While we have been very fortunate in obtaining and restoring many of the rarest historic aircraft and vehicles that remain, our search for a Stuka suitable for restoration has eluded us – until now! Warbird recovery experts recently discovered a Ju 87D Stuka in a very cold freshwater lake in northern Europe! The aircraft has been recovered and acquired for the American Heritage Museum.
The Ju-87 Stuka is the iconic dive bomber aircraft used by Axis forces during WWII. Stukas dropped the first bombs of the War and shot down the first aircraft of the European war on September 1, 1939. The Stuka perfected and popularized the term “dive-bomber.”
First used in the Spanish Civil War of 1937, the Stuka was improved and became capable of pinpoint attacks working in concert with armored forces. The term “Blitzkrieg” or “Lightning War” was sensationalized in the press and the scream from the siren attached to the landing gear became the sound to fear from any infantry on the ground. The Stuka was the sinister face of the Nazi Blitzkrieg and its combat actions through Poland, Belgium and France. For a time, the reputation generated by the Stuka was unassailable. Both civilian and military forces were simply paralyzed by the sight and sound of them massing overhead. The myth of the Stuka was shattered in the Battle of Britain.
Even when protected by the Me-109s, the slow and tough Stuka was no match for the agile Spitfire or Hurricane. Twenty percent of all Stukas engaged were shot down during the battle, their former reputation of invincibility was broken from that day forward. Because of its targeting precision, the aircraft continued in battle and achieved fame against Russian Forces for the rest of the war as a close air support aircraft. The exploits of the Stuka as an anti-tank and anti-shipping aircraft added to its legend and underscored the fact that an aircraft capable of pinpoint strikes against moving targets would never be obsolete.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the living descendant of the Ju-87 in many ways. Very few Ju-87 aircraft survived WWII, and only two have been preserved intact and placed on public display. There is a Ju 87B at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry and a Ju 87D with the RAF Museum in Hendon, England.
There have been a handful of recoveries over the past 30 years. The American Heritage Museum has the only long term restoration project underway at this time. The rarity, importance and uniqueness of this aircraft cannot be overstated.
This aircraft is a Ju-87D-5 (Work Number 131587). Attached to 1/S.G.5 in Finland in 1944, it was used for close air support missions in the frozen north. Flying as Q9+CH this Stuka was piloted by Lt. Uffz. Walter Ernest and Uffz. Ernest Zenker. April 4th, 1944, the aircraft ran low on fuel and landed on a frozen lake. With no way to recover the aircraft they detonated a grenade in the cockpit, rendering the aircraft unusable, and left it to sink into the lake during the spring thaw. Sleeping in ice-cold fresh water, she was not disturbed for 77 years. Once hauled to the surface, the white distemper paint could still be seen on her skin, evidence of desperate times and the difficulty of fighting a war at the top of the world. The extreme freezing temperatures preserved this historic aircraft in incredible condition, so for the first time a completely untouched and original Ju 87D-5 has reached the American Heritage Museum.
With the help of the RAF Museum, Berlin Technik Museum, and the Východočeské Museum in the Czech Republic, this will certainly be the most watched restoration of the modern era. The American Heritage Museum presents the beginning of the next chapter for world-class restoration and preservation.
This restoration is currently taking place at various facilities in Europe and is not currently on display at the American Heritage Museum.
Restoration Status Updates
November 2023 – Inventory of original components complete. 3D scans of existing aircraft on display complete and contractors are working on final CAD drawings for fabrication of damaged center section and components. Original Jumo 211 engine core and additional core are with engine shop for zero-time overhaul.