There are two reasons for this. One is that my father knew Udet well, respected him and considered him a friend. The other is that the true story of Ernst Udet was known to only a handful of people, and my father was one of them.
The story that circulated at the time of Udet's death and continues to this day was actually a rumor authored by Adolf Hitler or, as Udet referred to him, "the big, bad wolf."
Ernst Udet was born on April 26, 1896 and became a World War I fighter pilot serving as a young man under Baron von Richthofen, the infamous "Red Baron." In fact, Udet was a flying ace, second only to the Baron, himself, and credited with shooting down sixty-two Allied planes at the age of only twenty-two years old!
My father had also been a pilot in World War I, although on the opposite side, but he and Udet were drawn to each other from the start. When they worked together on the 1933 film S.O.S Iceberg, they became friends and every time my father visited Germany after that, he would spend time with Udet.
Ernst Udet was a career pilot and when Hitler arrived on the scene gearing up for war, Udet was expected to wear the Nazi uniform. But, Udet wanted nothing to do with Hitler or his politics and when Hitler came into power, it became clear to Udet that the only way he could avoid becoming a member of the Luftwaffe would be to leave the country, which he had been expressly forbidden to do.
So Udet concocted a plan...
Udet's mother was French and Udet himself had been educated in France, so his plan was to seek asylum in the country of his youth. Because there was no way for him to send his money to France legally, he withdrew his life savings from the bank in increments. He sewed fat wads of Deutschmarks into the lining of several coats and stuffed these into an empty space in the tail of his aircraft.
Every day, he took his plane out for a spin. Every night, meanwhile, Udet made a big show of heavy drinking and heavy spending in the most popular hotspots of Berlin's nightclub scene. Udet had a reputation as a drinker and womanizer and he leaned into that role with vigor. He partied lavishly, drank irresponsibly and visibly squandered large sums of money.
During the day, Udet would take his plane and fly it in increasingly wide circles and every night, he would throw money away in front of as large an audience as possible, including those closest to Hitler.
Eventually, the day came for his escape. As Udet circled his plane closer and closer to the German border, he was surrounded by Nazi aircraft and forced down from the sky onto German soil. SS officers arrested him on the spot, explaining that he had been under surveillance for several months. They court-martialed him and placed him in front of a firing squad.
When asked if he had any last requests, Udet asked that word of his predicament be sent to Reichsmarschall Herman Goering, who had been Udet's commander after von Richthofen. Goering rushed to the scene as Udet was - quite literally - smoking his last cigarette. "On Hitler's orders," Goering said, Udet was to be released. In exchange for his life, Goering told Udet in no uncertain terms that he was to wear the Nazi uniform, which Udet then did.
But Major General Ernst Udet didn't change his principles when he changed his clothes, and he spent World War II helping Jews escape from Germany and doing everything he could to thwart Hitler and help the allies win the war. It was probably the Luftwaffe's defeat in the Battle of Britain that was ultimately responsible for Udet's demise because Goering and Hitler blamed him personally for Britain's victory.
For a long time, Hitler tolerated Udet for Goering's sake and also because of Udet's standing in Germany, but he finally ordered his assassination. Even so, because of Udet's hero status and his popularity with the German people, Hitler could not risk taking responsibility for his murder.
Initially, after Udet was killed, Hitler circulated the rumor that he had been killed in an aircraft accident. When word leaked out that Ernst had actually been shot in his home, Hitler created a new story - that Udet had been suffering from depression and eventually killed himself.
Udet's mother learned the truth from Udet's friends in the Underground and she smuggled a letter to friends in the United States by way of Switzerland, telling the true story of what had happened to her son. It wasn't depression that had killed Ernst Udet. Her son had long been a thorn in Hitler's side and on Hitler's orders, he had been shot in the back by officers of the SS.