Ju 52/3m Bomber and Transport Units 1936-41 by Robert Forsyth, Jim Laurier, and Mark Postlethwaite by Robert Forsyth, Jim Laurier, and Mark Postlethwaite - Read Online

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The all-metal Junkers Ju 52/3m enjoyed a solid – indeed, revered – reputation amongst its crews and the troops and paratroopers who used and depended on it. For more than ten years, it saw service as a successful military transport, with its distinctive, three-engined design and corrugated metal construction becoming instantly recognisable. It was a mainstay in the Luftwaffe's inventory, first seeing service in the 1930s in bombing and transport operations in the Spanish Civil War, and subsequently during the German invasion of Poland. It then served on every front on which the Luftwaffe was deployed until May 1945.

The Junkers served as a stalwart transport, confronting both freezing temperatures and ice, and heat and dust, lifting men, animals, food and supplies vital for German military operations. This, the first of two books on the Ju 52/3m, details its service as a bomber in Spain and in South America, followed by its pivotal role in early war operations during the invasions of Poland and France, the airborne invasion of Crete and the early stages of Operation Barbarossa.
Published: Osprey Publishing an imprint of Bloomsbury on
ISBN: 9781472818829
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Ju 52/3m Bomber and Transport Units 1936-41 - Robert Forsyth

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CHAPTER ONE

WAR AND PEACE

In October 1920, a quietly spoken 23-year-old former soldier and ship designer by the name of Ernst Zindel joined a small aviation research bureau set up by the respected aircraft designer Professor Hugo Junkers in the Saxony-Anhalt town of Dessau, lying at the junctions of the Mulde and Elbe rivers. Junkers, whose entrepreneurial and academic talents had earned him an impressive reputation within the German aircraft and engineering industries, and Zindel, a Bavarian who had been badly wounded while serving with an infantry regiment in World War 1, would go on to enjoy a close and profitable relationship until Junkers’ death in 1935.

Lufthansa’s Ju 52/3m Wk-Nr 5294 D-AMAK VOLKMAR VON ARMIN parked off the apron at Taliedo aerodrome in Milan. The aircraft bears the national tail markings used prior to the Nazis taking power in Germany

Zindel had been attracted by Junkers’ insightful and progressive use of metal in the aircraft which he had designed and which had been manufactured by his Junkers Flugzeugwerk company, but he had joined the firm at a difficult time. Despite Junkers’ burgeoning manufacturing interests, which included the production of water heaters, metal buildings and furniture, the post-war economic environment and the drastic restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles in Germany cast a dark shadow over the company, forcing him to cut back his workforce from around 2000 employees to just 200. No longer permitted to build aeroplanes – or at least operating with severe curtailment – Junkers Flugzeugwerk placed its emphasis on the production of water heaters, calorimeters, metal furniture, cutlery and household appliances.

Initially, metalwork for all Junkers’ products had been undertaken by hand using the traditional skills of tinsmiths and blacksmiths, but in the case of the aeroplane construction that remained, the firm had introduced Duralumin. It was not all plain sailing. Considerable investigative work had been needed to overcome the unavoidable problems of corrosion and fatigue, as well to devise improvements in joining, welding and riveting. Of particular concern was the problem of corrosion inside tubing and frameworks.

Ernst Zindel (left) joined the Junkers firm in 1920 and quickly became one of Hugo Junkers’ key men. From 1927 he was officially the company’s chief design engineer, though to all intents and purposes he had filled that role since 1923. A modest and incredibly knowlegeable man, he was involved in the design and development of many of Junkers’ aircraft, but arguably the Ju 52/3m was his greatest legacy. He remained with Junkers through to 1945. He is seen here with a model of Ju 52/3mg2e Wk-Nr 5093, coded D-ALUG and named JOSEF ZAURITZ by Deutsche Luft Hansa. By spring 1940 this aircraft was serving with KGr.z.b.V.106. On the table in front of Zindel are scale drawings of the Ju 52/3m

Eventually, however, after persevering with sheet metal, it was recognised that corrugated Duralumin was a very suitable material. Although the parasitic drag associated with corrugated Duralumin was more of a problem than with smooth skins, it was not too much of an issue when considering the relatively low aircraft speeds of the time. Joining corrugated metal panels or joining them to smooth panels, however, were difficult processes requiring considerable skill. Nevertheless, during the post-war years, Junkers did introduce a number of greatly valued machines and machine processes that were subsequently widely adopted in aeronautical metal engineering, such as stretching, swaging (forged reduction), upsetting (forged increasing), turning, stamping and pressing.

Finally, the ban on the manufacture of commercial aircraft in Germany was lifted in 1922 as a result of ‘definition of use’ and Junkers resumed work in construction, the testing of materials and wind tunnel testing. However, an ill-fated venture with the Russian government during the early 1920s had almost resulted in financial disaster. Germany had been eager to cooperate in any bi-lateral ventures with Russia to allow continued – if not covert – development of its aircraft industry. By signing the Treaty of Rapello, Russia had declared herself willing to place airfields, aircraft manufacturing facilities and labour at Germany’s disposal in return for German technical knowledge and training. The potential for the mass manufacture of aircraft in Russia, free of Allied intervention was irresistible.

In November 1922, encouraged by the German government to the tune of 100 million Reichsmarks, Junkers signed a contract with the Russian government to build airframes and engines designed by his company for use by the Soviet Air Force at a factory near Moscow. Professor Junkers was well aware that a lucrative market still existed for military aircraft as well as civil, and that wherever possible every commercial type should be built with potential military conversion in mind.

Meanwhile, Junkers went at full pelt to build a series of all-metal aircraft, including the single-engined F 13, the world’s first metal airliner, the origins of which went back to 1919. Such was the ensuing success and reliability of the F 13 that, by the late 1920s, examples were in service in more than 30 countries including the USA, Bolivia, Colombia, Austria, Great Britain, Italy, Persia, Poland, Russia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Sweden and Switzerland.

In 1923 work was completed on the A 20, a mass-produced, purpose-built, low-wing mail and aerial mapping monoplane, again made of Duralumin and powered by either a 160 hp Mercedes D IIIa engine in the case of those aircraft manufactured by Junkers, or by a 220 hp Junkers L 2 in the case of aircraft built by the Swedish-based Junkers subsidiary, AB Flygindustri. The A 20 was operated by the Junkers-Luftverkehr airline on its overnight mail service between Warnemünde and Karlshamm, in Sweden, while a new German airline, Luft Hansa, used at least ten aircraft for the carriage of night mail, newspapers and general freight. Other users included Swiss, Chinese and Chilean carriers and the Turkish military air arm. A small quantity was also built in Russia for the Soviet Air Force.

As a result of restrictions imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles, Hugo Junkers was forced to suspend work on the manufacture of metal aircraft during the 1920s and instead placed emphasis on the production of domestic appliances such as water heaters (an example of which is seen here), metal furniture and cutlery

Between 1924 and 1928, Junkers produced several successful, if short-lived, commercial designs, including the J 23 (G 23), the firm’s first three-engined machine. The J 23 would be the forerunner of many successive multi-engined, all-metal, cantilever transport aircraft and was essentially an enlarged F 13, the production of which was prompted as a result of demand from the steadily burgeoning German air transport market. While an outstanding aeroplane for its size, the F 13 could carry only four to five passengers and limited freight, whereas the new design called for accommodation for up to nine passengers. At first the J 23 suffered from limitations in power imposed by the Versailles restrictions, which stipulated that only two 100 hp Mercedes and one Junkers L 2 engine could be fitted. The latter was a four-stroke, six-cylinder, in-line petrol engine built by the Junkers’ engine business, Junkers Motorenbau.

The J 23/G 23 was thus considerably under powered. This situation was rectified in 1925 when later variants were fitted with Mercedes D IIIas and uprated Junkers L 2s. Production of the G 23 was modest, however, with some aircraft being built in Sweden. A small number were, nevertheless, sold to Swedish and Swiss airlines.

Originally designed as a single-engine aircraft, the G 24 evolved from the G 23, of which there was a production run of 60 machines. The G 24 featured a larger airframe, in which a crew of three and nine passengers could be accommodated, with the crew enjoying semi-closed or entirely covered cockpits. It was powered by three Junkers 195 hp L 2 or 310 hp L 5 engines. The G 24 won international recognition in 1926 when two examples made a 20-stage, long-range, route-proving flight from Berlin, across Siberia, to the Far East. Landing at Peking on 30 August, the two aircraft returned to Berlin in late September, having flown for 140 hours. Then, in 1927, a G 24 was airborne for more than seven hours, carrying a payload of 2000 kg for 1013 km, while a few days later, another flew for more than 14 hours carrying a load of 1000 kg for just over 2000 km. In June the type attained a speed of 207.26 km/h carrying a payload of 2000 kg for over 100 km.

These were record-breaking accomplishments that went hand in hand with increased comfort for passengers in the form of leather armchairs, overhead luggage nets, toilets, flight attendants and complimentary route maps. Even typewriters and radio telephones were available for business travellers.

By 1926, despite the shackles of the Versailles Treaty, Germany was viewed by many as the most ‘air-minded’ nation in Europe. But for Junkers, the venture into Russia had not worked out. The firm had apparently used subsidies granted for manufacture in Russia to cover the cost of domestic wages. The Russians had also complained to the Germans about some of Junkers’ methods and, in a severe ensuing move, all existing credit arrangements with the firm were stopped by the German government and the company was asked for repayment. For a while Junkers soldiered on, burdened by the repayments, but finally, on 3 October 1925, Junkers Flugzeugwerke AG ran out of money. The government offered a final subsidy, but in return for 66 per cent of Junkers Flugzeugwerke’s shares and 80 per cent of the stock in the Junkers-Luftverkehrs airline. The following year, Junkers-Luftverkehrs merged with Deutscher Aero Lloyd and the Deutsch-Russische Luftverkehrsgesellschaft to form a new national airline, Deutsche Lufthansa (DLH).

The three L 2 engines of a Junkers G 24 run up as it prepares to taxi out in 1929. One of several, state-of-the-art, all-metal Junkers designs, the G 24 proved itself as a long-distance airliner, balancing range with payload and passenger comfort

For his part, throughout 1926, Hugo Junkers, now 67 years of age, felt himself to be a victim of intimidation and he became increasingly embittered and hostile towards those in authority who he thought had conspired against him. He struggled to retain control of what remained of his interests, but in December he reached an arrangement with the government in which he reacquired the shareholding in Junkers Flugzeugwerke and Jumo Motorenwerke he had lost the previous year. In return, he agreed to sell the remaining 20 per cent shareholding in the Junkers airline to the government and to repay 1 million Reichsmarks. He was also committed to supplying aircraft worth 2.7 million Reichsmarks.

From all this upheaval, Junkers had managed to regain control of his aircraft design and manufacturing business, at a time when the F 13 was the bestselling aircraft in Germany. In 1928, Junkers rolled out its 1000th aircraft, which happened to be a J 31 (G 31), a three-engined transport that was effectively an enlarged version of the G 24 and which was designed to operate as a freighter, a night-flying airliner with beds, toilet and even air conditioning, or as an air ambulance, but with all such internal equipment removable if required. With a wider, higher fuselage than the G 24, passengers could be served in-flight meals, hence the aircraft’s moniker of ‘the ‘Flying Dining Car’.

Much of the impetus for Hugo Junkers’ decision to develop a new, state-of-the-art transport aircraft and airliner had come from the opinions and experiences of senior executives employed by Junkers-Luftverkehr. Hans-Martin Bongers, a finance man who had once worked for the airline before joining Luft Hansa in 1929, told Junkers that he believed there would be significant growth in the number of airlines and the