Erich Rudorffer

Erich Rudorffer

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-6

Flown by Major Erich Rudorffer, Stab II./JG 54, Immola, Finland, June, 1944.

Erich Rudorffer was born on November 1, 1917, in the town of Zwickau in Saxony. He joined the Luftwaffe in January 1940 and was assigned to I/JG 2 'Richthofen' with the rank of Oberfeldwebel.

Rudorffer scored the first of many victories over a French Hawk 75 on May 14, 1940. He went on to score eight additional victories before the Battle of France was completed. Rudorffer was a slow beginner, but was gaining valuable experience that would prove necessary to survive and succeed in aerial combat.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of the Jagdflieger were not blood-thirsty killers. Rudorffer recalled an incident in August 1940 when he 'escorted' a badly damaged Hurricane across the Channel; ditching in the English Channel was greatly feared by pilots on both sides. As fate often does, Rudorffer found the roles reversed two weeks later, when he was 'escorted' by an RAF after receiving battle damage. Maybe the story of the 109 shepherding the Hurricane had circulated through the RAF by then.

By May 1, 1941 Rudorffer had achieved 19 victories, which led to the award of the Knights Cross. In November 1942, JG 2 was transferred to Tunisia where he was made Kommodore of II/JG 2.

It was in North Africa that Rudorffer showed his propensity for multiple-victory sorties. He shot down eight British aircraft in 32 minutes on February 9, 1943 and seven more in 20 minutes six days later. After scoring a total of 26 victories in Tunisia, Rudorffer returned to the Channel Front in April 1943.

The fates of the Grunherz Geschwader and Rudorffer become entangled in June 1943, when he was given the task of forming IV/JG 54 near Konigsberg. However, Rudorffer was recalled to Eastern Front to assume command of II/JG 54 after it's Kommodore, Hauptmann Heinrich Jung failed to return from a mission on July 30, 1943.

Once on the Eastern Front, Rudorffer's big days again. On August 24, 1943 he shot down 5 Russian aircraft on the first mission of the day and followed that up with three more victories on the second mission. He scored seven victories in seven minutes on October 11, but his finest achievement occurred on November 6 when in the course of 17 minutes, thirteen Russian aircraft fell to his guns! Only Emil 'Bully' Lang, another Grunherzflieger, and Hans-Joachim Marseille rival Rudorffer's mastery at multiple scoring.

Rudorffer became known to Russian pilots as the 'fighter of Libau'. Returning from a sortie on October 28, 1944 and about to land, he spotted a huge formation of Il-2 'Sturmoviks'. He quickly aborted the landing and moved to engage the armada. In less than ten minutes, nine of the heavily armored Russian planes were shot down causing the rest to flee in panic. In anti-climatic fashion, he shot down a further two Russians in an afternoon sortie.

For his exploits, Rudorffer was awarded the Oakleaves on April 11, 1944 for his 113th victory. Later he would receive the Swords for his 210th victory on January 26, 1945.

The Green Hearts and Rudorffer parted ways in February 1945, when he was placed in command of the Me262 equipped II/JG 7. He became one of the first jet fighter aces of the world by scoring 12 victories in the revolutionary aircraft.

In all, Erich Rudorffer scored a total of 222 victories, placing him 7th on the all time list. This score did not come without a cost: Rudorffer flew over 1,000 missions, never took leave, was shot down 16 times, and 'hit the silk' 9 times! Of note are the 58 Il-2 Sturmoviks included in his 136 Eastern Front victories (all while flying the Fw 190) and the 10 4-engine bombers shot down in Defense of the Reich missions.

Erich Rudorffer survived the war and continued his aviation career as a member of the West German aviation agency.


Rudorffer plate © Claes Sundin1997