German night–fighter pilot

The lives of German aircrew and Allied bomber crews were equally fragile. Although the night-fighter had an overwhelming advantage over a British bomber in battle, the German airmen were usually required to keep flying against the bomber onslaught until they were killed, wounded, or injured in crash-landings. Casualties among novice crews were high.

Hailed in Germany as heroes defending the Reich, the night-fighters often expressed their individuality in their dress; in other respects, their uniforms changed little over the course of the war. This highly-decorated pilot, a leutnant (lieutenant), wears typical clothing, including a standard leather jacket.

German aircrew badges

In addition to the existing breast badges worn by pilots (top left) and wireless operator/air gunners (top right), the Luftwaffe introduced a series of badges during the war to denote operational service. To these were often added pendants and numbered bars. Displayed here are badges awarded to long- and short-range night-fighters and day-fighters, as well as those for reconnaissance and air or sea rescue aircrews. This elaborate system of awards acknowledged the fact that airmen were sometimes required to fly hundreds of missions.