Erich Rudorffer (1st November 1917 – 8th April 2016) was a German Luftwaffe fighter ace who was one of a handful who served with the Luftwaffe through the whole of World War II. He was the 7th most successful fighter pilot in the history of air warfare, with 222 victories claimed. Rudorffer fought in all the major German theaters of war, including the European and Mediterranean Theatre of Operations and the Eastern Front. During the war he flew more than 1000 combat missions, engaging in aerial combat over 300 times. Rudorffer was shot down by flak and enemy fighters 16 times and had to take to his parachute nine times. He distinguished himself by shooting down 13 enemy planes in 17 minutes. His 222 aerial victories included 58 heavily armoured Il-2 Sturmovik ground attack aircraft.
Rudorffer was born on 1st November 1917 in Zwochau, at the time in the Kingdom of Saxony of the German Empire. After graduation from school, he received a vocational education as an automobile metalsmith specialized in coachbuilding. He joined the military service of the Luftwaffe with Flieger-Ersatz-Abteilung 61 (Flier Replacement Unit 61) in Oschatz on 16th April 1936. From 2nd September to 15th October 1936, he served with Kampfgeschwader 253 (KG 253—253rd Bomber Wing) and from 16th October 1936 to 24 February 1937 was trained as an aircraft engine mechanic at the Technische Schule Adlershof, the technical school at Adlershof in Berlin. On 14th March 1937, Rudorffer was posted to Kampfgeschwader 153 (KG 153—153rd Bomber Wing), where he served as a mechanic until end October 1938. He was then transferred to Flieger-Ersatz-Abteilung 51 (Flier Replacement Unit 51) based at Liegnitz in Silesia, present-day Legnica in Poland, for flight training. There he was first trained as a bomber pilot and then as a Zerstörer, a heavy fighter or destroyer, pilot. On 1st October 1939, Rudorffer was transferred to the Jagdwaffe (fighter force) and was posted to the Jagdfliegerschule 2 (fighter pilot school) at Schleißheim. Following this conversion training, he was transferred to the Jagdergänzungsstaffel Döberitz, the supplementary fighter squadron based at Döberitz, on 6th December 1939. On 28th December 1939, he was transferred to the Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe Merseburg, another supplementary training unit stationed at Merseburg, where newly trained fighter pilots received instruction from pilots with combat experience. He stayed there until 7th January 1940, one day later, Rudorffer, now a Oberfeldwebel (staff sergeant), was posted to the 2. Staffel (2nd squadron) of Jagdgeschwader 2 “Richthofen” (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing), named after the World War I fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen.
Rudorffer claimed his first kill, a Curtiss Hawk 75, on 14th May 1940. He scored eight more times before the capitulation of France. He flew throughout the Battle of Britain, and it is claimed he was pursued down Croydon High Street below rooftop level by a Hurricane. He achieved his nineteenth victory on 1st May 1941; he was then awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz of the Iron Cross) and appointed Staffelkapitän of 6./Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG 2) “Richthofen” the following month. On 19th May 1941, Rudorffer and his wingman attacked a diving submarine off the Isle of Portland. It was observed that both bombs struck close and that the submarine went down vertically. By the end of December 1941 he had claimed 40 kills.
In 1942 Rudorffer participated in Operation Cerberus (Channel Dash) and flew over the Allied landings at Dieppe in August 1942. After 45 victories in November 1942 his unit was transferred south to Sicily and later Tunisia. On 9th February 1943 Rudorffer claimed to have defeated 8 British pilots during a 32-minute aerial battle, and collected his first multiple victories. Again on 15th February he claimed 7 kills. Among his claims during the North Africa were 10 Allied bombers.
In July 1943 Rudorffer was appointed to command II./Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54) on the Eastern Front. He claimed his first victory in that theater on 7th August. Due to the experience gained in combat with the RAF he achieved considerable success. During his first sortie on 24th August 1943, 5 Soviet aircraft were downed in 4 minutes.
On 11th October 1943, Rudorffer was also credited with his 100th aerial victory. He was the 55th Luftwaffe pilot to achieve the century mark. In aerial combat near Teremky and Glychow, he claimed a Yak-7, his 100th victory, at 12:22, a LaGG-3 at 12:22, and three more Yak-7 shot down at 12:24, 12:25 and 12:27 respectively. On 6th November 1943, Rudorffer was credited with 13 aerial victories, eight Yak-7s and five Yak-9s in the timeframe 13:00 to 13:17, taking his total to 122 aerial victories.
JG 7 “Nowotny” was the first operational jet fighter wing in the world and was named after Walter Nowotny, who was killed in action on 8th November 1944. Nowotny, a fighter pilot credited with 258 aerial victories and recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub, Schwertern und Brillanten), had been assessing the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet aircraft under operational conditions. JG 7 “Nowotny” was equipped with the Me 262, an aircraft which was heavily armed and faster than any Allied fighter. General der Jagdflieger (General of the Fighter Force) Adolf Galland hoped that the Me 262 would compensate for the Allies’ numerical superiority. On 12th November 1944, the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL—Air Force High Command) ordered JG 7 “Nowotny” to be equipped with the Me 262. Galland appointed Oberst Johannes Steinhoff as its first Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander).
In the winter of 1944 Rudorffer was trained on the Me 262 jet fighter. In February 1945, he was recalled to command I. Gruppe JG 7 “Nowotny” from Major Theodor Weissenberger who replaced Steinhoff as Geschwaderkommodore. Rudorffer claimed 12 victories with the Me 262, to bring his total to 222. His tally included 136 on the Eastern Front, 26 in North Africa and 60 on the Western Front including 10 heavy bombers.
Rudorffer started out flying DC-2s and DC-3s in Australia. Later on he worked for Pan Am and the Luftfahrt-Bundesamt, Germany’s civil aviation authority. Rudorffer was one of the characters in the 2007 Finnish war movie Tali-Ihantala 1944. A Fw 190 participated, painted in the same markings as Rudorffer’s aircraft in 1944. The aircraft, now based at Omaka Aerodrome in New Zealand, still wears the colours of Rudorffer’s machine. He died in April 2016 at the age of 98. At the time of his death, he was the last living recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
Hobbymaster FW 190A-4 Commander of 6./JG 2 Oblt. Erich Rudorffer, North Africa, Spring 1943
Hobbymaster’s latest FW 190A-4 is now available to pre-order from Flying Tigers. Please click on the image below to go straight to the model page.
Century Wings Photo Gallery Update
I have updated the latest photo on Century Wings A-6E Intruder U.S. Navy VA-196 Main Battery NK500 1996 Last Cruise. Please click on the photo below to go straight to the model page.
Hobbymaster Photo Gallery Updates
I have updated the latest photos on forthcoming Hobbymaster models. Please click on the photo of your choice to go straight to the model page to see the full gallery. Please CLICK HERE to see all Future Hobbynaster models.
Hobbymaster Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker D PROTOTYPE
Hobbymaster have announced a brand NEW TOOLING of the Sukhoi Su-33 Flanker D. Here are a couple of early tooling images. When ordering details are available I will add this model to the Hobbymaster section.
JC Wings Military Special Release
JC Wings have announced a new release from JC Wings 1/72 Military range. This model is a 1/72 F-15SG Republic of Singapore Air Force 50th Anniversary Edition 2018. The model is expected to be released in January 2019. Please click on the photo below to go straight to the model page to view all of the photos of this model.
Airfix New Tooling Announcement!
Airfix have just announced a BRAND NEW TOOLING of 1/32nd scale Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat model kit. Sure to be a sell out order yours quickly to avoid disappointment. Please click on the photo below to go to the model page and a full set of photos.
InFlight 200 New Model Announcements
Flying Tigers has added the latest 11 new models to the Flying Tigers website. Please CLICK HERE to see all the latest additions.
Gemini 200 New Model Announcements
Flying Tigers has added the latest 21 new models to the Flying Tigers website. Please CLICK HERE to see all the latest Civilian model additions. Please CLICK HERE to see all the latest Military model additions.
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