How did pilots know when to release bombs on airplanes during World War2?

How did pilots know when to release bombs on airplanes during World War2?

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Given that during this time computing technology wasn't advanced enough to calculate when to drop bombs accurately on a target, I recall hearing something about bomber pilots using a modified watch to deploy bombs.

I was wondering is this true and if so what are these watches?

Electronic computing was not available, but a simple and constrained problem like timing a bomb drop can be handled by a dedicated mechanical or electromechanical device, the bombsight. These are "analogue computers," as compared to modern digital computers. They aren't re-programmable, and can only solve the problem that is built into them, but they can be built with much less advanced technology.

For high-altitude bombing, the bombsight was used by a specially trained crewman, the bombardier (US usage) or bomb-aimer (British usage). As the aircraft approached the target, he would set up the bombsight with information such as the altitude, wind speed, type of bombs and so on. He would look through the device's telescope for an aiming mark on the ground and set that. Then he'd either give the pilot directions to turn left or right, or for the more sophisticated devices, the bombsight would tell the bomber's autopilot what to do. The bombsight indicated when the bombs should be released, and he'd push the button to let them go.

In the US daylight raids, formation bombing was often used. A group (3-4 squadrons) would fly in tight formation. The bomb-aimer on the lead aircraft would aim and drop, and all the other aircraft would release when he did. This seems to have been intended to get the most out of the most talented bombardiers. The British night bombers all aimed individually, since formation flying was impractical at night.

Models of bombsight included the US Norden and Sperry bombsights, which were aided by Sperry autopilots. The British used the Mark XIV for night bombing, and the SABS for special daylight tasks.

Low-level bombing generally used simpler sights. One British example was the Low Level Bombsight Mark III, intended for operations over the sea. The simplest kinds of bombing, such as dive- or skip-bombing were aimed by the pilot, using a simple sight.

I've avoided the term "precision bombing" this far, because it was the subject of a lot of controversy at the time, and ever since, and gets into political and doctrinal matters, outside the scope of this question.

As well as visual bombsights, there were a variety of radar- and radio-based systems for helping with bombing.

  • The simplest was a ground-mapping radar, such as the H2S system. These didn't appear until early 1943, by which time the American and British fleets of heavy bombers were growing fast.

  • The Gee system was a radio navigation system that was accurate to a few hundred yards at 350 miles (limited by the curvature of the Earth hiding its ground stations in the UK). This was good enough for area bombing without a bombsight (and hence through clouds), and when you wanted better precision than that, it at least made sure you were in the right area.

  • The Oboe system required both-ways communication between ground stations in the UK and a single aircraft (again, limited by the curvature of the Earth), but it was accurate to around 50 yards, approaching the accuracy of modern civilian GPS. It was used by "Pathfinders," squadrons whose job it was to mark targets with flares. The main body of bombers would aim at the flares.

  • The Gee-H system was a kind of "reverse Oboe" in that the large control system on the ground in the UK had been miniaturised and was fitted in bombers. About 80 aircraft could use it simultaneously. Its accuracy was about 150 yards.

The Germans tried hard to jam and mislead all of these electronic systems. The reason that all of them are British is that the British operated at night, and needed them to find targets.

The Americans used ground-mapping radar to bomb through clouds, but the other devices were less necessary in daylight, and they don't seem to have used them much. Their radars were H2X which was developed from H2S, AN/APQ-13 and AN/APQ-7. The numbers weren't assigned in the order they entered service. Add-ons to connect them to the Norden bombsight were available just after the end of the war in the Pacific.

With the Allies, two methods were used.

The USAAF focused on precision daylight bombing, using the Norden bombsight. This was a mechanical computer that also took control of the aircraft controls -- the bombardier was actually flying the bomber with the bombsight during the final bomb run. Supposedly, the Norden bombsight could factor in altitude, ground speed, and (if it could be ascertained) wind speed. In practice, accuracy wasn't all that great.

The British practiced night area bombing, with bombs being aimed on flares released by pathfinders… aircraft that preceded the main bomber force that dropped large colored flares indicating the aim point. If anything, the British bombing was less accurate than the US bombing, but the British were focused on destroying cities with area bombing.

Both the British and US air forces made up for the relative inaccuracy of their bombing with numbers… major bombing raids would employ several hundred bombers.

Addendum: early in the war, the Germans developed a night time navigation system that involved two precision radio beams that would intersect over the target. Those beams, known as Knickebein, became what was called The Battle of the Beams. The British detected those beams, and developed countermeasures to bend them off of the target. Knickebein was really only truly successful once: the raid on Coventry on 14 November, 1940, that destroyed a substantial portion of the city.

Germany did develop a couple of early guided bombs, the Fritz X and Henschel HS293. These were quite accurate when employed, but required the bomber to visually guide the bomb to the target… which became almost impossible when the Allies controlled the airspace over the potential targets.

Both Germany and Japan made extensive use of dive bombers, which were fairly accurate, albeit somewhat dangerous to the bomber crews, and required numerous small bombers with limited bomb carrying ability. A primary reason the Heinkel 177 heavy bomber failed was a requirement that it be able to dive bomb, which affected the design and resulted in a less than successful level bomber.

Japan did develop one accurate bomb, the Okha piloted bomb. It failed to make a serious impact for the same reason the German guided bombs did not succeed… the Okha had a fairly short range, and required a bomber to deliver it close to the target, at a time when the US Navy had complete control of the air over potential targets.

Precision guided bombs, as we know them today, did not appear until around 1971-1972, at the end of the Vietnam war, and weren't really employed in any great number until the first Gulf War of 1990.

Different technologies for different aircraft.

  • The most primitive aircraft then in use would bomb on unaided eyesight and gut feeling. With dense cloud cover, this could become dead reckoning with compass, airspeed indicator, and watch. Not efficient, but sometimes better than bringing the bombs home.
  • Somewhat more advanced aircraft had optical sights, which could be adjusted for altitude, speed, and guesstimated wind over the target. This was used for many daylight attacks. These optical bombsight could get pretty complicated, as in the famous Norden bombsight.
  • Late in the war there was radar to detect ground targets, which also worked at night and in bad visibility.
  • A somewhat related development was bombing on radio navigation, where the transmitter was in friendly territory on the ground.

But I think you may be remembering the intervalometer do drop a series of bombs after the bombardier selected the initial target. This spreads the load of a single bomber over a larger area.

Precision strategic bombing has been covered. Here's a few notes about precision tactical bombing, particularly naval targets.

Horizontal bombing, flying in a straight line at high altitude and dropping bombs at just the right moment, proved totally unable to hit moving ships at sea. Even for a non-maneuvering ship, the accuracy simply wasn't there. A level bomber must take into account the velocity vector of the ship (which can change as it maneuvers), the height of the bomb at release, the horizontal velocity vector of the bomb at release (which is the same as the horizontal velocity vector of the bomber), and the effect of wind and drag on the bomb as it falls. This evolving four-dimensional problem (3 spacial dimensions, plus time) is too much for a bombardier to do in their head, or with a simple analog computer, under combat conditions.

Instead, dive bombing proved effective. This simplifies the problem by literally pointing the aircraft straight at the target in a very steep dive. The bomb is released as low as possible to have as short a travel time as possible (5 to 10 seconds) giving the target as little time as possible to maneuver. Being released near vertical, the bomb will go in nearly a straight line to the target simplifying the aiming process. This turns the 4 dimensional problem into a mostly 2 dimensional one: point your nose at the target, hold the dive for as long as you dare, release, and pull up.

This technique also allowed the dive bombers to approach at high altitude, where they were safer, but attack and low altitude where they were more accurate. High attitude bombers are harder to spot, being further away they appear smaller, and can possibly concealed by clouds and the Sun. If the defending Combat Air Patrol is caught at a low altitude or out of position, as happened famously at Midway where the Japanese fighters were just finishing slaughtering low-level torpedo bombers when the dive bombers appeared, they may not be able to climb to attack in time.

It required special training and it required special aircraft. Dive bombers were designed to take the stresses of high speed, and high Gs. Pulling out of a dive on a lesser aircraft could damage the airframe. The steeper the dive, the more accurate the bomb. Aerodynamically, they had to dive in as close to a straight line as possible with no lift to mess up their aim; not generating lift at high speed is what aircraft want to do, so this could otherwise degrade performance.

Dive bombers had some aids. The dive angle could be indicated by a proper artificial horizon, or by the simple expedient of painting angles on the pilot's window and comparing that with the horizon.

Pilots would train to dive at a certain angle, 70° for US naval dive bombers in WWII, and release at a certain airspeed and altitude. This again simplified the calculations. Rather than working out how the bomb will behave for various variables, they could practice and memorize just one particular angle, airspeed, and altitude. Then combat was a matter of following their training.

See Also

This question depends on how bombers were used. The British and Germans utilized night time bombing missions so visual bomb sights were not as useful to them. They both opted for radio beam technology which both guided their bombers to the target and informed them when to drop their payloads. The Germans used this technology from the beginning of the war in 39, the British while always flying night time missions converted to their own brand of beaming technology later in the war. The United States philosophy was to defend their bombers in the air, and fly daylight missions which they felt were more accurate and reliable in hitting the target. The United States tried different strategies to defend their bombers in daylight before settling on long range fighter escorts with extra large drop tanks.

The problem everyone was trying to counter was Bombers were slow vulnerable cumbersome beasts, vulnerable to fighter intercepters. This vulnerability was negated by night time bombing. Even large slow moving bombers could fly safely across Europe or the UK with a coat of dark paint and a sufficiently high altitude. Problem was such high flying nighttime missions while safer for the bombers were not very accurate at hitting targets smaller than cities, and even cities proved difficult when they were blacked out. Which meant nighttime bombing without electronic aids was largely a terror weapon, not a strategic weapon.


To negate this shortcoming, the Germans used sophisticated radio beaming technology. First the Germans used a system called Knickebein. One beam would determine the path of the bombers. If the bombers were to the right or left of the beam, radio's in their pilots ears would inform them with a series of dots(turn right) or dashes (turn left). An intercepting beam would tell the bombers when to drop their bombs. The British code named the German knickebein system "head-ache" and their countermeasures were code named "aspirin". The British struggle to identify and counter this German system was known as the "Battle of the Beams".

The knickenbein system had a number of short comings. The beam was relatively easy for the British to identify once they started looking, and the system was not designed to direct large formations. These shortcomings were addressed when knickenbein was replaced by the more accurate, better ranged, and harder to detect X-Gerät system, which also used Radio beaming technology. X-Gerät used a more focused beam which was more difficult for enemy countermeasure craft to find. More focus also meant more accuracy.


The British adopted similar systems to the German Knickenbein and X-Gerät systems which also relied upon radio beaming technology(Gee and Oboe).

Encyclopedia Britanica
From late 1943 the RAF used two radar-beam systems called Gee and Oboe to guide its Lancaster and Halifax bombers to cities on the Continent. In addition, the bombers carried a radar mapping device, code-named H2S, that displayed reasonably detailed pictures of coastal cities such as Hamburg, where a clear contrast between land and water allowed navigators to find the target areas.

United States

The United States was not a fan of night time bombing. While safer for the bombers, prior to the development of allied beaming technology night time bombing compromised the accuracy and effectiveness of the missions. They opted instead to use a sophisticated bomb sight which relied upon visual markers to determine the plane's true ground speed, and then mechanically adjust the targeting apeture to account for altitude and speed. This device was named the Norden Bombsight. The Norden bombsight was pretty accurate in ideal conditions, but was subject to problems from rain, fog, or cloud cover all of which could be sufficient to scrub entire missions. The Norden Bombsight was also notoriously complex and difficult to use.

An additional benefit of American daylight missions was that the allies could conduct missions 24 hours a day, with the RAF conducting night time raids. The United States used the Norden Bombsights in both theaters of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Both nuclear devices dropped on Japan were dropped utilizing the Norden Bombsight.

To counter the vulnerability problems of bombers the Americans first tried to fortify its bombers. The theory was fortified bombers in tight formations would be able to defend themselves from enemy fighters. Fortifying the bombers though made them heavier and slower; ultimately this tactic was not effective in countering the dangers of enemy fighters.

P-51 Mustang
In fall 1943, the 8th Air Force's heavy bombers conducted a series of deep-penetration raids into Germany, beyond the range of escort fighters. The Schweinfurt-Regensburg mission in August lost 60 B-17s of a force of 376, the 14 October attack lost 77 of a force of 291-26% of the attacking force. Losses were so severe that long-range missions were called off for a time until an effective escort could be found.

The P-51 mustang with an extra large 80 gallon drop tank would become the bomber escort the United States were seeking. It saved both the American concept of daylight bombing and for that matter the utility of the Norden bombsight with it's ability to protect daylight missions.

The bomb sights as mentioned in the other answers provided the last stage of targeting: they assume the bomber is in the general area of the target and are used to decide when exactly to drop the bomb load.

Getting to the target area was a problem too. Navigation was commonly done by looking at the ground and comparing to the map (by day) or the use of a sextant (by night). These methods were imperfect to the point where occasionally, the wrong city was bombed.

In WW2, other methods were devised to make navigation easier. Radio navigation was one: radio transmitters in friendly territory sent signals that could be received by the bombers, giving a distance or heading from the transmitter (and thus a location).
Initially only a few aircraft in the formation would have radio navigation. These would guide the rest of the formation. Examples are Gee and Oboe. These got good enough to get the bomber within a few hundred m of the target, and bombing (well, carpet bombing at night) could take place without using a bomb sight.

computing technology wasn't advanced enough to calculate when to drop bombs accurately on a target

Accuracy was of course the paramount issue, however computing technology was used to improve accuracy. Just not the specific type of computer technology you may have in mind (e.g. specifically digital not analogue, specifically electronic not electromechanical)

The bombsight that resulted was the Mk XlV regarded then as the wonder sight of the day. It was designed to enable the run up to the target flying straight and level to be restricted to a mere ten seconds and enable the pilot to carry out evasive manoeuvres on his approach to the target. It could be used to bomb both on the climb and the glide. The bombsight consisted of a computer cabinet mounted to the left of the Air Bomber and a stabilised sighting head with optical graticule. The sight was one of the first practical uses for a mechanical computer and Babbage would have been proud of it.

Source: Henry Black, Lancaster Archive

bomber pilots using a modified watch to deploy bombs.

Bombsights were not made by taking a watch and modifying it. They were not used by pilots in most cases.

If there's a visible landmark at a known distance & angle from the target ( Sometimes this is called the IP - initial point.) then at a known speed you should be over the target at speed/distance seconds after passing it. Is that what you're thinking of?

Like all the other methods though it depends on accuarately knowing the speed and distance, and then there's other factors like wind, air density…

After the nice answers above about bombers, here a humbler answer about how to bomb with a P-40 fighter, from John Vader's book "P-40".

  • crew is just fighter pilot, no bombardier or bomber optics at all.
  • Actually, at the right time to drop the bomb, the target is invisible, as there are no glass window looking down. And the target has been invisible for some time.
  • The plane can dive, but not as well as a dive bomber. If you try to dive as a Stuka, you can not recover from the dive and crash in the ground.

It requires some practice with dumb bombs, but USA pilots developed this technique at the Pacific front:

  1. Dive at ~45 degree, pointing at the target with your target sight. Do not keep it on the sight, let his image go "down"
  2. Wait until the target disappears from your view, under your plane
  3. Count one number for each 300m of altitude. e.g, if you are at 600m altitude, count up to 2.
  4. Get out of the dive, when the plane is almost leveled up, drop the bomb.

Obviously this is not accurate but: a) not-so accurate incendiary bombs may still be useful when bombing an enemy base; b) they usually would bombs enemy vehicle convoys using squads of P-40. After all 4 planes dropped bombs, they would come back to strafe them with their .50. Even if some bombs missed, that is not so critical.

The other option was to fly horizontally, at 20m altitude, right at the top of the trees, and drop bombs just above the enemy. But this is more dangerous.

PS: both approaches also work with plane simulators or games such as Warthunder. After some practice to learn to keep track of altitude and dive angle, it was nice to bomb an enemy tank from a P-40 after counting up to 2…

Flying in a British bomber during World War Two was one of the most… Early in the war bomber pilots were taught terrible lessons about… They were worse really than flak because you didn't see that until it actually burst… Occasionally, planes might even be hit by bombs released from a plane above.

Airborne leaflet propaganda

Airborne leaflet propaganda (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a Letter bomb) is a form of psychological warfare in which leaflets (flyers) are scattered in the air.

Military forces have used aircraft to drop leaflets to attempt to alter the behavior of combatants and non-combatants in enemy-controlled territory, sometimes in conjunction with air strikes. Humanitarian air missions, in cooperation with leaflet propaganda, can turn the populace against their leadership while preparing them for the arrival of enemy combatants.

Duties and Responsibilities of THE BOMBARDIER Excerpt from the Pilot Training Manual of the B-17 Flying Fortress

Accurate and effective bombing is the ultimate purpose of your entire airplane and crew. Every other function is preparatory to hitting and destroying the target.

That's your bombardier's job. The success or failure of the mission depends upon what he accomplishes in that short interval of the bombing run.

When the bombardier takes over the airplane for the run on the target, he is in absolute command. He will tell you what he wants done, and until he tells you "Bombs away," his word is law.

A great deal, therefore, depends on the understanding between bombardier and pilot. You expect your bombardier to know his job when he takes over. He expects you to understand the problems involved in his job, and to give him full cooperation. Teamwork between pilot and bombardier is essential.

Under any given set of conditions -- groundspeed, altitude, direction, etc. -- there is only one point in space where a bomb may be released from the airplane to hit a predetermined object on the ground.

There are many things with which a bombardier must be thoroughly familiar in order to release his bombs at the right point to hit this predetermined target.

He must know and understand his bombsight, what it does, and how it does it.
He must thoroughly understand the operation and upkeep of his bombing instruments and equipment.
He must know that his racks, switches, controls, releases, doors, linkage, etc., are in first class operating condition.
He must understand the automatic pilot as it pertains to bombing.
He must know how to set it up, make any adjustments and minor repairs while in flight.
He must know how to operate all gun positions in the airplane.
He must know how to load and clear simple stoppages and jams of machine guns while in flight.
He must be able to load and fuse his own bombs.
He must understand the destructive power of bombs and must know the vulnerable spots on various types of targets.
He must understand the bombing problem, bombing probabilities, bombing errors, etc.
He must be thoroughly versed in target identification and in aircraft identification.

The bombardier should be familiar with the duties of all members of the crew and should be able to assist the navigator in case the navigator becomes incapacitated.

For the bombardier to be able to do his job, the pilot of the aircraft must place the aircraft in the proper position to arrive at a point on a circle about the target from which the bombs can be released to hit the target.

  1. ALTITUDE: Controlled by the pilot. Determines the length of time the bomb is sustained in flight and affected by atmospheric conditions, thus affecting the range (forward travel of the bomb) and deflection (distance the bomb drifts in a crosswind with respect to airplane's ground track).
  2. TRUE AIRSPEED: Controlled by the pilot. The measure of the speed of the airplane through the air. It is this speed which is imparted to the bomb and which gives the bomb its initial forward velocity and, therefore, affects the trail of the bomb, or the distance the bomb lags behind the airplane at the instant of impact.
  3. BOMB BALLISTICS: Size, shape and density of the bomb, which determines its air resistance. Bombardier uses bomb ballistics tables to account for type of bomb.
  4. TRAIL: Horizontal distance the bomb is behind the airplane at the instant of impact. This value, obtained from bombing tables, is set in the sight by the bombardier. Trail is affected by altitude, airspeed, bomb ballistics and air density, the first three factors being controlled by the pilot.
  5. ACTUAL TIME OF FALL: Length of time the bomb is sustained in air from instant of release to instant of impact. Affected by altitude, type of bomb and air density. Pilot controls altitude to obtain a definite actual time of fall.
  6. GROUNDSPEED: The speed of the airplane in relation to the earth's surface. Groundspeed affects the range of the bomb and varies with the airspeed, controlled by the pilot. Bombardier enters groundspeed in the bombsight through synchronization on the target. During this process the pilot must maintain the correct altitude and constant airspeed.
  7. DRIFT: Determined by the direction and velocity of the wind, which determines the distance the bomb will travel downwind from the airplane from the instant the bomb is released to its instant of impact. Drift is set on the bombsight by the bombardier during the process of synchronization and setting up course.

The above conditions indicate that the pilot plays an important part in determining the proper point of release of the bomb. Moreover, throughout the course of the run, as explained below, there are certain preliminaries and techniques which the pilot must understand to insure accuracy and minimum loss of time.

Prior to takeoff the pilot must ascertain that the airplane's flight instruments have been checked and found accurate. These are the altimeter, airspeed indicator, free air temperature gauge and all gyro instruments. These instruments must be used to determine accurately the airplane's attitude.

The Pilot's Preliminaries

The autopilot and PDI should be checked for proper operation. It is very important that PDI and autopilot function perfectly in the air otherwise it will be impossible for the bombardier to set up an accurate course on the bombing run. The pilot should thoroughly familiarize himself with the function of both the C-1 autopilot and PDI.

If the run is to be made on the autopilot, the pilot must carefully adjust the autopilot before reaching the target area. The autopilot must be adjusted under the same conditions that will exist on the bombing run over the target. For this reason the following factors should be taken into consideration and duplicated for initial adjustment.

Speed, altitude and power settings at which run is to be made.
Airplane trimmed at this speed to fly hands off with bomb bay doors opened.

The same condition will exist during the actual run, except that changes in load will occur before reaching the target area because of gas consumption. The pilot will continue making adjustments to correct for this by disengaging the autopilot elevator control and re-trimming the airplane, then re-engaging and adjusting the autopilot trim of the elevator.

Setting Up the Autopilot

One of the most important items in setting up the autopilot for bomb approach is to adjust the turn compensation knobs so that a turn made by the bombardier will be coordinated and at constant altitude. Failure to make this adjustment will involve difficulty and delay for the bombardier in establishing an accurate course during the run with the possibility that the bombardier may not be able to establish a proper course in time, the result being considerably large deflection errors in point of impact.

Uncoordinated turns by the autopilot on the run cause erratic lateral motion of the cross hair of the bombsight when sighting on target. The bombardier in setting up course must eliminate any lateral motion of the fore-and-aft hair in relation to the target before he has the proper course set up. Therefore, any erratic motion of the cross hair requires an additional correction by the bombardier. which would not be necessary if autopilot was adjusted to make coordinated turns.

USE OF THE PDI: The same is true if PDI is used on the bomb run. Again, coordinated smooth turns by the pilot become an essential part of the bomb run. In addition to added course corrections necessitated by uncoordinated turns, skidding and slipping introduce small changes in airspeed affecting synchronization of the bombsight on the target. To help the pilot flying the run on PDI, the airplane should be trimmed to fly practically hands off.

Assume that you are approaching the target area with autopilot properly adjusted. Before reaching the initial point (beginning of bomb run) there is evasive action to be considered. Many different types of evasive tactics are employed, but from experience it has been recommended that the method of evasive action be left up to the bombardier, since the entire anti- aircraft pattern is fully visible to the bombardier in the nose.

EVASIVE ACTION: Changes in altitude necessary for evasive action can be coordinated with the bombardier's changes in direction at specific intervals. This procedure is helpful to the bombardier since he must select the initial point at which he will direct the airplane onto the briefed heading for the beginning of the bomb run.

Should the pilot be flying the evasive action on PDI (at the direction of the bombardier) he must know the exact position of the initial point for beginning the run, so that he can fly the airplane to that point and be on the briefed heading. Otherwise, there is a possibility of beginning to run too soon, which increases the airplane's vulnerability, or beginning the run too late, which will affect the accuracy of the bombing. For best results the approach should be planned so the airplane arrives at the initial point on the briefed heading, and at the assigned bombing altitude and airspeed.

At this point the bombardier and pilot as a team should exert an extra effort to solve the problem at hand. It is now the bombardier's responsibility to take over the direction of flight, and give directions to the pilot for the operations to follow. The pilot must be able to follow the bombardier's directions with accuracy and minimum loss of time, since the longest possible bomb run seldom exceeds 3 minutes. Wavering and indecision at this moment are disastrous to the success of any mission, and during the crucial portion of the run, flak and fighter opposition must be ignored if bombs are to hit the target. The pilot and bombardier should keep each other informed of anything which may affect the successful completion of the run.

HOLDING A LEVEL: Either before or during the run, the bombardier will ask the pilot for a level. This means that the pilot must accurately level his airplane with his instruments (ignoring the PDI). There should be no acceleration of the airplane in any direction, such as an increase or decrease in airspeed, skidding or slipping, gaining or losing altitude.

For the level the pilot should keep a close check on his instruments, not by feel or watching the horizon. Any acceleration of the airplane during this moment will affect the bubbles (through centrifugal force) on the bombsight gyro, and the bombardier will not be able to establish an accurate level.

For example, assume that an acceleration occurred during the moment the bombardier was accomplishing a level on the gyro. A small increase in airspeed or a small skid, hardly perceptible, is sufficient to shift the gyro bubble liquid 1 degree or more. An erroneous tilt of 1 degree on the gyro will cause an error of approximately 440 feet in the point of impact of a bomb dropped from 20,000 feet, the direction of error depending on direction of tilt of gyro caused by the erroneous bubble reading,

HOLDING ALTITUDE AND AIRSPEED: As the bombardier proceeds to set up his course (synchronize) , it is absolutely essential that the pilot maintain the selected altitude and air- speed within the closest possible limits. For every additional 100 feet above the assumed 20,000-foot bombing altitude, the bombing error will increase approximately 30 feet, the direction of error being over. For erroneous airspeed, which creates difficulty in synchronization on the target, the bombing error will be approximately 170 feet for a 10 mph change in airspeed. Assuming the airspeed was 10 mph in excess, from 20,000 feet, the bomb impact would be short 170 feet.

The pilot's responsibility to provide a level and to maintain a selected altitude and airspeed within the closest limits cannot be over-emphasized.

If the pilot is using PDI (at the direction of the bombardier) instead of autopilot, he must be thoroughly familiar with the corrections demanded by the bombardier. Too large a correction or too small a correction, too soon or too late, is as bad as no correction at all. Only through prodigious practice flying with the PDI can the pilot become proficient to a point where he can actually perform a coordinated turn, the amount and speed necessary to balance the bombardier's signal from the bombsight.

Erratic airspeeds, varying altitudes, and poorly coordinated turns make the job of establishing course and synchronizing doubly difficult for both pilot and bombardier, because of the necessary added corrections required. The resulting bomb impact will be far from satisfactory.

After releasing the bombs, the pilot or bombardier may continue evasive action -- usually the pilot, so that the bombardier may man his guns.

The pilot using the turn control may continue to fly the airplane on autopilot, or fly it manually, with the autopilot in a position to he engaged by merely flipping the lock switches. This would provide potential control of the airplane in case of emergency.

This site created and maintained by Mary Smith and Barbara Freer , daughters of Dick Williams, Jr.

The Youngest WWII Pilot Flew A Jaw Dropping Amount Of Missions

Martin Ritchey Sidener, known to everyone as Marty, was the youngest World War II pilot. According to his family, Marty was obsessed with flying from the age of 9. Born in Arkansas City, Kansas, there was an airfield right next to his house. The pilot who ran the strip was offering rides for $3 dollars, however, Marty nor his family could afford it. He then stood by the airfield and watched the plane take-off and land and that was enough for him to know he was meant to be a pilot.

This Young Lad Enlisted As Soon As He Possibly Could

It’s no wonder then that he joined the Army Air Corps (now the Air Force) as soon as he could. At the young age of 17, right before graduating high school, he filled out the necessary paperwork. Enlisting in January 1943, he was told he would be called upon when he graduated high school and received his diploma. That call came in March, however, just two months shy of his graduation day. His school granted him leave and the diploma was given to his girlfriend, Jo Ann Radley on his behalf.

At 18, Lt. Martin Sidener Became The Youngest Pilot In The Army Air Corps

Marty finished flight school on January 7th, 1944 at the age of 18, becoming the youngest pilot to receive his wings. He promptly married his girlfriend Jo Ann before deployment and as you can imagine, they would remain married for the next 63 years.

Assigned to the 17th Bomb Group, 34th Squadron, he was the co-pilot of a B-26 Marauder and quickly became the pilot. The 17th Bomb Group flew in all Theaters of the war, but Marty flew all his missions over Europe. Flying over hostile Italy and Germany, he completed 28 missions before he turned 20.

Not only was he young, his tour of duty was extremely dangerous and intense. By the end of his service, he flew a whopping 48 missions which during World War II was a high number, not to mention the survival rate of such an endeavor.

The Motto Of The 17th Bombardment Group was “Ever Into Danger.”

What’s even more interesting is the fact that over the course of his service Lt. Martin was never shot down, although he recalled a few close calls. He attributed his luck to flying the B-26 which he said was one tough bird. By the end of his service, he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 8 Oak Leaf Clusters. He never gloated about being the youngest pilot nor anything of the sort, always stating that he was serving alongside millions of others for his country.

Marty Flew The B-26 Marauder Which Was A Twin-Engined Medium Bomber.

Here’s A Marauder In Action, Doing What They Were Designed To Do.

After the war, Marty reunited with his sweetheart Jo Ann and had to children. He went to Southwestern College to earn his degree and then forged himself a successful career as a Boeing representative selling aircraft and parts. He retired in Granbury, Texas after building his dream home.

A Vintage Newspaper Clipping Immortalizing Marty And His Service.

Marty passed away on February 7th, 2015 in Dallas Texas at the age of 90.

We also found a really neat and informative interview with Marty. It’s really worth a listen, being able to hear these amazing stories are becoming less and less common. We thank him and others like him for their service.

The Bombing Raids of World War II

Before World War II, air bombing was regarded as a form of sabotage by most countries.

Few looked at it as a strategic factor that could impact the outcome of war.

This outlook changed with the bombing campaigns of World War II.

It became clear that large-scale bombing raids against military, industrial, and even civilian targets could significantly shape how battles were fought.

On September 7, 1940, Germany began bombing London, England. The following day, the Royal Air Force (RAF) retaliated with the bombing of Berlin, Germany’s capital.

This was the beginning of a war campaign that saw the indiscriminate bombing of British and German cities.

In 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill appointed Air Vice Marshall Arthur Harris as head of Bomber Command.

Harris believed that the war against Germany could be won by the Air Force.

But without accurate navigation equipment and fighter escorts, British and Canadian bombers could only fly by night, making precision bombing almost impossible.

Instead, Harris aimed to destroy as much of Germany’s infrastructure as possible.

In 1943 alone, Harris’ bombing raids dropped 207,600 tons of explosives, targeting Germany’s most populous regions.

Likewise, Germany used its air force to advance its goals.

Aerial bombing was first used by the Germans during the invasion of Poland.

Germany’s Messerschmitt ME 262 was first used as a bomber, rather than a fighter, plane. Source: Wikipedia

Because its bombers had been found to be vulnerable during the Spanish Civil War, engineers created gunner’s nests to protect the aircraft from attacks.

At the outbreak of the war, allied forces only had antiquated, unreliable aircraft at their disposal.

German forces preferred to destroy captured allied planes, rather than use them themselves.

However, two captured planes did see service during the war: the Dutch Fokker T VIII and the Polish PZL P-7.

The Fokker T VII was a sea plane and the PZL P-7 was capable of holding a bomb load of 7,500 lbs., or 2,588 kg.

The Dutch Fokker T VIII was both a sea plane and a bomber. Source: Wikimedia

British bombers were initially ill-equipped for an extensive air war. The Fairey Battle was so vulnerable that production was halted quickly.

The Briston Blenheim MK 1 was an extremely quick passenger plane, but it made for a mediocre bomber.

The Handley Page Hampden was fast and could carry a large load, but it had no defenses, and so was used mostly for night raids towards the end of the war.

The Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley featured a large fuel tank, which cut down on refuel stops. It was used for antisubmarine patrol.

The Vickers Wellington was England’s most promising plane.

Its geodetic frame was strong yet lightweight. Overall, the British produced 11,460 Vickers Wellington during the war.

The Short Stirling became the British first four-engine bomber. Unfortunately, it performed poorly at high altitudes.

Ultimately, the Handley Page Halifax and the Avro Lancaster became the core of England’s Bomber Command.

Both relied heavily on Rolls Royce engines.

In May 1941, the RAF began using the De Havilland Mosquito, which combined an advanced Merlin engine with a lightweight wooden frame.

It had a maximum flying speed of 400 miles per hour, or 643 kilometers per hour.

The de Havilland Mosquito was England’s most effective fighter plane. Source: Wikimedia

The Mosquito could also fly at a height of 39,000 feet, or 11.887 meters, which was higher than other fighters could go.

It became the most effective fighter plane built during the war.

A great factor of Allied success during aerial warfare was the Sperry bombsight.

Even though a Nazi sympathizer handed gave a copy of it to the German Luftwaffe, the technology behind it remained a secret, giving the Allies an edge over the Luftwaffe.

The Axis power with the largest bomber fleet and the most experience at the beginning of the war was Italy.

But Mussolini choose not to challenge his air force, and so there was no incentive to progress.

By 1942, Italy had only one model that could compete with other air forces: the four-engine Piaggio P-108B.

Japan began preparing its bomber fleet for war beginning in 1937, when it tested different models in China.

But with the exception of Admiral Yamamoto, the Japanese did not view its air force as an integral part of ground and naval warfare.

In the first year of the war, Japan relied on the Mitsubishi G3M and G4M, which proved to be vulnerable.

Consequently, Japan developed the Aichi D3A1 and the Kawasaki K1 48.

Both were dive bombers that performed better than the Mitsubishi planes, but they too had weak spots.

The bombers that the Japanese developed between 1942 and 1944 showed little improvement and were no match for Allied fighter planes.

Rather than build planes that could compete with the advancing Allied forces, the Japanese relied on its kamikaze corps, made up of fighter pilots who were willing to perform suicide missions.

The Japanese Air Force relied heavily on its kamize corps to make up for unreliable aircraft. Source: Wikipedia

Towards the end of the war, Japan used the 852 Yokosuka MXY7s for these kamikaze missions.

The planes featured rocket engines and short air-foils, were launched from ships, and were virtually un-steerable.

In 9142, the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Forces joined forces to create the Combined Bomber Offensive.

But the two countries had different approaches. The British preferred to fly at night and used area bombing.

The Americans, whose planes were equipped with the highly accurate Norden bombsight, preferred to fly during the day and perform precision bombing.

Unlike area bombing, precision bombing kept civilian casualties to a minimum.

On August 17, 1942, the U.S. Air Force flew its first bombing mission against targets in occupied France.

There were only two American casualties, but losses overall were high during the first few months of the Combined Bomber Offensive.

The Air Force had no fighter planes that were able to escort its bombers all the way to Germany.

This left the bombers vulnerable to German attacks.

The Boeing B-17 was used during bombing raids over Germany. Source: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

In response, General Curtis E. LeMay instructed bombers to fly in tight formations.

The situation improved when the U.S. Air Force debuted the P-51 Mustang fighter plane.

It had auxiliary gas tanks, so the planes were able to escort bombers during their entire missions.

In 1944, American industry was able to produce enough fighter and bomber planes to attack Germany in large numbers.

The aircraft and fuel production in Germany decreased significantly.

Allied bombers held air superiority over Germany during the last year of the war.

Kamikaze - Suicide Pilots of World War II

Kamikaze were Japanese suicide pilots who attacked Allied warships in the Pacific Ocean during the Second World War. The name means "divine wind" and refers to a typhoon that destroyed an enemy fleet in the 13 th century.

After the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 they were defeated in many important battles in which they lost ships and airplanes. During 1943 and 1944 Allied forces were moving towards Japan quickly. They pushed the Japanese back to the Philippines, a group of islands that were very important for them. They were located between the oil fields of Southeast Asia and Japan.

During this phase of the war the Japanese were not able to build as many ships and warplanes as they were losing in the battles. They did not have the industries that the Americans did. The Japanese admirals realized that it was almost impossible to win against the Allied troops with few aircraft and not enough good pilots.

American Ship Hit by Kamikaze

For this reason the Japanese emperor decided to form a special attack unit. 24 pilots volunteered for the mission. It was their task to crash into Allied ships and kill as many sailors as possible. The first kamikaze attack took place in October 1944. A Japanese plane flew straight into an Australian navy ship, killing 30 sailors.

The kamikaze attacks were successful at first. Many pilots were trained to become kamikaze. The Japanese built cheap planes with older engines for these missions. Pilots usually dropped their landing gear after takeoff so that it could be used by other planes.

The Allied troops were afraid of these kamikaze attacks because they could not defend themselves against them. By the end of the war over 2500 Japanese pilots had sacrificed their lives. About 5000 American and Allied sailors were killed in the attacks.

What did kamikaze pilots believe?

Many kamikaze pilots were very young, mostly between 18 and 24. They believed that dying for Japan and their emperor was very honorable. They saw themselves much like the samurai of the Middle Ages, brave Japanese warriors.

But not all pilots volunteered out of love for their homeland. Pilots who didn't volunteer were seen as cowards. Some professional pilots did it because they were forced to.

Before the pilots went on their missions a special ceremony usually took place. They received a headband with a rising sun made by a thousand women. According to some stories pilots flew around a holy mountain and dropped some flowers before they flew on their last mission, certain that they would never come back again.

How did pilots know when to release bombs on airplanes during World War2? - History

Importance of Aircraft

Although World War I was the first major war that involved aircraft, it was during World War II that aircraft took on one of the most important roles of war. Some battles were fought almost entirely in the air.

North American P-51 Mustangs
Source: US Air Force

Major Battles in the Air

The first major attacks in World War II were made by German aircraft in the takeover of countries such as Denmark, Poland, and the Netherlands. Later, Germany would attempt to destroy England's Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain. During this battle, German planes dropped thousands of bombs on England for over three months straight. The Allies later countered with a major air attack on D-Day during the Invasion of Normandy. They launched around 14,000 sorties (airplane attacks) in one day.

There were also major air battles in the Pacific during World War II. The first major attack was when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. Later, aircraft played major roles in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Battle of Midway, and the Battle of Guadalcanal. The final blow in the war was also struck by aircraft when atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

There were three major types of planes used in World War II including fighters, bombers, and transport planes.

Japanese Zero
Source: Naval History and Heritage Command

Fighter planes are designed for air-to-air combat. They are fast and agile. During World War II fighter planes were used to gain air superiority over a battlefield. They would try to shoot down the enemy's bomber planes and also protect their own bombers. Fighter planes were armed with high powered machine guns and cannons.

Some of the more famous fighter planes during World War II included the German Messerschmitt Bf 109, the British Spitfire, the Japanese Zero, and the U.S. P51 Mustang.

Bombers were larger planes that were designed to carry and drop bombs on enemy targets. There were different sizes of bomber planes including light, medium, and heavy. Light bombers took out smaller targets like armored vehicles. Some light bombers could also take off and land from an aircraft carrier. The heavy bombers could fly long distances and were used to take out larger targets such as cities and large military complexes. Bombers often had machine gun turrets including a tail gunner that would help to fight off enemy fighter planes.


Early design Edit

The Ju 87's principal designer, Hermann Pohlmann, held the opinion that any dive-bomber design needed to be simple and robust. [1] This led to many technical innovations, such as the retractable undercarriage being discarded in favour of one of the Stuka's distinctive features, its fixed and "spatted" undercarriage. Pohlmann continued to carry on developing and adding to his ideas and those of Dipl Ing Karl Plauth (Plauth was killed in a flying accident in November 1927), and produced the Ju A 48 which underwent testing on 29 September 1928. The military version of the Ju A 48 was designated the Ju K 47. [1]

After the Nazis came to power, the design was given priority. Despite initial competition from the Henschel Hs 123, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM, the German aviation ministry) turned to the designs of Herman Pohlmann of Junkers and co-designer of the K 47, Karl Plauth. During the trials with the K 47 in 1932, the double vertical stabilisers were introduced to give the rear gunner a better field of fire. The main, and what was to be the most distinctive, feature of the Ju 87 was its double-spar inverted gull wings. [2] After Plauth's death, Pohlmann continued the development of the Junkers dive bomber. The Ju A 48 registration D-ITOR, was originally fitted with a BMW 132 engine, producing 450 kW (600 hp). The machine was also fitted with dive brakes for dive testing. The aircraft was given a good evaluation and "exhibited very good flying characteristics". [1]

Ernst Udet took an immediate liking to the concept of dive-bombing after flying the Curtiss F11C Goshawk. When Walther Wever and Robert Ritter von Greim were invited to watch Udet perform a trial flight in May 1934 at the Jüterbog artillery range, it raised doubts about the capability of the dive bomber. Udet began his dive at 1,000 m (3,300 ft) and released his 1 kg (2.2 lb) bombs at 100 m (330 ft), barely recovering and pulling out of the dive. [3] The chief of the Luftwaffe Command Office Walther Wever, and the Secretary of State for Aviation Erhard Milch, feared that such high-level nerves and skill could not be expected of "average pilots" in the Luftwaffe. [3] Nevertheless, development continued at Junkers. [3] Udet's "growing love affair" with the dive bomber pushed it to the forefront of German aviation development. [4] Udet went so far as to advocate that all medium bombers should have dive-bombing capabilities, [5] which initially doomed the only dedicated, strategic heavy bomber design to enter German front-line service during the war years—the 30-metre wingspan He 177A—into having an airframe design (due to Udet examining its design details in November 1937) that could perform "medium angle" dive-bombing missions, until Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring exempted the He 177A, Germany's only operational heavy bomber, in September 1942 from being given the task of such a mismatched mission profile for its large airframe. [6]

Evolution Edit

The design of the Ju 87 had begun in 1933 as part of the Sturzbomber-Programm. The Ju 87 was to be powered by the British Rolls-Royce Kestrel engine. Ten engines were ordered by Junkers on 19 April 1934 for £20,514, two shillings and sixpence. [7] The first Ju 87 prototype was built by AB Flygindustri [sv] in Sweden and secretly brought to Germany in late 1934. It was to have been completed in April 1935, but, due to the inadequate strength of the airframe, construction took until October 1935. The mostly complete Ju 87 V1 W.Nr. c 4921 (less non-essential parts) took off for its maiden flight on 17 September 1935. The aircraft was later given the registration D-UBYR. [8] The flight report, by Hauptmann Willy Neuenhofen, stated the only problem was with the small radiator, which caused the engine to overheat. [9]

The Ju 87 V1, powered by a Rolls-Royce Kestrel V12 cylinder liquid-cooled engine, and with a twin tail, crashed on 24 January 1936 at Kleutsch near Dresden, killing Junkers' chief test pilot, Willy Neuenhofen, and his engineer, Heinrich Kreft. [10] The square twin fins and rudders proved too weak they collapsed and the aircraft crashed after it entered an inverted spin during the testing of the terminal dynamic pressure in a dive. [11] The crash prompted a change to a single vertical stabiliser tail design. To withstand strong forces during a dive, heavy plating was fitted, along with brackets riveted to the frame and longeron, to the fuselage. Other early additions included the installation of hydraulic dive brakes that were fitted under the leading edge and could rotate 90°. [12]

The RLM was still not interested in the Ju 87 and was not impressed that it relied on a British engine. In late 1935, Junkers suggested fitting a DB 600 inverted V-12 engine, with the final variant to be equipped with the Jumo 210. This was accepted by the RLM as an interim solution. The reworking of the design began on 1 January 1936. The test flight could not be carried out for over two months due to a lack of adequate aircraft. The 24 January crash had already destroyed one machine. The second prototype was also beset by design problems. It had its twin stabilisers removed and a single tail fin installed due to fears over stability. Due to a shortage of engines, instead of a DB 600, a BMW "Hornet" engine was fitted. All these delays set back testing until 25 February 1936. [13] By March 1936, the second prototype, the V2, was finally fitted with the Jumo 210Aa engine, which a year later was replaced by a Jumo 210 G (W.Nr. 19310). Although the testing went well, and the pilot, Flight Captain Hesselbach, praised its performance, Wolfram von Richthofen told the Junkers representative and Construction Office chief engineer Ernst Zindel that the Ju 87 stood little chance of becoming the Luftwaffe's main dive bomber, as it was underpowered in his opinion. On 9 June 1936, the RLM ordered cessation of development in favour of the Heinkel He 118, a rival design. Udet cancelled the order the next day, and development continued. [14]

On 27 July 1936, Udet crashed the He 118 prototype, He 118 V1 D-UKYM. [15] That same day, Charles Lindbergh was visiting Ernst Heinkel, so Heinkel could only communicate with Udet by telephone. According to this version of the story, Heinkel warned Udet about the propeller's fragility. Udet failed to consider this, so in a dive, the engine oversped and the propeller broke away. [16] Immediately after this incident, Udet announced the Stuka the winner of the development contest. [15]

Refinements Edit

Despite being chosen, the design was still lacking and drew frequent criticism from Wolfram von Richthofen. Testing of the V4 prototype (A Ju 87 A-0) in early 1937 revealed several problems. The Ju 87 could take off in 250 m (820 ft) and climb to 1,875 m (6,152 ft) in eight minutes with a 250 kg (550 lb) bomb load, and its cruising speed was 250 km/h (160 mph). Richthofen pushed for a more powerful engine. [17] According to the test pilots, the Heinkel He 50 had a better acceleration rate, and could climb away from the target area much more quickly, avoiding enemy ground and air defences. Richthofen stated that any maximum speed below 350 km/h (220 mph) was unacceptable for those reasons. Pilots also complained that navigation and powerplant instruments were mixed together, and were not easy to read, especially in combat. Despite this, pilots praised the aircraft's handling qualities and strong airframe. [18]

These problems were to be resolved by installing the DB 600 engine, but delays in development forced the installation of the Jumo 210 D inverted V-12 engine. Flight testing began on 14 August 1936. Subsequent testing and progress fell short of Richthofen's hopes, although the machine's speed was increased to 280 km/h (170 mph) at ground level and 290 km/h (180 mph) at 1,250 m (4,100 ft), while maintaining its good handling ability. [19]

Basic design (based on the B series) Edit

The Ju 87 was a single-engined all-metal cantilever monoplane. It had a fixed undercarriage and could carry a two-person crew. The main construction material was duralumin, and the external coverings were made of duralumin sheeting. Parts that were required to be of strong construction, such as the wing flaps, were made of Pantal (a German aluminium alloy containing titanium as a hardening element) and its components made of Elektron. Bolts and parts that were required to take heavy stress were made of steel. [20]

The Ju 87 was fitted with detachable hatches and removable coverings to aid and ease maintenance and overhaul. The designers avoided welding parts wherever possible, preferring moulded and cast parts instead. Large airframe segments were interchangeable as a complete unit, which increased speed of repair. [20]

The airframe was also subdivided into sections to allow transport by road or rail. The wings were of standard Junkers double-wing construction. This gave the Ju 87 considerable advantage on take-off even at a shallow angle, large lift forces were created through the aerofoil, reducing take-off and landing runs. [20]

In accordance with the Aircraft Certification Centre for "Stress Group 5", the Ju 87 had reached the acceptable structural strength requirements for a dive bomber. It was able to withstand diving speeds of 600 km/h (370 mph) and a maximum level speed of 340 km/h (210 mph) near ground level, and a flying weight of 4,300 kg (9,500 lb). Performance in the diving attack was enhanced by the introduction of dive brakes under each wing, which allowed the Ju 87 to maintain a constant speed and allow the pilot to steady his aim. It also prevented the crew from suffering extreme g forces and high acceleration during "pull-out" from the dive. [20]

The fuselage had an oval cross-section and housed, in most examples, a Junkers Jumo 211 water-cooled inverted V-12 engine. The cockpit was protected from the engine by a firewall ahead of the wing centre section where the fuel tanks were located. At the rear of the cockpit, the bulkhead was covered by a canvas cover which could be breached by the crew in an emergency, enabling them to escape into the main fuselage. The canopy was split into two sections and joined by a strong welded steel frame. The canopy itself was made of Plexiglas and each compartment had its own "sliding hood" for the two crew members. [20]

The engine was mounted on two main support frames that were supported by two tubular struts. The frame structure was triangulated and emanated from the fuselage. The main frames were bolted onto the engine's top quarter. In turn, the frames were attached to the firewall by universal joints. The firewall itself was constructed from asbestos mesh with dural sheets on both sides. All conduits passing through had to be arranged so that no harmful gases could penetrate the cockpit. [21]

The fuel system comprised two fuel tanks between the main (forward) and rear spars of the (inner) anhedral wing section of the port and starboard wings, each with 240-litre (63 US gal) capacity. [22] The tanks also had a predetermined limit which, if passed, would warn the pilot via a red warning light in the cockpit. The fuel was injected via a pump from the tanks to the engine. Should this shut down, it could be pumped manually using a hand-pump on the fuel cock armature. [21] The powerplant was cooled by a 10-litre (2.6 US gal), ring-shaped aluminium water container situated between the propeller and engine. A further container of 20-litre (5.3 US gal) was positioned under the engine. [21]

The control surfaces operated in much the same way as other aircraft, with the exception of the innovative automatic pull-out system. Releasing the bomb initiated the pull-out, or automatic recovery and climb, upon the deflection of the dive brakes. The pilot could override the system by exerting significant force on the control column and taking manual control. [23]

The wing was the most unusual feature. It consisted of a single centre section and two outer sections installed using four universal joints. The centre section had a large negative dihedral (anhedral) and the outer surfaces a positive dihedral. This created the inverted gull, or "cranked", wing pattern along the leading edge. The shape of the wing improved the pilot's ground visibility and also allowed a shorter undercarriage height. The centre section protruded by only 3 m (9 ft 10 in) on either side. [23]

The offensive armament was two 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns fitted one in each wing outboard of undercarriage, operated by a mechanical pneumatics system from the pilot's control column. The rear gunner/radio operator operated one 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun for defensive purposes. [20]

The engine and propeller had automatic controls, and an auto-trimmer made the aircraft tail-heavy as the pilot rolled over into his dive, lining up red lines at 60°, 75° or 80° on the cockpit side window with the horizon and aiming at the target with the sight of the fixed gun. The heavy bomb was swung down clear of the propeller on crutches prior to release. [24]

Diving procedure Edit

Flying at 4,600 m (15,100 ft), the pilot located his target through a bombsight window in the cockpit floor. The pilot moved the dive lever to the rear, limiting the "throw" of the control column. [25] The dive brakes were activated automatically, the pilot set the trim tabs, reduced his throttle and closed the coolant flaps. The aircraft then rolled 180°, automatically nosing the aircraft into a dive. Red tabs protruded from the upper surfaces of the wing as a visual indicator to the pilot that, in case of a g-induced black-out, the automatic dive recovery system would be activated. The Stuka dived at a 60–90° angle, holding a constant speed of 500–600 km/h (311–373 mph) due to dive-brake deployment, which increased the accuracy of the Ju 87's aim. [25]

When the aircraft was reasonably close to the target, a light on the contact altimeter (an altimeter equipped with an electrical contact which triggers at a preset altitude) came on to indicate the bomb-release point, usually at a minimum height of 450 m (1,480 ft). The pilot released the bomb and initiated the automatic pull-out mechanism by depressing a knob on the control column. [25] An elongated U-shaped crutch located under the fuselage swung the bomb out of the way of the propeller, and the aircraft automatically began a 6g pullout. [25] Once the nose was above the horizon, dive brakes were retracted, the throttle was opened, and the propeller was set to climb. The pilot regained control and resumed normal flight. The coolant flaps had to be reopened quickly to prevent overheating. The automatic pull-out was not liked by all pilots. Helmut Mahlke later said that he and his unit disconnected the system because it allowed the enemy to predict the Ju 87's recovery pattern and height, making it easier for ground defences to hit an aircraft. [26]

Physical stress on the crew was severe. Human beings subjected to more than 5g in a seated position will suffer vision impairment in the form of a grey veil known to Stuka pilots as "seeing stars". They lose vision while remaining conscious after five seconds, they black out. The Ju 87 pilots experienced the visual impairments most during "pull-up" from a dive. [27]

Eric "Winkle" Brown RN, a British test pilot and Commanding Officer of No. 1426 Flight RAF (the captured enemy aircraft Flight), tested the Ju 87 at RAE Farnborough. He said of the Stuka, "I had flown a lot of dive-bombers and it's the only one that you can dive truly vertically. Sometimes with the dive-bombers . maximum dive is usually in the order of 60 degrees . When flying the Stuka, because it's all automatic, you are really flying vertically . The Stuka was in a class of its own." [28]

G-force test at Dessau Edit

Extensive tests were carried out by the Junkers works at their Dessau plant. It was discovered that the highest load a pilot could endure was 8.5 g for three seconds, when the aircraft was pushed to its limit by the centrifugal forces. At less than 4 g, no visual problems or loss of consciousness were experienced. [29] Above 6 g, 50% of pilots suffered visual problems, or greyout. With 40%, vision vanished altogether from 7.5 g upwards and black-out sometimes occurred. [30] Despite this blindness, the pilot could maintain consciousness and was capable of "bodily reactions". After more than three seconds, half the subjects passed out. The pilot would regain consciousness two or three seconds after the centrifugal forces had dropped below 3 g and had lasted no longer than three seconds. In a crouched position, pilots could withstand 7.5 g and were able to remain functional for a short duration. In this position, Junkers concluded that 2 ⁄ 3 of pilots could withstand 8 g and perhaps 9 g for three to five seconds without vision defects which, under war conditions, was acceptable. [31] During tests with the Ju 87 A-2, new technologies were tried out to reduce the effects of g. The pressurised cabin was of great importance during this research. Testing revealed that at high altitude, even 2 g could cause death in an unpressurised cabin and without appropriate clothing. This new technology, along with special clothing and oxygen masks, was researched and tested. When the United States Army occupied the Junkers factory at Dessau on 21 April 1945, they were both impressed at and interested in the medical flight tests with the Ju 87. [31]

Other designs Edit

The concept of dive bombing became so popular among the leadership of the Luftwaffe that it became almost obligatory in new aircraft designs. Later bomber models like the Junkers Ju 88 and the Dornier Do 217 were equipped for dive bombing. The Heinkel He 177 strategic bomber was initially supposed to have dive bombing capabilities, a requirement that contributed to the failure of the design, [32] with the requirement not rescinded until September 1942 by Göring. [6]

Once the Stuka became too vulnerable to fighter opposition on all fronts, work was done to develop a replacement. None of the dedicated close-support designs on the drawing board progressed far due to the impact of the war and technological difficulties. So the Luftwaffe settled on the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter aircraft, with the Fw 190F becoming the ground-attack version. The Fw 190F started to replace the Ju 87 for day missions in 1943, but the Ju 87 continued to be used as a night nuisance-raider until the end of the war. [33]

Ju 87A Edit

The second prototype had a redesigned single vertical stabiliser and a 610 PS (601.7 hp 448.7 kW) Jumo 210 A engine installed, and later the Jumo 210Da. The first A series variant, the A-0, was of all-metal construction, with an enclosed cockpit under a "greenhouse" well-framed canopy bearing twin radio masts on its aft sections, diagonally mounted to either side of the airframe's planform centreline and unique to the -A version. To ease the difficulty of mass production, the leading edge of the wing was straightened out and the ailerons' two aerofoil sections had smooth leading and trailing edges. The pilot could adjust the elevator and rudder trim tabs in flight, and the tail was connected to the landing flaps, which were positioned in two parts between the ailerons and fuselage. The A-0 also had a flatter engine cowling, which gave the pilot a much better field of vision. In order for the engine cowling to be flattened, the engine was set down nearly 0.25 m (9.8 in). The fuselage was also lowered along with the gunner's position, allowing the gunner a better field of fire. [34]

The RLM ordered seven A-0s initially, but then increased the order to 11. Early in 1937, the A-0 was tested with varied bomb loads. The underpowered Jumo 210A, as pointed out by von Richthofen, was insufficient, and was quickly replaced with the Jumo 210D engine. [34]

The A-1 differed from the A-0 only slightly. [35] As well as the installation of the Jumo 210D, the A-1 had two 220 l (58 US gal 48 imp gal) fuel tanks built into the inner wing, but it was not armoured or protected. [35] The A-1 was also intended to be fitted with four 7.92 mm (0.312 in) MG 17 machine guns in its wings, but two of these—one per side—were omitted due to weight concerns the pair that remained were fed a total of 500 rounds of ammunition, stored in the design's characteristic transverse strut-braced, large-planform undercarriage "trousers", not used on the Ju 87B versions and onward. The pilot relied on the Revi C 21C gun sight for the two MG 17s. The gunner had a single 7.92 mm (0.312 in) MG 15, with 14 drums of ammunition, each containing 75 rounds. This represented a 150-round increase in this area over the Ju 87 A-0. The A-1 was also fitted with a larger 3.3 m (11 ft) propeller. [35]

The Ju 87 was capable of carrying a 500 kg (1,100 lb) bomb, but only if not carrying the rear gunner/radio operator as, even with the Jumo 210D, the Ju 87 was still underpowered for operations with more than a 250 kg (550 lb) bomb load. All Ju 87 As were restricted to 250 kg (550 lb) weapons (although during the Spanish Civil War missions were conducted without the gunner). [36]

The Ju 87 A-2 was retrofitted with the Jumo 210Da fitted with a two-stage supercharger. The only further significant difference between the A-1 and A-2 was the H-PA-III controllable-pitch propeller. [37] By mid-1938, 262 Ju 87 As had been produced, 192 from the Junkers factory in Dessau and a further 70 from Weser Flugzeugbau ("Weserflug" – WFG) in Lemwerder near Bremen. The new, more powerful, Ju 87B model started to replace the Ju 87A at this time. [38]

  • Ju 87 V1 : W.Nr 4921. Flown on 17 September 1935
  • Ju 87 V2 : W.Nr 4922, registration D-IDQR. Flown on 25 February 1936. Flown again as registration D-UHUH on 4 June 1937
  • Ju 87 V3 : W.Nr 4923. Flown on 27 March 1936
  • Ju 87 V4 : W.Nr 4924. Flown on 20 June 1936
  • Ju 87 V5 : W.Nr 4925. Flown on 14 August 1936
  • Ju 87 A-0 : Ten pre-production aircraft, powered by a 640 PS (471 kW or 632 hp) Jumo 210C engine. [40]
  • Ju 87 A-1 : Initial production version.
  • Ju 87 A-2 : Production version fitted with an improved 680 PS (500 kW or 670 hp) Jumo 210E engine.

Ju 87B Edit

The Ju 87 B series was to be the first mass-produced variant. A total of six pre-production Ju 87 B-0 were produced, built from Ju 87 An airframes. [41] The first production version was the Ju 87 B-1, with a considerably larger engine, its Jumo 211D generating 1,200 PS (883 kW or 1,184 hp), and completely redesigned fuselage and landing gear, replacing the twin radio masts of the "A" version with a single mast mounted further forward on the "greenhouse" canopy, and much simpler, lighter-weight wheel "spats" used from the -B version onwards, discarding the transverse strut bracing of the "A" version's maingear design. This new design was again tested in Spain, and after proving its abilities there, production was ramped up to 60 per month. As a result, by the outbreak of World War II, the Luftwaffe had 336 Ju 87 B-1s on hand. [25]

The B-1 was also fitted with "Jericho trumpets", essentially sirens driven by propellers with a diameter of 0.7 m (2.3 ft) [42] mounted on the wing's leading edge directly forward of the landing gear, or on the front edge of the fixed main gear fairing. These sirens were used as psychological weapons, being used to terrify ground troops as an impending death was approaching them. A French general remarked about the effectiveness of these sirens:

. they (French artillerymen) simply stopped firing and went to the ground, the infantry cowered in the trenches, dazed by the crash of bombs and the shriek of the dive bombers.

The devices caused a loss of 20–25 km/h (10–20 mph) through drag, and over time the sirens were no longer installed on many units, although they remained in use to various extent. As an alternative, some bombs were fitted with whistles on the fin to produce the noise after release. [43] The trumpets were a suggestion from Udet (but some authors say the idea originated from Adolf Hitler). [44]

The Ju 87 B-2s that followed had some improvements and were built in several variants that included ski-equipped versions (the B-1 also had this modification) [45] and at the other end, with a tropical operation kit called the Ju 87 B-2 trop. Italy's Regia Aeronautica received B-2s and named them the "Picchiatello", while others went to the other members of the Axis, including Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. The B-2 also had an oil hydraulic system for closing the cowling flaps. This continued in all the later designs. [46]

Production of the Ju 87 B started in 1937. 89 B-1s were to be built at Junkers' factory in Dessau and another 40 at the Weserflug plant in Lemwerder by July 1937. Production would be carried out by the Weserflug company after April 1938, but Junkers continued producing Ju 87 up until March 1940. [47]

Ju 87R Edit

A long range version of the Ju 87B was also built, known as the Ju 87R, the letter being an abbreviation for Reichweite, "(operational) range". They were primarily intended for anti-shipping missions. The Ju 87R had a B-series airframe with an additional oil tank and fuel lines to the outer wing stations to permit the use of two 300 litres (79 US gal) standardised capacity under-wing drop tanks, used by a wide variety of Luftwaffe aircraft through most of the war. This increased fuel capacity to 1,080 litres (290 US gal) (500 litres in main fuel tank of which 480 litres were usable + 600 litres from drop tanks). To prevent overload conditions, bomb carrying ability was often restricted to a single 250 kg (550 lb) bomb if the aircraft was fully loaded with fuel.

The Ju 87 R-1 had a B-1 airframe with the exception of a modification in the fuselage which enabled an additional oil tank. This was installed to feed the engine due to the increase in range with the extra fuel tanks. [48]

The Ju 87 R-2 had the same airframe as the B-2, and strengthened to ensure it could withstand dives of 600 km/h (370 mph). The Jumo 211D in-line engine was installed, replacing the R-1s Jumo 211A. [48] Due to an increase in overall weight by 700 kg (1,500 lb), the Ju 87 R-2 was 30 km/h (19 mph) slower than the Ju 87 B-1 and had a lower service ceiling. The Ju 87 R-2 had an increased range advantage of 360 km (220 mi). [47] The R-3 and R-4 were the last R variants developed. Only a few were built. The R-3 was an experimental tug for gliders and had an expanded radio system so the crew could communicate with the glider crew by way of the tow rope. The R-4 differed from the R-2 in the Jumo 211J powerplant. [49]

  • Ju 87 V6 : W.Nr 0870027. Flown on 14 June 1937 (A-0 to B-0 conversion)
  • Ju 87 V7 : W.Nr 0870028. Prototype of the Ju 87B, powered by a 1,000 PS (735 kW or 986 hp) Jumo 211A. Flown on 23 August 1937 (A-0 to B-0 conversion)
  • Ju 87 V8 : W.Nr 4926. Flown on 11 November 1937
  • Ju 87 V9 : W.Nr 4927. Flown on 16 February 1938 as D-IELZ. Flown again as WL-IELZ on 16 October 1939
  • Ju 87 V15: W.Nr 0870321. Registration D-IGDK. Destroyed in a crash in 1942.
  • Ju 87 V16: W.Nr 0870279. Stammkennzeichen code of GT+AX.
  • Ju 87 V17 and Ju 87 V18 may never have been built. [41]

Ju 87C Edit

On 18 August 1937, the RLM decided to introduce the Ju 87 Tr(C). The Ju 87 C was intended to be a dive and torpedo bomber for the Kriegsmarine. The type was ordered into prototype production and available for testing in January 1938. Testing was given two months and was to begin in February and end in April 1938. [51] The prototype V10 was to be a fixed wing test aircraft, while the following V11 would be modified with folding wings. The prototypes were Ju 87 B-0 airframes powered by Jumo 211 A engines. [51] Owing to delays, the V10 was not completed until March 1938. It first flew on 17 March and was designated Ju 87 C-1. [51] On 12 May, the V11 also flew for the first time. By 15 December 1939, 915 arrested landings on dry land had been made. It was found that the arresting gear winch was too weak and had to be replaced. Tests showed the average braking distance was 20–35 metres (66–115 ft). [52] The Ju 87 V11 was designated C-0 on 8 October 1938. It was fitted out with standard Ju 87 C-0 equipment and better wing-folding mechanisms. The "carrier Stuka" was to be built at the Weserflug Company's Lemwerder plant between April and July 1940. [53]

Among the "special" equipment of the Ju 87 C was a two-seat rubber dinghy with a flare gun, signal ammunition and other emergency supplies. A quick fuel dump mechanism and two inflatable 750 L (200 US gal) bags in each wing and a further two 500 L (130 US gal) bags in the fuselage enabled the Ju 87 C to remain afloat for up to three days in calm seas. [53] On 6 October 1939, with the war already underway, 120 of the planned Ju 87 Tr(C)s on order at that point were cancelled. Despite the cancellation, the tests continued using catapults. The Ju 87 C had a takeoff weight of 5,300 kg (11,700 lb) and a speed of 133 km/h (83 mph) on departure. The Ju 87 could be launched with a SC 500 kg (1,100 lb) bomb and four SC 50 kg (110 lb) bombs under the fuselage. The C-1 was to have two MG 17s mounted in the wing with a MG 15 operated by the rear gunner. On 18 May 1940, production of the C-1 was switched to the R-1. [54]

  • Ju 87 V10: Registration D-IHFH (changed to Stammkennzeichen of TK+HD). W.Nr 4928. First flown 17 March 1938
  • Ju 87 V11: Stammkennzeichen of TV+OV. W.Nr 4929. First flown 12 May 1938

Ju 87D Edit

Despite the Stuka's vulnerability to enemy fighters having been exposed during the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe had no choice but to continue its development, as there was no replacement aircraft in sight. [55] The result was the D-series. In June 1941, the RLM ordered five prototypes, the Ju 87 V21–25. A Daimler-Benz DB 603 powerplant was to be installed in the Ju 87 D-1, but it did not have the power of the Jumo 211 and performed "poorly" during tests and was dropped. [56] The Ju 87 D-series featured two coolant radiators underneath the inboard sections of the wings, while the oil cooler was relocated to the position formerly occupied by the single, undernose "chin" coolant radiator. The D-series also introduced an aerodynamically refined cockpit with better visibility and space. [57] Armour protection was increased and a new dual-barrel 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 81Z machine gun with an extremely high rate of fire was installed in the rear defensive position. Engine power was increased again, the Jumo 211J now delivering 1,420 PS (1,044 kW or 1,400 hp). [57] Bomb carrying ability was nearly quadrupled from 500 kg (1,100 lb) in the B-version to 1,800 kg (4,000 lb) in the D-version (max. load for short ranges, overload condition), a typical bomb load ranged from 500–1,200 kg (1,100–2,600 lb). [58]

The internal fuel capacity of the Ju 87D was raised to 800 L (of which 780 L were usable) by adding wing tanks while retaining the option to carry two 300 L drop tanks. Tests at Rechlin-Lärz Airfield revealed it made possible a flight duration of 2 hours and 15 minutes. With an extra two 300 L (80 US gal) fuel tanks, it could achieve four hours flight time. [57]

The D-2 was a variant used as a glider tug by converting older D-series airframes. It was intended as the tropical version of the D-1 and had heavier armour to protect the crew from ground fire. The armour reduced its performance and caused the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe to "place no particular value on the production of the D-2". [57] The D-3 was an improved D-1 with more armour for its ground-attack role. Some Ju 87 D-3s were designated D-3N or D-3 trop and fitted with night or tropical equipment. [57] The D-4 designation applied to a prototype torpedo-bomber version, which could carry a 750–905 kg (1,653–1,995 lb) aerial torpedo on a PVC 1006 B rack—this setup would have had the capacity to carry the Luftorpedo LT 850, the German version of the well-proven Japanese Type 91 aerial torpedo of 848 kg (1,870 lb). The D-4 was to be converted from D-3 airframes and, in place of the carrier-specific Ju 87C series designs, operated from the aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. [59] Other modifications included a flame eliminator and, unlike earlier D variants, two 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon, while the radio operator/rear gunner's ammunition supply was increased by 1,000 to 2,000 rounds. [60]

The Ju 87 D-5 was based on the D-3 design and was unique in the Ju 87 series as it had wings 0.6 metres (2-feet) longer than previous variants. The two 7.92 mm MG 17 wing guns were exchanged for more powerful 20 mm MG 151/20s to better suit the aircraft's ground-attack role. The window in the floor of the cockpit was reinforced and four, rather than the previous three, aileron hinges were installed. Higher diving speeds were obtained of 650 km/h (400 mph) up to 2,000 m (6,600 ft). The range was recorded as 715 km (444 mi) at ground level and 835 km (519 mi) at 5,000 m (16,000 ft). [58]

The D-6, according to "Operating instructions, works document 2097", was built in limited numbers to train pilots on "rationalised versions". Due to shortages in raw materials, it did not go into mass production. [61] The D-7 was another ground attack aircraft based on D-1 airframes upgraded to D-5 standard (armour, wing cannons, extended wing panels), while the D-8 was similar to the D-7 but based on D-3 airframes. [61] The D-7 and D-8 were both were fitted with flame dampers, and could conduct night operations. [61]

Production of the D-1 variant started in 1941 with 495 ordered. These aircraft were delivered between May 1941 and March 1942. The RLM wanted 832 machines produced from February 1941. The Weserflug company was tasked with their production. From June to September 1941, 40 Ju 87 Ds were expected to be built, increasing to 90 thereafter. [62] Various production problems were encountered. One of the planned 48 was produced in July. Of the 25 the RLM hoped for in August 1941, none were delivered. [62] In September did the first two of the planned 102 Ju 87s came off the production lines. [63] The shortfalls continued to the end of 1941. During this time, the WFG plant in Lemwerder moved production to Berlin. Over 165 Ju 87s had not been delivered and production was only 23 Ju 87 Ds per month out of the 40 expected. By the spring of 1942 to the end of production in 1944, 3,300 Ju 87s, mostly D-1s, D-2s and D-5s had been manufactured. [63]

In January 1943, a variety of Ju 87 Ds became "test beds" for the Ju 87 G variants. At the start of 1943, the coastal Luftwaffe Erprobungsstelle test centre at Tarnewitz tested this combination from a static position. Oberst G. Wolfgang Vorwald noted the experiments were not successful, and suggested the cannon be installed on the Messerschmitt Me 410. [64] Testing continued, and on 31 January 1943, Ju 87 D-1 W.Nr 2552 was tested by Hauptmann Hans-Karl Stepp near the Briansk training area. Stepp noted the increase in drag, which reduced the aircraft's speed to 259 km/h (161 mph). Stepp also noted that the aircraft was also less agile than the existing D variants. D-1 and D-3 variants operated in combat with the 37 mm (1.5 in) BK 37 cannon in 1943. [64]

  • Ju 87 V 21. Registration D-INRF. W.Nr 0870536. Airframe conversion from B-1 to D-1. First flown on 1 March 1941.
  • Ju 87 V 22Stammkennzeichen of SF+TY. W.Nr 0870540. Also airframe conversion from B-1 to D-1. First flown on 1 March 1941.
  • Ju 87 V 23Stammkennzeichen of PB+UB. W.Nr 0870542. Also airframe conversion from B-1 to D-1. First flown on 1 March 1941.
  • Ju 87 V 24Stammkennzeichen of BK+EE. W.Nr 0870544. Also airframe conversion from B-1 to D-1/D-4. First flown on 1 March 1941.
  • Ju 87 V 25Stammkennzeichen of BK+EF. W.Nr 0870530. Also airframe conversion from B-1 to D-4 trop. First flown on 1 March 1941.
  • Ju 87 V 30, the only known prototype of the Ju 87 D-5. W.Nr 2296. First flown on 20 June 1943.
  • Ju 87 V 26-28, Ju 87 V 31, and V 42-47 were experiments of unknown variants. [50]

Ju 87G Edit

With the G variant, the ageing airframe of the Ju 87 found new life as an anti-tank aircraft. This was the final operational version of the Stuka, and was deployed on the Eastern Front. The reverse in German military fortunes after 1943 and the appearance of huge numbers of well-armoured Soviet tanks caused Junkers to adapt the existing design to combat this new threat. The Henschel Hs 129B had proved a potent ground attack weapon, but its large fuel tanks made it vulnerable to enemy fire, prompting the RLM to say "that in the shortest possible time a replacement of the Hs 129 type must take place." [65] With Soviet tanks the priority targets, the development of a further variant as a successor to the Ju 87D began in November 1942. On 3 November, Milch raised the question of replacing the Ju 87, or redesigning it altogether. It was decided to keep the design as it was, but the power-plant was upgraded to a Junkers Jumo 211J, and two 30 mm (1.2 in) cannons were added. The variant was also designed to carry a 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) free-fall bomb load. Furthermore, the armoured protection of the Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik—a feature pioneered by the 1916–17 origin Junkers J.I all-metal sesquiplane of World War I Imperial Germany's Luftstreitkräfte—was copied to protect the crew from ground fire now that the Ju 87 would be required to conduct low level attacks. [66]

Hans-Ulrich Rudel, a Stuka ace, had suggested using two 37 mm (1.46 in) Flak 18 guns, each one in a self-contained under-wing gun pod, as the Bordkanone BK 3,7, after achieving success against Soviet tanks with the 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon. These gun pods were fitted to a Ju 87 D-1, W.Nr 2552. The first flight of the machine took place on 31 January 1943, piloted by Stepp. [64] The continuing problems with about two dozen of the Ju 88P-1 and slow development of the Henschel Hs 129B-3, each of them equipped with a large, PaK 40-based, autoloading Bordkanone 7,5 7.5 cm (2.95 in) cannon in a conformal gun pod beneath the fuselage, meant the Ju 87G was put into production. In April 1943, the first production Ju 87 G-1s were delivered to front line units. [64] The two 37 mm (1.46 in) Bordkanone BK 3,7 cannons were mounted in under-wing gun pods, each loaded with two six-round magazines of armour-piercing tungsten carbide-cored ammunition. With these weapons, the Kanonenvogel ("cannon-bird"), as it was nicknamed, proved very successful in the hands of Stuka aces such as Rudel. The G-1 was converted from older D-series airframes, retaining the smaller wing, but without the dive brakes. The G-2 was similar to the G-1 except for use of the extended wing of the D-5. 208 G-2s were built and at least a further 22 more were converted from D-3 airframes. Only a handful of production Gs were committed in the Battle of Kursk. On the opening day of the offensive, Hans-Ulrich Rudel flew the only "official" Ju 87 G, although a significant number of Ju 87D variants were fitted with the 37 mm (1.46 in) cannon, and operated as unofficial Ju 87 Gs before the battle. In June 1943, the RLM ordered 20 Ju 87Gs as production variants. [67] The G-1 later influenced the design of the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, with Hans Rudel's book, Stuka Pilot being required reading for all members of the A-X project. [68]

Night-harassment variants Edit

The Ju 87 had been used in the night intruder role in 1940 and 1941 during The Blitz, [69] but the Soviet Air Force practice of harassing German ground forces using antiquated Polikarpov Po-2 and R-5 biplanes at night to drop flares and fragmentation bombs, inspired the Luftwaffe to form its own Störkampfstaffeln (harassment squadrons). On 23 July 1942, Junkers offered the Ju 87 B-2, R-2 and R-4s with Flammenvernichter ("flame eliminators"). On 10 November 1943, the RLM GL/C-E2 Division finally authorised the design in directive No. 1117. [70]

The need to equip night units and the phasing out of Ju 87s from ground attack groups in favour of the Fw 190, enabled the use of D-5 airframes awaiting repair and D-7 and 8s already in conversion units. The latter variants were either conversions or modified D-1 and D-3 air frames. Adding the necessary equipment, radios and dampeners was a requirement regardless of whether the aircraft was a production D-5 or a D-1 or 3 that had undergone wing changes. The change in designations due to conversions was not readily apparent, for with wing changes, the serial number and designation was applied to the fuselage by the manufacture which remained unaltered by wing changes. Some sub-contractors added an "N" designation (Nacht) for clarity on D-3 and 5s . Others added the roman numeral VII to the D-7s, perhaps to reflect that the aircraft was fitted with the FuG 7 radio. A great deal of confusion exists concerning the D-7. Its existence has been questioned, but the type is listed in Junkers company records and in the Der Reichminister der Luftfahrt and Oberbefehlshabere der Luftwaffe Technisches Amt. There was no production "nacht stuka", and modifications could vary according to the sub-contractor and depending on what parts were available. [71]

A Stuka repair centre was set up at Wels-Lichtenegg. From May 1940 to November 1944, 746 were repaired and flight-tested there. In the winter 1943/44, the Metal Works Lower Saxony Brinckmann und Mergell company (Menibum) converted approximately 300 Ju 87D-3 and 5s to night versions. Dive-brakes were removed there, while gun muzzles and dampers were to eliminate exhaust and muzzle flash. The Jumo 211P engine was installed in some cases. It took 2,170 technicians and workers to carry out the conversions. Total figures for conversions to night flying operations are unknown. The company's equipment was seized by the Soviet Union at the end of the war, and the records were lost or destroyed. [72] A main piece of equipment, hereto not installed in the Ju 87, was the FuG 101 Electronic Radio Altimeter. This was used to measure height. Some Ju 87s also used FuG 16Z transmitter/receiver set to augment the FuG 25 IFF (Identification Friend or Foe). [73]

Pilots were also asked to complete the new "Blind Flying Certificate 3", which was especially introduced for this new type of operation. Pilots were trained at night, over unfamiliar terrain, and forced to rely on their instruments for direction. The Ju 87's standard Revi C12D gunsight was replaced with the new Nachtrevi ("Nightrevi") C12N. On some Ju 87s, the Revi 16D was exchanged for the Nachtrevi 16D. To help the pilot see his instrument panel, a violet light was installed. [74]

On 15 November 1942, the Auxiliary Staffel was created. By mid-1943, Luftflotte 1 was given four Staffeln while Luftflotte 4 and Luftwaffe Kommando Ost (Luftwaffe Command East) were given six and two respectively. In the first half of 1943, 12 Nachtschlachtgruppen ("night battle groups"—NSGr) had been formed, flying a multitude of different types of aircraft, including the Ju 87, which proved itself ideally suited to the low-level slow flying needed. [75] NSGr 1 and 2 fought with some success on the Western Front during the Battle of Normandy and Battle of the Bulge. [76] [77] NSGr 7 operated in "anti-partisan" role from bases in Albania from July 1944, replacing their use of German trainers. [78] The 3rd and 4th group served on the Eastern Front, the 8th in the Arctic and the 9th in Italy. [79] NSGr 20 fought against the Western Allied invasion of Germany in 1945. Photographic evidence exists of 16 NSGr 20 Ju 87s lining up to take-off in the woods circling the Lippe airfield, Germany while under attack from P-47 Thunderbolts of the IX Tactical Air Command. The unit operated against the Ludendorff Bridge during the Battle of Remagen. [80]

Despite initial production issues with the Ju 87, the RLM ordered 216 Ju 87 A-1s into production and wanted to receive delivery of all machines between January 1936 and 1938. The Junkers production capacity was fully occupied and licensing to other production facilities became necessary. The first 35 Ju 87 A-1s were therefore produced by the Weser Flugzeugbau (WFG). By 1 September 1939, 360 Ju 87 As and Bs had been built by the Junkers factories at Dessau and Weserflug factory in Lemwerder near Bremen. By 30 September 1939, Junkers had received 2,365,196 Reichsmark (RM) for Ju 87 construction orders. The RLM paid another 243,646 RM for development orders. According to audit records in Berlin, by the end of the financial year on 30 September 1941, 3,059,000 RM had been spent on Ju 87 airframes. [81] By 30 June 1940, 697 Ju 87 B-1s and 129 B-2s alone had been produced. Another 105 R-1s and seven R-2s had been built. [81]

The range of the B-2 was insufficient, and dropped in favor of the Ju 87 R long-range versions in the second half of 1940. The 105 R-1s were converted to R-2 status and a further 616 production R-2s were ordered. In May 1941, the development of the D-1 was planned and was ordered into production by March 1942. The expansion of the Ju 88 production lines to compensate for the withdrawal of Dornier Do 17 production delayed production of the Ju 87 D. The Weserflug plant in Lemwerder experienced production shortfalls. This prompted Milch to visit and threaten the company into meeting the RLM's Ju 87 D-1 requirements on 23 February 1942. [82] To meet these demands, 700 skilled workers were needed. [82] Skilled workers had been called up for military service in the Wehrmacht. Junkers were able to supply 300 German workers to the Weserflug factory, and as an interim solution, Soviet prisoners of war and Soviet civilians deported to Germany. [82] Working around the clock, the shortfall was made good. WFG received an official commendation. [82] By May 1942, demand increased further. Chief of Procurement General Walter Herthel found that each unit needed 100 Ju 87s as standard strength and an average of 20 per month to cover attrition. Not until June–December 1942 did production capacity increase, and 80 Ju 87s were produced per month. [82]

By 17 August 1942, production had climbed rapidly after Blohm & Voss BV 138 production was scaled down and licence work had shut down at WFG. Production now reached 150 Ju 87 D airframes per month, but spare parts were failing to reach the same production levels. Undercarriage parts were in particularly short supply. Milch ordered production to 350 Ju 87s per month in September 1942. This was not achievable due to the insufficient production capacity in the Reich. [82]

The RLM considered setting up production facilities in Slovakia. But this would delay production until the buildings and factories could be furnished with the machine tools. These tools were also in short supply, and the RLM hoped to purchase them from Switzerland and Italy. The Slovaks could provide 3,500–4,000 workers, but no technical personnel. [83] The move would only produce another 25 machines per month at a time when demand was increasing. In October, production plans were dealt another blow when one of WFGs plants burned down, leaving a chronic shortage of tailwheels and undercarriage parts. Junkers director and member of the Luftwaffe industry council Carl Frytag reported that by January 1943 only 120 Ju 87s could be produced at Bremen and 230 at Berlin-Tempelhof. [83]

Decline and end of production Edit

After evaluating Ju 87 operations on the Eastern Front, Göring ordered production limited to 200 per month in total. General der Schlachtflieger General of Close-Support Aviation) Ernst Kupfer decided continued development would "hardly bring any further tactical value". Adolf Galland, a fighter pilot with operational and combat experience in strike aircraft, said that abandoning development would be premature, but 150 machines per month would be sufficient. [83]

On 28 July 1943, strike and bomber production was to be scaled down, and fighter and bomber destroyer production given priority. On 3 August 1943, Milch contradicted this and declared that this increase in fighter production would not affect production of the Ju 87, Ju 188, Ju 288 and Ju 290. This was an important consideration as the life expectancy of a Ju 87 had been reduced (since 1941) from 9.5 months to 5.5 months to just 100 operational flying hours. [84] On 26 October, General der Schlachtflieger Ernst Kupfer reported the Ju 87 could no longer survive in operations and that the Focke-Wulf Fw 190F should take its place. Milch finally agreed and ordered the minimal continuance of Ju 87 D-3 and D-5 production for a smooth transition period. [84] In May 1944, production wound down. 78 Ju 87s were built in May and 69 rebuilt from damaged machines. In the next six months, 438 Ju 87 Ds and Gs were added to the Ju 87 force as new or repaired aircraft. It is unknown whether any Ju 87s were built from parts unofficially after December 1944 and the end of production. [84]

Overall, 550 Ju 87 As and B2s were completed at the Junkers factory in Dessau. Production of the Ju 87 R and D variants was transferred to the Weserflug company, which produced 5,930 of the 6,500 Ju 87s produced in total. [85] During the course of the war, little damage was done to the WFG plant at Lemwerder. Attacks throughout 1940-45 caused little lasting damage and succeeded only in damaging some Ju 87 airframes, in contrast to the Focke-Wulf plant in Bremen. [86] At Berlin-Tempelhof, little delay or damage was caused to Ju 87 production, despite the heavy bombings and large-scale destruction inflicted on other targets. The WFG again went unscathed. The Junkers factory at Dessau was heavily attacked, but not until Ju 87 production had ceased. The Ju 87 repair facility at the Wels aircraft works was destroyed on 30 May 1944, and the site abandoned Ju 87 links. [87]

Spanish Civil War Edit

Among the many German aircraft designs that participated in the Condor Legion, and as part of other German involvement in the Spanish Civil War, a single Ju 87 A-0 (the V4 prototype) was allocated serial number 29-1 and was assigned to the VJ/88, the experimental Staffel of the Legion's fighter wing. The aircraft was secretly loaded onto the ship Usaramo and departed Hamburg harbour on the night of 1 August 1936, arriving in Cádiz five days later. The only known information pertaining to its combat career in Spain is that it was piloted by Unteroffizier Herman Beuer, and took part in the Nationalist offensive against Bilbao in 1937. Presumably the aircraft was then secretly returned to Germany. [88]

In January 1938, three Ju 87 As from the Legion Condor arrived. Several problems became evident—the spatted undercarriage sank into muddy airfield surfaces, and the spats were temporarily removed. The maximum 500 kg (1,100 lb) bomb load could only be carried if the gunner vacated his seat, therefore the bomb load was restricted to 250 kg (550 lb). These aircraft supported the Nationalist forces and carried out anti-shipping missions until they returned to Germany in October 1938. [88] During the Catalonia Offensive in January 1939, the Junkers Ju 87 returned to Spain. On the morning of 21 January 1939, 34 Heinkel He 111, along with some escorts and three Ju 87B, attacked the Port of Barcelona, five days before the city was captured by the Nationalists. [89] 29 Republican fighters were defending the city. There were more than 100 aircraft operating over the city and, while a Ju 87 was dive-bombing a ship, a Republican Polikarpov I-15 pilot, Francisco Alférez Jiménez, claimed it destroyed near El Vendrell, in Comarruga, but the Stuka was capable of landing on the beach without crashing. That was the only time a Stuka attacked the capital of Catalonia. [90] On 24 January 1939, a group of Stukas prevented the destruction of a bridge near Barcelona by strafing the demolition engineers on Molins de Rei. During the attack the Republican ground defenders, equipped with a quadruple PM M1910 mounting, hit one pilot (Heinz Bohne) in both legs and the Stuka crashed, seriously injuring Bohne, and his machine gunner, Albert Conrad. Those two were the only Stuka casualties of the war. [91]

As with the Ju 87 A-0, the B-1s were returned discreetly to the Reich. [92] The experience of the Spanish Civil War proved invaluable - air and ground crews perfected their skills, and equipment was evaluated under combat conditions. The Ju 87 had however not been tested against numerous and well-coordinated fighter opposition this lesson was learned later at great cost to the Stuka crews. [93]

Second World War Edit

All Stuka units were moved to Germany's eastern border in preparation for the invasion of Poland. On the morning of 15 August 1939, during a mass-formation dive-bombing demonstration for high-ranking commanders of the Luftwaffe at Neuhammer training grounds near Sagan, 13 Ju 87s and 26 crew members were lost when they crashed into the ground almost simultaneously. The planes dived through cloud, expecting to release their practice bombs and pull out of the dive once below the cloud ceiling, unaware that the ceiling was too low and unexpected ground mist formed, leaving them no time to pull out of the dive. [94]

Poland Edit

On 1 September 1939, the Wehrmacht invaded Poland, beginning World War II. Generalquartiermeister der Luftwaffe records indicate a total force of 366 Ju 87 A and Bs were available for operations on 31 August 1939. [25] The first Ju 87 operation was to destroy Polish demolition charges fixed to the rail bridges over the Vistula, that linked Eastern Germany to the Danzig corridor and East Prussia as well as Polish Pomerania. To do this, Ju 87s were ordered to perform a low-level attack on the Polish Army Garrison headquarters. II. and III./StG 1 targeted the cables along the embankment, the electricity plant and signal boxes at Dirschau (now Tczew, Poland. At exactly 04:26 CET, a Kette ("chain" or flight of three) of Ju 87s of 3./StG 1 led by Staffelkapitän Oberleutnant Bruno Dilly carried out the first bombing attack of the war. The Stukas attacked 11 minutes before the official German declaration of hostilities and hit the targets. The Ju 87s achieved complete success. The mission failed as the German Army delayed their advance allowing the Poles to carry out repairs and destroy all but one of the bridges before the Germans could reach them. [44] [95] [96]

A Ju 87 achieved the first air victory during World War II on the morning of 1 September 1939, when Rottenführer Leutnant Frank Neubert of I./StG 2 "Immelmann" shot down a Polish PZL P.11c fighter while it was taking off from Balice airfield its pilot, Captain Mieczysław Medwecki, was killed. In air-to-air combat, Ju 87 formations were well protected by German fighter aircraft and losses were light against the tenacious, but short lived opposition. [97]

The Ju 87s reverted to ground attack missions for the campaign after the opening air attacks. Ju 87s were involved in the controversial but effective attacks at Wieluń. The lack of anti-aircraft artillery in the Polish Army magnified the impact of the Ju 87. At Piotrków Trybunalski I./StG 76 and I./StG 2 destroyed a Polish infantry division de-training there. Troop trains were also easy targets. StG 77 destroyed one such target at Radomsko. [98] During the Battle of Radom six Polish divisions trapped by encircling German forces were forced to surrender after a relentless four-day bombardment by StG 51, 76 and 77. Employed in this assault were 50 kg (110 lb) fragmentation bombs, which caused appalling casualties to the Polish ground troops. Demoralised, the Poles surrendered. The Stukas also participated in the Battle of Bzura which resulted in the breaking of Polish resistance. The dive bomber wings (Sturzkampfgeschwader) alone dropped 388 tonnes (428 tons) of bombs during this battle. [99] During the Siege of Warsaw and the Battle of Modlin, the Ju 87 wings contributed to the defeat of well-entrenched and resolute Polish forces. IV(Stuka)./LG 1 was particularly effective in destroying the fortified Modlin. [100]

The Luftwaffe had a few anti-shipping naval units such as 4.(St)/TrGr 186 to deal with Polish naval forces. This unit performed effectively, sinking the 1540-ton destroyer Wicher and the minelayer Gryf of the Polish Navy (both moored in a harbour). [97] The torpedo boat Mazur (412 tons) was sunk at Oksywie the gunboat General Haller (441 tons) was sunk in Hel Harbour on 6 September—during the Battle of Hel—along with the minesweeper Mewa (183 tons) and its sister ships Czapla and Jaskolka with several auxiliaries. The Polish naval units trapped in the Baltic were destroyed by Ju 87 operations. [101] Once again, enemy air opposition was light, and the Stukawaffe (Stuka force) lost 31 aircraft during the campaign. [102]

Norway Edit

Operation Weserübung began on 9 April 1940 with the invasions of Norway and Denmark. Denmark capitulated within the day Norway continued to resist with British and French help. The campaign was not a Blitzkrieg of fast-moving armoured divisions supported by air power as the mountainous terrain ruled out close Panzer/Stuka cooperation. Instead, the Germans relied on paratroops transported by Junkers Ju 52s and specialised ski troops. The Ju 87s were given the role of ground attack and anti-shipping missions they proved to be the most effective weapon in the Luftwaffe's armoury carrying out the latter task. [102]

On 9 April, the first Stukas took off at 10:59 from occupied airfields to destroy Oscarsborg Fortress, after the loss of the German cruiser Blücher, which disrupted the amphibious landings in Oslo through Oslofjord. The 22 Ju 87s had helped suppress the Norwegian defenders during the ensuing Battle of Drøbak Sound, but the defenders did not surrender until after Oslo had been captured. As a result, the German naval operation failed. [103] StG 1 caught the 735 ton Norwegian destroyer Æger off Stavanger and hit her in the engine room. Æger was run aground and scuttled. [104] The Stuka wings were now equipped with the new Ju 87 R, which differed from the Ju 87 B by having increased internal fuel capacity and two 300l underwing drop tanks for more range. [102]

The Stukas had numerous successes against Allied naval vessels and in particular the Royal Navy which posed a formidable threat to German naval and coastal operations. The heavy cruiser Suffolk was attacked on 17 April. Her stern was virtually destroyed but she limped back to Scapa Flow with 33 dead and 38 wounded crewmen. The light cruiser squadron consisting of the sister ships Curacoa and Curlew were subjected to lengthy attacks which badly damaged the former for one Ju 87 lost. A witness later said, "they threatened to take our masthead with them in every screaming nerve-racking dive". [105] The same fate nearly befell the sloop Black Swan. On 27 April, a bomb passed through the quarterdeck, a wardroom, a water tank and 4-inch (10.2 cm) magazine and out through the hull to explode in the fjord. The muffled explosion limited the damage to her hull. Black Swan fired 1,000 rounds, but failed to shoot any of her attackers down. HMS Bittern was sunk on 30 April. The French large destroyer Bison was sunk along with HMS Afridi by Sturzkampfgeschwader 1 on 3 May 1940 during the evacuation from Namsos. Bison ' s forward magazine was hit, killing 108 of the crew. Afridi, which attempted to rescue Bison ' s survivors, was sunk with the loss of 63 sailors. [104] 49 officers and men, 13 soldiers and 33 survivors from Bison were lost aboard Afridi. [106] All ships were targeted. Armed trawlers were used under the German air umbrella in an attempt to make smaller targets. Such craft were not armoured or armed. The Ju 87s demonstrated this on 30 April when they sank the Jardine (452 tons) and Warwickshire (466 tons). On 15 May, the Polish troopship Chrobry (11,442 tons) was sunk. [107] [108] [109]

The Stukas also had an operational effect, even when little damage was done. On 1 May 1940, Vice Admiral Lionel Wells commanded a Home Fleet expedition of seven destroyers, the heavy cruiser Berwick, the aircraft carriers Glorious and Ark Royal, and the battleship Valiant. The carriers mounted fighter patrols over the ships evacuating troops from Andalsnes. The Stuka waves (accompanied by He 111s) achieved several near misses, but were unable to obtain a hit. Nevertheless, Wells ordered that no ship was to operate within range of the Ju 87s' Norwegian airfields. The Ju 87s had, in effect, driven British sea power from the Norwegian coast. Moreover, Victor reported to the Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet Admiral, Charles Forbes, that carrier operations were no longer practical under the current conditions. [110]

In the following weeks, StG 1 continued their sea operations. Off Namsos on 5 May 1940, they caught and sank the Royal Norwegian Navy transports Aafjord (335 tons) and Blaafjeld (1,146 tons). The Ju 87s then took to bombing the town and the airstrip to support the German forces under the command of Eduard Dietl. The town fell in the first week of May. In the remaining four weeks of the campaign in Norway, the Ju 87s supported German forces in containing the Allied land forces in Narvik until they withdrew in early June. [106]

France and the Low Countries Edit

The Ju 87 units had learned lessons from the Polish and Norwegian campaigns. The failures in Poland, and of the Stukas of I./StG 1 to silence the Oscarsborg fort, ensured even more attention was paid to pin-point bombing during the Phoney War period. This was to pay off in the Western campaign. [111]

When Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) began on 10 May 1940, the Stuka helped swiftly neutralise the fortress of Eben Emael, Belgium. The headquarters of the commander responsible for ordering the destruction of the Belgian Army-held bridges along the Albert Canal was stationed in the village of Lanaken (14 km/ mi to the north). The Stuka demonstrated its accuracy when the small building was destroyed by four direct hits. As a result, only one of the three bridges was destroyed, allowing the German Army to rapidly advance in the opening days of the Battle of Belgium. [111] The Ju 87 proved to be a useful asset to Army Group B in the Low Countries. In pitched battles against French armoured forces at Hannut and Gembloux, Ju 87s effectively neutralised artillery and armour. [112]

The Ju 87s also assisted German forces in the Battle of the Netherlands. The Dutch Navy in concert with the British were evacuating the Dutch Royal Family and Dutch gold reserves through the country's ports. Ju 87s sank the Dutch ships Jan Van Galen (1,316 tons) and Johan Maurits Van Nassau (1,520 tons) as they provided close-shore artillery support at Waalhaven and the Afsluitdijk. The British Valentine was crippled, beached and scuttled while Winchester, Whitley and Westminster were damaged. Whitley was later beached and scuttled after an air attack on 19 May. [112]

The Ju 87 units were also instrumental in the Battle of France. It was here that most of the Ju 87-equipped units were concentrated. They assisted in the breakthrough at Sedan, the critical and first major land battle of the war on French territory. The Stukawaffe flew 300 sorties against French positions, with StG 77 alone flying 201 individual missions. The Ju 87s benefited from heavy fighter protection from Messerschmitt Bf 109 units. [113] When resistance was organised, the Ju 87s could be vulnerable. For example, on 12 May, near Sedan, six French Curtiss H-75s from Groupe de Chasse I/5 (Group Interception) attacked a formation of Ju 87s, claiming 11 out of 12 unescorted Ju 87s without loss (the Germans recorded six losses over Sedan entire). [114] [115] For the most part, Allied opposition was disorganised. During the battles of Montcornet, Arras, Bolougne, and Calais, Ju 87 operations broke up counterattacks and offered pin-point aerial artillery support for German infantry. [116]

The Luftwaffe benefited from excellent ground-to-air communications throughout the campaign. Radio equipped forward liaison officers could call upon the Stukas and direct them to attack enemy positions along the axis of advance. In some cases the Stukas responded in 10–20 minutes. Oberstleutnant Hans Seidemann (Richthofen's Chief of Staff) said that "never again was such a smoothly functioning system for discussing and planning joint operations achieved." [117]

During the Battle of Dunkirk, many Allied ships were lost to Ju 87 attacks while evacuating British and French troops. The French destroyer L'Adroit was sunk on 21 May 1940, followed by the paddle steamer Crested Eagle on 28 May. The French Channel-steamer Côte d'Arzur (3,047) followed. The Ju 87s operated to maximum effectiveness when the weather allowed. RAF fighter units were held back and Allied air cover was patchy at best. On 29 May the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Grenade was severely damaged by a Ju 87 attack within Dunkirk's harbour, and subsequently sank. The French destroyer Mistral was crippled by bomb damage the same day. Jaguar and Verity were badly damaged while the trawlers Calvi and Polly Johnson (363 and 290 tons) disintegrated under bombardment. The merchant ship Fenella (2,376 tons) was sunk having taken on 600 soldiers. The attacks brought the evacuation to a halt for a time. The ferries Lorina and Normannia (1,564 and 1,567 tons) were sunk also. [118] By 29 May, the Allies had lost 31 vessels sunk and 11 damaged. [119] On 1 June the Ju 87s sank the Halcyon-class minesweeper Skipjack while the destroyer Keith was sunk and Basilisk was crippled before being scuttled by Whitehall. Whitehall was later badly damaged and along with Ivanhoe, staggered back to Dover. Havant, commissioned for just three weeks, was sunk and in the evening the French destroyer Foudroyant sank after a mass-attack. Further victories against shipping were claimed before nightfall on 1 June. The steamer Pavon was lost while carrying 1,500 Dutch soldiers most of whom were killed. The oil tanker Niger was also destroyed. A flotilla of French minesweepers were also lost—Denis Papin (264 tons), the Le Moussaillon (380 tons) and Venus (264 tons). [120]

In total, 89 merchantmen (of 126,518 grt) were lost, and of 40 RN destroyers used in the battle eight were sunk (one to E-boat and one to a submarine), and a further 23 damaged and out of service. [121] The campaign ended after the French surrender on 25 June 1940. Allied air power had been ineffective and disorganised, and as a result, Stuka losses were mainly due to ground fire. 120 machines, one-third of the Stuka force, were destroyed or damaged by all causes from 10 May to 25 June 1940. [122]

Battle of Britain Edit

For the Battle of Britain, the Luftwaffe's order of battle included bomber wings equipped with the Ju 87. Lehrgeschwader 2's IV.(St), Sturzkampfgeschwader 1's III. Gruppe and Sturzkampfgeschwader 2's III. Gruppe, Sturzkampfgeschwader 51 and Sturzkampfgeschwader 3's I. Gruppe were committed to the battle. As an anti-shipping weapon, the Ju 87 proved a potent weapon in the early stages of the battle. On 4 July 1940, StG 2 made a successful attack on a convoy in the English Channel, sinking four freighters: Britsum, Dallas City, Deucalion and Kolga. Six more were damaged. That afternoon, 33 Ju 87s delivered the single most deadly air assault on British territory in history, when 33 Ju 87s of III./StG 51, avoiding Royal Air Force (RAF) interception, sank the 5,500 ton anti-aircraft ship HMS Foylebank in Portland Harbour, killing 176 of its 298 crew. One of Foylebank's gunners, Leading Seaman John F. Mantle continued to fire on the Stukas as the ship sank. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for remaining at his post despite being mortally wounded. Mantle may have been responsible for the single Ju 87 lost during the raid. [123] [124]

During August, the Ju 87s also had some success. On 13 August the opening of the main German attacks on airfields took place it was known to the Luftwaffe as Adlertag ("Eagle Day"). Bf 109s of Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26) were sent out in advance of the main strike and drew off RAF fighters, allowing 86 Ju 87s of StG 1 to attack RAF Detling in Kent unhindered. The attack killed the station commander, destroyed 20 RAF aircraft on the ground and a great many of the airfield's buildings. Detling was not an RAF Fighter Command station. [125]

The Battle of Britain proved for the first time that the Junkers Ju 87 was vulnerable in hostile skies against well-organised and determined fighter opposition. The Ju 87, like other dive bombers, was slow and possessed inadequate defences. Furthermore, it could not be effectively protected by fighters because of its low speed, and the very low altitudes at which it ended its dive bomb attacks. The Stuka depended on air superiority, the very thing being contested over Britain. It was withdrawn from attacks on Britain in August after prohibitive losses, leaving the Luftwaffe without precision ground-attack aircraft. [126]

Steady losses had occurred throughout their participation in the battle. On 18 August, known as the Hardest Day because both sides suffered heavy losses, the Stuka was withdrawn after 16 were destroyed and many others damaged. [127] According to the Generalquartiermeister der Luftwaffe, 59 Stukas had been destroyed and 33 damaged to varying degrees in six weeks of operations. Over 20% of the total Stuka strength had been lost between 8 and 18 August [128] and the myth of the Stuka shattered. [128] [129] The Ju 87s did succeed in sinking six warships, 14 merchant ships, badly damaging seven airfields and three Chain Home radar stations, and destroying 49 British aircraft, mainly on the ground. [130]

On 19 August, the units of VIII. Fliegerkorps moved up from their bases around Cherbourg-Octeville and concentrated in the Pas de Calais under Luftflotte 2, closer to the area of the proposed invasion of Britain. [130] On 13 September, the Luftwaffe targeted airfields again, with a small number of Ju 87s crossing the coast at Selsey and heading for Tangmere. [131] After a lull, anti-shipping operations attacks were resumed by some Ju 87 units from 1 November 1940, as part of the new winter tactic of enforcing a blockade. Over the next 10 days, seven merchant ships were sunk or damaged, mainly in the Thames Estuary, for the loss of four Ju 87s. On 14 November 19 Stukas from III./St.G 1 with escort drawn from JG 26 and JG 51 went out against another convoy as no targets were found over the estuary, the Stukas attacked Dover, their alternative target. [130]

Bad weather resulted in a decline of anti-shipping operations, and before long the Ju 87 groups began re-deploying to Poland, as part of the concealed build-up for Operation Barbarossa. By spring 1941, only St.G 1 with 30 Ju 87s remained facing the United Kingdom. Operations on a small scale continued throughout the winter months into March. Targets included ships at sea, the Thames Estuary, the Chatham naval dockyard and Dover and night-bomber sorties made over the Channel. These attacks were resumed the following winter. [130] [132]

North Africa and the Mediterranean Edit

After the Italian defeats in the Italo-Greek War and Operation Compass in North Africa, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht ordered the deployment of German forces to these theatres. Amongst the Luftwaffe contingent deployed was the command unit StG 3, which touched down in Sicily in December 1940. In the next few days, two groups - 80 Stukas - were deployed under X. Fliegerkorps.

The first task of the Korps was to attack British shipping passing between Sicily and Africa, in particular the convoys aimed at re-supplying Malta. The Ju 87s first made their presence felt by subjecting the British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious to heavy attack. The crews were confident that they could sink it as the flight deck had an area of about 6,500 m 2 (70,000 sq ft). [133] On 10 January 1941, the Stuka crews were told that four direct hits with 500 kg (1,100 lb) bombs would be enough to sink the carrier. The Ju 87s delivered six and three damaging near-misses but the ship's engines were untouched and she reached the besieged harbour of Malta. [134]

The Regia Aeronautica was equipped for a while with the Stukas. [135] In 1939, the Italian government asked the RLM to supply 100 Ju 87s. Italian pilots were sent to Graz in Austria to be trained for dive-bombing aircraft. In the spring of 1940, between 72 and 108 Ju 87 B-1s, some of them ex-Luftwaffe aircraft, were delivered to 96° Gruppo Bombardamento a Tuffo. The Italian Stuka, renamed Picchiatello, was in turn assigned to Gruppi 97°, 101° and 102°. The Picchiatelli were used against Malta, Allied convoys in Mediterranean and in North Africa (where they took part in conquering Tobruk). They were used by the Regia Aeronautica up to 1942. [135]

Some of the Picchiatelli saw action in the opening phase of the Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940. Their numbers were low and ineffective in comparison to German operations. The Italian forces were quickly pushed back. By early 1941, the Greeks had pushed into Italian-occupied Albania. Once again, Hitler decided to send military aid to his ally. [136] Before the Luftwaffe could intervene, the Italian Ju 87s achieved some successes. 97 Gruppo (Group) and its 239 Squadriglia (Squadron) sinking the Hellenic Navy freighter Susanah off Corfu on 4 April 1941 while the torpedo boat Proussa was sunk later in the day. On 21 April the Greek freighter Ioanna was sunk and they accounted for the British tanker Hekla off Tobruk on 25 May and then the Royal Australian Navy destroyer Waterhen on 20 June. The British gunboat Cricket and supply submarine Cachalot became victims. The former was crippled and later sunk by Italian warships. [137]

In March, the pro-German Yugoslav government was toppled. A furious Hitler ordered the attack to be expanded to include Yugoslavia. Operation Marita commenced on 7 April. The Luftwaffe committed StG 1, 2 and 77 to the campaign. [138] The Stuka once again spearheaded the air assault, with a front line strength of 300 machines, against minimal Yugoslav resistance in the air, allowing the Stukas to develop a fearsome reputation in this region. Operating unmolested, they took a heavy toll of ground forces, suffering only light losses to ground fire. The effectiveness of the dive bombers helped bring about Yugoslav capitulation in ten days. The Stukas also took a peripheral part in Operation Punishment, Hitler's retribution bombing of Belgrade. The dive bombers were to attack airfields and anti-aircraft gun positions as the level bombers struck civilian targets. Belgrade was badly damaged, with 2,271 people killed and 12,000 injured. [139]

In Greece, despite British aid, little air opposition was encountered. As the Allies withdrew and resistance collapsed, the Allies began evacuating to Crete. The Stukas inflicted severe damage on Allied shipping. On 22 April, the 1,389 ton destroyers Psara and Ydra were sunk. In the next two days, the Greek naval base at Piraeus lost 23 vessels to Stuka attack. [140]

During the Battle of Crete, the Ju 87s also played a significant role. On 21–22 May 1941, the Germans attempted to send in reinforcements to Crete by sea but lost 10 vessels to "Force D" under the command of Rear Admiral Irvine Glennie. The force, consisting of the cruisers HMS Dido, Orion and Ajax, forced the remaining German ships to retreat. The Stukas were called upon to deal with the British naval threat. [141] On 21 May, the destroyer HMS Juno was sunk and the next day the battleship HMS Warspite was damaged and the cruiser HMS Gloucester was sunk, with the loss of 45 officers and 648 ratings. The Ju 87s also crippled the cruiser HMS Fiji that morning, (she was later finished off by Bf 109 fighter bombers) while sinking the destroyer HMS Greyhound with one hit. [142] As the Battle of Crete drew to a close, the Allies began yet another withdrawal. On 23 May, the Royal Navy lost the destroyers HMS Kashmir and Kelly, followed by HMS Hereward on 26 May Orion and Dido were also severely damaged. [143] Orion had been evacuating 1,100 soldiers to North Africa 260 of them were killed and another 280 wounded. [144]

The dive bomber wing supported Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps in its two-year campaign in North Africa its other main task was attacking Allied shipping. [145] In 1941, Ju 87 operations in North Africa were dominated by the Siege of Tobruk, which lasted for over seven months. [146] It served during the Battle of Gazala and the First Battle of El Alamein, as well as the decisive Second Battle of El Alamein, which drove Rommel back to Tunisia. As the tide turned and Allied air power grew in the autumn of 1942, the Ju 87 became very vulnerable and losses were heavy. The entry of the Americans into North Africa during Operation Torch made the situation far worse the Stuka was obsolete in what was now a fighter-bomber's war. The Bf 109 and Fw 190 could at least fight enemy fighters on equal terms after dropping their ordnance but the Stuka could not. The Ju 87's vulnerability was demonstrated on 11 November 1942, when 15 Ju 87 Ds were shot down by United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Curtiss P-40Fs in minutes. [147] (According to Ring/Shores there were 15 Ju 87 on mission, 2.SAAF Sqn. shot down 8 with 4 probable and 3shot down by 57.Fighter Group. 2 South-African and 1 American loss shot down by German fighter escort. Three Stuka -crews were captured, 1 was wounded no dead. [148]

By 1943, the Allies enjoyed air supremacy in North Africa. The Ju 87s ventured out in Rotte strength only, often jettisoning their bombs at the first sight of enemy aircraft. [149] Adding to this trouble, the German fighters had only enough fuel to cover the Ju 87s on takeoff, their most vulnerable point. After that, the Stukas were on their own. [150]

The dive bombers continued operations in southern Europe after the Italian surrender in September 1943, the Ju 87 participated in the last campaign-sized victory over the Western Allies, the Dodecanese Campaign. The Dodecanese Islands had been occupied by the British the Luftwaffe committed 75 Stukas of StG 3 based in Megara (I./StG 3) and Argos (II.StG 3 from 17 October on Rhodes), to recover the islands. With the RAF bases 500 kilometres (310 mi) away, the Ju 87 helped the German landing forces rapidly conquer the islands. [151] On 5 October the minelayer Lagnano was sunk along with a patrol vessel, a steam ship and a light tank carrier Porto Di Roma. On 24 October Ju 87s sank the landing craft LCT115 and cargo ship Taganrog at Samos. On 31 October the light cruiser Aurora was put out of action for a year. The light cruisers Penelope and Carlisle were badly damaged by StG 3 and the destroyer Panther was also sunk by Ju 87s before the capitulation of the Allied force. It proved to be the Stuka's final victory against the British. [152]

Eastern front Edit

Barbarossa 1941 Edit

On 22 June 1941, the Wehrmacht commenced Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Luftwaffe order of battle of 22 June 1941 contained four dive bomber wings. VIII. Fliegerkorps was equipped with units Stab, II. and III./StG 1. Also included were Stab, I., II. and III. of Sturzkampfgeschwader 2 Immelmann. Attached to II. Fliegerkorps, under the command of General der Flieger Bruno Loerzer, were Stab, I., II. and III. of StG 77. Luftflotte 5, under the command of Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen Stumpff, operating from Norway's Arctic Circle, were allotted IV. Gruppe (St)/Lehrgeschwader 1 (LG 1). [153]

The first Stuka loss on the Soviet-German front occurred early at 03:40–03:47 in the morning of 22 June. While being escorted by Bf 109s from JG 51 to attack Brest Fortress, Oberleutnant Karl Führing of StG 77 was shot down by an I-153. [154] The dive bomber wing suffered only two losses on the opening day of Barbarossa. As a result of the Luftwaffe's attention, the Soviet Air Force in the western Soviet Union was nearly destroyed. The official report claimed 1,489 Soviet aircraft destroyed. Göring ordered this checked. After picking their way through the wreckage across the front, Luftwaffe officers found that the tally exceeded 2,000. [155] In the next two days, the Soviets reported the loss of another 1,922 aircraft. [156]

The Ju 87 took a huge toll on Soviet ground forces, helping to break up counterattacks of Soviet armour, eliminating strongpoints and disrupting the enemy supply lines. A demonstration of the Stuka ' s effectiveness occurred on 5 July, when StG 77 knocked out 18 trains and 500 vehicles. [157] As the 1st and 2nd Panzer Groups forced bridgeheads across the Dnieper river and closed in on Kyiv, the Ju 87s again rendered invaluable support. On 13 September, Stukas from StG 1 destroyed the rail network in the vicinity as well as inflicting heavy casualties on escaping Red Army columns, for the loss of one Ju 87. [158] On 23 September, Rudel (who was to become the most decorated serviceman in the Wehrmacht) of StG 2, sank the Soviet battleship Marat, during an air attack on Kronstadt harbour near Leningrad, with a hit to the bow with a single 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) bomb. [159] During this action, Leutnant Egbert Jaeckel sank the destroyer Minsk, while the destroyer Steregushchiy and submarine M-74 were also sunk. The Stukas also crippled the battleship Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya and the destroyers Silnyy and Grozyashchiy in exchange for two Ju 87s shot down. [160]

Elsewhere on the Eastern front, the Junkers assisted Army Group Centre in its drive toward Moscow. From 13 to 22 December 420 vehicles and 23 tanks were destroyed by StG 77, greatly improving the morale of the German infantry, who were by now on the defensive. [161] StG 77 finished the campaign as the most effective dive bomber wing. It had destroyed 2,401 vehicles, 234 tanks, 92 artillery batteries and 21 trains for the loss of 25 Ju 87s to hostile action. [162] At the end of Barbarossa, StG 1 had lost 60 Stukas in aerial combat and one on the ground. StG 2 lost 39 Ju 87s in the air and two on the ground, StG 77 lost 29 of their dive-bombers in the air and three on the ground (25 to enemy action). IV.(St)/LG1, operating from Norway, lost 24 Ju 87s, all in aerial combat. [163]

Fall Blau to Stalingrad 1942 Edit

In early 1942, the Ju 87s gave the Heer yet more valuable support. On 29 December 1941, the Soviet 44th Army landed on the Kerch Peninsula. The Luftwaffe was only able to dispatch meager reinforcements of four bomber groups (Kampfgruppen) and two dive bomber groups belonging to StG 77. With air superiority, the Ju 87s operated with impunity. In the first 10 days of the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula, half the landing force was destroyed, while sea lanes were blocked by the Stukas inflicting heavy losses on Soviet shipping. The Ju 87's effectiveness against Soviet armour was not yet potent. Later versions of the T-34 tank could withstand Stuka attack in general, unless a direct hit was scored but the Soviet 44th Army had only obsolescent types with thin armour which were nearly all destroyed. [164] During the Battle of Sevastopol, the Stukas repeatedly bombed the trapped Soviet forces. Some Ju 87 pilots flew up to 300 sorties against the Soviet defenders. StG 77 (Luftflotte 4) flew 7,708 combat sorties dropping 3,537 tonnes of bombs on the city. Their efforts help secure the capitulation of Soviet forces on 4 July. [165]

For the German summer offensive, Fall Blau, the Luftwaffe had concentrated 1,800 aircraft into Luftflotte 4 making it the largest and most powerful air command in the world. [166] The Stukawaffe strength stood at 151. [167] During the Battle of Stalingrad, Stukas flew thousands of sorties against Soviet positions in the city. StG 1, 2 and 77 flew 320 sorties on 14 October 1942. As the German Sixth Army pushed the Soviets into a 1,000-metre enclave on the west bank of the Volga River, 1,208 Stuka sorties were flown against this small strip of land. The intense air attack, though causing horrific losses on Soviet units, failed to destroy them. [168] The Luftwaffe's Stuka force made a maximum effort during this phase of the war. They flew an average of 500 sorties per day and caused heavy losses among Soviet forces, losing an average of only one Stuka per day. The Battle of Stalingrad marked the high point in the fortunes of the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka. As the strength of the Soviet Air Forces grew, they gradually wrested control of the skies from the Luftwaffe. From this point onward, Stuka losses increased. [169]

Kursk and decline 1943 Edit

The Stuka was also heavily involved in Operation Citadel, the Kursk offensive. The Luftwaffe committed I, II, III./St.G 1 and III./StG 3 under the command of Luftflotte 6. I., II, III. of StGs 2 and 3 were committed under the command of Fliegerkorps VIII. [170] Rudel's cannon-equipped Ju 87 Gs had a devastating effect on Soviet armour at Orel and Belgorod. The Ju 87s participated in a huge aerial counter-offensive lasting from 16 to 31 July against a Soviet offensive at Khotynets and saved two German armies from encirclement, reducing the attacking Soviet 11th Guards Army to 33 tanks by 20 July. The Soviet offensive had been completely halted from the air [171] although losses were considerable. Fliegerkorps VIII lost eight Ju 87s on 8 July, six on 9 July, six on 10 July and another eight on 11 July. The Stuka arm also lost eight of their Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross holders. StG 77 lost 24 Ju 87s in the period 5–31 July (StG had lost 23 in July–December 1942), while StG 2 lost another 30 aircraft in the same period. In September 1943, three of the Stuka units were re-equipped with the Fw 190F and G (ground attack versions) and began to be renamed Schlachtgeschwader (attack wings). [172] In the face of overwhelming air opposition, the dive-bomber required heavy protection from German fighters to counter Soviet fighters. Some units like SG 2 Immelmann continued to operate with great success throughout 1943–45, operating the Ju 87 G variants equipped with 37 mm cannons, which became tank killers, although in increasingly small numbers. [173]

In the wake of the defeat at Kursk, Ju 87s played a vital defensive role on the southern wing of the Eastern Front. To combat the Luftwaffe, the Soviets could deploy 3,000 fighter aircraft. As a result, the Stukas suffered heavily. SG 77 lost 30 Ju 87s in August 1943 as did SG 2 Immelmann, which also reported the loss of 30 aircraft in combat operations. [174] Despite these losses, Ju 87s helped the XXIX Army Corps break out of an encirclement near the Sea of Azov. [175] The Battle of Kiev also included substantial use of the Ju 87 units, although again, unsuccessful in stemming the advances. Stuka units were with the loss of air superiority, becoming vulnerable on the ground as well. Some Stuka aces were lost this way. [176] In the aftermath of Kursk, Stuka strength fell to 184 aircraft in total. This was well below 50 percent of the required strength. [177] On 18 October 1943, StG 1, 2, 3, 5 and 77 were renamed Schlachtgeschwader (SG) wings, reflecting their ground-attack role, as these combat wings were now also using ground-attack aircraft, such as the Fw 190F-series aircraft. The Luftwaffe's dive-bomber units had ceased to exist. [178]

A few Ju 87s were also retained for anti-shipping operations in the Black Sea, a role it had proved successful in when operating in the Mediterranean. In October 1943, this became evident again when StG 3 carried out several attacks against the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. On 6 October 1943 the most powerful flotilla in the fleet comprising the Leningrad class destroyers Kharkov, Besposhchadny and Sposobny were caught and sunk by dive -bombing. After the disaster, Josef Stalin decreed that no more ships were to pass within range of German aircraft without his personal permission. [179]

Operation Bagration to Berlin 1944–1945 Edit

Towards the end of the war, as the Allies gained air supremacy, the Stuka was being replaced by ground-attack versions of the Fw 190. [33] By early 1944, the number of Ju 87 units and operational aircraft terminally declined. For the Soviet summer offensive, Operation Bagration, 12 Ju 87 groups and five mixed groups (including Fw 190s) were on the Luftwaffe's order of battle on 26 June 1944. [180] Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey, a mixed aircraft unit, which included large numbers of Stuka dive bombers, was rushed to the Finnish front in the summer of 1944 and was instrumental in halting the Soviet fourth strategic offensive. The unit claimed 200 Soviet tanks and 150 Soviet aircraft destroyed for 41 losses. [181] By 31 January 1945, only 104 Ju 87s remained operational with their units. The other mixed Schlacht units contained a further 70 Ju 87s and Fw 190s between them. Chronic fuel shortages kept the Stukas grounded and sorties decreased until the end of the war in May 1945. [182]

In the final months of the war the ground attack groups were still able to impose operational constraints upon the enemy. Most notably the aircraft participated in the defence of Berlin. On 12 January 1945 the 1st Belorussian Front initiated the Vistula–Oder Offensive. The offensive made rapid progress. The Soviets eventually outran their air support which was unable to use forward, quagmire-filled, airfields. The Germans, who had fallen back on air bases with good facilities and concrete runways, were able to mount uninterrupted attacks against Soviet army columns. Reminiscent of the early years, the Luftwaffe was able to inflict high losses largely unopposed. Over 800 vehicles were destroyed within two weeks. In the first three days of February 1945, 2,000 vehicles and 51 tanks were lost to German air attacks. The Belorussian Front was forced to abandon its attempt to capture Berlin by mid-February 1945. The Ju 87 participated in these intense battles in small numbers. It was the largest concentration of German air power since 1940 and even in February 1945 the Germans were able to achieve and challenge for air superiority on the Eastern Front. The air offensive was instrumental in saving Berlin, albeit only for three months. The effort exhausted German fuel reserves. The contribution of the Ju 87 was exemplified by Rudel, who claimed 13 enemy tanks on 8 February 1945. [183]

    operated captured aircraft postwar. b
    b Purchased two aircraft from Germany for evaluation.
    tested various captured variants during and after the war. [184]
    tested various captured variants during and after the war.
    operated captured aircraft.

Two intact Ju 87s survive, with a third being restored:

Ju 87 G-2, Werk Nr. 494083

A later, ground-attack variant, this is displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum in London it was captured by British forces at Eggebek, Schleswig-Holstein in May 1945. It is thought to have been built in 1943–1944 as a D-5 before being rebuilt as a G-2 variant, possibly by fitting G-2 outer wings to a D-5 airframe. The wings have the hard-points for Bordkanone BK 3,7 gun-pods, but these are not fitted. It was one of 12 captured German aircraft selected by the British for museum preservation and assigned to the Air Historical Branch. The aircraft was stored and displayed at various RAF sites until 1978, when it was moved to the RAF Museum. In 1967, permission was given to use the aircraft in the film Battle of Britain and it was repainted and modified to resemble a 1940 variant of the Ju 87. The engine was found to be in excellent condition and there was little difficulty in starting it, but returning the aircraft to airworthiness was considered too costly for the filmmakers, and ultimately, models were used in the film to represent Stukas. In 1998, the film modifications were removed, and the aircraft returned to the original G-2 configuration. [186]

Ju 87 R-2/Trop. Werk Nr. 5954

This aircraft is displayed in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. It was abandoned in North Africa and found by British forces in 1941. The Ju 87 was donated by the British government and sent to the US during the war. It was fully restored in 1974 by the EAA of Wisconsin. [187]

World War II - RAF Bomber Pilots

No. 51 Squadron, RFC, was formed at Thetford, Norfolk, in 1916 as a Home Defence Squadron, also responsible for training pilots in night flying. Disbanded in 1919, No. 51 was re-formed in 1937 as a night-bomber squadron and when war broke out in September 1939, it was flying Whitleys with the Yorkshire-based No. 4 Group.

On the first night of the war - 3rd/4th September 1939 - three of the squadron's Whitleys, operating from Leconfield, were part of the first Nickel or leaflet raid over Germany. This was the first occasion that RAF aircraft penetrated into Germany during the Second World War. In 1940, No. 51 began to drop bombs as well as leaflets on the enemy and during the year shared in several notable Bomber Command "firsts", including the first attack on a land target (the mine-laying seaplane base at Hornum on the island of Sylt, 19/20th March), the first big attack on the German mainland (the exits of Monchengladbach, 11/12th May), the first attack on Italy (primary target Fiat works at Turin, 11/12th June), and the first area bombing attack on a German industrial centre (Mannheim, 16/17th December).

In addition to its bombing offensive, No 51 Squadron participated in Operation Colossus on 10/11th February 1941, when paratroops destroyed an aqueduct in southern Italy and Operation Biting on 27/28th February 1942, when a raiding party captured a complete Wurzburg radar installation at Bruneval, near Le Havre.

From May to October 1942, No. 51 Squadron was attached to Coastal Command and during this period flew anti-submarine patrols from a station in Devon. On returning to Bomber Command and Yorkshire the squadron was re-equipped with Halifaxes and it continued with aircraft of this type for the remainder of the European war before being transferred to Transport Command on 7 May 1945. Airfields No. 51 Squadron RAF flew from.

  • RAF Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire. from 3rd September 1939 to 24th Nov 1939
  • RAF Kinloss, Morayshire.(Coastal Command) from 24th Nov 1939 to 9th Dec 1939
  • RAF Dishforth, Yorkshire. from 9th Dec 1939 to 6th May 1942
  • RAF Chivenor, Devon. (Coastal Command) from 6th May 1942 to 27th Oct 1942
  • RAF Snaith, Yorkshire. from 27th Oct 1942 to 20th Apr 1945
  • RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire. from 20th Apr 1945

  Captain Alan Leach RAF PO 185864 (Pilot) 1939 – 1945

Alan Leach was born in Coppull 25th March 1921 the eldest son of Sylvester and Emma. He was a Pilot Officer in the RAF Volunteer Reserve at the age of 17 and a member of 51 squadron . He received his wings at the age of nineteen.

This is the story of his final, fateful flight:

This was the largest raid on the city since 1943 with 664 aircraft taking part - 14 Mosquitoes, 340 Halifaxes and 310 Lancasters. The bombing was reported as widespread over the city with 3,605 apartments/flats destroyed, 250 people killed on the ground. The fatalities included 229 foreigners or prisoners of war. Over 2,000 tons of bombs were dropped.

The aircraft he was flying on 5th January 1945 was a Halifax LV952, call sign MH-F. detailed to bomb the rail network at Hannover , Germany, from RAF Snaith. The flight did not begin well. Sgt Thomsett noted there had been a magneto drop on the Halifax and as the time for F-Freddie to move to dispersal and join the growling queue along the perimeter track the ground crew were still working on it. It was fixed   in time for P.O. Leach to join the tail end of the squadron.

Prior to taking off, one of the crew, don't know who, had been courting a local girl. The end of one of the runways goes up by a road and, just as they were taxiing to take off someone on the plane spotted the girl with one of her friends. Apparently they had come to see the planes taking off. I radioed the crew and Alan brought the plane up close to the fence and before starting his take off he "blew the engines”, which resulted in the girls being blown over! They laughed about it as they were taking off. 3 hours later everything changed”.

It eventually took off at 16.47 hours, ten minutes after the last aircraft navigation lights had faded from the circuit. “We flew to the south coast to join the bomber stream and quickly reached 16,000ft, which on previous occasions had been a drag, but on this day she made the climb easily” Sgt Thomsett remembered, “The stream of planes was very tight, there was a Lancaster sitting right on our tail at our height and another close to our post side”.

Less than three hours later they were over the target where yellow and blue tracer was criss-crossing above the arena of crimson bomb bursts lighting up the cloud below. The quick red glare of heavy flak was interspersed with the telltale downward trails of yellow and orange flame which marked the final journey of aircraft and crews. Three had already fallen to Hauptmann Georg Greiner, the ace commander of 1V/NJG1, when his radar operator gave him another contact and he approached to tuck his Schrage Musik equipped Me110 beneath the port wing of P.O. Leach’s Halifax.

Sgt Thomsett recorded: “Suddenly our mid-upper gunner was on the intercom saying ‘fighter to port’. He could not engage as his tail fin inhibitors had put his guns to ‘non-fire’. I saw the Me110 so close that I could see the dark outline of the pilot. My sight with the Me110 illuminated in it also gave me a Lancaster at 100 yards. I gave the order to ‘corkscrew to port’ to give me a better firing angle , and our plane dropped out of the sky violently”.

By now Greiner was tucked beneath the Halifax’s wing with the angled sight to his cannon between the two port engines and followed P.O. Leach downward. “ I can remember being very surprised that a heavy bomber like a Halifax was capable of such daring and dangerous manoeuvres”, he later recorded. “Only because of my obliquely directed weaponry was I in the position to keep my relatively close distance, as with this armament – visor vertical above me – I could not lose the opponent”.

Sgt Thomsett later wrote: “ There was a terrific explosion. I thought we had hit another plane in the stream. The skipper gave the jump call. I tried to line up my turret with the fuselage, but the power had gone. I had to mechanically turn the turret. Opening the door I saw fire rushing through the fuselage. On finding my parachute I banged it on, tipped my backwards and went out through the turret. One thing I forgot to do was to unplug my intercom the wire could have broken my neck. Fortunately I was upside down and my helmet was pulled straight off”.

As his chute snapped open Sgt Thomsett looked down straight into the target.

“There were planes above, bombs coming down and flak going up. The smell of cordite was overpowering. I could hear the silk of the parachute making a crackling noise and I spent most of my time on the journey down trying to lay back to see if the chute was on fire, then the roofs came up so quickly that my boots caught the apex of a house. The chute slackened and I fell, landing in front of an apartment block in Hannover-Herreshausen”.

Shot down at 19.22hrs. the plane crashed 19.27 in Stockener Street, Heimatweg, Leinhausen-Soeckern. It was also claimed by flak bigade 8 and to have crashed at 18.45 hrs, although it was reported by returning crews that it had been attacked by a night fighter and that they observed a single parachute leaving the aircraft.

51 Squadron lost two other aircraft during this operation:

Halifax III MZ767 MH-D piloted by F/O. Gilbert Ian Hodgson of the R.N.Z.A.F, killed with 2 other crew, 4 taken pow. Halifax III MX918 MH-U piloted by P/O. Eric George Stevens R.A.F.V.R., killed with 4 other crew, 2 taken pow.

Donald Thomsett became a POW   for the last 4 or 5 months of the war. The rest of his crew, including the unlucky F/O Wilson, had not survived.

His story is re-told by his grandson Ben:

Donald Thomsett was my Grandad. He flew as an RAF rear gunner during the whole of the war, moving from varying heavy bombers including the Wellington but settled for the majority of the war as a rear gunner in Halifax bombers based at RAF Snaith with 51 Sqn. My Grandad’s operations lasted until January of 1945 before being shot down during a night raid on Hannover. Donald was on a night bombing mission over Hannover which took place on the night of the 5th of January 1945. He remembered sitting in the rear turret as usual when out of the darkness, and in heavy flak, he saw two German night fighters approaching the plane from the rear, one high and one below. He managed to shoot at the higher aircraft and thought he had shot it down as it turned away very quickly and looked to be out of control.

Next, another fighter appeared to the rear and slightly below the plane. He moved the guns downwards and saw the German pilots face illuminated by the lights by his instrument panel below him. The guns wouldn't reach to a position to fire on the fighter plane. As the Halifax was being engaged, Pilot Leach had gone into a wide sweeping manouvre to make attack from the fighter more difficult - a sort of large u shape, rolling the controls right, then left. Donald watched as the German fighter continued to match the Halifax and flew underneath it. He heard a loud explosion and felt the plane shudder, then it changed direction steeply heading towards the ground. Realising that the plane was going to crash he pressed for the turret to turn to bail out but found the hydraulics had failed as had the communications. He had to manually wind the turret round so he could bale out. My Grandad said he was supposed to keep his parachute in the turret with him but always slung it just into the bulk inside the fusilage. The angle of the plane meant he thought it would have slid down the length of the plane out of his reach, but it had snagged on something and he managed to grab it and put it on and immediately baled out through the turret.

He landed on the roof of a house and sprained his ankle while falling into the garden below. There was snow everywhere and it was freezing. The local residents came out and started to beat him with pieces whatever they could get their hands on - brooms, sticks, feet - until, then some soldiers arrived and took him to a local police station through the streets. From there he was transferred to Dulag.

They had removed his flying boots and made him limp in the snow with his damaged ankle. Donald said he remembered this taking a couple of days, but thinks there was some transport at some point too. Along the route to Dulag he said he saw the bodies of allied airmen hung on lamp posts, killed by the local populace, or German soldiers.

At Dulag interrogation centre he was hung up by his hands and all his possessions taken from him. He was tortured with a knife being run up and down his back - he had scars on his back that I remember seeing, long lines. He was kept in solitary for a couple of weeks. By that time he had frostbite on his feet and the Germans repeatedly made the room very hot, then cold in an attempt to extract information from him. They put another British prisoner in the room with him. Grandad wasn't telling them anything in interrogation, but he spoke with the room mate. It turned out that the room mate was a German plant and he told them everything he had been told by my grandad, where he was from, his girlfriend's name, the name of my grandmother, etc.

From Dulag he was taken to a train station and loaded into large cattle trucks with lots of other POWs. There they spent a couple of days including one frightening night in Berlin station, locked in their trucks as the allies bombed Berlin. He was initially taken to Sargen camp, but was soon transferred out to what he called Stalag luft 3b. He spent from February until May 1945 there and witnessed some horrific things, including the shooting of an attempted escapee. He said the german guards were a bit like "dad's army" and he bore no ill will towards them, even though they had little food. He also mentioned that the Russian POWs, who were kept in a separate compound being treated "like dogs".

In May, and with the camp on the verge of being over-run by Soviet troops, my Grandad, an American airman and a Canadian airman, escaped by going over the wire and running into the countryside. They happened on a car that had been disabled on purpose but were able to get it going, driving across Germany westwards. They had no food. He told me they managed to meet a German family in a small village who offered them food and somewhere to stay. It was while staying there that the Soviet troops came into the area. My Grandad and his two friends hid in the cellar of the German family's house as they were unsure of what the intention of the soldiers was and I remember him telling me that he witnessed "chinese” looking men coming into the cellar and eating raw sugar out of sacks with their bare hands like they hadn't been fed for weeks." The Russian soldiers took the family's 11 year old girl into the woods and she was never seen again. They didn't discover my grandad or his two friends.

When the Soviet troops left, they made their way towards the west and eventually they made it to just outside Berlin and literally walked into the city were picked up by some American troops in the area, in early June (or late May). He was treated well by the Americans and given food and fags and some money. He arrived back in the UK about three weeks later and couldn't speak for weeks. He learned that he was the only survivor from his plane that night and blamed himself for the deaths of his friends because he had failed to shoot down the second fighter that night. He walked with a slight limp for the rest of his life, received no counselling, compensation, or anything to help him get over what he had seen.

The war stayed with him for the rest of his life. But it wasn't to end there.

Nearly 50 years later and in his seventies, a local historian had found out who had shot down my grandad’s plane, one Hermann Greiner - a WW2 ace - who had claimed the “kill”.   Herr Greiner was still alive and the historian arranged for the two of them to write to each other. Eventually, after some soul searching and correspondence, my Grandad went over to Germany to meet him. Hermann remembered that night, and told my Grandad that an experimental type of gun was on his night fighter (it pointed upwards from behind the cockpit) meaning that there was nothing my Grandad could have done to save his six friends, as he flew under the Halifax and merely shot up into the fuel tanks as it attempted its defensive maneuvers’.

My Grandad was able to meet the face he had seen 50 years previously on that fateful night when his life changed forever. He bore no grudge and Herr Greiner gave him his Iron Cross, with Oak Leaf, medal as a token of their friendship and in reconcilliation. Hermann Greiner had around 50 "kills" as a night fighter ace and was one of the luftwaffe "stars".

My Grandad’s story was one he hardly ever spoke of and he never really got over his experiences until the day he died. Towards the end of his life he began to talk more and more about the war, eventually dying of cancer in 2000 His ashes were scattered at the memorial site of his old, now long forgotten, RAF base at Pollington, Yorkshire. The war had affected the rest of his life and if it hadn't been for his courage and bravery I wouldn't even be writing this, as his young wife (My Grandmother) gave birth to my father a year after he got home. That war destroyed him. But he was brave as anyone I've ever met.

The regular wireless operator was a Sgt. Eddie Hilton. He had completed seven operations in the crew of P.O. Alan Leach, by the beginning of January 1945, but was grounded because he had a severe head cold. He was replaced by PO Wilson L A, who had already completed his tour. Sgt Hilton discovered the next day that his crew was missing and how lucky he had been. For the rest of the war he had to operate as a ‘spare bod’, filling in for missing members of different crews. His last operation took place in the middle of March.

Eddie Hilton, regular wireless operator

Eddie Hilton wrote his story: "I had developed a heavy cold and the medical officer decided that I was not fit to fly and grounded me for 24 hours. A wireless operator/air gunner from the Royal Australian Air Force named Wilson took my place and I believe he only needed to complete that one trip to earn a spell of leave. "Sadly, they were shot down over Hanover and are buried together in Hanover War Cemetery, except for Don Thomsett, who was the rear gunner and managed to bail out and became a prisoner of war. I didn't know the plane's fate until I went into the sergeants' mess the next day. "Other air crews were there and knew the flight crew had been reported missing. When they saw me, they thought they were looking at a ghost. They didn't know I had missed the raid because I had a cold”. I joined the RAF in February 1943. I had actually volunteered six months earlier, but was turned down as I was only 17-and-a-half and had to wait until I was 18. After initial training took part in a number of bombing runs over industrial targets in the Ruhr Valley. From the time of losing my crew I acted as 'spare bod' with any crew who required a replacement and, as I recall, sometimes it was a 'little hair-raising'. At the end of the war in Europe I was transferred to Transport Command, flying Stirlings to bring troops, including members of the 14th Army who had been fighting in Burma, back to Britain, via Iraq, Palestine and North Africa. I was de-mobbed in 1947 when I joined Rochdale Corporation's planning and architects' department, earning a town planning degree before retiring as assistant borough planning officer 21 years ago.  After the war I was doing some some research about Luftwaffe night fighter aces and came across the name of Hauptman George Hermann Greiner, who had destroyed four heavy bombers during the night of 5 January 1945, including the Halifax he had been due to fly on. Many years later Don Thomsett, the rear gunner who had bailed out, met Mr Greiner at his home on Lake Constance, where he was treated with great hospitality and friendship. "After all, Greiner had only been doing his job, as we all did."  

Eddie was also a popular band leader, playing at such venues as the Carlton with Freddie Platt and his orchestra, and when wasn’t making music, Eddie could be found playing at Rochdale Golf Club. Eddie began his musical life in Heywood at age 13 when his mother, on a weaver's wage, paid for accordion lessons at two shillings and sixpence a week. He went on to learn alto saxophone and clarinet and aged 16 joined the Stan Bates band, playing the Co-op on Lord St. At the end of the war his commanding officer asked him to form a band, and at just 21 Eddie had his first taste of band leadership, an eight-piece with four fully professional musicians. He then formed his own band in 1948 and for years was in demand throughout the North, with fellow musicians including trumpeter Ronnie Butterworth. Eddie performed on 51 consecutive New Year's Eves. He played in venues all around the borough including Rochdale's most famous club, The Carlton.

Eddie, sadly passed away in December 2013.

  • RAF PO 185864 Captain A. Leach (Pilot): R.A.F.V.R. Age 23. Son of Sylvester and Emma Leach and brother to Fred. Born in Coppull, Lancashire 25th March 1921. Awarded his wings at 19 and received the following medals: 1934-45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-1945. Killed. Buried Hannover War Cemetery Joint Grave 2.F.7-7A.
  • Sgt. Peter Neale 1896808 R.A.F.V.R. Age 20. Son of Mr. and Mrs. R. F. Neale, of Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, England. Killed Hannover War Cemetery Grave2.F.14.
  • RAF Flt Sgt Jack Sidney Staples (Navigator): 1801787 R.A.F.V.R. Age ? No further information available as yet. Killed Hannover War Cemetery Grave 2.F.8.
  • RAF Flt Sgt William Gerwyn Bowen (Air Bomber) 1313633 R.A.F.V.R. Age 22. Son of William John and Elizabeth Ann Bowen, of Kentish Town, London, England. Killed Hannover War Cemetery Grave 2.F.5-6. Shared grave with P/O. Eric George Stevens and Fl/Sgt. John Rigby Whitmore - 51 Squadron
  • PO Wilson Lionel Adolphus (Wireless Operator / Air Gunner): 403167 R.A.A.F. Age 32. Son of Adolphus Henry and Alice Tobatha Wilson, of Mayfield, New South Wales, Australia, husband of Beatrice Jean Victoria Wilson, of Mayfield, New South Wales Australia. Killed Hannover War Cemetery Joint Grave 2.F.7-7A.
  • RAF Flt Sgt Walter Matthew Burton (Air Gunner) 642138 R.A.F. Age 24. Son of Charles George and Lily Burton husband of Irene Burton, of Wakefield, Yorkshire, England. Killed Hannover War Cemetery Joint Grave 2.F.2-3. Shared grave with Sgt. John Hubert Yearsley - 51 Squadron.
  • The surviving crew member was RAF Sgt D E F Thomsett (Air Gunner) P.O.W. No: 150023. Camp: Luckenwalde, Brandenburg Liberated by the Red Army in April 1945.

Those who were killed where initially taken to Hannover-Seelhorst Plot 19f for burial. After the War the bodies were exhumed and taken to Hannover War Cemetery at Hannover-Ahlem.

Georg-Hermann Greiner (born 2 January 1920) was a German Luftwaffe night fighter ace , recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and a squadron commander in the prestigious Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 , translated in English as the "1st Night Fighter Wing", the most successful Night Air Superiority unit of any nation during World War II . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade Oak Leaves was the fourth grade of Nazi Germany's highest award for military galantry and was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery and successful military leadership. Greiner primarily engaged British RAF crews in their bombing campaigns over greater Germany and was credited with 51 aerial victories over allied aircraft, having destroyed four American bombers during daylight hours and 47 British bombers at night.

Following the conclusion of the War, Greiner and close friend Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer w ere arrested illegally crossing the German-Swiss border attempting an escape to Argentina. Both Greiner and Schnaufer were detained in an Allied prisoner of war camp and released in 1947. Greiner went on to study law and also worked as a textile salesman before returning to service in the Bundesluftwaffe in 1957, retiring with the rank of Oberstleutnant in 1972.

Alan Leach (Born in Coppull 25th March 1921) The eldest son of Sylvester and Emma. He was a Pilot Officer in the RAF Volunteer Reserve at the age of 17 and a member of 51 squadron. He was awarded his wings at the age of 19.

He and five of the crew were killed and are buried in Hannover War Cemetery, Niedersachsen, Germany.

Halifax Serial number: LV 952 Radio call sign: MH – F Unit: ATTD 51 SQN RAF Crew: RAF PO 185864 Captain A. Leach (Pilot): RAF Sgt P Neale (Flight Engineer) RAF Flt Sgt J S Staples (Navigator): RAF Flt Sgt W G Bowen (Air Bomber) RAAF 403167 PO Wilson L A (Wireless Operator Air): RAF Flt Sgt W M Burton (Air Gunner) The surviving crew member was RAF Sgt D E F Thomsett (Air Gunner)

He received the following medals: 1934/45 Star, France and Germany Star, Defence Medal, War medal 1939-1945.

Historical Documentary about the Japanese Zero

Mitsubishi G3M (1937 Japan)

Mitsubishi G4M (1941 Japan)

Mitsubishi Ki-21 (Japan, Thailand)

North American B-25 Mitchell (1941 United States)

Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 (1937 Italy)

Savoia-Marchetti SM.81 (1935, Italy)

Short Stirling (1940 United Kingdom)

Sukhoi Su-2 (1937 Soviet Union

Tupolev SB (1934 Soviet Union)

Tupolev Tu-2 (1944 Soviet Union)

Vickers Wellington (1938 United Kingdom)

World War 2 Flying Boats and Sea Planes

Consolidated PBY/OA-10 Catalina (1935 United States, United Kingdom, Canada)

Consolidated PB2Y Coronado (1937 United States, United Kingdom)

198 Sqn. Typhoons on airfield B10/Plumetot, France, in July 1944. MN526 TP-V has the larger Tempest tailplane and a four-bladed propeller. A heavy dust cloud has been stirred up by the taxiing aircraft.

Curtiss SOC Seagull (1935 United States)

Curtiss SO3C Seamew (1942 United States)

Curtiss SC Seahawk (1944 United States)

Dornier Do 24 (1937 Australia, France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden)

Dornier Do 26 (1938 Germany)

Grumman F4F-3S “Wild Catfish” (1943 United States)

Martin PBM Mariner (1939 United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Netherlands)

Ikarus IO (1926 Kingdom of Yugoslavia)

Ikarus ŠM (1924 Kingdom of Yugoslavia)

Northrop N-3PB (1940 Norway)

Short Sunderland (1938 United Kingdom)

Sikorsky JRS-1/OA-8 (1935 United States)

Vought OS2U Kingfisher (1938 United States)

World War 2 Transports

  • Beechcraft C-45/JRB/SNB Expeditor (1937 United States, Philippines)
  • Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando (1941 United States)
  • Douglas C-47 Skytrain (1935 United States, United Kingdom)
  • Junkers Ju 52 (1932 Germany, Bulgaria)
  • Arado Ar 196 (Germany)

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