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Thread: German Fighters in combat reports

  1. #1
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    Default German Fighters in combat reports

    I just downloaded a couple of combat reports that detail attacks on the Stirling my father was navigator on in 1943. In both cases the enemy aircraft were noticed by the gunners because they had their navigation lights on, a green light on the end of the starboard wing and a red one on the port wing tip. Was this common? I was a bit surprised to see that both of these aircraft were trying to sneak up on their victims with their nav lights blazing. I assume they did have on off switch. I would appreciate any comments.
    Regards
    Dave Wallace
    Last edited by David Wallace; 7th December 2007 at 19:18.

  2. #2
    Eddie Fell Guest

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    Just to add to what David has said. In the combat reports I have there are various mentions of lights viz

    Yellow light in nose
    Green light in nose
    Brilliant green light in nose
    Red light in nose
    White light in nose
    Formation lights on
    Navigation lights on

    I too had wondered whether these were actual or just figments of the gunners imaginations and that the lights were from other sources rather than the attacking aircraft. I'm also therefore seeking enlightenment

    Eddie

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    A quick reply, as I am rather pressed for time -I have never heard any of my German Nachtjagd contacts switching on any sort of light at night, although I've heard one or two stories of single-engined night fighters in 1943 having their nav. lights on during combat sorties. I've read comments from Bomber Command A/Gs time and again of seeing lights on their adversaries, but these remain a mystery to me!

    Cheers, Theo

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    I was just going through my files, refreshing my memory of bits that I had accumulated, and came across the following in a file named "Hints for gunners":

    "At night Jerry has a big bag of tricks for decoys. He sends one a/c along your course with identification lights on. He sends one behind you on your tail; or has one come out of the moon. On any of these be sure and search on the opposite side of your a/c for the real attacker."

    Does this sound feasible as a tactic: distract the gunners then attack with the second plane? Trouble is, I can't remember the site where this extract came from.

    Max Williams

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    Thank you all for your comments.
    My initial thought was that they had probably had forgotten to turn them off once airborne rather than deliberately turned them on. Both times it appeared to be fighers operating on their own
    In the first incident it was on a dark night and they saw the navigation lights on the enemy a/c about 600 yards away. He got to 200 yards and turned to attack when the Pilot corkscrewed and the gunners fired. Once he was fired on he broke off and disappeared.
    In the second incident they saw the nav lights at about 200 yards, corkscrewed and fired immediately and probably got the enemy aircraft - they saw and orange flash in the direction they had fired and and explosion & fire an the ground 45 seconds later.
    Perhaps it was just co-incidence it happened twice and maybe a very lucky one for me. Who knows what the outcome may have been on either of those two nights if the fighters had approached my father's Stirling from behind with their navigation lights off.
    Regards
    Dave Wallace

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    Default Bomber Command Reports

    To add to what Theo has written,

    other when multiple night fighters used formation tactics for assembly an moving towards radio beacons, there appears to be little or no evidence that German night fighters ever operated in pairs etc, yet there was a comtemporary belief within Bomber Command that such tactics were used. Night fighter crews were lone hunters, and sightings of or attacks by multiple night fighters were co-incidence in a crowded sky.

    IHMO, because of faulty intelligence or the mis-interpretation of crew reports, Bomber Command became subject to many intelligence myths, which became "self-fulfilling prophesies" for crews trying to intrepret what they were seeing in the night skies: RAF Intelligence reports that Me210s and Me410s are used at night (the Me410s were used for a period) and suddenly many Bf110s encountered at night are reported as Me410s, even up to the closing stages of the war; reports start circulating from late-1944 onwards that jets are being used at night, and, lo and behold, Bomber Command suffers a pandemic of jet/rocket sightings over the last six months of the war (it got so bad that Bomber Command HQ could not assess jet claims because they were aware that there couldn't be so many jets operating at night. What were mainly seen were probably signals rockets/munitions); although after mid-1944 the Nachtjagd did not employ a large number of single-engined night fighters, Bomber Command crews continued to "see" and report large numbers of sightings of S/E a/c, at night up to the closing stages of the war.

    The point I'm trying to make is that at night it is very difficult to correctly intrepret the various lights, flames and shadows that could be seen. It is human nature that the mind will try to make sense of what is seen, and IMHO, crews "saw what they wanted to see" (i.e. all streaks of light in the night sky become jet or rocket a/c, even although, in many, many reported cases, the "jet" was only seen climbing and suddenly exploded without being fired at, or after a brief burst of m/g fire).

    To get back to the point in question, any use of nav lights would've been accidential and rare. Why? Ask the simple question...would a bomber crew intentially fly a night mission over Germany with nav and resin lights on? The same reason that they wouldn't is more or less the same reason why German night fighter crews wouldn't...

    Cheers

    Rod

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    Rod - Thanks for your input and your points are well taken. It is a natural human tendency to see what the mind tells you to see. Having sailed quite a bit a night, it is also amazing the things that you can see on a dark night, when staring into blackness, that are not really there.
    As you say , it makes no sense to intentionally attack with your nav lights on unless it is a form of diversion which Theo and Max mentioned and I don't think that was the case in either of these incidents.
    I will put this down as a lucky coincidence that both enemy fighter pilots made the same mistake. Thanks!

    Regards
    Dave Wallace

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