Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Former World War I Ace Ernst Udet

Former German World War I flying ace Ernst Udet as a Generalleutnant in the Luftwaffe. In his neck hanging the coveted Pour le mérite, which he received in 9 April 1918 as Leutnant der Reserve and Führer Jagdstaffel 4/ Jagdgeschwader Richthofen. The medals in his uniform, from left to right: Königlich Preußisches Militär-Flugzeugführer-Abzeichen (Prussian Pilot's Badge), Gemeinsames Flugzeugführer- und Beobachterabzeichen in Gold mit Brillanten (Combined Pilots and Observers Badge in Gold with Diamonds), and 1914 Eisernes Kreuz I.Klasse (1914 Iron Cross 1st Class). As a former member of the elité Geschwader Richthofen in the First World War, Udet wearing “Jagdgeschwader Frhr. v. Richthofen Nr. 1 1917/18” cuffband in his right sleeve

Ernst Udet was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on 26th April 1896. He joined the German Army Air Service in 1915. Flying a Fokker D-III , he scored his first victory on 18th March 1916 in a lone attack against 22 French aircraft! By the end of the First World War Udet had 62 victories. This made him the second highest German war ace of the war (after Manfred von Richthofen).

After the war Udet appeared with Leni Riefenstahl in the film "SOS Eisberg". He was also active in the Richthofen Veterans' Association and caused great controversy when he campaigned to have Hermann Göring rejected for making false claims of air victories during the First World War!

Udet joined the Luftwaffe in June 1935 as an Oberst (Colonel) and a year later was appointed head of the Technical Office of the Air Ministry. In this post Udet was responsible for the introduction of the Junkers Stuka and the Messerschmitt Bf 109.

During the Second World War he rose to the rank of Generaloberst (colonel general) and Director of Air Armaments. In 1940 pilots began to complain that the Spitfire was superior to German aircraft. Later Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring both accused him of being responsible for the defeat of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain. He was also criticized for neglecting the development of new heavy bombers.

Udet became depressed by the performance of the Luftwaffe during Operation Barbarossa and the decision by Erhard Milch to overrule his plans to develop the Focke-Wulf Fw 190. On 17 November 1941 Udet committed suicide, shooting himself in the head while on the phone with his girlfriend. Evidence indicates that his unhappy relationship with Göring, Erhard Milch, and the Nazi Party in general was the cause of his mental breakdown.

According to Udet's biography, 'The Fall of an Eagle', he wrote a suicide note in red pencil which included: "Ingelein, why have you left me?" and "Iron One, you are responsible for my death." "Ingelein" referred to his girlfriend, Inge Bleyle, and "Iron One" to Hermann Göring. The book 'The Luftwaffe War Diaries' similarly states that Udet wrote "Reichsmarschall, why have you deserted me?" in red on the headboard of his bed.

It is possible that an affair Udet had with Martha Dodd, daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Germany and Soviet sympathizer, during the 1930s might have had some importance in these events. Records made public in the 1990s confirm Soviet security involvement with Dodd's activities.

Adolf Hitler was embarrassed by Udet's death and the Nazi Government issued a statement that Udet had been accidentally killed while testing out a new weapon. On his way to attend Udet's funeral, the World War II fighter ace Werner Mölders died in a plane crash in Breslau. Udet was buried next to Manfred von Richthofen in the Invalidenfriedhof Cemetery in Berlin. Mölders was buried next to Udet.
The award-winning play, "The Devil's General" by Carl Zuckmayer, was based on Udet's life.

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