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. After five years in the Merchant Navy, Schoenert began flight training in 1933 and went on to fly commercial aircraft for Lufthansa. He was commissioned as a Leutnant in the Luftwaffe"s Reserve in 1938 and in June 1941 joined 4./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1—1st Night Fighter Wing) at Bergen in northern Holland.
He gained his first victories on 9 July 1941 and by 25 July 1942 his total stood at 22 and he was awarded the Knight"s Cross.
Schoenert is universally recognised as the driving force behind the introduction of upward-firing armament in night fighter aircraft, the first prototype of which he introduced into his own Dornier Do-17 in 1942. The concept, dubbed Schräge Musik (Jazz Music), was initially rejected by Helmut Lent and Werner Streib.
Oberfeldwebel Paul Mahle, an armourer attached to World War II/Nachtjagdgeschwader 5 (NJG 5—5th Night Fighter Wing) at Parchim, worked closely with Rudolf Schoenert and built his own working prototype of Schräge Musik, which was soon fitted to all of the Gruppe"s aircraft. Schoenert claimed the first aerial victory with upward-firing guns in May 1943.
By August he was flying with Nachtjagdgeschwader 100 (NJG 100—100th Night Fighter Wing) over the Eastern Front, claiming some 30 Soviet night raiders by early 1944.
During a sortie east of the Elbe on 27 April 1945, an electrical fault rendered Schonert"s radar unserviceable and his Junkers Ju 88G was shot down by a Royal Air Force (Royal Air Force) de Havilland Mosquito. He survived and was rescued by German troops. Surviving the war, Schoenert was credited with 65 aerial victories claimed in 376 combat missions, including 35 Soviet flown aircraft, and was a holder of the Oak Leaves to the Knight"s Cross.
Schoenert"s radio and wireless operator was Oberfeldwebel Johannes Richter.
Wehrmachtbericht references Bibliography.