They were called Wunderwaffe, which is German for “Wonder Weapons.” In World War II, the Nazi Germany propaganda ministry coined the term to basically refer to their super weapons, which were technologically advanced and revolutionary in terms of warfare. Most of these weapons never got out of the prototype phase. Those weapons that did either never reached combat or were implemented too late or too small in numbers to have a significant impact on the war.
As the war began to deteriorate for Germany after about 1942, claims about these Wunderwaffe became a prominent part of the propaganda ministry’s efforts. However, in reality, developing advanced weaponry, barring any unforeseen technological leap, would require many years of testing and development. There was no pragmatic hope of Germany being able to perfect these weapons before the end of the war. Those that were rushed into production at the first hint of success proved disappointing to the German military.
What is remarkable, and terrifying, is that the Nazis actually had the technological know-how to develop many of their Wunderwaffe! If the war had drawn out much longer, it is entirely possible that more of these weapons would either be perfected and or put into production, changing the course of the war. The Axis powers could have won the war. Luckily for the Allies, Germany wasn’t able to capitalize on their technological advancements. Here, we take a look at the top fifteen of Hitler's most fearsome “Wonder Weapons” of World War II.
15 The Goliath Tracked Mine
They were nicknamed “doodlebugs” by the Allies. Officially, they were designated SdKfz 302 Sonderkraftfahrzeug, “Special-purpose Vehicle,” but they were mostly referred to as the Goliath Tracked Mine. They began to see action about 1942, and were used in all fronts. Basically a remote-controlled demolition device; a remote-controlled car with a bomb strapped to it. They were rather small and carried 165 lbs of high explosives at a top speed of about 6 miles per hour; not bad considering the load they carried. Their weakness was that they were controlled by a joystick control, connected by 2000 feet of triple-strand cable. The Allies quickly realized all they had to do to neutralize these things was to cut the wire. This rendered the Goliath useless.
14 V-3 Cannon
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.
13 Henschel HS 293 Radio-controlled Glide Bomb
This anti-ship missile was probably the most effective guided weapon the war. These destroyed numerous naval destroyers and merchant ships. At 13 feet long and weighing about 2,000 lbs, about 1,000 of these were manufactured for use by the German Luftwaffe, “Air Force.” They were basically a radio-controlled glider with a rocket engine attached underneath, and, of course, 650 lbs of explosive in its warhead. They were intended to be used against unarmored naval vessels. The sturdier Fritx X was manufactured for use with armored ships (more on this later). After being dropped by a bomber, its rocket would ignite and fire for about 10 seconds, leaving it to glide to its target for the rest of the journey. It featured tail lights in its rear so that the gunner could observe its progress.
12 The Silbervogel
Initially designed in the late 1930s, the Silbervogel, German for “Silver Bird,” was to be a liquid-propellant rocket-powered sub-orbital bomber for Nazi Germany. Basically, an intercontinental space plane that could be used as an extreme long-range bomber, hence its consideration for the “Amerika Bomber” mission. It was designed to carry an 8,000 lb bomb, with a unique surveillance system, believed to make it immune to detection. Sounds like the ultimate weapon, right? Well, it was way too advanced for the period and engineers ran into all kinds of technical difficulties. Prototypes kept overheating and eventually the whole project was put on hold in 1942. Money and resources were subsequently diverted to other projects.
11 StG 44
10 Schwerer Gustav
“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.
9 Ruhustahl SD 1400 “Fritz X” Radio-controlled Bomb
It was called the Fritz X, an air-launched radio-controlled bomb. Similar to the above HS 293, but with a primary function to destroy heavily armored naval vessels. It had superior aerodynamics, four small wings extending out about 4 ft, and a tail. The Fritz X was highly formidable in the eyes of the Allies. The ancestor of the modern smart bomb carried over 700 lbs of explosives. It used a joystick radio-command signal system, making it one of world’s first precision guided weapons.
8 Panzer VIII Maus
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.
7 The Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte
You thought the Panzer VIII Maus was big? That was just a small children’s toy compared to the designs for the Landkreuzer P. 1000 Ratte! This super-mega-tank was the largest, heaviest tank designed by Nazi Germany, if not the world! The plans called for it to be a whopping 1,000 metric tons, equipped with artillery that previously had only been used on naval warships. Imagine a tank over 115 ft long, 46 ft wide, and 36 ft tall! It would have been maintained by a crew of at least 20 personnel. Its immense size gave engineers headaches. It was too impractical as it would have been too heavy for bridges and indeed most roadways would’ve crumbled under its weight. Its top speed was only 25 mph.
6 Horten Ho 229
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 “3x1000” 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.
5 The Sonic Cannon
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!
4 The Whirlwind Cannon
Aerodynamics researcher, Dr. Mario Zippermayr, was an Austrian inventor and a member of the Austrian Nazi Party. As such he worked on numerous futuristic anti-aircraft weapons for the Nazi war effort. Through his research he concluded that heavily pressurized whirlwinds potentially have the capability to destroying enemy aircraft. His design worked by generating explosions in a combustion chamber, which would be released through nozzles, directed towards a target aircraft. He built a scale model of this Whirlwind Cannon and tested it against 4-inch wooden planks at a distance of about 600 feet. His weapon was successful and he was approved to begin work on a full-size weapon capable of destroying Allied fighters.
3 The Sun Gun
2 V-2 Rocket
1 Die Glocke, The Nazi Bell
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.
The main source for this claim is a Polish journalist named Igor Witkowski, who says he read about the weapon in KGB transcripts of the interrogation of SS officer Jakob Sporrenberg. Sporrenberg reported that the project was under the direction of SS General Hans Kammler, an engineer who disappeared after the war. Many believe Kammler was secreted into the United States, possibly with his prototype of The Bell. The only physical trace of the project is the ruins of a concrete framework, called “The Henge,” about 3 km from the main complex of Der Riese, that may have been a test rig for anti-gravity and propulsion experiments with The Bell. We may never know if this terrifying weapon was ever really completed.
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