|Nickname||Spook of Sint-Truiden|
16 February 1922|
|Died||15 July 1950
|Years of service||1939 – 1945|
|Unit||NJG 1, NJG 4|
|Commands held||12./NJG 1, IV./NJG 1, NJG 4|
|Awards||Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub, Schwerten und Brillanten|
|Other work||wine business|
Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer (16 February 1922 – 15 July 1950) was a German Luftwaffe night fighter pilot and is the highest scoring night fighter ace in the history of aerial warfare. A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down five (in some services, notably the World War I German air force, classification as an ace required ten) or more enemy aircraft during aerial combat. All of his 121 aerial victories were claimed during World War II at night, mostly against British four-engine bombers.[Notes 1] He was nicknamed "The Spook of St. Trond", from the location of his unit's base in occupied Belgium.
Early life 
Luftwaffe career 
Schnaufer entered the Luftwaffe as a trainee pilot in November 1939, and underwent flying training in 1940. In April 1941, Lt. Schnaufer was posted to Nachtjagdschule 1, to learn the rudiments of night-fighting . In November 1941 Schnaufer was posted to II./NJG 1. Schnaufer's first operation came in February, when II./NJG 1 flew escort for the German navy’s capital ships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen when they broke out from Brest in the Channel Dash. His first victory was claimed on the night 1/2 June 1942; a Handley Page Halifax over Belgium. However, while attacking a second enemy aircraft, his aircraft was hit by return fire and he was wounded in the leg. He successfully landed his damaged aircraft. By the end of the year, his total stood at 7, with 3 victories recorded on one night. Schnaufer was promoted to Oberleutnant in July 1943, when his total was 17.
Schnaufer was transferred to IV./NJG 1, based in Holland, where he was appointed Staffelkapitän in August 1943. Oberleutnant Schnaufer was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes for 42 victories in December 1943. He recorded his 50th victory (IV./NJG 1’s 500th victory) on the night of 24/25 February 1944.[Notes 2]
March 1944 saw Schnaufer appointed Gruppenkommandeur IV./NJG 1. He claimed five enemy aircraft on the night of 24/25 May. Hauptmann Schnaufer was awarded the Eichenlaub on 24 June for 84 victories and the Schwerter on 30 July, with his total at 89.
In September 1944, IV./NJG 1 retreated into Germany, Schnaufer achieved his 100th victory on 9 October 1944. He was awarded the Brillanten personally by Adolf Hitler. Schnaufer was then appointed Geschwaderkommodore of NJG 4 on 4 November 1944; the youngest Geschwaderkommodore in the Luftwaffe at 22. At the end of the year, his victory total stood at 106.
Schnaufer's greatest one-night success came on 21 February 1945, when he claimed nine Royal Air Force (RAF) heavy bombers in the course of one day: two in the early hours of the morning and a further seven, in just 19 minutes, in the evening. On 7 March, he claimed three RAF four-engine bombers as his last victories of the war.
Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer was the top-scoring Nachtjäger of World War II. He was credited with 121 victories recorded in just 164 combat missions. His victory total includes 114 RAF four-engine bombers; arguably accounting for more RAF casualties than any other Luftwaffe ace and becoming the third highest Luftwaffe claimant against the Western Allied Air Forces.
His radar operator on his first 12 claims was Fw. Dr. Baro, while 100 of his claims were with Lt. Friedrich "Fritz" Rumpelhardt. His air gunner on 98 claims was Oberfeldwebel Wilhelm Gänsler. Both the latter received the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes.
Schnaufer flew variants of the Messerschmitt Bf 110 exclusively.
Schnaufer was taken prisoner by the British Army in Schleswig-Holstein in May 1945, but was released later that year when he took over the family wine business. He died in 1950 as the result of an accident in which his open sports car collided with a truck near Bordeaux. Heavy gas cylinders from the truck fell on to Schnaufer's car, and at least one of them hit Schnaufer on the head. He died in a hospital on 15 July 1950.
The portside vertical stabiliser from the twin tail of his Bf 110G, tallying all his kills, is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London. In addition, another fin from a Bf-110 of Schnaufer's is at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe for Night Fighters in Gold
- Combined Pilots-Observation Badge in Gold with Diamonds
- Wound Badge in Black
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (26 July 1943)
- German Cross in Gold on 16 August 1943 as Oberleutnant in the II./NJG 1
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds
- Knight's Cross on 31 December 1943 as Oberleutnant and Staffelführer of 12./NJG 1
- 507th Oak Leaves on 24 June 1944 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of IV./NJG 1
- 84th Swords on 30 July 1944 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of IV./NJG 1[Notes 3]
- 21st Diamonds on 16 October 1944 as Hauptmann and Gruppenkommandeur of IV./NJG 1
- Mentioned in the Wehrmachtbericht on 10 October 1944
References in the Wehrmachtbericht 
|Date||Original German Wehrmachtbericht wording||Direct English translation|
|10 October 1944||Der vom Führer mit dem Eichenlaub mit Schwertern zum Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes ausgezeichnete Hauptmann Schnaufer, Gruppenkommandeur in einem Nachtjagdgeschwader, errang in der Nacht vom 9. zum 10. Oktober seinen 100. Nachtjagdsieg.||During the night of the 9th to the 10 October Haupmann Schnaufer, Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) in a Nachtjagdgeschwader (night fighter wing), whom the Führer has decorated with the Oak Leaves with Swords to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, scored his 100th night aerial victory.|
Dates of rank 
|1 April 1941:||Leutnant (Second Lieutenant)|
|July 1943:||Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant)|
|1 May 1944:||Hauptmann (Captain)|
|1 December 1944:||Major (Major)|
- Spick 1996, pp. 3–4.
- Imperial War Museum (2011). "EPH 2961 - fin fragment from a German Messerschmitt Me 110 aircraft (flown by Major Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer)". Imperial War Museum Collection Search. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
- Kurowski 2007, p. 139.
- Obermaier 1989, p. 25.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 417.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 384.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 675.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 84.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 44.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 38.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 3, p. 284.
- Kurowski 1996, p. 380.
- Berger, Florian (1999). Mit Eichenlaub und Schwertern. Die höchstdekorierten Soldaten des Zweiten Weltkrieges. Selbstverlag Florian Berger. ISBN 3-9501307-0-5.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945. Friedburg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5.
- Fraschka, Günther (1994). Knights of the Reich. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Military/Aviation History. ISBN 0-88740-580-0.
- Hagen, Hans-Peter (1998). Husaren des Himmels Berühmte deutsche Jagdflieger und die Geschichte ihrer Waffe (in German). Rastatt, Germany: Moewig. ISBN 3-8118-1456-7.
- Kurowski, Franz (1996). Luftwaffe Aces. Winnipeg, Canada: J.J. Fedorowicz Publishing Inc. ISBN 0-921991-31-2.
- Kurowski, Franz (2007). Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer. Verlagshaus Würzburg. ISBN 978-3-88189-736-5.
- Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 - 1945 (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 3-87341-065-6.
- Patzwall, Klaus D. and Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 - 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II. Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 3-931533-45-X.
- Price, Alfred (1967). "One of our planes is missing..." (a.k.a. "Schnaufer's 13th Kill"), History of the Second World War (Magazine series), Vol. 4, No. 15. London: Purnell and Sons.
- Schaulen, Fritjof (2005). Eichenlaubträger 1940 - 1945 Zeitgeschichte in Farbe III Radusch - Zwernemann (in German). Selent, Germany: Pour le Mérite. ISBN 3-932381-22-X.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Ritterkreuzträger 1939 - 1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Scutts, Jerry (1998). German Night Fighter Aces of World War 2. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-696-5.
- Spick, Mike (1996). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 0-8041-1696-2.
- Williamson, Gordon (2006). Knight's Cross with Diamonds Recipients 1941-45. Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-84176-644-5.
- Die Wehrmachtberichte 1939-1945 Band 3, 1. Januar 1944 bis 9. Mai 1945 (in German). München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, 1985. ISBN 3-423-05944-3.
- Helden der Wehrmacht - Unsterbliche deutsche Soldaten (in German). München, Germany: FZ-Verlag GmbH, 2004. ISBN 3-924309-53-1.
- Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer in the German National Library catalogue
- Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer @ Aces of the Luftwaffe
- Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer @ Pilotenbunker
- Grave in Calw
- Captain Schnaufer Night-Fighter ace is decorated (Nov 1944) on YouTube
Oberleutnant Wolfgang Thimmig
|Commander of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4
14 November 1944 – 8 May 1945
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