Duel Under the Stars (Kindle)
The Memoir of a Luftwaffe Night Pilot in World War II
"The enemy bomber grew larger in my sights and the rear gunner was sprayed by my guns just as he opened fire. The rest was merely a matter of seconds. The bomber fell like a stone out of the sky and exploded on the ground. The nightmare came to an end."
In this enthralling memoir, the author recounts his experiences of the war years and traces the story of the ace fighter pilots from the German development of radar to the Battle of Britain.
Johnen flew his first operational mission in July 1941, having completed his blind-flying training. In his first couple of years he brought down two enemy planes. The tally went up rapidly once the air war was escalated in spring 1943, when Air Marshal Arthur Harris of the RAF Bomber Command began the campaign dubbed the Battle of the Ruhr.
During this phrase of the war Johnen’s successes were achieved against a 710-strong force of bombers. Johnen’s further successes during Harris’s subsequent Berlin offensive led to his promotion as Staffelkapitan (squadron leader) of Nachtjagdgeschwader and a move to Mainz. During a sortie from there, his Bf 110 was hit by return fire and he was forced to land in Switzerland. He and his crew were interned by the authorities. The Germans were deeply worried about leaving a sophisticatedly equipped night fighter and its important air crew in the hands of a foreign government, even if it was a neutral one. After negotiations involving Göring, the prisoners were released.
Johnen’s unit moved to Hungary and by October 1944 his score was standing at 33 aerial kills. His final one came in March the following year, once Johnen had moved back to Germany.
This book was first published 10 years after the war ended, so everything was still fresh in the author’s memory. This makes it so much more valuable than books researched decades later, often just having to rely on written documents and photos.WW2 Traces
It also provides a very interesting and clear insight into the life of these German pilots at the time.
Read the full review here
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Terri Wangard
Since the Americans flew day missions in World War II, the German nightfighters aren’t well known. The British bore the brunt of their attacks. Even in old war movies, I recall the British bombers being caught in searchlights and shot down by flak, not fighters. Therefore, this memoir was enlightening.
Of interesting note: when the author landed his damaged plane in Switzerland, his family was arrested and jailed by the Gestapo
He frequently mentions the German anger over the Allies bombing their cities. They conveniently forget their tactics when they started the war―bombing Warsaw, Rotterdam, and other cities, slaughtering men, women, and children.
This book is well worth the time to read.
I highly recommend Duel under the Stars by Wilhem Johnen... I believe that we need to hear both sides of the story and this book is just incredible. As James Holland put it, ‘A fine account not of a Nazi automaton but of a young pilot whose fears, anxieties, triumphs and pain are as every bit as human as of those he was fighting against.’Armorama
Read the full review here
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Patrick Carmen
Reading this book broght back memories of my uncles and father talking about the Second World War which they all served in. I have always heard the Allied side of the war so looked forward to reading what the Axis pilots were all about. I was amazed and saddened by this book. It is so well written it was hard to put down and I felt compassion for the German crews which surprised me. They were men fighting to protect their families and country from attack. The author never sounds arrogant or hateful, he sounds like an honorable soldier. This makes it even more astounding to read. Especially since my generation was anything but sympathetic to the Germans. I never thought of the enemy as humans just like us. But they are.
The details in this book are so descriptive you feel like you are getting ready to take off and meet the bombers on their way to Berlin. All in all an excellent and important story that needs to be told.
....Johnen’s long out-of-print memoir « Duel under the stars - a factual report from a German night fighter pilot » is recently republished by Pen and Sword imprint Greenhill. In simple, uncomplicated language which does much to preserve the ‘immediacy’ of an account first published in English in 1957 - Johnen describes his initial training, the creation of the German fighter force established to counter Bomber Command’s night offensive, his posting to NJG 1 and the first victories as the lumbering four-engine bombers are stalked through the night skies by growing numbers of ‘panther-like’ fighters bristling with cannon and stag-antler radar antennae guided by an all-embracing system of radar defence. Johnen was one of those night-time ‘stalkers’ and his book features some remarkable descriptions of night-fighting and of life on an operational air-base in war-time Germany..Falkeeins.blogspot
As featured byThe Armourer, May 2018
...well-written and easily-read.NZ Crown Mines
This re-issue of the war memoirs of a German pilot rests well with several other more recent translations of ‘Landser’ memoirs that place the subjects not as inhuman ‘Nazis’ but as recognisable people fighting for their country. At a certain point politics is subsumed by the need for national survival and this account adds to that understanding of why the Germans continued to fight for so long even though the outcome was increasingly certain. Written in a style that captures the imagination, describes emotion as well as actions, and delivers a very good read.Michael McCarthy
Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide