Saturday, October 17, 2020

"Duel Under the Stars" - a review..

An interesting departure from the main stream this one - being the autobiography of a German night fighter pilot in WW2 flying Me110's - in fact as the title says more a memoir than an autobiography, since the book deals solely with the authors service in WW2 and we don't learn much else about him. 

Not a long read, it covers his service from the beginning of the war in northern German to the end where his squadron was based in Hungary, and then withdrawn to Germany. 

He is "famous" for having caused a bit of an international incident when he was shot down and had to force land in Switzerland where he and his crew were interned for a week before being exchanged for some British officers...  he mentions that the moment the Gestapo found out he had been interned, his family, and the families of his crew, were imprisoned and questioned...  it took Goering to get Himmler to release them...  nice to know the people at home have got your back!

I hadn't realised up until I read this book what a menace the German night fighters were to the British bomber crews, in the to and fro tussle over technology, these German night fighters at some periods  of the campaign were hugely successful..  Johnen himself reports shooting down sometimes two or three bombers in a single sortie.. you think flak was the main problem for the British crews, but I've changed my view, the constant edge of worry on whether you were being stalked by radar by another plane armed with multiple cannon, including the fearsome Schrage Musik [clicky] (upward firing twin cannons) must have been terrifying..  only the increasing use of night fighter Mosquito's armed with better radar, and speed, saw the end of the Me110 night fighter dominance..

Not a Nazi (or he doesn't come across as one), but clearly a loyal and patriotic officer with not a little skill (he ended up with 34 victories, ranked "ace", and with the Knight's Cross). 

Sobering..  the bravery of  him and his fellow aircraft crew fighting at this time in the face of almost limitless Allied superiority in both material and technology is worthy of huge respect.. worth a read...   Steve the Wargamer rates this one as 8 out of 10..

Johnen's Me110 pictured in Switzerland after his arrest/internment


  1. Interesting, just been reading the Hayne Flak 88 book (only £3 in the Works) It quotes "RAF bomber command lost 3623 aircraft (June 42-Apr 45) of these 1,345 or 37% were accounted for by Flak the rest were night fighters (63%). Compared to The US in ETO with 5,400 shot down and 4,300 by fighters"

    So definitely the night fighters were more of a menace

    1. Cheers Will.. it was quite a surprise to me, I had had no idea how effective their night fighter force was.. thank goodness there weren't more of them!