By Mail Foreign Service
Daily Mail | April 2010
Adolf Hitler promised the German people that 'wonder weapons' being devised by his scientists would win World War Two.
The Nazi leader's boast was finally put to the test seven decades later in the US last night. An array of fantasy projects - from a tank weighing 1,000 tons that no road could support to a long-distance rocket that could have pounded London or New York into brick dust - were debated on the ABC TV show Nazi Secret Weapons.
Artist's impression: Adolf Hitler's planned super tank. It would have weighed 1,000 tons and fired a long-distance rocket that could have pounded London or New York into brick dust - but no road could support it
It became a common belief among the Third Reich elite towards the end of the war that the Fuhrer was putting his faith in hi-tech weaponry to repel the enemy at the gates. The programme looked at whether any of these projects could in fact have swung the war in the Nazis' favour. Using blueprints and plans allied to modern computer technology, National Geographic scientists and military historians analysed Hitler's plans to see if the war might have had a different ending.
The Nazis already led the world in many fields by the time the Reich crumbled - V1 and V2 rockets; the Messerschmitt 262 jet-engined plane; submarines able to stay submerged longer than any other; Tabun and Sarin gases capable of killing millions. But it was what the Third Reich did not manufacture in time that could have changed the world forever.
The TV show examined a Messerschmitt 264 Bomber. Codenamed the 'America Bomber' because that was to be its goal, this leviathan was intended to fly non-stop across the Atlantic and back again - something no aircraft of the time could do. It was designed to carry a 6.5ton bomb that it would drop on East Coast war plants.
Scale: The sheer size of 'The Rat' can be seen in this model version - note how small the men are compared to the tank
Although Hitler was said to be 'consumed' by this project, the more conventional bombers flown by the RAF and the USAAF destroyed all the prototypes before the first one left the ground.
The programme also looked at a 1,000ton tank something called The Rat. Given that the heaviest production-line tank of WW2 was the 60 ton Tiger, this project showed up the 'gigantism' that consumed Hitler - in architecture, murder and weaponry.
Designed to be 114-feet long, fitted with huge 280mm naval guns as well as eight anti-aircraft batteries, the idea was that the tank was to be a mobile gun battery, a fortress on tracks. 'The Rat tank had such a large diameter projectile that its destructive force would have been absolutely enormous: many, many feet of concrete, tremendous blast, tremendous killing power,' engineer Peter Robbins told National Geographic. But no road or bridge could hold it, and its slow speed would have made it vulnerable to hunter-killer aircraft. It was testament to Hitler's increasingly demented thinking and in 1943 armaments minister Albert Speer cancelled the project.
Another model version of the super tank shows how it would have dwarfed ordinary army jeeps
One turret of the The Rat was cast; it was used to mount a coastal gun in Norway.
The Nazis also developed something called the FX 1400, a radio-guided bomb.
In September 1943 this radio-guided bomb was used against one of the biggest battleships in the Italian navy, the Roma, after Italy surrendered to Hitler's fury. In just 35 minutes, after two direct hits, the ship sank, taking 1,200 sailors with her to the depths. A couple of days later, Hitler turned his attention to the U.S. Navy, targeting the USS Savannah, a cruiser used for U.S. landings in Southern Italy. Luckily for it, the bomb was so powerful it went through the ship like butter, blowing up only after exiting the hull.
Other weapons that comforted Hitler as his world collapsed included the Viper, the world's first vertical take-off plane. Ten of these were ready for action at Kircheim Unter Tech in southwest Germany during 1945 but were never used against the enemy.
His scientists also made an acoustic cannon, which was supposed to be able to kill men with sound waves at a range of 70 yards. But it didn't work and the project was junked.
But the Germans did turn out a wind cannon, which could shatter wooden boards at a distance of 200 yards with jets of compressed air. The wind cannon was ready for action at a bridge over the Elbe in 1945 but was never used.