03 March 2010

During the Second World War, Germany supplied large numbers of Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers to Italy, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovakia. But as the war progressed, there were instances of the Stukas being turned around and used against German units.

Slovakia was one of the smallest users of the Stuka after having allied itself with Germany in 1940. In return for sending units to fight with the Wehrmacht in Russia, the Slovak Air Force received Ju 87 Stukas that were assigned to the 11th Letka (Squadron) in 1943. By the summer of 1944 anti-German sentiment was at an all-time high in the country as the Soviet Red Army was advancing through the Balkans. To maintain control over Slovakia, the Wehrmacht occupied the nation, triggering a nationwide uprising. As the fighting increased, the 11th Letka used its Stukas against the Germans before having to seek sanctuary with the advancing Red Army.

The Romanians got their first Ju 87 Stukas in 1943 with the arrival of the Ju 87D "Dora" variant. Forty-five aircraft were assigned to Grupul 3 Bombardement Picaj (No. 3 Bomber Group) which was composed of three "escadrillas" (squadrons). Grupul 3's Stukas were first committed to the Eastern Front, supporting the German units against the Soviet Red Army. In May 1944 a second Romanian Stuka group was established, Grupul 6, again composed of three squadrons. The two Stuka groups were involved in heavy fighting against the advance of the Red Army and heavy losses were sustained in the face of Soviet air superiority. In August 1944, a coup d'etat overthrew the Fascist regime of Romania and the nation switched sides to join the Soviet forces against Germany. The Luftwaffe tried to seize some of the Romanian Stuka's but enough remained in Romanian hands to combine Grupul 3 and Grupul 6 into a single unit to support the Soviet Red Army in its advance through Moldavia and Slovakia. The Romanians continued to use the Stuka against the retreating Germans until the spring of 1945 when they re-equipped with Soviet ground attack aircraft.

By far Italy was the largest export user of the Ju 87 Stuka with the first examples arriving in the summer of 1940 for use in North Africa. Most of the Italian Stukas saw action in North Africa but beginning with the British victory at El Alamein and the American landings in Morocco, the Italy's Stuka force began to decline. In July 1943 Mussolini was overthrown and killed and the provisional government switched sides to join the Allies. At the time of the 1943 switch, only the 121st Gruppo (Group) based on Sardinia was operational with the Stuka and unit switched sides to join the Allies as some Italian units remained with the puppet Fascist regime installed in northern Italy by the Germans. However, the effectiveness of the Stukas in the hands of the new Italian C0-Belligerent Air Force was mixed as spare parts shortages rendered most of the 121st Gruppo's dive bombers useless.

Source: Military Aircraft Monthly, Volume 9 Issue 1. "Airfile 21: Stuka! The Junkers Ju 87 Stuka" by David James, p46-48.

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