Nazi Weapons Of The Future

We know. The title sounds like a bad newsreel from 1942. Turns out, though, that the Nazis were really good at pouring money into military research and developing — or trying to develop — what they called “wunderwaffe” — wonder weapons. While we think of rockets and jets today as reasonably commonplace, they were state-of-the-art when Germany deployed them during WWII. While the rockets were reasonably successful, the jets were too few and too late to matter. However, those were just the tip of the iceberg. The German war industry had plenty of plans ranging from giant construction to secret weapons that seem to be out of the pages of a pulp science fiction magazine.

Size Matters

Part of the plans included huge ships including one aircraft carrier displacing 56,500 tons. Many of these were never completed and, in some cases, were never actually started. In contrast, the Essex-class USS Hornet displaces 31,300 tons and the Lexington was 37,000 tons. The H-class battleships would have had as much as 140,000 tons of displacement dwarfing the Yamato class (73,000 tons) and the Iowa class (53,000 tons).

Below the water, there were plans for a ballistic missile submarine that never took off. Type XXI U-boats had all-electric propulsion so they could operate completely submerged for long periods. While 118 were being built, only four were completed. There were several other submarines planned with air-independent propulsion.

Gustav railway gun

One of the more interesting designs that didn’t make it to reality was the Type XI — a submarine that could carry a collapsible airplane. There were four being built before the program was canceled. While it might sound far-fetched, the Japanese launched four I-400 submarines that could carry three planes.

There were also huge tanks planned, including one weighing 1,000 metric tons. The Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte would have had two 280 mm cannons, a 128 mm anti-tank gun, eight flak guns, and two heavy machine guns.

The Karl-Gerät was a self-propelled mortar. The seven completed could fire a 60 cm shell. You might think this is half the size of a typical fixed mortar until you realize a fixed mortar is typically 120 mm or 12 cm! Then there was the Schwerer Gustav, an 80 cm railway gun that actually saw service. There were unrealized plans to mount it on a tank.

High Tech

Vampire night scope (public domain)

Night vision? The Germans had the FG 1250 on some tanks and the Zielgrät 1229 (known as a vampire) on specialized assault rifles. If you were one of the lucky few to have a vampire, you had to lug around a 33 lb battery pack to power the thing.

Of course, the Germans had plenty of rocket programs including the A9 and A10 that would be able to strike the Eastern US. The A7 a cruise missile-like rocket with wings, and guided missiles that never saw the light of day.  Neither did the Wasserfall supersonic guided surface-to-air missle. Speaking of cruise missiles, though, the V1 — the infamous buzz bomb — was a form of cruise missile that did see service.

In addition to overt weapons, the German war machine had a number of technologies like radar, analog computer bomb sights, and navigation systems. In particular, the X-apparatus used 60 MHz radio beams to control night bombing very effectively. A form of Lorenz beam, specially equipped planes would follow a beam to stay on course. Intersecting beams would warn the radio operator when the plane was near the target and when to release the bombs. The system was highly effective, but only some planes had the gear, so they would drop flares to alert ordinary planes to also drop their bombs.

Famously, of course, the facility at Peenemunde, where they did rocket research, was also investigating heavy water reactors which could have led to nuclear fission and, thus, to the atom bomb, among other things. Several things conspired to make a German atom bomb unlikely. For one thing, the allies made a huge effort to sabotage the German’s source of heavy water (a hydroelectric plant in Norway).

However, the biggest reason Hitler failed to get the A-bomb was because of Werner Heisenberg. He decided that fission would require an enormous amount of uranium (on the order of 10 tons) and that limited the program. Ironically, since Heisenberg is associated with uncertainty, there is a debate still about what happened. Did the famous physicist really make a mistake? Or did he deliberately make the mistake to derail the creation of the bomb? There’s evidence to support both positions.

Heisenberg and some colleagues were “guests” of the British when the news announced the bombing of Hiroshima. Hidden microphones picked up Heisenberg’s reaction: “Some dilettante in America who knows very little about it has bluffed them,” he said. “I don’t believe that t has anything to do with uranium.” He mentioned that it was impossible that the Allies had ten tons of pure U235. Unless he was performing for hidden microphones he suspected were there — which is certainly possible — it would seem he really did think it would take tons of material. But, like his famous principle, we will always be uncertain.

Far Fetched

German engineers were certainly willing to try most anything. A sonic cannon used a methane combustion chamber to create 44 Hz sound waves of high intensity further amplified by parabolic reflectors. The weapon was somewhat effective but very vulnerable to damage. Later in the war, there were experiments in shooting planes with X-rays and accelerated particles.

There were also rumors of flying saucers or “foo fighters”, mysterious machines with radioactive “Xerum 525,” and other exotic aircraft and superweapons that border on science fiction. But our favorite has to be the sonnengewehr, or sun gun. Inspired by an idea by Hermann Oberth dating back to 1929, German scientists during the war were planning a space-based mirror made of metallic sodium. The 3.5 square mile mirror would be able to focus the sun on the Earth’s surface with enough energy to boil an ocean or burn a city. Sounds like a supervillain movie plot. After the war, though, the scientists told the Allies that the weapon would be completed within the next 100 years.

We’ve looked at the German rocket program — which later became at least two space programs for allied countries — before. We also looked at the machines behind some of these war machines. Can’t get enough of wunderwaffe? Check out [Simon’s] video on the topic, below. Or, go watch Iron Sky.


Banner image: “Modell des 80-cm-Eisenbahngeschützes Dora, Museum Overloon” by Scargill.

137 thoughts on “Nazi Weapons Of The Future

        1. Actually no. There is no scanning or separated camera and viewer system. It is a image intensifier tube, that take light falling in on the screen and amplify it and make a phosphor screen glow. They’re quite simple. But, the amplifications was low on these commonly called Gen 0 systems, and they pretty much converted light to visible glow on the screen, that is why it needed a spotlight. By using infrared light higher than humanly visible, the spotlight didn’t give the user away. The cathode decide which light see, and how sensitive the image intensifier tube is. The green image was due to an effective green phosphor, and green have the benefit of being in the middle of the visible spectrum, so we see it better and in more shades than say blue or red.

          Most that have tried cheap night vision from the 1980-2000 have seen how bad they are without active IR, and those tubes don’t have higher IR sensitivity either and is pretty much blind above 960nm. But Gen1 should not be dissed. A good old 50mm tube can be quite nice with a very good resolution, but usually need some IR. One way to increase sensitivity and not having to use the IR light or that much of it, was to make a Cascade tube. That is three stacked image intensifier tubes. The British Gen1 cascade tubes are not light, but have a very nice image and contrast. That linked Russian is a NSPU x4 sight with a cascade tube, but all the once I have tried do suck. No focus, bad resolution, bad sensitivity and horrible distortion away from the middle, so reading a numberplate is basically always impossible. Close and it isn’t in focus, and far away and there isn’t enough resolution. But the British L1a1 with tubes made in late 1970 or early 1980s? Very nice. Just not light weight. But sensitive enough that a lens focused 3mm 880nm LED will be all it need to see clearly several hundred meters away in pitch black. And in pitch black every image intensifier needs IR.

          Both the Germans, British and Americans developed night vision tubes, but the Germans could have been way ahead. The first tube was made in something like 1925, and the maker had plans for cascade tubes a few years later. The German researchers actually showed a Pak36 cannon firing at night against distant targets in 1937. The military wasn’t interested in the cumbersome toy with visible limited range and so on. British mostly used their so called ‘tabby’ systems (named after the cat) for convoy driving, flying in formation, finding landing marks and signalling between ships at night, and so on during WW2, since they didn’t want the secret tech to fall into German hands. Americans used them on guns, and guarded against night infiltration from sneaky Japanese.

          FYI, I’ve lost track of all the different night vision tubes and systems I have in my collection, or have tried.

  1. And yet for all that money spent and ideas tested, they lost the war.

    If your primary goal in weapons development is to be the most advanced military in the world, you will always stretch too thin and collapse. More advanced weaponry requires larger supply chains and rarer materials, which makes them more vulnerable to disruption.

    What you really want is more weapons of lesser value, because wars take many years to end, and you need to plan on being able to replenish your stock repeatedly during that time. It is never in your best interests to cut blank checks for R&D during wartime, it just results in endless navel gazing.

      1. The Allies did keep their tree of ideas fairly well pruned though, and I think the A-bomb barely scraped through 2 prunings, one where it was the Tubular Alloys British project, and one in the early days in the US. (I think that was the “We can do this, but can we do it before the end of the War?” point). As progress was made though, it was on safer ground in that regard.

        I don’t know if our information is all that complete though. How many things had a certain amount of progress, then reappeared in late decades, or are still classified and shelved.

        1. Seems like almost the reverse occurred. Champions of new weapons or methods in the US met a lot of bureaucratic resistance. Manhattan had high level support but other smaller endeavours did not. Even years later, IR Sidewinder missile development supposedly went on unofficially and indirectly funded.

      2. Agreed, and Germany developed the V3 cannon because conventional weapons (aviation) were not getting them anywhere.
        So what you need (besides no wars as Jan pointed out) is invest the money where you’ll get the most results. Sometimes quantity matters, sometimes not.

      3. The atom bomb didn’t lead to the collapse of Nazi Germany, and America never had to defend its soil throughout the entirety of the war. Hawaii didn’t even become a U.S. state until 1959.

        America was nowhere close to being stretched thin during WWII, that’s why they could spend so much on R&D. Germany was chasing their imagination while actively trying to expand to new fronts and defend existing fronts, whereas America only got seriously involved much later to stop the advances of Japan. And speaking of being stretched too thin…

        1. Well, the Japanese did launch three attacks on the US mainland — the submarine I-17 shelled an oil field near Santa Barbara, CA in February 1942, the I-25 (one of the subs with airplanes mentioned above) shelled Fort Stevens in Oregon in June of that year, and in September the I-25 (again) launched one of its planes to drop incendiary bombs into the forest near Brookings, OR, in a failed attempt to start wildfires. All these attacks were mostly striking at morale, and the biggest results from them were the Battle of Los Angeles the night after the first attack (jittery antiaircraft gunners shot at a weather balloon and everybody else opened up, thinking they were under attack; the chaos indirectly killed five civilians) and the subsequent decision to put thousands of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps. So damage was certainly done, but in very skewed ways.

          1. There were also the balloon bomb attacks that took advantage of cross Pacific winds to drop a single bomb after the timer ran out. It was both brutally simple, using a rice paper balloon and necessarily complex with barometer sandbags. It did cause some fatalities when a family encountered one in an West Coast forest.
            I perchance snagged a whole book about this weapon with a lot of photos of the mechanisms and of course meteorological maps and so on, a fascinating read.

        2. An actual land invasion of the 48 was obviously too big a bite but the early-1942 U-Boat attacks on ships all along the east coast was certainly close to home. Had Doenitz been allowed to build and deploy as many subs as he requested early on, the supply line to the UK might have been effectively severed and it would’ve taken a LOT longer to liberate Europe. Perhaps the Iron Curtain would’ve been along the Atlantic coast.

        3. Although America did not need to defend it’s land, it was indeed directly attacked by Japan in California and there was unsuccessful plots by nazis to launch rockets from within America.

        1. The Emperor might have been, but even after Hiroshima (and, iirc Nagasaki), there was an assassination attempt on him by the military, who wanted to keep fighting.
          It is unclear whether they would have surrendered before an invasion started.

          1. Yes. One bomb would’ve left the impression that it could have been a one off. That the weapon was too difficult to replicate. The Soviets only had loose theories about how to make the bomb at that time, and no concrete understanding of the complexity of the task.

            It wasn’t until after the war that they figured out how to build them.

            It’s absolutely the simplest explanation for why the USA used this weapon after Japan had indicated it wanted to surrender.

          2. I am not buying that argument. Two bombs? The Japanese had a concept of bushido. Death before honor. They were entrenched.not going to give up. Besides, stalin got most of Eastern Europe, a substantial prize. Setting off a bomb to deter Soviet expansion just doesn’t make sense.

          3. You’re repeating a lie about the Japanese as fact. I don’t blame you. I was taught the same thing in Australia in High School. And then I went to Uni and was taught history, not propaganda as part of a degree in International Relations. The largest surrender of Japanese soldiers in the war also occurred in August, to the Soviet Union in Manchuria.

          4. What would have happened with the 3rd bomb for which a target had already been selected? Delivery to Tinian was thwarted by a Japanese boat torpedoing and sinking the US battleship carrying it.

    1. As bomber Harris said, its no good fighting the present war with last war weapons or next war weapons, bomber command delivered more tonnage in a single raid than all the rockets, The virus House gives an interesting account of atomic research in Germany, the beams were discovered early on by RV Jones and deflected sometimes, (most secret war) and air superiority was a lesson that took far to long for the allies to learn. Did I say that I have a first class honours degree in hindsight.

    2. There was a contributing factor to the German defeat that was not the result of overstretch on advanced weapons and that was the extreme lack of aviation fuel. The Allies made sure of that by bombing the crumpet out of their oil refineries.
      Some plans were made to use coal dust as aircraft fuel (for the Lippisch P.13) but never amounted to much if anything.

      1. Another, Another factor is you go and ‘liberate’ an area and treat many of the locals oh so well you end up wasting huge resources holding areas against restive populations. While finding petty sabotage and your secrets leaking out all over the place..

        Then there is picking a fight with the Russians opening up yet more fronts to fight on and in terrain they are not greatly experienced with or equipped for. All when the war at that point was already not in the favour. Can’t say they were clearly loosing yet, but they certainly were not clearly winning either…

        They made a great many screwups, overstretched and were out maneuvered frequently thanks to the spies and codebreakers. Its not any one thing that looses/wins a war.

        Having high end weapons can win a war, and is the only way a nation as small as Germany can ever hope to take and hold even half the territory they tried to nab from folks at a similar technology level so quickly – as a good weapon is a force multiplier, with the right training, logistics and tactics a far far bigger multiplier than just how much ‘better’ it is than the opponents comparable weaponry – even when you assume they too do everything correctly, as you have that little extra capability they can’t match and can use it well.

        However the whole mythos around German weapons being so much better/more high tech really is largely BS. They have advantages and disadvantages in various areas that change over time – for instance the Churchill line of tanks is at various stages of the war the most mobile – climb hills nothing else including lighter armor can and heaviest armour (at least frontally) platform going. Sometimes they even got equipped with sensibly large guns more than capable of harming anything the Germans could field at the time… And for a while its hard to argue against the Matilda 2 being the best tank in service for any nation.

        The whole war was all sides racing to build better, and sometimes better isn’t just in pure combat terms – the Sherman is great because you could build heaps of them, and most of the more common maintenance jobs are so much easier, which means you can actually reliably put Shermans where you want them to be. In purely combat effectiveness terms I’d say its fair to rank them lower than most of the tanks with overlapping service periods with both tanks fresh from the factory, but they are far from rubbish. And being very slightly better on paper doesn’t mean squat in the real world if you can be both outnumbered in production and have large numbers of your tanks down for maintance/stuck somewhere, so further outnumbered in battle – to make that work you need the gunpowder and steel vs native tribe somewhere wood and stone weaponry level of disparity….

    3. Thats how the US army and Russian army beat Germany
      Panzers and leopards were better, but less reliable. USA outnumbered German tanks 3:1. With reliable for manufacturing by Ford
      Sheer numbers crushed German tanks.

      1. There’s a few errors in your statement. Leopards were a post-war West German tank. Panzers were not clearly “better” than their contemporaries in many cases. The Panzer IIIs that faced off against KV-1s in the opening phases of Barbarossa in 1941 for instance were at a distinct disadvantage, when the Soviets were organised enough to offer resistance.

        The Panther, which is vaunted by so called “Wehraboos” as a superior tank to the American M4 Sherman actually lost 4 out of every 5 engagements with the US tank. Though, this is likely affected heavily by doctrine and the tactical situations they found themselves in, in Western Europe.

        1. in a 1 vs 1 engagement the geman panther and tiger tanks could blow up any american tanks in europe during ww2. The murican tanks were inferior in all aspects to the tigers and in most aspects to the panthers.

    4. More than one source suggests that a rabid dictator making increasingly bad decisions and a cumbersome and siloed system of organisation might have had a little to do with it – all sides had advanced weapons, the US and Russia had huge quantity on their side, the rest of us not so much.

      This was a quote from the Dutch Philips factory under Nazi control;
      The German system of allocation and control was, as the Philips management said, the most effective sabotage agency known to them. The proliferation of papers, the failure to devolve responsibilities, the refusal to exercise initiative, the appointment of technical incompetent supervisory and progressing officers, and the concentration of attention on clearing the documents rather than the materials, sufficed in themselves to impede production. Exploited by an expert and ingenious body of non-cooperators, this system lent itself to a double frustration.

      From “Auto-sabotage in the German Organization” –

    5. After the war ended, the public didn’t give a damn about anything the Germans did. From Hitler escaping to the too late nuclear weapons, Germany was light years ahead of the rest of the world…luck we won the war.

  2. > “There were several other submarines planned with air-independent propulsion.”

    Don’t forget The Type XVII Submarines propelled by high-test peroxide. Several Type XVII were finished before the end of the war, although I don’t believe any saw combat (fortunately!). These could reach 25kn submerged, for comparison HMS Hood could reach 30kn (although more likely to be cruising around 20kn).

    While the XXI arguably had a much bigger influence on the future of military submarine design, the XVII has always been a more interesting submarine for me.

    1. Yep. And after the war the UK tried to test one of them. It got the nickname “HMS Exploder” . Had Germany made more they would probably been the U-Boat version of the Me-163, Far more dangerous to the crew than anyone else. So had they made more it might have been a good thing for the allies.

      1. The RN had two boats built – Explorer and Excaliber. From my dodgy memory one of them was clocked at over 40 knots submerged. I think the bringing-into-service of the USN nukes made HTP propulsion obsolete (certainly safetywise).

  3. They told me at school that I would have passed my GCSE in German if it were not for Churchill, the git!

    Seriously though, this is a very interesting article and we can only be glad that a lot of these plans never came to fruition.

    1. Was Churchill the bastard son of Edward the caresser? His mom was a known regular princely/kingly booty call. There has to be DNA somewhere to test. Likely harder to get ahold of than Chelsea Clinton’s.

      It would explain how he survived his early carrier blithering incompetence (e.g. Gallipoli).
      Churchill also drank like a member of the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

    1. To br fair, the Russian and British counterparts to Project Paperclip also snapped up all the Nazi scientists they could eat, and I’m not positive the French didn’t also. None of the post-war great powers had clean hands.

      1. And to also be fair to them many likely didn’t know anything of what was really going on hidden away to work – the state of Germany between the war’s was pretty shitty and they were being stomped down by the French in particular – so war can easily seem justified from the view they would have initially, and once you get hidden away in the design factories…

        Plus even if they did find out enough to doubt the morality of what they are doing, well, when your choices are ‘oh look you have Jewish grandparents, you need a shower’ or to keep working on ridiculously expensive waste of resources boundary pushing weapons its not much of a choice.

        Its not like you go giving the research scientists and engineers SS uniforms and have them moonlight as exterminators, or give them information you don’t want them to have. If every German was truely rabid Nazi the war couldn’t end until they are pretty much all dead, as they wouldn’t quit easily. Perhaps after an Abomb or two shocks them into reality.

        1. You are so incredibly wrong about this. Not only did people like Von Braun know precise details about the Holocaust and other German atrocities, it was nearly impossible to not witness it as a regular German citizen, as the infrastructure for it was distributed across tens of thousands of sites through Germany and it’s occupied territories.

          Even worse were US programs like Operation Bloodstone, The Gehlen Organization, Operation Gladio, where they knowingly recruited Holocaust perpetrators and enthusastic fascists, who had been part of Germany and Italy’s intelligence services and military during the war. Some of these people were EXPLICITLY protected from war crimes prosecution due to their perceived value to Western intelligence agencies in providing information on the USSR.

          And if you think that’s bad … Christopher Simpson’s book Blowback; details the fact that these Nazis and fascists were given a massively outsized influence on post-war Western policy, leading not only to McCarthyism, and the subsequent damage that did to Western academia and political life, but it was likely the reason we nearly came to a nuclear Holocaust in the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was only by interally opposing hawks, informed directly by these organisations about Soviet intent that Kennedy averted disaster.

          1. In terms of what McCarthyism gave the Capitalist West; One of MIT’s greatest students, and the founder of the field of Cybernetic Engineering was a political prisoner for over 5 years due largely to the fact that he was Chinese. After he was finally released he fled home to the PRC and helped them establish their nuclear program.

          2. Most German civilians were barely hanging on to feed themselves, avoid getting bombed and avoid Nazi persecution, much less know about the deplorable persecution of handicapped, gays, Jews and revolutionaries. I know this firsthand.

          3. This is simply not true. And is well documented in various works by historians, and is especially doused by the book “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45”.

            What is your motivation for claiming that a crime as enormous as the Holocaust (and the murders of tens of millions of others by the Germans) was something regular people were unaware of?

          4. It’s one thing to read about it in books. It’s an entirely different thing to live there and get data from people firsthand. None of the people I talked to who lived through the war in Germany as civilians had in-depth knowledge of the Jewish slaughter.
            It certainly happened and is acknowledged by the younger generation with museums and memorials everywhere.

          5. Key words there. “in-depth knowledge”, “talked to”. Uncomfortable truths are difficult for people to talk about. You’re not a prosecutor who has the aid of investigators. You’re just having casual, I assume polite conversations. For every 2 Germans in 1939, 1 person was violently killed by the Third Reich and it’s European Allies by 1945.

          6. Dude. Let it go. It happened. Let’s learn from it and not let it happen again.
            Look to the future. Let’s solve climate issues, global pop control, Ukraine.

          7. Absolutely SOME of the brains behind the German lines will know something, as will some of the general population, doesn’t mean they know anything like the full truth or are in a position to do anything about it.

            Heck even the folks actively taking part in the Jewish extermination camps probably had no idea of the true scale of what is going on – it is wartime long before the trivially easy and ubiquitous long range peer-peer communication possibilities of today (fragile though those links may be) – censors will trim anything that shouldn’t go further and get you in trouble for even writing it down.

            You only need one bloke at the gas chamber for potentially hundred maybe even thousands of policemen and railway types who are actively involved but just rounding up the ‘potential traitors and undesirables’ for incarceration at the prison, doing a perfectly normal wartime job. Pretty much the same thing that happened to Japanese folk in the US, a perfectly understandable if somewhat dehumanizing and harsh measure for the protection of the nation as a whole in a war. While the rumor mill can be circulating all it likes – making folks with any Jewish heritage (or lacking concrete proof of absence of such heritage) nervous that isn’t proof of the evils going on.

            And then even if you do find the proof what are you going to do with it? Do anything that isn’t entirely successful and/or secret and you, your family, and likely your friends as well get to take a unwanted shower with all the Jews, or maybe receive a simple case of lead pollution. And as you found the proof you know this to be true with the monsters than run show.

            Under those conditions all the rumor become enemy propaganda quite easily, as it just can’t be true ‘we are too civilized’ for that, and the radio says x,y,z… Not to mention that most of the more brilliant minds are rather eccentric in one way or other and disconnected from the ‘real’ world of everyone else to some extent too absorbed in the challenge before them.

            Lets put it this way how many Russians living in Russia really know anything of the truth of this ‘special military operation’ – when the government controls the information by most channels rather fully only those more technically literate able to see the wider worlds take and perhaps even the open source Intel on what is going on and so make their own mind up can really hope to know, which rules out what 50% of the Russian population?

            And that is now with all the magic of modern communications in a nation that is basically at peace! How do you think the average German who might, maybe have been able to afford their own radio is supposed to know the truth, when almost all that radio could potentially pick up will only tell them what they are supposed to hear and believe, while they spend their days diving into bomb shelter and just trying to survive…

      2. >> and I’m not positive the French didn’t also<<
        About 30 German ingeneers where took to work on the French project, they go to a 'secret' place in France: Vernon.
        The 3 majors where:
        Helmut Habermann, Karl-Heinz Bringer, Otto Müller.
        The name of the very first rocket was Véronique for VERnon electrONIQUE.

    1. I think every greedy species will fight over resources, no matter being squids, raven or bots.

      There is no paradise with unlimited resources as some SciFis make us dream…

        1. …From being a few years away..from being a few years away…from being a few years away…from being… LIMITLESS POWER FOR EVERYBODY, SHUTUP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

          seriously though fusion would be awesome.

          O and feinfinger, asteroid mining will eliminate, or really just reduce significantly, alot of resource scarcity. We only have a few minor engineering problems to solve and war is basically obsolete. Just a few years away…

  4. I understand that Hackaday is written by authors that are native to the imperial measurement system. So I should not be expecting metric units in articles. But mixing imperial and metric units within the same text is really distracting. Could you please stick to one and convert all measurements?

    1. Lewin is an Australian contributor, and we switched to Metric in about 1972.
      I’d like to see SI units used throughout, but if one of the first countries to go metric still hasn’t transitioned then I expect I’ll be waiting for quite a while :)

    2. If you can’t deal with it I would say that is your problem – especially when dealing with historical things where the item or on the documentation it wasn’t ever 25.4mm it was called an Inch at the time by these folks. Sometimes that actually is useful – virtually identical things mentioned in documents or studied can be identified and tracked further entirely because its 20mm not 3/4″.

      SI units are my preference absolutely, and if its a brand new project its disappointing to have mixed imperial and metric (though when so much stuff is sold in inch’s still its often going to be the case), but historically it is better to keep it in context and provide translations to other units if you want to.

  5. Are the nazis on the moon cooking up new weapons?

    I remember seeing a submachine gun in Popular Science or Mechanics. It coukd shoot around corners. Apparently worked. I thought it was from the Germans in WWII.

    Lots of wacky inventions get invented. That doesn’t mean a lot of effort is lut into them, or that they get to production.

    Someone mentioned the need for simpler weapons. The Bren gun in England was one of those. I think the Israelis had a similar home made gun in 1948.

  6. The Nazis were operating throughout a lot of South America during the 1930s and the war, and quite probably afterwards too as tens of thousands fled there in 1945. We know that German engineers built a hydroelectric dam in Uruguay from 1933 onward that started generating power in late 1945. The History Channel show “Hunting Hitler” found some evidence and witnesses that supports the idea that heavy water production was a goal.

  7. The Nazis came up with a lot of cool technology and had a lot of really neat ideas, however the one idea they had the clearly overshadowed everything they ever did was that of trying to exterminate an entire slice of the population. Once they did that, it eliminated any shred of legitimacy or credit to what they tried to achieve and that’s a shame. Imagine the powerhouse Germany could have become if this ingenuity was poured into peace-time innovation instead of horrible war crimes.

    1. Japanese, French, and the people in the areas that eventually became the nations of Germany and Italy, had long histories of attempting to conquer as much of the surrounding land and sea as they could.

      WW2 saw all those ambitions via war firmly and likely finally squashed. France happened to have been on the ‘good side’ of that war where in earlier times they’d been an aggressor.

      What ended the conquest by war aspirations of Germany, Italy, and Japan was the allies willingness to ‘sit on them’ like a tempestuous toddler until they learned to behave, that throwing big tantrums was not going to be tolerated.

      But since then civilized people haven’t had the will to first smash an aggressor *and smash them so hard they’re down for good* then follow through helping them rebuild and learn how to play nice with their neighbors.

      1. >But since then civilized people haven’t had the will to first smash an aggressor *and smash them so hard they’re down for good* then follow through helping them rebuild and learn how to play nice with their neighbors


      2. For most of more recent history with the European powers you invade and take over a town/city colony and any civilian that survived the fighting was left to go about their business – heck some of the colony changed hands officially many times, but historical accounts seem to indicate other than flying a different flag the locals were entirely left to get on with it and more than once no blood was shed.

        Rather different thing to invading and then treating the population like a waste product you haven’t yet managed to dispose of. Even in the age of empire building generally speaking the locals were a resource you wanted to keep alive – the game of invasions and war was civilized in its way. So painting the Dutch/English/French or earlier Greek/Ottoman/Roman as anything else is I’d say a bit off. Not the way we almost all agree the game should be played today, but its still civilized enough we should recognize it, even if the rulebook is outdated…

        >But since then civilized people haven’t had the will to first smash an aggressor…
        I think the people of Afghanistan would disagree, at least until the sudden and rather poorly planned abandonment. Not the only example either – but on the whole the ‘civilised world’ doesn’t need to smash anybody down now, its excessive use of force as at least until recently all the major powers and most of the smaller nations agreed on the code of conduct and actually took it at the very least as pretty strong guideline. And those nations between them own practically everything – so you can either play nicely or be locked out from all the global resources and suffer. No need for bloodshed.

    2. /looks at US and what was done to native Americans/
      /…and later African slaves…/
      ummm, your point was?

      and since you were talking about warcrimes, look up what the Japanese Imperial Army did in mainland China, it makes Auschwitz look like a family fun park in comparison. To this very day, they still actively refuse to even officially acknowledge it happened.

    3. I think Obama said in his book that a shared national purpose is the best way to get things done – and that purpose can be positive or negative of course. His example was JFK’s great speech about going to the moon.

      In peace-time it’s hard to convince the voters that pouring vast sums of the nation’s cash into crazy levels of R&D is a good idea, but if bombs are dropping on them they will be very happy with anyone who looks like they might be trying to do something about it, no matter how crazy or expensive the idea.

  8. Encouraged by a previous HaD article, I read Walter Dornberger’s “V2”. A key bit of backstory I took from this book was that the NSDAP regime was anything but the well oiled and laser focused government I imagined as a child of the ’60s. The Leader seemly encouraged infighting between various ministries, which themselves were rotten with graft and empire building. Attempts to pry the A4 program from the Army to become someone else’s profit center nearly killed it. Thus, just about any endeavors that weren’t pretty far along by the start of the war in Europe seemed doomed to remain on drawing boards.

    1. One book I read ages ago claimed that Hitler initially insisted the Me 262 fighter jet be used as a light bomber and the Arado AR 234 light jet bomber be used as a night fighter.

      There’s a documentary out there that claims Hitler likely suffered from Parkinson’s. Early on he’s always seen making speeches and gesticulating with both arms but at some point he changed to only using his left arm, keeping his right hand in a pocket all the time. It showed one short film clip from the later period where he’s greeting some troops and his right hand is out of his coat pocket, arm hanging loosely and shaking like early, localized tremors common with Parkinson’s.

      I wonder if the change was around the time of the assassination attempt with the bomb which got blocked by the massive table? Perhaps his right arm was injured and never recovered fully?

      1. Hitler got more and more unhinged / drug addled as the war went on, to the point the allies cancelled the idea of assassinating him as he was making so many bad decisions they didn’t want someone more competent stepping in.

  9. The money, time and resources wasted on projects like the Ratte and Gustav are shocking when you consider how they could have been put to things like rifles, machine guns, panzers, u-boats. And all because Hitler has a fascination with big things, maybe he was compensating?

      1. The war was entirely lost (assuming any will to fight remains) a long time earlier – When they turned the Russians into enemies at the same time as the UK with all its friends was still in the fight – nothing like a Ratte can overturn that, as even if you could make more than one of them you can’t make and crew near enough of them to come close to matching the combined manpower and material the Allies brought to bear. There just are not enough German people left, a problem made worse when you go and execute a large portion of them.

        All pouring money into daft projects does is make the end quicker.

  10. Did it really though? The Soviets declaring war on Japan (which was a massive shock to them) is what probably did it – as unthinkable as the idea of surrender was to them, they would rather surrender to the US than the Soviets.

      1. You’ve been misled by your history teacher. The Soviets (not just Russians) had already agreed to rejoin the Pacific Theatre well prior to the plans to use the A-bomb. The date that they agreed to do that was August 9, and they had both the logistical capability, the standing army, and the proximity to Japan to invade the home islands.

        Not only that but they caused more Japanese military casualties than the Americans did.

        1. Nuts revisionism. Especially the last sentence. Just WTF?

          Russia didn’t have the logistics to maintain war in the far east, much less stage an invasion.
          Or the will, it was Vodka time.
          Next you’ll give them credit for defeating Italy and building more trucks during WWII (oft repeated, but CCCP stats).

          1. The last sentence is completely accurate, and it’s telling that you aren’t aware of that. What you’re probably unaware of, and I’ve seen this a lot in popular discourse around military conflicts is that captured soldiers count as casualties. As do wounded etc. Casualty != dead. The USA may have killed more Japanese soldiers, but if you include the capture, in the field of the Kwantung Army, the Soviets absolutely did more to destroy the Empire’s ability to fight.

  11. A couple of other observations –
    The radio guided bombers, where the bombers would follow one beam and drop bombs when they reached an intersecting beam. The Brits figured it out and transmitted an intersecting beam where the bombs would not cause much damage.
    As for the V-2, each missile took the resources of a fighter plane, but got used once, and without that much damage (which is why ballistic missiles are mostly useful when they have nuclear warheads). Putting the same amount of resources into aircraft would have been a better use. (This is from a book on the (US) Orion project that I need to find again)

      1. Good point about pilots. It takes a lot to train a pilot, and that is one reason the Japanese resorted to Kamakazis – less training. The US had a large program to train pilots, but the Japanese did not and could not make up for their losses.

        1. There’s some misconceptions about Kamakazis and it certainly is true that Japanese pilots at the end of the war had much less training than the ones who flew in ’41, but it may surprise you to know that the Japanese suffered less pilot casualties in their Kamakazi units than in the non-Kamakazi ones.

          1. There’s nothing misleading about the fact that Kamakazi aircrew suffered less casualties. A smaller sortie could produce the same effect, and as a result, fewer pilots were lost per sortie, and per successful strike.

        2. Japan was willing to expend all their pilots as Kamikaze, if necessary. That included the few that had survived from before the start of the war. Saburo Sakai was one of them. In his biography he recounts being sent on a Kamikaze mission in old Zero-Sen fighters that were so worn out they could barely get off the ground. One had a vibration so bad it shook its engine cowling off. They got disoriented in clouds, never found the American fleet, and managed to return to their airbase.

  12. “the biggest reason Hitler failed to get the A-bomb was because of Werner Heisenberg”

    Another was the fact that the best nuclear and other science brainiacs fled Germany and the continent because the Nazi state didn’t like them much, to put it mildly.

  13. And as far as the idiotic fixation on size, Adolf was primarily behind that. He was the best ally of the allies later in the war because of his micromanagement of German military matters.

  14. We used THE SAME night sight on the Vz59 submachine during my military service in the Czechoslovakia’s ČSLA. I though it was some Russian hightech woodoo of the space age and we all loved it. What a letdown seeing it was an exact copy of a germ design from 40s!

  15. I’m amazed nobody in the comment section above did not quote that nazi’s wonder weapons were only propaganda weapons with the main purpose was to persuade the german population that the war could not be lost and consequently have them fight to the last one. At least it still works rather well !

    Best weapons are the ones that are kept secret, like the Manhattan Project or the proximity fuse, when they can give you either a total strategic power or can be produced en masse for the battlefield.

  16. Looking at the ww2 german radio equipment on the web I’m surprised that they used a ceramic printed circuit in their fug direction finder receiver very advanced for its time the first use of a printed circuit in ww2 sure the Americans may have used a printed circuit in the ft8 fuse later in the war the Germans used crystal diodes in radar like the Americans I think they came close to inventing the transistor in their double diode rectifiers

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