged Aviatik B.I two-seater back to German lines after a shackle on a wing-cable snapped. Justinius had climbed out to hold the wing and balance it rather than landing behind the enemy lines and being captured. Later, after yet another similar incident, the Aviatik B aircraft was retired from active service.

Aviatik B Artillery Reconnaissance Aircraft. Image Source: Wikipedia

Court-Martialed for Losing an Aircraft

Later, Udet was court-martialed for losing an aircraft in an incident the flying corps considered a result of bad judgment. Overloaded with fuel and bombs, the aircraft stalled after a sharp bank and plunged to the ground. Miraculously, both Udet and Justinius survived with only minor injuries. Udet was placed under arrest in the guardhouse for seven days.

After an Incident – Transferred for Fighter Flying

On his way out of the guardhouse, he was asked to fly Leutnant Hartmann to observe a bombing raid on Belfort. A bomb thrown by hand by the leutnant became stuck in the landing gear, but Udet performed aerobatics and managed to shake it loose. As soon as the Air Staff Officer heard about Udet’s performance during the incident, he ordered Udet transferred to the fighter command.

Fighter Pilot Udet – Initial Disasters

His aggressive style and eagerness for battle resulted in his quickly being promoted to Unteroffizier (staff sergeant). Udet was assigned a new Fokker to fly to his new fighter unit – FFA 68 – at Habsheim. Mechanically defective, the plane crashed into a hangar when he took off, and was then given an older Fokker to fly. In this aircraft he experienced his first aerial combat, which almost ended in disaster. While lining up on a French Caudron, Udet found he could not bring himself to fire on another person and was subsequently fired on by the Frenchman. A bullet grazed his cheek and smashed his flying goggles. Udet survived the encounter but from then on learned to attack aggressively and began scoring victories.

In December 1915, a young Udet experienced his first one-on-one combat while flying this Fokker Eindecker E.I monoplane—the results of which were humiliating. (O’Brien Browne). Image Source:

O’Brien Browne, describes this most aptly in “Ernst Udet: The Rise and fall of a German World War I Ace” written for History Net. He writes, “On a pale December morning in 1915 a single Fokker Eindecker monoplane sailed high above the clouds, hunting for prey over the Vosges sector of the Western Front. Its young, inexperienced German pilot, his face greased for protection from the cold, felt snug in his thick flight suit and sheepskin-lined boots. Eyes alert, he carefully scanned the vast expanse of seemingly empty blue sky. Suddenly, a glint of silver caught the pilot’s eye, moving toward him from the west. It was the enemy. Instead of manoeuvring above and behind his opponent, the novice pilot forgot all his combat training and simply flew head-on at the oncoming aircraft. As the enemy neared, the German recognized it as a French Caudron G.IV, a queer-looking machine with a twin-boom lattice tail section and a truncated tub between the plane’s two engines carrying the pilot and observer. As the German pilot reached for the firing button on the joystick, his mouth became dry at the prospect of his first aerial battle. The Frenchmen flew directly at him, looming so close that the observer’s head was clearly visible. The German pilot poised his thumb over the firing button, muscles tense. The moment of truth: kill or be killed. But as the two planes came within point-blank range of each other, paralyzing fear gripped the young German and he froze. He stared at his opponent, helpless. A second later, he heard popping noises and felt his Fokker shudder. Something slapped hard against his cheek and his goggles flew off. His face was sprayed with broken glass, and blood trickled down his cheek. With the French observer still firing, the German dived into a nearby cloud and limped back to his airfield. Once his wounds had been dressed, he secluded himself in his room and spent a sleepless night berating himself for cowardice and stupidity. Such was the inauspicious beginning of one of the most remarkable flying careers of the first half of the 20th century. The young pilot’s name was Ernst Udet”.

French Caudron G.IV, a queer-looking machine with a twin-boom lattice tail section and a truncated tub between the plane’s two engines carrying the pilot and observer.. Image Source:

First Aerial Victory

After a period of intense soul-searching, Udet determined that he would succeed as a fighter pilot. He had his squadron’s mechanics construct a model of a French plane against which Udet could fly practice attacks, honing both his shooting and combat flying skills. The additional training soon paid off. He downed his first French opponent on 18 March 1916. On that occasion, he had scrambled to attack two French aircraft, instead finding himself faced with a formation of 22 enemy aircraft of various types. He dived from above and behind, giving his Fokker D.III biplane full throttle, and opened fire on a Farman F.40 from very close range. Udet pulled away, leaving the flaming bomber trailing smoke, only to see, to his horror, the observer fall from the rear seat of the stricken craft. The victory won Udet the Iron Cross First Class, later describing it: “The fuselage of the Farman dives down past me like a giant torch… A man, his arms and legs spread out like a frog’s, falls past–the observer. At the moment, I don’t think of them as human beings. I feel only one thing–victory, triumph, victory.”

Udet with his Fokker D.III biplane. Image Source:

Becomes an Air Ace

That year, FFA 68 was renamed Kampfeinsitzer Kommando Habsheim and later Jasta 15 on 28 September 1916. Udet’s second victory was a Bréguet-Michelin bomber, brought down during a massive bombing raid on Oberndorf by French and British units, escorted by four Nieuports of the American volunteer Escadrille N.124, on October 12. Udet forced a French Breguet to land safely in German territory, then landed nearby to prevent its destruction by its crew. The bullet-punctured tires on Udet’s Fokker flipped the plane forward onto its top wings and fuselage. Udet and the French pilot eventually shook hands next to the Frenchman’s aircraft. He finished his score for 1916 with a Caudron G.IV on December 24. In January 1917, Udet was commissioned as a Leutnant der Reserve (lieutenant of reserves). The same month, Jasta 15 re-equipped with the Albatros D.III, a new fighter with twin synchronized Maschinengewehr 08 machine guns. On February 20, he forced down a Nieuport 17 into the French lines. Its pilot, Sergeant Pierre Cazenove de Pradines of N.81, survived to eventually become a seven-victory ace. On April 24, Udet shot down a Nieuport fighter, which burst into flames after a short dogfight, and he destroyed one of the new Spad VII fighters on May 5. Udet claimed five more victories, before transferring to Jasta 37 in June 1917.

French Nieuport 17 C.1 Fighter. Image Source: Wikipedia

Encounter with French Hero and Ace Georges Guynemar

During his service with Jasta 15, Udet later wrote he had encountered Georges Guynemer, a notable French ace, in single combat at 5,000 m (16,000 ft). Guynemer, who preferred to hunt enemy planes alone, by this time was the leading French ace with more than 30 victories. Udet saw Guynemer and they circled each other, looking for an opening and testing each other’s turning abilities. They were close enough for Udet to read the “Vieux” of “Vieux Charles” written on Guynemer’s Spad S.VII. The opponents tried every aerobatic trick they knew and Guynemer fired a burst through Udet’s upper wing. However Udet maneuvered for advantage. Once Udet had Guynemer in his sights, his machine guns jammed and while pretending to dogfight he pounded on them with his fists, desperate to unjam them. Guynemer realized his predicament and instead of taking advantage of it, simply waved a farewell and flew away. Udet wrote of the fight, “For seconds, I forgot that the man across from me was Guynemer, my enemy. It seems as though I were sparring with an older comrade over our own airfield.” Udet felt that Guynemer had spared him because he wanted a fair fight, while others have suggested that the French ace was impressed with Udet’s skills and hoped they might meet again on equal terms. To the end of his life, Udet never forgot that act of chivalry.

Ace vs Ace: Guynemer against Udet. Image Source: Real photos Photoshop composition

Transferred to Jasta 37 – Elevated to Squadron Commander

Eventually, every pilot in Jasta 15 was killed except Udet and his commander, Heinrich Gontermann, who said to Udet: “The bullets fall from the hand of God … Sooner or later they will hit us.” Udet applied for a transfer to Jasta 37, and Gontermann was killed three months later when the upper wing of his new Fokker Dr. 1 tore off as he was flying it for the first time. Gontermann lingered for twenty four hours without awakening and Udet later remarked, “It was a good death.” The new location did him good, and he brought his score up to nine by the end of August. By late November, Udet was a triple ace. He was already modelling his attacks after those of Guynemer, coming in high out of the sun to pick off the rear aircraft in a squadron before the others knew what was happening. Having witnessed one of these attacks, his commander in Jasta 37 Kurt Grasshoff, on being transferred, selected Udet for command over more senior men. Udet’s ascension to command on 7 November 1917, was followed six days later by award of the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Hohenzollern. Despite his seemingly frivolous nature, drinking late into the night, and womanizing lifestyle, Udet proved an excellent squadron commander. He spent many hours coaching new fighter pilots, and like many successful aces, emphasized good marksmanship over flashy stunt flying. He enjoyed the star status that came with being a pilot and often dressed in a dapper style, a cigarette usually poised carefully in one hand. He still displayed the disdain for authority and routine that had characterized him as a child. And he enjoyed being curt and cheeky to pompous officers, his ranking position and success as a fighter pilot usually saving him from reprimand. By year’s end, he was a 16-victory ace and a highly decorated pilot.

House Order of Hohenzollern. Image Source:

Selected For the Flying Circus

Udet’s success attracted attention for his skill, earning him an invitation to join the “Flying Circus”, Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1), an elite unit of German fighter aces under the command of Manfred von Richthofen, popularly known as the Red Baron. Richthofen drove up to Udet one day as he was trying to pitch a tent in Flanders in the rain. Pointing out that Udet had 20 kills, Richthofen said, “Then you would actually seem ripe for us. Would you like to?” Udet accepted. After watching him shoot down an artillery spotter by frontal attack, Richthofen gave Udet command of Jasta 11, von Richthofen’s former squadron command. The group commanded by Richthofen also contained Jastas 4, 6 and 10. Udet’s enthusiasm for Richthofen was unbounded, who demanded total loyalty and dedication from his pilots, immediately cashiering anyone who fell out of line. At the same time, Richthofen treated them with every consideration and when it came time to requisition supplies he traded favors for autographed photos of himself that read: “Dedicated to my esteemed fighting companion.” Udet remarked that because of the signed photographs, “…. sausage and ham never ran out.” One night, the squadron invited a captured English flyer for dinner, treating him as a guest. When he excused himself for the bathroom, the Germans secretly watched to see if he would try to escape. On his return the Englishman said, “I would never forgive myself for disappointing such hosts” the English flyer did escape later from another unit.

Manfred von Richthofen’s “Flying Circus”. Image Source: Wikipedia

Richthofen Killed in Action

After joining Jasta 11, Udet began flying multiple patrols daily, although he was increasingly troubled by an intense pain in his ears. Nevertheless, he pushed his victory score up to 23 before the pain became so intolerable that Richthofen ordered him to take sick leave. This time off was vital for Udet’s war-shattered nerves. Despite a doctor’s warning that he would never fly again, Udet’s ears began to improve. In addition, he received news that he had been awarded one of Germany’s highest military awards, the Ordre Pour le Mérite, generally referred to by its nickname, the ‘Blue Max.’ Richthofen was killed on April 21, 1918 in France. Shaken by the death of the man whom he later described as ‘the greatest of soldiers’–a man many had believed was indestructible, Udet said about Richthofen: “He was the least complicated man I ever knew. Entirely Prussian and the greatest of soldiers.”

Image Source:

He returned to JG 1 against the doctor’s advice and remained there to the end of the war, commanding Jasta 4. The conflict was entering its last, dreadful months, which would see some of the most intense fighting of the entire war. His unit was now equipped with the formidable Fokker D.VII, the plane generally considered the finest fighter of WWI.

Ernst Udet with his childhood sweetheart, Eleanor “Lo” Zink. Image Source:

Meets Childhood Sweetheart

While at home, Udet had reacquainted himself with his childhood sweetheart, Eleanor “Lo” Zink. Notified that he had received the Pour le Mérite, he had one made up in advance so that he could impress her, and painted her name on the side of his Albatros fighters and Fokker D VII. Also on the tail of his Fokker D VII was the message “Du doch nicht” – “Definitely not you” – a taunt and challenge to Allied pilots.

Oberleutnant Ernst Udet in his Siemens Schuckert D.III. The LO! inscription on the sides of his aircraft was dedicated to his then fiancee and later wife, Eleanore Zink. Image Source:

Early Flier to Parachute to Safety

During the spring and early summer, Udet’s score rose to 35. On 29 June 1918, Udet was one of the early fliers to be saved by parachuting from a disabled aircraft, when he jumped after a clash with a French Breguet. His harness caught on the rudder and he had to break off the rudder tip to escape. His parachute did not open until he was 250 ft (76 m) from the ground, causing him to sprain his ankle on landing.

On Udet’s aircraft tail of his Fokker D VII was the message “Du doch nicht” – “Definitely not you” – a taunt and challenge to Allied pilots. Image Source:

First Encounter with U.S. Army Air Service

On July 2, JG.I had its first encounter with the U.S. Army Air Service and shot down two Nieuport 28s of the 27th Aero Squadron. One of the pilots, 2nd Lt. Walter B. Wanamaker, was brought down injured by Udet, who gave him a cigarette and chatted with him until the medics arrived. On a whim, Udet cut the serial number, N6347, from the rudder of Wanamaker’s plane. When the two met again at the Cleveland Air Races on September 6, 1931, Udet returned the trophy to his former opponent. It can still be seen at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

On July 2, 1917 Udet brought down a Nieuport 28 flown by 2nd Lt. Walter B. Wanamaker. Fourteen years later at the 1931 Cleveland Air Races they met again, Udet returning the fabric trophy he had taken from Wanamaker’s fighter. (National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

Becomes National Hero

War was now going badly for the Germans. The German air force was hampered by a lack of fuel, equipment and new recruits. ‘The war gets tougher by the day,’ Udet wrote. ‘When one of our aircraft rises, five go up on the other side.’ Udet meanwhile was reaching new heights of achievement. Udet scored 20 victories in August 1918 alone, mainly against British aircraft. Between July 1 and September 26, he downed 26 Allied aircraft, bringing his total to 62 and became a national hero. During his last air battle on 28 September 1918, in which he brought down two Airco DH.9 bombers, Udet was wounded in the thigh, for which he was still recovering on Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, when the war ended in Germany’s defeat.

National Hero. Image Source:

Inter-War Years – Lots of Action

The adventures of Udet’s life continued without pause after the war. On his way home from the military hospital, he had to defend himself against a Communist who wished to rip the medals off his chest. Udet and Robert Ritter von Greim performed mock dogfights at weekends for the POW Relief Organization, using surplus aircraft in Bavaria. After the war he was initially active in the Richthofen Veterans’ Association. He was invited to start the first International Air Service between Germany and Austria, but after the first flight the Entente Commission confiscated his aircraft.

Marries and Divorces Eleanor “Lo” Zink

Udet married Eleanor “Lo” Zink on 25 February 1920, however the marriage lasted less than three years and they were divorced on 16 February 1923. His independent nature, his many affairs, and disdain for routine led to the breakup of his marriage.

Original autograph Real Photo postcard (RPPC) of German WWI fighter pilot and later Luftwaffe General Ernst Udet. Image Source:

Multi-Talented & Multi-Faceted

His talents were numerous – among these were juggling, drawing cartoons, and party entertainment. Udet was known primarily for his work as a stunt pilot and for playboy-like behavior. Udet flew in air shows and races, performing throughout Latin America and Europe. Udet’s flamboyant lifestyle flourished. He became a well-known womanizer and a hard drinker, a party boy who loved to dine and share a laugh with an international group of friends. He spent money as quickly as it came in. He enjoyed the company of movie stars, film producers and other public figures. Flying always remained his greatest passion. He flew for movies and for airshows (e.g. picking a cloth from the ground with his wingtip, flying under low bridges and completing loops only several meters from the ground). One stunt only Udet performed was successive loops with the last complete after turning off the engine midair and landing the aircraft in a sideways glide. He appeared with Leni Riefenstahl in three films: The White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929), Stürme über dem Mont Blanc (1930), and S.O.S. Eisberg (1933).

Biplane Dead Stick Landing Ernst Udet – Chicago International Air Races 1933

Udet’s stunt pilot work in films took him to California. In the October 1933 issue of New Movie Magazine, there is a photo of Carl Laemmle, Jr.’s party for Udet in Hollywood. Laemmle was head of Universal Studios which made SOS Eisberg, a US-German co-production. Udet was invited to attend the National Air Races at Cleveland, Ohio. In 1935 he appeared in Wunder des Fliegens: Der Film eines deutschen Fliegers (1935) directed by Heinz Paul. His co-star Jürgen Ohlsen, who had previously starred (uncredited) in the extremely popular Nazi propaganda film Hitlerjunge Quex: Ein Film vom Opfergeist der deutschen Jugend, played a youth who lost his pilot father in World War I and was befriended and encouraged by Udet, his idol.

Ernest Udet in the cockpit of his aptly named Udet U 12 “Flamingo,” an airplane designed specifically for his spectacular airshow performances. Image Source:

This was probably the happiest time of Udet’s life. He was reeling in money. His autobiography, Mein Fliegerleben (English title: Ace of the Iron Cross), was a hit, selling more than 600,000 copies by the end of 1935. He was arguably the most famous stunt pilot of his day.

Attempts at Aircraft Manufacturing

American films were good publicity for Udet. An American, William Pohl of Milwaukee, telephoned him with an offer to back an aircraft manufacturing company. Udet Flugzeugbau was born in a shed in Milbertshofen. Its intent was to build small aircraft that the general public could fly. It soon ran into trouble with the Entente Commission and transferred its operations to a beehive and chicken coop factory. The first airplane that Udet’s company produced was the U2. Udet took the second model, the U4, to the Wilbur Cup race in Buenos Aires at the expense of Aero Club Aleman. Finally upto U12 model were made. The club wanted him to do cigarette commercials to reimburse them for the expense, but he refused. He was rescued by the Chief of the Argentinian Railways, a man of Swedish descent named Tornquist, who settled the debt. In 1924, Udet left Udet Flugzeugbau when they decided to build a four-engine aircraft, which was larger and not for the general population.

More Aviation-Linked Activities

He and another friend from the war, Angermund, started an exhibition flying enterprise in Germany, which was also successful, but Udet remarked, “In time this too begins to get tiresome. We stand in the present, fighting for a living. It isn’t always easy. But the thoughts wander back to the times when it was worthwhile to fight for your life.” Udet and another wartime comrade—Suchocky—became pilots to an African filming expedition. The cameraman was another veteran, Schneeberger, whom Udet called “Flea,” and the guide was Siedentopf, a former East African estate owner. Udet described one incident in Africa in which lions jumped up to claw at the low-flying aircraft, one of them removing a strip of Suchocky’s wing surface. Udet engaged in hunting while in Africa.

Schneeberger and Suchocky inspect the damage done to the plane by the lioness. Image Source:

Building the Luftwaffe

Udet joined the Nazi party in 1933 when Hermann Göring promised to buy him two new U.S.-built Curtiss Hawk II biplanes (export designation of the F11C-2 Goshawk Helldiver). Though not interested in politics, in 1934 Udet made the difficult decision to join the new Luftwaffe. Whatever his misgivings about the Nazis, he realized that they had an iron grip on power in his country. The planes were used for evaluation purposes and thus indirectly influenced the German idea of dive bombing aeroplanes, such as the Junkers Ju 87 (Stuka) dive bombers. They were also used for aerobatic shows held during the 1936 Summer Olympics. Udet piloted one of them, which survived the war and is now on display in the Polish Aviation Museum. Earlier in 1934, Udet taught Aviation Minister Erhard Milch to fly. And as the top pilot in the country, Udet’s opinion was considered quite significant when matters of aviation policy were discussed. It was flattering to be listened to by those in positions of authority. Patriotism, the challenge of rebuilding the air force he had so loved, plus a sense of stability and security offered by the prospect of a normal job, all played a part in helping him make up his mind.

Reichsmarschall Herman Göring (left) and Udet, head of the technical office of the air ministry, observe aerial maneuvers by the new Luftwaffe on June 16, 1938. (Ullstein Bild via Getty Images). Image Source:

Aircraft Development Tasks

He was promoted rapidly from Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) to Oberst (colonel) and then inspector of fighter and dive-bomber pilots. In the summer of 1936 Udet was pressured by Göring into becoming the head of the technical office of the Reich’s air ministry, a position of weighty organizational responsibilities. Despite his new duties, Udet, who had always shunned paper pushing, seemed able to find the time to test-fly the industry’s newest designs, such as the Messerschmit Bf-109, as well as the latest from Focke Wulf and Heinkel.

Udet in Developmental Aircraft Cockpit . Image Source: Pinterest

After the trials of the Ju 87, a confidential directive issued on 9 June 1936 by Generalfeldmarschall Wolfram von Richthofen called for the cessation of all further Ju 87 development, although the Ju 87 had been awarded top marks and was about to be accepted. However, Udet immediately rejected von Richthofen’s instructions and Ju 87 development continued. In this post Udet was finally responsible for the introduction of the Junkers Stuka and the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Udet became a major proponent of the dive bomber, taking credit for having introduced it to the Luftwaffe. Udet also shunned the bureaucracy in his new job, and the pressure led to him developing an addiction to alcohol, drinking large amounts of brandy and cognac.

Udets’s board bar from his Siebel Fh 104 A-0 on display in the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin.. Image Source: Wikipedia

Director-General of Equipment

In January 1939, Udet visited Italian North Africa, accompanying Marshal of the Italian Air Force, Italo Balbo on a flight, because at the time there were distinct signs of German military and diplomatic co-operation with the Italians. In February 1939 Udet became Generalluftzeugmeister, Director-General of Equipment of the Luftwaffe. Udet was not adept at the political intrigue that characterizes all bureaucracies. Increasingly, he was outmanoeuvred by his onetime friend Erhard Milch. Ambitious and scheming, Milch resented Udet’s special relationship with Göring and craved the power and prestige attendant on Udet’s job. Nevertheless, Udet continued to reap honours from Hitler, who was most likely unaware of the interdepartmental in-fighting. On June 21, 1940, Udet was one of the few people who witnessed the French surrender to the Germans. A month later, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross and promoted to Generaloberst (colonel general).

Ernst Udet with Bomber Pilots Galland and Mölders / Photo 1940. Image Source:

WW II – High Aircraft Requirements – Despair

When World War II began, his internal conflicts grew more intense as aircraft production requirements were much more than the German industry could supply, given limited access to raw materials such as aluminum. Hermann Göring responded to this problem by simply lying about it to Adolf Hitler, and after the Luftwaffe‘s defeat in the Battle of Britain, Göring tried to deflect Hitler’s ire by blaming Udet. On 22 June 1941, the launch of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, drove Udet further into despair. In April and May 1941, Udet had led a German delegation inspecting Soviet aviation industry in accordance with the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Udet informed Göring that the Soviet air force and aviation industry were very strong and technically advanced. Göring decided not to report this to Hitler, hoping that a surprise attack would quickly destroy Russia. Udet realized that the upcoming war on Russia might destroy Germany. He tried to explain this to Hitler but, torn between truth and loyalty, suffered a psychological breakdown. At the end of August, Udet had a long, private talk with Goering in which he tried to resign. Goering refused, knowing that such a resignation from a top Luftwaffe official would create bad publicity. Göring kept Udet under control by giving him drugs at drinking parties and hunting trips. Udet’s drinking and psychological condition became a problem, and Göring used Udet’s dependency to manipulate him.

Goering and Udet in 1938, before the cracks started to show. Some of Udet’s poor decisions had already been made at this time, but would not begin to become evident until two years later. Even so, he became the scapegoat for appalling leadership lapses by Goering and arch-rival Erhard Milch. Bundesarchive photo. Image Source:

In his article titled “The Nazi Blame Game”, Dwight Jon Zimmerman wrote in July 2017, “The problem with the Luftwaffe was that it was a tactical air force increasingly tasked with a strategic mission. And blamed for that failing was its director of aviation armaments, Generaloberst Ernst Udet, who turned out to be the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time for the Luftwaffe”. As historian Leonard Mosely wrote, “Udet was bold, brave, and a first-class flier, he was unfortunately no planner.” Udet filled his staff with wartime friends unqualified for their design and production roles. Accounts of Udet’s managerial incompetence began reaching Goering. As the man who hired Udet and who was himself a poor (and corrupt) administrator, Goering was in an awkward position and at first chose to ignore the problem. Albert Speer, who would later take over all war production, noted that, “Goering was not actually blind to reality. I would occasionally hear him make perceptive comments on the situation. Rather, he acted like a bankrupt who up to the last moment wants to deceive himself along with his creditors.”

Memoirs of Ernst Udet, the German ‘ace of aces’.

Commits Suicide

On 17 November 1941, at age 45, Ernst Udet committed suicide in Berlin, by shooting himself in the head while on the phone with his girlfriend, Inge Bleyle. Udet’s suicide was concealed from the public, and at his funeral he was lauded as a hero who had died in flight while testing a new weapon. The circumstances of Udet’s death were kept secret, and he was given a state funeral attended by Adolf Hitler, Goering and other top officials. On their way to attend Udet’s funeral, the World War II fighter ace Werner Mölders died in a plane crash in Breslau, and high Luftwaffe executive General der Flieger (General of Aviators) Helmuth Wilberg died in another plane crash near Dresden. Udet was buried next to Manfred von Richthofen in the Invalidenfriedhof Cemetery in Berlin. Mölders was buried next to Udet.

Following Udet’s suicide on November 17, 1941, A Luftwaffe honor guard—including ace Major Adolf Galland at left—escorted his remains to their final resting place. (Ullstein Bild via Getty Images). Image Source: Pinterest

Suicide Note

According to Udet’s biography, The Fall of an Eagle, he wrote a suicide note in red pencil which among other things said, “Ingelein, why have you left me?” and “Iron One, you are responsible for my death.” “Ingelein” referred to his girlfriend, Inge Bleyle, and “Iron One” to Hermann Göring. The book The Luftwaffe War Diaries similarly states that Udet wrote “Reichsmarschall, why have you deserted me?” in red on the headboard of his bed. It is possible that an affair Udet had with Martha Dodd, daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Germany and Soviet sympathizer during the 1930s might have had some importance in these events. Records made public in the 1990s confirm Soviet security involvement with Dodd’s activities. Evidence indicates that Udet’s unhappy relationship with Göring, Erhard Milch, and the Nazi Party in general was the cause of a mental breakdown.

Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring at the funeral of general Ernst Udet. Image Source:

Handsome, dashing, and a skilled raconteur, Udet was Germany’s greatest living fighter ace from World War I. Carl Zuckmayer’s 1946 play Des Teufels General (“The Devil’s General”) was a fictional treatment of Udet’s final days. Des Teufels General was a 1955 film version of the Zuckmeyer play, with Curd Jürgens in the title role. In the film Von Richthofen and Brown (1971), Udet was portrayed by Robert La Tourneaux. The character of “Ernst Kessler” in the 1975 film The Great Waldo Pepper is clearly based upon Ernst Udet. Kessler was portrayed by actor Bo Brundin. It also contains dogfighting scenes between a Fokker Dr.I and a Sopwith Camel. In the movie The Red Baron, Udet is portrayed by Jiří Laštovka. Udet is also featured in the Knights of the Sky video game as an enemy German pilot.

Ernst Udet’s grave in Invalidenfriedhof Cemetery, Berlin. Image Source: Wikipedia

Ernst Udet

Ernst Udet (26 April 1896 – 17 November 1941) was a German pilot during World War I and a Luftwaffe Colonel-General (Generaloberst) during World War II.

Udet joined the Imperial German Air Service at the age of 19, and eventually became a notable flying ace of World War I, scoring 62 confirmed victories by the end of his life. The highest scoring German fighter pilot to survive that war, and the second-highest scoring after Manfred von Richthofen, his commander in the Flying Circus, Udet rose to become a squadron commander under Richthofen, and later under Hermann Göring. [1] Udet spent the 1920s and early 1930s as a stunt pilot, international barnstormer, light aircraft manufacturer, and playboy.

In 1933, Udet joined the Nazi Party and became involved in the early development of the Luftwaffe, where he was appointed director of research and development. Influential in the adoption of dive bombing techniques as well as the Stuka dive bomber, by 1939 Udet had risen to the post of Chief of Procurement and Supply for the Luftwaffe. The stress of the position and his distaste for administrative duties led to Udet developing alcoholism.

The launch of Operation Barbarossa, combined with issues with the Luftwaffe's needs for equipment outstripping Germany's production capacity and increasingly poor relations with the Nazi Party, caused Udet to commit suicide on 17 November 1941 by shooting himself in the head. "Our defeat was caused by Udet," Hitler would claim. "That man concocted the most nonsensical state of affairs ever seen in the history of the Luftwaffe." [2]

Ernst Udet

By Stephen Sherman, Aug. 2001. Updated April 15, 2012.

O berleutnant Ernst Udet was the second-highest scoring German ace of World War One, the leading surviving ace, and the youngest ace, age 22 when the war ended in 1918. He started as a flying Private, was promoted to officer, and flew with Jasta (Jagdstaffel) 15, and later commanded Jastas 37, 11, and 4. He was awarded Germany's highest military honor, the Ordre pour le Mérite, the "Blue Max."

Aviatik Pilot

In the summer of 1915, Lt. Justinius of Flieger-Abteilung (Aviation Section) 206 sent for Private Ernst Udet. Justinius was in Darmstadt recruiting new pilots, and Udet, although only 19, seemed promising.

He began flying Justinius' Aviatik B two-seat observation plane. (Early in the war, German pilots were frequently enlisted men, while the observers were officers.) Based at Heiligkreuz, they spotted for the artillery, relatively oblivious to enemy aircraft, as none were armed.

On September 14, they were more than 15 kilometers beyond German lines, flying at 3,500 metere, when the Aviatik began to spin down. Using all his strength, Udet stopped the spinning, but the aircraft still listed as it glided down. He shut off the engine, as it caused the plane to spin. Lt. Justinius climbed out on the wing as a counterbalance. Udet opened up the throttle briefly, but still couldn't hold the plane level. Justinius joined Udet in the pilot's cockpit with their combined strength and intermittent use of the engine, they managed to struggle along.

They desperately hoped to glide to Switzerland. At 8 kilometers, they were down to 1,000 meters. They passed the border town of St. Dizier with 600 meters of altitude left and began to hope to reach Germany. They continued to descend and touched down just over the barbed-wire, on the German side. A local blacksmith promptly fashioned a replacement for the shackle that had failed, when an aviation Hauptmann (Captain), drove up. He insisted on recovering the failed shackle for testing another Aviatik had been lost the same day for the same reason.

For saving one of the Fatherland's aircraft, Udet won the Iron Cross, Second Class and Justinius won the Iron Class, First Class.

Later, they were assigned a bombing mission and the Aviatik was overloaded with bombs, extra fuel, two machine guns, and a new radio. Just after take-off, the plane crashed when Udet banked left. Both he and Justinius were hospitalized. And literally, "adding insult to injury," Udet was sentened to seven days' arrest for "careless maneuvering which endangered the life of his observer and caused the destruction of a valuable aircraft." During his week-long confinement, Udet had to recite a little confessional speech. On the day of his release, another officer-observer grabbed him and then went to bomb Belfort. On this sortie, a live bomb got stuck in the plane's undercarriage, and only through "careless maneuvering" was Udet able to free it.

After this, he was assigned to single-seater, Jagdflieger (fighter-pilot) Combat Command at Habsheim. He was provided a brand-new Fokker to fly there, but it crashed on take-off (through a defect proven to be not Udet's fault).


When Udet arrived at Habsheim fighter command in December, 1915, it turned out that he was one of only four pilots in a very quiet billet. In his first encounter with a French Caudron, he froze and couldn't fire the French gunner shot off Udet's goggles, cutting his face with glass splinters but nothing worse. Privately shamed by his failure of nerve, Udet redoubled his gunnery practice, working with mock-up of a Nieuport.

On March 18, 1916, a Sunday afternoon, word came over the telephone of enemy airplanes headed toward Muelhausen. Alone, Udet went up to 2,800 meters in his Fokker to intercept. He found over twenty French bombers: a large Farman in the middle, flanked by other Farmans and Caudrons. This time, he kept his nerve, closed with the Farman, and opened up at forty meters, flaming it. His first victory! He continued diving through the formation as other French planes went after him. He dived down steeply about 300 meters to escape.

When he pulled out he saw more fighters from Habsheim had joined the fray. He spotted a lone Caudron retiring and he pursued it, firing a burst at long range, over 150 meters. He approached to 80 meters and fired again, this time kocking out one of the Caudron's engines. But as he closed in for the kill, his gun jammed, and the French plane made off.

That night Sergeant Ernst Udet and the Habsheim Jagdflieger celebrated. They had beaten off the first large French air attack, downing five of them.

He was based at Habsheim until early 1917 and downed three more planes in that area.

Champagne: La Selve & Boncourt

Staffel 15 (formerly Habsheim Fighter Command) transferred to La Selve in March, 1917, opposite the sector patrolled by The Storks, the French squadron of Guynemer and Nungesser. On April 24, Ernst achieved his first victory on this front, a Nieuport over Chavignon, his fifth overall. During this time, he lost many friends: his roommate Esser, the CO Lt. Reinhold, Puz, Glinkermann, and others. At the end of April, Lt. Heinrich Gontermann took over as CO he was already an accomplished ace, with 12 airplanes and 6 balloons to his credit (his final tally was 39). May 5 evening patrol: Gontermann got a Nieuport and Udet a Spad (Udet's sixth victory). During two weeks in command of Staffel 15, Gontermann shot down eight more planes. He was then awarded the Ordre pour le Mérite and four weeks leave. He appointed Lieutenant Ernst Udet acting CO in his absence.

In May, they flew whenever weather allowed, sometimes three patrols a day, but rarely got involved in real fights. At this time Puz and Glinkermann were lost. On the 25th, while on a solo mission, Udet got into a duel with a Spad with Guynemer's markings. After some spirited, skillful jockeying, neither one could get behind the other. Then Udet's gun jammed, and in an increasingly rare chivalrous gesture, Guynemer waved to him and flew off.

Jasta 37

Udet transferred to Jasta 37, a Flanders-based squadron, in mid-1917. By February, 1918, he ran up his score to 20, having served as CO of the Jasta for the last six weeks.

Richthofen Group

When Manfred von Richthofen invited Udet to join his group (Jagdgeschwader 1, comprising Jasta 4, 6, 10, and 11). Udet explained the success of Richthofen's group:

Other squadrons live in castles or small towns, twenty to thirty kilometers behind the front lines. The Richthofen group dwells in corrugated shacks that can be erected and broken down in a matter of hours. They are rarely more than twenty kilometers behind the foremost outposts. Other squadrons go up two or three times a day. Richthofen and his men fly five times a day. Others close down operations in bad weather here they fly under almost any condition.

However the biggest surprise for me is the forward combat airstrips. Just a few kilometers behind the lines, often within range of the enemy artillery, we are on fully dressed standby, lounging in reclining chairs in an open field. Our aircraft, gassed up and ready to go, are right alongside. As soon as an opponent appears on the horizon, we go up - one, two, or an entire staffel.

Udet arrived at Richthofen's group at 10 AM on March 27, 1918. At noon he flew his first sortie with them (also his first in a Fokker Dr.1 triplane) and he shot down his first plane as a Jasta 11 pilot, a British R.E.8 reconnaissance plane. In the same patrol, they pounced on a flight of Sopwith Camels, Richthofen knocking down one of them. Then they strafed a column of British infantry. Evidently impressed with Udet's head-on attack on the observation plane, Richthofen gave him command of Jasta 11.

He continued to fly almost every day. On March 28, he got into a heroic duel with a Sopwith Camel over Albert. After repeated head-on passes and maneuvers, Udet finally managed to deliver a lethal burst. He hadn't ever thought about his downed opponents, but this time he wanted to know. He went to a nearby field hospital, where he found his victim's body: Lt. Maasdorp, Ontario RFC 47. He downed his 23rd plane on April 6, another Sopwith Camel.

After this mission, he went home to Munich, to be treated for an ear infection and then for recuperative leave. He visited with his family and his girlfriend, Lo he also received his Ordre pour le Mérite while on leave. He read in the newspaper that on April 21, von Richthofen was killed.

The End

By late May, 1918, Udet was back at the front, in command of Jagdstaffel 4. One day he got a little careless and was shot down by the gunner in a two-seater. He took to his parachute, which briefly tangled in his Fokker's tail. It shook loose Udet dropped uninjured into no-man's-land and made his way back to his staffel that same day.

By this time, the Allied air forces vastly outnumbered the Germans. Udet later wrote, "The French fly only in large units, fifty, sometimes a hundred aircraft. They darken the skies like locusts. . When one of our aircraft rises, five go up on the other side. And when one of theirs comes down near us, we fall on him and strip him bare, because we have long run out of such fine instruments, shining with nickel and brass." Gasoline was also in short supply. On the ground, Allied tanks and American manpower finally broke through the stalemated trench warfare. But for Ernst Udet and the crack pilots of the Richthofen group, hunting was good. In June, he shot down 12 planes, raising his total score to 36. In July, another 4, for a total of 40. And in August, Udet brought down 20 airplanes, for 60 altogether.

He usually flew a Fokker D.VII, with his girlfriend's name, "Lo," painted on the fuselage, and on the tail, the words "Du doch nicht!!" Literally translated as "Not you," but more idiomatically as "You and who else?"

One evening he went up after a pair of Sopwith Camels that were dropping leaflets over the German trenches. As they looped and twisted, Udet's Fokker D.VII skimmed over his opponent's upper wing, loosening it enough to bring down the airplane. Ernst visited the pilot in the hospital, a young Canadian named Roscoe Turner, later a famous racing pilot in the Thirties, whom Udet met 15 years later at a Los Angeles flying meet.

The end came quickly. Goering took over as CO of the Richthofen group Oberleutnant Udet claimed two more victories, totalling sixty-two overall. When the Armistice came, the war was over and fighter pilots were no longer in great demand.

Between the Wars

Ernst Udet struggled to make a living in the early 1920's, as did most people in inflation-ravaged Germany. He built airplanes for a while. He raced, traveling to the United States and Argentina for air shows. He helped make exotic movies, traveling to Africa and the Artic, piloting camera planes.

Ernst Udet

Ernst Udetin isä Adolf Udet oli ammatiltaan insinööri ja hänen äitinsä oli nimeltään Paula Udet. Pian Ernstin syntymän jälkeen perhe muutti Frankfurtista Müncheniin. Ernst innostui ilmailusta käydessään eräässä ilmailunäyttelyssä ja yhdessä tovereidensa kanssa hän perusti klubin nimeltään ”Aero-Club München”. Klubin toiminta keskittyi lentokoneiden pienoismallien rakentamiseen.

Suurien ponnistusten jälkeen Ernst saa suoritetuksi keskiasteen tutkinnon. Hänen isänsä palkitsi hänet tämän ansiosta uudella moottoripyörällä.

Elokuussa 1914, ensimmäisen maailmansodan syttymisen jälkeen, hän ilmoittautui vapaaehtoisena palvelukseen. Ernst todettiin aluksi liian pienikokoiseksi, mutta oman moottoripyörän omistajana hänet lopulta päästettiin moottoripyörälähetiksi länsirintamalle. Maavoimat kuitenkin irtisanoivat sopimukset vapaaehtoisten moottoripyörälähettien kanssa. Udet kouluttautui eräässä yksityisessä müncheniläisessa lentokoulussa lentäjäksi omalla kustannuksellaan. Kesäkuussa 1915 Udet palasi palvelukseen lentäjänä.

Maaliskuussa 1916 hän saavutti kersanttina (Vizefeldwebel) ensimmäisen ilmavoittonsa, minkä vuoksi hänelle myönnetään 1. luokan rautaristi. Manfred von Richthofen kutsui Udetin huhtikuussa 1918 hävittäjälentueeseensa.

Menestyksesta ilmasodassa Udet palkittiin korkealla Pour le Mérite -kunniamerkillä. Von Richthofenin kuoltua Udet otti tilapäisesti hänen paikkansa komentajana.

Vastoin hänen toiveitaan hävittäjälentueen uudeksi komentajaksi nimitettiin Hermann Göring.

Udet siirtyi reserviin sotilasarvonaan yliluutnantti (Oberleutnant der Reserve). 62 ilmavoitollaan Udet oli menestyksekkäin ensimmäisen maailmansodan eloonjäänyt saksalainen hävittäjälentäjä. Udet saavutti Saksan kansan keskuudessa lentäjäsankarin maineen. Udet meni samana vuonna naimisiin Lo Zinkin kanssa.

1920-luvun vaihteessa Udet ansaitsi elantonsa lentonäytöksissä, jotka Versailles’n rauhansopimuksen takia olivat hyvin rajoitettuja. Lokakuussa 1922 Udet perusti Müncheniin lentokoneita valmistavan yrityksen nimeltä ”Udet-Flugzeugbau” huolimatta siitä, että lentokoneiden valmistus oli rauhansopimuksen nojalla kielletty Saksassa.

Yritys kehitti lentokoneita armeijan (Reichswehr) salaisella tuella. Vuonna 1923 Udet erosi vaimostaan.

Suuresti velkaantunut yritys sai vihdoinkin taloudellista menestystä U12 ”Flamingo” -lentokonetyypillä, josta tuli tehtaan suosituin malli. Udet kyllästyi lentokonerakennukseen ja erosi firmasta. Hän alkoi tehdä taitolentonäytöksiä ”Flamingo”-koneellaan.

Hänen lentoshownsa uskaliaine temppuineen sai kymmeniä tuhansia ihmisiä yleisökseen, ja näytöksistä tuli kassamagneetteja. Udet saavutti kansainvälistä kuuluisuutta. Lentotaitojensa, hillitömän yksityiselämän ja alkoholipitoisten juhlien seurauksena Udetista tuli Weimarin tasavallan värikkäimpiä persoonia. Vaikka Udet ansaitsi hyvin lentonäytöksillään, hänen elämäntyylinsä piti hänet velkaantuneena.

Udet esiintyi useissa vuoristoon ja jäätiköille sijoittuneissa elokuvissa. Näitä olivat esimerkiksi Die weisse Hölle von Piz Palü (1929), Stürme über dem Mont Blanc (1930) ja SOS Eisberg (1933). Hän näytteli yleensä hullunrohkeaa lentäjää. Elokuvista tuli menestyksiä. Udet onnistui saamaan nykyisen Tansanian alueella loistavia eläinkuvia seikkailuelokuvaan Fremde Vögel über Afrika.

Yhdysvalloissa käydessään Udet ihastui Curtiss Hawk -lentokoneeseen, jolla on hyvät syöksyominaisuudet. Kone oli kuitenkin Udetille aivan liian kallis hankittavaksi.

Udet, joka omasta mielestään oli täysin epäpoliittinen, suhtautui kansallissosialistien valtaannousuun välinpitämättömästi. Kansallissosialistit olivat kuitenkin kiinnostuneita korkein kunniamerkein palkitusta sotasankarista ja taitolentäjästä. Göring värväsi hänet riveihinsä ja Udet liittyi 1. toukokuuta 1933 kansallissosialistiseen puolueeseen. Valtakunnan ilmailuministerinä Göring hankki Udetille kaksi kappaletta Curtiss Hawk -koneita. Uusilla koneillaan Udet kiersi puolueen kokouksia ja levitti kansallissosialistista propagandaa. Vuonna 1935 Udet esiintyi viimeisessä elokuvassaan Wunder des Fliegens. 1. kesäkuuta 1935 Udet liittyi uudelleen perustettuihin ilmavoimiin (Luftwaffe) everstinä (Oberst), jossa hän lopulta eteni kenraalieverstiksi (Generaloberst). Samana vuonna julkaistiin hänen omaelämäkerta Mein Fliegerleben. Vuonna 1936 Udetista tuli hävittäjä- ja syöksypommittajalentäjien tarkastaja. Kesäkuussa Göring nimitti hänet teknillisen toimiston päälliköksi. Tässä toimessa Udet oli vastuussa Luftwaffen teknisestä kehityksestä ja tuotannosta.

Vuonna 1938 Udet rikkoi maailmanennätyksen lentämällä Heinkel He 100 -koneella 634,32 km/h. 1. helmikuuta Göring nimitti Udetin ”Generalluftzeugmeisteriksi”. Udet palkittiin rautaristin ritariristillä lännen sotaretken johdosta. Udet toi syöksypommittajaidean Yhdysvaltain ilmavoimilta, jotka olivat sen kehittäneet 20-luvulla ja oli ajanut tehokkaasti syöksypommittajien (Ju 87, Stuka) kehittämistä ja tuotantoa. Stukat osoittautuivat menestyksekkäiksi jo Espanjan sisällissodassa. Kun Luftwaffe hävisi taistelun Britanniasta, ja Göring sekä Adolf Hitler vierittivät syyn Udetin niskoille, koska hän oli jarruttanut pitkän matkan pommittajien tuotantoa. Udet turvautui yhä useammin alkoholiin ja hänen fyysinen ja psyykkinen terveytensä heikentyi.

Kun Luftwaffe epäonnistui sodan Neuvostoliittoa vastaan alettua, syntipukiksi saatiin jälleen Udet. 17. marraskuuta 1941 Udet teki itsemurhan.

Kansallissosialistinen hallinto kertoi Udetin menehtyneen onnettomuudessa koelennon yhteydessä.

Who's Who - Ernst Udet

Ernst Udet (1896-1941) was a German fighter ace who achieved 62 victories during World War One.

Udet entered the German Army in 1914 before becoming a fighter pilot with eventual command of 11th Fighter Squadron.

It is said that Udet found downing enemy Allied aircraft initially difficult. If so he quickly overcame his hesitation. He fought in Jastas 15, 37, 11 and 4 in amassing his final tally of 62 'kills'.

Ultimately forced out of active combat in late September 1918 on account of injuries sustained during action, he was (among Germans) second only to Manfred von Richthofen - the Red Baron - during wartime in terms of his success.

Unlike Richthofen however Udet survived the war, but not before becoming one of the first fighter pilots to successfully use an escape parachute in action. He is also reputed to have been the only fighter pilot to actually disable a tank.

Udet's post-war career saw him work initially as a stunt pilot and in movies before working energetically to recreate the Luftwaffe that played such a key role during the Second World War. He was appointed Colonel in 1935 and struck up a friendship with Hermann Goring. Goring eventually appointed Udet Director General of Equipment and then Head of the Office of Air Armament in February 1939, the latter with the rank of Major-General.

During the Second World War Udet favoured the production of dive bombers, along with medium bombers and fighters, these to the detriment of heavy bombers.

Udet's wartime success came to an abrupt end however in 1941. Accused by General Erhard Milch of bringing about the Luftwaffe's shortcomings as demonstrated during the Battle of Britain, and under fire from Goring himself, Udet - who had become critical of the Nazi regime - 'chose' to commit suicide.

Saturday, 22 August, 2009 Michael Duffy

German losses at Messines were 25,000, of which 7,500 were taken prisoner. British casualties were 17,000 killed or wounded.

- Did you know?

Ernst Udet - History

Almost everyone can tell you who was the highest ranking German ace during World War I, as the famous "Red Baron", AKA Manfred von Richthofen was probably the most widely known warrior from the "Great War". But who was number two will probably elicit shrugs and wrong answers from most individuals. His name was Ernst Udet and he earned 62 victories against the allied forces, second to only Richthofen. Udet was born in Frankfurt on 26 April, 1896 and proved at an early age a daredevil streak burned within as he used to enjoy jumping off the roof of his house with only an umbrella to act as his imaginary parachute. Little did he know that playful act might have helped save his life many years later when he was forced to parachute from his stricken aircraft. His first taste of the war was not in the air, but on the ground, serving as a motorcycle courier through the early stages of the war. Evidently, riding motorcycles was not thrilling enough for him, so he transferred into the German Air Service where he started his aerial career flying two-seat observation aircraft.

His career as a two-seater pilot came to an abrupt end when he stalled his aircraft in a shallow turn just after takeoff and crashed on the end of the runway as a complete wreck. His CO was infuriated at his carelessness and threw him in the base stockade for a week to think about his actions. Immediately upon his release, he took an unauthorized trip on a bombing mission to release his frustrations further irritating his CO. Frustrated by his recklessness and independent charge, the CO transferred him to a single seat Eindecker unit, where the only person he could kill while flying was himself. Thus the second highest-ranking German ace was on his way to becoming an eventual war hero.

The Kit

The kit is DML/Shanghai Dragon's 1:48 Fokker D.VII #5908-01. It is not currently in production, however kits can still be found with some searching. It is interesting to note that the kit is still listed as currently in production in Shanghai Dragon's 2000 catalog. An e-mail response indicated that they have no plans to re-issue the kit at this time, however if demand warrants they will reconsider another production run. That is a shame as this kit is one of the best Fokker D.VII models available. E-mails to [email protected] may be helpful to prod them to place this kit back into production. This is a multi-media kit featuring injected molded plastic parts (42 parts), two P/E sheets (16 items), stainless steel wire for rigging, a 1:12 scale bust of Ernst Udet, and lozenge decals (although they are not in the correct colors). The instruction sheet is an eight-page diagram assembly with marked color painting guidelines.


The first job up was to pre-paint all the parts as indicated in the instructions. Interior fuselage walls were painted a dark olive. Assembly of the fuselage components was accomplished using super-thin superglue. Assembly proceeded as described in the instructions, with no major problems. The engine was next as I painted it flat black and then drybrushed Metalizer Aluminum on the cylinder heads and crankcase cover and assembled the components as indicated. I wrapped the engine assembly in Parafilm and then glued it to the engine mounts.

I then closed up the fuselage with liquid cement. Next, I glued with liquid cement the tail fin, horizontal stabilizer, and lower wing to the fuselage. All joins were then sanded smooth, and no putty was required for gap filling. Then I drilled and dry-fitted all of the rigging, strut, and landing gear mounting holes to assist in final assembly as nothing is more frustrating as trying to get these pieces together with a fragile biplane. Next stop was the paint shop.

Painting and Decals

There is some controversy in the modeling community as to exactly how Udets "Candy Striped" D.VII looks. This stems from the fact that only one photo is known of this specific plane and it doesn't show the whole aircraft. I chose to ignore these controversies and model the aircraft pretty much as indicated in the painting instructions with the only exception being that I painted the landing gear airfoil instead of using the lozenge decal.

The first order of business was to airbrush the entire aircraft and top wing in Polly Scale White RLM21. After letting the paint dry overnight, I masked off all the portions that were to remain white including the "Candy Striped" top wing. I measured (in scale) the width of the stripes and they were exactly 5mm in width. I applied the tape strips over the entire wing (to maintain correct spacing) and then removed every other strip. Next I shot multiple coats of Gunze Sangyo Red Madder (H86) over the fuselage and wing. After letting it dry for a few hours, I carefully removed all the masking tape and went on vacation for a week! The timing of my vacation was fortuitous as gloss Gunze paints take forever to fully cure and this way I would not be tempted to finish the model before it was fully cured and mar the finish (been there, done that!).

The first order of business after vacation was to prepare the surface for decals and a light coat of Future was airbrushed on. The kit decals are adequate, but the lozenge decals are printed in incorrect colors so I substituted Americal Four Color Lozenge and German Rib Tapes. Some of the white decals are ivory (as opposed to white) but I used them any ways. In addition, some of the German Crosses were only printed in white (instead of black) so I rummaged through my decal stash and found some acceptable substitutes. All of the decals went on smoothly and responded very well to MicroSol decal solution. After drying overnight, I wiped the decals off with a moist cloth with Pollys Plastic Prep to remove any residue and after drying I shot a light coat of Future over the decals to seal them. To provide a modest amount of weathering and to highlight the detailed engraving, a light wash of burnt umber was applied.

Final Assembly

Now it was time to assemble the machine guns as shown in the instructions. Even though I annealed the P/E jackets I still had a devil of a time getting them into a circular shape using the wonderful circular tool provided. I painted the machine guns in Testor Metalizer Gun Metal and dry brushed with Floquil Gun Metal and then superglued them to the top of the fuselage.

I installed the interplane and cabane struts into place with superglue and calipers to set the correct distances and angles using the top wing as a guide. I used small rubber bands to help hold both wings in place and then checked alignment of the top to bottom wing. When all was to my liking, I superglued the struts to the wing.

Now on to the landing gear! I pushed the pinned legs of the landing gear into the airfoil and set the approximate width of the landing gear sockets. After carefully aligning everything I glued it in place. Lastly I install the painted wheels into place on the axle with superglue, and the tailskid. I carefully installed the propeller with superglue.

I install all the remaining pieces as indicated in the instructions and rigged the model as indicated on the instruction sheet with the supplied stainless steel wire. Words of caution: use the dimensions printed on the instruction sheet to size the rigging wires and not the little blue lines (which are supposed to be the correct length-but arent!). Finally, several coats of Polly S Satin Finish was shot to achieve the semi-gloss finish common to most WWI aircraft.


I have built many models of Shanghai Dragon WW II aircraft and have been generally disappointed in their accuracy and quality of fit. However, the WW I Knights of the Sky Series are in my opinion, among the best detailed WW I model kits available today without the fit problems experienced in their WW 2 series. They represent a very good value for approximately $20 and build up into an impressive model with their highly detailed engraving and photo-etch parts. A minor drawback is that they are currently difficult to find a situation that will hopefully become better if Shanghai Dragon would commit to production of this series during 2000 (send those e-mails!).

This is an excellent model of an important WW I aircraft. The accuracy and level of detail engraved in the kit is outstanding and no after-market sets are really needed for a beautiful build. I highly recommend this kit for all levels of builders including beginners and I enjoyed the building of this model. The kit is easy to build and a joy to look at when finished!

Tag Archives: Ernst Udet

New location, same format. As part of my relentless categorising the Fun Friday Facts have moved to become part of the larger History section. They can now be found under the Second World War heading. And now to business…

Colonel-General Ernst Udet, chief technical director of the German air force (1941) had a diet that consisted exclusively of meat.

Interesting. You will, of course, remember Udet from his dashing exploits in the First World War, where he was a great German air-ace, second only to Manfred von Richthofen, the legendary Red Baron in terms of victories (62 to 80). He was a gouty buffoon of a man. His peculiar dining habits left him in chronic ill health for large periods at a time that was critical for German operations in the Eastern Front. The Luftwaffe’s technological superiority of the early war years had faded away in the wake of Russian air reforms in 1941. It badly need to reinvent its image. But, whatever his past glories, Udet was singularly unqualified for the job. Indeed his only contribution to air force development was to insist that all bomber aircraft, even the large, four-engined craft, should have a dive bombing capability. This pointless and taxing demand, which was subsequently abandoned after a great deal of time and effort and vast sums of money, set German bomber development years behind that of the Allies.

Eventually the strains of his office overwhelmed the beleaguered man and on 17 November 1941, with a courage bought by two bottles of brandy coursing through his meat-clogged veins, Udet shot himself in the head. But by this point it was too late. The prospect of developing German air strategy with long-range bombing and enhanced battlefield firepower evaporated. Priority switched to defending the Reich against the Anglo-American bombing campaigns, (see they did do something!). Air superiority on the Eastern front passed to the Russians. It was never recovered.

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