The Smithsonians Me-410 Hornisse
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The Smithsonian’s Me-410 Hornisse
The Smithsonian has a Messerschmitt Me-410A-3 Hornisse (Hornet). It is one of the two surviving Me-410s. This is a reconnaissance version of the Hornisse. The Germans developed the Me-410A-3 to address the deficiencies of the Me-410A-1 in the reconnaissance role.[i] It flew for Reconnaissance Group 2. It was captured in Sicily and brought to the U.S. for evaluation. The USAAF first gave it the tail number EB-103, then later FE-499. In 1946 it was sent to Park Ridge, IL. In 1950 it, along with the other former Axis aircraft, was given to the National Air & Space Museum and stored at its facility in Silver Hill, MD. This was done to free up space at Park Ridge for needs related to the Korean Conflict. The other Me-410 is in the RAF Museum at Cosford, UK.
[i] The Warplanes of the Third Reich, by William Green © 1970, p662.
The Me-410 in Combat
The Messerschmitt Me-410 was a modified version of the Me-210. The Messerschmitt Me-210 was an unsuccessful design and the Germans stopped production of it on April 14, 1942.[i] The first production version of the Me-410 was a light bomber. The Germans soon produced reconnaissance, bomber destroyer, and night fighter versions of this aircraft. Me-410s entered combat in the spring of 1943. The Luftwaffe formed an experimental anti-bomber (Zerstörer) unit in May, 1943, Erprobungskommando 25. From June-December 1943 this anti-bomber unit lost 2 Me-410s.[ii] The bomber unit V/KG 2 became operational with their Me-410 in the summer of 1943. It lost its first Me-410 on July 13, 1943 to a RAF Number 85 Squadron Mosquito.[iii] The Bomber version of the Me-410 flew missions over England during the “Baby Blitz”.
The Luftwaffe deployed the Me-410 at the decisive phase of the air war on the Western Front. Some of the air battles Me-410s participated in illustrate the intensity of the struggle for air superiority over Europe.
November 13, 1943 – The U.S. 8th Air Force attacked bombed Bremen with 143 bombers, escorted by 45 P-38s and 345 P-47s. Me-410s were among the Luftwaffe aircraft sent against the Americans. The 8th Air Force lost 16 bombers with another 6 written off. The fighter escort claimed 10 enemy aircraft and lost 10 with another 2 P-38s written off.[iv] Hauptmann Eduard Tratt claimed a P-38 shot down with his Me-410.[v]
November 29, 1943 – Me-410s were among the aircraft that attacked the 154 bombers with its 352 fighter escorts. Hauptmann Tratt claimed a B-17 with his Me-410. [vi] The 8th Air Force lost 13 bombers with another 3 written off. The fighter escort claimed 15 enemy aircraft and lost 16 with a P-47 written off.[vii]
February 10, 1944 - Me-410s and other fighters attacked 143 bombers attacking Brunswick. The bombers had 466 escorting fighters, including 45 P-51s. The fighter escort claimed 56 enemy aircraft shot down for the loss of 9 fighters, a P-38 and a P51 were written off. The bomber force lost 29 B-17s with another one written off.[viii] Hauptmann Tratt claimed a P-38.[ix]
February 11, 1944 – 212 B-17s attacked Frankfurt and targets of opportunity. Bomber losses were 5 with another 3 written off. The 606 escorting fighters shot down 30 enemy aircraft and destroyed another 2 on the ground. The fighters lost 14 aircraft, 8 P-38s, with 2 P-47s and a P-51 written off.[x] Hauptmann Tratt claimed 3 P-38s.[xi]
February 20, 1944 – 880 8th Air Force bombers, with 835 escorting fighters struck targets. Hauptmann Tratt claimed a B-17.[xii] The 8th Air Force lost 21 bombers with another 5 written off. The escorting fighters claimed 61 Luftwaffe aircraft. The 8th Air Force lost 4 fighters with another 2 P-47s written off.[xiii]
February 22, 1944 - The U.S. 8th and 15th Air Forces bombed targets in Germany. The U.S. lost 60 heavy bombers and 13 fighters. At least four more heavy bombers were damaged beyond repair. The Luftwaffe also suffered heavy losses. The 8th Air Force fighters alone claimed 59 enemy aircraft destroyed.[xiv] The German casualties included Hauptmann Eduard Tratt who was shot down while flying a Me-410, serial number 4203410. Me-410s, while potent bomber destroyers, were no match for enemy fighters and suffered accordingly.
April 22, 1944 – Me-410s performed a night intruder mission against USAAF B-24s. The B-24s returned to England after dark. Shortly after 21:30 hours the Me-410s attacked the bombers. Me-410s followed-up with attacks on the airfield. The USAAF lost 14 B-24s from the Me-410 attacks and resulting confusion. A signal hut was also destroyed. Bomber gunners shot down one Me-410. These losses brought the 8th Air Force losses for the day to 29 bombers and 13 fighters. [xv]
May 13, 1944 – A formation of Me-410s attempted to intercept a formation of B-17s. They were attacked by about 20 P-51 Mustangs. Oberfeldwebel[xvi] Wolfgang Martin ordered his crew to bale out then rammed a B-17 with his damaged plane. None of the other Me-410s reached the B-17s. The 12 Me-410s lost were among the 47 aircraft claimed by the 8th Air Force fighters that day. The 9th Air Force claimed another 11 enemy aircraft in air to air combat. The total 8th Air Force losses were 12 B-17s and 5 fighters. The 9th Air Force lost 4 fighters.[xvii]
July 2, 1944 – The 15th Air Force bombed Budapest. Me-109s, Me-110s, & Me-410s intercepted the bombers and their fighter escort. The Luftwaffe lost 7 Me-109s. The Germans claimed 45 aircraft shot down, 34 of them being heavy bombers. Me-410s claimed 8 heavy bombers without loss.
July 8, 1944 – P-38 Lightnings of the 15th Air Force 82nd Fighter Group engaged Luftwaffe aircraft over Vienna. The Lightnings shot down 21 aircraft, 16 of them Me-410s, without loss.[xviii]
Since the Me-410 bombers and bomber destroyers could not operate without prohibitive losses the Luftwaffe removed them from front line service. Reconnaissance Me-410s continued to fly missions until the end of the war.
[i] Profile 161: The Messerschmitt Me-210/Me-410 series, by J. Richard Smith, © Profile Publications Limited 1971.
[ii] Profile 161: The Messerschmitt Me-210/Me-410 series, by J. Richard Smith, © Profile Publications Limited 1971.
[iii] Messerschmitt: An Aircraft Album No.2, by J. Richard Smith, © Ian Allen 1971, p126.
[iv] Mighty Eighth War Diary, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981.
[v] Aces of the Luftwaffe, by Petr Kacha (http://www.luftwaffe.cz/tratt.html)
[vi] Aces of the Luftwaffe, by Petr Kacha (http://www.luftwaffe.cz/tratt.html)
[vii] Mighty Eighth War Diary, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981.
[viii] Mighty Eighth War Diary, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981.
[ix] Aces of the Luftwaffe, by Petr Kacha (http://www.luftwaffe.cz/tratt.html)
[x] Mighty Eighth War Diary, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981.
[xi] Aces of the Luftwaffe, by Petr Kacha (http://www.luftwaffe.cz/tratt.html)
[xii] Aces of the Luftwaffe, by Petr Kacha (http://www.luftwaffe.cz/tratt.html)
[xiii] Mighty Eighth War Diary, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981.
[xiv] Mighty Eighth War Diaries, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981, p186.
[xv] Mighty Eighth War Diaries, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981, p224.
[xvi] Equivalent to a USAF Master Sergeant.
[xvii] Mighty Eighth War Diaries, by Roger A. Freeman, © 1981, p-243-244.
[xviii] Luftwaffe Fighter Units: Europe 1942-45, by Christopher Shores, © 1979 Osprey Publishing.
Me-410a-2 - P-38L Comparison
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