The Junkers Ju-52 “Iron Annie” or “Aunty Ju” as she was known, is a tri-motor transport and troop carrying aircraft from the 1930’s and 40’s made with construction of a corrugated aluminium skin known as Duralumin that although looks unusual was very practical for strength purposes. The Ju-52 was the workhorse of Lufthansa and other airlines around the world such as Swissair in the 1930’s; and then primarily for the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) first in the Spanish Civil War (1936 to 1939 and also used as a bomber during this conflict) and then World War Two (1939 to 1945).
The Ju-52 was in production in Germany from 1932 to 1945, France from 1945 to 1947 and Spain from 1945 to 1952, During that period approximately 4,845 were built, but today less than 20 remain. Surprisingly at least 8 are kept in flying condition (1 in Germany, 4 in Switzerland, 1 in France, 1 in the USA and 1 in France), with a number available for joy flights and the rest are on display in museums around the world. Although I have seen many of these survivors in museums, recently at the Warbirds Over the Beach Air Show 2013 in Virginia Beach, USA I was hoping to see their Ju-52 fly, but poor weather kept her grounded the day I was at the show (I have only ever seen one fly at the Berlin Air Show in 2010).
Slow (top speed of only around 265 kmh /165 mph), ungainly, lightly armed and vulnerable to enemy fighters and anti-aircraft guns, yet the Ju-52 was operated in all theatres by the Germans during World War Two, under all-weather conditions and despite heavy losses during paratroop drops early on in the war (in Holland 1940, 280 were lost and Crete 1941 probably at least a third of the 500 Ju-52’s used were lost in action during that airborne invasion – the Germans never used large-scale Paratroop drops again), the Ju-52 remained the main transport for the Luftwaffe throughout that conflict (primarily due to their reliability).
Despite her appearance the Ju-52 was probably the most beautiful sight to the German Wermacht soldiers of the Sixth Army trapped inside the bloodbath that was Stalingrad in Russia during the 1942/1943 Winter when what was left of the Sixth Army finally surrendered. Some may have been lucky to leave on one, others would be glad for the desperately needed yet meager supplies that would be onboard. Nearly 500 aircraft were destroyed in the air or on the ground trying to resupply the city including almost 270 Ju-52’s (which alone equated to about a third of the transport air fleet on the Eastern Front)!
In the end the Ju-52 was not the most successful aircraft in combat, but none the less she performed tireless work and with reliability and ease of production was the backbone of the Luftwaffe transport fleet in World War Two. It is good to know that despite heavy losses in the air and destruction on the ground at least a few of these old workhorses are still around and even better that some still take to the skies where they belong.