During World War Two the German Ju 87 “Stuka”, short for “Sturzkampfflugzeug”, Dive-Bomber captured the imagination of both allies and enemies alike. With its distinct design and screaming sirens, the Stuka quickly became a symbol of the Nazi Terror campaign spreading all over Europe.
The Junkers Ju 87 Type B-2 “Stuka” (nr. 5661) pictured here at the Technikmuseum Sinsheim was salvaged from the bottom of the Mediterranean near St. Tropez, France, where it was found at a depth of 90 meters. During the war the aircraft belonging to Stuka-Geschwader 77 was stationed at Frejus Luftwaffe Airbase some 30 kilometers from St. Tropez. After an aerial collision with another Ju 87 on the 29th of April 1943, she crashed into the sea and sank. While the radio operator managed to save himself with his parachute, the pilot unfortunately didn’t survive.
Developed in the 1930s, the Ju 87 Stuka played a vital role in Germany’s early military successes. It was designed specifically for close air support and dive-bombing missions. The Stuka saw extensive action in major World War Two campaigns, including the Invasion of Poland, the Battle of France, the Battle of Britain, and the Eastern Front.
The Ju 87 Stuka was instantly recognizable due to its unique features. The most prominent characteristic was its inverted gull wings, which allowed for superior dive-bombing precision. Equipped with a fixed undercarriage, it was a sturdy and reliable aircraft. Another notable feature was the Jericho trumpet, sirens mounted on the wings, which produced a terrifying wail during a dive attack, demoralizing enemy troops and civilians on the ground.
The Stuka’s effectiveness on the battlefield cannot be understated. During dive-bombing attacks, the aircraft could achieve remarkable accuracy, delivering devastating blows to ground targets such as enemy tanks, bunkers, and infrastructure. The psychological impact of the Stuka’s siren was immense, creating panic and disrupting enemy formations. This allowed German ground forces to advance more easily adding to the success of the Nazi Blitzkrieg.
Additionally, the Stuka provided close air support to German troops, neutralizing threats during ground-attacks and providing crucial reconnaissance information.
Limitations and Evolving Role
Despite its initial successes, the Stuka had certain limitations. As the war progressed, advancements in enemy aircraft and improved anti-aircraft defenses made the Stuka increasingly vulnerable. Its lack of speed and maneuverability made it an easy target for faster and more agile fighters. The Stuka’s effectiveness diminished in the face of the growing air superiority of the Allies during the war.
Although the German Junkers Ju 87 Stuka remains an iconic symbol of World War II aviation, the surviving Ju 87 can be counted on one hand. Only two complete Stuka’s and three wrecks remain today. Obviously this is one of them.
The combination of its distinctive design, accurate dive-bombing capabilities, and psychological impact made it a legend of aerial warfare. While its effectiveness waned as the war progressed, the Stuka’s legacy endures as a testament to the innovative engineering and operational tactics employed by the German military during that era.