Following the end of WWII, the world was shocked at what was happening behind the scenes in Nazi Germany. Beyond the countless atrocities, the Nazis put together a fascinating collection of weaponry that seemed like it was straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Some of those weapons were actually deployed, some were developed but didn’t see combat, and some were so far-fetched it’s astonishing that Germany actually spent time and money researching them.
Here are 14 of the craziest:
1. Sun gun
So the Germans never actually built something called a sun gun, but they were researching one pretty heavily. The idea was to put a giant mirror into space that would reflect and focus solar energy at a specific target. If you’ve seen Die Another Day, you know the concept.
2. The V-1 Reichenberg
The V-1 Flying Bomb was more or less an early forerunner of the Cruise Missile—it had a rudimentary autopilot, and simply went into a dive bomb after a timer reached zero. The Reichenberg, however, was a V-1 with a much more sophisticated pilot: a human, who in stereotypical German fashion, had to sign a release waiver acknowledging that he was on a suicide mission. Quite a few pilots died, even though this wasn’t actually used in battle.
3. Fliegerfaust rocket launcher
Picture a Gatling gun with nine barrels. Now picture a nine barrel Gatling gun that fires rockets in rapid succession. At Airplanes. Yeah. That’s the Fliegerfaust. It didn’t work quite as well as advertised, but a few dozen saw combat trials.
4. The A9/A10 America rocket
As the name implies, this was intended to strike American cities from European launch points. Conceptually, it used a manned rocket with a warhead (the A9) and a booster rocket (the A10) that resulted in a range of over 5,000 km before the pilot would glide into an explosive death in the U.S.
5. Sonic cannon
You know that scene in Back to the Future where Marty gets blasted across a room by Doc Brown’s huge speakers? This was the real deal. Did it work? Not terribly well.
6. Henschel HS 132 dive bomber
Only slightly less insane than the Reichenberg was the Henchel HS 132. It required the pilot to lay prone inside the tiny plane, with a BMW jet firing away just inches from his back. The 132 wasn’t intended for suicide missions, technically, but it wasn’t that far off.
7. Schwerer Gustav railway gun
Schwerer Gustav (and its sister gun, the Dora, shown here) stands as the largest gun ever fired in anger. It could only be transported by train, and was so utterly powerful it successfully destroyed a Soviet ammunition bunker that was buried below the sea. An attempt to make it mobile was dubbed the Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster, which would’ve weighed 1,500 tons.
8. Graf Zeppelin Class aircraft carriers
Shortly before the outbreak of WWII, the Wehrmacht was in the process of producing a small fleet of aircraft carriers that would’ve likely been the equal to any ship in the American fleet during WWII. Priorities shifted to U-Boat production, however, and the carrier never saw active service. Following the war, the Soviets towed her out to sea, and sunk her.
9. H Class battleships
Like the carriers, the H Class boats would’ve been the largest battleships at sea. The 1,100-foot monsters would’ve been fitted with up to 20" (in diameter) cannons that dwarfed even the largest on the Japanese Yamato, which in turn, outsized anything in Uncle Sam’s arsenal. With a range of nearly 20,000 miles, there’s literally nowhere on Earth where they wouldn’t have been a threat.
To put the sheer size into perspective, this image is a rendering of an H44 Battleship next to the legendary Bismarck’s sister ship.
10. Panzer VIII Maus
The Maus was designed by Ferdinand Porsche to essentially charge straight at Allied tanks. It was a hybrid electric vehicle and the engines powered electric motors that drove the treads. At 188 tons, it was too heavy for bridges, so it was supposed to simply drive across rivers by connecting to another Maus while the crew breathed via a freaking snorkel.
11. Landkreuzer P1000 Ratte
The P1000 never saw the light of day, but the fact that it was even designed is borderline inconceivable. It was meant to weigh 1000 tons—well over five times the Maus—and was essentially a battleship for land. It featured an array of cannons and even storage room for a pair of motorcycles. It could never have been driven on roads, because it would destroy them, but at over 35 feet tall, it could’ve crossed most of Europe’s rivers without breaking a sweat.
12. Krummlauf periscope rifle
Picture a rifle with a bent barrel allowing a user to literally fire around a corner. The bends were able to be as extreme as 90 degrees, albeit with severely reduced service life, since making a bullet change direction is extremely tough on equipment. A couple hundred rounds is all it was good for.
13. Horten Ho 229
The Horten Ho 229 was the first jet-powered flying wing. It was designed as a bomber that could strike targets over 600 miles away, while traveling 600 mph at nearly 50,000 feet. Largely because of its shape, it had a relatively low radar profile, meaning it could get closer to the English coast prior to detection. Just three prototypes were made, it had no real impact on the war.
14. Goliath tracked mine
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was an overgrown toy version of a WWI-era tank. In reality though, the Goliath was capable of delivering up to 220 pounds of explosives via remote controls. It was employed in widespread use, but considering all you had to do to defeat it was cut the really long cable connecting it to the controller, it wasn’t that effective.