Junkers Ju 88 vol. I


British naval attaché Admiral Turle witnessed the events that followed and marveled at the effectiveness of the Ju 88s. The biggest ship at anchor – the Clan Fraser – had been unloading since morning, but she still had some 250 tons of explosives in her holds. Turle saw a single Ju 88 hit her amidships with a heavy bomb, causing an enormous explosion in one of the cargo holds. Buildings alongside the jetty went up in flames along with the unloaded cargo, including a number of crated Hurricane fighter aircraft.
More bombs continued to rain down, stoking up the fires on a number of the freighters. Piraeus was like a powder keg. It was not only the Clan Fraser that had brought in explosives. The fire on the ship hit by Herrmann spread with every passing minute. All that could be done was to tug her out of the harbor, but how to accomplish that when the Germans had also dropped many mines in the midst of the port?
By the time a dare-devil by the name of John Buckler was selected for this perilous mission, it was already too late. At 03.15, the Clan Fraser exploded in a huge fireball. Burning debris and the force of the blast wrecked the harbor and its facilities from end to end, apparently smashing windows in Athens seven miles away. In the ensuing chain reaction more freighters were set ablaze, some of them packed full with cargoes of ammunition. The harbor had become a burning inferno that consumed eleven cargo vessels, two tugboats and 85 other ships. The facility was put out of operation for almost two weeks, and it was months before it was anything like fully operational. The impact on supplies to the British army was considerable..
Unaware of what was playing out below him, Hptm. Hajo Herrmann had other problems to cope with. He barely managed to regain control of the blast-tossed plane. When he finally leveled out, he found the port engine was not delivering enough power. Hit by AA or the debris? Whatever the reason the engine had to be cut.
Then there was the choice of a safe route home. Herrmann’s crew had three options – Sici­ly, Bulgaria, or the island of Rhodes. It was too far to the first destination on a single engine, while Bulgaria was across the mountains. That left only Rhodes. Hptm. Herrmann swung the Junkers onto a south-easterly track.
Fears that the machine would not be capable of a long flight with one engine proved unfounded. Two hours later, with the fuel gauge running very low, they arrived over an Italian airfield on Rhodes right in the midst of a British Wellington air raid. At the end of its landing run, the Junkers clipped the burning wreckage of an Italian Savoia Marchetti SM.79 bomber. The Ju 88 was spun around but fortunately did not overturn. The crew suffered only slight injuries, although they’d had a fright but all of them soon returned to their unit.

After testing, the Ju 88A-1s will be handed over to the personnel of Erprobungskommando 88.  [Kagero's Archive]

 

Development of the Design
Limited to an army of only 100,000 by the Treaty of Versailles, German re-armament was finally revealed to the world during March 1935 along with the existence of the Luftwaffe as an independent force. The first official fighter unit (JG 132) had been established on March 1. The large-scale re-armament which resulted led to a number of requirements for modern combat aircraft being tendered to the German aircraft industry. One of the main projects was General Erhard Milch’s concept for a fast bomber (Schnellbomber), capable of out-pacing enemy fighters. In those times, the fastest fighters attained about 400 kph. It was thought that a metal twin-engined aircraft would be able to exceed that by a large margin. No armament was initially considered. The machine would be required to penetrate enemy defenses and attack chosen targets in a dive.
In August 1935, Milch’s requirements were presented to Henschel Flugzeugwerke AG, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG and Junkers Flugzeug– und Motorenwerke AG. The original specifications were rather vague and mentioned a bomb load of one ton or so and a crew of three. The directors of the companies asked for a more specific set of guidelines and by the end of the year they got it. The chief requirements were as follows:
01. bomb load of 700-800 kg;
02. take off distance of 700 m;
03. landing run of 400 m;
04. maximum speed of 480-500 kph;
05. cruising speed of 450 kph;
06. climb to 7000 m in 25 minutes;
07. range of 1300 km;
08. single MG 15 at rear;
09. shortwave radio set;
10. oxygen system for crew;
11. intercom;
12. specialist navigational devices;
13. VOR landing aids;
14. anti-frosting system;
15. electrically heated windows;
16. light armor for crewmen’s positions.
In early 1935, the Junkers factory at Dessau began work on the design of an airplane referred to as the destroyer-bomber (Kampfzerstörer). Two lines of development were simultaneously in progress – the Ju 85 and the Ju 88 – the only difference being that the former embodied a twin rudder, and the latter a single one. Neither project aroused the interest of the RLM. It was the Messerschmitt Bf 110 that made its way into production.