When the guns jam

Martin Becker, with 58 kills, was among the

ten most successful German night fighters.

Originally serving as a reconnaissance pilot,

he switched to night fighters in the spring of

1943, specifically to 11./NJG 4. In August of

that year, his unit was re-designated 2./NJG 6

and he became its commander in October.

Becker soon began to achieve success

against the RAF, claiming six victories in one

night and seven on another occasion. On the

boxart, Adam Tooby captured one of Becker’s

fights in the summer of 1944 with his frequent

adversary, a Lancaster crew.

After achieving his 43rd victory, Becker

was appointed to command IV./NJG 6, based

in Germany, in late October 1944. However,

parts of his unit were also detached in

Romania and Bulgaria at the time. In addition

to Messerschmitt Bf 110 G-4s, the IV. Gruppe

was also armed with Junkers Ju 88 G-6s,

which was the case for most parts of NJG 6

at the time.

Becker and his crew achieved their most

notable success on the night of March 14–15,

1945. The fight was described in detail by

Theo Boiten in the publication Nachtjagd War

Diaries. The British bombers, which included

B-17s in RAF colours, had several targets and

the German fighters were greatly hampered

by the British jamming radio communications.

Around ten o’clock in the evening, ground

control guided fighters from II., III. and IV./NJG 6

and some from NJG 5 to the area around


INFO Eduard

Lützkendorf. Among them was Ju 88 G-6

“2Z+MF” under the command of Becker. His

crew consisted of radar operators/gunners

Lt. Johanssen and Ofw. Rauch, and Ogefr.

Welzenbach as flight engineer. Their machine

was equipped with a FuG 220 Lichtenstein

SN-2 radar and also a Naxos system for

detecting British radars on board of bombers.

Becker’s crew, by combining the two

systems, managed to identify six Lancasters

in succession and hit them, with some of

them observed to hit the ground. Then the

Junkers’ front weapons suffered a jam and

Becker wanted to return to base. However,

Johanssen suggested that if they could get

forward and under an enemy bomber, he

could open fire from the rear twin MG 131

guns. The crew successively guided Becker

under two Lancasters and one British B-17.

Johanssen managed to hit all of them. He

also observed some of the crew bail out of

the B-17 and the aircraft hit the ground. This

gave Becker and his colleagues nine victories

in one combat flight.

The crews of NJG 6 in the area around

Lützkendorf claimed a total of sixteen downed

bombers. The RAF lost eight Lancasters in

this area and three others were damaged,

at least one of which was hit by Johanssen.

Fire from this radar operator also sent one

Boeing B-17 to the ground. This was BU-O

(HB 802) from No. 214 Sqn RAF commanded

by Flt/Lt Norman Rix DFC. His crew consisted

Text: Jan Bobek

Illustration: Adam Tooby

of British, Australians and New Zealanders

and all managed to survive. Their colleagues

from another Flying Fortress were not so

lucky. They were all captured, but after a few

days, five of them were murdered.

Rix’s Boeing was hit at 3,000 feet on its

return from the target. The airmen aboard

the Flying Fortress thought they had been hit

by light flak, but Johanssen clearly identified

his target; it was the first time he saw

a B-17 with the distinctive silhouette of its tail

surfaces. Rix bailed out of the aircraft very

low to the ground and almost immediately

after opening his parachute he ended up

in the tree canopy. Later, while in custody,

he managed to convince his wardens to lay

down their arms with the German troops in

the Bavarian town of Ettringen. He contacted

an American tank patrol and informed them

that Ettringen was already in British hands.

As a result, Allied troops took the site without

a fight.

Karl-Ludwig Johanssen completed 68

combat sorties as a radio and radar operator

and was credited with assisting 59 night kills.

His boss, “Tino” Becker, flew only 110 combat

sorties during World War II, 27 of them as

a reconnaissance pilot. Together they were

decorated on March 20, 1945. Lieutenant

Johanssen received the Knight's Cross and

Becker, who already had this decoration,

received the Oak Leaves.

July 2023