Crazy Wonder Weapons That Germans Used During The World War II

Like its precursor, the V-1 cruise missile and V-2 rocket, the Vergeltungswaffe 3, or “Retaliatory Weapon,” was another of Germany’s “Vengeance Weapons,” meant to inflict retaliatory damage on targets such as London and Antwerp. Sometimes referred to as an “England Cannon,” it was an enormous chambered cannon that was built directly into a hillside and capable of firing large artillery shells across the English Channel from France to London, or other location, depending on where it’s built. The V-3 worked using a multi-charge theory in which after the initial firing of the cannon, secondary propellant charges were fired to progressively accelerate the projective as it journeyed along the barrel of the cannon. During testing in May 1944, the V-3 was able to achieve a range of up to 55 miles; subsequent tests saw shells reach a distance of 58 miles.
Many consider Germany’s Sturmgewehr 44, or StG 44, the world’s first assault rifle. Its design was so successful that modern assault rifles, such as the M-16 and the AK-47, were derived from it. Legend has it that Hitler himself, being so impressed, dubbed the weapon Sturmgewehr, or “Storm Rifle.” It was a unique design that blended the characteristics of a carbine, automatic rifle, and submachine gun. The weapon sported some of the most innovative accessories of the time. First, there’s the Zielgerät 1229 infrared vision scope, codename “Vampir.” It weighed about 5 lbs and was connected to a 30 lb battery pack strapped to the user’s back. I know not as compact as today’s night-vision, but hey, this was the 1940s! Then there was the Krummlauf, “curved barrel,” attachment that allowed the weapon to shoot around corners. Nazi Germany was the first to attempt to implement this long-existing idea! There were different versions: 30°, 45°, 60° and 90° bends. However, these curved barrels didn’t have much a lifespan. After firing a certain number of rounds, 300 for the 30° version and 160 rounds for the 45°, the barrel would likely fail from the stress. As revolutionary as the concept was, the StG 44’s arrival was much too late to have any real impact on the war in Europe.
“The Great Gustav,” the single largest cannon every built and used in history! Designed by Krupp Industries, this was one of two super-heavy railway guns designed; the other was “Dora,” which was built but never used. Gustav weighed around 1350 tons, and could fire a 7-ton projectile up to a range of 28 miles. Do you know what a 7-ton projectile looks like? Think of a bullet the size of two oil drums! This thing was big! Why didn’t the Allies simple give up and accept defeat once this monster came online? Well, think about it: railway gun. It took 2500 men, and three days, to lay all twin rail tracks to be able to maneuver this thing around. It had to be shipped in several large pieces, assembled, and then mounted. The gun assembly alone was a massive 800 mm gun, that’s a 31.5-inch caliber, and heck, it took half an hour just to load it. Reportedly, Germany assigned an entire Luftwaffe squadron to provide cover for the assembly, along with another unit to protect against a ground assault.
These weapons were deployed near the islands of Malta and Sicily in 1943, and were highly effective. On September 9, 1943, Germans dropped several of these on the Italian battleship Roma, claiming the lives of all 1,455 men on board. These were also used to sink the British cruiser HMS Spartan, destroyer HMS Janus, cruiser HMS Uganda, and a Newfoundland hospital ship. Just one of these bombs put the American light cruiser USS Savannah out of commission for an entire year. Over 2,000 Fritz X bombs were constructed, but only 200 were ever dropped on targets. The difficulty with the bombs was that once dropped they could not change direction abruptly. The bombers would have to fly directly over the target, which would leave them easily susceptible to enemy attack, causing the German bomber groups to suffer heavy losses.
Its full name was the Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus, or “Mouse,” and it was the heaviest fully-enclosed armored vehicle ever built! This German super-heavy tank weighed an astounding 188 tons! This massive size was ultimately the reason why it wasn’t pushed into production. There was just no engine powerful enough to push this beast around at useful speeds. Design specifications said it would travel at a maximum speed of about 12 mph. However, the prototype could attain speeds of 8 mph. That’s not very impressive. Also, it was just too heavy to ever be able to get across a bridge, but it could just go underwater in some instances. Its primary goal was to simply push through enemy defenses without fear of suffering any damage. In the end, the Maus was too impractical and costly to produce.
Albert Speer, who was in charge of bringing life to these designs, believed them to be ridiculous. Building this monstrosity would have been an incredible burden on steel supplies and other resources, not even taking into account the skilled labor involved and the huge production costs. If he did divert the resources necessary to bring this project to fruition, everyone but Hitler was doubtful that it could actually fulfill its operational goals. Not to mention they would have been huge sitting targets for Allied bombings. No, Speer, being one of the few who could reign in Hitler’s fantasies of land battleships and high-tech armaments, cancelled the program in 1943, leaving the designs on the drawing board. Hitler was satisfied relying rather on the quick attacks of his Blitzkrieg operations. No prototype was ever built. Interesting enough, at the time of its cancellation, preliminary plans were being drawn up for even larger Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster, which would have sported the largest gun in the world, the 800 mm cannon from the Schwerer Gustav!
Now referred to as the world’s first stealth bomber, Ho 229 was the first flying wing powered by a jet engine. Germany was in desperate need for an aircraft solution to its “3×1000” problem: an aircraft that could carry 1,000 kg of bombs a distance of 1,000 km at a speed of 1,000 kmh. A jet was the logical answer but presumably one with a lower drag as to reach the range requirement. Walter and Reimar Horten, two German aviation enthusiasts, without any formal aeronautical training, provided the solution. They proposed the Horten Ho 229. It was a sleek fixed-wing tailless aircraft resembling a glider outfitted with two Jumo 004C jet engines. The Horten brothers said they mixed in charcoal dust with the wood glue assembly to absorb electromagnetic waves effectively making their creation the first in stealth technology. With no unneeded surface area, sleek design, and the Horten’s “charcoal solution,” the Ho 229 was harder to detect and track on radar.
German scientists were trying to think outside of the box on this one. During the early 1940s, engineers had developed a sonic cannon that they believed would literally vibrate a person apart from the inside out. The project was the brainchild of Dr. Richard Wallauschek. It was made up of a methane gas combustion chamber leading to two large parabolic reflectors, which had a diameter of almost 10 feet (3 m). These reflectors were pulse detonated at around 44 Hz and were connected to another chamber consisting of several sub-unit firing tubes. These tubes would allow a mixture of the methane gas and oxygen in the combustion chamber. This would then ignite and turn the gases into noise that would cause vertigo and nausea at 900 feet (300 yards) by vibrating the middle ear bones and shaking the cochlear fluid within the inner ear. The pressure caused by these sound waves would be fatal at 164 feet (50 m) in less than a minute!
Alright, so we’ve heard about the Sonic Cannon and the Whirlwind Cannon, you should be prepared for the Sun Gun! They were really reaching when they came up with this one. Theoretically, it would have been an orbital weapon capable of concentrating a beam of sunlight onto a point on Earth. The idea was first conceived in 1929, by German physicist Hermann Oberth. His design was for a space station with a 100 meter-wide concave mirror that would be used to catch the sunlight and concentrate back to Earth as a weapon. During the war, Nazi scientists picked up on Oberth’s concept and began to update its design for implementation. They believed that the heat generated through this mirror would be sufficient to boil oceans and flash burn entire cities into ash. An experimental model of the Sun Gun was captured by the advancing American army in 1945. When questioned by interrogators about the nature of the device and its capabilities, the Germans admitted that it was a failed project, with the technology still too many years out of reach.
Not as futuristic or sci-fi as some of the other weapons closer to the #1 spot, but the V-2 Rocket was one “wonder weapon” that proved its worth. One of the “V-Weapons,” or “Vengeance Weapons,” these were developed early on and were deployed quite considerably, and successfully, especially against London. Designs began as early as 1930, but there wouldn’t be a successful run until 1942. Hitler was initially unimpressed, calling it, “merely an artillery shell with a longer range and much higher cost.” In reality, the V-2 was the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile. Quite an innovation, using an extremely powerful liquid ethanol fuel, the V-2 would launch and fly six miles vertically in the sky before proceeding on an arced course, regulating its fuel on its own as-needed. This made it practically impossible to intercept without knowing the intended target. Upon beginning its descent down onto the target, the missile would travel at speeds of 4,000 mph, not detonating until it had penetrated several feet below ground. When these weapons were finally unleashed upon London in 1944, they rained down death and destruction, causing nearly 10,000 casualties. The V-2 Rockets were designed at the Peenemϋnde Army Research Center, and manufactured at the Mittelwerk underground factory, both under the control of project head, Dr. Wernher von Braun. Mittelwerk utilized forced slave labor from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp to work in the factory. After the war, both the Americans and the Soviets scrambled to capture as many V-2 Rockets as possible. Dr. von Braun surrendered to the United States and subsequently was instrumental in building their space program. In effect, Dr. von Braun’s V-2 Rocket launched the space age.
It was called Die Glocke, German for “The Bell.” Reportedly this project’s code name was Chronos and it was given the highest classification. This is one weapon that we have no proof actually existed. It was said to resemble a giant metallic bell, approximately 2.7 meters wide and 4 meters high. It was composed of an unknown metal and based out of Der Riese, a facility near the Wenceslaus mine in Poland, near the Czech border. The Bell contained two counter-rotating cylinders said to contain a metallic liquid called Zerum-525. Through an unknown process, when activated, The Bell would emit an effect zone of approximately 200 meters. Within this zone, crystals would form in animal tissue; blood would coagulate and separate, while plants would rapidly decompose. Reportedly, many of the original scientists died horribly during the initial tests. The weapon was also able to rise off the ground and hover in the air and was meant to be launched over the Northern Hemisphere, detonating in the jet stream releasing its deadly radioisotopes causing the death of millions.