Who's Who - Ernst Udet
Ernst Udet (1896-1941) was a German fighter ace who achieved 62 victories during World War One.
Udet entered the German Army in 1914 before becoming a fighter pilot with eventual command of 11th Fighter Squadron.
It is said that Udet found downing enemy Allied aircraft initially difficult. If so he quickly overcame his hesitation. He fought in Jastas 15, 37, 11 and 4 in amassing his final tally of 62 'kills'.
Ultimately forced out of active combat in late September 1918 on account of injuries sustained during action, he was (among Germans) second only to Manfred von Richthofen - the Red Baron - during wartime in terms of his success.
Unlike Richthofen however Udet survived the war, but not before becoming one of the first fighter pilots to successfully use an escape parachute in action. He is also reputed to have been the only fighter pilot to actually disable a tank.
Udet's post-war career saw him work initially as a stunt pilot and in movies before working energetically to recreate the Luftwaffe that played such a key role during the Second World War. He was appointed Colonel in 1935 and struck up a friendship with Hermann Goring. Goring eventually appointed Udet Director General of Equipment and then Head of the Office of Air Armament in February 1939, the latter with the rank of Major-General.
During the Second World War Udet favoured the production of dive bombers, along with medium bombers and fighters, these to the detriment of heavy bombers.
Udet's wartime success came to an abrupt end however in 1941. Accused by General Erhard Milch of bringing about the Luftwaffe's shortcomings as demonstrated during the Battle of Britain, and under fire from Goring himself, Udet - who had become critical of the Nazi regime - 'chose' to commit suicide.
German losses at Messines were 25,000, of which 7,500 were taken prisoner. British casualties were 17,000 killed or wounded.
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