Stuka Attack!: The Dive-Bombing Assault on England During the Battle of Britain
by Andy Saunders, Grub Street, London, UK, 2013, $32
The subtitle indicates the focused nature of this book, but it’s somewhat misleading. Andy Saunders wisely uses his first four chapters to put the Luftwaffe campaign against Britain during the late summer and fall of 1940 into context. He describes the Junkers Ju-87 Stuka’s actions in France and in the early days of the war, when convoys were its prime target, vividly conveying the helplessness that cargo ship crews felt as the Stukas dive-bombed and strafed them.
The next seven chapters detail the five days of Stuka attacks on England, beginning on August 13, Hermann Göring’s famously proclaimed Adler Tag (Eagle Day), and ending on the 18th. On that date, 109 Stukas were assigned to attack three airfields and a radar station. While every target was damaged, the Stukas suffered a loss rate of 13 percent. In Saunders’ assessment none of the targets was crucial to the British defense, and not worth the losses incurred. Thus it’s somewhat surprising when he argues that the withdrawal of the Ju-87 from combat over England was not due to heavy losses, but rather to a change in the direction of the German effort. He contends they were repositioned to the Pas de Calais area in anticipation of the German invasion of England, which of course never occurred.
Stuka Attack is very well researched, and the author provides ample detail in the text and its 10 appendices. The cascade of information—with its steady flow of crew names, aircraft types and markings, unit designations, locations, times, damage and results—can be a bit overwhelming. But it also reveals how much Saunders enjoyed his work.
Originally published in the March 2014 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.