Junkers Ju 87 D/G vol. 2

Revi C/12D sight with Schwenkplatte SP 2Aw. [Visualisation 3d Marek Ryś]


The Marat received a direct hit, but a single 500 kg bomb did not cause significant damage. On September 21, 1941 the armor-piercing PC 1000 weapons finally arrived and the Stukas from III./St.G 2 were ready to launch another mission against the Soviet vessels. “Now we are in a dive, close beside each other. Our diving angle must be between seventy and eighty degrees. I have already picked up the Marat in my sights. We race down towards her; slowly she grows to a gigantic size. All her AA guns are now directed at us. Now nothing matters but our target, our objective; if we achieve our task it will save our brothers in arms on the ground much bloodshed. But what is happening? Steen’s aircraft suddenly leaves mine far behind. He is traveling much faster. Has he after all again retracted his diving brakes in order to get down more quickly? So I do the same. I race after his aircraft going all out. I am right on his tail, traveling much too fast and unable to check my speed. Straight ahead of me I see the horrified face of Ofw. Lehmann, Steen’s rear-gunner. He expects every second that I shall cut off his tail unit with my propeller and ram him. I increase my diving angle with all the strength I have got - it must surely be 90 degrees - and sit tight as if I were sitting on a powder keg. Shall I graze Steen’s aircraft which is right on me or shall I get safely past and down? I streak past him within a hair’s breadth. Is this an omen of success? The ship is centered plumb in the middle of my sights. My Ju 87 keeps perfectly steady as I dive; she does not swerve an inch. I have the feeling that to miss is now impossible. Then I see the Marat large as life in front of me. Sailors are running across the deck, carrying ammunition. Now I press the bomb release switch on my stick and pull with all my strength. Can I still manage to pull out? I doubt it, for I am diving without brakes and the height at which I have released my bomb is not more than 900 feet. The skipper has said when briefing us that the two thousand pounder must not be dropped from lower than 3,000 feet as the fragmentation effect of this bomb reaches 3,000 feet and to drop it at a lower altitude is to endanger one’s own aircraft. But now I have forgotten that!—I am intent on hitting the Marat. I tug at my stick, without feeling, merely exerting all my strength. My acceleration is too great. I see nothing, my sight is blurred in a momentary blackout, a new experience for me. But if it can be managed at all I must pull out. My head has not yet cleared when I hear Schamovski’s voice: ‘Herr Oberleutnant, das Schiff explodiert!’
Now I look out. We are skimming the water at a level of ten or twelve feet and I bank round a little. Yonder lies the Marat below a cloud of smoke rising up to 1,200 feet; apparently the magazine has exploded.”
The bombs struck the Soviet battleships forward 305 mm gun turret. The entire bow section, all the way back to the No 2 main battery turret, separated from the rest of the hull and sank instantly. Heavily damaged ship settled at the bottom of the harbor.
Because the squadron commander’s aircraft sustained battle damage during the raid, Rudel had to give up his own machine and rear gunner for the next sortie of the day. Unfortunately, Hptm. Steen and Fw. Alfred Scharnovski were both killed in action when their Stuka was hit by a Russian AA shell during a raid against the Kirov. Rudel was now paired with a new rear gunner – Gefr. Erwin Hentschel, hailing from Saxony.
On October 20, 1941 Rudel receives the Ehrenpokal der Luftwaffe (Honor Goblet of the Luftwaffe) for “special achievement in the air war” and on December 8, 1941 he is awarded the German Cross in Gold. The cold winter months of 1941/42 do not stop Rudel from adding on more combat missions to his already impressive record. On January 6, 1942 the commander of the VIII. Fliegerkorps, General der Flieger Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, decorates Rudel with the Knight’s Cross in recognition of his 400 combat sorties and exemplary achievements against enemy naval targets at Kronstadt.
In February 1942 Rudel is rotated back to Germany for a short period of R&R. He uses the time to marry his fiancé and ski in the Tyrolean Alps. After the leave Rudel takes over as the commandant of a Stuka training center at Graz-Thalerhof and later at Sarabus in the Crimea. On August 15, 1942 Rudel reports back to his former unit for another operational tour. By September 24, 1942 Rudel has 500 combat sorties under his belt and in November he is appointed the CO of 1./St.G 2. During the heavy fighting at Stalingrad the Stuka crews had their work cut out for them. On November 25, 1942 Rudel flies no fewer than 17 combat missions defending his home airfield against the Soviet armor and cavalry units. On February 10, 1943 Rudel chalks up his 1,000th combat missions and is sent on a mandatory 14-day leave, which he spends skiing at St. Anton.