Flying Officer Rayne “Joe” Schultz began the night that would define his war at a poker game — winning money for a change.
It made him reluctant to climb into his de Havilland Mosquito to launch another night patrol over the North Sea. But the moon was full on Dec. 10, 1943, which usually meant the Luftwaffe would be active: German bombers liked to take advantage of the added visibility.
Within minutes of taking to the air, Schultz and his navigator, Vern Williams, were directed toward a stream of bombers. Schultz shot down the first he encountered, then quickly came upon another. He fired at close range, exploding the plane’s bomb load, the fallout from which almost took out Schultz’s plane.
Williams then identified a third bomber, and Schultz began a 12,000-foot, descending battle. His instrument panel and port engine were destroyed by German gunners, but Schultz pressed the attack. Williams would describe its final moments to a Canadian Press reporter days later: “Rayne’s last burst of ammunition, the last we had, ganged him into the sea, and we pulled up just in time to miss going in ourselves.”
Schultz had destroyed three Luftwaffe planes in less than 15 minutes, a feat that earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross. He would destroy eight German planes during his night-fighting career, and gain a Bar for his DFC. He ended the war as one of Canada’s top-rated aces.
Schultz, who served 37 years in the Royal Canadian Air Force and retired as a Group Captain, died on Remembrance Day from what his daughter called “systems failure.” He was 88.
“Flying was his life,” said Schultz’s longtime friend, Maj.-Gen. (Ret.) Wilson Leach, former surgeon general of the Canadian Forces.
Leach said Schultz was famously headstrong: “He wasn’t shy about coming forward: he expressed his views to anybody and everybody, regardless of rank.”
Rayne Dennis Schultz was born on Dec. 17, 1922, in Bashaw, Alberta. His father, Albert, a German immigrant, worked for the railroad.
Young Rayne, however, had eyes only for airplanes.
Schultz enlisted in the RCAF at 17. Encouraged to be a navigator, he insisted on becoming a pilot. He earned his wings in April, 1942 and was sent overseas one month later.
His wing commander decided to make him a bomber pilot, but Schultz balked: he wanted a fighter. Although taken aback at the junior officer’s temerity, the commander agreed and Schultz was assigned to 410 Cougar Squadron.
The night fighter squadron’s job was to comb the skies over the North Sea for German bombers and to intercept them before they could inflict more damage on Britain’s cities. On-board radar was then in its infancy so pilots had to find and identify the planes before engaging them.
Schultz would point to a mission in which he made a near-fatal mistake as his “most interesting” of the war.
On Feb. 14, 1944, Schultz and Williams spotted a German bomber streaking home in the night sky. Schultz pursued it and set it on fire with his guns. Then, at Williams’ request, he flew in for a better look so they could identify the bomber’s exact model.
“It was the stupidest thing I ever did in my life,” Schultz once told an interviewer. “The airplane was completely in flames, but the mid-upper gunner was still in his turret.”
The turret swung towards Schultz, who broke hard to his left. It was too late: 13-mm rounds ripped into his plane from wingtip to wingtip.
Several bullets punctured the cockpit, one between the pilot and navigator. The engines were so badly damaged that the men prepared to bail out, but a ground controller told them the sea was too rough for them to be retrieved.
So Schultz nursed the ailing plane back to England. The engine quit as he reduced power; he had no brakes when he crash landed. Although it would never fly again, the Mosquito — the Canadian-built planes were made largely from wood — somehow held together.
After the war, Schultz continued to fly with the RCAF. It was while stationed at CFB Trenton that he met his wife, Mary.
Mary Butler was justice of the peace in nearby Belleville when Schultz and another airman were hauled in front of her for having open liquor in their car. Schultz was so taken with the justice that he asked her out, and when she refused, he sought her out twice more to restate his case.
“To her credit, she finally said, ‘yes,’” said Kathleen Boettger, the couple’s only daughter, who was born in 1950, two years after her parents married.
Kathleen grew up on airbases across Canada and around the world.
Schultz would fly every plane ever bought by the Canadian Forces, including the CF-101 Voodoo and CF-18. He piloted more than 40 airplanes in his career, which included many senior postings. Among other things, he was pilot representative on the Avro Arrow project and chief operations officer at RCAF Station Baden-Soellingen in Germany.
Schultz spent 10 years as the RCAF’s director of flight safety, and in 1978, he was awarded the prestigious Trans-Canada McKee Trophy for his work.
Lt.-Gen. (Ret.) Bill Carr, former leader of Air Command, said Schultz helped ensure that the Canadian Forces had one of the lowest accident rates in the world. “He knew airplanes and he knew aircrew,” Carr said. “He was a modest and incredible human being. He was a member of that breed that doesn’t much exist anymore."
Schultz was one of only 218 RCAF airmen to received a DFC and bar in the Second World War.
It was shortly after attending the funeral of his wartime navigator, Vern Williams, last year that Schultz fell and broke his leg. The injury triggered a decline from which he never recovered.
“He was a true officer and a gentleman,” said Boettger, a retired defence department policy analyst.
“He was a genuine person whom you could always rely on. He was a true inspiration."
SOURCE: Ottawa Citizen (Ottawa, ON) - November 20, 2011.
TRANSCRIBER NOTES: G/C R.D. Shultz's navigator, F/O V.A. (Vern) Williams, was part of Air Observers Course No.29B at No.2 Air Navigation School, Pennfield Ridge.