By the second half of 1944, the military capabilities of Nazi Germany ebbed. Their opponents, led by the Soviet Union, the U.S. and the British Empire, relentlessly attacked Hitler’s troops from two fronts. The Allies, thanks to their superior manpower and resources, had now the upper hand. Was Hitler delusional, when he kept telling his generals, and the people of Germany, that the Wunderwaffe (miracle weapons), would grant them the final victory? Or there was truth behind his words?
Some Wunderwaffe were simple blueprints, and many had defects, some unsolvable and others not, which made them unsuitable for combat. However, some made it to the battlefield, and only time, and shortage of materials, prevented the Nazis of making full use of its capabilities to advance on their goal of world domination. Let’s explore ten Wunderwaffe, that could have helped the Nazis, win World War Two.
The famous, or infamous (if you ask the Londoners) V-1, for it was in London, where this flying bomb wreaked havoc. Nicknamed ‘Doodlebug’, or ‘buzz bomb’, this hybrid of aircraft and rocket missile, could reach speeds of 400mph (644kph), faster than most Allied aircraft, which made it difficult to intercept.
It was first launched on 13 June 1944, probably too late to have a serious impact on the war, but still it terrified the Londoners, who sat anxiously, listening the sound of the V-1 engines, knowing in a few seconds the lethal rocket would reach them, capable enough of killing hundreds and devastating the area where it landed.
More than 9.000 V-1 were launched against South-England, and later on, as the launching sites in France were captured, V-1s were thrown against Belgium too. Only when the Peenemünde Army Research Center was captured, the V-1 ceased to fly. Barrage balloons and some speedy aircraft proved useful at intercepting them, and their accuracy was somewhat disappointing, but still, the V-1 costed the Allies more than 20.000 casualties.
Who said second parts are always bad? Usually yes, but not when resourceful and creative Nazi scientists, work in deadly weapons. The V-1 was a impressive cruise missile, but the bigger and faster V-2, took it on a new level. Together with the V-1, were casually known in Germany as Vergeltungswaffen (retaliatory weapons), and the Nazi leaders had them in mind as means to avenge the bombing of their cities by Allied aircraft.
The V-2 was not only an effective demoralisation tool against the Britons, but it is also the proud daddy of the modern ICBM, or intercontinental ballistic missiles. In other words, the nuclear missiles that the US, China and Russia will use to shoot at each other and destroy the world, shall they decide to push the red button. The V-2 was the first man-made object to achieve suborbital spaceflight, and it could easily break the speed of sound, travelling at 3,500 mph (5,630kph). The V-2 were virtually soundless, but its supersonic boom could be discerned by attentive ears. It had a range of 225 miles (362 km), and more than 3,000 were launched in Paris, London, Antwerp and Liège, from September 1944 onwards.
The explosion caused by a V-2 was enormous, and its craters were reported as 60ft (18m) wide and 16ft (5m) deep, forcing Londoners to seek shelter in the deep tunnels of the Tube stations. These rockets caused more than 9,000 casualties, and dragged the morale of the Brits at its lowest point during the conflict. Only its late appearance, and problems of guidance like its forerunner the V-1, prevented the V-2 of giving the Nazis a tremendous and perhaps, decisive advantage.
3. Me 262
‘Can this plane carry bombs?’ Asked Hitler to the Me 262 creators, on 26th November 1943. He boasted: ‘In this aircraft, which you tell me is a fighter, I see the Blitzbomber with which I will repulse the invasion in its initial and weakest phase’. The little Austrian caporal was wrong once more, and on June 6th 1944, the invasion in Normandy caught him and his Nazi pals casually reading the newspaper in the toilet.
The Messerschmitt Me 262, was the first world’s operational jet-powered fighter, being 100 mph (161 kph) faster than any Allied aircraft, and rather than supporting a jet fighter that would have outmanoeuvred Allied fighters, Hitler chose to ignore it in favour of bigger bombers, to pound his ever increasing enemies.
In April 1944 the Me 262 was already operational, and was being tested by a few squadrons. However, it had successfully flown as early as 1942, and only Hitler and Goering’s obsession with bombers, prevented such outstanding fighter to gain predominance in the Luftwaffe’s ranks. From 1943 onwards, the dominance of the skies by the Luftwaffe was in decline, and enemy bombers pulverised at ease the German cities, but had the Me 262 been deployed in larger quantities, and in earlier stages than 1944, it might have given the Luftwaffe a decisive edge over their winged foes.
During the 30’s and during WW2, there had been several sightings of lights, which dodged and sometimes even followed Allied aircraft, prompting pilots to nickname them ‘foo fighters’. After the war, rumours circulated that Nazi Germany had developed and even flew prototypes of flying saucers, including one by Miethe, who had worked in the V-2. Even Sir Albert Hubert Roy Fedden, an English aeronautical engineer, claimed that Nazi scientists had successfully developed a flying saucer.
The flying saucers have been a genuine topic of interest amongst Nazi scientists, but no examples of Nazi UFOs, if ever built, have survived to the day. Regarding the ‘foo fighters’, many theories had tried to explain the phenomena, light reflections, St. Elmo’s fire, battle fatigue, etc. However, it seems the phenomena stopped shortly after Germany was overrun by the Allies. A startling coincidence that gives one a lot to think, isn’t it?
The Panzerjäger, known by the cool name of hunting tiger, was the heaviest armoured fighting vehicle used in WW2. And precisely it was designed to destroying the commies’ tanks that so badly pissed the Nazis off. The Jagdtiger was thought as a modified version of the Tiger II tank, but somewhat heavier, and fitted with a 128 mm Pak 44 L/55 gun, which could reach targets that sometimes exceeded 2.2 miles (3,5 km). Basically meaning Allied tanks would be obliterated. Its frontal armour was almost ten inches thick, making it an almost invulnerable, though, motherf***** in the front.
However, the bigger the bloke the more ticklish on the sides, therefore, enemy tank guns could pierce it there. Only 88 units were produced and saw combat. Its outstanding overweight, 71.7 tonnes, and the consequential slowness, made it prone to mechanical failures. In addition to, the gun, although frightful, was crucially limited when it tried to rotate. Essentially the tank was only effective if the enemy came upfront and didn’t move much, a strategy one seldom follows if a 71 tonnes beast, comes rolling towards you.
6. Maus and Ratte
Most of the allied heavy tanks barely reached fifty tonnes, so you are probably thinking that the Jagdtiger was a fat ass. But in his megalomaniacal belief of the bigger the better, Hitler gave his eager approval for the development of two supper-heavy tanks, the Maus, and the Ratte.
The Maus (Mouse) was a 188 tonnes heavy tank, armed with the 128 mm Pak 44 L/55 gun, like the Jagdtiger. It was a massive fortified beast, but its size and weight, rendered it incapable of crossing bridges, more or less in the same fashion that some fat people can’t sit in folding chairs. As a consequence, their frustrated developers decided to throw it into the sea as a useless piece of crap. Just kidding. They did really threw it into the waters, but as an amphibious vehicle, that would be able to ford rivers and even submerge with a fitted snorkel. Only two Maus were completed, and none saw action.
And if you think that was the pinnacle of heavy Nazi tanks, think twice! For in his wisdom, Hitler realised that to win the war, he needed bigger. The Ratte project was given green light in 1943, not as a simple super-heavy tank like the Maus, but a landship, weighting more than a thousand tonnes. In fact, it was so big that it was proposed to arm such titan with naval artillery, a 280 mm 5h C/28 gun, just like the one that was used on the battleship Gneisenau. Meanwhile, the scales of the dragon would have been 10 inches (24.4 cm) thick, making it invulnerable to conventional weapons.
The project was cancelled when Albert Speer was promoted to minister of armament in 1943, as he deemed it unfeasible. Not only there was the question of how to power up the motion of such a mass, but also its size, 115 feet long, 36 feet high and 46 feet wide (35 x 11 x 14 m) and its 1000 tons belly, would have wrecked any road or tunnel it would have passed through. And even blind bombers would find it hard to miss such a giant bullseye.
7. Atomic Bomb
The US were the first to test and successfully use a nuclear bomb, if you can call successful a mass destruction weapon with the potential to erase all life in Earth. It is well-known that Nazi Germany was working on nuclear physics, both as a weapon, but also as a source of energy, for both civilian and military applications. It was known as the Uranium Club. But due the leak of Jewish scientists, fleeing from Germany’s anti-Semitic laws, and the conscription of many brilliant minds into the army, when war broke out in 1939, the investigation was critically bogged, and was eventually overtaken by the U.S. Project Manhattan.
But how close came the Nazis of building a nuclear weapon? Speculation begun to circle around an alleged test, as early as 1944, when test pilot Hans Zinsser, told Allied investigators that he spotted a mushroom-shaped cloud at about 23,000 feet high. In addition to, Italian corresponded Luigi Romersa claimed having been invited to witness a nuclear test. He described a concrete bunker with thick glass, the binding flash and a cloud of smoke shaped like a big flower. He was made to wait for a while, being told it was because the effects of the bomb. He portrayed the ground zero as carbonised, with nothing remaining alive.
Two later tests, in March 4th and 12th 1945, were allegedly conducted near the town of Ohrdruf, where rumours said the blasts killed more than 700 prisoners of the nearby concentration camp. The survivors were described as bearing untreatable burns and suffering of severe nosebleeds. Clare Werner, a nearby resident, described the explosion as bright as hundreds of bolts of lightning, followed by a powerful wind, nosebleeds, headaches and pressure in the ears. All could be easily dismissed as unfounded rumours, if not because the ground zero in Ohrdruf shows signs of a large explosion, and displays the highest level of background radiation in Germany.
The first recorded nuclear explosion, codenamed Trinity, was carried by the U.S. on July 16th 1945. Did the Nazis test overtook the Americans in 1944? Or in Ohrdruf, in March 1945? And if such was the case, why did Hitler never used it before the war ended? Why no nuclear bombs have been found yet?
8. The Bell
We all hate bells if in the early morning, having had too many the night before, the cursed thing of the nearby church starts tinkling loudly. But a bell can hardly kill you, unless it drops in your head, isn’t it? The Bell, or Die Glocke, is perhaps the Wunderwaffe that draws more into the occultism, and rumours of its existence and function, have been dismissed as a hoax and science fiction.
The Bell was described as a device shaped like a bell, which contained a liquid, maybe Mercury, stored in two cylinders. The cylinders spun in two directions, and the Bell emitted a blue light when that happened. Its metal core contained a substance called Xerum-525, theorised to be a compound of thorium, beryllium and mercury. When the Bell was switched on, the lights were said to flicker, and animals and people in the vicinity sickened and died. During the first tests between May and June 1944, five of the seven scientists involved perished, and the plants around were reported as turning grey. They remained alive for a week, afterwards dissolving into a substance described as looking like rancid fat.
The Bell is thought to have been placed in a huge underground complex known as Riese (giant), in a concrete framework called ‘The Henge’. Some have pointed the Bell as a device to test anti-gravity, even as a device to see images of the past, but modern analysis of ‘The Henge’, detected that it had been subjected to radioactive bombardment from neutrons. Therefore the Bell was possibly some radiation-related device, maybe to breed uranium or plutonium. It has been suggested as a particle accelerator, too.
Whatever the Bell was, or if it even existed, it seems connected to the nuclear investigation, and not a weapon in itself. But like many other evil Nazi projects, and giving the lack of evidence, it will remain more a matter of fantasy and speculation, rather than a palpable Wunderwaffe that could have altered the course of the war.
9. StG 44
Although not an unconventional weapon itself, the Sturmgewehr 44 (assault rifle 44), was the world’s first assault rifle. It entered service in September/October 1943 in the Eastern Front, proving from the first moment extremely satisfactory. It combined the continuing firing barrages of sub-machine guns, and the long distance range of a traditional rifle, and the Soviet authorities were so impressed by their enemy’s weapon, that set to work on their own rifle assault. The project came to fruition in 1947 with the AK-47 (Avtomat Kalashnikova), the world’s most widely produced automatic rifle.
The StG 44 used the 7.92×33mm Kurz cartridge, with a capacity of 25/30 bullets per magazine, and boasted a range between 300-600 yards, depending if the weapon fired at automatic or semi-automatic. Even Hitler gave its approval for the StG 44, for it could blast 500 rounds per minute upon the hapless Soviet Commies. Close to half a million were produced and it showed great efficiency, even in the cold, a very important requirement in the cold, cold, Russia. However, the massive costs of replacing the Kar98k, the official bolt-action rifle of the Wehrmacht, including its different ammunition, proved an impossible requirement to meet half the course of the war. Therefore it was decided the StG 44 was to be complimentary with other regular guns.
The AK-47 has a different design than the StG 44, but since the weapon had been known to the Soviet Union from late 1943, and it is the first operational rifle assault, it likely inspired Kalashnikov to create his iconic gun. Moreover, have the German Army had the StG 44 in wider availability and from the early onset of hostilities, it would have given the Landser (German veteran) the upper hand against his enemies’ rifles and sub-machine guns.
10. Schwerer Gustav
And last but not least: the super gun! Because as we have seen, in Hitler’s opinion, the bigger the better! And so Krupp, one of the main weapon manufacturers in Germany, designed in 1937, the biggest largest calibre rifled weapon, and called it Schwerer Gustav. With 1,350 impressive tonnes, it was the heaviest mobile artillery piece ever assembled. It was created as means to smash the Maginot Line, in the eventuality of a war with Germany, but by 1940, it wasn’t quite ready, so it didn’t saw action until 1942.
With 11.6 meters high, and 47.3 meters length, the gun required of 4,000 men and five weeks, to get into firing position, and afterwards it took 500 men to operate it. Its shells weighted 7.7 tonnes each, and could be fired as far as 47.000 metres, at a rate of a single round every 45 minutes. Not the fastest, but it pierced deep and hard. No puns intended.
The Gustav was first used in combat in June 1942, during the Siege of Sevastopol, and there it soon proved its punching power by reaching an underground ammunition depot, that boasted a ten metre concrete shield, and was buried 30 feet deep! One could say the Gustav was that slow and fat guy you can outrun, but will surely snap your neck shall he catch you. A second gun of the same design, called Dora, saw brief action in Stalingrad, but both railway guns were destroyed by the end of the war, before the enemy could capture them.
Although the gun was doubtless powerful and impressive, it was cumbersome to transport, and very expensive to fire, to maintain, and to protect from air raids. Therefore it’s doubtful a wider production of these railway guns, would have make a significant difference in the outcome of the war, but the sheer size of this monstrosity, earns it a place in the Wunderwaffe list.