Slipping the Bonds
by George Paterson
GŁnther Rall was the third-highest ace of WW II, with 275 victories; he was surpassed only by Erich Hartmann and Gerhard Barkhorn (352 and 301 victories respectively).
His success is said to be due to two main qualities, firstly his outstandingly keen eyesight, and secondly his intuitive mastery of deflection shooting. He usually saw his victims long before they saw him, and he could weigh up tactical situations in a flash. His shooting skill allowed him to score hits on an opponent in spite of evasive manoeuvres, and often at quite long range. Rall was not invincible however. He was shot down on 8 occasions, and was seriously injured in three of these incidents.
His final injury was on 12. May 1944, when he was leading an attack on B-17s in the Frankfurt area, and got into a dogfight with Thunderbolts. The leader of the American unit was Hubert Zemke, who was lucky to avoid being shot down by Rall, but finally Rall was hit, and took to his parachute once more. In the process one of his thumbs was lost, and he had a shrapnel wound in his shoulder. He had shot down one of the Thunderbolts, however, and that was to be his final victory of the war.
In hospital he contracted blood poisoning, and was unable to resume active service until 20. February 1945. In the few remaining weeks of the war, shortages of fuel and spare parts allowed his unit to mount only a few sorties. It's likely that his final injury actually saved his life, because the last few months of the war were very dangerous for Luftwaffe pilots, even the most experienced.
The Initial Image
This is one of a set of photographs of Rall's Bf 109G-2. I don't have a record of the kit or the builder. It's nicely built, though, and the photos are sharp overall; they are also generously large, this one being 1280x633 pixels. The pilot figure standing in front of the leading edge of the wing root is an inconvenience, and the canopy will need to be closed.
There's a bigger problem, however. The dihedral angle of the wings is not big enough, as I ascertained by comparing this image with the one I made recently of a Buchon in a very similar pose, courtesy of Darren Harbar and presented here late last year. Since that image was derived from a real airframe, I think the dihedral angle is authentic.
Treatment of the Image
It's a pleasure to be working on such a big clear image; much less guesswork is needed, and I can be more selective in the details that need to be clarified. I soon had the dihedral issue sorted, though still a little low, and had the model image ready for pasting.
I wanted to show a second Gustav as Rall's wingman, and decided to produce that by amending the geometry of the primary image. I split my overall selection int two groups; one group was the fuselage, spinner, canopy and tailplane, and the other was the wings and their associated bits and pieces, radiator housings, flaps, radiator vanes and the smaller mass balances etc.
I uncoupled the “retain proportionality” command so that I could lengthen the fuselage by about 5%, while leaving it the same depth. The wings were treated differently; I used the “free transform” on them, shortening them a little along the horizontal axis, but giving them a bit more dihedral, thus finally solving the dihedral issue.
My objective in all this was to make the secondary airframe appear to have less recession than the primary – the improved dihedral was a small bonus.
The steps that led to this secondary image sound fiendishly difficult, but in reality they could all be done in less than an hour. I also spent another hour changing the camo pattern and markings on my new “black 2”.
I am satisfied with the final composite image, and I think it is nice to have a new Rall picture to add to the works of the real artists.
In spite of the many injuries he had sustained during the war, GŁnther Rall lived to the ripe old age of 91, and died only recently, on 4. October 2009. His brilliant post-war career in the Bundesluftwaffe led to a final rank of Generalleutnant and Chief-of-Staff of the air force.