Hans-Ulrich Rudel loves his family, but he fears the Soviet threat more. After single-handedly destroying a Soviet battleship near Kronstadt Island, he returns home to marry fiancée Ursula. She travels with him to Austria, where he is to train Stukadive-bomber pilots. This life soon has him on edge, and he requests transfer to the Crimea. There, he attacks constantly; he contracts jaundice and is hospitalized. Leaving the hospital without permission, he rejoins the famed Immelmann Wing on the Volga and enters the fight for Stalingrad.
Soon, he’s taken away to refit the Stukadive-bomber. Once again flying with the Immelmanns, his fame grows as he uses the refitted plane to decimate Soviet tanks at Kursk. Rudel now has a son, and Ursula’s letters divide the pilot’s attention between war and family. Rudel’s father Johannes has grown frustrated over Germany’s defeats in Russia, and he takes his frustrations out on his son. But at the moment, Rudel has little time for this—Stalin has offered a one hundred thousand ruble reward for Rudel, dead or alive.
Rudel begins openly to criticize the war’s handling; then near Budapest, he’s wounded. He asks for his Wing’s transfer to Germany to protect his family. There, as the Soviets cross the Oder River, Rudel finds combat orders not to his liking. The war’s downturn has pushed him into a state of megalomania—he believes only his Wing can save Germany. He’s wounded, and this time he loses a leg. Determined to continue to fight, he returns to his Wing, now in Czechoslovakia, where he learns Hitler is dead, that Germany has surrendered.
His battered planes escape to Kitzingen, where an American major accuses Rudel of the Reich’s most egregious sins. No, he replies, I’m no Nazi; I’ve merely been defending my family and country against Bolshevism. Months later in England and still a prisoner, Rudel vows to continue fighting the Bolshevik threat he now believes threatens all of Europe.