GUNZENHAUSEN, West Germany -- Mourners at the funeral of Nazi Germany's most honored bomber pilot Wednesday sang Nazi songs and raised their arms in the Nazi salute as he was buried.
Hans-Ulrich Rudel, who died Monday at the age of 66, was awarded Nazi Germany's highest military honor, a special form of the Iron Cross created specifically for him.
He later won notoriety after World War II for his pro-Nazi writings and speeches and praise of Adolf Hitler.
Some 2,000 people attended his funeral, many of them joining in the banned, pro-Nazi verses of the German national anthem 'Deutschland Uber Alles' and raising their outstretched right arms in the Nazi salute, witnesses said.
World War II veterans and women were among those who joined in the song and raised their arms.
The West German air force refused to send a representative to the funeral near Gunzenhausen south of Nuremberg, but West German Phantom fighter planes swooped low over the cemetery before and during the burial service making the shape of a cross in the sky, witnesses said.
Known as the 'Eagle of the Russian Front,' Rudel made 2,530 raids against the Soviet Union in his Stuka dive-bomber.
He is credited with destroying 519 Soviet tanks and 800 combat vehicles, and sinking or damaging three Russian warships and 70 landing vessels.
He escaped serious injury until 1945, when he lost a leg in combat. He spent a year as a prisoner of the American and British armies.
Rudel went to Argentina after the war where he reportedly played a role in building up the Argentine air force.
When he returned to West Germany he provoked criticism by his writings and speeches extolling Hitler and the war. One of his books was banned for sale to young people because authorities considered it dangerous.