My Tank Has Armor Plate to Save Me From Hate
9 out of 10 hyperactive fourth graders agree that World War II super weapons are totally awesome!
Those of you who don't carefully avoid all of my updates probably know by now that one of my passions is World War II history. From time to time I find an excuse to put all my relatively worthless knowledge to good use in attempting to amuse the readers here at Something Awful. One of the most popular applications for this otherwise moronic waste of my reading time has been my series of articles detailing the crazier shit to come out of the Second World War. Since it has been a while, and since everyone enjoys a good romp through the playground of crazy tanks and airplanes, I am pleased to offer the third in my continuing series of Wacky World War II Technology!
This installment marks two firsts for the series. One is that for once not all of the oddities have been produced by Nazi Germany. While the Germans provided us with the vast majority of crazy World War II sci-fi pseudoscience the Soviets, Japanese, and even Americans provided their share of questionable high-tech. Another first this time is that all three pieces of technology were actually completed, although only two of them entered service. So hot-glue your ass into the sex swing, because things are about to get wild, socks will be flying around the room like there's a poltergeist and minds may accidentally be blown.
Type: Massive and Dorky Soviet Tank
Specific Features: You might think from these articles that the Germans had the market cornered on unnecessarily big tanks, but the Soviets were just as obsessed with creating impossibly gargantuan vehicles. The Germans lost the war but ultimately won the "biggest tank arms race" with their Maus tank. However, when war broke out the Russians had the biggest tank in the world at the time already deployed, and boy was it silly. The T-35 mounted an almost comical four small turrets, two mounting light anti-tank guns and two mounting machineguns, with a fifth "queen turret" lording over them with its stout 76mm main gun. Naturally all these turrets took plenty of crewmen, and the T-35 was a veritable fun bus of personnel with eleven fucking people inside it. The tank was over 22 feet in length and weighed some 55 tons fully loaded. With a screaming top road speed of about 20 miles per hour the T-35 wasn't going to be winning a whole lot of stoplight drag races with Type R Civics. Despite all the armament and weight the T-35 was fairly lightly armored, sporting only 35mm of armor plate at its thickest point.
T-35 Tank Commanders were required to stand at the turret and repeatedly scan the horizon yelling "land ho!"
History: Before war broke out with Germany the Soviets were busy exploring tank designs of every imaginably classification. One of these designs happened to be a super heavy tank with five turrets that came to be known to World War II trivia nuts as the T-35. The first prototype rolled out of the factory and almost directly into a military parade in Moscow in 1932. From 1933 to 1938 only 61 more T-35s were produced. The strength of most Soviet tanks of the era was their ease of use and their simple design that made them cheap to produce. The T-35 possessed neither of these qualities, being both exceedingly complex and almost impossible to effectively use in combat.
While it doesn't look that bad in this image, don't forget that there are two turrets you can't see that can only fire backwards and sideways.
The T-35 first saw combat in Finland during the ignominious Winter War, where it served without any distinction whatsoever. There is no record that any were lost in combat, but this is probably because so few (less than a dozen) were used and those that did get deployed tended to get stuck in the mud. Since the tank was so heavy and hard to maneuver it was extremely difficult to recover them. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities with Germany and immediately thereafter the majority of the T-35s were stationed in Moscow to serve with the defensive forces there. The Germans brushed up against several of them at Lvov in Poland, but luckily for probably everyone involved they had run out of fuel. After capturing the chassis the Germans immediately set to work not duplicating these pieces of shit. The T-35 stands as a testament that copying a battleship and putting it on tank treads is not a good idea, especially when your fire-control commander tends to be a scared barely-trained conscript leading a bunch of even more scared and barely-trained conscripts.
Gotha 229 (Ho-IX)
Type: Badass Flying Wing Fighter
Specific Features: The Gotha Go-229, or Horten Ho-IX depending on which designers you think are more "totally rad", is an interesting design from the late war crazy Luftwaffe department made more notable by its visually apparent relation to modern aircraft like the B-2 "Stealth" Bomber. The order was made in 1943 for a fast heavy-fighter bomber and Walter and Reimar Horten received approval from fat bastard Herman Goering for their tailless aircraft design. The aircraft mounted a Jumo turbojet inside each streamlined wing and carried an armament of four heavy 30mm cannons and two heavy bomb hard points. Speaking as a purely objective and scientific observer the aircraft was nothing short of screaming jet-powered sex. It was an unusual and almost organic-looking design that featured a number of unique components which would have probably made it difficult to maintain. The final production model was to have been a two-seat fighter with advanced (well, as advanced as those things got in that day and age) radar mounted in the elongated nose.
I'm getting all hot and bothered.
History: Three prototypes of the Go-229 were constructed and two of these were tested and flown, making it one of the most practical aircraft I've covered in one of these pieces. The first prototype was built as a glider and flew in 1944 to test the airframe's airworthiness and provide data for future modifications. The second prototype was constructed while the first was being tested and took to the skies in February of 1945 powered by a pair of stand-in BMW turbojet engines. Test pilot Erwin Ziller reported that the aircraft performed admirably on both this test and during a second test, although during the second the undercarriage was slightly damaged during landing. The third test saw a catastrophic engine failure and the death of the famed test pilot, but hey, you can't always get things like that right!
The last remaining Go-229 is kept disassembled in storage in Maryland.
Work on a third prototype continued despite this mishap. The Go-229 was larger than the two previous prototypes, mounted the Jumo turbojets, and was intended to serve as a model for the ordered pre-production run of 20 aircraft. Only a few weeks later in mid-April the facility where the Go-229 was to be produced was overrun by American forces. The completed third prototype and four other partially assembled early production models were captured. In over fifty years since this incredible and, dare I say, erotic aircraft first took to the skies only two production aircraft have directly benefited from the work of the Hortens on the Go-229 and similar designs. The first was the Concord aircraft, which utilized much of the Hortens' research but very little of the actual design. No, the true spiritual successor of the Go-229 is America's B-2 Stealth Bomber. In those 50 years of development and technological achievement we somehow went from a sleek, fast, and maneuverable fighter to a lumbering and slow bomber that requires a fucking super computer to keep it from crashing into a ditch and looks about as sexy in the sky as a drowned bat covered in superglue.
Sturmgewehr-44 mit Krummerlauf
Type: Bizarre Gun Attachment
Specific Features: For the majority of the war the primary German infantry weapon was the Kar 98k bolt-action rifle. It was a high-caliber slow firing rifle, and while it was capable of killing a man past 1,000 yards, scarcely over 100 yards separated combatants in most engagements. The Mp-40 or "Schmeisser" (which was a misnomer, Hugo Schmeisser had nothing to do with it) provided a close-in automatic weapon or submachinegun, but this was ineffective at even medium ranges. The solution for the Germans was to develop a round that was larger than the pistol rounds used by submachineguns and shorter than the rifle rounds used by the Kar 98 and other full-blown rifles. Based around this mid-sized round, the Sturmgewehr-43/44 was the world's first assault rifle and was arguably the best infantry weapon of the war. But this isn't about the StG-44; this is about a special tool that could be attached to the front.
This is the non-crazified version of the StG-44.
The Krummerlauf or "bent barrel" was developed for a variety of different weapons but was mass-produced for the StG-44. Its purpose was to allow a soldier to fire his weapon from behind cover while still maintaining visual contact with his target. The unwieldy and heavy contraption consisted of a prismatic scope that reflected the image seen through the angled viewfinder and a barrel attachment that curved the trajectory of the weapon. Different versions of the Krummerlauf were produced allowing anywhere from a 30 degree angled shot to a complete 90 degree angled shot. Only the 30 degree angled version was successful enough to be issued in significant numbers and estimates are that as few as 1,500 to as many as 8,000 were issued.
History: The versions of the Krummerlauf that allowed for modifying bullet trajectories above 30 degrees were essentially worthless in combat conditions. Bullets fired from them frequently fragmented due to stresses and the attachments, and even the guns themselves, were easily damaged by this. The 30 degree version, designated the "I", was issued to frontline soldiers usually in the Eastern Theater and was rarely used but was effective for what it was designed for. The fact of the matter was that most soldiers in combat preferred to do their fighting without worrying about clamping several pounds of metal and glass onto the front of their rifle. No doubt there were times when men who were pinned down behind cover happened to have a Krummerlauf in their gear and found it quite useful. However, running around with one attached to your gun rendered the weapon basically useless for normal combat unless you happened to be fighting midgets or some sort of sentient giant caterpillars. Not to mention you would probably get made fun of by other soldiers. In the military jokes can be so cruel.
And there is the Kummerlauf in all its...uh...glory.
A shitty land boat with too many guns, a jet fighter that seems more at home in 2003 than it does in 1945, and a gun that can shoot around corners. Coming next time on "Crazy Inventions from World War II" I'll have a mechanical spider tank, a robot that eats brains, and a giant cat that can fly. Okay, not really, but the truth won't be much less bizarre.
Something Awful Appreciates the Arts
It has come to my attention that many of you do not appreciate the fine arts as much as you're supposed to. With this in mind, we have scoured the Earth for the greatest, most creative, innovative artist to inform you, the ignorant public, about the hidden world of art that waits for your inquiring mind to thoroughly explore its every subtle nuance. By offering a hefty sum of money, we were able to get ahold of one of the most celebrated artists in America, Tom "Smoking Dragon" Clancy, to showcase some of his finest (and most controversial) works of art and provide us with an in-depth "behind the scenes" look at the masterpieces which have stirred up critics for more than two decades now.
This brings us to my personal favorite, "C'est Noir!" When looking at this one, the viewer will ask himself or herself questions such as, "what does the cigarette mean to me?" and "What is my purpose in life?" They are forced to by the way the cigarette smoke impedes upon the otherwise blank and morally empty canvas. The trick is that the canvas is not really blank; it has a dragon painted upon it. Otherwise it would just be an empty canvas with cigarette smoke and no dragon. This leads to the ultimate question, "if there is no blank canvas, is there no smoke?" I used this motif of requiring the viewer to question himself in many of my pieces; it takes a certain Je ne sais pas ce qui which is becoming more and more rare these days. True avant-garde artists just simply don't exist anymore; I blame the rise of the bourgeoisie class and their images of mass popularity (that's a little artist's joke I just made up; I should be a comedian!).
Although some people may claim Tom "Smoking Dragon" Clancy is a creative genius while others label him as genius who is simply highly creative, there's no denying that this man - this powerhouse of artistic mastery - has redefined our culture in an infinite amount of ways. Although we usually have a hilarious, comical content piece on Mondays, I feel that we owe it to you to provide you with this educational piece of information. Please do yourself a favor and get acquainted with the man who is redefining culture as we know it.