October 04, 2014

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McKay writes that as a boy one of his heroes was the fictional aviator Braddock. Mine were real. Two of them were called the Princes of Darkness because they were both princes as well as Luftwaffe night fighters: Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Egmont zur Lippe-Weissenfeld. Both died in aerial combat, Wittgenstein being the third highest scoring ace with 83 victories. Weissenfeld’s victories were 51.

As I recall the tale, Heinrich had rung up Missie Vassiltchikov two days before he was killed by a British Mosquito fighter, and told her how the previous morning he had been to Hitler’s headquarters to receive, from “our darling,” the Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross. His handgun had not been removed, so he had a chance to bump him off. Missie writes in her acclaimed Berlin Diaries that the poor boy had no idea he had a day or two left to live but was only thinking he should have shot the monster. Along with Günther Rall, Adolf Galland, and Hans-Ulrich Rudel, these were heroic warriors and great Germans. Makes one feel ashamed for getting nervous over a little turbulence in the Alps. A major coward, in fact.


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