The year is 1939, in western Poland, the sound of Hitler’s ruthless war machine swiftly advancing through the country’s defenses is ringing in the ears of soldiers lying waiting in defensive positions to face off against the Wehrmacht.
Amidst the distant explosions of artillery barrages and the organized chaos of the frontlines, comes a piercing scream. Is it an animal? Is it a dying man? Or is it a ghost?
Before anyone could figure out what was making that sound, it became louder and louder and louder, disorientating and instilling fear into the soldiers as the air filled with dozens of these terrible screaming monsters. Meanwhile, the average Polish Infantryman could do nothing but- dive into a nearby trench for cover from whatever it was.
I am of course talking about the Junkers Ju-87 Sturzkampfflugzeug, also known as the Stuka Dive bomber (It is a bit weird to call it that since ‘Stuka’ is an abbreviation for ‘Sturzkampfflugzeug’ which itself means- ‘diving fighter plane’ or ‘dive-bomber’. So ‘Stuka Dive bomber’ means- ‘Dive bomber-Dive-bomber’😅).
During the Second World War, Hitler’s military adopted a lightning war strategy. The Panzer divisions were instructed to overwhelm the enemy with speed and encirclement maneuvers. At the spearhead of these panzer divisions were the infamous Stukas.
The WW1 Flying Ace Ernst Udet who was also a general in the Luftwaffe in WW2 came up with the idea to fit two unpowered wooden propellers below the Stuka’s wings which would drive air into slits producing the iconic wailing sound of the “Jericho Trumpet”/ “Stuka Siren”. The sirens were meant to scare and disorient the enemy (as if the BOMBS weren’t already bad enough🙄).
Sound Of Death.
The unfortunate souls on the ground under a diving Stuka feared the siren almost as much as the bombs that followed its scream.
“The noise from the siren of the diving aircraft drills into your ear and tears at your nerves. You feel as though you want to scream and roar”-Levine, J. Dunkirk, The History Behind The Major Motion Picture.
The Siren was extremely effective at intimidating the enemy. As a result, they sometimes gave up on trying to shoot the plane down.
“… they [French artillery men] simply stopped firing and went to the ground, the infantry cowered in the trenches, dazed by the crash of the bombs and the shriek of the dive-bombers”-General Edouard Ruby.
If you want to see how terrifying these sirens were, you might want to check out the movie Dunkirk. It has one of the best portrayals of the utter chaos caused among the ranks of allied soldiers as a Stuka came diving down upon them with its banshee-like scream.
This post was just part 1 of this series, exploring the weird ways militaries have tried to weaponize sound. Sound has been used as a psychological as well as a literal weapon in militaries. Stay tuned for part 2 with more terrifying Sonic weapons!