Book Review
Junker Ju 87 Stuka
Junker Ju 87 Stuka, Air Vanguard * 15
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Osprey Publishing Ltd launched the series Air Vanguard to focus in-depth on famous aircraft. Junker Ju 87 Stuka by Mike Guardia is the 15th title of the series.
    In the opening days of the Blitzkrieg campaign, few aircraft could invoke as much terror as the Junkers Ju 87. Nicknamed the “Stuka” (an abbreviation of Sturzkampfflugzeug – the German term for “dive-bomber”), the Ju 87 was perhaps the most feared tactical bomber of the ETO. With its fixed landing gear and inverted gull wings, the Stuka was the most recognizable aircraft of the Blitzkrieg era. With profile plates, close-up photographs and battlescene artwork, this book reveals the design and development history of the aircraft and how the inclusion of its dive-activated siren changed it from a reliable and sturdy dive bomber into a psychological weapon, spreading panic in ground units. Mike Guardia goes on to explain how the Stuka became easy prey for Allied aircraft and how its influence waned in the final years of the war. - Osprey

This review looks at Junkers Ju 87 Stuka, the 15th title of the Air Vanguard series by Osprey Publishing Ltd.

Authored by Mike Guardia and illustrated by Adam Tooby and Henry Morshead, the book is 64 pages in length. It is available in softcover, PDF, and ePUB formats, with the ISBN 9781472801197.

Air Vanguard by Osprey focuses on the concept, background, development, technical aspects, and operational history of an aircraft. It describes and examines different variants and versions with the text enhanced by photographs and specially commissioned color artwork. In the series the aircraft – not the pilots or units which flew them – is the star of the show.

Even a cursory familiarization of the Second World War air war over Europe introduces readers to the Stuka. So iconic to the Luftwaffe is the Stuka that the word conjures thoughts of Hitler’s war machine rolling up victory after victory. The Stuka is thus to the European war what the Zero is to the Pacific War. Stukas also ushered in a new CAS (Close Air Support) theory to the ground war; the ungainly Junkers working in conjunction with Germany’s theory of armored warfare made the Blitzkrieg possible.

The Stuka was built to deliver big bombs as flying artillery. It mounted a siren for psychological warfare. Stuka was equipped with some sophisticated equipment and was one of the few truly vertical-capable dive-bombers. When the need for ‘tank busting’ supplanted dive-bombing, Stukas hauled aloft cannons with which they killed tanks. With good fighter cover the Stuka was able to destroy most targets with minimal losses. Without fighter cover or confronted with determined fighter attack, Stuka joined the tragic company of U.S. Navy TBD Devastators at Midway, Soviet medium bombers during Barbarossa, and Japanese squadrons in “The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot”. The Ju 87 fought to the end of the war. Despite heavy losses, Stuka was the main mount of Nazi Germany’s most decorated believer, Hans-Ulrich Rudel.

Junkers Ju 87 Stuka is brought to us through seven chapters and sections in 64 pages:
    Design and Development
    Technical Specifications and Production Variants
      • Ju 87A
      • Ju 87B
      • Ju 87C
      • Ju 87D
      • Ju 87G
      • Ju 87R
    Operational History
      • The Legion Condor and Spanish Civil War
      • Blitzkrieg
      • The Battle of Britain
      • Service in the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force)
      • Luftwaffe operations in the Mediterranean: Yugoslavia, Greece, and Crete
      • North Africa
      • Eastern Front
      • Service in the air forces of Eastern Europe
    Postwar Post-Script
    Further Reading

The author presents the material in a well-organized and enjoyable manner. He does a good job of describing technical aspects of the airframe. The cantilever construction of the wings are described with detail, plus trhe doppelflüger (double-wing) design, plus the types of material used to construct the machine. Eleven pages take the reader through an introduction and the design and development of the bomber. A further 11 pages describes the differences of the Ju 87 variants. He includes the nicknames of the A and B versions per the German phonetic alphabet but does not carry through to subsequent models.

Operational History spans 36 pages, covering campaign after campaign. Several first-hand accounts of flying the Stuka in combat are provided, always a favorite part of any book. The story identifies August 16 and 18 as the two days that ended the Stuka’s career over western Europe, the Battle of Britain attacks on RAF Tangmere and other RAF airfields. Even with fighter cover, the Stuka could not survive determined fighter opposition. Southern Europe and North African service is profiled, as well as service against the Soviets. This chapter also chronicles the Stuka in Italian service, as well as with Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. The book concludes with a short postwar post-script and further reading suggestions.

Junkers Ju 87 Stuka is a good introduction to this icon of the Luftwaffe. It should be useful to historians, modelers and illustrators of the Stuka. The subject appears to be a keen interest of author Mike Guardia. He provides explanations of Luftwaffe unit designations, an explanation of Stuka Geschwader organization, the selection of personnel and pilot status, and command progression; target priority and ordnance selection, three types of Stuka attack profiles, and other interesting Stuka topics.

However, the book is rife with typos and mistakes and curious terms, some subtle, some serious enough to confuse readers without a fair knowledge of the subjects. A minor nitpick is the author, an Army armor officer, refers the aircraft engine and propeller system as a “powertrain’. In aircraft the propulsion system and components are known as a powerplant; while rare references to “powertrain’ can be found in aviation subjects, especially helicopters (the common aircraft in the U.S. Army), it is highly unusual to refer to aerial vehicle propulsion systems as a ‘powertrain’. I search both volumes of a FAA manual for powerplant technicians and did not find a single “powertrain’ in some 600 pages. A substantial mistake on page 5 is misidentifying Japan’s iconic dive-bomber of WWII as the biplane D1A (actually it was the D3A “Val” monoplane). Another error is on page 18, stating the location of the internally wing-mounted MG 17 machine guns as, “…located underneath each wing”. Likewise, another description is of Stukas diving with 250Kg bomb ‘under the wing’ – that big bomb was carried under the fuselage. There are other such errors, such as describing the Ju 87B diving ‘with cannons blazing’ - Ju 87B had 7.92 mm machine guns, as described in Technical Specifications and Production Variants. Historical errors include referring to Rommel’s 1942 capture of Tobruk on page 52 as “recapturing” the fortress, and that the Luftwaffe was disbanded in 1946 (page 62). Some more than others, these can confuse and misinform readers. One caption of a crash-landed Stuka is peculiar, stating the Stuka, “…most likely crash-landed at low altitude”.

There are other bits that I just can’t put my finger on or don’t feel like typing up. I sympathize with the author as I know that my descriptions of some technical terms outside of aviation must bring chagrin to armor and naval experts. Yet some of the mistakes are serious enough as to undermine the rest of this book.

photographs, artwork, graphics
Most pages have one photograph or illustration. The photographs are mainly black-and-white. Three color photos show museum Ju 87s, one a hulk recovered off France in 1989. Many photographs are of very good quality; many are grainy and blurry; several are of images reproduced and “pulled” from other sources – cinema, magazines, and newspapers. Several have been used for decades yet this book presents some that I have never seen before. Modelers and artists may find some exceptional scenes for recreating, including a partially cowled “Berta” on skis surrounded by men in greatcoats and peaked caps, and ground crew in a variety of winter clothing. There are several shots of Stukas undergoing maintenance, in the factory, and being inspected after capture. Regardless of the quality of the images, all support the text.

Original art by Adam Tooby and Henry Morshead enhance the book, too:
1. Dive sequence: The Stuka’s signature dive pattern.
2. Close-up of the landing gear leg with the “Jericho Trumpet” air siren.
3. Ju 87B: in planform, profile, and head-on.
4. Color profiles:
    a. Ju 87A-2 with full undercarriage spats and pre-war camouflage.
    b. Ju 87B-1 of StG 51, France, 1940.
    c. Ju 87D-1 of Walter Seigel, StG 3, North Africa.
    d. Ju 87R-2 of StG 2 “snake”, North Afrika.
    e. Ju 87D-7 with mottled gray camouflage, Eastern Front.
    f. Ju 87G
    g. Ju 87D-3 of the Romanian 1st Air Corps.
    h. Ju 87R of the Bulgarian Air Force.

5. Action illustration: A Ju 87B releasing bombs over Poland, 1939.
6. Action illustration: A Ju 87Ds under attack by Spitfires over Italy, 1943.
7. Cutaway: Ju 87B, with 17 items keyed. (This illustration includes an example of dubious terminology used in the book, identifying the radiator and oil cooler housing as an “engine filter”.

Several tables provide Specifications for the Ju 87A through Ju 87R: Crew; dimensional data; weights; engine; maximum speed; range; service ceiling.

Considering how funny I must sound when using unusual or inappropriate technical terms when writing about naval and armor topics, I give the author an “A” for effort. Mr. Guardia seems to have an interest in the Stuka and other WWII aircraft. For readers who might feel that aviation people should not write about armor, nor armor experts about aircraft, I say hogwash!, and suggest they try their hand at writing a book!

This is an adequate primer on the Stuka. It has some very interesting photographs that should delight modelers and artists. Artwork is the usual high quality work by Osprey artists. The basic information within is good, even if there is an unfamiliarity with aviation technical jargon; less acceptable are the factual mistakes, even if minor.

Hopefully my critique will assist the author and Osprey’s editors in releasing better works for future titles.

We thank Osprey Publishing Ltd for generously providing this book for review. Please tell them and retailers that you saw it here - on Aeroscale.
Highs: This is an adequate primer on the Stuka. It has some very interesting photographs that should delight modelers and artists. Artwork is the usual high quality work by Osprey artists.
Lows: Many typos and several historical mistakes.
Verdict: The basic information within is good, even if there is an unfamiliarity with aviation technical jargon; less acceptable are the factual mistakes, even if minor.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ISBN: 9781472801197
  Suggested Retail: $18.95, £11.99
  PUBLISHED: Aug 18, 2014

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


The comment about the Battle of Britain phase resulting in large losses is interesting. Quote from review -> "The story identifies August 16 and 18 as the two days that ended the Stuka’s career over western Europe, the Battle of Britain attacks on RAF Tangmere and other RAF airfields. Even with fighter cover, the Stuka could not survive determined fighter opposition" It is possible this is a myth. Helmut Mahlke in Memoirs of a Stuka Pilot makes the comment the RAF well over claimed (as heard on BBC broadcasts at the time) the actual Stuka losses. His view appeared to be that the Stuka did need good fighter escort and when it had it losses were minor. So I would be interested in a real post war review of claims Vs actual losses to confirm or deny the RAF's real impact on Stuka operations over the UK and Channel. The real reason for Stuka withdrawal from the Channel front was to be re-deployed to other theatres (North Africa, Eastern Med then Russia) which simply had a higher priority once Hitler's interest in Operation Sealion had waned.
AUG 18, 2014 - 02:50 PM
Hi Carl; interesting observations. I do not recall if the author used 1940 claims or post-war claims. What was mentioned is that both attacks caused significant damage, one knocking out a Chain Home site.
AUG 19, 2014 - 12:01 PM
I got the impression from Mahlke that the Germans did not really know what to hit in regard to the Home Chain system and so failed to do attack and keep attacking it and so blinding the RAF. Mahlke's orders were to hit the hut rather than the towers. the towers and the power supplies should have been the targets. Other Stuka groups may have had different orders than Mahlke.
AUG 19, 2014 - 10:44 PM
Hi Carl; I do not know, and that is not addressed in this book. I do recall that a Home Chain was put out of action; I recall the towers were difficult to knock down without a direct hit on their structure; however, without cables routing power to and from, and equipment to view the signals, I suppose that would be enough to knock out a facility. I recall the movie Battle of Britain showed a radar facility getting knocked out. I forget which one although this book mentioned that the station on Isle of Wight kept RAF from being blind.
AUG 21, 2014 - 09:27 AM
Home Chain was set up with some overlap. But it was so close to collapse after the BoB attacks. German intelligence was poor and not believed by senior Luftwaffe staff. They did not cotton onto the importance of knocking out radar until their own was variously stolen, blown up by the Resistance or bombed or rocketed.
AUG 21, 2014 - 08:26 PM

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