Friday 12 May 1944 was a significant day in the war waged by the USAAF over the Reich with some 886 bombers escorted by over 980 fighters attacking the five most important synthetic fuel plants and refineries in central Germany and the Czech 'Protectorate' - Leuna, Merseburg, Böhlen, Zeitz and Brüx. Up to this point fuel production plants had only been attacked on an occasional basis, eg Pölitz on 11 April 1944. Hence forward such targets would become the top priority of the daylight bombing campaign. The KTB of I. Jagdkorps recorded "sehr gutes Abwehrwetter " - very good weather for defensive ops in the Reichsverteidigung. Some 16 day fighter and two Zerstörer Gruppen were deployed; some 470 fighters airborne in total - the largest total of fighters ever put up by the Luftwaffe over Germany- resulting in some of the biggest air battles seen up to that stage of the war over the Reich. At around 14:30 between Gotha and Plauen - as they were withdrawing - a formation of unescorted B-17s came under attack from the Me 410s of II./ ZG 26 as these rare pictures currently on offer from Michael Meyer illustrate (see link below).
Angriff auf B-17 - Me 410s of II./ZG 26 seen closing on and attacking a formation of B-17s on 12 May 1944 over central southern Germany. Pctures taken by Ofw. Dudszus.
1st Lt. Manuel Head, pilot of 562nd BS B-17 'Lady Godiva' reported; " As I recall the 388th BG was attacked from the rear - I saw nothing of the combat with the exception of this Me 410 peeling away just off my starboard wing. I well remember my exclamation, 'what the hell is he doing here?!' and in a fraction of a second he was gone. Victor Labruno took the pic from the right hand window of the radio compartment. Eugene Crossin in the upper turret told me later that his tracers poured into the belly of the Me 410 and a 'kill' was subsequently credited to him.."
The good weather and few defenders over the target areas meant that the bombardiers had a very good day and the five fuel plants - crucial to Germany's war effort - were heavily bombed; fuel production at Brüx was halted while production capacity at Leuna and Böhlen was reduced by 50 % over the following two weeks. Over 25,000 tons of fuel went up in flames, an outcome described by Don Caldwell as "the worst single day of the war for Germany".
Michael Meyer's Ebay sales are here
More on the last flight of II./ ZG 26 Me 410 "Black 13" on this blog here