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Aces of Aviation

Junkers Ju 88 C-6C of Prince Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein

Junkers Ju 88 C-6C of Prince Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein

Junkers Ju 88 C-6C from the Nachtjagdgeschwader II, piloted by Major Prince Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, in January 1944.

Wingspan: 20.00 meters.

Length (excluding antenna): 14.36 meters.

Height: 5.06 meters.

Engine[s]: Two Junkers Jumo 211 J of 1350 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 488 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 9900 meters.

Range: 1980 kilometers.

Armament: Three MG FF/M 20-millimeter cannons; two MG 151 20-millimeter cannons (obliquely aimed); one MG 131 13-millimeter machine gun; three MG 17 7.92-millimeter machine guns.

At the moment of his death, Prince Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein was the recordman pilot among those destined to night fighters in the Luftwaffe, having downed not less than 83 Allied aircraft in the darkness. Only Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer and Helmut Lent could surpass his record. Born the 14th August 1916 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Prince Heinrich enlisted in the Luftwaffe before the outbreak of the Second World War, serving initially as bomber pilot. In August 1941, after having fulfilled about 150 flight missions, he was transferred to night fighters.

Prince Heinrich demonstrated to be a deadly enemy at the controls of his night fighter (in that time a Messerschmitt Bf 110 G) and when his record reached 22 aircraft destroyed, the 2nd October, he was awarded the Knight's Cross. In July 1942 he destroyed seven bombers in a single night (which was believed to be a worldwide record) and the 31st August he earned th Oak Leaves category for his Knight's Cross. Between September and November he commanded the II Gruppe of the Nachtjagdgeschwader 3, but the 1st January 1944 we was promoted to the rank of Commander, taking the command of the Nachtjagdgeschwader 2.

The 21st January Prince Heinrich took off from Stendal onboard his Junkers Ju 88 C-6C, equipped with SN-2 Lichtenstein radar and obliquely aimed MG 151 20-millimeter cannons - known as Schräge Musik - which allowed to shoot at the bombers from beneath. He was guided by his radio operator, Feldwebel Ostheimer, towards a formation of British Lancaster bombers in route to Magdeburg. One hour later he downed one of the bombers with his Schräge Musik, and then another three bombers fell by his guns in rapid succession, before he engaged a fourth aircraft.

When opening fire with the cannons against the bomb bay, Ostheimer saw the beginning of a fire which, apparently, was extinguished. Approaching closer the Lancaster, Prince Heinrich wanted to open fire once again against the bomber when this one suddenly exploded. In that moment violent explosions shaked the larboard wing of the German fighter, and Prince Heinrich ordered to his radio operator to parachute while he tried to take control of his badly damaged aircraft.

But whereas Ostheimer survived the parachuting, Prince Heinrich died in the cockpit of his Junkers, which crashed near Schönhausen. Near there were found the remainings of a Heinkel He 219 piloted by another great German pilot, Captain Manfred Meurer, who had a record of 85 victories. It was then thought that Meurer could have crashed against the Lancaster downed by Prince Heinrich. Two days later it was announced the posthumous awarding of the Swords category for his Knight's Cross.

In the following photograph Prince Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein appears next to a primitive Junkers Ju 88, whose tail indicates the 29 aircraft which he had destroyed in that time, circa May 1942. His record of 83 aircraft destroyed during night time could be surpassed only after his death.

Prince Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein