A Sight Long Remembered

After attacking a group of RAF bombers, Luftwaffe night fighter pilot Prince Weissenfeld, who gave the report below, was returning to base and he and his crew were alone in the night sky.

Suddenly, approaching at phenomenal speed, oxygen mask flapping and parachute harness intact, an airman fell straight through the heavens toward the earth below, barely missing the starboard wing of my fighter. For one split second I looked into the frightened man’s face. Never will I forget the shocked and terrified expression I read there.

(Source: German Night Fighter Aces of World War Two by Jerry Scutts)

Blinded By Excitement

When German searchlight crews managed to cone a bomber, no more than four searchlights were to be used. However, other searchlight crews would get excited and sometimes more than a dozen lights would play on an RAF bomber. This had the effect of ruining the night vision and thus blinding the pilot and crew of the German night fighter trying to shoot the bomber down. German night fighters constantly fired flares as a signal to searchlight crews that friendly aircraft were in the sector and turn off some of the damn lights. This rarely worked.

(Source: German Night Fighter Aces of World War Two by Jerry Scutts)

The Prince of Darkness

One of Germany’s top night fighter aces, Prince Major Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein shot down 83 British warplanes and held the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords (awarded posthumously), a distinction achieved by only 53 Luftwaffe officers. He was killed in action by an RAF night fighter on 21 May 1944. Writing in Berlin Diaries 1940 to 1945, author Missie Vassiltchiko, a royal White Russian Princess who was close to Wittgenstein, said the Prince often went up in his night fighter with a raincoat thrown over his dinner jacket.

Bright Flashes at Night Can Ruin Your Aim

When first operating against Royal Air Force bombers, German night fighter pilots would often lose their night vision because of the bright flashes made by their machine gun fire. Because German night fighters maneuvered in very close to RAF bombers, the Luftwaffe began to produce special ammunition with lower grades of gunpowder which didn’t make as much of a flash when fired.