Share This Article

A SIMPLY DESIGNED AIRCRAFT, the U-2 (later dubbed the Po-2) Night Stalker proved to be one of the most versatile planes of the war. Although it was built as a civil and military trainer, the Soviets used it for supply, transport, liaison, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, and bombing duties. Starting in 1942 Polikarpov fitted the U-2 with underwing bomb racks for use as a night bomber—its most well-known role. When targeting bivouacked enemy troops, U-2 pilots often flew “low and slow,” approaching at treetop level before throttling back and gliding in over their targets. The abrupt attacks had a marked psychological impact on German soldiers resting well behind the lines; many units felt compelled to stay on guard through the night. The Soviet 588th Night Bomber Regiment, an all-woman squadron, famously used their U-2s to great effect on nocturnal harassment raids against the German rear. —Paraag Shukla

Click image for larger view

Art by Jim Laurier


This column was originally published in the December 2017 issue of World War II magazine. Subscribe here.