One hundred years ago today (July 2nd) Hans Ulrich Rudel was born.

The most successful combat pilot of all time, Hans-Ulrich Rudel flew the infamous JU-87 Stuka dive-bomber throughout World War Two. Rudel ended his wartime career as Germany’s most decorated serviceman. He was one of only 27 men to be awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, and the only one to be awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit goldenem Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten).

Rudel flew 2,530 combat missions claiming a total of 2,000 targets destroyed; including 800 vehicles, 519 tanks, 150 artillery pieces, a destroyer, two cruisers, one Soviet battleship, 70 landing craft, 4 armoured trains, several bridges and nine aircraft which he shot down.

Rudel was never shot down by another pilot, only by anti-aircraft fire. He was shot down or forced to land 32 times, several times behind enemy lines. He was wounded five times and rescued six stranded aircrew from enemy territory.

Rudel helped in the development of the A10 ground-attack aircraft. A confirmed National Socialist during the war, were the cause of some controversy for the remainder of his life. Rudel passed away in 1982.

“You are only lost if you give up on yourself.” – Hans Ulrich Rudel