Prewar civil use
In 1932, James A. Richardson's Canadian Airways received (Werknummer 4006) CF-ARM, the sixth ever-built Ju 52/1m. The aircraft, first re-fitted with an Armstrong Siddeley Leopard radial engine and then later with a Rolls-Royce Buzzard and nicknamed the "Flying Boxcar" in Canada, could lift approximately three tons and had a maximum weight of 7 tonnes (8 tons). It was used to supply mining and other operations in remote areas with equipment too big and heavy for other aircraft then in use. The Ju 52/1m was able to land on wheels, skis or floats.
Before the nationalisation of the German aircraft industry in 1935, the Ju 52/3m was produced principally as a 17-seat airliner. It was used mainly by Luft Hansa and could fly from Berlin to Rome in eight hours. The Luft Hansa fleet eventually numbered 80 and flew from Germany on routes in Europe, Asia and South America.
Military use 1932–1945
The Colombian Air Force used three Ju 52/3mde bombers equipped as floatplanes during the Colombia-Peru War in 1932–1933. After the war, the air force acquired three other Ju 52mge as transports; the type remained in service until after World War II.
Bolivia acquired four Ju 52s in the course of the Chaco War (1932–1935), mainly for medical evacuation and air supply. During the conflict, the Ju 52s alone transported more than 4,400 tons of cargo to the front.
In 1934, Junkers received orders to produce a bomber version of the Ju 52/3m to serve as interim equipment for the bomber units of the still-secret Luftwaffe until it could be replaced by the purpose designed Dornier Do 11. Two bomb bays were fitted, capable of holding up to 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) of bombs, while defensive armament consisted of two 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns, one in an open dorsal position, and one in a retractable "dustbin" ventral position, which could be manually winched down from the fuselage to protect the aircraft from attacks from below. The bomber could be easily converted to serve in the transport role. The Dornier Do 11 was a failure, however, and the Junkers ended up being acquired in much larger numbers than at first expected, with the type being the Luftwaffe's main bomber until more modern aircraft such as the Heinkel He 111, Junkers Ju 86 and Dornier Do 17 entered into service.
The Ju 52 first saw military service in the Spanish Civil War against the Spanish Republic. It was one of the first aircraft delivered to the fraction of the army in revolt in July 1936 as both a bomber and transport. In the former role, it participated in the bombing of Guernica. No more of the bomber variant were built after this war, though it was again used as a bomber during the bombing of Warsaw during the Invasion of Poland of September 1939. The Luftwaffe then relied on the Ju 52 for transport roles during World War II, including paratroop drops.
World War II
While in use by the Deutsche Lufthansa the Ju 52 had proved to be an extremely reliable passenger airplane and was, therefore, adopted by the Luftwaffe as a standard aircraft model. In 1938, the 7th Air Division had five air transport groups with 250 Ju 52s. The Luftwaffe had 552 Ju 52s at the start of World War II. Even though it was built in great numbers, the Ju.52 was technically obsolete. Between 1939 and 1944, 2.804 Ju 52s were delivered to the Luftwaffe (1939: 145; 1940: 388; 1941: 502; 1942:503; 1943:887; and 1944:379). The production of Ju 52s continued until approximately the summer of 1944; when the war came to an end, there were still 100 to 200 available.
The Ju 52 could carry eighteen fully equipped soldiers, or twelve stretchers when used as an air ambulance. Transported material was loaded and unloaded through side doors by means of a ramp. Air dropped supplies were jettisoned through two double chutes; supply containers were dropped by parachute through the bomb-bay doors, and paratroopers jumped through the side doors. Half-track motorcycles (kettenkraftrad) and parachute troops' supply canisters were secured under the fuselage at the bomb bay exits and were dropped with four parachutes. A tow coupling was built into the tail-skid for use in towing freight gliders. The Ju 52 could tow up to two DFS 230 gliders.
Heavy losses in combat
The first major operation for the aircraft was in Operation Weserübung, the attack on Denmark and Norway on 9 April 1940. Fifty-two Ju 52s from 1. and 8. Staffel in Kampfgeschwader 1 transported a company of Fallschirmjäger and a battalion of infantry to the northern part of Jutland, and captured the airfield at Aalborg, vital to support the operation in southern Norway. Several hundred Ju 52s were used to transport troops to Norway in the first days of this campaign.
Later, Ju 52's participated in the attack on the Netherlands on 10 May 1940, where they were deployed in the first large-scale air attack with paratroops in history during the Battle for The Hague. No fewer than 295 Ju 52s were lost in that venture and in other places in the country, due to varying circumstances, among which were accurate and effective Dutch anti-aircraft defences and German mistakes in using soggy airfields not able to support the heavy craft. On 10 May alone, 278 were downed or disabled, making this day unequaled in military history as no-where else were so many planes lost of one type on one day, including the Battle of Britain. (In total on that day, 512 planes went down, another never challenged world record).
Thus, almost an entire year's production was lost in one day in the Netherlands. The lack of sufficient numbers of aircraft most probably heavily influenced the decision not to invade England following the Battle of Britain.
After the campaign in the West, the air transport units were brought up to their pre-Holland strength and were assembled at airfields in the Lyon, Lille, and Arras areas in August 1940. Probably this was done using new and repaired aircraft augmented by other transport planes like the FW-200 Condor and the Ju 90.
The next major use of the Ju 52 was in the Balkans campaign, most famously in the Battle of Crete in May 1941. Lightly armed, and with a top speed of only 265 km/h (165 mph) – half that of a contemporary Hurricane – the Ju 52 was very vulnerable to fighter attack and an escort was always necessary when flying in a combat zone. Many Ju 52's were shot down by anti-aircraft guns and fighters while transporting supplies, most notably during the desperate attempt to resupply the trapped German Sixth Army during the final stages of the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–1943.
During the North African Campaign, the Ju 52 was the mainstay reinforcement and resupply transport for the Germans, starting with 20 to 50 flights a day to Tunisia from Sicily in November 1942, building to 150 landings a day in early April as the Axis situation became more desperate. The Allied air forces developed a counter-air operation over a two-month period and implemented Operation Flax on 5 April 1943, destroying 11 Ju 52s in the air near Cap Bon and many more during bombing attacks on its Sicilian airfields, leaving only 29 flyable. That began two catastrophic weeks in which more than 140 were lost in air interceptions, culminated on 18 April with the infamous "Palm Sunday Massacre" in which 24 Ju 52's were shot down and another 35 staggered back to Sicily and crash-landed.
The seaplane version, equipped with two large floats, served during the Norwegian Campaign in 1940, and later in the Mediterranean theatre. Some Ju 52's, both floatplanes and landplanes, were also used as minesweepers, known as Minensuch — literally, "mine-search" aircraft in German — fitted with a 14 m diameter current-carrying degaussing ring under the airframe to create a magnetic field that triggered submerged naval mines.
Hitler's personal transport
Hitler used a Deutsche Luft Hansa Ju 52 for campaigning in the 1932 German election, preferring flying to transport by train. After he became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hans Baur became his personal pilot, and Hitler was provided with a personal Ju 52. Named Immelmann II after the World War I ace Max Immelmann, it carried the registration D-2600. As his power and importance grew, Hitler's personal air force grew to nearly 50 aircraft, based at Berlin Tempelhof Airport and made up of mainly Ju 52s, which also flew other members of his cabinet and war staff. In September 1939 at Baur's suggestion, his personal Ju 52 Immelmann II was replaced by the four-engine Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor, although Immelman II remained his backup aircraft for the rest of World War II.
Chiang Kai-shek's personal transport
Eurasia was the main Chinese Airliner Company in the 1930s and Ju 52 was the main airliner plane. One of them was commandeered by the Chinese Nationalist Party Government and became Chiang Kai-shek's personal transport.
Various Junkers Ju 52s continued in military and civilian use following World War II. In 1956, the Portuguese Air Force, who was already using the Ju 52s as a transport plane, employed the type as a paratroop drop aircraft for its newly organized elite parachute forces, later known as the Batalhão de Caçadores Páraquedistas. The paratroopers used the Ju 52 in several combat operations in Angola and other Portuguese African colonies before gradually phasing it out of service in the 1960s.
The Swiss Air Force also operated the Ju 52 from 1939 to 1982 when three aircraft remained in operation, probably the last and longest service in any air force. Museums hoped to obtain the aircraft, but they were not for sale. They are still in flying condition and together with a CASA 352 can be booked for sightseeing tours with Ju-Air. During the 1950s the Ju 52 was also used by the French Air Force during the First Indochina War as a bomber. The usage of these Junkers was quite limited.
The Spanish Air Force operated the Ju 52, nicknamed Pava, until well into the 1970s. Escuadrón 721 flying the Spanish-built versions, was employed in training parachutists from Alcantarilla Air Base near Murcia.
Some military Ju 52s were converted to civilian use. For example, British European Airways operated eleven ex-Luftwaffe Ju 52/3mg8e machines, taken over by the RAF, between 1946 and retirement in 1947 on intra-U.K. routes before the Douglas DC-3 was introduced to the airline. French airlines such as Societe de Transports Aeriens (STA) and Air France flew Toucans in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
A Ju 52 and a Douglas DC-3 were the last aircraft to take off from Berlin Tempelhof Airport before all operations ceased there on October 30, 2008.
Most Ju 52s were destroyed after the war, but 585 were manufactured after 1945. In France, the machine had been manufactured during the war by the Junkers-controlled Avions Amiot company, and production continued afterwards as the Amiot AAC 1 Toucan. In Spain, Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA continued production as the CASA 352 and 352L. Four CASA 352s are airworthy and in regular use today.
A CASA-built Ju52/3m appears in the opening sequence of the 1968 Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood film Where Eagles Dare.