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Günther Rall

Quick index:
[ Günther Rall's lecture | The early war | War in the east | Back to Germany | Questions and Answers | Short private interview | Background of the visit | Photo report and private interview 2 | Credits]

Finnish Virtual Pilots Association - Günther Rall. Photo: the Association. The 275 victory ace, Günther Rall, visited Finland in June 2003 and gave lectures about his career during the war and during the post war years in newly born Luftwaffe and NATO.

The lecture by Günther Rall was arranged by the Aviation Museum Society, Finland.

Mr. Rall has given permission to the Finnish Virtual Pilots Association to publish the lecture in print and as video. The video is not yet published.

Recording: Jukka O. Kauppinen "Grendel
Tape transcription: Eric Kent, Kev "Kokpit" Gregory and Brendan Bayne.
Proofreading and editing: Jukka O. Kauppinen
Corrections: Erick Sart, Raimo Malkamäki
Photos: Jukka Kauppinen aka Grendel, Pentti "Buffalo" Kurkinen, Erkki "Eni" Nieminen, Riku "Panzzer" Vaskuu, Matti "My" Yrjölä

More information about mr. Rall and his private interview can be read from our photo report: Günther Rall, Luftwaffe ace in Finland June 2003.

Quick look at mr. Rall:

  • Joined the German army 1936
  • Joined the Air Force 1938
  • 275 aerial victories, 272 in east
  • Joined Bundesluftwaffe 1956, trained in the USA to jets, F-84 and F-104
  • Jagdbombergeschwader 34 commander
  • NATO Defence College
  • Brigadier General 1966
  • Commander of German Air Force 1970-1974
  • German military attache of NATO, 1974-1975
His story spans a childhood in a defeated country, two world wars, the calamity of the Nazi regime, the Cold War, the jet age, his distinguished service as a NATO military representative, his work with the US Air Force, and chief of the new German Air Force. In civilian life Rall has been one of the most sought-after military consultants and advisors by international agencies, ministries of defense, and multinational corporations.
This is Work In Progress version of the article.

There are place names, person names and various other things which are unclear to the author. If you are willing you can download the MP3 sound files and try to find out what mr. Rall said. All scrambled or non-clear parts are marked with "## timestamp part number", which makes it easy to find them. Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4.

Please use the Feedback-system for corrections. Thanks a lot!

Günther Rall's lecture

I didn't know what the speaker said, but I hope it's true!

I'm very pleased, very honored, to be here in Finland.  This is the first time. I was in Norway, was in Sweden, as a pilot, but never in Finland.  But now I made it, and I'm very happy and I'm very grateful for that.

The talk today is about a time that's about fifty years ago, and we are focused on the World War II which was for us a catastrophe, but anyway.... We young generation were challenged like never before, and I think like never after that.  

I will tell you the highlights of the period over five and a half years, and later on, my career also in the new German Air Force when I had the pleasure to fly some very interesting aircraft.  But I think more vividly will be when we are finished and you and me start a question and answer period, and then we can concentrate on the things you are interested in.

Okay, I joined the army as a cadet in 1936.  I wanted to become an officer. And after the officer's examinations after one and half years, and a promotion to Lieutenant, I switched to the Air Force because I found my passion was on the aviation side, not on the marching.  Flying was much better and certainly I wanted to be a fighter pilot.  

You know in those days the Air Force, newly built air force, didn't have enough capacity to train their cadets, so they took cadets from the officers, lieutenants, from the army and from the navy into the Air Force.

And I made my wings in Neubiberg, near Münich; it took one year.  And then I went to the fighter school near Berlin, north east of Berlin, with in those days famous instructor pilots like Galland, Trautloft, Luetzow... All in the German Air Force, famous people.  And when I had finished, I was transferred to the Wing 52 (JG52) down near Stuttgart, Boeblingen and the war started... right there when I was finished and a trained fighter pilot.

The outbreak of war was, you know, after 20 years after World War I, was quite a shock for the German people.  There was no enthusiasm.  But, there was war.  But we, as young pilots and young officers certainly were challenged, and we wanted to do our duty according our code of honor.  


The early war

Finnish Virtual Pilots Association - Günther Rall. Photo: the Association. At the beginning, the wing was equipped then with a Me 109 E.  You know, this was the last model with the square wings-- wing tips, struts and a 603 engine.  What we didn't, this is still a question to me, in the fighter school up in Werneuchen near Berlin, we still were trained on Arado 68, the biplanes, and we still flew 3-ship formations, close formations, which was already obsolete.  

In the Spanish Civil War, the famous Moelders and Luetzow, they developed the 4-ship formation which was much more flexible, you know.  The leader, we have two what we call Rotten.  4 were the Schwarm, and 2 Rotten.  You could turn every way, you know, not in this stay-on-the-same-side close formation, but you are flexible.  This tactic was adopted for all the air forces during the war, even the Russians.  It took time, then we all changed to the 4-ship formations which was a very flexible formation in the air.

At the early days of the war, you know, this was what the French called the "drole de guerre" a False War, because we flew the Rhine really up and down on the eastern side, and the French on the Western side, but never crossed, because no one was sure is it really coming to a really hot war. It changed in May '40, when the Germans invaded France. From there it was clear what was going on.  

There I had my first contact, my first victory.  We had the order to pick my squadron.  I was a leader of the second Schwarm.  A squadron had 12 airplanes which means 3 Schwarms. 3 times 4:   4, 4, 4.  I had the second Schwarm.  And we have to pick up a Heinkel 111.  It came from the area of Nancy and we had to pick her up and give her, escort her safely back home.

When we approached this area I saw already 10 spots in the air.  And this was 10 P-36s (Curtiss Hawk 75): French Air Force.  French Air Force in those days was not well equipped and didn't have masses of airplanes. They had to buy American airplanes; and they bought the P-36 as a fighter.  

So, we got engaged. You know, the first contact, it is a very exciting thing.  You are concentrated [sic], but you are excited, also. And, as a second Schwarm, I came down on their second element.  And we started turning very roughly and dogfighting.  

And there I discovered the first thing you have to consider in a 109.  The 109 had slots.  The slot had a purpose to increase the lift during takeoff and landing.  In the air automatically it's pressed to the main wing.  And if you turn very roughly you got a chance, it's just by power, the wing, the forewing, comes out a little bit, and you snap.  This happened to me. I released the stick immediately and it was ok then.  

And in this dogfight I got my first hit.  This French plane caught fire, American plane from a French wing, caught fire.  And right when I was behind him, and the <puff> big flame, I got hit.  And you hear that, you know, the bullets: bang, bang.  So it was a confusing thing, the first dogfight.

And, due to fuel shortage we both broke up; French back home.  They lost 3. We lost 1. And we back to Germany.

Finnish Virtual Pilots Association - Günther Rall. Photo: the Association. I always said this is, in a first contact, psychologically, (it's) good to be a winner.  This gives you self-confidence.  And if you are hit, it gives you a warning:  The next time you could be that one who is shot down.  And these both psychological impressions gave me throughout the war, this is a main thing: you are confident that you are going to make it. If not, stop it, and pay attention.  You could be the one, not the other one.

During the war in France things happen; I don't elaborate on this.  After the battle over France we were pulled out, trained on sea navigation, what we called in those days dead reckoning, you know, with heading, time and speed. This was the only navigation system you had.  You had your airspeed indicator.  You had your "Horizont", compass and the time.

And then we were transferred to near Calais: Coquelles.  You know in those days there was not sure whether the German High Staff had a plan to invade Great Britain.  They didn't for Christ's sake.  It would be a catastrophe, those days.  Because you know, we discovered now, at the Battle against England, the Battle of Britain, we were short in fuel like the British were; but they were over their homeland.

We could just reach from Calais, as fighters, London. And we stayed 5 minutes over London and then we have to fly back.  If there would be a bigger air operation with bombers flying into the islands, the British islands, they would have to fly without escort up from London.  And this would be a deadly operation.

We are now faced with Hurricanes, with Spitfires, and this was a different quality - a different quality in equipment and a different quality in leadership from the British.  You know, they had a very good system to direct their fighters according the threat they have to face.  

And we were young, untrained, unexperienced group and had this silly task to escort Ju-87s.  You know, Ju-87s is a dive bomber, a Stuka; heavy, slow in speed and if it carries a bomb it's even slower. And so we had strict order to stay with them close.  This means we had to go down to the speed of a Ju-87 which gives up, gets rid of all of our advantages.  So we stalled over the British Channel and the Spitfires just waited upstairs and shot us down.  And, we lost a lot of pilots: my squadron commander, my group commander and some others.  And all of a sudden I was, with 20 years, 22 years, a squadron leader from the 8th squadron.

And this gives me the rule: a fighter has to have freedom in the air to select his position.  Only can he decide.  And how he fights is up to him. You cannot order from the ground "you stay there and do this and this."  The situation changes and it's up to the qualified fighter pilots to find the right position, and a matter of experience how to target it. It was a good lecture, but a very painful lecture we got at the British Channel.  

After a while, we went back and got new pilots, new airplanes and then we were transferred down to Neusiedl am See, that's in Austria.  We just waited one week, and then the order came to go to Romania.  You know, Romania has a lot of oil in the Carpathian Mountains and we had to protect this oil industry and towers. Konstanza was the oil harbor, the big very important oil harbor of Romania, and the bridges over the Danube river into Bulgaria, because there were already plans for an aggression towards Bulgaria, towards Greece, because the Italians had some problems storming Greece and they asked for help.  

During this time we trained also Romanian fighter pilots who had also the 109 as an aircraft.  It didn't take very long.  

The war started down to Greece, Crete island. We were transferred down to Athens and then to the south Peloponnesus, Molaoi, a very small village at the south edge of the Peloponnesus.  

And the war against Crete island started.  And Crete island was a horrible thing.  First thing, the, you know, the attack forces were parachuters, German parachuters and German mountaineers.  One came with the ships, the other ones by airplane, and the thing was the whole operation was known to the New Zealanders who covered and occupied Crete island in those days. The parachuters bailed out too high, at 800 meters, which means the parachuters are hanging too long and they were shot down.  They lost all the officers and there was one medical officer when he took over the command.  

The place, the landing strip was Malemes.  And we went to Malemes, and there was not a big air battle. There was air-to-ground mainly.   And we had some problems because these Germans troops had to be supported logistically.  And weapons and ammunition was dropped in containers from airplanes.  And they were, they had a round swastika flag as a national forward line.  And many, many of those containers were dropped just into the New Zealanders and they took up the swastika flag.  And we came down,  high speed at 30, 40 meters; we couldn't identify who's who!  This was our big problem; it was solved later on.  Crete [Kreta] was at the edge.  But they made it.  

And when Crete was finished we went back to Romania, and there we got a new airplane. It was the 109 F.  This was my beloved aircraft.  It was the first aircraft with the round wing tips, no struts in the back, 605 engine (ed. DB 601), excellent, and not too overloaded.  You know, later on they put in this, and put in this, and put in this.  The aircraft became heavier, but not this one.  The F was my ideal aircraft.  

And it had a very good weapon set.  We had a 20 millimeter gun through the propellor, and two 15 millimeters (actually 2 x 7,92 mms) on top of the engine.  It was enough.


War in the east

And we trained and we recognized that we'd been getting more and more army forces.  And we asked "what the hell is going on here?" So we go to war against Russia.  This was a shock for us.  We hadn't completed the war in the west and they opened a new front without any deep knowledge. Thing of Napoleon, you know.  You have a space you cannot cover with this number of troops.  This is impossible.

Again, we know how the war started.  And in the evening I got the order to take with my squadron, I was squadron leader of the 8th squadron down to Mamaia.  Mamaia was on the Black Sea, north of Konstanza.  Today it's a big beach, bar, and recreation center.  In those days it was just a plain lawn with one hangar, and nobody there - no radar, no telephone, no nothing.

I landed with my squadron.  Nothing was there.  Then a flak commander got the order to pick me up from Konstanza. He gave me an introduction to sea and the front line.  And we didn't have radar and no warning; so we said okay.  In the morning at dawn two aircraft out 6000 meters over the Black Sea. The target must be Konstanza for the Russians, nothing else.  And all the others in the squadron are in alert, cockpit alert: turn on the radio on the same frequency and they'd report. They didn't take very long to come.  

We took off, 6000 meters, and we just hit the DB-3 - without escort. Again, it's an example: a bomber without escort by fighters, it's a deadly operation. And the Russians lost within two weeks, I don't know, 25, 30 bombers, and that was the end. They never came.  Certainly we also had losses.

And there we discovered one thing: one NCO of my squadron - a very fine man who got killed later on in the war; he was shot at 6000 meters and he bailed out. And in this hazy area you don't see the horizon.  And when he comes down in the parachute he really doesn't know how high he is.  And he thought, it's about time to get released.  He released the parachute and fell down 60 meters into the sea.  

What we did later on when we were over sea if you have to bail out, get down, take you boots and drop them, and we you see the impact on the sea. Then you know how high you are. But, you must have the experience.   

And after this, for the Russians, very very serious operation...  We were out on the sea, 3 Pe-2 came low over the Carpathian mountains. They couldn't be discovered by radar and they attacked the base from the west.  We were out to the east over the Black Sea.  And aircraft out there for maintenance, etc, (the Russians) destroyed them. And we had the loss of 40 mechanics and one of  the top mechanics, a very, very fine Viennese. He got killed. It was very bad for the squadron.   
When this operation was finished we came in to Russia to a big tank battle at Kiev.  We're stationed at Biala Zerkow; Biala Zerkow is today Ukraine, south of Kiev, and there I got my first shot down.  We had, again, to escort Ju-87s.  This was a big tank battle south of Kiev - many Russian tanks, many German tanks, a deadly operation. And we had to escort down the Ju-87 because when they pulled up, right there the Russian fighters came in.  And when they were coming we went down and shot.  

And my, what we call Kaczmarek, my wingman called: "You got smoke!" "Ach..." In other words I was hit in, from the ground, attacked from the ground, the flak, anti-aircraft, in the oil cooler. You know, right in the middle of the fuselage, underneath the engine, there's the oil cooler.  And then the oil comes out and just by the wind it's blown like a film over the engine and over your windshield.  You don't see anything.  It's a black film coming out.

My wingman told me, I was side by side - look at this, as I, you cannot get out here, there we are dead men, you know.  Down there - there's the hell. I want to cross the Dnepr river, but I was not very high. I was about three, four hundred meters high because we went down with the Stuka.  And I didn't know if there is a forward front line for the Germans or whatever this, I don't know.... Beyond the river it's much safer, but there was the woods.

To make the long story short, I was happy enough; I just got a cut in the wood.  And I made a belly landing, a very rough one, you know, with this cut. I slipped down and I didn't know what's going on here.  Out, hiding behind a tree, and all of a sudden artillery, Woomp!

I said, by golly, those are the Russians. Then I went from tree to tree and all of a sudden in the distance of 20-30 meters there was a soldier man: brown leather coat, hat, red star, boy!  But I think, as he approaches, I'd better think, approaching friendly, go to him.  And I went to him and what was it? It was a Slovakian officer.  They had a similar uniform with the red army but the Slovakians were on our side. So it ended happily.

From there on we fought down... I mean this was my first shot down; it happened eight times and different results.  But I will touch this a little bit later.  

From there on we flew over the Dnepr river, Dnepropetrowsk, down to the (##UNCLEAR place name tape 1) desert. That's north of the Crimean [Krim] peninsula.  And the Crimean peninsula, you know has an access, it's a very small land bridge. And there's a Tartar ditch, "Tartar Damm," which was a focus point for battles since centuries when the Tartans were still there and fought the Russians.  

Moelders was there. And Moelders was, in those days, the General for Fighters.  And he was not allowed anymore to fly personally because he was highly decorated already, and he was the leader. I found out this was the first time, we would today say: a Forward Air Controller.  He started with a Storch at dawn, the morning, down there and direct it because all the operations concentrated over this small land bridge.  There was a hell of a battle in the air, on the ground.  

Finally we broke through, down.... And then we were pulled out, my group, to the east to the  (##UNCLEAR place name tape 1) area, this was between Taganrog and Rostow.  And there....  

Before that, we went up to Poltawa and Belaja Zerkow and Charkow . And you know, we lived in tents. I come to this later: the psychological effect on a unit who is always moving, living in tents - or the other ones, like in France flying in England; and they have in the evening their white beds.  They have their sleeping room. They have the officers' mess.  This is a different situation.  

And now when we were in Poltawa, in Charkow, and then in Taganrog, the winter started.  And, you know, the Germans were not prepared for the winter.

Our mechanics didn't have overalls because we had to face temperatures down to -30 and -35 degrees.  They worked in the open air with the tools, iron, frozen hand. It was awful and the most illegal thing was certainly the starting system of the 109.  The 109, it has to be cranked up.  The pilot was sitting in the cockpit on the right side of the mechanic and he cranked the machine and then chu chu chu out (engine starts).  

But at -30 degrees you never get an engine running.  So we make open fire underneath, what the hell, to overcome this.  It was a big, big problem. Certainly, there was a modification that we had because of every starting system.  After the last mission in the day in the cockpit, engine running, we had a switch that pumped fuel in the lubrication line so we got the lubrication filled and we could start the engine.  This helped quite a bit.  Later on we got cover underneath, but this was later.  

But first experience was serious and dangerous.  The first time I was hit, this was between Taganrog and Rostov, about one afternoon, you know we're still on German time.  This means at 2:30 it's almost dark.  I flew a fighter sweep with my wingman and we hit two Yaks. We had a ceiling which was about 400 meters, down there snow and desert, nothing plain. I came in and I got the first one of these Russian pilots and he was in flames. It was already almost dark and was blinded.  And this very moment, his second came and shot me and the engine was rip billowing, nothing happened anymore. It was on the Russian side so I tried to get as far as I could to the west.  And I saw exactly in landing direction, what we call in Russia, a baikal. It's a little canyon about 40-50 meters deep and it was just across my landing direction. And I couldn't turn.  I was about 50-60 meters, low speed, no power.  But I got in, pulled it out, stalled and the only thing I saw the opposite wall came against me and bang I was out.  My wingman circled around. German tanks were in the neighborhood and they saw it also and picked me up.  

It was a complete wreckage.  There was no wing, no nothing anymore, just the body.  And luckily, the engine was thrown about 40 meters in the air, so no fire.  They told me that the soldiers came.  They couldn't open the canopy.  They opened it with a file and a fork, pulled me out.  Much later at night I came in a truck to consciousness and I had awful pains.  I was taken to the first medical care at night which was awful.  I was taken away.  I couldn't move and I was paralyzed.  They took me after a while, there was no x-ray, no nothing.  The Germans were in retreat.  They took me by Ju-52 to Bucharest in Romania.  This was a normal peace time hospital where I was taken to x-ray.  And the doctor came and said Lt. you've broken your back 3 times in 3 places, forget flying.  I waited a minute and said, "Doctor I will fly."  I got an extension cast and after awhile I was taken to Vienna with the Red Cross train. There I came to the hospital. I got a peaceful treatment, by the way, the doctor became my wife. I was 5 months in this extension cast.

It took about 8 months until I could return to my squadron.  I came there and just started before the attack started.  Before that I checked myself. I had a friend in Vienna when I was in the hospital.  He was a commander of a fighter school.  I said I wanted to check myself.  He said, "come, get an airplane."  I got there and got a Bücker Jungmeister.  You know Jungmeister is the acrobatic bi-plane, beautiful.  I made loops and turns to check the G forces, what the G forces have impact on my back.  Some pains, but anyway.  So I went back to my wing.  And then we got an introduction to frontline.  We flew a 109.  From there on I had a special arrangement. I had some cushions pumped up here and there so I could sit.  I was always identified by my squadron because I was always sitting a little bit forward than the other ones.  Then the things started down in the Caucasus.

But what was interesting, was our lawn.  You know we selected lawn.  There was no airfield.  There the prospect rivals came from the clans, Caucasians, Chezhens.  They came to us to the base and said we want to fight with you against the Soviets, not the Russians, the Soviets.  And this they did.  They went to the army.  They marched with the army until the dead end of the war.  These poor guys you know.  The Russians killed them all.  

I had these great experiences with the new, you know the Russians had a lend lease contract with the western allies to get airplanes.  And one day I shot down, made my report, a Spitfire.  The reports were sent to the division.  In the evening I got a call from the division was in Kertsch, are you crazy, Spitfire is in the west.  I said wait a minute tomorrow. And tomorrow we had 20 Spitfires in the air over this battle over Kinsakaya.  This was also a big tank battle.  From there on we recognized the lend lease results.  You had Spitfires, Airacobras, B-25 bombers.  One third of the Russian Air Force in Caucasus were Anglo-American origin.  

You know the whole army  was retreating into the north, supported Stalingrad again at temperatures -35 degrees.  From Stalingrad, we were pulled out, got new airplanes, the Gustav (Bf 109 G). The first time all the pilots went back to Wiener Neustadt where they were produced in Austria and they came back with this brand new aircraft just to start again the battle in Taman, Krimskaya. From there we went down again to the Krym peninsula and flew on the Asian side, Taman, and on the remaining part of the peninsula down there.

Finnish Virtual Pilots Association - Günther Rall. Photo: the Association. It was very, very tough fighting.  I have to say that when we started the war the Russians had obsolete types as fighter types.  The main plane was the I-16, the Rata.  They had flown already in the Spanish Civil War.  The Rata was slow but tremendous maneuvering aircraft.  You never get in a dogfight on a Rata.  You come in and he comes straight at on you.  It doesn't make sense.  The technique is to get in and get out, but not turn around with Rata, that is senseless. They lost a lot of airplanes in the first period of the war.  But the Russians learned.  They came out after one year with the Yaks, the MiG, the LaGG  - modern types and in masses.  Their production was beyond the Ural.  Outside the reach of German bombers, they produced and produced and they came and formed special red banner guard regiments which were excellent.  They painted their aircraft from the propeller to the cap in red.  Red for velvet.  They were very, very serious opponents, no doubt.  

After Stalingrad, after getting new airplanes we went to the battle of Kursk.  You know in the meantime, I had some belly landings that were not that important.  We got the order to go to battle.  It was a big pocket battle of Kursk, south of Orel.   This was a very, very decisive battle.  The Russians knew that and just by incident they put a tank division in the area.  The Germans wanted to close from the north and south to hold their pocket.  The Russians broke in and also the Germans had to divert troops and they couldn't do that.  It was a very serious fight between tanks and certainly a big engagement of German fighters.  

There two things happened I'll never forget.  I was hit by a Russian fighter against cooler and I had to make a belly landing.  When I made the belly landing it was between the lines.  And everybody was shooting at me.  Ping, ping, ping.  And then a German tank came.  I'll never forget that.  It was a tank from the SS division.  It was in the south.  They picked me up and took me in the tank.  It was for me a lucky time.  

Then the next unforgettable event.  In the late afternoon, at that time I was already commander of the 3rd group to which the 8th squadron belonged.  The 3rd group was the 7th, 8th, 9th squadron of the wing 52 (JG52).  In the evening I flew a fighter sweep over the pocket at about 4000 meters.  The situation was in the east there was a tremendous cumulous cloud going up to 6000 meters.  In the west was the sun going down and it lit this cumulous like gold.  And I flew from the west to the east and against this cumulous I saw two spots and I turned my accelerator.  We called them Indians.  We approached, we approached and they didn't recognize that.  And I saw the silhouette and  couldn't see the color.  I saw this silhouette against this white cloud.  But I recognized he had a rotating engine and I knew two days before a group of  Focke-Wulf 190s was transferred in our area.  They flew there.  I never had seen a Focke-Wulf 190 until then in the air.  Certainly, I saw pictures, but not in the air.  I wondered if that could be a FW 190.  I approached that black, rotating engine, at overspeed.  I pulled off to the side and looked down.  Dark green, red star. If I would turn away, he  would chase me.  So the only choice was get down and I was about a 100 meters higher than he, get down, pull the trigger, get him. I pulled and stalled right, aim on that plane. I never forget that bang.  I came in like that, cut him off with my propeller, his right wing and he cut off my body (fuselage) with his propeller.  I was more lucky.  I still had two wings and my old body. He had one wing and with one wing you cannot fly. He  went down.  I made it back to my lawn, air base, and very carefully (started to land).  You know if you pull some G the tail comes off.  I knew that something must have happened down there.   I landed.  I saw about 1 meter or 1,50 meter split (hole in the fuselage), but I landed.  
After that, you know we had our fights.  You know from Kursk ownward, there was no forward operation, only a retreat.  Hitler declared correction of the frontline, retreat back.  Somebody could ask, did you still believe in a victory in those days.  I will tell you, we didn't think of that.  We think how we can get out of this.  There was still a hope of some political contacts, some solutions.  We had to fight as long as we were there and this went on and on.  I came down again and was ordered to Romania and was ordered again to Krimean peninsula.  This was the last fight.  Crimean peninsula was absolutely taken by the Russians.  And we had to get in and the last fight was west of Sevastopol. And I ordered a pair of 109s, only 1 mechanic.  I knew if we had to leave, we will be thrown out.  There's no doubt, but we can put the mechanics in the body of the airplane.  We took out the radio, put them in and we got all out safely over the Black Sea which is 400 kilometers to Romania.  

Back to Germany

There I got the order to take over as commander of the 2nd group in Germany against the Americans.  You know over Germany the Americans didn't come in the early days with fighter escort. They got the lesson at Schweinfurt with B17 and B24, because they came without fighters. And now they came with fighters.  The German fighters flew into the big bulk of the bombers.  But now the leaders felt we must have dogfight trained pilots (to fight) against the American fighters.  

Now the big difference, talking about the airplanes we confronted.  The Americans came in P-47 or P-38 or -P51.  Their engines flew 7 ½ hours with internal tank fuel, not external tank.  We, and all continental aircraft, including the Spitfires, all the French planes, flew 1 hour 20.  We had an external tank, but you had to drop the tank because it reduced mobility. This was a tremendous handicap against the Americans.  

Here, I want to tell you one last big, big fight was 12th May 1944.  In the morning, I got call from the division commander 15 minutes alert we expect a big bomb raid. Then it was 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, cockpit alert. He said when the forward escort fighters are in this and this area, we start.  This was in North Germany.  Underneath are two Focke Wulf 190's.  I am top cover with about 3000 meters on top with my fighter group against fighters. We went down, we saw the contrails, they came.  Near north of Frankfurt we got in contact with a P-47 group.  I went down right into the leader.  They covered the area always with 4, 4, 4, 4.  This was so called Hub Zemke's wolf pack.  Hub Zemke was a leader of this American fighter group and he developed this tactics to cover a wide air space with wolf pack.  

Finnish Virtual Pilots Association - Günther Rall. Photo: the Association. I came in and got to the leader of the wolf pack and got his left wing.  Flames you know.  With this tremendous amount of fuel you get a flame.  Then I cut to the right and I was hunted. Then they chased me.  I should tell you the numbers.  It was 800 4-engine bombers, B-17, B-24.  This is a parade of 2 hours.  They had cover of 1200 fighters from the Hartz mountains down to Stutgard.  Always in 4, 4 or other formations.  So it without chance.  Anyway, I was chased by  P-47.  I knew exactly that in a dive P-47 is much faster than 109.  And the P-47 has a much higher structural strength. They can go up to 1400 kilometers per hour. The 109, if you go to 1000, pull it up, you risk that the wings come off.  So I went down from that, bang, bang, bang.  I was chased by what we call line abreast, 4 p-47s.  And all that shooting here and all of a sudden bang. The left hand was on the throttle and came off and the thumb was off.  Finally, I managed.  This was a very traumatic thing, certainly.  I pull up, when I was down, to the stalling point.  The couldn't follow me because these P-47 wanted to fly back to England.  And I want to get rid of my airplane. I don't care for the airplane, I want to get out of this.  I managed that.  This was very difficult because I was hanging outside. I couldn't operate with this hand, nothing.  Finally it worked and I pulled the parachute way down and I came down safely and was hanging on a tree.  

I was in for quite a number of months again in the hospital because I got an infection from an American pilot, who also was shot down and in the same hospital as me and had an infection.  It took me time and when I came back I reported to my senior, Trautloft in those days, and said I wanted to take over my group. He said "you're crazy"  It was still open and the bone was out.  He said "you cannot do that you have to recover. Nix." I became for a certain time, commander of a fighter leader school. This was not that important.  

What was important was the German Air Force had a formation of captured aircraft restored.  They came for training to my fighter leader school.  Certainly, I only flew the P-51, P-47, P-38 as a target for my students.  So I learned these planes and I learned the advantages and disadvantages compared with the Focke-Wulf 190 and the 109.  And I still consider that altogether with all these factors that the P-51 was most  likely one of the best fighter planes.  This was maneuverable.  When I got in, the first thing, I got in the cockpit and I saw electric starting system.  I remember wank, wank in Russia (refers to the manual starter by mechanics).  Her (P-51) press button, prrrd, then we go (electrical starter, easy engine starter). Fantastic.  Beautiful sight (visibility).  We never had this sight to the back.. Very stable undercarriage. Very good weapons set. So I think this was a very good airplane. I flew it a few times, then I flew the P-47, then I discovered the speed difference, down, perfect. P-38.  And I flew the Spitfire.  The Spitfire was a fantastic airplane, but with a limited endurance like all the continental aircraft.  So this was a good lecture for me.  After that I became a wing commander of the Wing 300 (JG300).  This was at the end of the war in February 1945.  It was chaos. I don't talk about that anymore.

The main thing was where could we get fuel, you know.   Where could we get food for the mechanics?  Many German wings were already dissolved and all of a sudden I ended up near Salzburg where I'm living today in in Ainring. And there we dissolved the troops and before we said thanks, I said: "every mechanic who wants to get his box with all the instruments in it, take it home."
This is a new initiative for our existence.  The war was over.  It was a hard time.  I went to the industry.  I chased around.  And 56, before then I got a call. In the meantime my wife was a doctor.  She was a doctor at the Salem school, a very famous public school in Germany.   I got a call that I should have to come to the new German Air Force.  How do you think?  There was not a great enthusiasm after these experiences.  Finally, I was convinced.  We old timers have to do that.  Otherwise, we cannot belong in new German Air Force.  So I did.  We went with the first 15 pilots after the training in Germany to Luke AFB starting with F-84.  You know, funny enough, you know when we had starter pilots in Germany you start them with T-6 and T-33.  And then we went to the U.S. and these were all old timers from WWII.  
The first station was San Antonio, Texas and the next morning in the San Antonio newspaper was a big photograph with a P-51 in the middle, left was Hartmann and right was me. And a big headline was Göring's finest fly again.  We went to the journalistic and said we're on your side.  It was a beautiful time.  Went back, then I got the order for the F-104.  And I flew it for the firm with all the tests in Palmdale, California.  I loved this airplane, it was an ingenious design from Kelly Johnson from Lockheed.  It was a great time.  Then I moved up, I flew all the different types, the F-4, not the Tornado.  The Tornado was on the paper in those days.  Then, moved up to the Chief of Air Staff.  After that, I was a joint representative to the Military Committee in Brussels.  And thus, this was the end of my career. O.K., I want to finish with this and I'll ask if you have questions, please be free and we can talk about them.


Questions and Answers

Q.  Did you fly many more flights at the very end of the war, 1945?
A.  No, no.  I flew the 109.  My Wing and all the Combat Wings, we flew the 109G in those days.  But when I was a Commander of the Fighter Training School, I flew the 190, the long nose 190 and all types. We were testing them.  In combat I flew the 109.  I will tell you, the last month, April, there was no more fighting anymore in the last year, because we didn't get any warning.  You know, there was no radar station anymore.  In the west, there was finito with the war already.  So this was chaos.

Q.   In 1944, for you old pilots, it was probably very hard mental pressure when most of your friends had been….  
A.  You touch a point, you know.  What we call rise of attrition over Germany.  The highest attrition rate for all combat units in the war or traits were submarines. And right next to the submarines were the fighter pilots.  In every mission from mid 44 onwards, we knew that every second pilot wouldn't come back.  And we had young pilots.  You know we had too few pilots.  We had too big airspace.  You would think the Germans fought a war from the north came down from Egypt against England and was widespread North Africa.  It was widespread, there were unique pilots. But the fighters were used as fire brigade. We couldn't cover all of this. And now in the fights for life over Germany, we have young pilots with just one ride in a 109 and they were put in action.  It was murder. Absolutely.

Q.  Pilots of my age?
A.  Yes, of your age.

Q.  How about the victories scores. There was a mass of over claiming in all nations after the air battle, that pilots claimed aircraft destroyed.
A.  You mean how true is the victory's report?
Q.  Was it due to overall confusion in combat?  
A.  No, I really don't get you.  What's your point?
Q.  Pilots claimed that they destroyed 6 enemy aircraft.
A.  6 very seldom, 6 in one battle.
Q. The flight had destroyed 6, but actually only 2 aircraft were completely destroyed.  Was it due to confusion in combat?
A. No, first of all over there flak is very seldom.  You see flak over Germany or over Russia.  You see when you shoot down (enemy) because you come in, you pull your trigger when the enemy just hits your full visor, not before, that's too far.  Then you see and then if you see that you have to have witness.  Either you have air witness or account witness. And you have to write up very detailed report.  How precision, nationality, very detailed questionnaire, even how many rounds you used.  Certainly in a big air battle, he is shooting at that and he's shooting at that, it can be false report. But you have to have a witness, otherwise, if you don't you forget it.  

Q. About victory scores, was it completely different nature of air combat in eastern front?
A.  No, not in the air.  Was a difference certainly when Russian war started.  The aircraft was not the quality of the west, not the quality of what we had to face.  Most of the best was the British Royal Air Force, Spitfire.  The Russians didn't have that equipment.  The equipment was obsolete. They didn't have the tactics, but they learned from us, very quickly.  Then after a while they came out with, as I have mentioned, with new types. The LaGG-5, LaGG-7, was excellent aircraft. I chased a La-5 and never could get it.  They learned their lesson and they came in overwhelming numbers.
You know the Russians had for instance IL-2.  An IL-2 is very hard to shoot down.  It was armed like a tank. The Russian Air Force, like the German Air Force was focused on air to ground, support for the army.  They didn't have a strategic air force like the Americans and the British. It was a different air warfare.  You know they came in at 8000 - 9000 meters.  Mostly in the east, the later it became, our main enemy was IL-2. The bombers, the P30 (##?? 10:51 tape 3) bombers and fighters. But fighters were a different quality, which was excellent you know.  And tactics, they took over the 4-ship formation, also.  But on the other hand the whole temperature and the mood in the east was different than the west.  
What happened in the west, it happened really over the Mediterranean.  A British fighter pilot was shot and hit and he looked for an island (to make forced landing). The German (pilot) came, saluted and guided him in, impossible in the east. I can tell you I don't blame the Russians now but it's a fact: I have at least 10 friends, who never showed up.  They landed.  They belly landed in the Russian (area), but they never showed up, gone.  There was a difference between the east and west.

Q.  How good was your situational awareness, how well did you know what was going on around you, on your squadron or unit, but the on the other units on the other side of the front?  If you are fighting in the west, how did you know what was happening in the east or vice versa?
A.  By the radio, is the normal!  
You know we were not informed when we were in the west what's going on in detail in the east and vice versa.  We certainly knew how's your frontline.  How is the battle at Atlantic. But not more than the official information. There was not secret information, of let's say North Africa for instance.  We were depending on the normal information we got, even civilians over the radio.

Q.  You mentioned that the Russian planes were very good.  I would like to know which plane type was the one you respected the most of the Russian planes and how did you manage to fight it with the 109?
A.  If you talk about Russian planes, you talk about Russian constructed and designed.  There was the MiG, the Yak and the LaGG.  I respected the LaGG-7. You know with a radial engine, it was always good.  You know, I know from an inline engine you always get the troubles with the cooler.  You could be hit in the oil cooler or in the normal cooler, and then you have to go down in a certain time.  The radial engine is not that sensitive against fire like the inline engine.  The LaGG-5, LaGG-7 were very good airplanes, very fast and I as I mentioned you had many cases where I chased them and they chased us. And we and I couldn't get them, full power.  And the tactics were different you know.

Q.  I have read in many books that the Allied soldiers were very keen of German pilots' wristwatches.  Were they special or special made?
A.  I don't know about the quality of German watches, but when we became prisoner, your watch was gone and your awards also. The Knight's Cross was gone the moment you got down. The Russians had a particular ego for watches. You had some Russians, had 4 or 5 (watches) here (in the wrist).

Q.  Yes sir.  You have led a very exciting and very long life, and I would like to ask you….
A.  I hope it last a little bit more! <Laughter>.
Q  I want to know when you are thinking of your life, what is the best moment in your life or in your career, of course, after your birthday?
A.  When I married my wife. <Applause!>

Q.  Did you have any chance to fly German jet fighters?
A.  Yes, I flew the 262.
Q.  How did you like it?
A.  Good.  <Laughter>

Even though, there was some disadvantage in the beginning.  But you know, a pilot who flies always the normal and now he comes to the jet.  And when I was the leader of this final Leader School there was a friend of mine, Hans Speyer, (who) was a well-known pilot. Unfortunately he is dead.  He was a great fighter pilot.  He said come over and we'll check you out on 262.  Then I flew about 30 or 40 hours on 262.  
The first thing, you get in a cockpit you think you are sitting in saloon when you come out from the 109.  You know the 109 is way tight and you have the cannon between your legs and there isn't very much left and visibility to the back is poor.  In 262, you sit comfortably.
Secondly, you get a perfect radio receiver.  You don't have this "pa pa pa pa" (noise), like from auto engine. No, you get a very clear voice in your radio.  Third, you sit in like in a taxi.  Before that you know you'd taxi out like this with the normal aircraft.  Now you had a nose wheel.  Now you sit down, look out on the runway like in a car.  Fantastic.  Then you accelerate very slowly, in those days, because not to overheat up to 8000 rpm and then you release brakes.  You roll down and it rolls and rolls and you take off.  And then the 262 was very heavy until it came up to speed.  It was very heavy and not very maneuverable, but once it came up to speed up to .85 - .9 mach, then you hit the top of the speed and then you are absolutely superior.  
But you don't have the same tactics, no dog fighting. You just get in and out.  Because your (turn) radius is much bigger than in a normal airplane. The same applies to the landing.  When you come in for landing, low speed.  You know the 262 unit, they had Focke-Wulfs.  They were top cover for start and landing. They were always top Focke-Wulf upstairs, the protected the start and landing period of the 262.  These were the early things.  You know how today, if you accelerate a 262 too fast, you get high temperature, oil temperature, and fire in the engine.  These things are gone, we solved these problems.  But this was a sensational new era, no doubt.

Q: A question about 109s, because I understood that you flew western allied types, in that unit so you knew how they handled. So how do you think 109s last types fared against them. What were their strengths or weaknesses?
A: In the 109?

A: Ja. I will tell you the weakness, and I think, really, Messershmidt will forgive me. <Laughter from audience>.
The 109 had not for us, maybe not for the long time pilots of the 109, but the new comers had problems starting with the gear.  You know it was a high, narrow gear.  And we had many ground loops. And then the gear breaks. That is not a norm, this is a exception, but it anyway happens. The cockpit, as such, was very narrow, VERY narrow. You have as I mentioned, the cannon between your two legs in rather like in a tunnel, you know?  And the visibility in the back was very poor.  Later on they made a steel plate to protect the head, backwards.  But they cut off the side through the back.  You know?  Because we had this steel plate, here.
Then the starting system, as I mentioned, this was absolutely obsolete, you know?  In an area with temperatures minus 30 degrees or more.  And then, which I didn't like this feature, the slots, Ja?  Why slots?  Look at the wing of the Spitfire!  Thats what we call elliptical shaped.  Its beautiful elope on the wing, the Spitfire.  We don't need lift help until takeoff and landing. You know? We can make it with a little bigger wing. So I mean, but, when you fly five and a half years in that plane in all conditions, you feel at home, even (laughing) if you have to leave it for some emergency reasons. <audience laughter>

Q: I was particularly interested about, when in combat, for example against the P-51 with the later fighters.
Rall: Yeah, the 109 could compete with the P51, no doubt.  Maneuverability was excellent.  But the P51 could do it longer!  <Laughs>  Ja?  And the pilot sits... But, you know, if you fly seven and a half hours, you cannot fly seven and a half hours in the cockpit in the 109.  You MUST have a better cockpit, which the P-51 has,  they came from England. They flew 7 hours, you know?  And so there are differences. But in the battle itself, the 109 certainly could compete with the P-51, even the Spitfire. You couldn't follow the Spitfire in a tight turn upwards.  You couldn't follow it. But we knew exactly the Spitfire also had shortcomings. In the beginning when they dived away, they had problems with the carburetor.  cshhht shhht cht cht cht (shows engine cutting out) . Until they came up to speed.  So every airplane has some problems in some areas, and if you know it, you can overcome it.    

Q: Mr. Rall, Can you give us the impression you had with the Focke Wulf, the 190, and especially the long nose, the Dora.
A: Ja.  The 190, I had one ride in the 190 - long nose.  The 190 was a very stable aircraft.  It had a very good weapons arrangement, you know they had two guns on top of the engine and two guns at the root of the wing.  And a very stable undercarriage.  It had a much better cockpit, a more comfortable cockpit.  And it had a rotating engine. No problems with the cooling system with this type.  Focke Wulf was a good airplane and the long nose was even better, for high altitude.  But I cannot give you too more, I flew it once, when I was in fighter leader school.  By the way, the long nose came too late, anyway.

Q: Mr. Rall, what was the best tactic against the P-47?
A: Against the P-47?  Shoot him down!  <Laughter from both Mr. Rall and audience, applause>  
P-47 was not a big problem.  The problem was if you were chased by the P-47, he was fast in a dive, had a higher structural strength.  You couldn't stand that you know?  And they came closer in a dive, because she was faster.  But P-47 was a big ship, you know? No doubt.  But in a position where you chase him, there was no equivalent condition.  By the way, ehh, this was <## garbled: 06:5 tape 4> thing talking about the P-47.  
Years later, I was in Maxwell for the Gathering of Eagles in United States, they called some pilots from all over.  By the way, I met there your Finnish ace, in Maxwell.  There was the French one, there was Gabby Gabreski from the Americans and so forth.  And there, I had to give a lecture about this flight, about this mission, and there was Gabby Gabreski.  And he said "wait a minute, I was in this air battle!"
You know Gabby Gabreski, was he number one in the United States Air Force. He passed away already.  And he said, "I was in this battle" and we figured out the 8th Air Force only had two P-47 groups.  The one was Gabby Gabreski but the Gabby Gabreski, his group, had the task to wait up around the airfields. The problem was for us, when we had dogfight over the clouds and fought a bit, and you run out of fuel - red light, you have to get down and you then have to find a base. Because you don't know where you are over the clouds, you know, in this dogfighting. And then you come down, and Gabby, circled many bases and just waited.  When we came back, no ammunition, gear down, no fuel.  We lost a lot of pilots in the final approach down.  And the other group was Hub Zemke, he was top cover of the 8th Air Force.  He flew up at 10 000 meters and this is what I was confronted with.  To make the long story short we became good friends after the war, and his son still living, they know, you know he says to me, <chuckles> "Gunther is a member of our family." <laughs> Thats great.

Q: The Me-109, how did the plane feel like, when you went in the cockpit and closed the canopy... How did the plane feel like.
A: You know, you might get nervous until you take off.  You are excited, you as a leader you have to make all arrangements.  Once you get full power, get in the air and retract the gear, then you are concentrating, no feelings, you know?  Then you are concentrating on your mission.

Q: The plane it had these wing slats and you mentioned they pop open uneven?
A: Two meter slots on fore wings.  The reason was to increase the lift during low speed take off and landing.  To reduce the length of runway you need.  In the air, if you make rough turns, just by gravity, the outer slot might get out.  You can correct it immediately by release of stick, you know? Only little bit, psssssssht, its in, then its gone.  You have to know that.  And if you know it, you prevent it.
Q: Did you use this extra lift from the slats in combat?
A: Not at all. I mean, its also a matter of experience of the pilot, you know?  When I think of the Russian... This is another thing, of the Russian airfields. In the wintertime you had mud and fall. MUD.  And we had problems. When you takeoff, you roll and roll, you know?  You get the mud into the cooler, ja?  And we tried to overcome this by all technical gimmicks which didn't work.  You get earth into the cooler, and then can see your temperature, psssshhht!, runs up.  Its very bad.  In wintertime, we had short fields, snow and ice on them.  But all these old experienced pilots, they managed that, you know?  For a young pilot it was a problem, no doubt. The environmental conditions for pilot, besides the air pressure.  Where are you?  How do you live? And I can tell you there is a big difference, whether you are in the north or in a stationary situation where you have your bed and your food and whatever it is.  Or you are in the south... My group, in two years, had 44 different places, most selected from the air.  You think it might be a good... You know you get your order, have a look for a airfield because the army plans this and this.  You don't have a solid front line in the south.  You have always tanks and this, and in between is nothing.  So you have to look for an airfield which you have to find two days later, you know?  Until the army comes there. The south of Russia, the Caucasus, there are not very predominant geographical marks on the ground. Its hard to find it. Navigation is not that easy in the south, or in Russia, as it is here, where you had concrete landmarks.

Q:  How many combat sorties did you fly in Reich defense?
A: In tour the war?
Q: Yes, you personally.
A: I flew about 800. You know we say a combat mission, is when you get contact with the enemy.  There are a lot of missions you fly around, and nothing happens, you wait.
Q:  But.. do you know the number, how many sorties did you fly against western allies in 1944...
A:  No, I cannot tell you, I dunno

Q: You flew in the same group as Bubi, in the war and also after the war.  How well did you know him?
A: Bubi Hartmann came to me as a Lieutenant, to the Caucuses.  He was a young 'un.  And it took him quite a time, until he get experienced, and then he was you know... And then when I was commander, he was a squadron leader of the 9th squadron and Krupinski and Obleser. (Raimo Malkamäki: Walter Krupinski was Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 52:n and Friedrich Obleser of 8./JG 52:n at the end of 1943. Krupinski had 197 victories, Obleser 120). All very famous guys, you know? Obleser later became chief of air staff in the new German Air Force, also (Raimo Malkamäki: After Rall in the 1970s). So I knew Bubi Hartmann very well.  When I went to the Reichverteidigung (Defence of the Reich) he (Hartmann) stayed there, he became wing commander and was captured by the Russians on the eastern front.  And he had a very, very bad time. 10 years.  And when he came we addressed him and he joined the German Air Force and one year later we  went together to the United States.  You could realize the difference, when he came back from Russia, you know. The eyes and nothing... And one year later he went to Arizona, it was different.

Finnish Virtual Pilots Association - Günther Rall. Photo: the Association. Q:  Do you still meet among the veterans, do you still have meetings.
A:  Sure.  We have uh, we have a German Fighter Pilots Association.  But, you know, if we would keep conservatively in a couple of years there would be no fighter pilots association any more.  So now we have a pilots association and at least 50% or more of the young squadron commanders are members.  So they carry on the tradition, even if the old <chuckles> guys pass away.  And we have different sections with different programs.  But overall, we meet once a year and it now becomes very international. Russians come, American English come, French come.  A lot of pilots come.

Q: He was asking about Gerhardt Barkhorn. .
A: Barkhorn was a good friend of mine. (ed. commander of II/JG52, ace of 301 victories, died in auto accident in the 1980s)   Unfortunately, he, his wife and a friend got killed in a car accident long after the war.  He was a very talented pilot. I had the third group, he had the second group.  We were very close in south Russia.  I was at Taman, a Kuban briddehead and he was down at Anapa. He was once my witness. You know, I mention this Krimskaya battles. Heavy tank battles and heavy air operations.  And I turned and I shot one down´. But my wingman was somewhere else.  And <laughs> all of a sudden Barkhorn said "I saw it, I am your witness."  He didn't know that he was next to me <laughs> but he flew then.. Again, he was a good friend, but unfortunately he's dead.   

Q:  Do you still meet all the mechanics, all the mechanics from the wartime?
A: Sure.  We're spread out all over.  We had a lot of <##ostwinds???? 19:45 tape 4>. And just to give you example, there is a master sargeant. He lives in Berlin and he calls me every six months <chuckles> and we meet. But Ostman, NCO pilot, he was shot down, he was in Russia as prisoner.  He came back, he went to Brazil, he was a great steel expert.  And, two years ago he came to my place and praised me.  And since then we call and its very nice..

Rall:  I thank you very much for your attention.  

Short private interview

Jukka Kauppinen had the pleasure of meeting mr. Rall for a short moment in private interview for a Finnish aviation magazine. Many thanks for that!

Do you have any message to the youth?
Try to keep peace. It is difficult but it is the only solution.
You still follow the situation in the world?
Yes, I'm not very happy about that. I saw after WW2 human being won't learn. That seems very pessimistic situations.
When you started in new Luftwaffe, what was the spirit?
The spirit was, Germany was integrated in the wester alliance. We wanted to contribute to NATO. We were beginners in that. We felt it was important and wanted to work. NATO was - IS - an excellent on that.
Your hobbies, do they include flying?
I've made my flying :) But when I'm in America, it is much easier to fly. Many of my friends there own aircraft and when I'm there, they take me with them and let me fly. But they sit next to me, on controls. But that can't be done in Germany.
Is the skill of flying still in there?
Yes, unbroken. I don't fly risky things anymore, just with friends, and I'm the copilot. But it is fun, nice. But it doesn't fly often anymore.
When you think of your experiences, do you have any dreams in the nights?
Not anymore but certainly the war was there for a long time, all the pressure. In the mind. Still, I always say that you can never get rid of this war, because it was most important time of our lives. Age of 21 to 27 - you are in combat or in hospital. This had its results.
You joined Army in 36, Luftwaffe in 38. This was a career choise to be in the army?
Ja, I was in the army, it was the army of soldiers. Then Hitler came. I wanted to go into air force, because I wanted to fly. And when I was in the Air Force, then I wanted to get fighter pilot. I think this is my temperament to be a fighter pilot. And it was by choise.
How do you think young boys got back civilian life after the war, because many had gotten into the army in middle of their studies?
It was difficult, you know. But let me tell you, there was great spirit. Germany lost the war, 80 % of the cities were flat, ja? We were not so much orientated to money, money, money, like today. It was great spirit, build it up, and come back to life. It was great spirit. Even housewives built up houses - it was tremendous get-together. But now you know, different. Today's world is what do I get. Those days they asked what can I give. Different life.
What about the proposed common army for the EU and the groth of EU?
Let me tell you, I don't know the detail problems. I think it is important that NATO is still federation, bridge, between United States and Europe. Spending to the east is also important, but it takes a long time. That is parallel relationship and it is important, there is no doubt. But we should always remember, that NATO is an important thing and it is binding between US and Europe.
When the new Luftwaffe was formed in 1956 and you went to US for training, what the relations were then?
Friendly! Nothing else. Let me tell you, I made great friends there over the years and I go every year three times there. All the aviators, test pilots, civilians, great friends. Let me tell you, the problem we have right now, between US, Germany and France, this will go away, we know we have to work together. But this does not have any impact on personal friendships.
There was a lot of humour too, in the 50s, when you were in the US. For example the newspaper article "Göring's finest fly again".
They didn't take very seriously. Hey come on', now we are here? We talked about war without sentimentals. Just facts, how did you do this. But that is not a theme anymore, you know. We now fly jets and it is different.
You have flown in Norway, in Denmark - but have you been ever in Finland?
No, this is the first time. It's been great. You know, we had, in Germany, high reputation. Particularly your marshall Mannerheim. My generation had greatest respect for him.

Background of the visit

Günther Rall's visit to Finland was arranged by the Aviation Museum Society, Finland. How did this happen?

Raimo Malkamäki from the Society had wondered if any German pilot would be interested in visiting Finland and lecturing. He heard that mr. Rall lives and is in good health, asked him and he was interested on the idea. The Finnish airliner company Finnair sponsored the flights for herr Rall, the Society handled the rest.

Herr Rall arrived to Finland in Thursday. The next day he was toured around Helsinki, the Finnish capital. They visited the Mannerheim museum (museum dedicated to War Marshall Mannerheim - general of the imperial Russia's army; Finland's military commander of the wars of 1918, Winter War 1939-1940, Continuation War 1941-1944 and Lappland War 1944-1945; and Finnish president 1944-1946), where a young guide was very enthusiastic and showed everything they had to offer. Mr. Rall was able to tell the guide a lot about the various items in the museum, like the German daggers the war marshall had received as gifts. "Few guides can learn so much on a tour", Malkamäki commented. In the trophy room the guide showed Mannerheim's Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, "this is very rare". Mr. Malkamäki whispered to the guide, that their guest has that - but with the swords. "The guide almost lost himself", Malkamäki tells us.

Why such a visit? "Listen him. Listen to those, who have seen all those horrific things. What did mr. Rall say, when he was asked about the finest moment in his life? When he married his wife. And what he hoped for the youth? No wars. His life experiences bring weight to his message."

Kai Mecklin, supervisor of the Finnish Air Force Museum, commented: "Museum is much more than just a place with lots of airplanes. Airplanes are cold, he (mr. Rall) brings the living human next to them. Planes are nothing without the story - what they are, what have been done with them, where they have been done, what for?"

"We asked herr Rall if he wants to fly from place to place in Finland. No, he wanted to use a car, so he can see Finland. He had visited every country in Finland but Finland. And he is just four months younger than independent Finland."


Günther Rall's lecture was presented in June 2003.

Recording: Jukka O. Kauppinen "Grendel
Tape transcription: Eric Kent, Kev "Kokpit" Gregory and Brendan Bayne.
Proofreading and editing: Jukka O. Kauppinen
Corrections: Erick Sart, Raimo Malkamäki
Photos: Jukka Kauppinen aka Grendel, Pentti "Buffalo" Kurkinen, Erkki "Eni" Nieminen, Riku "Panzzer" Vaskuu, Matti "My" Yrjölä

Copyright VLeLv Icebreakers / Virtuaalilentäjät r.y. / Finnish Virtual Pilots Association 2004.



Viimeksi muokattu: 2004-02-10 23:37