The Stuka dive bomber became the symbol of Germany’s swift and terrifying Blitzkrieg (lightning war) tactics in the early years of World War II.
Dropping nearly vertically from 15,000 feet at up to 370 mph, the Stuka could deliver its bombs with pin-point accuracy. The intimidating nature of the attack was often supplemented by a pair of screaming propeller-driven sirens, nicknamed, “Jericho trumpets.”
Though a somewhat antiquated design, the crude-looking Stuka was amazingly tough, its stout airframe built specifically for the stress of high-speed dives and crushing pullout procedures. The plane however was slow and vulnerable when pitted against modern combat planes. As losses mounted, Stukas were shifted away from the western front and saw sustained service as tank busters on the eastern front where Luftwaffe air superiority lasted longer. Some Stukas even participated in the defense of Berlin in 1945.
History of the Artifact
This Stuka, an R-4 version modified to fly long distances, was built in 1941 and was destined for North Africa before being diverted to the fighting in Russia. Serving with Lehrgeschwader (demonstration wing) 1 and then Sturzkampfgeschwader (dive bomber wing) 5, the plane operated in northwest Russia, near the border with Finland and Norway.
The aircraft was on a mission to bomb Murmansk in April of 1942 when it was attacked by Soviet fighters and crashed to the west of the city. The wreckage remained in the wilderness until the early 1990s, when it was acquired by a private collector and shipped to England. The rare plane was eventually obtained by the Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology) in Berlin in 1997.
The Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum began a restoration to flying condition on this rare and important aircraft in 2013. This is one of only three surviving Stukas left in the world.
Did you know?
The whining sound of a diving plane, so often heard in cartoons and movies, is actually a recording of a siren-equipped Stuka dive bomber.