|Born||12 April 1916
|Died||8 February 2006
|Years of service||1940–45|
|Unit||NJG 4, NJG 6|
|Commands held||IV./NJG 6|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves|
Martin Becker (12 April 1916 – 8 February 2006) 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). Becker claimed 58 aerial victories during World War II. Becker is the joint tenth leading night fighter pilot of the war (and thus in the history of aerial warfare). 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.
World War II
On 25 October 1936 Becker joined the Luftwaffe. On 1 April 1937 he was assigned to Kampfgeschwader 155, to undergo observer training. On 16 November 1939 he moved to the Ergänzungs-Aufklärern-Gruppe 2. On 19 January 1940 he transferred to the 4 staffel (squadron) of the 21st group at Oberfeldwebel. From 10 May 1940 Becker flew missions in the Battle of France and Battle of Belgium. Becker was promoted to Leutnant on 1 July 1940. In September 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain, Becker transferred to the flight training school at Merseburg, which acted as a fighter pilot school for Jagdgeschwader 51. Becker received basic and advanced training as a night fighter pilot while based there. He was promoted to Oberleutnant on 1 April 1942. In 1943 Becker was posted to 11./Nachtjagdgeschwader 4 (NJG 4—Night Fighter Wing 4). On 1 August 11./NJG 4 became 2./Nachtjagdgeschwader 6 (NJG 6—Night Fighter Wing 6).
Battle of Berlin
Becker scored his first victory on the night of 23 September 1943 at 23:21 south of Hameln. In October 1943 Becker was appointed to Staffelkapitän (squadron leader), 2./NJG 6. Becker shot down three bombers on the night of 18/19 November 1943 as RAF Bomber Command began their Berlin offensive. Becker claimed a Short Stirling at Lampertheim at 20:44. Southwest of Mannheim he claimed a Handley-Page Halifax destroyed at 20:56 and another near Rimbach at 21:05 for his second to fourth victories. Becker achieved ace status on 21 December when he claimed one Avro Lancaster bomber two Halifax between 19:50 and 19:55. On the night of the 20 February 1944 Becker downed three bombers—two Lancasters and a Halifax—between 03:02 and 04:18 in the airspace between Celle and Leipzig. One of the Lancasters may have been JB469 EA-B from No. 49 Squadron RAF. Pilot Flight Sergeant E. White, Sergeants J. R. Ward, W.W. S. Compton (navigator), J. E. Ellis (radio operator), D. N. Stevens, J. T. Loveland, and H. Thomas were killed in action. The Halifax was LV834, and belonged to No. 35 Squadron RAF. Pilot, Flying Officer Randal Vincent Jones was killed with four other men. Two men included Horatius Douglas Stewart White DFM, were captured.
On 25 February Becker attacked and claimed two Lancasters at 21:30 and 21:49. In the evening of 22 March 1944 Becker claimed six between 21:42 to 22:39 which elevated his total to 18 bombers destroyed. Two were accounted for near Hamm-Paderborn, the other four were claimed around Frankfurt. Four were Halifax bombers and two were Lancasters. On 24 March Becker claimed a Lancaster at 22:35.
On the night of the 30/31 March 1944, Bomber Command suffered heavy losses on a raid to Nürnberg. Becker claimed seven Halifax bombers sot down between 00:20 and 03:15; the first was claimed southwest of Cologne. One of Becker's victories was Lancaster ND535 ZN-Q, of No. 106 Squadron RAF. Pilot Officer R. Starkey and his crew were killed. Another victory this night has been identified as Lancaster III ND466 (GT-Z), No. 156 Squadron RAF flown by Squadron leader P. R. Goodwin. Flying Officer W. C. Isted (DFM), E. H. J. Summers, J. V. Scrivener (RCAF) became prisoners of war. Pilot Officer C. A. Rose RAAF, Flying Officer H. C. Frost, Warrant Officer J. C. Baxter (DFM) and O. V. Gardner (DFM) were killed. Halifax Halifax III MZ504 QO-C, No. 432 Squadron RAF was also downed by Becker. Pilot Officer C. R. Narum and Sergeants W. R. Rathwell, S. Saprunoff, R. Thomson were killed and Flight Sergeants R. P. Goeson, L. E. Pigeon andt A. H. Marini were captured. Becker also shot down No. 51 Squadron RAF Halifax LV857 MH-H2 flown by Sergeant J. P. G Binder. Sergeants J. Brear, E. J. P. Monk, F. Kasher, R. H Manary, plus Flight Sergeants R. A Wilson and W. A Guy were all killed. Becker also shot down the experienced and decorated crew of Lancaster III ND640, OF-B, of No. 97 Squadron RAF flown by Flight Lieutenant L. V. Hyde DFC. Flight Lieutenant E. H. Palmer DFC, Flight Officers Craig DFC (RCAF), R. J. Weller DFM, and Pilot Officer R. Taylor DFC and Flight Sergeants M. Putt and S. Hill were all killed in action when the bomber crashed at Münchholzhausen, southeast of Wetzlar. Halifax III LK800, Al-N, of No. 429 Squadron RAF, also became a victim of Becker this night. Pilot Flying Officer J A Dougal was captured with four other members of the crew when it crashed at Weiler-la-Tour, southeast of Luxembourg. Two crewman, Flight Sergeants D. Findlay and R. Dawson evaded capture and went into hiding with the help of locals. The last of Becker's victories that night was Lancaster III LW555, C8-L, of No. 640 Squadron RAF. Flying Officers C. E. O'Brien, R. D. Van Fleet and R. H. Carleton were killed. Crewman Sergeants E. Bake, E. Martin, T. C. McFadden, A. L. Wangler were also killed. Becker's tally stood at 26 after this night. After the war, Becker said of the mission, "They seemed to be lining up to be shot down. I just had to stop after the seventh one, I was sick of the killing."
Commander in NJG 6
Becker was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 1 April 1944 for 26 bombers shot down. Becker continued to fly and at 0:58 on 25 April 1944 southwest of Karlsruhe, he accounted for another Halifax. Becker was awarded the German Cross in Gold later that same day. In the early hours of 27 April, west of beacon "Christa"[Note 1], Becker accounted for a Lancaster at 01:30, another west of Stuttgart at 01:36 to reach 29. Twenty-four hours later, 28 April 1944, he accounted for two Lancasters and a Halifax. West of Stuttgart at 01:19 he accounted for a Lancaster for his 30th victory. Another was claimed an unknown location west of beacon "Christa" at 01:35. The last, another Lancaster, was destroyed southwest of Bremen at 01:57. On 26 July at 02:10, west of Stuttgart, Becker achieved his 34th victory over a Lancaster bomber. Becker accounted for two bombers around Luneville at 01:25 and 01:35. The last of the trio was claimed at 01:45 west of Stuttgart. Lancaster ME370, KM-R of No. 44 Squadron RAF crashed near Böblingen, west of Stuttgart. Pilot Officer William Edward Kewley RNZAF was killed along with four crewman. Two survived and were captured. It has been suggested ME370 was one of Becker's claims.
Becker was promoted to Hauptmann on 1 August 1944. It took over a month for Backer to add to his personal tally. On 26 August between 00:50 and 01:15 he claimed another three bombers destroyed in the Rüsselsheim am Main area. For his experience and leadership, Becker was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (group commander) of IV./NJG 6 in September 1944. That month he achieved his last victories of the year at 22:45 and 00:23 on 12 September 1944 in the Frankfurt area to achieve his 43rd victory. Becker is said to have downed Lancaster PD262, HA-G, No. 218 Squadron RAF on night of the 12 September. Flight Sergeant K. C. Spiers, Flying Officer G. O. B. Sinclair, Flight Lieutenant H. T. Seller, Sergeant W. H. T. Pettman, Flying Officer W. L. Leibhardt (RAAF), Flight Sergeant H. Clarke and Pilot Officers D. W. Clarke and C. A. Black (RAAF) were all killed.
NJG 6 covered the Ruhr and frontline from Bomber Command operations. In December 1944 the German Ardennes Offensive had achieved success but was bogged down. Bomber Command attacked rail targets to disrupt the flow of supplies to the German Army and proceeded to continue its campaign against Germany. On 2/3 January 1945 Becker intercepted two Lancaster bombers over Bruchsal at 18:45 and Luxembourg at 19:32 and claimed both shot down. Lancaster PB823, BH-T, crashed at Longuyon, France, just south of Luxembourg. Squadron leader B. B. Janus of No. 300 Squadron RAF "Polish", was killed with his six crewmen. It is thought PB823 was downed by Becker. No other German pilot claimed a victory location of the crash, and only two others claimed a victory on that night.
By 1945 Germany was under the threat of invasion. On the night of 21–22 February 1945 German night fighter pilots claimed 57 or 58 British aircraft shot down and one Soviet bomber in defence of German airspace. Becker claimed another three bombers between 20:39 and 20:47 around Worms to achieve his 48th victory. British losses amounted to 34 bombers. Becker's crowning achievement, and a Nachtjagd record, was on 14/15 March 1945, when he claimed nine bombers of No. 5 Group RAF attacking Lützkendorf. Only seven other separate claims were filed on this night: one for Herbert Lütje and three for Gerhard Friedrich and three to other pilots. Becker's victims were downed between 21:53 and 23:37. The first fell near Bad Berka, the second near Apolda at 21:59, two near Naumburg at 22:05 and 22:06. Northeast of Jena at 22:15 and southwest of Heidelsheim at 23:00 a Lancaster was reported shot down at each location. West of Goppingen at 23:15 and southwest of Baiersbronn at 23:37 Becker claimed his 57th victory. Becker's last victory before the final capitulation of Germany came on the evening of 16 March 1945. West of Nurnberg, he claimed a Lancaster at 21:35. It was his 58th success. Hauptmann Martin Becker received the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross on 20 March 1945, the 792nd serviceman so honoured.
Becker's tally included three shot down by crewman Karl-Ludwig Johanssen with his MG-131 rearward-facing machine gun. This achievement earned both Becker and Johanssen a reference in the daily Wehrmachtbericht. Martin Becker flew 110 wartime missions. As an observer he flew 27 operations and as a night fighter pilot he flew on 83 interceptions. He was officially credited with 58 aerial victories.
- Iron Cross (1939)
- Honour Goblet of the Luftwaffe (Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe) on 15 May 1944 as Oberleutnant and Staffelkapitän
- German Cross in Gold on 25 May 1944 as Oberleutnant in the 2./Nachtjagdgeschwader 6
- Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
- Mentioned three times in the Wehrmachtbericht (23 March 1944, 31 March 1944 and 16 March 1945)
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