There is a saying that there are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots.
When the great pilots of World War II are listed by number of confirmed kills, one has to go far down the list to find the top scoring American pilot, Richard Bong. Luftwaffe pilots were the ones with triple-digit scores. Between Bong and the next American ace are Polish, Finnish, and French pilots along with those from Japan and England as well as those of other nationalities. Many of the RAF pilots were of foreign ancestry.
There was a reason for this numerical disparity. American pilots who did well in combat were sent stateside as instructors to help train prospective aces. The United States had the resources to train new pilots. German and Japanese aces fought until they were killed.
Günther Rall was an exception. By any method of counting, he was among the top five aces of the war. He had suffered a lot of injuries and was considered unfit for combat flying several times. He was eventually given training duty. At the end of the war, he recognized the inevitable and urged pilots to stress personal survival rather than scoring victories.
His postwar life began as a POW but he worked with the RAF and developed a lot of friendships among his former enemies. Life in Germany was not so easy for Rall and he eventually got a job as a sales representative. When West Germany developed its new Luftwaffe, he returned to military life. He was instrumental in getting an improved F-104 for NATO use. He outlived most of his former comrades and foes.
Among his many decorations are the German Knight’s Cross and the American Legion of Merit