Nazi Secret Weapons: The Rocket U-Boat?

Throughout World War II, Nazis scientists sought secret weapons to launch offensive attacks on American soil. What was the mysterious Rocket U-Boat? And how close did it come to destroying New York City?

Nazi Secret Weapons: The Rocket U-Boat?

Throughout World War II, the Nazis sought to build long-range, secret weapons (such as the Amerika-Bomber and the Sun Gun). In 1941, this desire led Nazi scientists to research the Rocket U-Boat. They hoped such a U-boat could travel across the globe, targeting cities on distant continents. In 1942, scientists developed and tested the first Rocket U-Boat. It was relatively simple, just a few rocket launchers mounted on the U-511’s deck. The test was a mixed bag. On one hand, the missiles fired just fine at depths of up to 12 meters. However, the lack of a guidance system rendered the missiles useless.

In 1943, Nazi scientists developed another secret weapon known as the V-1 flying bomb, an early predecessor to the cruise missile. It had a range of 160 miles. Paired with a U-Boat, it would be capable of long-distance strikes on any city in the world. However, the Nazi Luftwaffe showed little interest in helping to create the Rocket U-Boat, probably due to inter-service rivalry.

That same year, Nazi scientists developed another secret weapon known as the V-2 rocket. The V-2 was the world’s first long-range combat ballistic missile as well as the first rocket to achieve sub-orbital spaceflight. It had a range of 200 miles. Again, this seemed like the perfect fit for a Rocket U-Boat. And in late 1944, resources were finally allocated to it under Project Prufstand XII. The target of the Rocket U-Boat?

New York.

The Race to build a Rocket U-Boat?

The V-2 was much larger than the V-1 flying bomb. In fact, it was too large for any existing Nazi U-boat. Undeterred, Nazi scientists developed a 500-ton specially-constructed container for the V-2. The plan was to have a U-boat tow it across the Atlantic Ocean. Then sailors would flood the ballast tanks, causing the rocket to shift into a vertical position. Afterward, the sailors would fuel the rocket, prepare the guidance system, and aim it at New York.

The Nazis ordered three of these containers. At least one was actually built. It is unknown if this container was ever tested in any fashion.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The Americans were well-aware of Nazi attempts to build a Rocket U-Boat secret weapon and prepared a contingency plan known as Operation Teardrop. In March 1945, six Nazi U-boats approached America. The U.S. launched Operation Teardrop and ended up destroying the four of the boats. It was later determined that none of these were Rocket U-Boats.

But that doesn’t mean the Rocket U-Boat was never launched. In February 1945, the U-1053 was carrying out diving trials off the coast of Norway. With all sides closing in on Nazi Germany, this seems like an odd time to worry about diving trials. Some historians think the U-1053 may have had an ulterior purpose, perhaps to test out a Rocket U-Boat system. The U-1053 shipwreck was located in March 2010. To my knowledge, it has yet to be fully explored.

The Nazi Sun Gun: Death from Above?

Nazi Germany created many unusual, horrific weapons during World War II. One incredible weapon, however, failed to materialize. What was the Nazi Sun Gun?

The Birth of the Nazi Sun Gun?

In 1929, a German physicist named Hermann Oberth wrote Wege zur Raumschiffahrt (Translation: Ways to Spaceflight). The book described Oberth’s vision of a manned orbital space station created from prefabricated parts. He also described a way to create electricity using a 100-meter wide concave mirror. The idea was to concentrate sunlight onto a single area and use steam turbines to convert the heat energy.

While Oberth’s mirror was designed to create useful energy, Nazi scientists saw another use for it. Namely, an orbital weapon called Sonnengewehr…or Sun Gun.

Launching the Sun Gun into Space

Plans for the Sun Gun were worked out by Nazi scientists at Hillersleben. They proposed creating a giant three-kilometer square mirror out of metallic sodium. Then they wanted to break it apart and launch the individual pieces into an orbit of 8,200 kilometers. In order to do this, the Nazi scientists hoped to use the Aggregate A11.

The A11 was a multistage rocket intended to deliver people and/or small payloads into low Earth orbit. At the time, it was being designed by Wernher von Braun (who later became chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle via Operation Paperclip, which helped land Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins on the moon).

Oberth’s original plan was to send an unmanned rocket into space, containing six long cables. These cables would then unreel themselves, eventually covering a vast area. Nazi astronauts would then fly into space and attach pieces of the giant movable mirror to the cables.

How did the Sun Gun Work?

According to Life, Nazi astronauts would live inside the rocket, using large greenhouses to maintain fresh oxygen. They would remain in space, waiting for orders from radio or wireless telegraph. Upon receiving orders to attack, they would use rocket thrusters to move the mirror into position. The mirror would focus the sunlight, causing incredible devastation in the process.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Fortunately, the Sun Gun never went past the theoretical stage. In fact, newspaper articles from 1945 say it would’ve taken 50 to 100 years to harness the sun’s energy in this fashion. However, Oberth disagreed, claiming it would take just 10 to 15 years. Oberth admitted the original mirror’s design might not have worked. However, he came to believe that a larger mirror would’ve done the trick.

“If the mirror were double the size mentioned, however, the irradiation would be four times as strong, and so on. The temperature on the surface irradiated by the double-sized mirror would be 200° C (392° F).” – Hermann Oberth, Man into Space (1957)

Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. So, 392 degrees would’ve been plenty hot…perhaps hot enough to change the course of the war itself.

Did the U.S. Government kill Big Bands?

In 1935, Benny Goodman launched the Big Band era with a famous performance in Los Angeles. By 1946, the Big Band era was dead. Despite high popularity, it was replaced by the far less dance-friendly (and far less popular) BeBop era. What happened to the Big Band era?

The U.S. government holds a substantial part of the blame. In 1944, the U.S. government imposed the so-called “Cabaret Tax,” partly to raise funds for World War II. Essentially, it placed a 30% tax rate on all establishments that “contained dance floors, served alcohol and other refreshments, and/or provided musical entertainment.” The tax, like so many others, was supposed to be temporary. But when it was reinstated, dance halls closed across the nation. Thanks to the extra cost of doing business, few places could afford to hire big bands. Thus, many big bands were forced to break apart. Musicians formed smaller bands and started playing non-danceable music. Thus, the era of Bebop began. Here’s more on the government’s war on Big Bands by Eric Felten at The Wall Street Journal (paywall protected):

These are strange days, when we are told both that tax incentives can transform technologies yet higher taxes will not drag down the economy. So which is it? Do taxes change behavior or not? Of course they do, but often in ways that policy hands never anticipate, let alone intend. Consider, for example, how federal taxes hobbled Swing music and gave birth to bebop.

With millions of young men coming home from World War II—eager to trade their combat boots for dancing shoes—the postwar years should have been a boom time for the big bands that had been so wildly popular since the 1930s. Yet by 1946 many of the top orchestras—including those of Benny Goodman, Harry James and Tommy Dorsey—had disbanded. Some big names found ways to get going again, but the journeyman bands weren’t so lucky. By 1949, the hotel dine-and-dance-room trade was a third of what it had been three years earlier. The Swing Era was over.

Dramatic shifts in popular culture are usually assumed to result from naturally occurring forces such as changing tastes (did people get sick of hearing “In the Mood”?) or demographics (were all those new parents of the postwar baby boom at home with junior instead of out on a dance floor?). But the big bands didn’t just stumble and fall behind the times. They were pushed…

(See the rest at The Wall Street Journal)

Did Nazi Monks build a base in the Amazon?

Nazi monks operating in the Amazon? Secret plans for an air attack on the Panama Canal? Sounds like great Nazi fiction…but it’s a true story (well, at least in part).

In a declassified note to the Assistant Secretary of State, J. Edgar Hoover said, “As of possible interest to you, information has been received from a reliable confidential source that there are rumors current in Brazil as to a German air base, reported to exist in the Rio Negro district of the upper Amazon.”

And here’s more from Felipe Fernandes Cruz at The Appendix:

It was October 1941 and J. Edgar Hoover had just received a strange bit of war intelligence. A secret German air base was being built in the Amazon. This was particularly worrisome, since such an airfield could be used to launch a secret Luftwaffe attack on the strategic Panama Canal. This idea did not come out of the blue. Americans were at the time very concerned about German influence in South America. To monitor potential fascist agents, the Federal Bureau of Investigation collaborated with a Brazilian agency, the Departamento de Ordem Política e Social (Department of Social and Political Order, Brazil’s version of a secret police)…

(See more at The Appendix)

 

The Lost Treasure of the S.S. Gairsoppa?

In February 1941, a Nazi U-boat torpedoed the SS Gairsoppa, sending it to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean. Its holds contained a treasure…one of the largest treasures in maritime history. And now, that treasure has been recovered. What is the lost treasure of the Silver Shipwreck?

What is the Silver Shipwreck?

The SS Gairsoppa was a massive cargo ship. In 1941, it left India with silver ingots, pig iron, and tea which it intended to bring back to Britain.  Initially, it traveled with a convoy. However, with coal running low and winds running high, the vessel split off on its own and headed for Ireland’s Galway Harbor. On February 17, the Nazi U-boat U-101 spotted the Gairsoppa and subsequently torpedoed her. She sank in less than twenty minutes, leaving only a handful of survivors.

The vessel sank in 15,400 feet of water, taking with it nearly 80 crewmen…and a priceless treasure. Back in September, the famed treasure hunting / salvage firm Odyssey Marine Exploration announced it had discovered the so-called Silver Shipwreck.

A Massive Treasure Salvage?

On July 18, Odyssey reported the recovery of 1,203 silver bars, or 48 total tons of silver, from the Silver Shipwreck. At the current rate of $31.46 per ounce, the treasure is worth roughly $48 million. And this only represented 43% of the total haul. At the time, Odyssey had plans to salvage the rest of the shipwreck.

Working backward, it appears the Gairsoppa was carrying roughly 112 tons of silver at the time of its sinking. Thus, the entire treasure could be worth about $113 million. Thus, it’s probably accurate this is being called “the deepest, largest precious metal recovery in history.”

“With the shipwreck lying approximately three miles below the surface of the North Atlantic, this was a complex operation. Our capacity to conduct precision cuts and successfully complete the surgical removal of bullion from secure areas on the ship demonstrates our capabilities to undertake complicated tasks in the very deep ocean.” ~ Greg Stemm, Odyssey Chief Executive Officer

Technically, the UK government owns the treasure. It had insured the cargo and paid off the silver’s owners after the Gairsoppa sank. Under the terms of the salvage agreement, the government will keep 20% of the treasure, net costs. Odyssey will keep the rest.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Our congratulations go out to Odyssey. This is an excellent haul. And it appears this story will end far better than the controversial “Black Swan” debacle.

Back in 2007, Odyssey secretly salvaged 17 tons of gold and silver coins from a mysterious shipwreck codenamed the “Black Swan.” The Spanish government cried foul and demanded that the wreck be handed over to it. The Spanish government’s ownership of the wreck was questionable at best and it spent none of its own time, money, or effort to recover it. Yet, numerous U.S. courts sided with the Spanish government and ruled Odyssey had to relinquish the Black Swan’s treasure.

At the time the time, we predicted that particular outcome, which was possibly influenced by secret back room bureaucratic dealings, would have extremely negative effects on the field of shipwreck salvage.

“Going forward, treasure hunters will have little to no incentive to report their findings to the world. The black market for antiquities will grow. The treasure hunting field will attract a greater number of reckless and unskilled individuals. Thus, salvage work will be done with more haste and less care.” ~ David Meyer, The Black Swan Heist

We still think that will be the case in the long-run. However, we’re pleased to see this particular salvage operation end on a happy note. Once again, congratulations to Odyssey!

Did the Nazis Send a Man into Space?

On October 29, 1933, the London Sunday Referee published a report that a man named Otto Fischer had flown a 24-foot long rocket six miles above Earth. Did Space Nazis really exist?

Did Space Nazis Exist?

This story comes to you straight from io9. And it’s a wild one. No, the Nazis didn’t really send someone into space. But there was some truth behind the Space Nazis fiction.

In the early 1930s, the Bank of Magdeburg funded a rocket flight in order to prove something known as the Hollow Earth Doctrine. According to the Hollow Earth Doctrine (of which there are still some adherents today), mankind didn’t live on the outside of the Earth but rather, on the inside. An engineer named Franz Mengering thought he could prove the theory by launching a rocket into the air. If it traveled long enough, it would crash into the other end of the hollow earth, which was believed to be the Pacific Ocean.

The project never gained traction and the loan went to a rocket researcher named Rudolf Nebel instead. He was asked to build a rocket which could carry a man into space. However, the best the rocket could do was a belly-flop about 1,000 feet from the launching pad. The Space Nazis project was eventually abandoned and the rocket was put into storage.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

On a side note, the story was later resurrected in 1935 in a London magazine called Pall Mall. After that, it appeared to vanish from history. So, there you have it. Otto Fischer never reached space (in fact, he probably never existed). Space Nazis never existed. And thus, Yuri Gagarin’s place in history remains secure.

The Lost Spitfire Squadron?

In August 1945, a dozen Spitfires were shipped from England to Burma. Another eight were mailed in December. However, they were considered excessive and soldiers were ordered to bury the boxes before they’d even been unpacked. What happened to the Lost Spitfire Squadron?

The Lost Spitfire Squadron?

After fifteen years and over $200,000, British farmer David Cundall recently announced the discovery of the forgotten Spitfires. He was inspired to search for them by a comment made by a U.S. veteran to his friend Jim Pearce.

“‘They told Jim: ‘We’ve done some pretty silly things in our time, but the silliest was burying Spitfires.’ And when Jim got back from the US, he told me.” ~ David Cundall

According to Cundall, the Spitfires were buried under forty feet of soil in their original crates. The individual parts were waxed and wrapped in greased paper. The wings were folded back against the bodies. The joints were tarred. These efforts, designed to protect the planes during the shipping process, may have helped to preserve them as well.

Why were the Spitfires Abandoned in Burma?

The Americans expected the British to return to the burial site and dig them up. But this never happened, partly due to the increased production of newer, faster jets.

‘In 1945, Spitfires were 10 a penny. Jets were coming into service. Spitfires were struck off charge, unwanted. Lots of Spitfires were just pushed off the back of aircraft carriers into the sea. On land, you couldn’t leave them for the locals – they might have ended up being used against you.” ~ David Cundall

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Prior to Cundall’s discovery, there were only 35 Spitfires in existence. Strong demand and high prices (a refinished Spitfire sold for ~$3 million in 2009), have led aviation enthusiasts to search the globe for rumored caches of buried planes. So, where are Cundall’s new Spitfires? For the moment, they’re still underground, deep in the jungle.

“We sent a borehole down and used a camera to look at the crates. They seemed to be in good condition.” ~ David Cundall

They are likely to remain that way for at least a little while. International sanctions make it illegal for Burma to ship military materials in or out of the country. However, British Prime Minister David Cameron recently visited Burma, attempting to strike a deal to lift the sanctions as well as permit Cundall to excavate the site. With any luck, these Spitfires may eventually see the light of day and after more than six decades, finally reach the skies.

Did Rudolf Hess Kill Himself?

In 1987, the infamous ex-Nazi Rudolf Hess appeared to be on the verge of being freed from Spandau Prison after more than four decades of incarceration. However, he died beforehand, supposedly by self-asphyxiation with an electrical cord. Afterward, researchers began to speculate that Hess’s death wasn’t suicide…it was murder.

The Mysterious Death of Rudolf Hess?

But why would someone want to murder Rudolf Hess so long after the end of World War II? One possibility involves the bizarre 1941 flight to Scotland that got Rudolf Hess imprisoned in the first place. This flight was apparently part of a “peace mission.” Rudolf Hess proposed a non-aggression pact between Great Britain and Germany, which would free up the Nazis to invade Russia.

Now, some believe there was a faction of the British government who was prepared to negotiate peace with Nazi Germany. In order to keep Rudolf Hess from revealing their identities, they decided to kill him before he could be released.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Of course, this is just speculation. We can’t even be certain how Hess died. However, a recently declassified report has poked holes in the suicide theory. This lends some credence to the idea that Hess was indeed murdered (or at the very least, assisted in his suicide attempt). Here’s more on the mysterious death of Rudolf Hess from The Daily Mail:

A declassified report has revealed for the first time the stark scene in which Hitler’s deputy Rudolph Hess was said to have killed himself at a fortified compound in Berlin, and his alleged suicide note.

Pictures, which had not been published until now, show the electrical cord Hess allegedly used to end his life inside a small summerhouse at Spandau Prison 25 years ago this month.

But the report of the investigation into Hess’s death, released this week under Freedom of Information, has only deepened the mystery surrounding his final moments…

(See The Daily Mail for more on Rudolf Hess)

Hitler’s American Bunker?

During the 1930s, a strange group of Nazi sympathizers known as the Silver Legion of America built a gigantic, heavily-guarded bunker in Los Angeles. What was the purpose of this bunker? Did they hope to build a Nazi America?

Nazi America – Hitler’s American Bunker?

The members of the Silver Legion of America were known as Silver Shirts. And yes, their bunker was intended to help bring about a Nazi America. Specifically, they planned to ride out World War II within its confines as they waited for Hitler to arrive on American shores.

“This was supposed to be the seat of American fascism from where Hitler would one day run the United States.” ~ Randy Young, Historian

The compound was built by Jessie Murphy, who’d inherited a fortune from family-owned mines. It consisted of a diesel power plant, a concrete water tank, a meat locker, a vegetable garden, 22 bedrooms, and a bomb shelter. It still exists today, although it’s scheduled to be bulldozed in the near future. Here’s more on this strange bunker and its role in the Silver Shirts trying to create a Nazi America from The Daily Mail:

It sounds like the bizzare script of a Hollywood B-movie. In a parallel universe the Nazis have won the war, Adolf Hitler moves to LA where he mingles with the stars of the silver screen while running his evil empire from a luxurious ranch deep in the LA hills.

But during the 1930s, American sympathisers were so confident this exact scenario was actually going happen they spent millions building a deluxe compound ready for their fuhrer’s imminent arrival.

(See The Daily Mail for more on the Nazi America bunker)

Mutiny during World War II?

In 1942, U.S. Congressman Lyndon Baines Johnson conducted a secret visit of a U.S. military base in Australia. For seventy years, the reason for his visit has remained a mystery. But new evidence suggests a horrific event that led to the death of one soldier and serious injuries to many others. Did members of the 96th Battalion, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commit mutiny?

The Townsville Mutiny?

According to historian Ray Holyoak, the answer is yes. It turns out that African-American members of the unit were subjected to ongoing discrimination and violence from their white counterparts. In retaliation, some of them seized control of machine guns and anti-aircraft guns and proceeded to rake their aggressors with more than 700 rounds. Here’s more from the Australian Broadcasting Company on the Townsville Mutiny:

An Australian historian has uncovered hidden documents which reveal that African American troops used machine guns to attack their white officers in a siege on a US base in north Queensland in 1942…

“For 70 years there’s been a rumour in Townsville that there was a mutiny among African-American servicemen. In the last year and a half I’ve found the primary documentation evidence that that did occur in 1942,” Mr Holyoak told AM.

During World War II, Townsville was a crucial base for campaigns into the Pacific, including the Battle of the Coral Sea…About 600 African-American troops were brought to the city to help build airfields…This was the site for a large-scale siege lasting eight hours, which was sparked by racial taunts and violence…

(See Secret documents lift lid on WWII mutiny by US troops in north Queensland for more on the Townsville Mutiny)