Text: Jan Bobek
Illustration: Adam Tooby
Cat. No. 8405
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 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 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.