Archive for December, 2017

Major Walter “Nowi” Nowotny: Super ace during World War II

December 24, 2017

NOWOTNY.FW190.jpg

NOWOTNY’S FW 190A4 OF JG54 — By Ron Cole

Major Walter “Nowi” Nowotny was a “super ace” in aerial combat during World War II.

Nowotny was born on December 7, 1920 in Gmund in Lower Austria.  On November 8, 1944 — less than one month short of his 24th birthday — Nowotny was killed in combat with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) fighters.

During Nowotny’s military career, Nowotny was credited with 442 flying missions and 258 victories in aerial combat.  Nowotny also had 50 unconfirmed victories. He flew the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the world’s first jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262.  Nowotny recorded 255 of his victories over the Eastern Front and three victories over the Western Front.  All three of Nowotny’s victories over the Western Front were while flying the Me 262 jet fighter.  Two of those victories involved shooting down four-engine bombers.

Nowotny was 19-years-old when the British and French declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.  Nowotny volunteered to serve his country and opted for service in the Luftwaffe, which he joined on October 1, 1939.  By the time he reached 20 years of age he had been flying for two months.  On Feb. 23, 1941, he was assigned as a fighter pilot to Jagdgeschwaer on the Eastern Front with the Grunherz JG54 Group.  Within weeks he downed his first Russian J 18.

On July 19, 1941 — Nowotny’s 24th mission — he recorded his first victories when he shot down two Russian Polikarpov I-153 biplane fighters.  On the same day, Nowotny’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 was shot down by a Russian I-153 flown by Russian ace Alexandr Avdeev (13 victories, killed in action on Aug. 12, 1942). Nowotny’s fighter ended up in the Bay of Riga, where he clung to life in a small rubber dinghy for three days and three nights.  He eventually drifted ashore on the Latvian coast. While drifting in the dinghy, Notowny was almost run over by a Soviet destroyer.

Nowotny recorded his 55th and 56th victories on August 7, 1942.  After his 56th aerial victory, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross,  On September 6, 1943,  Nowotny recorded his 191st and 192nd victories.  After these victories he was awarded the rare and coveted Oak Leaves Award.  Nowotny reached the century mark of victories on June 5, 1943, on his 344th combat mission.

During June 1943, Nowotny shot down 41 aircraft including 10 Russian fighters on June 24, 1943.  During August 1943, Nowotney shot down 49 aircraft — a number reached by Jagdgeschwader 52’s (JG 52) Erich Hartmann — bring Notwotny’s total to 161 victories. During October 1943, Nowotny shot down 32 aircraft. Nowotny was renowned even among Allied pilots.

On October 14, Nowotny downed his 250th enemy plane: a P-40. Nowotny was the first pilot in history to record 250 victories. For this accomplishment, Nowotny was awarded the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds.

By early 1944 Messerschmitt developed a twin-engine jet propelled fighter, the Me 262.  Nowotny was ordered to Berlin and was chosen to create Germany’s first jet fighter squadron.  By autumn 1944 the squadron downed 4 MOTS, Mosquitoes and Mustangs.

Nowotny was at his post on November 8, 1944, when it was learned that two of his fighter pilots had been shot down.  Nowotny immediately took to the air in his own Me 262.  He had downed a B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang fighter before he heard on the radio that there were flames erupting from his aircraft.  As Nowotny’s jet spiraled toward the ground, he opened the canopy and bailed out.  The parachute lines tangled with the aircraft’s rudder and Nowotny was killed.  The place of Nowotny’s death was near Hespe, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany.

Helmut Lennartz, a Luftwaffe fighter ace, recalled:

“I remember Notwotny’s crash very well.  Feldwebel Gossler, a radio operator with our unit, had set up a radio on the airfield. Over this set I and many others listened to the radio communications with Nowotny’s aircraft. His last words were,’I’m on fire’ or ‘it’s on fire.’ The words were slightly garbled.”

After Nowotny’s death, Jagdgeschwader 7, the first operational jet fighter wing in history, was renamed Nowotny in Walter’s honor.

Nowotny was given a state funeral in Vienna. The guard of honor was composed of his friend Karl Schnorrer, Oberst Gordon Gollob, Major Rudolf Schoenert, Hauptmann Heinz Sturning, Major Josef Fozo and Major Georg Christl. The eulogy was delivered by General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland and Generaloberst Otto DeBloch. Nowotny’s ashes were buried at Vienna Central Cemetery in Vienna, Austria (Group of Honor Graves at Zentralfriedhof).  Others buried at the cemetery include Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss and Johannes Brahms.

Nowotny had two brothers, Rudolf and Hubert, who both became officers in the Wehrmacht. Hubert was killed in action in the Battle of Stalingrad.

A list of Nowotny’s 258 victories is set forth at http://www.luftwaffe.cz/nowotny.html.

The definite biography on Major Nowotny is by Werner Held.  It is titled German Fighter Ace Walter Nowotny: An Illustrated Biography (Schiffer Publishing 2006).  It is a translation of Der Jagdflieger Walter Nowotny (1984).  The book includes material from the Nowotny family.  Mr. Held is also the author of Battle Over the Third Reich: The Air War Over Germany: 1943-1945 (Air Research Publications 1990 — reprinted Zenith Aviation Books / Air Research Publications 1993); The German Fighter Units Over Russia: A Pictorial History of the Pilots and Aircraft (Schiffer Publishing 1990) and Fighter!: Luftwaffe Fighter Planes and Pilots (Prentice Hall 1979).

Other books discussing Luftwaffe fighter pilots include: Robert Forsyth and Jim Laurier, Jagdgeschwader 1 “Oesau” Aces 1939-45: Aircraft of the Aces (Osprey Publishing 2017); Gunther Fraschka, Knights of the Reich: The Twenty-Seven Most Highly Decorated Soliders of the Wehrmacht in World War II (Schiffer Publishing 2004), and Mike Spick, Luftwaffe Fighter Aces: the Jagdflieger and Their Combat Tactics and Techniques (Greenhill Books 1996 — reprinted Frontline Books 2011).

Inspiration for this article came from a book chapter titled Walter Nowotny: Air Ace Among Air Aces, in Mike Walsh, Heroes of the Reich (2017).  Mr. Walsh is also the author many other books including Heroes Hang When Traitors Triumph: Were Sinners Really Saints (2015).

HISTORICAL FILM FOOTAGE OF THE MESSERSCHMITT ME 262 (1:19)

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Saint Lucia Day in Sweden

December 9, 2017

Saint Lucia Day processions take place annually on December 13 in Sweden.  Saint Lucia Day (also known as Saint Lucy’s Day, the Feast Day of Saint Lucy of Syracuse and Little Yule) includes a Swedish custom with girls and boys wearing white, full-length gowns and singing songs together. The singing procession of boys and girls is led by a girl chosen to be Lucia (also known as the Lucia Bride).

There is a competition for the role of Lucia/  Although Sweden has always sought to avoid ranking people, the Lucia celebration has been an exception.

Lucia wears a wreath with five burning candles affixed to it.  (For safety purposes, battery-powered light bulbs have largely replaced real candles.)  The wreath is made of Lingonberry branches. Tradition has it that Lucia is to wear “light in her hair.”  Along with Lucia there are Handmaidens and Star Boys (Stjarngossars).  The Handmaidens wear brilliant red sashes and carry a single candle (or light bulb) or also wear a wreath of candles (or light bulbs) on their heads.  The red sashes are to remind of Saint Lucia’s martyrdom. The Star Boys carry stars on sticks and have tall paper cones on their heads.

The many Lucia songs all have the same theme: the days have become short and dark; the darkness is lighted up Lucia bearing lighted candles.  The most famous lyrics versions in Swedish are Luciasangen (“Saint Lucy, bright illusion”), Natten gar tunga fjat (“Night walks with heavy step”) and Ute ar morkt och kallt (“Outside is dark and cold.”).  Here is one versions of Santa Lucia:

SANTA LUCIA

Night walks with heavy step, round yard and hearth, as the sun departs from earth, shadows are brooding. There in our dark house, walking with lit candles, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Night walks grand, yet silent, now hear its gentle wings, in every room so hushed, whispering like wings.  Look, at our threshold stands, white-clad with light her hair, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

Darkness shall take flight soon, from earth’s valleys.  So she speaks, wonderful words to us, a new day will rise again, from the rosy sky, Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!

The Lucia celebrations also include ginger snaps and sweet, saffron-flavored buns (lussekatter), which are shaped like curled-up cats with raisin eyes.  The buns are often eaten with glogg or coffee.

Saint Lucia Day marks the beginning of the Christmas season.  It is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year.  Families observed Saint Lucia Day in their homes by having one of the daughters (traditionally the eldest) dress in a white robe and serve coffee and baked goods such as lussekatter and ginger biscuits.  Saint Lucia saffron buns take about 2-1/2 hours to prepare and 12 minutes to bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).

The first appearance of a white-clad Lucia in Sweden was in a country house in 1764. The custom did not become universally popular in Swedish society until the 1900s, when schools and local associations began promoting it.  Stockholm proclaimed its first Lucia in 1927.

In agrarian Sweden, young people used to dress up as Lucia figures (lussegubbar) that night and wander from house to house singing songs.  The old lussegubbar custom virtually disappeared with urban migration.  White-clad Lucias with their singing processions were considered a more acceptable, controlled form of celebration than the youthful carousals of the past.

Under the Julian calendar, December 13 was the Winter Solstice.  Thus, the saying: “Lucy light, the shortest day and the longest night.”  Lucy means “light.”

Saint Lucia Day is in honor of Saint Lucia, a young girl from Syracuse, Sicilly, who was one of the earliest Christian martyrs.  She was killed by the Romans in 304 CE because of her religious beliefs.

Saint Lucia Day is also celebrated in Norway and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland.  In Finland, Luciadagen is observed a week before the Winter Solstice.