The German invasion of the lowlands in September 1939 took Europe completely by surprise.
It was fast, it was brutal and it was unstoppable. In less than twelve days after its commencement, German armoured units supported by Luftwaffe fighter and bomber units were sweeping through Brussels and onto France.
The Allied Expeditionary Forces, sent to bolster French defences, had been in the country for less that six months before they found themselves fighting a desperate rear guard action as the German forces pushed them relentlessly to the beaches of Dunkirk.
Of the 6 squadrons of RAF Hawker Hurricanes sent to France at the beginning of the conflict, only two remained in operation by the end of May of 1940.
Flown by inexperienced pilots and commanded by officers more at home with the strategies of WWI aerial combat, the Hurricanes were decimated by the more technologically, advanced Bf 109 and 110s piloted by more experienced crew, fresh from combat in the Spanish Civil War.
On the morning of May 12, 1940, a staffel of Ju 87B dive bombers from Sturzhampfschwader 1./St G2 took off from Gotzheim on the outskirts of Cologne to attack the last of the Belgium ground forces scattered along the Albert Canal. One of them was the JU 87 code lettered: T6 + CA, piloted by Oberleutnant Dieter Pekrun with his radio Operator/Gunner, Heinrich Bassler.
Only two days earlier, German commandos had staged a successful glider assault on what was believed to be the impenetrable Belgium fortress of Eben-Emael which had been protecting the three strategic bridges over the canal. The Allies had been gambling that the massive guns of the fortress would delay the German offensive long enough for the British Expeditionary Forces to take up reinforcement positions.
Dieter Pekrun had joined the Luftwaffe in 1937 and was promoted to lieutenant a year later before being posted as Adjutant of Group I/Sturmkampfgeschwader 2 in September 1939 - just in time for the Polish campaign and the German push into Belgium and France.
Piloting the lead aircraft, Pekrun’s flight was intercepted by a flight of Hawker Hurricanes from RAF 6 Squadron, which had been sent to France to support the six other RAF squadrons struggling against the German onslaught.
Diving from hight, the Hurricanes opened up on the slower moving JU 87s below.
With no time to take any evasive action, Pekrun’s JU 87 was raked from tail to nose in a sustained and deadly burst of gunfire from a Hurricane piloted by RAF Pilot Officer, Maurice Stephens.
According to the combat report lodged by Stephens, the JU 87 was immediately engulfed in flames and appeared to explode mid-air, forcing Stephens to quickly pull up out of his dive as he turned away to pursue the other JU 87s.
Had Stephens looked back, he would have realised that whilst the JU 87’s rear gunner had been killed by the Hurricane’s attack, miraculously, its pilot Pekrun had not been hit and was still struggling with the aircraft’s controls as flames filled the cockpit.
Sliding back the cockpit canopy, Pekrun pushed out of his seat in an effort to bail out but his PPK revolver and holster became snagged on the side canopy hatch handle, trapping him in the burning aircraft. Pekrun later recounted how he gave a momentous heave and suddenly found himself tumbling out of the aircraft minus his revolver and holster which had fortunately ripped off his belt.
His parachute opened as he watched his burning aircraft bury itself into the Belgium field below in a ball of fire.
Hitting the ground, Pekrun quickly ditched his chute and hid himself in a nearby ditch as Belgium soldiers inspected the JU 87’s wreckage which was still burning fiercely.
Helped by his mud splattered camouflage uniform, Pekrun managed to remained undetected for the next day and a half as local farmers moved about the fields around him but within 36 hrs, the Germans had overrun the area and he was able to report back to his unit.
Oberleutnant Pekrun went onto to fly another 250 missions in the JU 87, seeing action during the German invasion of Crete where he was awarded the Knights Cross for his roll in sinking a British destroyer and later, the German Gold Cross for gallantry during the Russian campaign.
Surviving the war, Pekrun died in 2005 with his aircraft being excavated in 1999 when aviation archaeologists discovered his JU 87’s engine, shattered cockpit, parachute and the remains of Pekrun’s gunner Heinrich Bassler, who was later buried with full honours at the German military cemetery in Lommel.
In an amazing postscript, the aviation archaeologists were able to confirm Pekrun’s story of narrowly escaping his burning JU 87 when they unearthed his pistol and holster - still wrapped around the cockpit canopy handle!
Buried deep in the mud, the JU 87’s Jumo engine was finally uncovered and found to be in surprisingly good condition although the large, under-slung chin radiator cooler had been totally sheared off its mounts beneath the engine.
The Radiator's Data Plate was prised off the pancaked radiator grill's surround and although dented, can be seen here still very readable.
At its top it bears the logo and initials of BEHR with the name of its founder, Julius FR. Behr above the company's address in the village of Feuerbach, Stuttgart.
Julius had established a small workshop in Feuerbach in 1905 to manufacture radiators and tachometers for the fledgling German car industry under the name Süddeutsche Kühlerfabrik Julius Fr. Behr (Southern German Radiator Factory Julius Fr. Behr).
A trained engineer, Julius was soon developing fin systems for airplanes and added coolers for special vehicles to the company's product range. By 1917 BEHR had become the preferred supplier for many of Germany’s leading car manufacturers including Daimler Benz and Opel and were also supplying engine radiator coolers for the giant post WWI Zeppelin airships such as the Hindenberg.
In 1930 after the death of his father, his son, Manfred Behr successfully steered the company through the great depression, emerging to become the leading supplier of transportation engine cooling systems in the world with a particular focus on the aviation industry.
With the commencement of WWII, BEHR began working closely with the Luftwaffe’s aeronautical and engineering group to develop radiator cooling systems for some of their primary fighters and bombers such as the BF 109, BF 110 and Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber. It also supplied radiators for the German Army’s Volkswagen light vehicle transports and troop carriers.
Surviving the war, today BHER provides engine cooling systems for the worlds leading aircraft and automobile manufacturers.
Bearing the JU 87 T6 + CA’s Werk number - 5136, the circular, upper wing inspection hatch still retains some of its German dark green paintwork although its hinge had been ripped off from the aircraft’s crash.
All Luftwaffe aircraft were allocated a ‘Werk No’ unique to that aircraft with each of its thousands of component stencilled with the Werk number for ease of maintenance.
In 2010, the town of Geetbets purchased Pekrun’s Jumo 211D engine and after having it restored, displays it under glass in the town's square along with a memorial plaque telling its amazing story.
Together with the Radiator Cooler Data Plate, this Recover Curios Collectable represents an unique and extremely rare memento of the fierce aerial battles waged over Europe during WWII.
Mounted on their 100yr old mango wood display stand with engraved plaque and highly detailed large scale model of Deiter Pekrun’s JU 87 perched atop its removable magnetic arm, the Data Plate and Wing Inspection Hatch also come with a detailed Fact Sheet telling the story of this incredible aircraft and the pilot and crew who flew it.
* Note that this JU 87 Collectable is pictured with a 1/48 scale model rather than the standard detailed, but smaller 1/72 scale. Click on the 'Model Upgrade' option at the top of this page for the larger 1/48 scale.
This Ju 87 collectable comes complete with highly detailed 1/72 or super detailed 1/48 Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of collectable on aircraft.
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