COLONEL-GENERAL ERNST UDET

COLONEL-GENERAL ERNST UDET (1896–1941)

The second-highest scoring German flying ace of World War I at the age of 22, he pursued a postwar career with the famed Flying Circus and in Hollywood movies. At the onset of WWII, he joined the Nazi Party and was placed in command of the Reich Air Ministry’s development wing. However, he could not cope with the bureaucracy and the intense pressure of Hitler’s demands led to his addiction to alcohol. Despite this, in 1939, he became Luftwaffe Director-General of Equipment. Internal conflicts and lack of raw materials for supply had him falter at his job and after the Luftwaffe’s defeat in the Battle of Britain, Reich Marshal Hermann Goering tried to deflect Hitler’s ire by blaming it on Udet. Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union drove Udet to commit suicide on November 17, 1941. He shot himself in the head while on the phone with his girlfriend. He scrawled a suicide note in red ink that read: “Reich Marshal, you are responsible for my death.”

Read more in In the Way of the Reich by Paula Astridge