And…God bless Arizona

Yes, it’s time for the Sunday Sermonette.

 

When we think of so-called wonder weapons, the first great leap forward were the Nazi Wunderwaffels. Before that, there were intermittent leaps forward but the age that brought us the American development of the fission bomb and the fusion bomb was also dramatically illustrated with the German efforts to create war-winning weapons as they fought the unbeatable US logistics monster, on the other side of the planet, out of reach, filled with hard working people and abundant natural resources. And it’s there that this blog takes us today – for consideration, well short of a polemic.

There were weapons that were ahead of their time but not that far ahead of their time because the Allies were beginning to field their own equivalents by the end of the war.

There were also weapons that the Allies had too, but people don’t usually talk about that because it’s seems to be more fun to talk about the German hardware.

Weapons that were so far ahead of their time that the technology didn’t exist to make them practical and they killed more people testing and building them than the enemy.

Weapons that were ahead of their time but they couldn’t build enough of them to make a difference.

Weapons that would have been a war winner if the Allies hadn’t developed countermeasures which made them completely useless merely a few months after they were first deployed.

Dead end technologies

Weapons that were touted as a wonder weapon but were actually just a plywood glider with a gun strapped to it.

Weapons that would have wasted time, money, manpower, and resources producing behemoths that would have been completely impractical.

Weapons where a small bloodless raid by a handful of British commandos completely derails and brings an end to the project.

Weapons where it was obvious that the designer was high on acid to seriously think that it would be plausible to build such a thing in the 20th century.

Weapons “The History Channel” made up 60 years after WW2 ended

18 COMMENTS

  1. A thought provoking post. How far ahead would we be if the right technologies had been recognized and supported? How many opportunities have been wasted due to fraud, waste and administrative nonsense, across history and the world?
    In an unrelated note, the last picture reminds me of something. in the age of PC garbage, have you noticed that the Nazis make safe villains? Books, TV and film need bad guys, but care must be taken to select one that won’t offend. It seems that the list of those that can be safely hated is shrinking.

    • The Nazis make the perfect villains. They are (1) male; (2) white; (3) speak with a “German accent”. Asians are also favored villains in Hollywood films and are usually “generic male Asians”.

      A lot of technology has to arrive at the right place, at the right time, with the right packaging. Or with the right need. Nuclear energy was one such. Sure, it would have come about eventually, and the Germans (Heisenburg) were moving down a blind alley of sorts as they worked on a fusion bomb – that really needed a fission bomb to set it off. But without the urgency of war, it could have taken another fifty years.

  2. That last depiction of the fabled ‘Die Glock:’ alien technology that the Nazis just couldn’t figure out. Of course, there are alien-deniers that poo poo such foolishness.

    Just remember: black helicopters matter.

    • In most modern comic book films (which are the historical records of mankind), the Nazis have allied themselves with space aliens to create death rays and so forth. Their inability to win the war, sent the aliens into X-Files mode, which worked until the show was canceled.

    • The Germans used radar very effectively and the Allies refined early radar to great effect. The Japanese did not, and their navy, in particular, suffered as a result. Early US Admirals neither understood nor trusted radar to their detriment (Iron Bottom Sound off Guadalcanal). I think that your vote is well placed.

      • P.S. Some people (and I’m not naming Fredd) claim that radar was gifted to the world by space aliens – just like velcro was much later.

        • The Brits did a tremendous amount of radar development work, and had tons of experience in figuring out how to effectively use radar with their Chain Home system.

          AND…they invented the Magnificent Magnetron, a compact, efficient, rugged, reliable way to generate large amounts of radio energy at the higher and higher frequencies that radar was employing.

          The Germans had advanced radars, but somehow lacked the capability of effectively using them. They simply didn’t have a network set up like the Brits did where the information could be used in near Real Time. When the Germans showed up, the Spitfires and Hurricanes were waiting for them.

          The Japs? Not so much. The WWII Naval Fire Control Systems were amazing, brute force things. I’d read about them, but never really understood the “nuts and bolts” of them, or how they were used, until I started hanging out on the Iowa.

          Between our radar controlled Naval Gunnery, and the introduction of the proximity fuse, the IJN had their hands full once we got cranked up.

  3. Interesting post! There’s a few in there that I’ve never seen. Like what is that just below “Weapons that would have been a war winner if the Allies hadn’t developed countermeasures which made them completely useless merely a few months after they were first deployed.”
    Some sort of bomb or missile?

    I think I recall the Triebflugel from a movie. Most likely Captain America.

    • It’s a guided missile that uses TV to let the operator see where it’s going. The US had them as well in this timeframe and while they worked, the technology was insufficiently advanced.

  4. Fascinating history.

    My dad was a B-17 pilot and flew 35 combat missions over Europe. He flew late in the war, and had an encounter with a Me-163 Komet. As he told it, the Komet came straight up in front of the formation, leveled off, and flashed through the formation in a head-on firing pass. He missed. My dad called to his top turret and asked “Did you get a shot at him?” (meaning “Did you attempt to engage?). The gunner replied “Get a shot at what, skipper?”. From what I’ve read, the Germans soon abandon head on attacks with jets. The closure rate was so fast that getting a hit was mostly luck.

    Another story from my dad’s bomb group. The ship was named “Dead Man’s Hand” after the tail number. Scroll down to the Missing A/C Report.

    http://www.447bg.com/42-31188.htm

    My dad flew his last mission 16 April ’45 in a ship named “Royal Flush”.

    http://www.447bg.com/42-97296.htm

    • The Germans actually armed some Komets with upward facing cannon and a light sensor. Fly under the target, the shadow is detected and the cannon auto-fire. It actually worked.

      Too little, too late.

  5. Ah, the infamous “Bell.”

    Enough of this black project nonsense, let’s see some commercial application. After all, they promised us flying cars and all we got was a handful of millionaire Formula 1 driver “bending the knee.” And yes, we all want an ME 262.

  6. When I was in high school I had a very good friend whose father had been a captain of a B-17. He was shot down and spent six months in a concentration camp until Patton came through and liberated them. The guy had some great stories!
    I remember asking specifically about the German jets. He said they would fly through them on the way in and again on the way out. He said they were impressive due to their speed and were difficult to hit but he thought that they weren’t very effective. He said they were far more concerned by flak and the regular German fighters.

  7. Thankfully the German Type XXI U-Boat, with an effective underwater speed, didn’t appear til late in the war and only 4 reached operational status. A serious technological leap in conventional-powered submarines, with a high-speed hull and an underwater engine capable of pushing it at high (for the times) speed not on snorkel-diesel power.

    Then there was the Heinkel He 162 Volksjäger. Plywood, glue, single jet engine, a rush-to-combat aircraft that was… surprisingly good. Actually very good. Easy to fly, to take off and land. If introduced earlier, would have been a tremendous game changer. Fortunately it wasn’t, introduced earlier that is.

    As to wonder weapons that did win the war? We did it. The USA. We created one weapon and one application of weapons that smashed anyone who got in our way.

    First was the proximity-fuse / variable-timed fuse. Basically a miniature radar unit that set off artillery rounds at a specific distance from a target. Good enough to be used in anti-aircraft guns. But also used against troops in the open. (The proximity fuse was one of the secrets that the rat-bastige Rosenbergs stole and gave to the Soviet Union. It just wasn’t atomic secrets.) (And, yeah, sure, the Brits kinda did it, but we did it and made it work!)

    And Time-on-Target. Getting all your artillery tubes, from short howitzers to long-range artillery to mortars to all drop rounds on a target so that all rounds land within a specific short time window (like seconds to a minute.) Totally shattered vehicles, people, fortifications, anything that got stonked on.

    • The Brits may have come up with the concept, but yep, the US made it work, and then made it producible in YUGE quantities.

      I’ve read some interesting stories about the development of it here. Several of the Technicians who made it work are/were Hams, and my little Electric Radio magazines had interviews and historical facts about its development by the guys who did it.

      • One of the stories of the history of the prox fuse, the sparkies who got their hands on the specs from the Brits looked at it and pretty much had the basis of the new and improved version within 2 days. At least the theory and concept.

        • It’s a very simple, clever circuit. Not really a “radar”, but more of a “metal detector”. Just an oscillator, “tightly coupled” to the antenna, and when it got near a large mass of metal, the oscillator “detuned”, or shifted frequency,. When the frequency shifted the appropriate amount, it passed through a sharp filter, and provided the trigger signal to initiate the ordnance.

          BOOM! Scratch one Zero!

          The Allies were very hesitant to use them in Europe, because the Germans didn’t have anything like it, and would quickly reverse engineer any duds they found, and put it into production.

          Similar logic applied to the BAR in WWI.

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