The Luftwaffe; The Day Fighters; The Night Fighters

Being there . . . . when it all started, Hitler’s resolve to divide the Luftwaffe’s latest
Messerschmitt ME109s and M110s single-fighter squadrons into day and night aerial defenses
of German cities, military targets, and all other major objectives intrinsic to his war effort. The
night before, August 25/26, 1940, British bombers raided Berlin for the first time in a “tit-for-
tat” mission ordered directly by the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, following the bombing
of population centers of London, Birmingham, Bristol, and Liverpool earlier in the day. Out of
the 103 Vickers “Wimpey” Wellingtons and AVRO Lancasters, the core of the Royal Air Force’s
bomber fleet, less than 50% reached the outskirts of the Capital. Damage was hardly noticed.
Of course, it embarrassed Air Marshal Hermann Goring who had continuously boasted Berlin
would never be fazed by a shred of shrapnel from a British explosive in this Second World War.
More importantly, the Fuhrer retaliated by blitzing the docks of London, although he was fully
aware that Britain’s new bombers, the four-engine Stirlings and Halifaxes, were coming online
for immediate service. He certainly knew all the details about the American Boeing B-17 Flying
Fortress, the most famous of all heavy bombers in the history of combat aviation. Daily daylight
bombing runs by the USAF, followed within six to eight hours by those of the RAF at night, were
inevitable. Unless they were machine-gunned down while in their descending, low-level
approaches, all targets German, especially the cities, were vulnerable to precise pommeling
THEM – –
The Me262 Messerschmitt jet, if manufactured in quantities, might have saved the German
nation in 1944, but, not only were there too few available, but they were more than a year and
a half late . . . .

With Christmas Eve and Day upon us, Schiffer Publishing (who else?) offers numerous WWII
classic enemy aviation books as perfect gifts, especially for the libraries of the aviation-
enthusiasts. For fast orders and overnight mailings, visit the web sites of America’s five best
military publishers: Schiffer Publishing,; Casemate Publishers,; United States Naval Institute,; Osprey Publishing,; McFarland & Company, Inc.;; and, as far
as university presses are concerned, Texas A & M University Press,
Reviewed and highly recommended by Don DeNevi
“THE DAY FIGHTERS – – German Fighters in World War II – A Photographic History of the
German Tagjager, 1934 – 1945”, by Werner Held. Schiffer MILITARY Publishing: first published,

1991, 7 ¾”x 10 ½”, 500+ photographs, 224 pages, hardcover; $29.95. See,
“THE NIGHT FIGHTERS – – – German Fighters in World War II – A Photographic History of the
German Nachtjaget, 1940-1945”, by Werner Held and Holger Nauroth. Schiffer MILITARY
Publishing: first published in 1991, 7 ¾”x 10 ½”, 500+ photographs, 232 pages, hardcover;
$29.95. See,
“The Luftwaffe – Air Organizations of the Third Reich”, by Roger James Bender. Schiffer
MILITARY Publishing Ltd.: first published in 1993, 6 ¾” x 9 ½”, 125 photographs, 321 pages,
hardcover; $39.95. See,
“My tactic,” explained Luftwaffe night fighter pilot, Erich Hartman, “was to let the other
plane feel the full effect of my guns. If you wait until the plane fills the whole window of the
cockpit, you’re sure not to miss a shot.” And, Hartman rarely missed. By war’s end, the cool
German major had destroyed 352 Allied and Soviet planes, the undisputed world record.
“The Day Fighters”, as “The Night Fighters”, is a photographic documentation of a special
kind. Author Werner Held uses rare photographs to illustrate the development of the German
day fighter arm and its operations during WWII. In short, the photos, carefully selected and
captioned, reflect candidly the face of Hitler’s War as it really was. If the Luftwaffe uniforms
were on our boys photographed at some random air base, a reader see the camaraderie among
them and believe, without noticing the German uniforms, they were of American men at any
one of our countless military bases. At work, horse playing, in the cockpit about to take off or
land, they smile, they giggle, they laugh, just as our boys did awaiting orders in the Pacific,
England, and Europe before flying off to kill, or returning from killing. Candidly photographed,
they reveal that not all German servicemen were in the Nazi Party, SS, Gestapo, state police, or
among guards in the death camps assisting or watching systematic mass murders. The photos
certainly don’t glorify the war. For the most part, the photos taken by fellow German
servicemen, mechanics, groundkeepers, etc., (who else would be allowed on the bases?), they
photoed pride and gallantry, productive accomplishments and technical advancement,
willingness to ask for risk and sacrifice, abhorring death by burning flesh and other forms of
cruel, suffering dying. Just as our boys. Not a speck of difference, other than most of them
idolized their Fuhrer, at least when conquering victories were in abundance.
In the end, May, 1945, the waste of it all, military and civilian lives (60 million, more or less?),
the wealth of whole nations, the uselessness of the survivors, and doom was felt as much by
the victors as the vanquished. Armed only with a simple magnifying glass, author Werner Held
painstakingly went through photo after photo in masses and masses of piled negatives and
selected 500+ unknown photos taken by unknown photographers to form, in essence, Volume
1 entitled “Day Fighters”. Three specialists in pilot histories, dates, and aircraft identifications
assisted the author in the identification of details, all in preparation for the publication of his
authentic work.

“The Night Fighters”, a ditto of the above, of course, can be considered Volume Two since as
night follows day, it focuses upon those fearless volunteer pilots whose duty was to defend
against the black of night. Co-authors Werner Held and Holger Nauroth write in their
Introduction, “It would not be entirely accurate to describe the night fighters as lone hunters,
because many hundreds of men worked in the command posts and at the airfields, their only
purpose to bring the individual night fighter into a position from which it would successfully
engage the enemy. This was an understanding which did not always succeed. Often the night
fighter pilot had to depend on himself and his cabin crew. During the final stages of an
interception of a Spitfire, for example, success depended solely on him alone”.
Although the hunters increasingly became the hunted as the war progressed, the successes
of the night fighters grew steadily as did their casualties, their often agonizing efforts portrayed
here for the first time. In short, in exceedingly rare photographs the story of the German night
fighters is presented, from his birth as a pilot destined to battle in the black, to his final landing
in defeat, that is, if he were able to land all by himself and walk away from his tired aircraft.
With so much background material presented, it seems unlikely this phase of WWII will ever be
told again.
“The Luftwaffe” must be included among the twins. It is an out-of-print book that buffs and
scholars will relish together. In 320 pages, author Roger Bender reveals rank insignias, uniforms,
headgear, cuff titles, armbands, special uniforms, Fallschirmjager equipment, accessories
specialty badges, clasps, decorations standards, flags, pennants, aircraft markings, etc. Collects
and historians will urgently want this classic added to their library shelves.

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