Junkers Ju 88 as a Bomber

The Junkers Ju 88 was the most important German bomber in the middle years of the Second World War. It entered service in small numbers in the summer of 1949 with I./KG 25, which then became I./KG 30 (Adler Geschwader) in September. It played a small role in the blitzkrieg victories of 1939 and 1940, and an increasingly important role in the air war over Britain, until in the summer of 1941 it was the most numerous of all Luftwaffe medium bombers.

Initial production of the Ju 88 was sluggish. A limited number of aircraft were available during 1939, and were used against British shipping and naval tactics. The first Ju 88 operation of the war was an attack on part of the British fleet in the North Sea on 26 September 1939. Aircrews reported hitting the Ark Royal and the Hood, but neither ship suffered any damage. The same unit made an attack on Scapa Flow in March 1940, and took part in the invasion of Norway. A number of units were in the process of converting to the Ju 88 during the blitzkrieg of May-June 1940.

The aircraft’s first important contribution would come during the Battle of Britain. At the start of the battle one entire Geschwader (KG 51) had converted to the Ju 88, along with elements from four more. It was still less numerous than the He 111, but was rapidly replacing the Do 17. All three aircraft took part in the fighting over Britain. The Ju 88 was generally faster and more manoeuvrable than the earlier aircraft, but still suffered heavy losses during the battle.

The Ju 88 was at its most important during the invasion of Russia. On 22 June 1941 it equipped nineteen bomber gruppe, compared to six for the He 111H and three for the Do 17. The Luftwaffe achieved massive successes in the early part of the Russian campaign, destroying thousands of aircraft. However, Russian industry eventually replaced this lost aircraft, and the Luftwaffe soon faced a more powerful enemy than it have ever expected.

The German bomber force, and with it the Ju 88, struggled on, fighting on an ever increasing number of fronts, against increasingly dangerous competition. More modern designs failed to enter service to replace it. Ju 88 units could be found on the eastern front, in Italy, taking part in the “baby blitz” of early 1944 and in anti-shipping units in Scandinavia, but never in sufficient numbers.  By the end of the war the Luftwaffe’s conventional bomber forces had been grounded by a lack of fuel, and bomber production had been cancelled.

Aircraft of the Luftwaffe 1935-1945, Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage. Combines a good background history of the Luftwaffe with a comprehensive examination of its aircraft, from the biplanes of the mid 1930s to the main wartime aircraft and on to the seemingly unending range of experimental designs that wasted so much effort towards the end of the war. A useful general guide that provides an impressively wide range of information on almost every element of the Luftwaffe (Read Full Review)
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (30 June 2007), Junkers Ju 88 as a Bomber, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_ju88_bomber.html

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