Indications that Me110 nightfighters now regularly operate north of ROME.
(No. 276 Wing RAF, report of 4 June 1944)
During the morning of 29 May, a Feldluftgau announced that II./NJG 6 was to transfer to the “Upper Italian area” that day and that it would use Perugia as advanced landing ground. Two transport aircraft were allocated by Luftflotte Reich to assist in the move. More detail was given by Luftgau XXVIII that afternoon: the operationally serviceable aircraft and key personnel of the Gruppe were being transferred to Ghedi for the full moon period. Their main task would be defence of supply lines to the front in Central Italy. Koflug 3/VII was to ensure that Perugia was stocked up as a forward base and serviceable for night landings.
In contrast to their assignment last time the Gruppe had come to Ghedi of protecting rear areas, this one was to be close to the front lines. The Allies had finally broken through at Monte Cassino and at Anzio-Nettuno and were threatening Rome and the German Tenth and Fourteenth Armies needed all the support the Luftwaffe could scrape together.
The first of the Gruppe’s Bf 110s known to have arrived was 2Z+DC which landed in Bologna from Stuttgart-Echterdingen at 17.40 hours local time on 30 May. The Luftwaffe order of battle for the next day records that that two thirds of Gruppe (13 aircraft of which 11 were serviceable) were with Luftflotte 2.
Operations from Perugia got off to a discouraging start. Refuelling the aircraft on the night of 31 May/1 June took over two hours and poor signalling led no fewer than three machines to taxi into craters. Despite these setbacks, six Bf 1110s had returned to Ghedi from Perugia by 05.35 hours.
Night of 1/2 June
The plan that night was for the night fighters to patrol roads south west of Avezzano and from 20.30–20.50 hours CC, CM, AP, DP, FP and KP left Ghedi for Perugia. None of the aircraft made any sightings. The Allies learned of these movements from deciphered German signals which could sometimes give a confusing picture as seven aircraft were reported returning to home base between 04.48 and 05.50 hours and touching down from 06.00. Of the machines that made the outward trip, AP was absent but DM and PM had appeared, suggesting that some Messerschmitts might remain in Perugia after a night’s operations, perhaps because of technical problems.
Night of 2/3 June
According to NJG 6’s Kriegstagebuch (War Diary), at 18.45 hours on the 2nd, the II. Gruppe’s Kommandeur, Major Rolf Leuchs, reported on how the deployment was going. After dark, his Gruppe deployed from Ghedi to Perugia for freelance operations in the Rome area and along the roads between there and Florence. The Bf 110s then withdrew to Ghedi before daylight. Ground control was entirely lacking and so the 20 sorties flown to date had brought no success but Uffz. Alfred Mrusek's crew was missing from the 6. Staffel. It seems likely that an error was made in typing up the Diary. There was no corresponding Allied claim between 29 and the evening of 2 June but there was one in the early hours of the 3rd.
Nine Bf 110s had deployed from Ghedi that night, starting at 20.30 hours. They landed in Pergia from 21.30 hours onward. Allied Signals Intelligence noted that the Gruppe's operational call-sign was Schwalbe (“swallow”). The only aircraft known to have made the return trip next morning are 2Z+PM and another in factory markings.
Squadron Leader Jim Bailey and Flight Sergeant N. Wint of No. 600 Squadron RAF (Beaufighter Mk. VIF, ND165, “N”) had taken off from Marcianise at 22.30, claimed a Ju 87 shot down 70 minutes later, losing contact with a second one after that. After midnight, they were vectored on to a target in the Rome area and at 00.25 hours they gained radar contact at 2 miles. Closing in from astern to 1,000 yards, they identified “the slender and beautiful form” of a Bf 110 carrying long-range tanks. The German was at 5,000 feet, taking “normal evasive action and gradually losing height. Bailey opened fire from 150 yards, setting the Messerschmitt’s starboard engine on fire. Two parachutes were seem to open before the machine turned on its back, crashed and blew up. (Bailey and Wint had also claimed a Ju 87 earlier in this sortie: see Ghost Bombers, page 44).
By 4 June, the NJG 6 Diary was able to report that Mrusek had returned to his unit: his aircraft had been shot down and his Bordschütze and Bordfunker were still unaccounted for. A fragmentary report deciphered by the Allies a day later gave a little more information:
Subject: Report on overdue Me 110, 2Z+FP, dated 3/6.
Pilot arrived here on 4/6. A/c was shot down at 2150/2/6, 35 km North West of Rome. Crew: 2 men still missing … (remainder torn off).
The time given in that report had been converted to GMT, two hours behind German Summer Time. That leaves a 40-minute discrepancy between the two sides' reports but everything else appears to add up, and there were no other engagements that night to confuse the issue.
It would seem that Mrusek's gunner did survive (consistent with Bailey and Wint seeing two men bail out) since the only relevant personnel casualty report is for a Bordfunker, Uffz. Heinz Schulz of 6./NJG 6 who did not return from a mission on the night of 2/3 June 1944 in Bf 110 G-4, WNr. 720039.
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