Günther Rall entered the German army in 1936 as an officer candidate in the infantry. But the 20-year-old Rall decided that aviation was his real interest and transferred to the Luftwaffe in the summer of 1938. After completing his pilot training, he was assigned to the famous JG-52 in late 1939, and, on 12 May 1940, he scored his first victory against a P-36 flown by a French pilot. He then fought in the Battle of Britain for 5 months and was next assigned to operations over Rumania, Crete, and southern Russia. On 28 November 1941, Günther Rall, with 36 victories to his credit, was shot down near Rostov.
His back was broken in three places and he was told that he would never fly again. But Rall was determined to return to combat and in August 1942, he rejoined his unit on the Russian front. He had been out of combat for 9 months and wanted to make up for lost time. Within 3 months of his return to combat, he scored victory number 100, and, less than a year later, he recorded his 200th victory. In the next 3 months he shot down an additional 50 aircraft, and he was awarded the swords to his Knight's Cross. Even though he had not seen combat for 9 months due to his crash, he was still only the second pilot to reach the 250 mark. He was then reassigned to the western front and was again hospitalized for the treatment of a wound from an exploding P-47 shell.
Here, he sustained a diphtheria infection that kept him out of combat for 6 more months. Günther Rall ended the war as the commander of JG-300 flying the long nosed FW-190Ds. Missing combat for more than 15 months, he still ended the war with 275 victories and ranks as Germany's third highest scoring fighter ace. He rejoined the newly organized Luftwaffe in 1956 as a lieutenant colonel. Rall and Eric Hartmann were among the first German pilots to train at Luke AFB, Arizona. Later Rall was responsible for the new German fighter, the F-104. As commanding general of the Luftwaffe Tactical Air Command, he helped oversee the growth and development of Germany's young fighter pilots. Lieutenant General Günther Rall became Chief of Staff of the German Air Force from 1970 until his retirement in 1975 with almost 40 years of service to his country.
The first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound (Mach 1) was the Bell X-1, the rocket propelled research aircraft shown in the painting. On 14 October 1947, Captain "Chuck" Yeager achieved a speed of 760.5 miles per hour and became the first man in the world to fly through the "sound barrier. " For his unparalleled courage in advancing knowledge of aviation technology, the US Congress presented him a special Medal of Honor in 1976 in recognition of his extraordinary achievement and heroism.