the single runway available, the airlift demanded
more support personnel and equipment.
Against the odds, the Luftwaffe succeeded,
enabling the Axis forces to force a narrow strip to
the west in mid-May.
But the reprieve was short-lived. Late that year,
the Luftwaffe was unable to repeat the Demyansk
success at Stalingrad, leading to the surrender of
more than 100,000 Axis troops in February 1943.
Almost lost in the shadow of Messerschmitt
Bf 109 aces and Junkers Ju 87 Stuka heroes,
the lowly Junkers trimotor “Tante Ju” (“Auntie
Junkers”) proved the most important German
aircraft of all.
Around the Globe
Military theorists always stressed the offensive
nature of military aviation, as noted in Alexander
Seversky’s 1942 treatise Victory through Air Power.
The combined Anglo-American strategic-bombing
campaign began in Northern Europe that year,
while Germany, Italy, and Japan maintained
their own offensives. But aviation also won significant defensive victories at two beleaguered
islands on opposite sides of the planet: Malta and
At year’s end, airpower was poised to demonstrate its war-winning influence along the lofty
highways in the airy ocean of the sky.
A Soviet counteroffensive caught
100,000 Axis troops around Demyansk,
south of Leningrad. The only option was
supply by air.