Known as the terror weapon of World War II, the Junker Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber left an indelible mark on war history.
With its famous wailing siren and devastating capabilities, this aircraft tore its way into the hearts of its enemies, striking panic on every mission. Let’s take a closer look at how the Stuka became a symbol of the Luftwaffe and left its mark in the annals of war.
The origin of the Ju-87 Stuka
The Ju-87 Stuka made its combat debut during the Spanish Civil War, supporting the Nationalists alongside the Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion.
It was in September 1935 when it made its maiden flight, and the following year, it officially entered service under the Third Reich. These first steps laid the foundation for their participation in World War II.
The Ju-87 Stuka in World War II
During the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Ju-87 Stuka played a pivotal role in the German Blitzkrieg. The Luftwaffe had 366 Ju-87s ready for service, and although the first bombing mission failed, the Stukas achieved the surrender of Warsaw in less than a month. Its presence was made fearsome both by its bombardment capabilities and by the unmistakable sound of its wailing siren.
In the fall of France in 1940, the Ju-87 Stuka proved its effectiveness with its devastating bomb load. With one 250kg bomb under the fuselage and four 50kg bombs under the wings, they razed strategic targets and wreaked havoc among troops and civilians. The “Trumpet of Jericho” rang through the air, generating panic and demoralizing the enemy.
On the Eastern Front, the Ju-87, especially its Ju-87G “Gustav” variant, became a ferocious tank killer for the Red Army. Equipped with 37mm Flak 18 anti-aircraft guns, the Stuka could pierce Soviet armor. Colonel Hans-Ulrich Rudel, the most successful Stuka pilot, destroyed 519 enemy tanks and nine aircraft, becoming the war’s most decorated German fighter pilot.
The achievements and weaknesses of the Ju-87 Stuka
The Ju-87 Stuka scored the Luftwaffe‘s first air-to-air combat kill in World War II. First Lieutenant Frank Neubert shot down a PZL P.11 aircraft flown by Captain Mieczylaw Medwecki using the 7.92mm MG-17 machine guns mounted on the Stuka’s wings.
In addition to its role as a bomber, the Ju-87 Stuka excelled in naval warfare. It sank more ships than any other aircraft in history, destroying much of the Polish navy in port.
However, the Ju-87 Stuka also had its flaws. During the Battle of Britain, its fixed landing gear created drag and limited its speed. The front and rear machine guns were no match for the British fighters, resulting in a high kill rate for the Stukas.
The Ju-87 Stuka Legacy of Terror
Despite their flaws and vulnerabilities, the Stukas fought throughout the war. A total of 6,000 aircraft were built, but only two examples remain today: one at the RAF Museum in London and one at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. In addition, a third aircraft restoration is underway from two wrecks owned by Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum in Everett, Washington.
The Ju-87 Stuka left an indelible mark on the history of military aviation . Although not without its flaws, this Nazi dive bomber struck terror into the hearts of its enemies and proved its lethality in various campaigns and battlefronts. Its legacy as a World War II terror weapon remains, reminding us of the brutality and effectiveness of air conflict in that dark period in history.