Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer

German night fighter ace (b.1922, d.1950)


Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer was born in Calw, Baden-Württemberg on 16 February 1922. After expressing the wish to become a flying officer he joined the Luftwaffe in November 1939 and later flew with Nachtjagdgeschwader I. Between June 1942 and March 1945 he shot down a confirmed total of 121 British bombers during 164 night missions. He flew his operations from Venlo and Leeuwarden and later became the "Night Ghost of St. Trond" as he was known by the British aircrews. On 16 October 1944 he was awarded the highest military award, the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds, after attaining 100 night victories. Schnaufer remained a prisoner of war until November 1945 and his Bf 110 was displayed in London's Hyde Park (its tail with 121 markings can still be seen in the Imperial War Museum).

Schnaufer had lived for just five years after the end of the war, and was only 28 years old, when death, from which he had miraculously escaped during years of uninterrupted operational combat, claimed him at last. After returning from captivity in Great Britain he took over his parents' wine merchandise shop in Calw. On 13 July 1950 Schnaufer was on a wine buying tour in southern France when he was involved in a car accident between Bordeaux and Biarritz. A lorry driver had taken his right of way and Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer passed away two days later. His remains were take back to Calw where he found his final place of rest.

The inscription on his gravestone reads:

Here rests the best and undefeated night fighter of the Second World War, Major and Geschwaderkommodore Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer, 1922 - 1950

Followed by a short piece of verse:

Thee would I salute in the threshing of thy wings,
My heart foretells me triumph in thy name.
Onward, proud eagle, to thee the cloud must yield.


Text and pictures: copyright by Gerhard Schnecke, 2001



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