Early in the in the morning on May 12, 1944, Major Gunther Rall was awakened by the Division Commander. A large formation of American bombers and fighters was headed towards Germany to bomb six oil refineries in the area. Rall had just taken command of II/ JG11 barely a month earlier, when he left III/JG52 on the Eastern Front. Based at Hustedt airfield, located near the town of Celle, just north east of Hanover, II /JG11's primary task was to engage the American fighter escorts so that the more heavily armed Fw-190's could attack the bombers.
When the signal to scramble came, Rall led 25 Bf-109s from Hustedt and headed southwest towards a formation of eight hundred B-17 and B-24 bombers, plus twelve hundred escorting fighters. Descending from 35,000 feet to 26,000 feet, Rall's group ran straight into a formation of P-47 Thunderbolts from the 56th Fighter Group. Major Rall quickly shot down two of the P-47's but lost his wingman in the process, the latter having an engine failure. After executing a split-S maneuver, Rall found himself boxed in by four P-47s from "Zemke's Wolfpack". He tried desperately to out-maneuver his opponents at treetop level, but his left thumb was shot off and his Messerschmitt was heavily damaged. With his aircraft on the verge of structural failure, Rall "bailed out" at low altitude and was rescued by farmers. When the bombing attack was over, the farmers arranged for an ambulance to take Major Rall to the hospital. GŁnther Rall eventually recuperated and ended the war as Wing Commander of JG 300. His final victory tally was 275 confirmed aerial victories - the third highest in history.
Lt Gen. Gunther RALL - Luftwaffe Ace with 275 confirmed victories