Messerschmitt Me 410 A-1/U4 Hornisse


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

The crew of this Me 410 ­ pilot Lt. Fritz Stehle and gunner Fw. Alois Slaby ­ was during February and March 1944 a deadly combination, definitely one Hornisse (wasp) with a deadly sting!

During this day, 6 March 1944, the 8th USAAF dispatched no less than 730 four-engine bombers with an escort of 801 fighters towards the Reich capital Berlin. The Luftwaffe response was to dispatch a total of 463 fighters from I. Jagdkorps, 7. Jagddivision, and II. Jagdkorps.

One of the Gruppen participating in this clash was II./ZG 26 with twenty Me 410s. Many of these fighters were equipped with the bomber-hunting heavy BK 50, 50 mm cannon. However the results for the Gruppen would be rather meager this day with claims filed for just one Veirmot shot down and another damaged, but without any own losses.

II./ZG 26's only abschuss claim was by Lt. Fritz Stehle and Fw. Alois Slaby as their 6th, a B-17 downed over Gardelegen-Burg. In fact it was the gunner Slaby who was able to file the claim, it being one of at least two of their total of 12 abschüsse in the Me 410 that was accounted for by him. Stehle always praised him as a very experienced and accurate gunner, and this deadly team claimed their last kill seven months later when on 7 October a P-47 was downed southeast of Köln over the Wahn airfield.

Later Lt. Fritz Stehle piloted the Fw 190 and later flew the Me 262 Turbinjäger. In the 262 Stehle would add another 11 abschüsse reaching his total of 26 confirmed victories. His 26th and last victory, a VVS P-39 was shot down over Erzgebirge on 8 May 1945 at 16.00 hours, is believed to be the last confirmed German victory of WW II. He finally surrendered as an Oberleutnant to the British at Fassberg on 8 May 1945, flying his Weisse 5 as Kapitän of 2./JG 7.

To sum up the day's fighting of 6 March 1944: The Luftwaffe filed claims for a total of 102 enemy aircraft with another 95 damaged. The USAAF filed claims for 176 enemy fighters with another 117 damaged. The true losses was for the USAAF were 74 four-engine bombers and 14 fighters and with another 347 damaged bombers. The Germans lost 63 fighters with another 19 damaged.

Note the barrel of the BK 50 canon with five white abschuss rings. The machine was fitted with the Zielfernrohr ZFR4 telescopic gun-sight installed in the cockpit. Characteristic of the II. Gruppe is the yellow Holzschuhe (wooden clog) on the engine-cowling.

This is one of six Me 410 profiles made by me during the week.

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