Wars are always tragic, without exception. They feed on the worst of the human being, although the best of him can also be manifested. Solidarity, empathy, personal sacrifice… and creativity and imagination, even though they are often applied to the war. Whether we like it or not, wars produce important technical and scientific advances. Many of the technologies within our reach today were devised by Allies and Axis engineers and scientists. However, the Germans generated an apart constituted by strange war technologies, more typical of science fiction than of reality. They called them “Wunderwaffen” and we are going to know them
The war to end all wars. So was called the First World War in the hope that such barbarism would never happen again. But human beings have hypocrisy inscribed in their genes. Twenty-one years later another international massacre would begin that would exaggeratedly surpass the first in violence and cruelty.
A series of signatures officially ended with the First World War: those of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. The aim was to mend fences, improve diplomacy and inter-state relations so that hatred would not grow to the point of provoking another such conflict. But, we insist, hypocrisy is the heritage of humanity and the ambitions to build a state of permanent peace were reduced to mere verbiage in the interests of the different powers. Germany was undoubtedly the most affected since it was blamed for the exclusive material and moral culpability of the war (Article 231), a clause that was certainly unjust in many respects, among them it could not be negotiated.
The German country was shattered, not only by the war but also by the consequences of the Treaty or “diktat” (imposition) as the Germans called it, rooted more in fear of the resurgence of Germany than in peace. Numerous European territories and African colonies were seized, distributed among other countries, the possibility of developing certain types of weapons was censured (the air force was totally dismantled), the number of soldiers (of the 8 million soldiers it had, it was left with only 100000) and weapons that it could harbour was restricted and it was forced to hand over to the Allies all those surpluses that could not possess since the Treaty. And the worst of all was the astronomical economic debt imposed to repair all the war damage: 132 billion gold marks, a figure that not all the Allies together could pay. To give an idea, does the reader know when Germany finished paying its debt? In 2010 they disbursed the last amounts, corresponding to interest.
Ultimately, the Treaty of Versailles served as fuel, only missing the engine that would move the vehicle of war again. That engine was the NSDAP, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the Nazis and, above all, their sociopath leader: Adolf Hitler. They used the past and Versailles as a weapon against their enemies, who were all, and nurtured the sleeping hatred of the people to support what was to come. Germany regained war, recovered troops and was formed with new weapons and military strategies that would give them an extraordinary advantage during the first years of war
The World War II trend changed when Germany began to be overtaken on the eastern and western fronts. Soldiers and civilians felt the tension in the air and demoralization wandered on the battlefield and in the villages. The army weakened, and the end of Germany accelerated more and more. It was then that a promise in the form of a powerful term began to be heard on the fronts: “Wunderwaffen”, miraculous or marvellous weapons, weapons called to change the course of history. Weapons that had nothing to do with those known to all. They were totally new and strange and harbored a power never seen before. Intercontinental missiles, giant armoured vehicles, night planes, supersonic aircraft with strange shapes, infrared technologies, electronic disruptors… Their ideologue was Joseph Goebbels, Reich propaganda minister, master in manipulating the masses. The achievements were relative. Indeed, the German troops were inflated with new encouragement and expectation. They had to sacrifice themselves and defend their positions whatever the cost in order to gain time and get those miraculous weapons into service. But the efforts were in vain. Everything was put against Germany, and those Wunderwaffen hardly participated in the battlefield. Some did not evolve beyond the plans, others manifested themselves in prototypes needing more interventions to enter service and those managed to enter service but in small numbers and too late, so they did not really play a fundamental role in the war.
The real success of the Wunderwaffen came in the post-war period. When the Allies requisitioned the resources and the Nazi scientists and engineers, they were able to verify the technological advance of Nazi Germany and possibly breathed a sigh of relief to see that many of those mills did not see the light. There is no doubt that the Nazis were real monsters, but objectively they had some of the most privileged minds of the time. In the end, thanks to their engineers, man was able to reach the Moon, fly at supersonic speeds, develop new infrared and night vision technologies. And all this thanks to the seeds that germinated in the bosom of the Wunderwaffen.
As the Wunderwaffen are abundant and varied, we will dedicate two ample posts to explore them and astonish us with some of them. We assure you that you will be surprised.
The tungsten giants
The Allies had a recurring nightmare during the World War II. The German Panzers (short for “Panzerkampfwagen”) thwarted their plans and strategies on several occasions. The Panzerdivision became an indispensable element of the “blitzkrieg” or German lightning war with which they dealt hard blows to the Allies. The evolution of German tanks seemed to have no end: each new design that appeared carried a more robust and resilient armour and a more powerful artillery… and increased in size. The Panzers were the most real manifestation of Nazi pretensions: more power, more territory, more fear, more control.
The six Panzerdivision of the Wehrmacht consisted of about 288 tanks each. The most common were the Panzerkampfwagen I (PzKpfw-I), also the lightest in armament and weight, followed by the PzKpfw-II and PzKpfw-III, the latter already heavier and belonging to the group of medium tanks. However, the most efficient of them all was the Panzer-IV… until it faced the Soviet T-34, which left the Panzer until then built obsolete. It then became necessary to manufacture a more powerful armored vehicle, more filled with impenetrable tungsten or molybdenum, the Panzer V Panther. Like the Nazi obsessions, the Panzers did not cease to progress and after the Panzer V came two even more destructive monstrosities that would go down in history as the heaviest armored vehicles put into service during World War II: the Tiger I and II. From the 6 tons of the Panzer-I to the 56 and 65-68 tons of the Tiger I and II respectively which, in addition, had an 8.8 cm FlaK antiaircraft cannon (although the Panzerjäger Jagdtiger model had a 128 mm cannon). For this reason the tanks were made so heavy and large, to house a weapon of similar caliber as the FlaK cannon. It was the first time that such a large weapon was installed on the chassis of an armoured combat vehicle. Now the obsolete technology was that of the Allies. In spite of the little use they had, since they were manufactured between 1944 and 1945, they are possibly the most remembered tanks.
But if these figures are already impressive, the reader should be prepared, because we have not yet spoken of the largest armored. After Panzer VI (or Tiger I), German engineers were still looking for larger tanks capable of sustaining greater firepower to cope with Soviet tanks. In these they came up with the model Panzer VII Löwe (“lion” in German), an armor even heavier than the Tiger II. Several dimensions are estimated for the same and a weight between 75 and 90 tons. The project began in 1941 by the Krupp consortium. For armament it would have the impressive L/70 cannon of 105 mm and axial machine gun. It never materialised, not even a mere prototype, because Adolf Hitler and the Nazi commanders, boasting of their delusions of grandeur, asked for something even heavier
Thus was born the Panzer-VIII Maus, the largest super-heavy tank ever created, because prototypes were created, specifically two commissioned to Ferdinand Porsche and made in 1943 and 1944. The entrepreneur seems to have backed down from the Führer’s demands, so Hitler designed the dimensions himself. It could have had competition if the super-heavy tank E-100 of the Entwicklung programme had been manufactured (an attempt to standardise the manufacture of tanks at the end of the war in order to facilitate their construction and make them available more quickly), which would have been slightly larger than the Maus, although like the Panzer-VII Löwe it was discarded for the sake of the Panzer-VIII. Even so, it would not have competed in weight, as the Maus reached 188 tons. 10.09 meters long, 3.67 meters wide and 3.71 meters high were the measurements that Adolf Hitler requested. A colossus with tracks that left room for 6 men inside. The metallic plates that wrapped it had to provide it with an armour of no more and no less than 240 mm in its thickest part, making it almost impenetrable. Its cannon was the same as that of the Jagdtiger: a L/55 of 128 mm, capable of launching a 28 kg projectile at 2000 meters. Even so, this cannon did not correspond to Hitler’s dreams, who wanted a 200 mm cannon.
However, greater size and weight does not mean greater effectiveness. To the detriment of weight was speed and range: it could hardly reach 20 km/h in open field with its 1200 hp electric diesel engine and had to be refilled with fuel at a maximum of 160 km. As if the inconveniences were few, its mobility was restricted and it ran the risk of getting stuck in soft terrain. In addition, few bridges could hold it when crossing rivers, so it had the obligation to ford them by immersing in them. To do this, this monstrosity had to be perfectly sealed and have installed a snorkel device that is estimated to allow him to dive a maximum of 8 meters. Indefectibly, it would need an energy contribution from another Maus with which it would be connected through a long cable, since the electric motor could not work under water. Once the first Maus had forded the river, it would help its companion to do so in a similar way, slowing down the march of the troops and increasing their vulnerability. It is logical to think then that its function would have been to maintain a defensive position and attack the Allies armored vehicles from afar.
At this point we can only speculate, because to this day there is no evidence of the entry into service of the only two existing prototypes of Maus that the Soviets found in Kummersdorf. They were seriously damaged, so it is possible that they were rendered unusable by some Allies bombardment before going into action. Hitler’s dream became impossible at this point in the war. The large amount of construction materials, fuel, time and personnel made it unfeasible to produce these tanks in series.
For the Nazis, however, size mattered. The bigger and more imposing the better. There was something much bigger in exchange for what we have shown so far. Something that would mute Maus itself. A super-tank that only has a place in science fiction and that, in fact, is where it comes from. Its architect was the prolific H. G. Wells (1866-1946). He called his creature “landcruiser”, and the Nazis appropriated it. Fortunately the Landkreuzer P-1000 Ratte never left the plans. The best way to describe it is as a disturbing land ship extremely fortified and armed. The project was developed by Krupp after obtaining the approval of the Führer, who did not think twice when contemplating a weapon of such caliber. Albert Speer, the Reich’s minister of armament, did not think so, and on several occasions he demonstrated to Hitler the absurdity and impracticalness of many of his weapons dreams. This was one such case.
The Landkreuzer would have weighed 1000 tons! Its nearly 35 meters long, 14 meters wide and 11 meters high would have been moved by three rows of tracks 1.2 meters wide each and would have needed between 20 and 40 people to control it. And if we have compared it to a ship it has not been random. In fact, the project managers came up with the idea of installing 8 Daimler-Benz marine diesel engines with 2000 hp each or two MAN marine diesel engines (like the ones on the U-boot submarines) in order to move this metal mass at 40 km/h, although it probably wouldn’t even have reached such a speed. Its armament would also have been overwhelming: two 280 mm naval cannons, a tank-hunter cannon like that of the Maus (L/55 128 mm), eight 20 mm FlaK 38 anti-aircraft cannons and a pair of 15 mm automatic cannons. Its spacious interior would have housed an infirmary, a bay for storing motorcycles, several storage rooms and an autonomous lavatory system. In short, it would have been the most powerful tank in the war, capable of defending itself against land and air threats. It would also have had problems very similar to those of the Maus: poor manoeuvrability, too much slowness and fuel consumption, the need to install a snorkel system to ford rivers…
These projects on plans look promising, but their realisation is very difficult, so much so that they end up being cancelled. The shortage of materials, personnel, money and time proved Albert Speer right. Moreover, its enormous size would not have gone unnoticed by the Allies, that would have made it a priority target to bomb. The same thing happened with another heavier Landkreuzer: the P-1500 Monster. It had been designed to merge with a super gun like the 800 mm Dora or the 800 mm Schwerer-Gustav (a 32.5 metre long cannon capable of launching shells of more than 5 tonnes up to a distance of 47 km). The super-tank was not built but these and other cannons came into service and had to be mounted on railway complexes.
The strange Kugelpanzer
And from the biggest armored vehicles we go to the smallest and weirdest. Little or nothing is known for sure about it. A dense mist of enigmas covers its history. Even its provenance is in question, so it would be a bit hasty to add it to this of about German warfare technology. Even so, there are certain clues that provide timid hints about some elements of its history.
This is the Kugelpanzer (“ball tank” in German). It looks like a futuristic vehicle and we can only label it as a vehicle because it has a series of wheels, because otherwise the imagination would be forced to walk along fantastic paths. It also resembles an extraordinary portable bunker that allows contact with the outside only through the narrow slit in the front, resembling more a large piggy bank than a real armoured tank. We know all this from the only specimen currently kept in the Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia. Because of its size, it seems to be suitable for a single person and has no signs to suggest that it carried a turret or cannon (some suggest that it would have had a small machine gun just below the vision slot), casting doubt on whether its function was offensive or defensive. Be that as it may, the armament it would have carried would have been rather scarce and its armor too thin, 5 mm in its thickest zone, so we can reject most hypotheses that defend an offensive function. Perhaps it could have served as a fortified mobile observation point with which to direct artillery fire, as an escort vehicle or even as a kamikaze vehicle to crash into infantry or other vehicles. In this respect, it is worth asking whether the pilot would have any way of saving himself before the impact or whether, on the contrary, he would become part of the iron mix into which the tank would become. It was accessed through a door in the back.
Although it would have been built at some point in the Second World War, experts believe that its origin dates back to the First World War, where we can find a plausible precedent for this tank, the Treffas-Wagen, of which Hansa-Lloyd Werke AG only built one prototype. With wheels 3 meters in diameter, the Treffas-Wagen seemed made to surprise its enemies, but the truth is that little surprise achieved. What appeared on paper as a good idea, in practice this tank proved to be a complete failure due to serious design flaws.
One of the few consensuses around the Kugelpanzer is the agreement on its German invoice. Most sources indicate that the Soviets allegedly captured the Kugelpanzer in Manchuria during the Soviet-Japanese war, so that its discovery could be delimited between August 8 and September 2, 1945, the period in which the conflict is circumscribed. It is well known that the Germans sent war machines and resources to their Pacific allies and in some of these “packages” the Kugelpanzer may have been. Others, however, claim that the prototype was found in the abandoned Kummersdorf test field next to the Maus tanks.
Little more is known about this weapon, more typical of science fiction than of our reality. A single-cylinder two-stroke engine is what gave it life. On the sides, two large wheels with circular tracks the same size as the central body displaced that strange tank, and the wheel installed in the appendix at the front of the vehicle would have allowed it to turn, similar to the design of the Treffas-Wagen. No file, no plan and no testimony accompanied the only specimen of the Kulgenpanzer discovered in Manchuria and, therefore, we cannot have any more idea of the operation and function of this mysterious ball tank. Perhaps Russians keep in their archives some documents on the subject, so we will have to wait for new information.
However, we must not restrict to the Germans the interest in building ball tanks. The Soviets devised even more extravagant ball tanks. Like the 1914 Tsar’s tank, a sort of armoured tricycle with two 9-metre diameter wheels protected by several machine guns. Or the Protivotank, a 10-metre-high sphere whose tracks were placed in the centre of the sphere instead of on the sides. War resources that have something in common all of them: none was successful beyond the first pretensions and ended up being replaced by the most known and sophisticated tanks. Only in fictitious wars do these ingenuums have room, at least for the moment…
Much of World War II was unleashed in the air. Bombers, fighters and even the precedents of contemporary helicopters wounded the celestial tissue with their shots and bombs. Also in this field the Nazi engineers used their crazy imagination to gestate totally new prototypes of airships, with new forms, more powerful engines and more devastating weapons. They realized almost in the run-up to the war that their aircraft lacked certain elements that made them inferior to those of the Allies. It was on the basis of this feeling of disadvantage that the strange aircrafts which we are going to learn about were born.
They were known as flying wings, because that was what they were: planes that lacked the part of the fuselage concerning the tail. These planes were basically compact wings. One of those prototypes, a fighter-bomber, was known as Horten Ho (16.8 meters wingspan; 7.47 meters long and 2.81 meters high) in honor of its creators, the brothers Reimar and Walter Horten, both pilots and without being specialists in aeronautics, devised the first jet in history. Walter had participated in the battle of England in 1940 as a pilot of the Luftwaffe, the German air force, and could see first hand the structural and functional deficiencies of the most advanced German fighter used at that time: the Messerschmitt Bf 109. The German brothers thought that a much more aerodynamic aircraft with a jet engine like those being manufactured at the time in the most absolute of the secrets in Germany would significantly increase the performance of Reich aircraft with respect to autonomy and maneuverability. And they set to work.
They didn’t have it easy. They were under pressure to calm the arduous desire of the commander in chief of the Luftwaffe, Herman Göring, to get a “3×1000” plane, that is, one that would be capable of transporting a 100 kg of explosives at a distance of 1000 km and a speed of 1000 km / h. The brothers developed several versions of the Horten IX (this is what Reimar called it). The first version or V1 was built as a glider, lacking even any engine, and was tested in February 1944. The results were favorable, so much so that Horten brothers decided to evolve towards the version 2 (V2) of 9 tons, this one, now yes, propelled by two jet engines Junkers Jumo 004 B-2, and with an additional peculiarity: the external panels that composed the flying wing were of wood. This design was not trivial. As Reimar Horten himself stated decades later, the idea was to manufacture for the first time the stealth technology to make the aircraft invisible to Allies radars by adding sawdust, glue and carbon underneath the plates.
The Hortens built only one prototype of the Ho 229 V2, and it ended badly. It is not certain whether it performed only two or four test flights, but in the last of them, the experienced military pilot Erwin Ziller performed a series of unfortunate maneuvers and ended up crashing to the ground, dying vehicle and pilot in December 1944. The next version, the V3, was commissioned by Göring to Gotha, although the Hortens had already thought of a prototype carrying cannons. The end of the war once again prevented the sons of the Third Reich from turning the tables.
When the U.S. Army arrived at the hangars where these models were being built (at Gotha they had reached the V6: a night fighter for two crew members), they found only dismembered and incomplete fuselages. Yet they were happily taken home, and the central body of one of those mysterious aircraft is the one currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum. Needless to say, the pioneering technology carried by the prototypes requisitioned from the Germans became part of the American aircrafts. The American Northrop B2 Spirit bomber is, in fact, the son of the Horten and also possesses stealth technology.
The Horten Ho 229 had the opportunity to materialize, but not another stranger flying wing: the Arado E.555. The other models of its kind were like a conventional airplanes, but the E.555 Arado stood out for its curious shape. This one did not come out of the plans for the luck of the Allies, especially for the North Americans. This bomber was part, along with other prototypes, of a contumacious project to bomb the east coast of the United States: Operation “Amerika Bomber”. The objective was to build a plane with enough power and autonomy to fly from Germany to the New Continent, launch 4000 kg of explosives and return to the starting point, covering a total of more than 10000 km. They proposed a series of designs of more than 20 meters of wingspan all of them which began to be studied in late 1943, and like the Horten intended to be jet aircrafts. Perhaps one of the most interesting designs is the Arado E.555-1, not only for its shape but also for the arrangement of the turbojets (BMW 003A), in number of 6 and stacked in the center of the rear of the wing. Also striking is the Arado E.555-10 by the two long appendages that start from the rear sides of the aircraft.
The first infrared remote-controlled missile
The Germans were undoubtedly the best and most innovative missile manufacturers of the Second World War. They are credited with inventing the first guided ground-to-ground and air-to-air missiles, cruise missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, the first anti-bunker missiles and the first infrared radio-controlled missiles. The well-known Messerschmitt Enzian E-4 surface-to-air missile belongs to the latter kind.
Dr. Hermann Wurster of Messerschmitt AG was the architect. It comes from a dynasty of missiles devised in 1943 known as Flak Rakete (FR; “anti-aircraft rocket” in German), although its most direct ancestor is the FR-5 design, on which it was based. Its aerodynamic structure comes from the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet aircraft, another great aeronautical innovation, as it was the first and only rocket-propelled fighter of the time, as well as beating the airspeed record by being the first to exceed 1000 km/h. However, it consumed the fuel very quickly, so in the end it became ineffective and engineers had to think of alternatives that could supplement the performance of this machine, for which these missiles were born.
The Enzian consisted of two wings in arrow and two ailerons in the tail arranged at 90º with respect to the wings. It had a cylindrical shape with a wingspan of about 4 meters and 2 meters long and weighed about 1800 kg of which 500 kg belonged to nothing more and nothing less than the explosive head and 550 kg to the fuel. E-4 refers to the version of the missile, so previously there were three other versions that only worked as test prototypes. The E-4 was the design that was used as a model for production, reaching 60 units. To take off it needed a mobile ramp about 7 meters long and four solid fuel rockets that supported the main engine by providing about 6000 kg of thrust for 4 seconds and that finally came off the missile to lighten about 320 kg weight. The engine was a Walter 109-739 bi fuel system, i.e. capable of burning two types of fuel, in this case SV-Stoff (a mixture of 90% nitric acid and 10% sulfuric acid) and lignite benzene. It had the same problem as the ME-163 Komet, i.e. it burned the fuel very fast, in about 72 seconds, giving it about 2000 kg of thrust, so its efficiency depended on the initial acceleration. Even so, it is estimated that the Enzian could reach 15.7 km in the vertical and 25 km in the horizontal radius. Due to its great weight and to give another use to the strategic materials that composed it and that were scarce in the last years of the war, it was foreseen to construct the fuselage of wood.
Such was the force of the thrust provided by the main engine that was able to reach almost 1100 km/h, not far from the supersonic speed. Its direction and course were controlled in two phases: at first, an operator stabilized the missile by means of a radio transmitter. Later, when the projectile entered the radius of action, the control passed to the self-guided system controlled by the detection systems installed in the anterior part of the missile, which could be acoustic, infrared or radars. The detonation fuze was activated when the missile was within 45 meters of the target. The power of the warhead did not need more range than that. Three variants were thought for the warhead: one formed only by explosives, another formed by explosives surrounded by small steel cylinders of about 30 mm with incendiary core and the last variant constituted by 550 R4M missiles. Of course, the last two options significantly increased the range of action.
This new technology was quite successful: 38 were the flight tests carried out in Peenemünde (the famous research center where the Germans developed the V2) and favorable was the result that was obtained. The objective was that its 500 kg explosive head would explode between the bomber formations in order to destabilize them and cause some casualties. However, the element that made the Enzian a truly novel weapon was its infrared radio control, one of the alternatives to guide the Enzian automatically once it entered the radius of action. The most commonly used was the “Madrid” infrared system. It was quite sophisticated: it consisted of an infrared photosensitive cell placed in front of a mobile telescopic mirror and a series of metal rods arranged in the shape of a cross. The mission of the rods was to interrupt the image of the target in order to force the mirror to acquire the optimal position in which the signal was maximized. In this way the missile was self-guided with great precision to the bombers of Allies. That’s why the Enzian was also thought to be adapted to be an air-to-air missile, but the project did not come to fruition.
Its lifespan was short: it was born in 1944 and in January 1945 the Enzian project was abandoned without even having been put into service by others who seemed more promising in the rales of war, when the Germans were clearly already at a complete disadvantage and desperate to manufacture a miracle. It was mainly organizational problems that caused this cancellation, as there was a delay in the manufacture of the engines. Their representatives were an unfulfilled promise that only participated as prototypes in launch tests. However, the approaching defeat did not prevent the uncontrollable mind of Nazi engineers from developing a more evolved version of the Enzian missile: the Enzian 5, which would have become the first supersonic technology in history. It goes without saying that this, like so many other German technologies, fell into the hands of the Allies at the end of the war and was perfected and integrated into new weapons.
The UFOs of the Third Reich
The UFO phenomenon began to be famous on June 24, 1947. On that day the American pilot Kenneth Arnold (1915-1984) was flying over the Rainier region in Washington with his CallAir model aircraft, collaborating in a search party for a missing military aircraft. However, at around 15:00 he sees something. It is not the small plane, but something extremely strange: nine mysterious flying wings in the shape of a half moon, flat and shiny flying at about 9500 feet high in V formation, something that he had never seen before throughout his entire journey as a pilot. From that moment on, the world changes. UFOs or “flying saucers” are forcibly introduced into popular culture and the collective imagination, kicking off the modern era of UFOs. This does not mean at all that the phenomenon originated in 1947, since ufologists keep in their archives multiple cases of sightings that occurred much earlier. This is simply the moment when the phenomenon becomes famous and is given real importance by the media and security forces of various states.
There were UFOs before, and they behaved in the same erratic and absurd way as modern ones. In fact, during World War II both allies and the Axis witnessed several sightings of these objects, considered as extraordinary weapons that the enemy had designed. They blamed each other for something they saw for the first time. Could the Germans have been the authors of these phenomena? Did an engineer think of building saucer-shaped aircraft?
This is a delicate and extremely confusing subject. A story that sinks into the dense legend and which for many is this very thing: a myth. At least the genesis of this story seems certain. At the end of 1944, several Allies media reported on some very sophisticated and mysterious disc-shaped apparatus flying over London and the Rhine. It didn’t take long to relate that mystery to some Nazi prototypes of war. It is said that, first near Prague, in a BMW factory, and then in Peenemünde, Italian and German scientists and engineers worked side by side on disc-shaped vehicles between 1942 and 1944: the Haunebu, of which there would have been four models, from Mark I to Mark IV. The first of them would have measured 6 meters in diameter and 2 in height and the fourth about 9 meters in diameter. They would have been heavily armed, with cannons and machine guns placed in the belly of the aircraft, in the dome or on the sides. The speeds they could have reached would have been unimaginable, as they were equipped with sophisticated jet engines. Some authors make a dent precisely in this feature. According to them, the testimonies of the time assure that the “UFOs” of the war period were moving at unusual speeds, and the more astute would have seen an iron cross tattooed on the fuselage, making the Nazi authorship unmistakable.
Two of those engineers were Rudolf Schriever and Otto Habermohl and, at least, the first of them confirmed to the German magazine Der Spiegel (March 1950) that he was involved in the manufacture of disc-shaped aircrafts, although it seems that they were not the Haunebu. His ambition was to create a sort of supersonic helicopter in the shape of a disc that could land vertically. He christened it Flugkreisel and it measured 14 meters in diameter, larger therefore than the Haunebu. Surrounding the central body, a turbine allowed the ascent and landing of the saucer. It would be propelled by three powerful turbojets capable of providing a thrust of 900 kg each. Two other turbojets in a lateroventral position were in charge of the displacement of the whole vehicle. They would have made the invention reach 4200 km/h, vastly surpassing the supersonic aircraft built in the postwar. In 1945, the Soviets seized the device, which was almost finished, and that’s when its runway is lost, always according to Schriever. In that issue of Der Spiegel appeared the first sketch of Schriever’s alleged saucer, imagined by one of the newspaper’s skillful draftsmen. Later, other artists would copy this model and add elements from his harvest, but in general they did not vary much from the original design. If we compare it with a Haunebu at first glance we can see that they differ significantly, so we must assume that they would be different prototypes.
In November 1954, confusion about the Schriever-Habermohl project increased following statements published in a Zurich newspaper that would also draw the attention of the CIA, which contained the news in report number 00-W-27452. In them, a certain George Klein, a supposed German engineer, affirmed with great security and contributing several technical details to have witnessed the success of the Flugkreisel, that in a test carried out on February 14, 1945 in the city of Kahla, Thuringia, it would have reached 12 Km of height in only 3 minutes at supersonic speeds (2200 Km/h) in a time in which supposedly such an achievement was considered impossible. He spoke of three prototypes ready by the end of 1944, one of them being an enormous 42-meter diameter flying disc. And even more impressive: according to Klein, there was an idea of building flying saucers to transport passengers on commercial flights with a capacity to carry 30 to 40 people who would barely have time to realize that they were flying, since they would reach their destinations fleetingly due to the great speed at which the alleged saucer traveled: 4000 Km/h, more than four times faster than any commercial airplane of the XXI century. The only ones who would know of its true existence would be the upper echelons of the Russian administration, since they were the ones who dismantled the facilities where these impressive ingenuums were built.
A few days before Schriever’s interview, the subject became even more entangled. The testimony of Giuseppe Beluzzo, a turbine engineer who claimed that the originality of the idea about saucer-shaped aircrafts was Italian and later appropriated by the Germans, appeared in several Italian newspapers. The record he described was a bomber that resembled the one given by Schriever, raising suspicions that the German might have copied Beluzzo in his later interview. But the story continues.
Little by little, new testimonies of presumed engineers who worked on these projects appeared as mushrooms, contrasting in several aspects with the rest of the information. Joseph Andreas Epp, one of these workers and father of the “Omega Disk” (another 19-meter diameter disc-shaped aircraft for which there are plans), went so far as to state that Schriever’s project did not go well, refuting his testimony, and that the only considerable success was achieved with an earlier saucer-shaped prototype, the AS6. This “UFO” was tested in December 1943 in Prague and reached a whopping 25 km in flight height and speeds of 800 km/s. Four decades later, another Italian, ufologist Roberto Pinotti, revealed that he had received from someone anonymous almost two dozen files containing various testimonies of various soldiers of Mussolini who claimed to have seen several UFOs during the war and who were closely related to the SS and their agents, alleged guardians of the secret. It is strange that, suddenly, many former employees of the Reich demonstrate on the same subject and, sometimes, providing very similar data in a short period of time.
However, the fame of the Nazi flying saucers is shared between the Haunebu and the V-7. The history of the V-7 is even more mysterious because it was allegedly built and rehearsed in March 1944. Again there are presumed testimonies that assure to have seen it fly at speeds unthinkable for the time, that it reached because it would transform the oxygen of the air in an unlimited fuel thanks to a strange converter of electrical charges. But as with the previous cases, we lack any photograph, plan or rest that allows us to find out what these vehicles were like; all this would have been lost at the end of the war. The closest thing to the V-7 is a “saucer” that the Canadians built based on its hypothetical design. Of this ship, the Avrocar or Avro Canada VZ-9-AV, there is irrefutable evidence of its existence consisting of various photographs, recordings and documents. He carried out 75 flight tests between 1959 and 1961 that left too much to be desired, so much so that in the end the project was not renewed. The disc barely rose, only reached 50 km/h of speed and was very unstable. In this way, the V-7 continued in the shadows of fiction.
Finally, it is imperative to close this section talking about a very real invention that did not go beyond the mere prototype. Its author was the Austrian genius Viktor Schauberger, who would deserve a post for himself to explore his exciting biography. Above all, the Austrian was a natural observer. He was able to delve into the mysteries of nature like no one else and extract practical applications from them. What fascinated him most, however, was the dynamics of fluid vortices. That is why he was recruited by the SS in 1944 to work on a propulsion medium based on this phenomenon and dependent on an unlimited energy source. He is thus credited with the invention of the implosion engine, the Repulsin (patent 145141), the nemesis of today’s explosion engines. In Schauberger’s own words, the principle on which his engine would be based would be the following:
“If water or air is rotated into a twisting form of oscillation known as `colloidal´, a build up of energy results, which, with immense power, can cause levitation. This form of movement is able to carry with it its own means of power generation. This principle leads logically to its application in the design of the ideal airplane or submarine requiring almost no motive power.”
Basically he had to copy Nature, the vortices or energetic spirals that appear at all levels (in tornadoes, the shape of galaxies, in DNA), because they would be the best conduit for the transmission of energy, but applying a small change: it’s necessary to reverse the direction of energy. Instead of allowing the energy of a vortex to propagate centrifugally, it had to be forced to travel towards the axis, towards the interior, to provoke the phenomena to which Schauberger alluded. For some, what the Austrian polymath really suggested was the first prototype of antigravity technology, which would have been the means of propulsion for hypothetical German UFOs. For others, it was just the imagery of a dreaming mind. Be that as it may, the inventor was perhaps not so far from his ambitions, because after the war he was captured by the United States to face the Soviet Union, which had allegedly stolen the Austrian’s prototypes and plans. But now we are talking about flying discs. Well, the Repulsin’s secondary objective was to feed a disc-shaped aerospace ship. In fact, there are replicas of the model that he used in his first tests, which did not come out as expected and which, moreover, were interrupted by the defeat of Germany. It is said that a few days after the end of the world war Schauberger and his team achieved success, and that during the process the “UFO” was illuminated in various colors by the ionization of the surrounding air. It is something we will never know, because the allies plundered everything. What is also true is that their implosion machine exists and that there is a model in possession of their descendants.
It’s as if the Germans had developed an obsession with disc-shaped airships. Or perhaps they were induced? That’s what some defenders of Nazi UFOs believe. Through an esoteric secret society, the Vril Society, the Nazi gerifalts contacted some extraterrestrial civilization, which for some unknown reason communicated plans to them to build the Haunebu and the rest of the flying discs.
Precisely this type of esoteric versions obscure and discredit even more the confusing history of the Nazi flying discs. These vehicles would have been the vehicles used by the Führer to hide in a supposed secret base in Antarctica, Base 211, supposed hangar of U-boot submarines and UFOs, or even further: in the hidden face of our satellite, all with the aim of counterattacking with very advanced and indestructible weapons. It is undeniable that several occult societies played an important role in the gestation of Nazi mythology and the beliefs of their leaders, but it is counterproductive and useless to go further. In the best of cases, most of these projects remained only on the drawing board or were manifested in mere models for aerodynamic tests. Precisely, many of these stories are gestated long after the war, when reinvention and historical revisionism rise. There is therefore no point in making categorical statements in this regard. Just as many so-called UFO skeptics would have us believe that these objects of illogical behaviour are really Nazi prototypes rescued from dust and oblivion, and that from Roswell to the present day, the intelligence behind it is ultimately the remains of an anachronistic and dead Reich. The Nazi UFO affair floats on a very unstable raft and that is how we should treat it, with great caution.
Foo Fighters: the lights that turned into a nightmare
We have already seen that the issue of Nazi UFOs is complex. The origin of these stories is no less difficult. For some it is no coincidence that the beginning of the “modern era” of ufology occurred so close in time to World War II (June 24, 1947), suggesting that Nazi inventions and UFOs are correlated. However, we have already noted that the phenomenon occurred even before these presumed machines began to be built, although at that time they were given another name.
Their name is now popular for a very different reason, but their true fame began in the mid-century war. The Allies called them “Foo Fighters” (“fire fighters”, because “foo” comes from the French “feu”, fire, a term coined by Bill Holman, author of the comic strip Smokey Tover, in a context that has nothing to do with ufology or aeronautics), the Germans “Kraut fireballs”, indicating that both contenders witnessed them. That phenomenon, in its eagerness to adapt to the socio-cultural context of each time, was considered a secret airplane of the enemy. It could not be otherwise, especially in a warmongering context. Allies and the Axis pointed out each other on the authorship of the same, but the end of the war came and did not accompanied by the solution to that enigma. Foo Fighters ended up being included in the popular culture, getting the membership in the complex club of ufology. It was never really known who or what was the real cause of that phenomenology.
They consisted of mysterious spheres or very luminous globes of white, orange, yellowish or reddish colors that seemed to show curiosity for the airplanes that were hurting the skies at that time. Rather ethereal in consistency, they approached the airplanes, accompanied them for part of their journey with impossible air rafters, and sometimes even crossed them before the astonished gaze of the crews, fearful that the thing had damaged the airplane. For many they were real nightmares suggested by the belief that they were in front of a novel, sophisticated and unstoppable weapon of the opposite. After a few moments, the Foo Fighters tended to fade unexpectedly and, at times, to manifest themselves again surprisingly, like mere mocking ghosts. Most of the collected cases happened at night (as curiously happens today) and there was another detail that calls powerfully the attention: they did not appear in the radars. In addition, some witnesses described them in the form of a disc or saucer. Multiple are the testimonies that assure their existence, contrary to the presumed Nazi flying discs, which would be reinforced by two authentic snapshots that show the strangeness of this matter. In fact, we can contémplate in them what we have just described: luminous spheres flying at the same time as military airplanes.
There are several hypotheses, some of which refer to possible meteorological phenomena, such as ball lightnings or St. Elmo’s fires. Others claim directly that they are ships from other worlds. However, the frequency, behavior, size and context in which the Foo Fighters appeared make the set of explanations given so far very debatable. The only certainty we have today is that this is an unexplained phenomenon that continued after World War II, according to the various testimonies and images that the witnesses have been able to bring to the researchers. Don’t worry, because in a future post we will talk more about the Foo Fighters.
It is therefore risky to have included this chapter in an article such as the present because the Nazi authorship of the Foo Fighters is in doubt. However, we have done so because it is interesting to mention the hypotheses that attribute to the Germans the authorship of the phenomenon. The Allies pilots vaguely believed that it was a nocturnal Wunderwaffe, some bomber or secret missile. We have already seen that others linked these lights to the Nazi UFOs of Schriever and company. But others dared to contribute alternative versions, such as the writer Renato Vesco in his book Intercept – But Don’t Shoot (1971). This Italian claimed on the basis of a series of documents of the Allies to which he would have accessed that Foo Fighters were the work of the Germans and that there were two types: one that required no pilot at all, only a radio control system, and another piloted that barely came into service. The first was known as “Feuerball” and began to be built on a base south of Vienna, although the project was transferred in 1944 to Bavaria, specifically to Oberammergau. The Nazis were desperately looking for a miracle to turn the tables of war and several teams were pouring their efforts into some technology capable of interfering with the radar and radio communications of the Allies. Thus they would have arrived at the Feuerball, a remote-controlled turtle shell-shaped device with a jet engine capable of emitting powerful electromagnetic discharges through the klistron (electron vacuum valve) that would over-ionize the surrounding air of the Allies’ bombers and interfere with their electronic equipment. They say that it would also be able to disable the engines of aircrafts by means of a gas that would interrupt the ignition systems and that during its operation it would emit a ghostly glow because of ionization and electromagnetic fields. It would be a futuristic weapon in every sense.
A testimony that, however, would not be complete without that of A. Haberstroh, an obscure Nazi ex-military who claims to have worked at Peenemünde, the cradle of the V2 missiles, and who fled to Spain after the war. In León he was interviewed by researchers José Lesta and Miguel Pedrero. His statements leave no doubt: Haberstroh also mentions the Feuerball project, which was developed in Oberammergau and its descriptions coincide with those already exposed. In addition -he adds- it was transported in Messerschmitt fighters, from where it departed and was directed towards the swarm of Allies’ bombers until it exploded in light and electromagnetism affecting a radius of 30 meters.
It seems to be hopeful information that erases all mystery about the Foo Fighters, but the truth is that there are several gaps that pour a pitcher of suspicion on these versions. The first is the very existence of Renato Vesco, to the point that many doubt it, although there seem to be timid traces of his biography, which is still very obscurantist. The other suspicion that shakes the foundations of these ideas is the objectivity of the sources Vesco accessed. The BIOS (British Intelligence Objectives Sub-committee) and the CIOS (Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-committee), the first administered by the British and the second by the British and the Americans, are a series of reports published shortly after the end of the war in which important information is collected on the advanced German technology looted. Vesco relied on them to write his book. However, other experts have carefully scrutinized the files and have found absolutely nothing about the Foo Fighters. On the other hand, Nick Cook, editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly, one of the most prestigious magazines in the military field, obtained a brief report of 28 September 1945 in which Lieutenant Colonel A. R. Sullivan informed General McDonald of the negative results he had obtained in his research on “fireballs” and the presumed remote interference technology presumed to be from the Nazis. He found none of this. We could speculate to infinity whether this technology fell into the hands of another power before the British or the Americans or whether it was completely destroyed. Be that as it may, the enigma survives.
This has been all for now. We will continue this fascinating topic in the next part to discover new prototypes and inventions that will leave us speechless.
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