No killing machine ever created can match the awesome destructive power of Stone Cold Steve Austin in a stupid looking helmet.Throughout the course of my public education I spent more than eight full semesters learning American history. I spent an entire half a year learning about great battles of the civil war. There were weeks spent over and over again, year after year, learning about the Founding Fathers in increasing detail. Apparently our teachers thought that what the person told us the preceding year about the founding of our nation just wasn't enough. We had to go back and hear it all again with some hot new info thrown in about the type of wood used in George Washington's fake teeth. I suppose that the intent was to engender a sense of national pride and a deeper understanding of American history. Instead all it created was a feeling that I was missing out on a lot of important shit that, I don't know, maybe countries other than the United States were party to. I may not be a genius, but I've known how to dress myself without my mom's help for almost five years. I'm pretty sure that everyone here in the United States with the exception of Native Americans - who we also learned almost nothing about unless we were at a moment in history when white guys were shooting them - is descended from people of other nationalities.

What I'm building up here for you is a causal link. Like a person abused as a child grows up and abuses their children, or a person who did drugs as a kid grows up and manufactures drugs in a kitchen meth lab, I hunger for knowledge about history from a non-American perspective. Okay, that really isn't a very good causal link, but it's a pretty convoluted excuse to give for lying on the couch and watching The History Channel constantly. Grainy footage of tracers flying up to greet Japanese zeros from the decks of carriers and the pulse-pounding excitement of a German tank crushing trees with fake post-production sound added is what makes my world go round. If I were more secure in my sexuality I would have a framed picture of Roger Mudd on my wall with a pink heart drawn on it. Modern Marvels! My God, I never knew concrete could be so interesting! History's Mysteries! It's like riding with Indiana Jones and a little Asian kid in that coal car through the volcano!

I feel that the magic of television has introduced me to a whole wide world of history and information, but my greatest passions are those tanks and planes from World War II. If you're a regular reader of the front page of Something Awful you know by now that I drool over finely tuned German war machines like most guys drool over cars. To them it's all about platinum hubcaps, spoilers, and NOS. To me it's all about interleaved road wheels, anti-magnetic mine paste, and liquid-fuel rockets. The sound of a riced-out Civic is as nothing when compared to the blood-curdling shriek of a diving Stuka's nose siren.

I realize my tastes aren't for everyone, but there is an aspect of this fairly useless knowledge about Germany's war machine that has a broad appeal. Namely, the crazy shit the Germans came up with towards the end of the war. With the Allies chewing on their face and ass simultaneously, the Germans were desperate for a secret weapon that would save their country from ruin. More widely known "wonder weapons" like the V-1 and V-2 rockets gave hope to the German people that their faith in the syphilitic dogma of Hitler was not misplaced. Obviously, it was criminally misplaced, but that doesn't mean that shitbar's scientific elite didn't churn out some pretty hilarious comedy in the name of winning the war. So come with me on a stroll down memory lane to a time when men were men and other men were sub-humans who were herded into camps and murdered. Women were also men, except for the ones that were sub-humans.

Panzerkampfwagen "Maus"

Type: Ridiculously Gigantic Tank

The "Maus" in action.Specific Features: Weighing in at a scale-breaking 188 tons of love and measuring over 10 meters in length, the Maus is the largest tank built to this day. The M1A1 Abrams, by comparison, weighs in at a mere 67 tons. Of course the Abrams can actually move. With a top speed of only 20 kilometers per hour on roads the Maus also has the dubious distinction of being one of the slowest tanks built during the Second World War. Not to mention that if it actually drove on any road it would leave behind it a terrain of buckled asphalt. The armor on the turret's front, the thickest armor on most tanks, was almost a quarter of a meter thick and was completely impervious to any anti-tank weapons of the day. Unfortunately, it was vulnerable to direct strikes from heavy bombs, which just happened to be falling like raindrops thanks to the epic bombing campaigns of the United States and Great Britain. More importantly the Maus was vulnerable to engineering charges, throwing a tread, or being immobilized by mines, all very real risks for even much faster and more maneuverable tanks.

Even the armament of the Maus was ridiculous by any standard. The Maus mounted a 128mm main gun that would punch through enemy armor like a thrown sock punches through a wall made out of gelatin. To ludicrously augment this offensive capacity the Maus also mounted a 75mm cannon designed to fire explosive rounds at infantry. Seeing this thing on the battlefield, even just one of them, would be the military equivalent of a goddamn boss fight. Hell, if some lucky Soviets managed to blow one up I'm sure they would expect their aiming-port to start flashing and the tank to reappear twice as big and colored red.

Late war testing of the "Maus" with weapons in place.History: Development on the Maus began in 1942 with Porsche of Stuttgart. Yeah, THE Porsche, using slave labor and dirty money to design a tank for the Nazis. Two prototypes were built and tested in 1943 and 1944. One of the tanks was believed to be completed but was either destroyed to avoid capture or destroyed while attempting to flee from the testing facility. Some amateur historians like to believe that it actually did fight in combat, but chances are it broke down or got stuck in a ditch and was destroyed by the fleeing personnel. Thus ended the brief career of evil of one of the most brutal engines of war ever made.

Saenger "Amerika" Orbital Bomber

Type: Crazy Science Fiction Plane

Specific Features: One of the most "out there" aircraft conceived in a wide field of really crazy planes that often got really far in the design process, Saenger's "Amerika" bomber was intended to be capable of rapidly deploying to attack any target anywhere in the world. The aircraft was revolutionary on many fronts, from its incredible (and likely terminal) speed to its bizarre launch method, Saenger was willing to "go there". His sort of fantastical approach to science was extremely popular with engineers and scientists in Germany, sometimes producing amazing technology; other times wasting incredible amounts of resources in otherwise obvious pipedreams.

The Amerika Bomber, had it ever passed the prototyping stage, would have been propelled into the air by a massive 600-ton thrust liquid fuel rocket. Not content to simply shoot stuff into the air, Saenger wanted to use this massive booster to shoot a rocket train into the air. The Amerika Bomber was to be mounted on a monorail dolly that also mounted the booster unit. The dolly would have shot down a three kilometer long angled rail in a mere 11 seconds and lifted the Amerika Bomber into the sky roughly a mile. At this point the aircraft's beastly internal rocket thruster would have activated and lifted the plane to a low-orbit altitude of 145 kilometers and a speed of 22,100kph. The plane could have theoretically reached any location on the planet in under an hour and dropped a single 8,000lb bomb. With Germany's actual innovations in precision and wire-guided bombs this means individual buildings in major cities around the world could have been targeted by a massive conventional bomb. Other options include dropping in German storm troops, crazy battle robots, or possibly thousands of spiders.

After deploying its payload the bomber would have glided in to land at an airfield in Germany. It had only a single pilot sitting in a small pressurized cockpit at the front of the fuselage. Other than its payload the Amerika Bomber carried no weapons, relying on its speed and altitude for protection. It would have been obviously vulnerable as it glided in for landing, a flaw that marked many of Germany's real and imagined high-tech aircraft.

History: Hopes for the Amerika Bomber faded around the time Germany invaded the Soviet Union, which was probably to the advantage of the Germans as the whole thing was ridiculous. The air speed of the Amerika Bomber would have likely caused the plane to simply explode from friction before it even came close to reaching its top speed. The current air speed record from a powered aircraft is held by NASA's X-15 at 7,277kph; less than a motherfucking third of the proposed top speed of the Amerika Bomber. NASA barely kept their plane from burning up, so there's virtually no chance that Saenger would have leapt a much higher hurdle, decades earlier. The pilot would have blacked out and died if he was lucky, or been liquefied or immolated if he was less fortunate. If Saenger had somehow overcome these problems then he still had the whole "giant length of elevated track and rail car" issue as American and British bombers marauded with virtual impunity across most of Europe. After the cancellation of the project, Saenger went on to work with other developers on more feasible ramjet interceptor projects. All that remains of the Amerika Bomber are some models, designs, and an engine. Note: Images in this segment were removed at the request of the copyright holder.

"Vampir" ZG 1229 Infrared System

Type: Evil Sounding Optic System

A Waffen-SS soldier deployed with the Vampir system alongside a similarly equipped Panther tank.Specific Features: The Vampir was not the first German Infrared System, but by the end of the war in 1945 it was the most compact and advanced system they had. The technology itself dates back to around the start of the war, when engineers developed the first infrared rangefinder for German light anti-tank artillery. This was improved and some heavier direct-fire artillery was equipped with it as well. By 1944 the Germans had developed a version flexible enough to be mounted on the Panther tank (Germany's most technologically advanced and complex tank) and by the last year of the war were ready to issue the man-portable Vampir system.

The Vampir system consisted of a "black" spot light, one component of its active infrared system, fixed atop the impressive StG-44 assault rifle. Below this infrared light was a range finder that could detect the light emitted by the IR lamp. Since this light was invisible to anyone not equipped with the system it gave a massive edge over relying on flashlights and flares for illumination. The system mounted on the gun was linked by insulated wire to a heavy battery pack and simple control box that the soldier wore in place of his normal gear. Think of it as a very crude analog to today's "OICW" system being developed by the United States. It could transform a normal soldier it one capable of fighting in complete darkness, be it a cave or a moonless night, without revealing his position.

There is dispute over whether or not the Vampir was actually issued to combat soldiers. Some reports claim it was given to special units of the Waffen-SS for testing, others claim it was issued to crews of the similarly equipped Panther tanks (although this seems unlikely due to the unit's bulk). My theory is that what few units were combat-ready were probably issued to the ultra-elite commandos of commanders like Otto Skorzeny and perhaps in the final defense of Berlin. Chances are we will never know the exact truth as no photographs exist of troops utilizing the weapons in the field, but the system was proven to work.

Field testing the vampir system, I assume the labels were added to captured photographs or they dressed some chump up like a German.History: Of all the wacky German inventions of World War II, both failed and successful, I would have to say that none had a bigger affect on the state of modern warfare than the Vampir IR system and its variants. Few people really consider the relative level of optics technology at the time of the war, but today our lives revolve around staring at screens and let's not forget that TV got its start with a broadcast of Hitler. The German's did all kinds of really dumb and worthless shit with optics and sensors like trying to send infrared beams through the poles to view the opposite side of the earth. In fact they were behind the British in radar technology, a gap that they paid heavily for during the bombing campaign over England. Infrared technology paid off though, and even though it was never deployed in massive quantities for the troops who used it the technology made a difference. Despite the German's many evil follies, today almost every military combat vehicle is equipped with some variant of infrared optic and large numbers of American infantry are as well. Police helicopters and even consumer video cameras are outfitted with the technology, all thanks to some pioneering Nazis.

I could literally go on about this crap for days. The Germans, particularly in their late-war desperation to salvage themselves from a losing situation, created dozens of bizarre and often useless pieces of military curiosity. From a jet aircraft fueled by coal to a massive underground cannon that worked by incrementally exploding a shell out of the chamber, they treaded on dubiously useful scientific ground but occasionally came away with technology that would be used by the rest of the world for decades to come. If you enjoyed this article and are interested in this sort of thing then please let me know! I'd be happy to do something similar again in the future, but I really don't want to drive all of our readers away with war nerd info.

hey shitbags, it's that time again

THIS IS CLIFF YABLONSKI

THIS IS CLIFF YABsorry to break up Zack's little shitty boring ass history lesson about "shitty boring ass shit throughout WWII," but I decided to actually write something that isn't a goddamn nine hour segment from public television's "WACKY WORLD WAR" show. I have updated my computer screen page site with four pages of people I hate. you're probably on there somewhere. I fucking know Professor Zack is, because after reading that crap above here, I fell into a goddamn coma and knocked over a bottle of Jack Daniels into my keyboard and my goddamn shirt caught fire and next thing I know I was in somebody else's house and all their silverware had been teleported to my house. at least the computer machine fire temporarily kept me away from reading THE HISTORY CHANNEL ON THE SOMETHING AWFUL WEBPAGE SCREEN courtesy of professor Zack, artillery expert extraordinarre or whatever the hell he is.

if you're still awake and haven't killed yourself, go over and read my computer screen web page site, which contains 348% less dull that this computer screen you're looking at. what the fuck, if I wanted to read about tanks and shit I'd go to CNN and watch footage of American tanks running over people in Afghanistan. for christ's sake. fucking nerd war shit, get off my computer screen Professor Zack, if I fall into another coma, my Medicare costs are going to shoot through the goddamn roof. okay why the fuck is this text darker and slanted, what the fuck is goi

CLIFF YABLONSKI

– Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons (@sexyfacts4u)

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