Rudolf Walter in flight dress with leather flying cap. France, 1943.
Rudolf Walter with fellow fighter pilot Rudy Haupt in front of a Focke-Wulf 190. 1945.
Iron Cross 1st Class, awarded to Rudolf Walter in October 1944.
Rudolf Walter's pilot's license, 1 January 1943.
Frontflugspange für Kampfflieger, a Luftwaffe combat clasp for bombers, awarded to Rudolf Walter.Rudolf Walter
"They put the Americans out when they had 25 or 30 [air] missions. The Americans were pulled out. Not so in the German air force. You flew until you came home or…."
After the First World War, the contract of Versailles [the treaty by which Germany had to pay war reparations and limit its military strength], Germany was awfully limited in everything. They couldn’t do this and they couldn’t do so many things. People were so poor, so the parents, when children have to get that hungry, that’s when people’s [situation] get[s] pretty dicey. And then of course, they didn’t care who came in. Communist part[ies] were really, really large. Of course, the Communists were known for being awfully lazy, they didn’t want to work, they didn’t care really what happened. But then Hitler came along, of course, and he promised everybody, “Give me four years and I’ll finish the things up.” Actually through this misery, Hitler came in, just because the others [other German political parties] couldn’t go anywhere. I mean, nobody knew what’s really behind this [Nazism], you know, which later turned out to be fatal for the Germans.
I was in a Lutheran church, part of a youth group and we were building sort of, glider planes, with just about wood and canvas and what not. Four weeks before I was drafted in 1939, I volunteered because I would have the choice where I was going to go. So since I got my volunteer enlistment, they trained me as a pilot. The pilot training because it’s AB training [basic training], we only trained more or less on smaller planes and this training was not quite four years. Of course, the later the years went on and the war started to grow, of course, people had shorter training by then, you know.
After the training, I was finished in January of 1943. When I was finished, I had the choice, either be a fighter pilot or a bomber pilot. I never really would have been a fighter pilot. I wanted to be a bomber pilot. That’s where I got into a bomber unit and the wing was called KG55 [Kampfgeschwader 55 "Greif" (Battle Wing 55)]. And all my missions were in Russia and we were flying out 30 planes out of one field at night. Every 30 seconds we flew second planes out of two airfields: 30 planes out of one and 30 out of the other.
I didn’t expect anything different. I didn’t know it was so brutal, though, you know. I mean, you’re flying every second night, long missions, and every second night, one night, you fly short mission, they call it a two-hour mission and the second night, you six straight hour flying time at night. But it’s quite brutal, the whole thing.
They put the Americans out when they had 25 or 30 [air] missions. The Americans were pulled out. Not so in the German air force. You flew until you came home or…. I had 67 bombing missions.
We were flying only missions over the Vistula [River] in order to keep the Russians from out at night. But then they [German bomber squadrons] ran out of fuel and so, we were pulled back in October of 1944, and ended up in Bavaria, January 1945. I was retrained as a fighter pilot.
See, actually at the end of the war, there weren’t too many [able bodied] people left in Germany. And, when you got out of the airfield, sometimes we get nipped right away [by Allied fighter planes]. Between Prague and Pilsen [Czechoslovakia], I saw a bunch of planes, about 15, I don’t know, 20, but I knew it couldn’t be Germans because Germans didn’t have that many as a fighter plane anymore. And they were fighters, you could see. So of course I turned around. Then I noticed my oil cooler was damaged and the pressure went down, the temperature went up, and I said, “I’d better try to a field to save the plane.” And there was a grassy field underneath, so I sort of slipped the plane in. I made a mistake; I left the undercarriage out, because I wanted to save the plane. I didn’t know in the middle of this grassy field, was a little creek. I was going about 50 kilometers, I set the plane on the ground, and I was going about 50 kilometers when the wheels hit that little creek, I flipped the plane, it was still too fast, the canopy section flew off and I was completely out because the cabin was quite crushed. I had a head fracture and internal damages from the joystick.
They brought me to the hospital in Prague. Prague was a Red Cross city at that time. And it had the best care by that time from German doctors and my head fracture, had internal bleeding perhaps, from stomach and bowels. And I was operated on about seven hours, but they had specialists there, very good specialists there, at that time.
After a while, the Russians were closer, they were coming by. You heard the artillery going already from the Russians; [the hospital] very quiet. I heard that the Russians, when they came in, they just opened the windows, looked at the people and when they found out there’s no cure for them, they just dumped them out of the window. I said, “I don’t want to be one of them.” We crossed the border [on courier’s motorcycle into Bavaria] and we were in Salzburg [Austria] and two days later, the Americans came in.
After I was discharged [to West Germany], I worked there until about 1950. That’s when I immigrated to Canada. Because there was no hope for me, I couldn’t get home anymore, because my home was in Gottesburg [Boguszów-Gorce]; that was Polish now. Of course we couldn’t go home anymore.
I can’t complain, I came in this country, I went back to school and got my chemistry degree, I got in chemistry and I start to work in the pulp industry and I made a good way. Canada has been extremely good.