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Aces of Aviation

Messerschmitt Me 410 A-1/U4 of Edouard Tratt

Messerschmitt Me 410 A-1/U4 of Edouard Tratt

Messerschmitt Me 410 A-1/U4 from the II Gruppe of the Zerstörergeschwader 26 "Horst Wessel", piloted by Major Edouard Tratt in October 1943.

Wingspan: 16.35 meters.

Length: 12.48 meters.

Height: 4.28 meters.

Engine[s]: Two Daimler-Benz DB 603 A of 1850 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 600 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 10000 meters.

Range: 1690 kilometers.

Armament: One BK 5 50-millimeter cannon; two MG 131 13-millimeter machine guns.

Edouard Tratt was the fighter-bomber pilot with the highest record of victories of the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. He was as well, at the age of 24, an exceptionally young Flight Commander. Born the 24th February 1919 in Würzburg, in northern Bavaria, he joined the Luftwaffe in 1938 and completed his instruction as pilot shortly after the beginning of the war. He was sent as Lieutenant to the Staffel 1 of the Zerstörergeschwader 1, very little before the Battle of France, piloting the Messerschmitt Bf 110.

So high were the expectations that the young pilot elicited, that he was selected to be part of the Erprobungsgruppe 210 commanded by Walter Rubensdörffer, for reconnaissance and fighter-bomber operations during the Battle of Britain. After four months he had achieved twelve combat victories with the Staffel 1, half of them against Hurricane and Spitfire, which was not little thing for a type of aviation whose vulnerability against single-seat interceptors was very obvious.

Tratt remained in the I Gruppe of the EGr 210 piloting the Bf 110 E-1 in ground-strike missions in the Eastern Front. During those operations the destruction of 24 Russian tanks and 26 grounded aircraft was attributed to him. In the early 1942 he was promoted to First Lieutenant and transferred again to the Zerstörergeschwader 1, of whose Staffel 1 he was appointed Captain. The 12th April, after having accumulated twenty victories in 165 missions, he was awarded the Knigth's Cross.

In May 1943 Tratt was assigned to command a special test unit, the Erprobungskommando 25, created in Wittmundhafe to develop the necessary anti-bombing tactics to face the pronounced increment of Allied diurnal bombings against the German territory. The kommando comprised three staffeln, of which one was equipped with some Bf 110, one Me 210 and a couple of Me 410, all of them heavy fighters. Regardless of its experimental role, the pilots of the Zerstörerstaffel claimed the destruction of more than fifty Allied bombers against the loss of ten own aircraft.

In September, Tratt took the command of the II Gruppe of the Zerstörergeschwader 26 "Horst Wessel", in Oberpfaffenhofen, recently equipped with Me 410 (some of which were of the A-1/U-4 variant, armed with one BK 5 50-millimeter cannon) for the defense of Germany. The aircraft depicted in the illustration was usually piloted by Tratt during this period. The Me 410 could carry different combinations of machine guns, cannons and bombs in a ventral compartment. The A-1/U-4 and B-1/U-4 variants carried a single BK 5 50-millimeter cannon in such location.

In the first part of 1944, the II/ZG 26 was transferred to Königsburg/Oder to escape from the radius of action of the Allied long-range bombers. During their attacks against these large aircraft, the German pilots were covered by interceptors Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and Messerschmitt Bf 109 from the JG 300. However, the 22nd February Tratt performed a valiant but reckless attack upon a bomber formation near Nordhausen-Hartz. Flying without support, very soon his Me 410 was attacked and downed by the Republic P-47 that escorted the bombers, and he died.

The 26th March 1944 it was announced the posthumous awarding to Edouard Tratt of the Oak Leaves for his Knight's Cross. At the moment of his death he had fulfilled 350 combat missions, during which he had destroyed 38 flying aircraft, 26 grounded aircraft, 24 tanks, 312 military transport vehicles and 23 anti-aircraft sites.