Hans-Ulrich Rudel was born in Konradswaldau, Germany
. Growing up as a member of the Hitler Youth
he became a staunch supporter of the Nazi Party
, and joined the Luftwaffe
as a bomber pilot before World War II
Flying a Stuka on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union, he managed a tally of 519 enemy tanks, 800 other vehicles, 150 gun emplacements, the battleship Marat, a cruiser, and a destroyer sunk. During his 2530 combat missions he was only shot down 30 times, once losing his leg and returning to duty. He still holds the distinction of flying the most sorties of any pilot in any war. For this feat, Hitler had a medal created specifically for him, The Golden Knight's Cross, with Swords, Oak Leaves, and Diamonds. This made him the most decorated German officer in history.
After the end of the war he hid out in Argentina until 1953, when he moved to Austria and joined the German Reich Party, a neo-nazi group. He became a successful businessman despite his beliefs and refusal to denounce the Nazi Party. He created a foundation to help support convicted war criminals as a charity in 1960, and embarrassed the German government for many years.
In 1958, he published his memoirs, Stuka Pilot.
He died in Rosenheim, West Germany in 1982. At his funeral the German Air Force sent a formation of planes to fly over his grave in recognition of his skill. This caused quite a controversy at the time, as to the day of his death Mr. Rudel was an unrepentant Nazi and protector of such figures as Josef Mengele, Alfredo Stroessner, and Augusto Pinochet.