Underwater salvage of a Luftwaffe Ju87D-3 Stuka off the coast of Rodos

On 5 October 2006, the HAF Underwater Operations Team (KΟΣΥΘΕ) successfully carried out the salvage of a Luftwaffe Ju87D-3/Trop Stuka, from a depth of 15 metres, half a mile off the coast of Prassonisi at Rodos (Rhodes) island.

According to a combination of available historical data, it appears that the aircraft is most probably S7+GM (100375), crewed by Lt. Rolf Metzger & Uffz. Hans Sopnemann – both MIA), which was shot down on 9 October 1943.

On that very day the II/St.G. 3 lost a total of nine Ju 87D-3/Trop when they were intercepted during their mission against Royal Navy and Hellenic Navy ships in the Aegean. Of these nine, seven crashed into the sea and two made emergency landings on Rodos. A week before, German troops had landed on the island of Kos, which fell the next day. On 9 October 1943, HMS cruiser “Carlisle” and other destroyers, returning from a sweep west of Kos, were dive-bombed SW of Rodos Island by a formation of Ju-87 Stukas. “Carlisle” was seriously damaged and HMS destroyer “Panther” was sunk. Most of her crew were saved by the RHN destroyer “Miaoulis”, which has also claimed firing against the Ju-87 formation and probably hit a couple of them.

According to information supplied by HAF Museum experts, from a first inspection of the fuselage, it is suggested that the aircraft has most probably been hit by aircraft fire. In this case, a plausible explanation is that it was downed by P-38s (Ligtning) belonging to USAAF 37th Fighter Squadron, led by the famous double Ace Major William Leverette. On that same day, seven P-38s on a mission to protect RN warships in the Mediterranean sighted a formation of 30 German Ju-87 dive bombers. Following fierce dogfights, 37th Sq has claimed downing several Luftwaffe Stukas and a Ju-88.

Almost sixty years after her loss, in October 2004, the wreck was caught to the net of the fishing boat “Konstantinos” belonging to Captain Spyros Varvaris from Kalymnos Island, seven miles off the southern cape of Rodos. It was then dragged all the way to shallow waters and the incident was reported to the Hellenic Coast Authorities. Given the historical importance of the aircraft, the HAF General Staff decided to proceed to its salvage. The precise position of the wreck was pointed out by diver Yannis Glinatsis, resident of Rodos. Following this, the aircraft was videotaped by the HAF divers in order to determine the optimum salvage method. Technical drawings were made available by the HAF Museum, while HAF experts suggested the strongest points, from which the aircraft could safely be suspended and lifted. All these were taken into consideration by the HAF diving engineers, who have more than 20 years accumulated experience in salvage and deep submergence operations, including the successful salvage of a RAF Blenheim in 1996 at Crete (and another one at Prespes Lake), a Ju-52/3m off Leros Island, not to mention several modern fighters, fire-fighters and helicopters (including a CH 47/D from the unprecedented depth of 960 metres!). All the above led to an exceptionally precise weighing of the A/C, which was smoothly lifted from the seabed intact.

Soon after the aircraft was brought to the surface, the HAF Museum technicians took care of her. The plane was washed with water and special chemicals were applied in order to avoid corrosion due to exposure to the atmospheric air. Following this, the aircraft will be taken to the local airfield of Maritsa, where first degree restoration will be applied. The outer parts of the wings will properly be dismantled and the plane will be shipped to the HAF Museum at Dekeleia Air Base, Tatoi, where a full restoration programme will be carried out. It is anticipated that the Stuka will be available for viewing during the HAF Celebration Day on 8 November 2006 which this year is dedicated to the participation of HAF in WWII.

Those who would like to pay a visit to Dekeleia Air Base on that day should contact the HAF Museum at the following numbers: +30 210 8195254 (5255, 5265) or fax at: +30 210 2461661.

Views of the submerged aircraft

Snapshots from the salvage operation

Buoyancy baloons are surfacing

The Ju-87 surfaces after 63 years

The aircraft is hoisted

The HAF U.O. Team after the successful salvage