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Ju 87 Stuka

This grainy still is one of several frames from an Italian newsreel of September 1941 that shows T6+AN in flight, the "N" (and the red "A") both indicating that the plane belonged to 5./St.G 2. Together with T6+DP from 6./St.G 2, it seems to have been the only other Ju 87 to have been decorated in such a remarkable fashion. If Lt. Pölz did fly T6+DP, one wonders if he was transferred to a different Staffel and flew this plane as well or whether, given that the two snakes are slightly different, it was flown by someone else. Urbanke, who has presented the most thorough discussion of the "Snake" Stukas, suggests that the planes were flown by unit leaders, the emblem offering immediate recognition to other pilots. If so, he assumes that the snake must have appeared on both sides of the aircraft.

But this does not seem to be the case. Below is a starboard view of T6+AN being inspected by British troops in North Africa. Presumably, it is the same plane although, had the snake motif been displayed, one would have thought that it would have presented a more compelling perspective for the photographer. Merrick comments on the placement of the white fuselage theater band, remarking that it was unusual for aircraft based in North Africa and rarely positioned there.

The photograph is from Smith, who identifies the plane as a Ju 87R-2 belonging to 5./St.G 2 and the European splinter scheme RLM 70/71 oversprayed with tan for desert warfare. He no doubt uses the word advisedly, as there is some uncertainty whether an Italian Giallo Mimetico was used or RLM 79. The undersurface is RLM 65. Merrick identifies the plane as a Ju 87B-2 Trop (presumably because there are no external drop tanks) and the colors on the upper fuselage to be RLM 79/80 "particular to this unit."

Here, two frames from the newsreel have been stitched together to show the snake motif to better effect. The white theater band, which was chosen to match those already carried by planes in the Italian Regia Aeronautica, is barely visible. Subsequent frames show the Staffel designation "N."

If the photograph above is the same plane as captured in the newsreel footage, the camouflage pattern in this screenshot, which was skinned for play in the game IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover, is not correct; rather, it repeats the scheme on the port side of T6+DP. It is very difficult to duplicate the camouflage pattern of a plane in any event, as virtually none is shown from all the angles necessary to provide a correct pattern for every surface.

It seems likely that the snake motif was used only during the summer and autumn of 1941 (here, T6+AN is imagined attacking shipping at Malta) and not retained after II./St.G 2 was redesignated III./St.G 3 at the beginning of the next year. Although the emblem on the Ju 87 was the most striking, similar but much less elaborate snake markings extended the length of the fuselage on several Ju 82 transports and at least one Fw 190.

The four-second clip of the Stuka in flight is shown in the British documentary The World at War: The DesertNorth Africa 1940-1943 at about minute 14:30.

References: Stuka: Luftwaffe Ju 87 Dive Bomber Units, 1939-1945 (Vol. 2) (2006) by Peter C. Smith (p. 116); Luftwaffe Camouflage and Markings 1935-1945 (Vol. 2) (2005) by K. A. Merrick and Jürgen Kiroff (p. 324); "Die 'Schlangen'—Stukas des Sturzkampf Geschwader 2: The 'Snake' Stukas of Sturzkampf Geschwader 2 (2005) by Axel Urbanke, Luftwaffe im Focus, Edition 7, 24-27.

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