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Stuka! and the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago

14 April 2010

Stuka! and the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago

41º 52′ 04″ N / 87º 37′ 02″ W

The Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago is unusual in many ways. It is the largest MOSI in the USA, it is in the old Chicago Field Museum (so it is in a grand building of stone construction), it has one of only two Junkers Ju-87 Stukas that exist and it has one of only three remaining WW II Kriegsmarine U-boats — the U-505.

The Stuka epitomized the new Blitzkrieg strategy unleashed by Germany in WW II. Aircraft designs changed with rapidity and innovation during the 1930s and the 1940s — often an airplane became outdated after only a few years as technology and changing strategies outstripped its capabilities. The Ju-87 was in its prime at the outset of WW II but soon became obsolete. Its accuracy was excellent as the Stuka would be placed into a 60°–90º dive until about 1500 feet (~460m) above ground level. The Ju-87 also had an anti-blackout mechanism that would activate upon the 6G dive recovery — flying the aircraft in climb for a few moments should the pilot become incapacitated from the pull out forces. But the fixed gear and low speed rendered the aircraft to deployment in battles where air supremacy was in the hands of the Luftwaffe, as the craft was easy prey to modern day fighters. Ingeniously these aircraft were meant for easy shipping, as well as repair, as they could be disassembled into three components for railroad transport. These subassemblies were interchangeable for quicker repairs in the field — to better keep up with the fast moving Blitzkrieg strategy.

Junkers Ju-87 Stuka in tropical camouflage photo by Joe May

Junkers Ju-87 Stuka in tropical camouflage — photo by Joe May

The Stuka on display, suspended overhead as if diving, is in the desert colors of the German North African forces. It has damage to it, more the better, as the aircraft looks as if it was taken from the forward airfield where it was captured in Libya a mere few days ago.

Junkers Ju-87 Stuka photo by Joe May

Junkers Ju-87 Stuka — photo by Joe May

There are a few more aircraft as well as several railroad exhibits but it is the U-505 that is the rarest of items on display. She is the only Kriegsmarine Type IXC submarine on exhibit. WW II Germany had two main types of U-boats, the Type VII* and the Type IX. The IX was the larger of the two and the U-505 has been perfectly restored. Two large entries have been cut into her portside so that visitors can tour the vessel. Tours are in groups for an additional fee and run from just aft of the forward torpedo room to the engine room bulkhead.

The U-505, Kriegsmarine Type IXC U-boat — photo by Joe May

The U-505, Kriegsmarine Type IXC U-boat — photo by Joe May

Traveling to the museum is easy, as one may expect since Chicago is a modern city with two airports and excellent public transportation. Airlines serve both O’Hare International Airport and Chicago Midway International Airport** with train and bus service to the city from both  hubs. There is no nearby subway stop to the museum but buses are plentiful and routes can be found on the Chicago Transit Authority web site. There is a fee to see the museum which allows one to see the exterior of the U-505, another small fee allow one to randomly joining a group, with groups touring ever 45 minutes. The basement has additional exhibits and a spacious McDonald’s restaurant.

* A Type VII U-Boat U-995 is on display, also with interior access, in Laboe Germany.

** There is a Douglas SBD Dauntless suspended at the entrance of Terminal A. This exhibition is described in the post, Chicago’s Midway International Airport has a secret.

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