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One of the most terrifying and effective weapons employed during the World War II was the German light bomber known as the Junkers Ju-87 Stuka. The word Stuka was a shortened version of Sturzkampfflugzeug, or "dive bomber." Like the Messerschmitt Bf-109, the Stuka was first battle tested in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. It was later employed with telling effect in Europe and, to a lesser degree, in North Africa.
Rather than dropping its 4,000-pound load of high-explosive bombs from straight and level flight, the Stuka dove almost vertically towards its target, pulling out just as it released its bombs. This made the Ju-87, which could drop its bombs with pinpoint precision, particularly effective against such small targets as tanks, truck convoys and railroad locomotives and rolling stock. In fact, the Stuka had hinged dive brakes on each wing to slow its descent so the pilot could aim his bombs more accurately.
It was against civilian targets, however, that the Stuka had its most shattering psychological impact, for the plane's undercarriage was fitted with sirens that emitted a frightening scream as the aircraft plunged towards earth.
The Junkers Ju-87 Stuka was powered by a 1,000-horsepower Junkers Jumo engine and was fitted with an inverted gull wings and a fixed landing gear. It carried a two-man crew and, in addition to its bomb load, was armed with four 7.9- millimeter machine guns. Later versions of aircraft, including the Ju-87D-3 and D-4 were heavily armor-plated and the Ju-87G was equipped with two 37-millimeter anti-tank cannons.
In the end, however, the Stuka was to cost the Nazi war effort dearly, for the Germans, confident of its capabilities, concentrated on producing the Ju-87 and other light attack aircraft rather than on heavy, long-range bombers. The Stuka's limitations were revealed when the Luftwaffe attempted to deploy it in Great Britain.
Against relatively defenseless cities on the continent, the Stuka was a true terror weapon. But when it confronted the eight guns of the Royal Air Force's Supermarine Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes, the aircraft Hitler hoped would helped him win the war became a sitting duck.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
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Updated: March 12, 2004