German nuclear weapons research
was competitive with American research, as German physicists made important discoveries in nuclear reactor construction, isotope separation, and heavy water production.
A variety of factors kept Nazi Germany from the breakthroughs needed for a nuclear bomb, including interference from the government, the expulsion of Jewish physicists, and other doctors being drafted and sent into combat and limited resources. But their findings later became key to Allied nuclear weapons research in the Cold War.
The World’s First Mass-Produced Helicopter
Both the Axis and Allies were developing helicopter technology, but Germany got there first in terms of actual production. The Flettner Fl 282
became the world’s first large-scale produced helicopter, with prototypes taking off in 1941, and a full order for 1,000 machines placed in 1944. Allied bombing destroyed the Flettner factory after only 24 had come off the line, but those machines were used for artillery spotting and reconnaissance until the last days of the conflict. Three survived the war.
The German project codenamed ” Silbervogel
” was a theoretical design for a sub-orbital bomber aircraft that would have been able to attain 90 miles in height and bomb New York when launched from Germany. The aircraft got as far as a wind-tunnel mockup, and work done on the design continues to influence rocket and ramjet technology today.
Sophisticated Jet Fighters and Bombers
While the ME-262 became famous as the first operational jet fighter, Germany had a wide range of other jet fighters and bombers in various developmental stages. Some saw limited action, and others never made it off the drawing board. The most effective was the Arado Ar-234
jet bomber, used in very limited numbers at the end of the war – and virtually impossible to intercept in flight. Other prominent designs were the Ta-283 interceptor, the P.1101
swept-wing fighter, the Ta-400
long range bomber, and the Fa-269 VTOL fighter.
If used effectively and in large numbers, these planes might have shifted the balance of power in the skies over Europe. But the war ended long before this could take place.
Guided Missile Submarines
German researchers attempted on several occasions to mount rockets
on U-Boats for the purposes of missile attacks on the East Coast of the US. The first was simply mounting a six-barreled rocket launcher on the deck of a sub, which was done in 1941 with U-511. The rockets both on the surface and up to 12 meters underwater, but without a guidance system, the rockets wouldn’t be effective.
Other attempts were made to mount both V1 and V2 rockets on submarines, but the experiments didn’t get far, due to technical limitations and inter-service rivalry. Allied war planners did create contingency plans
to stop a large force of these missile subs, and intercepted a fleet of subs they incorrectly thought were on their way to attack the US.
Giant Super Cannons
Known by a variety of nicknames, including the V3 and the “London Gun,” the German super powered cannon was a gigantic artillery piece that could shell the British capital from tunnels dug into fields near the coast of France. When complete, the cannon was 140 meters long and could fire a 140 kilogram shell at a target over 165 kilometers away. It fired through a series of charges igniting down the barrel, increasing the speed of the shell as it went.
The cannon was immobile and impractical, and became an inviting target for Allied bombers, but did manage to fire a few shells.
The Arado E.555 and Horton HO 229 jet bombers were Germany’s prime candidates to fly from Europe to New York for the purposes of dropping an atomic bomb. They used the same flying wing designs and low radar profile that the B-2 bomber would later adapt.
If the war had dragged on and Germany had the resources to complete the bomber and nuclear projects, they could have destroyed Manhattan without anyone seeing it coming.
Guided Point-Defense Rockets
Decades before the Patriot Missile was knocking Scuds out of the sky, German aircraft engineers developed the Bachem Ba 349 guided point-defense rocket. The manned rocket would be flown by an inexperienced pilot, launched from a vertical stand, and flown by auto-pilot to attack Allied bombers. The pilot would then fire a load of rockets, and parachute out of the vehicle, which would also fall back to earth via parachute.
Three dozen rockets and a launch site were built, with plans to fire the first squadron on Hitler’s birthday. But the program was cancelled on March 1, when the first manned launch ended with the rocket spinning out and exploding, killing the test pilot.
Man-Portable Anti-Aircraft Rockets
Long before such weapons became commonly issued, Nazi Germany developed a man-portable air defense weapon
– the Fliegerfaust
(literally “plane fist” in German). The multi-barreled air-to-ground rocket launcher was designed to fire between 4 and 9 20 millimeter unguided rockets up to 500 meters, though this range was never achieved. The rockets tended to disperse poorly and showed little stopping power against a moving plane, so of the 10,000 launchers ordered, only about 80 were made.
Their eventual usage history is unknown, though one photograph of the ruins of Berlin clearly shows fired and discarded Fliegerfaust
Gigantic Mega Tanks
German tank technology was second to none in World War II. But beyond the already superior machines they were fielding, Germany was working on a variety of heavy, super heavy, and gigantic tanks. Most infamous
of these were the P.1000 Ratte and P.1500 Monster
tanks, which would have weighed, respectively, 1,000 and 1,500 tons.
These two massive tanks would have been more comparable to battleships with treads, armed with naval guns and crewed by dozens of men. Neither design was the least bit practical, and the tanks never got past the mockup stage. But if built, they would have been almost indestructible by any means other than heavy bombing.
Beyond using guided V1 and V2 rockets to terrorize civilians, the Germans made use of guided anti-ship glide bombs (the “Fritz X”) and guided air-dropped anti-ship missiles. They also had prototypes for man-portable guided missiles, television-guided surface to air missiles, and wire-guided air to air missiles.
None of these weapons had any appreciable impact on the war effort, and most never advanced beyond the testing stages. But they pioneered technology that would form the core of modern armies for decades to come.
Virtually nothing is known about the small, one man spherical tank the Germans built, except that it somehow ended up in Manchuria and was captured by the Russians. The “Kugelpanzer
” still sits in a museum in Moscow, unexamined by Western scientists.
What is it for? Were there more of them? Was it even a real vehicle, or a dummy mocked up by someone for unknown reasons? It’s likely that nobody will ever know.
Orbital Mirror Lasers
The German “Sun Gun” was to be a concave mirror one mile in diameter, launched into space and used to reflect and focus light from the sun onto a point on the Earth. Based on the theoretical work of German scientist Herman Oberth, it later was worked on by Nazi researchers looking for a magical weapon to turn the tide of the war.
It’s not clear if the Sun Gun was anything more than a fantasy, though a Life Magazine article from 1945 uses unnamed sources in the US Army to suggest that the crew would live in the mirror, and that the weapon could have been ready as early as the year 2000.
The Sun Gun is a good place to take this list from the theoretical to the realm of conspiracy theories. None of what follows actually was developed by the Nazis, but instead is attached to them through Internet chatter, rumor, and urban legend.
Chief among these is the ” Nazi UFO
” conspiracy. This holds that the Germans recovered crashed alien craft or discovered alien technology in Antarctica to reverse engineer flying saucers. These craft were used to ferry high-ranking Nazis to safety in the final days of the war, and then retreated to space or the Moon to prepare for the coming Fourth Reich. No evidence exists to support these theories.
Those Nazi UFOs have to go somewhere, and that’s where the supposed “Darkside Moonbase” comes in. Conspiracy theorists believe that in the closing days of the war, the Nazis evacuated their highest ranking politicians and scientists and took them to the Moon in their flying saucers. There, they established a base on the dark side, away from prying eyes and spacecraft, and are about to unleash their renewed assault on the planet.
The proof of this base is supposedly censored images from various NASA probes that show “structures” on the moon. Of course, these pictures don’t show anything like that, only blobby pixels that could be interpreted to be just about anything. But the only way we’ll know if it’s true is if the Fourth Reich shows up to pick a fight with us.
How does a Nazi UFO fly, anyway? Possibly through anti-gravity technology, developed by SS scientists working on an ultra secret project known only as “Die Glocke” – The Bell.
According to Polish writer Igor Witkowski, who claimed to have access to stolen transcripts of an SS officer’s interrogation, the Nazis built a massive rig to hold up a bell-shaped craft. This craft was able to launch itself off the ground using the power of “red mercury” and achieve propulsion without an engine. As the war was coming to an end, all of the scientists involved were supposedly killed and the Bell itself was taken away by the US. Witkowski’s evidence is complete conjecture, as is all of the follow-up “research” done on The Bell. But it makes for one of the most compelling Nazi “wonder weapon” stories out there.
Another feature of “Die Glocke” that has been theorized is an ability to see through time. This would be done through the use of a convex mirror on the top of a device, theorized by author Henry Stevens. Others have speculated that The Bell itself is a time machine, giving the person inside it the capability to move into the past.
Theoretically, Hitler himself could have been sent back in time using Die Glocke to found the Nazi Party, ensuring that Die Glocke would be built to send him back in time to found the Nazi Party, ensuring that Die Glocke would be built to send him back in time…
We move from science fiction to pure conspiracy theory here, with accusations that the Nazis are somehow linked to the creation of aspartame
. This is the artificial sweetener thought by some to cause brain damage and mental slavery, though no reputable research backs this up. However, aspartame wasn’t synthesized until 1965, when James M. Schlatter developed it by accident while working at Searle, the company that later became Pfizer.
Despite decades of scientific research declaring the addition of fluoride to water supplies to be safe and beneficial, many people still believe it’s nothing more than government mandated mind control. One of these people is Australian zealot Ian E. Stephens, who wrote a pamphlet that quoted another anti-fluoride researcher, Charles Perkins, who in turn quoted nameless “German scientists.”
These men supposedly told Perkins that the Nazis actually developed fluoride and used it in large doses in POW camps to subdue and enslave prisoners. This research was then exported to the US, where cities and towns around the country use it to keep the masses down. Needless to say, no solid evidence exists to confirm these allegations – not even the names of the German scientists who made these claims.
Finally, an urban legend has existed for decades that says the Nazis were responsible for inventing the microwave oven, and that microwaving food is actually harmful to humans, killing all its nutrients and causing cancer.
No credible science supports the cancer causing accusation. As to the claim that the Nazis developed the microwave oven, it usually presents itself as a rumor that German troops invading the Soviet Union carried a primitive portable microwave called a “radiomissor
” that could heat their food in the field.
The problem with this theory is that not only is there no proof, but the power of microwaves to cook food wasn’t documented until 1946. Additionally, microwave ovens run on electricity, and Russia’s electrical grid in the ’40s was too primitive to power any such machine.