Messerschmitt Me 410 A-1/U4 Hornisse


Red E, W.Nr. 429263, flown by Oberleutnant Friedrich "Fritz" Stehle, 5./ZG 26, Hildesheim/Germany, 6 March 1944

On 06 March 1944 the US 8th Air Force launched Mission No. 250, sending 730 Boeing B-17 'Flying Fortress' and Consolidated B-24 'Liberator' bombers to targets in Berlin and the surrounding area. This vast armada was escorted by 801 Lockheed P-38 'Lightnings', Republic P-47 'Thunderbolts' and North American P-51 'Mustang' fighter aircraft of VII Fighter Command. The Reichsluftverteidigung controllers sent 463 Luftwaffe aircraft to intercept and engage the approaching bombers.

Led by Staffelkapitän Oblt. Fritz Stehle, 5./Zerstörergeschwader 26 "Horst Wessel" operating from Hildesheim despatched 10 Messerschmitt Me 410 aircraft, and formed part of a large 'Gefechtsverbande'. Some of the aircraft were fitted with the Bordkanone 5 (BK 5) a hard hitting 50 mm Kanone which it was planned would enable the Me 410s to engage the attacking bomber aircraft outside of the range of their withering defensive fire. In practice, this was not realised and they were forced to commence their attacks at close range, making them vulnerable to both the return fire from the bombers, and be slow and outmanoeuvred by the escorting fighters.

5./Zerstörergeschwader 26 "Horst Wessel" were able to engage Boeing B-17 'Flying Fortress' aircraft from the 1 Bombardment Division, and claimed 7 'abschuß' between 12:35 and 13:15. Claims were submitted by Uffz. Härtl, Oblt. Stehle, Uffz. Retschy, Fw. Schneider, Ltn. Kutscher, Ofw. Frös and Ofw. Pennekamp.

In the ensuing air battle, 5./Zerstörergeschwader 26 "Horst Wessel" were intercepted by North American P-51 'Mustang' fighter aircraft over the Döberitz-Brandenburg-Bernburg area, and 6 Messerschmitt Me 410 aircraft were shot down. Ofw. Ziesch, Feldwebel Bonnecke and Uffz. Pätsch were all killed in this engagement.

The Luftwaffe lost 63 fighters, with a further 19 damaged on this day. The US 8th Air Force lost 74 bombers and 14 fighters.

Oblt. Stehle would go on to fly Focke Wulf Fw 190 aircraft in 6./Jagdgeschwader, before being assigned as Kommandeur I./Jagdgeschwader 7 flying the Messerschmitt Me 262. On 08 May 1945, Oblt Stehle shot down a Russian Bell P-39 Airacobra which crashed near the village of Klinyin. This may have been the last fighter victory of WWII in Europe. Postwar, he helped train the Syrian Air Force before joining Lufthansa. He died in October 2008, and was credited with 26 victories. He was awarded the Deutsche Kreuz in Gold, and the Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistung im Luftkreig.

Note: the barrel of the BK 5 with five white abschuß rings. The machine was fitted with the Zielfernohr ZFR4 telescopic gun-sight installed in the cockpit. Characteristic of II./Zerstörergeschwader 26 "Horst Wessel" is the yellow 'Holzschuhe' (wooden clog) 'Wappen' on the engine-cowling.

Note that this caption is edited and rewritten by Richard Mills, an fellow enthusiast reseaching on the subject,

thanks a lot Richard for your effort!

At the same time I have updated the profile to my latest Mw 410 standard

This is one of 12 Me 410 profiles made by me during this year

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