|Born||22 May 1920
|Died||26 February 1944
over the North Sea near Dunkirk, France
|Years of service||1938–1944|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Heinz Vinke (22 May 1920 – 26 February 1944) was a German Luftwaffe night fighter ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub) during World War II. The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. He and his crew were shot down and killed in action on 26 February 1944, while on a search and rescue mission over the English Channel.
Heinz Vinke was born on 22 May 1920 in Barby, in the Province of Saxony, a Free State of Prussia. He joined the Luftwaffe in 1938, where he was trained as a Zerstörer (destroyer) pilot. Serving with Nachtjagdgeschwader 2 (NJG 2—2nd Night Fighter Wing) over Northern Europe, his first air victory was on 27 February 1942, a Armstrong Whitworth Whitley 22 kilometres (14 mi) north-east of Leeuwarden. His next claim was filed on the night of 3/4 June 1942 when he shot down a Short Stirling at 02:16 over the Zuiderzee. His fourth victory was over a Vickers Wellington shot down on 28 June 1942 at 00:54 east of Enkhuizen. Vinke became an ace when he shot down his fifth opponent, Wellington bomber, on the night of 27/28 August 1942 at 02:32.
He transferred to Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1—1st Night Fighter Wing) in early 1943.[Note 1] On 17/18 August 1943, Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command targeted Peenemünde and the V-weapons test centre. Five Bristol Beaufighter night fighters of No. 141 Squadron, under the command of Wing Commander Bob Braham, intercepted five Messerschmitt Bf 110s from IV./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (IV./NJG 1—4th group of the 1st Night Fighter Wing), and Feldwebel (Sergeant) Georg Kraft (14 victories) and Feldwebel Vinke (at the time with 20 claims) were both shot down by Braham near Schiermonnikoog. Feldwebel Vinke was the only one of his crew to survive.
Vinke claimed eight confirmed night kills during 1942, twenty-nine in 1943 and seventeen during early 1944 before he was killed in action. He was decorated with the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) on 19 September 1943 for twenty-seven claims, and was posthumously awarded the Oak Leaves. Vinke claimed 54 aerial victories in 153 operations, all of them at night.[Note 2]
Oberfeldwebel (Master Sergeant) Vinke was shot down and killed while flying Messerschmitt Bf 110 G-4 (Werknummer 740136—factory number) of 11./NJG 1 on 26 February 1944, while on a search and rescue mission over the English Channel. The victors were two Hawker Typhoons of No. 198 Squadron RAF, flown by F/L. Cheval L'Allemand and F/O. George Hardy. His crew of Unteroffizier Rudolf Dunger and Unteroffizier Rudolf Walter were also killed.
- Honour Goblet of the Luftwaffe (Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe) on 29 March 1943 as Feldwebel and pilot
- Front Flying Clasp of the Luftwaffe
- Iron Cross (1939)
- 2nd Class
- 1st Class
- German Cross in Gold on 2 August 1943 as Feldwebel in the 5./Nachtjagdgeschwader 2
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Foreman, Matthews and Parry 2004, p. 35.
- Foreman, Matthews and Parry 2004, p. 43.
- Foreman, Matthews and Parry 2004, p. 48.
- Foreman, Matthews and Parry 2004, p. 56.
- Thomas 2013
- Patzwall 2008, p. 208.
- Patzwall and Scherzer 2001, p. 487.
- Scherzer 2007, p. 759.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 431.
- Fellgiebel 2000, p. 82.
- Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000). Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 – Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtsteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6.
- Foreman, John; Matthews, Johannes; Parry, Simon (2004). Luftwaffe Night Fighter Claims 1939 – 1945. Walton on Thames, UK: Red Kite. ISBN 978-0-9538061-4-0.
- Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1941 – 1945] (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7.
- Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8.
- Patzwall, Klaus D. (2008). Der Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg [The Honor Goblet for Outstanding Achievement in the Air War] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-08-3.
- Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die 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 [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Miltaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2.
- Thomas, Franz (1998). Die Eichenlaubträger 1939–1945 Band 2: L–Z [The Oak Leaves Bearers 1939–1945 Volume 2: L–Z] (in German). Osnabrück, Germany: Biblio-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7648-2300-9.
- Thomas, Andrew (2013). Beaufighter Aces of World War 2. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4728-0171-5.
- Media related to Heinz Vinke at Wikimedia Commons
- "Heinz Vinke". World War 2 Awards.com. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
- "Heinz Vinke". Lexikon der Wehrmacht (in German). Retrieved 9 January 2014.