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Colonel General Ernst Udet (26 April 1896 17 November 1941) was the second-highest scoring German flying ace of World War I. He was one of the youngest aces and was the highest scoring German ace to survive the war (at the age of 22).
His 62 confirmed victories were second only to Manfred von Richthofen, his commander in the Flying Circus. Udet rose to become a squadron commander under Richthofen, and later under Hermann Gring.
Following Germany's defeat, Udet spent the 1920s and early 1930s as a stunt pilot, international barnstormer, light aircraft manufacturer, and playboy. In 1933, he joined the then-ruling Nazi Party and became involved in the early development of the Luftwaffe. He used his networking skills to become appointed director of research and development for the burgeoning air force. He was especially influential in the adoption of dive bombing techniques as well as the Stuka dive bomber. By 1939, Udet had risen to the post of Director-General of Equipment for the Luftwaffe. However, the stress of the position and his distaste for administrative duties led to an increasing dependence on alcohol.
When World War II began, the Luftwaffe's needs for equipment outstripped Germany's production capacity. Udet's former comrade Hermann Gring first lied to Adolf Hitler about these material shortcomings when the Luftwaffe lost the Battle of Britain, then deflected the Fhrer's wrath onto Udet.
Operation Barbarossa, when Germany attacked the Soviet Union to open a second front in the war, appears to have been the final straw for Udet. On 17 November 1941, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
Udet's suicide was concealed from the public, and at his funeral he was lauded as a hero who had died in flight while testing a new weapon.