Stuka Pilot by Hans-Ulrich Rudel counts as one of the most famous memoirs from WWII. Rudel can rightly be called the greatest combat pilot of all time. During his 2,530 missions, he destroyed 800 vehicles, 519 tanks, two cruisers, the battleship Marat, and many other targets. His victories cost the Soviet war machine billions of dollars. He accomplished most of this work in the slow Stuka dive bomber. Though he also flew the faster FW-190, one senses a clear favoritism for the Stuka. As a side note, his memoirs and personal presentations on close air support inspired the developers of the A-10 “Warthog.” Also, he personally instructed Argentina’s air force, which proved highly effective during the Falklands War. Rudel’s influence spanned far beyond his time in World War II!
Rudel favored the motto: “Only he is lost who gives himself up for lost.” His combat record of flying as many as seventeen missions a day and flying through serious injuries like a gunshot wound in the shoulder, badly torn up feet after escaping Russian patrols following an unsuccessful rescue attempt of a downed Stuka crew, two 13mm bullets putting his left leg in a cast (Yes, he flew with a cast on his leg), and having his right leg amputated due to machine gun rounds. Part of Rudel’s secret lies in him engaging in sports of all kinds, hiking, and mountain climbing, which built up a strong body. The only sport he did not excel in is hunting: the one outing he describes in his memoirs almost ended with him shooting his friend Fridolin! Rudel’s favorite drink was milk, and he avoided alcohol assiduously.