The life of this outstanding Luftwaffe personality and leading exponent of night fighter tactics, who was killed when his plane crashed in October 1944. Helmut Lent was one of the outstanding personalities of the Luftwaffe during the Second Wrold War and, until his death in a flying accident in... show more
The life of this outstanding Luftwaffe personality and leading exponent of night fighter tactics, who was killed when his plane crashed in October 1944. Helmut Lent was one of the outstanding personalities of the Luftwaffe during the Second Wrold War and, until his death in a flying accident in October 1944, the leading exponent of the night fighter tactics. Lent was the son of a pastor in the Evangelical church, and his two brothers were also clerics. He was deeply religious man and believed that he enjoyed Christ's protection in his combats with enemy aircraft. Lent entered the Luftwaffe in 1936 as an officer cadet and trainee pilot. His first operational unit was a heavy-fighter Gruppe equipped with the Bf 110 Zerstorer (Destroyer), and it was with this aircraft that he shot down his first victim. He had further victories over the German Bight and during the Norwegian campaign. Fate intervened, however, before Lent saw further daytime action as his Staffel was transferred to the newly-formed Nachjagd, the night-fighter force set up to combat the growing number of RAF bombers paying nightly visits to Germany. At first Lent did not feel at home in the Nachjagd, and after a short period without having achieved success against the British night bombers he applied to be allowed too return to daylight operations, but was persuaded by his Commanding Officer, Major Wolfgang Falck, now looked upon as the 'Father of the Nachjagd', to defer his application for a short time. This 'breathtaking space' had its effect and on May 12th, 1941, Lent shot down his first two RAF bombers. Other successes followed rapidly so that Lent came to identify completely with this new form of air defence, becoming iths leading exponent and tactician. By January 1943 his score of victories by night had increased to 50, and by June 1944 to 100. Not only an outstanding night-fighter pilot but also an inspirational leader of men and example to his subordinates, Lent achieved high rank and was the recipient of many decorations. At the time of his death he was Kommodoore of NJG 3, held the rank of Oberstlutnant and wore the Brillanten (Diamonds) to the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the first of only two night fighters ever to be awarded that high honour. At about mid-day on October 5th, 1944, Lent was flying a Ju 88 to Paderborn in order to visit his friend and comrade Hans-Joachim Jabs, Kommodore of NJG1: he crashed while attemptimg to land on one engine. All four men on board were critically injured, and all subsquently died of their injuries. Lent was the last to perish, dying in hospital two days after the accident. On several occasions during his life Lent found himself in conflict with the Gestapo because of his family's religious beliefs.