WW II ACE STORIES



Crew Rudel&Gadermann with mechanics.

Lev Shestakov versus Hans-Ulrich Rudel.

Written by Christer Bergström .

On the photo above are: Rudel and Gadermann, in center of Geschwader mechanics row. In text signed 'propaganda' portrait of Major Hans-Ulrich Rudel and photo, from Kirowograd airfield, of crew Rudel - Gadermann. Dr Gadermann was 'Stab Arzt', anyway he flew dangerous missions like simply gunner. On the end of story you will find a snap of "Tank Buster" (Ju 87 G) in low level attack. Note: if anybody is able to share with me with a photo of Shestakov - then let me know - I'll be most grateful.
Winston Churchill once described Russia as "an enigma wrapped up in a mystery". The same can be said about much of the history of the air war on the Eastern Front during WW II. The Soviet fighter ace Lev L'vovich Shestakov became legendary already during his lifetime. After the war, Vladimir Lavrinenkov (twice appointed Hero of the Soviet Union, credited with 35 + 11 kills), wrote a book - "His Call code - Sokol (Falcon) 1" - about Shestakov. Having drawn his first blood as a fighter pilot in the Spanish Civil War, Lev Shestakov flew in defense of Odessa as commander of 69th IAP (Fighter Aviation Regiment) in the first months of the Russo-German war.

On 10 August (9 August, according to the Russian report), Shestakov's fighters were engaged by fourteen Bf 109s of II./JG 77 flying as escort for the He 111s of KG 27. While the German pilots Oberleutnant Anton Hackl and Fahnenjunker-Gefreiter Günther Marschhausen each claimed one I-16 shot down and II./JG 77 reported no other loss than one damaged Bf 109 E, 69 IAP claimed to have shot down nine Bf 109s without any losses.

Major Hans-Ulrich Rudel Lev Shestakov eventually flew more than 200 missions during the war, took part in 32 aerial combats and was credited with 15 kills before being killed in action in March 1944. According to Lavrinenkov's book, Lev Shestakov fought a private war with a well-known German Stuka ace - a 'Kurt Renner', who was awarded 'the Golden Knight's Cross'. No such Stuka ace existed, but the famous Stuka flier Hans-Ulrich Rudel - who flew over the same operational area as did Shestakov - was the only person to be awarded the Knight's Cross with the Golden Oak Leaves.

Interestingly, Lavrinenkov, who flew in Shestakov's unit, describes how he once met 'Renner' on the ground. His Airacobra hit by debris from a FW 189 he had shot down, Lavrinenkov went down over enemy-held territory and was captured by the Germans. He was brought to the Stalino airfield, where he met 'Renner'. Lavrinenkov claims that 'Renner' thought he was Shestakov, because he flew the Airacobra with call-code '01'. (Later, Lavrinankov managed to escape from a POW transport due to Germany, joined a guerilla detachment and eventually managed to make it back to the regular Soviet troops, where he re-joined his Fighter Regiment and took up combat flights again.) During this time, Hauptmann Hans-Ulrich Rudel (appointed commander of III./St.G. 2 'Immelmann' in September 1943) was stationed in Stalino.

During the first months of 1944, Lev Shestakov was hunting a Ju 87 with a viper painted along its fuselage sides - assuming that this conspicuos aircraft was flown by Rudel. Major Rudel certainly flew a Ju 87 G - one of the few Ju 87s still active in 1944 - over the same battlefields as Shestakov during this time. Due to his considerable successes against Russian tanks, Rudel was a highly coveted prey among the Soviet fighter pilots - as confirmed in Rudel's autobiography. Until March 1944, Rudel was credited with the destruction of more than 200 Soviet tanks and was awarded the Diamonds to his Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.

On 13 March 1944, Lev Shestakov finally caught the Ju 87 he had been hunting for so long. Hit by a burst from Shestakov's La-5FN from short distance, the Ju 87 exploded in mid-air near Proskurov. But Shestakov didn't live to celebrate his victory. According to the version given in Lavrinenkov's book, his Lavochkin was thrown into a spin from the explosion and the famous Russian ace fell towards his death.

Rudel and Stab Arzt dr Gadermann (also gunner). In reality, Rudel survived the war. No other famous Stuka ace was killed on 13 March 1944, nor is it known that Rudel ever flew a Ju 87 with a viper painted on its fuselage side (although he used a Ju 87 with a chevron painted on the fuselage side, which was quite unsusual in the Stuka units).
'It is quite possible that this is a nice story to cover up how one of the highly esteemed fighter pilots was killed in a fight with a single Ju 87', according to Rodion Podorozhny. In his autobiography, Hans-Ulrich Rudel recalls how his Ju 87 once came under attack from 'an excellent "Lag-5" pilot': 'I just can't understand how he manages to follow my sharp turns in his fighter aircraft', wrote Rudel: 'Sweat poured from my forehead.' Rudel started preparing himself for the final end, as he suddenly heard his rear-gunner, Stabsarzt Ernst Gadermann, cry over the R/T: 'Got the Lag!' Rudel continues: 'Was he shot down by Gadermann, or did he go down because of the backwash from my engine during these tight turns? It doesn't matter. My headphones suddenly explode in confused screams from the Russian radio; the Russians have observed what happened and something special seems to have happened... From the Russian radio-messages, we discover that this was a very famous Soviet fighter pilot, more than once appointed as Hero of the Soviet Union.'
(This is an excerpt from Christer Bergström's book 'RED STAR - BLACK CROSS; Russian and German Fighter Pilots in Combat 1941-1945', which will be published in 1998.)

Ju 87 G on low level attack.


Back


1998.05.31, © WW II Ace Stories.