The Sirens of Death

Icons of the Second World War include; the Spitfire, the ‘little ships’ of Dunkirk, but also the widely feared Stuka…

Ju 87 flying during the Spanish Civil War
Much like the Spitfire or the Lancaster bomber, the Stuka would become an iconic weapon of the Second World War.
It first saw active service in 1936, when a secret contingent of the Luftwaffe was assigned to fight for General Franco in the Spanish Civil War.
Its pinpoint accuracy, in a time when precision bombing was almost unheard of, made it into such a success with senior commanders that over 6,500 were eventually put into service.
Initially designed to have a dual tipped tail fin, it would be redesigned to a single tipped tail, after an experienced test pilot was killed when he was unable to pull out of a dive.
The devastation that it caused was evident during the invasion of Poland in 1939. A typical loadout for the Stuka would be to have four, 50kg bombs under its gull wings, and one, 250kg bomb, strapped to the fuselage of the plane.

Stukas operating over the Eastern front
​Although the tactics of dive bombing are relatively simple, the actual flying of the aircraft was notoriously tricky. Before starting a bombing run, a long checklist was carried out by pilots to ensure the run would be successful. The final stage of this checklist was, ‘Dive Brakes open’, once this was done, the Stuka’s nose would automatically dip and could reach speeds of over 300 mph.
Once the payload was released, the pilot could initiate an automatic pullout, which was a useful feature as pilots were subjected to 6 Gs during this manoeuvre and it wasn’t uncommon for them to experience blackouts.
The most ‘iconic’ thing about the Stuka however, was its siren. Called the ‘Jericho Trumpets’, the propellor driven siren would scream as the Stuka was diving upon its target. This was done purely for psychological reasons; to weaken enemy morale and make dive bombing more intimidating. In actual fact, these sirens reduced the speed at which the Stuka could dive, making them more vulnerable, and so was withdrawn from later variants of the aircraft. Instead it was common that a ‘whistle’ feature would be placed on the bombs, to produce a similar effect.

​The Stuka continued to be used, right into the final days of the war, becoming the defenders, rather than the offenders that they were designed to be. They were retired from the Luftwaffe at the end of the conflict, in 1945.

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