There had been a lot of people— men and women who stood out from the rest during the time of war, be it with their skills, talent, wit, or intelligence, or it could also be for their heroism or compassion for others. There were also those who stood out for all the wrong reasons, which is, of course, not a good thing. Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer’s name was one of those known in history and for incredible reasons.
Off to a Great Start
Schnaufer was born in Calw, Free People’s State of Wurttemberg of the German Reich, on February 16, 1922. He was the eldest among the four children of a mechanical engineer and merchant, Alfred Schnaufer and Martha. His father also owned and managed a family business, their Schnaufer-Schlossberhkellerei winery, which was founded by his grandfather and father after World War I. When Schnaufer’s father died in 1940, his mother took over the business while looking after the children.
At an early age, Schnaufer already expressed his desire to join a military organization, so he joined the German Youth in 1933. After completing his sixth grade, he took and passed the Backnang National Political Institutes of Education, a boarding school founded under the Nazi state, which was just recently founded at that time. There, he stood out and finished at the top of his class every year. He graduated at the age of 17 with distinction. At the same time, he completed his B-license to fly glider aircraft. At the time, Germany was forbidden an airforce so by the Treaty of Versailles so Germany trained her pilots in gliders as a work-around.
After graduation, Schnaufer took and passed his entry exams for officer cadets of the Luftwaffe. He underwent basic military training, and by April 1, 1940, he was appointed as a cadet. Next was his flight training, including the advanced flight training that he took at Alt Lonnewitz. This qualified him to fly multi-engine aircraft.
Learning Night Bombing
Schnaufer flew for two more years before promotion to Lieutenant. After his multi-engine aircraft qualification, he entered training in night fighting. Sneaking up on Allied bomber formations in the dark and attacking them. His first encounter with the British bombers, regardless of how long his preparation was, was far from being pleasant. After claiming his first kill, his plane was hit, and he was wounded in the leg. Schnaufer may have just been green and a bit too zealous about pressing his first attack, but being nearly sho down and wounded in the process taught him a lesson about using the darkness and patience to his advantage.
By the end of that year, the talented bomber would claim a total of seven kills: four Wellingtons, two Halifaxes, one Lancaster, and one Whitley. In July 1943, he was promoted to Oberleutnant after claiming his 17th confirmed kill. His 20th victory didn’t take long as he had it on July 9 when he shot down a Lancaster bomber of the 49 Squadron.
He was then transferred to Leeuwarden, Holland, shortly after his 20th victory. In two months’ time, he had already racked up to his 30th kill, and by December, he was already at his 47th.
The young pilot had two remarkable records throughout his career.
The first one was in March 1944. 22-year-old Schnaufer was just appointed as Gruppenkommanduer of IV./NJG 1 when he shot down five aircraft, his 74th. What’s even more outstanding about it was that he downed these five in a span of 15 minutes, basically taking five bombers out of the sky at the rate of one every three minutes.
The other one occurred on February 21, 1945. He managed to down nine Lancasters, seven of which were in a span of 19 minutes of carnage. The first two were downed between 1:53 and 1:58 in the morning, and then he waited until the evening. By 20:44, he began his spree, taking down the enemy aircraft one by one. By 21:03, he had downed seven enemy aircraft. The last bombers that Schnaufer would take were three aircraft on March 8, 1945, with his final tally of 121. After then, he was banned from combat flying to test the new Dornier Do 335 with two jet engines to see if it was suitable for night fighting, it allowed him to survive the war. After being taken prisoner by the British, and then he took over his family’s wine business after being free.