Any Luftwaffe Pilot Experts out there?? (1 Viewer)

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This was my spouse's grandfather. This photo has been in a frame since the end of the war. Up until last month, we didn't even know his name. With the help of DNA testing we were able to determine he was Hans Karl Heinrich Henjes. He was born in Hannover on December 7, 1917. Based on my mother in laws birthday, we believe he had to have gone missing or was killed some time after October 1944. We were able to find an "Request for Death Declaration for March 28, 1945" but there are no documents to support nor does it show it was approved.

I am not an expert in any capacity of WWII, more specifically German forces. Basic level of understanding at best. So really throwing this out to your community and hoping for some help…

From this photo, what can be determined to possibly narrow down our information search?

1. Luftwaffe pilot. Day? Night? Any other group I should be checking? Recon? Transport? Were there any other squads of pilots? Can a squad be determined based on this photo? My mother in law was born in Darmstadt. Could he have been an based at the Darmstadt airfield?

2. Do any of the other medals or awards he's wearing narrow down anything I should be searching?

3. Is the black ring significant for Luftwaffe pilots?

4. My mother in law was always told her father went missing on the Eastern Front. Just assuming the date of March 28, 1945 is the date he went missing, is there a reliable list of German planes and their pilots that were shot down on specific days?

Again, I have a very basic level of understanding at best with all this. So any help, guidance or direction would be greatly appreciated.
Based on the information you provided and other information I have:

Oberfeldwebel Hans Henjes was almost certainly a pilot with the German night fighter unit II./NJG 4 (2nd Gruppe of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4).

If you look at the handwriting on the Karte you provided, at least four entries are almost certainly post-war additions to the card:

1.) "Major Schnaüfer 2. Nachtjagdbomben 4. Staffel"
2.) "15.11.46 O. Feldw."
3.) "30.12.46 seit / 28. 3.45 vermisst Teütobürger Wald (U 8355)"
4.) "15.11.46 Antrag der Ehefrau von 20.2.46 an Außenstelle Hamburg, Mitteilung, k.M., Nachforschungen werden nicht angestellt. (seit 27/28.3 (?) 45, vermisst / Teütobürger Wald abgestürzt.)" (with thanks to reseacher John Manrho for confirming the text)
5.) I suspect the wife's name and address were also added post-war.

What these entries indicate are:

a) Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer was the Geschwaderkommodore of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 during 1945.
b) If the card is taken literally, Ofw. Hans Henjes went missing circa 27 or 28 March 1945 after a crash in the Teutoberg Forest. This forest was very close to the II./NJG 4 airfields at Gütersloh and Lippsringe. II./NJG 4 flew Ju88 twin-engined night fighters.

How can I be certain Hans Henjes was with II./NJG 4? He is mentioned by name in a British ULTRA decrypt of an II./NJG 4 communication from November 1944. That communication also confirms he was a pilot (see attached image).


(Source: The National Archives, HW 5/613, msg CX/MSS/R.361/A/8)

[NOTE - the ULTRA decrypt details the II./NJG4 aircraft that are available for night operations on the night of 6/7 November 1944 - 14 Ju88 night fighters. The Gruppe has assigned pilot Hptm. Erwin Strobel in a Ju88 with Naxos as the Gruppe leader aircraft. Eleven other crews in Ju88s are available for general Zahme Sau night fighting, while pilot Ofw. Hans Henjes in a Ju88 is tasked with Himmelbett night fighting (i.e. Ground Controlled Intercept night fighting in a specific geographical zone) under the control of radar station DACHS, and pilot Fw. Hans-Heinrich Staenglen in a Ju88 is tasked with Himmelbett night fighting under the control of radar station BERGZIEGE]

If Hans Henjes did indeed die in an aircraft crash at the Teutoberg Forest on 27 or 28 March 1945, then it was an accident and not a result of enemy action. The accident likely did not happen at night. Nachtjagdgeschwader 4, subordinated to 3 Jagddivision, flew no missions on the nights of 27/28 or 28/29 March 1945. Thus, any such aircraft crash was likely on a transfer flight made during the day or during twilight. It's also worth pointing out that Henjes would've had two or three crew onboard the aircraft as well.

The British definitely did not shoot down any Ju88 by day or night during the period in question. I don't have enough information about American daytime air combat claims to comment further.

Sadly, a large number of German aircraft and aircrew losses from the last couple of months of the war remain undiscovered by researchers, mostly because Luftwaffe unit records were destroyed before the end of the war. Any surviving information is likely locked up in German Federal Archives for the foreseeable future, and even then, there will be gaps and omissions.

The last aircraft loss of II./NJG 4 for which I have no aircrew details, occurred on the night of 24/25 March 1945, during Luftwaffe attacks against the Allied bridgeheads across the Rhine.

II./NJG 4 Ju88G-1 aircraft W.Nr. 711104 (3C+BP) was shot down by anti-aircraft fire at 03:10 am on 25 March and crashed 2.6 km NNW of Till, 3 km NW of Wissel, on the west side of the Rhine. All four crewmen onboard died, and their bodies were recovered. Sadly, I have no information about their identities or subsequent burial (researcher Matti Salonen has the names of three German airmen from II./NJG 4 whose date of death is 25 March 1945, but who aren't linked to any specific aircraft crash: Lt. Wolfgang Laumanns (radio operator), Ofw. Paul Nowak (air gunner), and Uffz. Heinrich Fuchsius). It's highly unlikely Hans Henjes was piloting Ju88 711104, but all options should be kept open at this stage.

Your best bet now is to try and discover if there was an aircraft crash in the Teütobürger Wald.
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I don't have copies of all the ULTRA from late 1944, but I found a few more mentions of Hans Henjes in II./NJG 4, beginning in October 1944.

Firstly, let me explain what this ULTRA is and its limitations.

In the case of Nachtjagdgeschwader 4, all three Gruppen sent regular reports to Stab/Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 (i.e. the headquarters).

These reports were encrypted using the Enigma machine. Once encrypted, the reports could then be transmitted to the headquarters either over a land line or, when no land line was immediately available, by wireless radio signal in Morse Code. The British could obviously only intercept those communications sent wirelessly. Sometimes, they missed intercepting communications and other times they likely couldn't decrypt the communications (at lot depended on the skill of the person listening in and writing down the intercepted Morse Code).

II./NJG 4 (the unit Hans Henjes was in) regularly communicated with Stab/NJG 4 wirelessly during October and November 1944. Then the intercepted messages mostly disappeared. By early 1945, II./NJG 4 had the least intercepted messages by far out of the three Gruppen of NJG 4 (I., II., and III./NJG 4). This can likely be explained by II./NJG 4 sharing the same airfield (Gütersloh) as Stab/NJG 4. There would be little need to wirelessly transmit reports to a headquarters on the same airfield.

In 1945, the majority of the intercepted communications from II./NJG 4 were the daily strength & serviceability returns, detailing the number of aircraft and aircrew on unit strength, the serviceability of the aircraft, and the reasons individual aircraft were unserviceable. These returns also listed new aircraft taken on strength and aircraft struck off strength. The returns don't name people.

To put all the ULTRA intercepts into perspective - all the NJG 4 War Diaries and practically all the administrative files were destroyed before the end of the war. This means there are very few surviving archival or documentary sources about Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 flying operations. Of the main surviving sources:

1. Namentliche Verlustemeldungen - Personal loss reports sent by NJG 4 to the Luftwaffe High Command. Most of these only cover losses up to early/mid March 1945.

2. Daily aircraft loss returns tabulated by the Luftwaffe High Command Quartermaster General. These reports go up to 1 April 1945, but because of a delay in reporting, the last Nachtjagd losses listed are from 14 March 1945.

3. Flying logbooks and documents kept by aircrew veterans after the war.

4. British ULTRA decrypts. Quite frankly, without the existence of this ULTRA, very little would be known about NJG 4 in the last months of the war. Sadly, as previously mentioned, II./NJG 4 has the least ULTRA coverage in the last several months of the war.

Anyway, here is some more ULTRA:

HW 5-600.JPG

HW 5-601.JPG

HW 5-601_2.JPG

HW 5-602.JPG

So, the ULTRA mentions of Hans Henjes I've seen so far, begin on 10 October and end of 6 November 1944. There are a couple of reports post-6 November, but Hans Henjes isn't listed. Then the reports cease by around 10-15 November.

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