Aviation of World War II
Ju-87 on the Eastern Front
Operation Barbarossa, 1941-1942. According to the plans of the German command, the military campaign in the East was to be as fleeting as all the others. True, given the relative superiority of the Red Army, the Germans had to use all available forces and involve their allies as much as possible.
Despite the fluctuations in the production of "Shtuka", their number in the air units of the Luftwaffe remained almost unchanged. By the time of the German attack on the USSR on June 22, 1941, the Germans managed to collect 324 Ju 87 dive bombers from the Soviet borders, of which 233 were combat-ready. This is less than during the invasion of France.
In the first months of fighting in Russia, Ju 87s were used according to the usual Polish-French blitzkrieg scenario. The dive-bombers cleared the way for the Wehrmacht tank columns rushing forward. Ju 87s were no less actively involved in suppressing pockets of resistance of the encircled Soviet troops. For example, it was the "Stukas" that threw 1000-kg bombs at the Brest Fortress. Taking advantage of the fact that the Red Army Air Force at first failed to organize proper opposition to German aviation, Luftwaffe dive bombers became a real nightmare for the endless strings of retreating columns of Soviet troops and refugees.
Having a well-established aerial reconnaissance service, the Luftwaffe skillfully used aircraft (including dives) to strike at Red Army units that were making maneuvers. From the actions of German dive bombers at the beginning of World War II, our troops often suffered heavy losses, since they often had neither anti-aircraft nor air cover.
Ju 87 pilots with impunity bombed reinforcements moving towards the front, destroyed bridges and crossings, destroyed railway tracks and junction stations with targeted air strikes, and destroyed military echelons with troops and equipment. The German ace dive pilot Hans Ulrich Rudel, who flew the Ju 87 throughout the war, managed to make about 500 sorties from June to December 1941.
As before, the “favorite” targets for the Ju 87 were enemy ships and vessels. The Soviet Navy was no exception.
At the end of the summer of 1941, I and III / StG 2, transferred to the command of the 1st Air Fleet, participated in raids on Leningrad. By this time, all combat-ready ships of the Baltic Fleet were locked up in Kronstadt. This circumstance greatly facilitated the actions of German aviation. The location of the ships in the parking lots was constantly monitored by reconnaissance aircraft.
During the raids on September 16 and 19, 1941, the first bombs dropped from the Ju 87 hit the Soviet battleships Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya and Marat, however, they did not cause much damage to the large ships. But the destruction of Soviet battleships was still a priority for German aviation. Therefore, on September 23, having received armor-piercing 1000-kg bombs from Germany, III / StG 2 aircraft once again purposefully attacked the battleship Marat. One bomb hit the bow of the ship, causing the detonation of the ammunition. The bow of the battleship, torn off by a powerful explosion, sank. From the crew, 326 people died, including the commander of the ship. In the literature, this success is usually attributed to the aforementioned Rudel. Information about the famous raid is drawn from his memoirs and newspaper and magazine publications of that time. Let us doubt the generally accepted theory. There are facts that clearly contradict it. First, the Ju 87B-2, which Rudel was then flying, could only lift a 1000-kg bomb if the radio operator remained on the ground. And the pilot's memoirs say that all the crews flew to the bombing in full force. Secondly, Rudel, having removed the air brakes during a dive and developed too much speed (he overtook the lead aircraft), dropped a bomb weighing one ton from three hundred meters. Such bombing is dubious and dangerous. Remember the case at the Neuhammer training ground. And, besides, the fragments from the explosion of a 1000-kg bomb (according to the recognition of the same Rudel) fly to a height of up to 1000 m, and if not Rudel himself, then the plane following him (the leader, whom he overtook on a dive) directly fell under a bomb explosion Rudel. Apparently something was wrong. And finally, when the report of a successful raid reached the German command, and it ordered the hero to be awarded the Knight's Cross, the commander of III / StG 2, Captain Steen did not. The fact is that two more planes dived onto the battleship along with Rudel, and there were two hits, and it was impossible to establish which of the pilots was lucky.
In four days of fierce attacks, the Germans managed to sink the destroyer "Guarding", a patrol boat, a minesweeper, a submarine of the "Malyutka" series and the leader "Minsk". True, the Soviet sailors managed to raise most of these ships after some time and put them back into operation.
After the first defeats in June 1941, Soviet aviation began to recover, putting up fierce resistance. And from the very beginning of the war in Russia, the nature of the hostilities was noticeably different from what the German dive bombers had to deal with during the Western blitzkriegs. For example, in a year of fighting in the West, Ju 87 squadrons lost 477 aircraft, and in Russia, in just six months of fighting, the "shortage" amounted to 394 aircraft. The German Ju 87 pilots were beginning to realize that their bitterest disappointments were yet to come.
When it came time to re-equip the dive squadrons with the new Ju 87Ds, there were some absurdities. In January 1942, another batch of dive bombers was transferred to the Eastern Front. Five planes never made it to their destination. Caught in a snowstorm, their crews crashed along with their Dorami.
Eastern Front, January 1942 - May 1945. At the beginning of 1942, Ju 87 had a chance to participate in the battles for the besieged Sevastopol. But the peak of their combat use on the eastern front was the participation in the summer offensive of the German army in 1942. After the defeat near Kharkov, the Soviet troops retreated to the Volga, and from the sky they were endlessly bombarded by howling Ju 87 bombs. The Red Army aviation snapped as best it could. On June 16, 1942, Soviet fighters attacked a group of 13 dive bombers escorted by 15 fighters. In this battle, the Germans lost three Ju 87s, shot down by the future Air Marshal G. V. Zimin. The Stukas also participated in the defeat of the infamous PQ-17 caravan. Then the German 2nd Squadron StG 5 lost eight aircraft.
Beginning in September 1942, aircraft from I and II/StG 2, from I and II/StG 77 and II/StG 1 continuously bombed the Soviet units defending Stalingrad. It was not easy for the Germans. Within thirty days, the dive bombers lost about 30 aircraft, and almost as many were damaged. By the beginning of 1943, losses in the Stuk formations had reached catastrophic proportions. For example, only nine aircraft survived in II/StG 1. The Battle of Stalingrad marked the beginning of the decline of the Ju 87's combat career as a dive bomber on the eastern front.
The turning point in the course of the air war on the eastern front was the bloody battle in the sky over the Kuban (nicknamed by the Germans "Kuban meat grinder"), in which units of all three groups of dive bombers took part: StG 2, I / StG 3 and II / StG 77 .
In the summer of 1943, the next turning point of the Great Patriotic War unfolded - the Battle of Kursk. But back in late May, during a raid on Kursk, the Germans immediately lost nine of the newest Ju 87D-5s.
At dawn on July 5, 1943, the Battle of Kursk began. Violent skirmishes immediately broke out in the air. German aviation in groups of up to 100 - 150 aircraft attacked the positions of the Soviet troops. The Germans successfully used old tactics. Groups of Bf 109s or Fw 190s pushed the Soviet fighters out of the patrol zone, and Ju 87s bombed their targets without interference. Given the high saturation of the combat area with tanks, both sides applied their technical innovations: the Germans Ju 87G with 37-mm guns, and the Russian Il-2 with PTAB-2.5-1.5 cluster bombs. Later it turned out that Soviet attack aircraft were much more effective in the fight against enemy armored vehicles. Only with one bombing of the German 9th Panzer Division, several Il-2 squadrons burned up to 70 German tanks. The losses of Soviet tanks from the fire of Ju 87 cannons were isolated. Although the German ace G. Rudel claimed in his memoirs that in one day he destroyed 12 “thirty-fours” (moreover, our tanks often exploded, and he, like a Valkyrie, flew through fiery fountains unharmed), but this, apparently, is no more, than the literary exaggeration common in war.
On July 12, a unique incident occurred in the sky above the Fiery Arc, when a group of 12 Il-2 attack aircraft under the command of Major Melnikov attacked enemy positions. At the height they were covered by four Yaks. Having received a radio warning about the approach of a large group of German bombers, the Soviet pilots split up. And while our fighters dealt with the Germans, the Il-2 attack aircraft launched an attack on the Junkers. As a result, IL-2 was shot down by eight "lappeters".
Pilots of Ju 87 got it from French pilots from the Normandy regiment. An interesting legal fact should be noted here: according to the international Hague Convention, all Frenchmen who did not accept surrender and participated in the battles against Germany were automatically outlawed and considered war criminals.
In August 1943, four "Yaks" from 18 IAP and six "Yaks" of the IAP "Normandy", flying to cover the Soviet troops, met a group of 40 Ju 87s, escorted by Fw 190 fighters, near Yelnya. Soviet pilots dispersed this armada without loss, moreover the French "filled up" three "Ju-87", and the Russians as many as five.
It should be noted that "shooting down a lapotnik" was not considered a special event by Soviet pilots, it was much more difficult to shoot down He 111 or Fw 189 - a "frame" hated on the Soviet-German front, for which they were immediately given an order. Of the 5709 Ju 87 aircraft produced, more than three and a half thousand were lost in battles with the Red Army. Almost all Soviet aces pilots have more than one downed Ju 87 on their combat account. A. I. Pokryshkin has 23 “Ju-87” destroyed, I. N. Kozhedub has 18 pieces, and N. D. Gulaev has 15 dive bombers . The record for the number of Ju 87s shot down in one battle was set on July 6, 1943 by Alexander Gorovets, deputy squadron commander of the 88th GIAP. He destroyed nine German dive bombers at once, but he himself died in this battle.
The last major success in World War II came to the Ju 87 in early October 1943, when they were back in their element. In other words, when attacking the ships of the Black Sea Fleet, pilots from StG 77 sank the leader "Kharkov" and two destroyers.
Summing up the disappointing results of the spring-summer battles, the RLM reorganized the Luftwaffe. All squadrons of Ju 87 dive bombers were converted to assault (SG instead of StG). And the new commander of the German attack aircraft, Colonel Ernst Kufer (former commander of StG 2), went even further than his superiors, and categorically demanded that all Ju 87s be replaced with assault versions of the Fw 190. The obstinate colonel's demand was taken into account, and rearmament began. Approximately once a month, another group of “thingers” transferred to the “Focke-Wulfs”.
In the spring of 1944, now the Ju 87 attack aircraft from SG 2 were actively used by the Germans in the defense of the Crimea, while the "Junkers" from I and II / SG 3 fought in the Baltic. There, at the end of April, another embarrassment occurred when a large group of Ju 87s was attacked by Soviet fighters, who shot down 11 German attack aircraft. Stukas were noted both during the Yasso-Chisinau operation of the Soviet troops, and during the Wehrmacht counteroffensive in the Lake Balaton area. But all these bursts of activity were accompanied by a high increase in losses, and the surviving Ju 87s were urgently transferred to night bomber groups. The first of these night bomber air units appeared on the eastern front as early as August 1943. And by the autumn of the next 1944, only one group of Ju 87 (“anti-tank” III / SG 2 under the command of G. Rudel) operated in the East during the day, the rest switched exclusively to night flights.
Night Stukas also flew in the West, but there they were met by Anglo-American fighters equipped with radar, and the Ju 87 loss curve crept up sharply. On the night of October 12, 1944, a pair of Mosquito fighters blocking one of the German airfields shot down six Ju 87s at once.
At the end of the war on the Soviet-German front, the activity of German aviation began to decline and no wonder, by 1945 the Germans had only 1969 aircraft in this direction against 11800 Soviet ones.
The last time a Ju 87 was shot down by Soviet anti-aircraft artillery was in April 1945. Thus, the Soviet soldier put an end to the career of the "flying legend" and forever.