The secret weapon of the SS: sassy lips.Earlier this month I ran an article detailing some of the wackier inventions of the Nazis during the World War II. I thought it was an interesting topic but I was unsure that the readers of Something Awful would really enjoy that sort of thing, so at the end of the article I left a link to my e-mail address and invited people to let me know what they thought. Much to my surprise I received a total of zero completely negative e-mails about the article and over two hundred encouraging me to write more on the topic. With a nearly endless list of crazy World War II inventions to draw from I have decided to reprise the subject at least once.
It's interesting to follow the curve of German technological advance during the Second World War. Before the war and near the beginning the German military-industrial complex was calmly producing tanks, aircraft, and weapons that were good but grounded in the fundamentals of real science and engineering. Somewhere around the tail-end of 1941, when the first offensive into Russia started to lose steam, apparently a bunch of scientists and industrialists got together in a locked room with Hitler and huffed paint all day long. They then staggered out back to their usual jobs and began churning out reams of technical diagrams for vehicles and weapons that the world wasn't really ready for. Partially due to the destruction of war, and partially due to the fact that these concepts were just so fucking desperate, most of them were doomed to die a stillbirth on the drafting table.
Luckily for us all the Nazis were about as desperate for a way to save the country as the scientists were high from all the paint fumes, and frequently they wasted massive amounts of resources developing things like the Amerika Bomber and the Maus that had no real use by 1944. Probably thanks more to sheer odds than anything else a handful of these technological funnovations actually paid off and managed to catapult the crumbling Nation of Germany into a state of advancement probably almost a decade ahead of the rest of the world. Sure, it might have been almost impossible to get enough to eat and survive the bombs constantly pounding on your city, but somewhere in the forest a Nazi space missile was getting ready to begin zooming towards London! In this exciting episode of "Nazi Rocketmen Will Save Us All" we'll take a look at three technologies either deployed or developed by Hitler's Third Reich.
Heinkel "Wespe" / "Lerche II"
Type: Vertical Take-Off and Landing CrazinessThe Lerche II in flight as done by Mario Merino.Specific Features: Looking more like a submarine or a high-tech Teutonic dildo, the Heinkel "Lerche II" was a German attempt at creating a VTOL interceptor. The Germans had pioneered the development of practical helicopters earlier in the war, but what few of these were built generally filled the role of a more flexible observation platform or courier aircraft. With bombs raining down all over the German homeland there was more than a little need for an interceptor force that could be based at minimal facilities near important factories. You know, to protect the slave labor that the Nazis were forcing to build moon lasers and whatever the hell else they had cooked up. Building on some of the basic concepts of rival designer Focke-Wulf's "Triebfluegel" VTOL aircraft, Heinkel began work developing their own "Wespe".
A ghastly beast, the "Wespe" project evolved into the more-streamlined and even more cocktastic "Lerche II" interceptor. Equipped with massive variable-pitch contra-rotating propellers on the center of the fuselage, the aircraft's propulsion was essentially a giant warning to the pilot not to even think about bailing out. The aircraft would have launched standing upright like a rocket, but instead of using a blast of fire to take off the pilot would have simply adjusted the thrust and pitch of the rotors as with a helicopter. To land the vehicle this procedure would have been reversed, only with much greater difficulty since the fucking thing rested on three ridiculously small feet. The pilot's unenviable task was to lay prone in the cockpit, fighting enemies face-first with a bullet-proof canopy the only thing between him and a bloody end. The armament for the Lerche was a pair of 30mm cannons, one mounted on each side of the fuselage near the cockpit; adequate but certainly not spectacular.Don't get your hopes up, this is only a model of the Lerche II by Dan Johnson.History: Work began on developing the "Wespe" in 1944 and continued on to the "Lerche II" in 1945. A familiar story repeated itself as advancing Allied armies put the kibosh on any further work on the project. Had the "Lerche II" ever flown it likely would have been an interesting but ultimately ineffective design. It would have been difficult to land under the best of circumstances, totally outgunned when going up against multiple fighters, and fast but with poor maneuverability. All three of these features were key ingredients of many of the Nazi's late-war aircraft like the Komet rocket-plane. Also like the Komet, which was prone to fuel explosions if a bullet so much as looked at it (and even more prone to exploding on landing), the "Lerche II" would have left the pilot very vulnerable to any attempt to shoot the aircraft down. The massive props might have survived a flyby from a P-51, but the pilot would have probably been blasted to pieces inside his glass bubble. On the upside the cockpit could have been filled with water and artificial snowflakes and then resealed to provide a particularly grisly snow-globe on the desk of some 50 foot tall American general.
Type: Gigantic Rocket-Assisted Mortar TankHOW ARE THOSE TWO SOLDIERS JUST HOVERING IN THE AIR LIKE THAT!?Specific Features: One of the most fearsome and effective German tanks of World War II was the Panzer Mk VI, or Tiger as it was better known. The Tiger mounted a long-barreled 88mm gun specially designed for it, unlike the later King Tiger and Jagdpanther which mounted modified full-size versions of the 88mm anti-tank gun. The Surmmoerser Tiger, or Sturm Tiger, was based on the effective Tiger chassis but replaced the turret and 88mm armament with an enclosed superstructure and a massive 380mm rocket-assisted mortar. The rocket activated shortly after firing and exhaust often backwashed down the stubby barrel of the Sturm Tiger. To counteract this potentially catastrophic effect the gun barrel had a ring of gas vents so that exhaust would vent outwards from the barrel.
The projectile, larger than most naval artillery, was capable of leveling a building in a single shot or penetrating through 2 and a half meters of reinforced concrete. The Sturm Tiger had a surprisingly large internal magazine given the size of the rockets, carrying 15 in total. For replenishing the magazine a special hatch was built into the roof of the superstructure and a loading arm and pulley system was attached to the back. Since the rockets weighed about as much as that gold plated helicopter from an episode of "GI Joe" this system allowed the crew to stand outside the tank and "hand" shells in. When the mortar was utilized it was almost always fired over a "flat" trajectory, meaning that unlike conventional mortars this one was also intended to be fired straight at the target and not lobbed in an arc.A good shot of the Sturm Tiger and one of its mortar rockets.History: Proposed in early August of 1943 as the Germans were once again mounting an increasingly desperate summer offensive against the Soviets, the Sturm Tiger was championed by Panzer Leader Heinz Guderian. He clearly saw the limitations of even heavy tanks when it came to urban fighting and wanted a weapon that could roll in to support the infantry and route the enemy from the toughest positions. The armament was derived from a secret project of the Navy to develop a means for submarines to bombard shore positions. The Kriegsmarine abandoned this project but it proved perfectly suited for the Sturm Tiger and was adopted with modifications. Unfortunately for the Germans, by the time the first of only 18 Sturm Tigers had rolled out of the Alkett plant in Berlin-Spandau a slow-moving anti-bunker tank was of dubious value. Despite this the Sturm Tiger performed well, proving adequate at anti-tank and infantry engagements in defense of the rapidly collapsing Reich. I'm sure in a rusty filing cabinet in some buried SS dungeon there's a record of the damn thing actually being used to blow up a bunker somewhere.
Leichte Ladungstraeger "Goliath"
Type: Suicide mini-tankThe original electric-powered Goliath mini-tank that appears to have a piece of Swamp Thing's body stuck to it.Specific Features: I spent a lot of time in this article and my previous article about crazy German weapons of World War II dealing with the gigantic, the fast, and the far-fetched. For once I'd like to focus on something a little more simple and practical, but none-the-less very interesting. Measuring about five feet in length, the Goliath was a tracked demolition vehicle powered by two electric motors. With a screaming top-speed of six miles per hour the Goliath wasn't going to be winning many races against tanks, but it wasn't intended to. The purpose of the Goliath was to carry a 60kg demolition charge into place and detonate it immediately. Unlike the Japanese the Germans had almost no vehicles that actively encouraged the pilot to commit suicide. Even their plane designed to ram into bombers featured the slim safety measure of a detachable cockpit. To this end the Goliath was essentially a remote controlled bomb on treads
As the Goliath advanced it would spool out a control wire onto the ground, allowing an operator to guide the vehicle from the safety of a trench or bunker. Later versions of the Goliath utilized a motorcycle engine in place of the electric motors, could carry a heavier demolition charge, and were slightly faster. The early 1942 versions of the Goliath were prone to small-arms fire, so in the 1943 version the armor was upgraded along with the engine. While anything bigger than a rifle would make short work of the Goliath it was never intended for use in a running battle. It was designed with one purpose: to explode!This later gas-powered Goliath can be identified easily by the air-intake on top of the chassis.History: Development of the Goliath began in 1940 after the Germans utilized the much larger, slower, and more cumbersome "Borgward" for minefield clearance. By reducing the size of the vehicle from 1.5 tons to a little over 700lbs the Germans created a remote-controlled demolition vehicle that could be towed into position and then manhandled without much difficulty by a crew of four or five men. While I'm sure you're entertaining fantasies of some Nazis cackling maniacally as a Goliath drives up to Stalin and explodes, the unit had a range of only 650 meters and was used almost exclusively for blowing holes in minefields. By the end of the war over 7,000 Goliaths had been produced and certainly a number of them were used offensively, but this was not their intended purpose. Given a few more years however, the Germans may well have deployed their Goliath Mk III, which featured a rotating saw blade and wedge-shape perfect for flipping over Soviets. The Goliaths served most notably at the battle of Kursk, where a number of the brave robots were used to clear a way for advancing German armor through the deadly minefields. Some attempts were made at using a TV camera mounted on the Goliath but these proved largely ineffective and the concept was abandoned.
There you have it! Three more examples of why the Nazis will probably always be the single most entertaining source of villainy. If you can manage to forget about little details like the murder of millions of Jews, communists, and homosexuals you can sit back and enjoy the Nazis for what they really are; the best target imaginable for a haymaker from Indiana Jones.
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