, Goebbels, Nazi
1,000 Year Reich
by Fred Dungan
SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER AND GERMANY
Published and Formatted by DUNGAN BOOKS
Also by Fred Dungan: Policing America's Empire—Pax Americana; sold in ebook and paperback formats from Amazon.com (click to order)
Copyright December 2021
This is a work of fiction examining an alternate reality in which the outcome of World War II in Europe is reversed.
For my son, Colonel C. Peter Dungan, U.S. Army (Retired)
About the Front Cover
The picture portrayed on the front cover is of a scaled model of the Volkshalle (Peoples' Hall), Adolf Hitler's imagined temple to the Nordic gods which like many of the Third Reich's plans never came into being. It is a fitting tribute to the Aryan master race, another of National Socialism's tenants that had no basis in reality.
Albert Speer, Hitler's architect, based this design on a sketch of a Roman temple made by Hitler himself in 1925. In 1938 Hitler had made a point of visiting the Pantheon on an official trip to Rome. The Pantheon had been created for an empire that survived four centuries. The Volkshalle would go one better: it was to symbolize an empire planned to endure a thousand years. Instead it lasted twelve years, not nearly enough time to construct the Nazi Pantheon or Germania which was slated to be the new capital of the German Empire.
With clever use of steel and lightweight concrete behind stone cladding, the Volkshalle would have been 290 meters (950 feet) high. The oculus, or roof light, in the center of the dome would, at 46 meters (150 feet) in diameter, have been so big that Michelangelo's dome of St Peter's could have been lowered through it.
What the imperious Volkshalle resembles most is an enormous funerary monument. Above its mighty portico, Speer should have had this esoteric legend inscribed: Et in Arcadia Ego (I [Death] am in Arcadia, too). Arcadia means utopia, and utopia means nowhere. The Third Reich was headed nowhere. As Hitler and his pet architect played with the design of the Volkshalle, Berlin and the Third Reich were about to be engulfed in flames, just as Valhalla—home of all the Nordic gods—was in Wagner's Gotterdammerung. The Volkshalle proved to be less than a pantheon to a master race of black-clad German demigods, and more a tomb in the cemetery of Hitler and Speer's over-excited imaginations.
National Socialist Germany, better known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was the German state between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party ruled the country, transforming it into a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany quickly became an authoritarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", alluded to the National Socialist Party's assertion that National Socialist Germany was the rightful successor to the earlier Holy Roman Empire (800-1806) and German Empire (1871-1918). The Third Reich, which Hitler and the Nazis referred to as the Thousand Year Reich, ended in May 1945 after just 12 years, when the Allies defeated Germany, ending World War II in Europe.
On 30 January 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, the head of government, by the president of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg, the head of state. When Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934, Hitler became dictator of Germany by merging the offices and powers of the chancellery and presidency. A national referendum held 19 August 1934 confirmed Hitler as sole Fuhrer (leader) of Germany. All power was centralized in Hitler's person and his word became the highest law of the land. The government was not a coordinated, co-operating body, but a collection of factions struggling for power and Hitler's favor. In the midst of the Great Depression, the government restored economic stability and ended mass unemployment by means of heavy military spending and a mixed economy. Utilizing deficit spending, the regime undertook a massive secret rearmament program, forming the Wehrmacht (armed forces), and constructed extensive public works projects, including the Autobahn (expressways). The return to economic stability greatly boosted the regime's popularity.
Following Adolf Hitler's rise to power, Lebensraum (meaning: living room) became an ideological principle of Nazism and provided justification for the German territorial expansion into Central and Eastern Europe. The Nazi Generalplan Ost policy ('Master Plan for the East') was based on its tenets. It stipulated that Germany required a Lebensraum necessary for its survival and that most of the indigenous populations of Central and Eastern Europe would have to be removed permanently (either through mass deportation to Siberia, extermination, or enslavement) including Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, Czech and other Slavic nations considered non-Aryan. The Nazi government aimed at repopulating these lands with Germanic colonists in the name of Lebensraum during World War II and thereafter. Entire indigenous populations were decimated by starvation, allowing for their own agricultural surplus to feed Germany.
Hitler's strategic program for world domination was based on the belief in the power of Lebensraum, especially when pursued by a racially superior society. People deemed to be part of non-Aryan races, within the territory of Lebensraum expansion, were subjected to starvation, expulsion, and/or destruction. The eugenics of Lebensraum assumed the right of the German Aryan master race (Herrenvolk) to remove indigenous people in the name of their own living space.
Wehrmacht Troops Occupying Europe in April 1941
Lebensraum had been a goal of Imperial Germany in World War I. Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa with the intention of expanding the Fatherland into the Ukraine and the Soviet Union. However, he failed to listen to his advisors and sought to gain territory without regard to the steel, gasoline, and other resources that would be required to feed an enlarged German war machine fighting on two fronts. What had been largely a mechanized blitzkrieg was forced to employ draft horses for some artillery and transport purposes.
Seventy-three million people, the vast majority of whom were civilians, died as a result of World War II. Entire cities were carpet and/or fire bombed by the Allies. On May 8, 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered, bringing an end to the Thousand Year Reich and the Second World War in Europe. Given a few small, albeit consequential, changes in strategies, technology, events, resources, weather, and/or intelligence, the outcome would have almost certainly been different. It is the purpose of this book to thoroughly explore what some have come to term “alternate realities” with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Why is this important? In a 1948 speech to the United Kingdom's House of Commons, Winston Churchill remonstrated, "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Every single historical moment is distinct from those past. However, we must learn from our mistakes so that we do not run the risk of repeating them."
Der Fuhrer was a myopic micromanager. Adolf Hitler was the self-proclaimed supreme authority on all matters concerning Germany. Because he reacted emotionally to bad news, subordinates quickly took to doctoring their reports. He heard what he wanted to hear and saw what he wanted to see; he alone must bear the responsibility for reducing what well could have been a 1,000 year reich into a twelve year reich. In the end, he paid for his mistakes in leadership with his life.
The purpose of this book is to show how close Germany came to winning World War II and to point out (with 20/20 hindsight) how a few inept decisions ultimately led to defeat.
If you are wading chest deep in rampant conspiracy theories; if you believe in Moon Nazis (especially if you have seen them up front and close); or if you have watched the movie Iron Sky multiple times and believe that it should have won an Oscar as the best documentary produced in 2012; than this book is right up your alley. Shave your skinhead with a shard from a broken bottle of beer, have a swastika tattooed on your neck, and buy yourself a war surplus Luger, because you need to be ready for the Fourth Reich. That's right, it's coming! Have faith and it shall come to pass.
"Anyone can deal with victory. Only the mighty can bear defeat." - Adolf Hitler
Ask a general what he fears most and he is liable to reply: "Fighting a war on more than one front." Multiple fronts divide resources and manpower. The United States fought a two front war in World War II, but only because it had no other option. Even then, the United States gave priority to the war in Europe, leaving the final push to defeat Japan until after VE Day. Seeking to avoid a two front war, the Soviet Union wisely waited to declare war on the Japanese Empire until August 8, 1945 (presumably done as justification for the Soviet Union's subsequent land grab of the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin).
No doubt Hitler had no shortage of senior Wehrmacht officers who could have advised him of the dangers of fighting a war on two fronts. However, Hitler was still smarting from the failure of Operation Sea Lion to defeat England. He looked to the East to Ukraine and Russia for what he thought would be a quick victory that would reassure the German people of Der Fuhrer's infallible judgment. In the past, German leaders had promised their countrymen Lebensraum. Adolf Hitler intended to deliver where the previous reich had failed.
Evidently, Hitler was unaware of a previous attempt to conquer Russia. In June 1812, Napoleon led a 600,000 man army in a three-pronged invasion of Russia that was largely defeated by an overly extended supply line and the Russian winter in which temperatures of thirty degrees below zero Fahrenheit were not uncommon.
Not being a student of history nor prone to taking anyone's advice, Hitler ordered a three-pronged invasion of the Soviet Union starting on Sunday June 22, 1941.
The German invasion took place along a 1,500 mile front. Resources were necessarily spread thin—so thin, in fact, that horses actually outnumbered mechanized vehicles.
The invasion caught Josef Stalin completely unawares and unprepared. On September 29, 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union had signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Non-Aggression Pact, dividing Poland along the Bug River and fostering trade between the treaty powers.
Stalin was amazed that Hitler would attack Russia in order to secure resources which had already largely been achieved through negotiation. Germany and the Soviet Union entered an intricate trade pact on 11 February 1940 that was over four times larger than the one that the two countries had signed in August 1939. The new trade pact helped Germany surmount a British blockade. In the first year, Germany received one million tons of cereals, one half million tons of wheat, 900,000 tons of oil, 100,000 tons of cotton, 500,000 tons of phosphates and considerable amounts of other vital raw materials, along with the transit of one million tons of soybeans from Manchuria. Those and other supplies were being transported through Soviet and occupied Polish territories. Evidently, they did not come fast enough or in sufficient quantities to please Der Fuhrer. Nor did he have the scruples and/or common sense which would have prevented him from ordering the Wehrmacht to butcher the geese that laid the golden eggs which fed Germany's insatiable war machine.
Stalin's mistake was in expecting rational behavior from Hitler. Der Fuhrer had seized upon invading the Soviet Union as a means of distracting public attention away from the failure of Operation Sea Lion to subdue England.
No doubt Operation Barbarossa should have been conducted according to priorities defined by the needs of the war effort rather than a willy-nilly land grab along an over extended front. If the initial invasion had concentrated on capturing Crimea and the Caucasus, Germany could have hindered Russian access to oil and iron ore while supplying its own desperate need for these and other war materials. Once that was accomplished, the Wehrmacht could have gone on to capture Moscow and the rest of the Soviet Union. Figuratively, Hitler put the cart in front of the horse.
Anyone planning an extensive trip from the western boundary of Russia to the far eastern border would want to take along plenty of warm clothing. Then how is it that Napoleon and Hitler, the last two would be conquerers of Russia, failed to furnish their armies with winter clothing? Did it simply slip their minds? Or was it hubris? Before answering these questions, please keep in mind that General George Washington and his fellow officers wintered at Valley Forge in warm buildings while the enlisted men wore tattered uniforms, wrapped rags around their feet, and slept in tents that offered scant protection from blizzard conditions.
Adolf Hitler had been a common soldier in World War I and was one of the few non-officers to be awarded the iron cross. He suffered in the trenches along with the rest of the enlisted men. I find it difficult to understand why he did not sympathize with the plight of German soldiers on the Eastern front. Could it be that, like Napoleon, what began as a belief in pure Virtue metamorphosed into a demand that the average German had an obligation to exhibit Honor without regard to reward?
The Amerika Bomber
"No enemy bomber can reach the Ruhr. If one reaches the Ruhr, my name is not Goering." - Goering
Adolf Hitler was fascinated with the idea of New York City burning down to the ground. In 1937, Willy Messerschmitt hoped to win a lucrative contract by showing Hitler a prototype of the Messerschmitt Me 264 four-engine bomber that was being designed to reach New York City from the Azores, a distance of 11,680 kilometers. On 8 July 1938, barely two years after the death of Germany's main strategic bombing advocate, Generalleutnant Walter Wever, and eight months after the Reich Air Ministry awarded the contract for the design of the Heinkel He 177, Germany's only operational heavy bomber during the war years, the Luftwaffe's commander-in-chief Hermann Goering gave a speech saying, "I completely lack the bombers capable of round-trip flights to New York with a 4.5-ton bomb load. I would be extremely happy to possess such a bomber, which would at last stuff the mouth of arrogance across the sea."
The Amerika bomber plan was conceived as a result of discussions by Hitler in November 1940 and May 1941 when he stated his need to "deploy long-range bombers against American cities from the Azores." Due to their location, he thought the Portuguese Azores islands were Germany's "only possibility of carrying out aerial attacks from a land base against the United States." At the time, Portuguese Prime Minister Salazar had allowed German U-boats and navy ships to refuel there, but from 1943 onwards, he leased bases in the Azores to the British, allowing the Allies to provide aerial coverage in the middle of the Atlantic.
Included in the Amerika bomber plan was a list of 21 targets of military importance in North America. Many of these would not have been viable targets for conventional bombers of World War II, operating from bases in Europe. Of these targets, primarily but not exclusively located in the eastern United States, 19 were located in the United States; one in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (a possibly achievable target for a similar Japanese project) and one in Greenland. Nearly all were companies that manufactured parts for aircraft, the goal being to cripple United States' aircraft production.
Allis-Chalmers in La Porte, Indiana
Allison Division of G.M. in Indianapolis, Indiana
Aluminum Corp. of America in Alcoa, Tennessee; Massena, New York; Badin, North Carolina; and Vancouver, British Columbia
American Car & Foundry in Berwick, Pennsylvania
Bausch & Lomb in Rochester, New York
Chrysler Corp. in Detroit, Michigan
Colt Manufacturing in Hartford, Connecticut
Corning Glass Works in Corning, New York
Cryolite Refinery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Cryolite Mine in Arsuk, Greenland
Curtiss Wright in Beaver, PA; Buffalo, NY; and Caldwell, NJ
Hamilton Standard Corporation in East Hartford, Connecticut, and Pawcatuck, Connecticut
Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in East Hartford, Connecticut
Sperry Gyroscope in Brooklyn, New York
Fellows Gear Shaper, Springfield, Vermont.
Had sufficient time and resources been devoted to the project at a point in time early enough, an Amerika bomber may have become operational before the war's end. However, Nazi Germany had no central authority for the development and construction of advanced weaponry, including new aircraft concepts and designs, as well as critical problems in developing high-powered aviation engines — that is, with output of over 1,500 kilowatts (2,000 hp) each, which could operate reliably in combat conditions—that would have been required. Hitler was often swayed to waste time, money and resources on new "miracle weapons" and other projects that were unlikely to be successful. The Amerikabomber project was not one of the projects so favored. In addition, Allied bombing became so intense during the middle of the war that it disrupted critical German supply chains, particularly fuel; in addition, ever-greater proportions of resources were reserved for home defense purposes.
Ultimately, only three ME 264 prototypes of the America bomber were built, V1, V2, and V3. V1 and V2 used conventional piston engines, while V3 used high-powered radial engines.
Once again, Germany lacked the war materials— steel, fuel, and aluminum—necessary to manufacture and maintain a fleet of four engine heavy bombers. Six engine models were proposed, but never made it farther than the drawing board.
Neither the Ju 390, the Folke-Wulf TA400, nor the Ju 390 ever came to fruition. They were cancelled near the end of the war to free up materials to produce jet fighters.
Other proposals for the Amerika bomber were far more exotic jet and rocket-powered designs, e.g. a flying wing. The Horten brothers designed the Horten Ho XVIII, a flying wing powered by six turbojets based on experiences with their existing Ho X design. The Arado company also suggested a six-jet flying wing design, the Arado E.555.
Rockets with wings were also proposed. Perhaps the best-known of these today is Eugen Sanger's pre-war Silbervogel (Silverbird) sub-orbital bomber. While the A4b rocket, winged version of the V-2 rocket and probably its successor A9 rocket were tested several times in late 1944 and early 1945, the A9/A10 Amerika-Rakete, planned as a full two staged ICBM, never got farther than the drawing board.
Sitting on a two-mile track, the Silbervogel was to be accelerated to 1200 mph by a rocket sled powered by a cluster of V-2 rocket engines. Once airborne, it would have fired its own rocket engine and burned through the 90 tons of fuel that filled most of its slender silver-avian body to reach Mach 30 at a height of 90 miles.
The launch would have been the easy part.
The hard part was up in sub-orbit. On its way to New York City, the plane would have started to drop, however, the body itself was shaped to generate lift. The idea was that upon hitting the denser parts of the stratosphere, the Silbervogel would have bounced right back to space, not unlike a flat stone skipped on the surface of a pond. In a series of gradually decreasing skips, it would easily have reached the continental United States, dropped its payload of four, preferably nuclear, tons on a city of choice, then glided on to a landing in the Japanese-held Pacific.
It is interesting to note that the Amerika bomber was initially slated to carry a nuclear bomb. Both the Amerika bomber and the German atomic bomb program suffered from Hitler's inability to focus on specific proposals long enough for them to be carried out. Had these projects made it to the battlefield, it might have changed World War II's outcome. In the end, Der Fuhrer proved to be an ineffective micromanager whose attention was all too easily diverted from the task at hand.
If Germany had bombed England with four engine heavy bombers rather than two engine bombers, would it have made a difference in the outcome of the Battle of Britain? Since heavy bombers can carry twice the payload of light bombers and can better defend themselves against fighters, Germany would have gained a distinct advantage.
Nazi Nuclear Weapon
"Our knowledge and use of the laws of nature that enable us to fly to the Moon also enable us to destroy our home planet with the atom bomb." - Wernher von Braun
A Timeline to the German Nuclear Bomb
January 1933 Nazis come to power in Germany
December 1938 Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner and Fritz Strassmann discover nuclear fission in uranium
1941 Von Weizsacker files a draft patent application that refers to a plutonium bomb
March 1941 Von Weizsacker visits Bohr in Denmark
June 1941 Germany invades Soviet Union
September 1941 Von Weizsacker visits Bohr again, this time with Heisenberg
February/June 1942 Heisenberg gives popular lectures on nuclear weapons
December 1943 Bohr visits Los Alamos
March 1945 Germany tests a nuclear device in Thuringia, eastern Germany
7 May 1945 Germany unconditionally surrenders
Germany began its secret program, called Uranverein, or "uranium club," in April 1939, just months after German physicists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann had inadvertently discovered fission.
In December 1938, German chemist Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann sent a manuscript to the German science journal Naturwissenschaften ("Natural Sciences") reporting that they had detected and identified the element barium after bombarding uranium with neutrons. Their article was published on 6 January 1939. On 19 December 1938, eighteen days before the publication, Otto Hahn communicated these results and his conclusion of a bursting of the uranium nucleus in a letter to his colleague and friend Lise Meitner, who had fled Germany in July to the Netherlands and then to Sweden. Meitner and her nephew Otto Robert Frisch confirmed Hahn's conclusion of a bursting and correctly interpreted the results as "nuclear fission"—a term coined by Frisch. Frisch confirmed this experimentally on 13 January 1939.
On 22 April 1939, after hearing a colloquium paper by Wilhelm Hanle proposing the use of uranium fission in a Uranmaschine (nuclear reactor), Georg Joos, along with Hanle, notified Wilhelm Dames, at the Reichserziehungsministerium (REM, Reich Ministry of Education), of potential military applications of nuclear energy. The group included the physicists Walther Bothe, Robert Dopel, Hans Geiger, Wolfgang Gentner (probably sent by Walther Bothe), Wilhelm Hanle, Gerhard Hoffmann, and Georg Joos; Peter Debye was invited, but he did not attend. After this, informal work began at the Georg-August University of Gottingen by Joos, Hanle, and their colleague Reinhold Mannkopff; the group of physicists was known informally as the first Uranverein (Uranium Club) and formally as Arbeitsgemeinschaft fur Kernphysik. The group's work was discontinued in August 1939, when the three were called to military training. Max Plank had warned Hitler that stigmatizing German Jewish scientists and drafting top German scientists would hurt the war effort, but Hitler refused to listen. Despite a shortage of scientists, Germany created three teams to develop nuclear reactors; one each at Berlin, Gottow and Leipzig. The design that the teams finally came up with centered on uranium chandeliers. Hundreds of small uranium cubes were suspended on wires in close proximity to one another, allowing their combined radiation to sustain a nuclear reaction. When they needed to shut down the reaction, they could lower the chandelier into a pool of heavy water with graphite for additional shielding.
The number of people working on the project was not the only reason the bomb project in Germany failed compared to the American effort. Germany only spent an estimated one million dollars in their efforts. In contrast, the Americans spent over two billion dollars. In a memorandum written and signed by the German scientists after the war at Farm Hall POW Camp, they wrote "On the whole the funds made available by the German authorities for uranium were extremely small compared to those employed by the Allies." Money was not the only aspect in which the German effort was lacking. Even in laboratory and engineering space, the German facilities were inadequate. The research was carried out in common university labs. No specialized lab or plant was built. During the course of the war, the research was moved to small towns in the Black Forest to avoid Allied bombing raids. Whereas the Americans utilized dedicated university sites, such as the celebrated lab underneath the football stadium at the University of Chicago where the first self-sustained nuclear reaction occurred, and then enormous processing plants and a vast testing complex at Los Alamos, in total some thirty-seven different sites, German scientists had to make do with small houses and even caves towards the end of the war. No scientist, whether a Nobel laureate or not, could make the necessary breakthroughs under these conditions. The German nuclear bomb project was bound to fail because it needed massive industrial resources that were beyond Germany's capability.
One last material aspect hindered the Germans. Unlike the American effort, in which scientists had discovered the use of graphite to moderate the speed of the reaction, the Germans still used heavy-water for this task. Ironically in 1940, basing his conclusions on an erroneous experiment by Walther Bothe, Heisenberg wrote that pure graphite was less suitable as the moderator in a uranium pile then it had earlier been believed. This report meant that Germany would continue to rely on heavy-water, which they obtained from a plant located in Norway. In February of 1943, a clandestine team of saboteurs destroyed the facility, and after the Germans rebuilt the plant, an Allied bombing raid forced the Germans to move the equipment to a safer location. During that move, Norwegian resistance fighters sank the ferry transporting the equipment. The loss of heavy-water production convinced many of the German scientists that it would be impossible for them to achieve any advances in nuclear research. They only had two and one half tons of heavy-water to use for further experiments. They had no hope of obtaining it from any other source. One of the German scientists working on the atomic bomb project, Kurt Diebner, said later, "It was the elimination of German heavy-water production in Norway that was the main factor in our failure to achieve a self-sustaining atomic reaction before the war ended."
The most advanced team was in Berlin. The reactor there had 664 cubes in its chandelier, and its scientists were actually close in 1944 and 1945 to achieving a sustained reaction, a reaction that could have kept factories running until the Allies occupied the city.
The problem was that they needed a bit more uranium than they had. They suspected that they needed about 50 percent more cubes, and a 2009 paper says that they were probably right. Interestingly enough, the group in Gottow had about 400 cubes, but the two teams were not allowed to talk about their work or share resources. So neither group knew that they could pool their resources and succeed in just a few weeks or months of work.
America put its resources into one project, the Manhattan Project, while Germany split its efforts into three parts.
In this instance, three isolated start ups did not prove superior to one large, consolidated, all out effort.
For once, Germany had sufficient resources to complete the project. What was lacking was coordination and direction. In 1939 Germany was well ahead of the United States in nuclear technology. However, Hitler failed to consolidate the various individual efforts until it was too late in the war to make a significant difference. Also, many Jewish scientists emigrated to the United States (where they were employed by the Manhattan Project) due to National Socialism anti-Semitism.
GERMAN NUCLEAR REACTOR SCHEMATIC
The reactors were meant to produce Plutonium for production of nuclear bombs. At the end of World War II, German scientists were surprised to learn that the United States had gained a massive lead in nuclear weaponry.
The first effort to develop a nuclear bomb started in April 1939, just months after the discovery of nuclear fission in December 1938, but ended only months later shortly ahead of the German invasion of Poland, when many notable physicists were drafted into the Wehrmacht.
A second effort began under the administrative purview of the Wehrmacht's Heereswaffenamt on 1 September 1939, the day of the invasion of Poland. The program eventually expanded into three main efforts: the Uranmaschine (nuclear reactor), uranium and heavy water production, and uranium isotope separation. Eventually it was assessed that nuclear fission would not contribute significantly to ending the war, and in January 1942, the Heereswaffenamt turned the program over to the Reich Research Council (Reichsforschungsrat) while continuing to fund the program. The program was split up among nine major institutes where the directors dominated the research and set their own objectives. Subsequently, the number of scientists working on applied nuclear fission began to diminish, with many applying their talents to more pressing war-time demands.
The most influential people in the Uranverein were Kurt Diebner, Abraham Esau, Walther Gerlach, and Erich Schumann; Schumann was one of the most powerful and influential physicists in Germany. Diebner, throughout the life of the nuclear weapon project, had more control over nuclear fission research than did Walther Bothe, Klaus Clusius, Otto Hahn, Paul Harteck, or Werner Heisenberg. Abraham Esau was appointed as Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering's plenipotentiary for nuclear physics research in December 1942; Walther Gerlach succeeded him in December 1943.
Politicization of the German academia under the Nazi regime had driven many physicists, engineers, and mathematicians out of Germany as early as 1933. Those of Jewish heritage who did not leave were quickly purged from German institutions, further thinning the ranks of academia. The politicization of the universities, along with the demands for manpower by the German armed forces (many scientists and technical personnel were conscripted, despite possessing technical and engineering skills), substantially reduced the number of able German physicists.
Whereas the Manhattan Project in the United States represented a concerted team effort with virtually unlimited resources, the German nuclear effort was between competing individual scientists who did not pool their knowledge and materials. Worst of all there was a lack of leadership and direction.
Albert Speer wrote that the project to develop the atom bomb was discontinued in the autumn of 1942. Though the scientific solution was within reach, it would have taken all of Germany's production resources to produce a bomb, and then no sooner than 1947. Development did continue with a "uranium motor" for the navy and development of a German cyclotron. However, by the summer of 1943, Speer released the remaining 1200 metric tons of uranium stock for the production of solid-core ammunition.
A report produced by the United States Navy in 1946 states that a German, Herr Zinsser, a rocket authority, was flying in a small aircraft around the first week of October, 1944, in the vicinity from Ludwiglust and south of Lubeck. This was 12-15 kilometers from the German atomic bomb test facility. Zinsser, suddenly witnessed a strong, bright illumination of the entire atmosphere and saw a visible pressure wave with a diameter of one kilometer approaching him. The cloud changed colors rapidly, mostly blue to red. It lasted for 2-3 seconds. He described that there was a short period of darkness and then numerous blue light spots. After 10 seconds, the cloud seemed to disappear, but reappear in a lighter color. He noticed that the pressure wave, which was still visible, was at least 9000 meters in diameter and continued for 15 seconds. His aircraft felt the wave which jostled the small observation plane, but he remained in control of it.
Zinsser landed his aircraft and was flying again in a He 111 within an hour of the mystery. His aircraft flew to the spot where the explosion had been spotted. This is where he encountered an odd shaped mushroom cloud at 3-4000 meters, which continued to produce turbulence. He noticed strong electrical communication interference. Zinsser, in the report, noted he had difficulty understanding why such explosions would be conducted near large population centers.
The United States Navy judged the report to be highly credible and said it had all the elements of an atomic bomb test. The report concluded that the Germans had tested a thousand ton TNT bomb, or something else with as much force.
Under the auspices of the SS, on March 4, 1945 and March 12, 1945, German scientists in the mountain state of Thuringia tested some sort of "nuclear weapon", most likely a dirty bomb. Seven hundred prisoners of war from nearby Ohrdruf Concentration Camp are alleged to have died from the effects of these two tests. Others suffered severe burns and nosebleeds.
Clare Werner, a resident who happened to be standing on a nearby hillside witnessed the explosion in what she termed as a military training area not far from the town of Ohrdruf. About what she observed she has stated:
"It was about 9:30 when I suddenly saw something ... it was as bright as hundreds of bolts of lightning, red on the inside and yellow on the outside, so bright you could've read the newspaper. It all happened so quickly, and then we couldn't see anything at all. We noticed there was a powerful wind, then nose bleeds, headaches and pressure in the ears."
The next day a man named Heinz Wachsmut, an employee of a local excavating company, was ordered by the SS to assist in building wooden platforms to cremate the remains of the corpses of the prisoners. According to Wachsmut the bodies were covered with horrific burn wounds. He also reported, like Werner, that local residents complained of headaches, and spitting up blood.
If someone was to travel back in time to the year 1931 and take bets from people about which nation would develop the first atomic bomb, the smart money would probably have been on Germany. Germany at this time had an all-star lineup of talent that was at the forefront of nuclear and quantum physics. Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Max Born, Werner Heisenberg, and many others were all Germans who were some of the top physicists in the world at that time.
However, whatever high hopes the German physics world had declined dramatically when the National Socialist party came to power in 1933. Their racial theories coupled with an indiscriminate military draft depleted the ranks of Germany's physicists, many of whom, like Albert Einstein, fled to the United States where they were recruited to work on the Manhattan Project. In the case of this particular "wonder weapon", it would be fair to conclude that the Third Reich figuratively shot itself in the foot.
Operation Sea Lion
"On land I am a hero. At sea I am a coward." - Hitler (commenting to Admiral Doenitz on his dread of seasickness)
Operation Sea Lion was the code name for Nazi Germany's planned invasion of Britain. It was supposed to take place in September 1940 and, had it been successful, would have completed Adolf Hitler's domination of western Europe.
In the preceding months, the German Army had already swept across much of the continent. Western Poland had fallen early on, in the autumn of 1939. Denmark and Norway had been defeated six months later, in the spring of 1940. Then came Belgium, the Netherlands and northern France in May and June. British troops on the mainland had also been defeated: at Dunkirk they had been forced to abandon their equipment and retreat back across the Channel. On paper, therefore, the invasion of Britain was the logical final step.
Although Hitler was by no means an Anglophile, the English did rank rather high in the Nazi racial order. However, after having been appeased by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin, he came to believe that the English had grown weak and would go to great lengths to avoid war. Subsequently, the replacement of Chamberlin with hardliner Winston Churchill proved that this was not the case.
Somewhat surprised that London had rebuffed his peace initiatives, Hitler issued Directive Number 16 on July 16, 1940, which stated, "As England, in spite of the hopelessness of her military position, has so far shown herself unwilling to come to any compromise, I have decided to begin to prepare for, and if necessary to carry out, an invasion of England...and if necessary the island will be occupied."
For this to succeed, Hitler laid out four conditions that had to be met to ensure success. Similar to those identified by German military planners in late 1939, they included elimination of the Royal Air Force to ensure air superiority, clearing of the English Channel of mines and the laying of German mines, placing artillery along the English Channel, and preventing the Royal Navy from interfering with the landings. Though pushed by Hitler, neither Raeder nor Goering actively supported the invasion plan. Having taken serious losses to the surface fleet during the invasion of Norway, Raeder came to actively oppose the effort, as the Kriegsmarine lacked the warships to either defeat the Home Fleet or support a crossing of the Channel.
Planning moved forward under the guidance of Chief of the General Staff General Fritz Halder. Though Hitler had originally desired to invade on August 16, it was soon realized that this date was unrealistic. Meeting with planners on July 31, Hitler was informed that most planners desired to postpone the operation until May 1941. As this would remove the political threat of the operation, Hitler refused this request but agreed to push Sea Lion back until September 16. In the early stages, the invasion plan for Sea Lion called for landings on a 200-mile front from Lyme Regis east to Ramsgate.
This would have seen Field Marshal Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb's Army Group C cross from Cherbourg and land at Lyme Regis while Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group A sailed from Le Havre and the Calais area to land in the southeast. Possessing a small and depleted surface fleet, Raeder opposed this broad front approach as he felt it could not be defended from the Royal Navy. As Goering began intense attacks against the Royal Air Force in August, which developed into the Battle of Britain, Halder vehemently attacked his Luftwaffe counterpart, feeling that a narrow invasion front would lead to heavy casualties.
The definitive order of battle adopted on 30 August 1940 called for a first wave of nine divisions from the 9th and 16th armies landing along four stretches of beach: two infantry divisions on beach 'B' between Folkestone and New Romney supported by a special forces company of the Brandenburg Regiment, two infantry divisions on beach 'C' between Rye and Hastings supported by three battalions of seagoing tanks, two infantry divisions on beach 'D' between Bexhill and Eastbourne supported by one battalion of seagoing tanks, plus a second company of the Brandenburg Regiment, and three infantry divisions on beach 'E' between Beachy Head and Brighton. A single airborne division would land in Kent north of Hythe; with the objective of seizing the airfield at Lympne, also bridge-crossings over the Royal Military Canal, and in assisting the ground forces in capturing Folkestone. Folkestone (to the east) and Newhaven (to the west) were the only cross-channel port facilities that would have been accessible to the invasion forces; and much depended on these being captured substantially intact or with the capability of rapid repair; in which case the second wave of eight divisions (including all the motorized and armored divisions) could be unloaded directly onto their respective quaysides. A further six infantry divisions were allocated to the third wave.
The order of battle defined on 30 August remained as the agreed overall plan, but was always considered as potentially subject to change if circumstances demanded it. The Army High Command continued to press for a wider landing area if possible, against the opposition of the Kriegsmarine; in August they had won the concession that, if the opportunity arose, a force might be landed directly from ships onto the seafront at Brighton, perhaps supported by a second airborne force landing on the South Downs. However, the Kriegsmarine, fearful of possible fleet action against the invasion forces from Royal Navy ships in Portsmouth, insisted that the divisions that embarked from Cherbourg and Le Havre for landing on beach 'E', might be diverted to any one of the other beaches where sufficient space allowed.
Although the Kriegsmarine had scores of U-boats at its disposal, most of its big surface ships had already been sunk, damaged or worn out in the Norway campaign earlier in the year. Britain, by contrast, still had the largest navy in the world, which would in all likelihood destroy any invasion force even before it had the opportunity to land. The head of the Kriegsmarine, Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, therefore drew up plans to distract the Royal Navy with a decoy attack in the North Sea. Furthermore, by laying numerous minefields in the English Channel, he hoped to be able to protect German forces just long enough for the invasion to take place.
Successive postponements of Operation Sea Lion provided the British Army with time to increase manpower and repair or replace equipment. For example, the number of infantry tanks more than tripled from 74 in the early part of June 1940 to 224 in September 1940. Every delay by the Germans contributed to an increase in the strength of the Allies. By late 1940 the Blitzkrieg that had conquered most of Europe had slowed to a kriechen (crawl). Many historians attribute the beginning of the end for the Third Reich to the Wehrmacht's invasion of Russia, but a case can be made that it actually began with the poor planning and indecisiveness evident in Operation Sea Lion.
Each of the first wave landing forces was divided into three echelons. The first echelon, carried across the Channel on barges, coasters and small motor launches, would consist of the main infantry assault force. The second echelon, carried across the Channel in larger transport vessels, would consist predominantly of artillery, armored vehicles and other heavy equipment. The third echelon, carried across the channel on barges, would consist of the vehicles, horses, stores and personnel of the division-level support services. Loading of barges and transports with heavy equipment, vehicles and stores would start on S-tag minus nine (in Antwerp); and S minus eight in Dunkirk, with horses not loaded until S minus two. All troops would be loaded onto their barges from French or Belgian ports on S minus two or S minus one. The first echelon would land on the beaches on S-tag itself, preferably at daybreak around two hours after high tide. The barges used for the first echelon would be retrieved by tugs on the afternoon of S-tag, and those still in working order would be drawn up alongside the transport vessels to ferry the second echelon overnight, so that much of the second echelon and third echelon could land on S plus one, with the remainder on S plus two. The Navy intended that all four invasion fleets would return across the Channel on the night of S plus two, having been moored for three full days off the South coast of England. The Army had sought to have the third echelon cross in later separate convoys to avoid men and horses having to wait for as long as four days and nights in their barges, but the Kriegsmarine were insistent that they could only protect the four fleets from Royal Navy attack if all vessels crossed the Channel together.
Contrary to Goering's boasts that he could win control of the air in a few short weeks, the Luftwaffe never managed to achieve command of the air. Against the might of the Royal Navy, winning command of the sea even for a short time also began to seem like an impossibility. On September 17, 1940, with the weather in the Channel becoming much more unpredictable, Hitler finally decided to postpone the invasion indefinitely.
It is not entirely clear whether Operation Sealion was ever a serious plan, or whether it was merely a ploy to put pressure on the British to capitulate. Hitler's ultimate aim had always been to invade the Soviet Union. He much preferred to do so without having to worry about fighting Britain at the same time—but when it became clear that the British were not going to seek terms, he dropped his invasion plans and concentrated on his real objectives in the east.
Although Operation Sea Lion proved to be impracticable in 1940, Hitler made a big mistake in cancelling it instead of postponing it for later reassessment in 1941. After the war, German Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz admitted in his memoirs that, "I myself had no faith in the success of this invasion," and claimed that Raeder agreed with him.
Invading Russia was as disastrous for Germany in World War II as it was for Napoleon in 1812. Ultimately, it would be his undoing. It resulted in the Allies utilizing England as a base for invading Fortress Europe.
Scholars disagree about whether Nazis embraced Darwinian evolution. By examining Hitler's ideology, the official biology curriculum, the writings of Nazi anthropologists, and Nazi periodicals, we find that Nazi racial theorists did indeed embrace human and racial evolution. They not only taught that humans had evolved from primates, but they believed the Aryan or Nordic race had evolved to a higher level than other races because of the severe climatic conditions that had a bearing on determining natural selection. They also claimed that Darwinism underpinned specific elements of Nazi racial ideology, including racial inequality, the necessity of the racial struggle for existence, and collectivism.
For years before Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, he was obsessed with ideas about race. In his speeches and writings, Hitler spread his beliefs in racial purity and in the superiority of the Germanic race—which he termed an Aryan master race. He pronounced that this race must remain pure in order to one day take over the world. For Hitler, the ideal Aryan displayed Nordic features, i.e. he or she was blond, blue-eyed, and tall.
The Han Chinese and Japanese races were both considered the "Aryans of the East", "Honorary Aryans" and the "Herrenvolk of the Orient" (i.e. the Master race of the Orient) by Nazi Germany.
In 1945, Adolf Hitler said:
Pride in one's own race, and that does not imply contempt for other races, is also a normal and healthy sentiment. I have never regarded the Chinese or the Japanese as being inferior to ourselves. They belong to ancient civilizations, and I admit freely that their past history is superior to our own. They have the right to be proud of their past, just as we have the right to be proud of the civilization to which we belong. Indeed, I believe the more steadfast the Chinese and the Japanese remain in their pride of race, the easier I shall find it to get on with them.
When Hitler and the Nazis came to power, these beliefs became the government ideology and were spread in publicly displayed posters, on the radio, in movies, in classrooms, and in newspapers. The Nazis began to put their ideology into practice with the support of German scientists who believed that the human race could be improved through eugenics by limiting the reproduction of people considered inferior and encouraging reproduction among those judged to be pure Aryans. Beginning in 1933, German physicians were allowed to perform forced sterilizations, operations making it impossible for the victims to have children. Among the targets of this public program were Roma (Gypsies), an ethnic minority numbering about 30,000 in Germany, homosexuals, and handicapped individuals, including the mentally ill and people born deaf and blind. Also victimized were about 500 African-German children, the offspring of German mothers and African colonial soldiers in the Allied armies that occupied the German Rhineland region after World War I.
Hitler and other Nazi leaders viewed the Jews not as a religious group, but as a poisonous race, which "lived off" the other races and weakened them. After Hitler took power, Nazi teachers in school classrooms began to apply the principles of racial science. They measured skull size and nose length, and recorded the color of their pupils' hair and eyes to determine whether students belonged to the true Aryan race. Jewish and Romani (Gypsy) students were often humiliated by this process.
The "Blood Protection Law" which mandated sterilization of despised minorities that were defined as being "racially foreign" was enacted in Nuremberg on September 15, 1935. It criminalized marriage or sexual relations between Jews and non-Jewish Germans. After this, the "Reich Citizenship Law" was passed, and was reinforced in November by a decree; it included only people of "German or related blood", which meant that all Jews were stripped of their citizenship and their official title became "subjects of the state". This meant that they were deprived of basic citizens' rights, including the right to vote. This removal of citizens' rights was instrumental in the process of anti-semitic persecution: the process of denaturalization allowed the Nazis to exclude—by law—Jews from the "Volksgemeinschaft" ("national community"), thus granting judicial legitimacy to their persecution and opening the way to harsher laws and, eventually, extermination of the Jews. Soon after, Nazi leaders took biological segregation a step further, privately discussing the "complete emigration" of all Jews as a goal. After the incorporation of Austria in March 1938 (the Anschluss), SS officer Adolf Eichmann coordinated the forced emigration of tens of thousands of Austrian Jews. When the Nazis organized attacks on German and Austrian Jews and Jewish property-Kristallnacht-it convinced many Jews remaining in the Reich that leaving was their only option for survival.
Kristallnacht was a pogrom against Jews carried out by the National Socialist Party's Sturmabteilung (SA) paramilitary forces along with civilians throughout Nazi Germany on 9-10 November 1938. The German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht (literally "Crystal Night") comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed. The pretext for the attacks was the assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old German-born Polish Jew living in Paris.
Jewish homes, hospitals and schools were ransacked as attackers demolished buildings with sledgehammers. Rioters destroyed 267 synagogues throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. Over 7,000 Jewish businesses were damaged or destroyed, and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and incarcerated in concentration, i.e. extermination, camps.
TUBERCULOSIS, SYPHILIS, AND CANCER ARE CURABLE; THE ONE INCURABLE DISEASE IS THE JEW!
The outbreak of war in 1939 and the invasion of Poland brought a population of 3.5 million Polish Jews under the control of the Nazi and Soviet security forces, and marked the start of the Holocaust in Poland. In the German-occupied zone of Poland, Jews were forced into hundreds of makeshift ghettos, pending other arrangements. Two years later, with the launch of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the German top echelon began to pursue Hitler's new anti-Semitic plan to eradicate, rather than expel, Jews.Hitler's earlier ideas about forcible removal of Jews from the German-controlled territories to achieve Lebensraum were abandoned after the failure of the air campaign against Britain, initiating a naval blockade of Germany. Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler became the chief architect of a new plan, which came to be called The Final Solution to the Jewish question. On 31 July 1941, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering wrote to Reinhard Heydrich (Himmler's deputy and chief of the RSHA), authorizing him to make the "necessary preparations" for a "total solution of the Jewish question" and coordinate with all affected organizations. Goering also instructed Heydrich to submit concrete proposals for the implementation of the new projected goal.
Liberally speaking, the extermination of Jews was carried out in two major operations. With the onset of Operation Barbarossa, mobile killing units of the SS, the Einsatzgruppen, and Order Police battalions were dispatched to the occupied Soviet Union for the express purpose of murdering all Jews. During the early stages of the invasion, Himmler himself visited Biatystok at the beginning of July 1941, and requested that, "as a matter of principle, any Jew" behind the German-Soviet frontier was to be "regarded as a partisan". His new orders gave the SS and police leaders full authority for the mass-murder behind the front lines. By August 1941, all Jewish men, women, and children were shot. In the second phase of annihilation, the Jewish inhabitants of central, western, and south-eastern Europe were transported by Holocaust trains to camps with newly built gassing facilities. Raul Hilberg wrote: "In essence, the killers of the occupied USSR moved to the victims, whereas outside this arena, the victims were brought to the killers. The two operations constitute an evolution not only chronologically, but also in complexity."Massacres of about one million Jews occurred before plans for the Final Solution were fully implemented in 1942, but it was only with the decision to annihilate the entire Jewish population that extermination camps such as Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Treblinka were equipped with permanent gas chambers to murder large numbers of Jews in a relatively short period of time.
The plans to exterminate all the Jews of Europe were formalized at the Wannsee Conference, held at an SS guesthouse near Berlin, on 20 January 1942. The conference was chaired by Heydrich and attended by 15 senior officials of the Nazi Party and the German government. Most of those attending were representatives of the Interior Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, and the Justice Ministry, including Ministers for the Eastern Territories. At the conference, Heydrich indicated that approximately 11,000,000 Jews in Europe would fall under the provisions of the "Final Solution". This figure included not only Jews residing in Axis-controlled Europe, but also the Jewish populations of the United Kingdom and of neutral nations (Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, and European Turkey). Eichmann's biographer David Cesarani wrote that Heydrich's main purpose in convening the conference was to assert his authority over the various agencies dealing with Jewish issues. "The simplest, most decisive way that Heydrich could ensure the smooth flow of deportations" to death camps, according to Cesarani, "was by asserting his total control over the fate of the Jews in the Reich and the east" under the single authority of the RSHA.
During the initial phase of the Final Solution, gas vans producing poisonous exhaust fumes were developed in the occupied Soviet Union (USSR) and at the Chelmno extermination camp in occupied Poland, before being used elsewhere. The killing method was based on experience gained by the SS during the secretive Aktion T4 program of involuntary euthanasia. There were two types of death chambers operating during the Holocaust.
Unlike at Auschwitz, where the cyanide-based Zyklon-B was used to exterminate trainloads of prisoners under the guise of "relocation", the camps at Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor, built during Operation Reinhard (October 1941—November 1943), used lethal exhaust fumes produced by large internal combustion engines. The three killing centers of Einsatz Reinhard were constructed predominantly for the extermination of Poland's Jews trapped in the Nazi ghettos. At first, the victims' bodies were buried with the use of crawler excavators, but they were later exhumed and incinerated in open-air pyres to hide the evidence of genocide in what became known as Sonderaktion 1005.
The six camps considered to be purely for extermination were Chelmno extermination camp, Belzec extermination camp, Sobibor extermination camp, Treblinka extermination camp, Majdanek extermination camp and Auschwitz extermination camp (also called Auschwitz-Birkenau).
Whereas the Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau) and Majdanek camps were parts of a labor camp complex, the Chelmno and Operation Reinhard death camps (that is, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka) were built exclusively for the rapid extermination of entire communities of people (primarily Jews) within hours of their arrival. All were constructed near branch lines that linked to the Polish railway system, with staff members transferring between locations. These camps had almost identical design: they were several hundred meters in length and width, and were equipped with only minimal staff housing and support installations not meant for the victims crammed into the railway transports.
The Nazis deceived the victims upon their arrival, telling them that they were at a temporary transit stop, and would soon continue to German Arbeitslagers (work camps) farther to the east. Selected able-bodied prisoners delivered to the death camps were not immediately killed, but instead were pressed into labor units called Sonderkommandos who were chosen to perform various tasks in the extermination process such as sorting through and packing the clothing and possessions of the victims, and burying and disposing of the bodies by burning them. These workers were often sent to be murdered in the gas chambers after a few months and replaced with "new" prisoners.
After victims were killed, Sonderkommando prisoners dragged the corpses out of the gas chambers. They cut off the women's hair and removed all metal dental work and jewelry. Then they incinerated the corpses in pits, on pyres, or in the crematorium furnaces.
Bones that did not burn completely were ground to powder with pestles and then dumped, along with the ashes, in the rivers Sola and Vistula and in nearby ponds, or strewn in the fields as fertilizer, or used as landfill on uneven ground and in marshes.
At the camps of Operation Reinhard, including Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, trainloads of prisoners were murdered immediately after arrival in gas chambers designed exclusively for that purpose. The mass killing facilities were developed at about the same time inside the Auschwitz II-Birkenau subcamp of a forced labor complex, and at the Majdanek concentration camp. In most other camps prisoners were selected for slave labor first; they were kept alive on starvation rations and made available to work as required. Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Jasenovac were retrofitted with Zyklon-B gas chambers and crematoria buildings as the time went on, remaining operational until World War II's end in 1945.
The construction of four large gas chambers and crematoria began in Birkenau in 1942. They went into operation between March 22 and June 25-26, 1943. The gas chambers at crematoria II and III, like the undressing rooms, were located underground, while those at crematoria IV and V stood at ground level. About two thousand people at a time could be put to death in each of them. According to calculations made by the Zentralbauleitung on June 28, 1943, the crematoria could burn 4,416 corpses per day—1,440 each in crematoria II and III, and 768 each in crematoria IV and V. This meant that the crematoria could burn over 1.6 million corpses per year. Prisoners assigned to do the burning stated that the daily capacity of the four crematoria in Birkenau was higher—about eight thousand corpses.
The construction of another facility according to a new more efficient design, crematorium VI, never progressed beyond the planning stage.
BRICK OVENS IN CREMATORIUM AT DACHAU,GERMANY
What a waste! The 6,000,000 people who were so cavalierly classified as worse than worthless and subsequently exterminated should have been used to boost war production, possibly even to the point of reversing the outcome of the war. The trains which transported Jews to the death camps could have been used to transport troops and supplies to the Eastern Front. As it was the Einsatzgruppen, SS, and camp guards had little to do with the outcome of the war. However, if questionable racial theories had not been given overwhelming priority, these soldiers could have fleshed out depleted combat divisions on the Eastern Front. Hatred has a way of coming back on the hater. In this case it was just one more aspect that contributed to Germany losing the war. In the end, Hitler was so concerned with theory that he lost touch with reality; so much so that he blamed the German people for failures that he himself had set in motion.
V-1 Flying Bomb
"ingenious" - Winston Churchill (1953)
The V-1 (Vergeltungswaffe Eins, or Vengeance Weapon One), was the world's first operational cruise missile. This name was given to it by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry. but the original Air Ministry designation was Fi 103, after its airframe designer, the Fieseler company.
The World War II V-1 was a mid-wing monoplane constructed primarily of mild steel, although later long-range, lighter models had plywood wings on a tubular metal spar. Mounted on top of the rear of the fuselage was the pulsejet tube with recessed intake circular grill in front and open exhaust exit at the rear. The front of the tube has a larger diameter to accommodate the grill, internal flappers, and combustion chamber with fuel injectors and spark plug, while the rear gradually tapers down to the straight, elongated exhaust. At the front of the missile's aluminum alloy nose fairing is a small propeller for determining range. Inside the missile, behind the wings, are two wire-wound compressed air spheres for the pneumatic control servomechanism.
The buzz bomb's revolutionary engine, the Argus As 014 pulsejet (ramjet), was designed in 1928 by inventor Paul Schmidt. The motor, which ran on 80 octane gasoline, fired 50 times a second, giving the V-1 its unmistakable and terrifying sound. Consisting of few moving parts, the pulse jet operated by air entering into the intake where it was mixed with fuel and ignited by spark plugs. The combustion of the mixture forced sets of intake shutters closed, producing a burst of thrust out the exhaust. The shutters then opened again in the airflow to repeat the process. As far back as 1934, the Munich-based rocket scientist envisioned his creation being used to propel high explosive warheads long distances. The Nazi air ministry green-lighted the project in 1940. Years of testing followed. The V-1's ramjet engine wasn't able to get the two ton weapon into the air. Each had to be hurled skyward along a launch ramp using a piston powered catapult.
The initial powered flight only went a kilometer, and the early prototypes showed a distressing tendency to crash. To resolve these problems, a piloted flying bomb was developed, with the warhead replaced by a cockpit in which a test pilot could fly the machine while lying prone. Test flights were performed with the tiny and daring female test pilot Hanna Reitsch at the controls who helped resolve the problems.
In late 1943, the Germans had experimented with "manned missiles", in which pilots would point their aircraft at a ground target and bail out. Experiments along this line were performed with Focke-Wulf FW-190 and pulse jet-powered Messerschmitt Me-328 fighters, but proved unsuccessful. In May 1944, SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Otto Skorzeny, Germany's brilliant and ruthless commando leader, proposed using the V-1 for this job. Within two weeks, prototypes of variants of the manned weapon, known as "Reichenberg", were built, with designations "R-I" through "R-IV".
The first pilotless operational V-1 flew in 1942 at Peenemunde on the southern Baltic coast. A series of fixed launching sites were constructed in France, Holland, Denmark and Germany to allow the Germans to shower V-1s on any part of southern England. However, German planning did not take into account a strong bomber and fighter-bomber offensive against the V-1 launch sites. This forced the Germans into creating mobile launch sites and launching some from Heinkel 111 bombers.
In their first week, 17 percent of all flying bombs that entered the English coastal "gun belt" were destroyed by anti-aircraft guns. This increased to 60 percent by 23 August and 74 percent in the last week of August, when on one day 82 percent of all incoming V-1s were shot down. The rate improved from one V-1 destroyed for every 2,500 shells fired, to one for every 100.
Perhaps the most notable hit scored by a V-1 came on June 18, 1944, when a V-1 plummeted to earth and detonated on the roof of the Guards' Chapel in London at 11:10 a.m., in the midst of Sunday services. The ensuing blast and collapse of the concrete structure killed 121 and injured 141 more.
Hanna Reitsch's test flight had prompted Otto Skorzeny to suggest turning the flying bomb into a manned aircraft, which would be sent against enemy targets. The project was first called "Selbstopfer," which translates as "self-sacrifice." It was soon changed to the much less ominous sounding "Reichenberg." Fieseler designers gave the cockpit version of the machine the official name of Fi 103R.
The first trials of the Reichenberg flying bomb, which began in September 1944, were not very promising. Two test aircraft were manufactured, and both machines were lost during their first flight. Because an expert was needed to carry out trial flights, the tests were taken over by Hanna Reitsch, who was no stranger to unconventional aircraft. Besides her flight in the first manned FZG-76, she had also tested the rocket-powered Messerschmitt Me-163 Komet, a fighter interceptor that was to be deployed against formations of Allied heavy bombers above the Reich. She had been severely injured during these test flights, which left her hospitalized for five months.
In an age when the role of women in German society was most often restricted to Kinder, Kuche, Kirche (children, kitchen, church), Hanna Reitsch's accomplishments must have posed a serious threat to the prevailing Nazi male creed. One studying history is almost forced to conclude that this explains why the man in charge, Oberstleutnant Werner Baumbach, scrapped the Reichenberg project just as it was getting off the ground.
Under the Reichenberg program, four piloted FZG-76 models were built. Reichenberg I and II were unpowered training models, designed for gliding trials. Reichenberg II had an additional cockpit added to accommodate an instructor. Reichenberg III was a powered training model, with an Argus pulse-jet engine. Reichenberg IV was the operational model.
The cockpit of the Reichenberg IV was situated just in front of the engine. The pilot sat in a molded bucket seat and used a conventional stick and rudder bar to control the aircraft. Instruments consisted of an altimeter, airspeed indicator, clock, turn-and-bank indicator, and an arming switch for the warhead. The pilot was also provided with guidelines for calculating diving angles, which would prevent him from overshooting or falling short of his target.
The Reichenberg was not meant to be ramp-fired. Hanna Reitsch agreed that launching the manned flying bomb from a ramp would be too dangerous for the pilot. He would have no chance to escape if the guidance system failed, as often happened with the conventional FZG-76, resulting in a crash just after takeoff. A Heinkel He-111 would take the Reichenberg to within launching disance of its target, just as in the initial test flight by Reitsch. An intercom system allowed the pilot to talk to the Heinkel's crew during flight. Because there was no way to enter the Reichenberg's cockpit after takeoff, it was slung under the Heinkel's port wing, not under the bomb bay. The pilot had to board the missile before taking off.
When the Heinkel reached the vicinity of the target, the Reichenberg's pilot started the pulse-jet engine. Targets earmarked for the Reichenberg included bridges, shipping, small but vital installations (such as Battersea Power Station in London), and military bases that might be too heavily defended for a conventional aircraft to attack. The Heinkel would climb to about 20,000 feet and, after getting the approval of the Reichenberg's pilot, would drop the missile.
After being cast off, the Reichenberg pilot was on his own. His first task was to get his aircraft to level off—no mean feat, considering the FZG-76's history of malfunctioning. After gaining control of the missile, he would point it in the direction of his target and, finally, would arm the 1,900-pound warhead. The Reichenberg would be traveling at about 450 miles per hour at this point.
After arriving over the target, the pilot would aim the missile and push over into his final dive. The pilot did have the option of bailing out. The Reichenberg program was not specifically suicide-oriented, and there was a procedure for the pilot to jettison the cockpit hood and jump clear. However, chances of getting clear of the diving aircraft were slim, at best. The procedure for detaching the cockpit hood was fairly complicated, especially at 450 miles per hour, and the intake of the pulse-jet engine would probably have pulled the pilot right in. It would have been highly unlikely for the pilot to be able to jettison the hood, much less jump free of the missile.
Training the instructors for the Reichenberg project had already begun, and a program for recruiting pilots had also been approved. To crash into a target with nearly a ton of high explosives required a fanatical determination on the part of the pilot, as well as a personality that verged on the manic. However, Nazi Germany produced a good many individuals who possessed these attributes in abundance. Ninety pilots volunteered for the Reichenberg project. Other recruits could have been found, as well, from the ranks of other Luftwaffe units and the Waffen SS.
By October 1944, a total of 175 FZG-76 flying bombs had been modified with cockpits and manual controls. Reitsch carried out a test of an unpowered version and brought the Reichenberg I to a successful touchdown on its wooden landing skid. However, during that month, command of the project was taken over by Oberstleutnant (lieutenant colonel) Werner Baumbach, who had no faith whatsoever in the Reichenberg project and let his views be known. He thought that the program was a total waste of both manpower and materiel, which were becoming increasingly scarce in Germany. Shortly after he took command, the project was scrapped.
Had it been allowed to continue, the Reichenberg Project would almost certainly have had at least some degree of success. Japan had a similar project, which employed a similar aircraft-the rocket-powered Ohka (cherry blossom) kamikaze. The Ohka was a single-seat, wooden aircraft. It was carried to the vicinity of its target by a twin-engine Mitsubishi Betty medium bomber, and it carried an 1,800 kilogram warhead. The Ohka program was employed successfully against U.S. shipping in late 1944 and in 1945.
The Reichenberg manned V-1 flying bomb could have been Germany's ultimate cruise missile—literally a missile with a man in it. Although it was the Luftwaffe's most unorthodox weapon, it was never used operationally. The degree of damage inflicted if the "German kamikaze" had been used against Allied targets is still open to debate. It might not have won the war for Germany, but it certainly could have prolonged the war by months or perhaps years.
A V-1 cost about 5,000 Reichsmarks or $2,000 in 1944 (that's the equivalent of about $27,000 in 2021).The 21-foot-long flying bombs were made mostly from sheet metal and plywood. Each took about 350 labor-hours to produce. Concentration camp inmates and slave laborers toiling at the Gerhard Fieseler Werke plant in Kassel did most of the assembly work.
Each V-1 was guided by a rudimentary pendulum gyroscope that kept the machine flying straight and level. Originally designed to soar at 9,000 feet, problems with its altimeter forced it to fly at a cruising altitude of between 2,000 and 3,000 feet, which made the V-1 vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire. To aim a V-1, operators simply needed to point the weapon in the approximate direction of the target and set a propellor to stop turning after a certain number of revolutions which approximated the distance traveled. When the propellor stopped, a mechanism was triggered that made the V-1 go into a steep dive.
Redundant electrical and mechanical fuses ensured the V-1's 2,200-pound Amatol warhead detonated immediately on impact, maximizing casualties. A third fuse was triggered if a dud V-1 was tampered with.
The pre-launch procedure became a set routine for the launch crews. First, the flying bomb's fuel tank was checked, to make certain that it had been topped off. Following this, the wooden wings were attached; these had been folded over the fuselage to make storing and moving the aircraft easier. After assembly, the plane was aligned precisely with its firing ramp-which was pointed in the general direction of the Tower Bridge in London and its gyrocompass was set at zero to ensure it flew the straight course on which it had been aimed.
The flying bomb, now ready for launching, was moved onto its firing ramp. After it was loaded onto its catapult, a lug on the underside of the fuselage was attached to the catapult's firing piston. When the piston was released, it accelerated the V-1 off the launch rails in the same way that a jet plane is catapulted off the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. With the stubby-winged flying bomb poised for takeoff, the launching crew took cover inside the "control bunker," a heavily armored trailer that housed the catapult's firing controls, or lumped into a nearby slit trench. The firing officer gave an order, a technician pulled a lever, and the flying bomb's pulse-jet engine came to life with a throbbing, deafening roar.
Over 30,000 V-1s were produced during the Second World Warwith around 10,000 fired at targets in Britain. Of these, only 2,419 reached London, killing 6,184 people and injuring 17,981. Antwerp, a popular target, was hit by 2,448 between October 1944 and March 1945. A total of around 9,000 were fired at targets in Continental Europe. Although V-1s only struck their target 25 percent of the time, they proved more economical than the Luftwaffe's bombing campaign of 1940/41.
Once in 1939, and a second time in 1940, the Luftwaffe rejected buzz bomb proposals. By the time they got around to approving development and production in mid-June 1942, the United States had entered the war and nothing short of a miracle could have won the war for Germany.
That miracle could have been the V-1 had it been approved and given priority when it was first proposed to the Luftwaffe in 1939. But, as it happened, it was yet another case of too little, too late.
The V-2 Rocket
"All glory to the German V-2" - Frank J. Malina (Cal Tech JPL)
In the late 1920s, Wernher von Braun bought a copy of Hermann Oberth's book, Die Rakete zu den Planetenraumen (The Rocket into Interplanetary Spaces). The world's first large-scale experimental rocket program was Opel-RAK under the leadership of Fritz von Opel and Max Valier, a collaborator of Oberth, during the late 1920s leading to the first manned rocket cars and rocket planes, which paved the way for the Nazi era V-2 program and United States and Soviet activities from 1950 onwards. The Opel RAK program and the spectacular public demonstrations of ground and air vehicles drew large crowds, as well as caused global public excitement as so-called "Rocket Rumble" and had a large long-lasting impact on later spaceflight pioneers, in particular on Wernher von Braun. The Great Depression ended these activities. Von Opel left Germany in 1930 and emigrated later to France and Switzerland.
Starting in 1930, von Braun attended the Technical University of Berlin, where he assisted Oberth in liquid-fueled rocket motor tests. Von Braun was working on his doctorate when the Nazi Party gained power in Germany. An artillery captain, Walter Dornberger, arranged an Ordnance Department research grant for von Braun, who from then on worked next to Dornberger's existing solid-fuel rocket test site at Kummersdorf. Von Braun's thesis, Construction, Theoretical, and Experimental Solution to the Problem of the Liquid Propellant Rocket (dated 16 April 1934), was kept classified by the German Army and was not published until 1960. By the end of 1934, his group had successfully launched two rockets that reached heights of 2.2 and 3.5 kilometers (1.4 and 2.2 miles).
At the time, Germany was highly interested in American physicist Robert H. Goddard's research. Before 1939, German engineers and scientists occasionally contacted Goddard directly with technical questions. Von Braun used Goddard's plans from various journals and incorporated them into the building of the Aggregate (A) series of rockets, named for the German word for mechanism or mechanical system.
Following successes at Kummersdorf with the first two Aggregate series rockets, Von Braun and Walter Riedel began thinking of a much bigger rocket in the summer of 1936, based on a projected 25,000 kilograms (55,000 pounds) thrust engine. In addition, Dornberger specified the military requirements needed to include a 1-ton payload, a range of 172 miles with a dispersion of 2 or 3 miles, and transportable using road vehicles.
After the A-4 project was postponed due to unfavorable aerodynamic stability testing of the A-3 in July 1936, Von Braun specified the A-4 performance in 1937, and, after numerous test firings of the A-5 scale test model, using a motor redesigned from the faulty A-3 by Walter Thiel, A-4 design and construction was ordered circa 1938-39. From 28-30 September 1939, Der Tag der Weisheit (The Day of Wisdom) conference met at Peenemunde to initiate the funding of university research to solve rocket problems.
By late 1941, the Army Research Center at Peenemunde possessed the technologies that made for the success of the A-4. The four key technologies for the A-4 were large liquid-fuel rocket engines, supersonic aerodynamics, gyroscopic guidance and rudders in jet control. At the time, Adolf Hitler was not particularly impressed by the V-2; he said that it was merely an artillery shell with a longer range and much higher cost.
Hitler delayed the decision to put the V-2 into production for three years, from 1939 to 1942. Dornberger, the Wehrmacht's head of the program, laments this delay repeatedly in his memoirs. He claimed that his rocket team could have fielded a weapon that would have changed the course of the war if it had been in production earlier. However, given the difficulties in the development of the V-2, this seems doubtful. Even with the 1942 go-ahead, the V-2 was nowhere near a production design. Getting it into production concurrently with development was a nearly insurmountable problem; 65,000 changes were made to the initial production drawings. Tests of the first production missiles began in early 1944. Mysterious in-flight disintegrations of the missiles resulted in an 80% failure rate. These were found to have multiple causes, and the last of the several fixes to the missile was not introduced in the production line until November 1944. By then 61% of all the V-2's that ever would be built had already been shipped out.
The rocket engine was fueled by an alcohol and water combination, with liquid oxygen serving as an oxidizer that enabled the fuel to burn, just as oxygen enables wood to burn. The fuel and oxidizer were pumped into a main combustion chamber where they mixed and then ignited, producing 56,000 pounds of thrust, which escaped out of the rocket nozzle at the tail of the vehicle.
The engine contained a number of key technological innovations that enabled it to achieve significantly higher thrust. First, it had a new type of fuel nozzle for injecting the watered alcohol into the engine. These nozzles sprayed the fuel out in a rotational pattern that caused it to atomize better (in other words, create very small fuel droplets that had more surface area, like the water coming out of a spray bottle) so that it mixed better with the oxidizer and therefore burned more efficiently.
A second innovation was the use of a pre-chamber system that mixed the propellant and oxidizer in small chambers above the main combustion chamber. This produced better mixing before burning and kept the flames farther from the nozzles, preventing heat damage to the nozzles.
A third innovation was the use of a shorter, rounder combustion chamber, which mixed the propellants better than an earlier design with a longer chamber. The final innovation was the rocket exhaust nozzle. Previous nozzles had a 10 to 12 degree angle of opening between the sides of the cone, resulting in a long, thin cone. But the A-4 engine had a nozzle with an angle of 30 degrees. This reduced friction between the exhaust gases and the wall and also resulted in a shorter nozzle.
The A-4 used a 75 percent ethanol/water mixture for fuel and liquid oxygen (LOX) for oxidizer.
At launch the A-4 propelled itself for up to 65 seconds on its own power, and a program motor controlled the pitch to the specified angle at engine shutdown, from which the rocket continued on a ballistic free-fall trajectory. The rocket reached a height of 80 kilometers (50 miles) after shutting off the engine.
The fuel and oxidizer pumps were steam turbines, and the steam was produced by concentrated hydrogen peroxide with sodium permanganate catalyst. Both the alcohol and oxygen tanks were an aluminium-magnesium alloy.
The combustion burner reached a temperature of 2500—2700 degrees Centigrade (4500—4900 degrees Farenheit). The alcohol-water fuel was pumped along the double wall of the main combustion burner. This regenerative cooling heated the fuel and cooled the combustion chamber. The fuel was then pumped into the main burner chamber through 1,224 nozzles, which assured the correct mixture of alcohol and oxygen at all times. Small holes also permitted some alcohol to escape directly into the combustion chamber, forming a cooled boundary layer that further protected the wall of the chamber, especially at the throat where the chamber was narrowest.
Because the rocket would travel so fast—faster than any other object at that time—its aerodynamic shape was very important, particularly the fins for controlling the rocket. But determining the proper shape was difficult because no wind tunnel existed at the time that could test objects at such high speeds. The Germans built a world-class aerodynamic institute at their rocket test center at Peenemunde, with several supersonic wind tunnels. These tunnels were not ready in time, however, and many of the key decisions concerning the A-4's shape were made from educated guesses and confirmed later. For instance, the unusual rounded shape of the A-4 (when compared with modern rockets) was due to the fact that it was based on the shape of a rifle bullet. Designers figured that since a rifle bullet flew through the air without tumbling, a rocket using the same shape would do the same.
Heinrich Himmler, the Reich Leader of the SS, argued that spies had given away the Peenemunde location and suggested they move production underground and use only prisoners for assembly.
The Germans found a ready-made facility to move the missile program production into the Harz Mountains, near Nordhausen in central Germany. The Nordhausen site consisted of a large series of mountain tunnels that had originally been built as an oil storage area. Here, the V-2 went into mass production in what was to become the largest underground factory in the world. While Nordhausen seemed to be ideal, V-2 production was delayed by many factors including air raids, subcontractors, and lack of materials. The prisoners also lacked the necessary skills and experience to build the V-2 rocket.
A significant technological advance of the A-4 was in the area of guidance. Early rockets had no guidance system at all and could be aimed only in a general direction. Later, some simple guidance systems were adopted that directed rockets to pitch over in flight to aim toward a target. But the A-4 had to fly a long distance with some degree of accuracy to hit its target, so it required a system for pointing it in the right direction and shutting off the engine once the proper velocity was achieved. This was achieved through the use of what is called an inertial guidance system, a system in which a stabilized platform remains fixed in space regardless of how the vehicle moves around it. This stabilized platform allows for measuring the position or acceleration of the vehicle, since the platform remains pointed in one direction and the changes in the vehicle can be measured compared to the stable platform. In the middle of the rocket exhaust were four vanes that were used to deflect the thrust and steer the rocket based upon commands from the guidance unit. The A-4 system was significantly more advanced than previous guidance systems. Still, despite this advanced system, the A-4 could hit only a city-sized target from 190 miles (306 kilometers) away.
At launch the A-4 propelled itself for up to 65 seconds on its own power, and a program motor controlled the pitch to the specified angle at engine shutdown, from which the rocket continued on a ballistic free-fall trajectory. The rocket reached a height of 80 kilometers (50 miles) after shutting off the engine.
The V-2 rocket became the first artificial object to travel into space by crossing the Karman line with the vertical launch of MW 18014 on 20 June 1944. Research into military use of long-range rockets began when the graduate studies of Wernher von Braun attracted the attention of the German Army.
The V-2 rocket used four external rudders on the tail fins of the missile along with four internal vanes (graphite construction) located at the exit of the rocket motor. The missile also used the LEV-3 guidance system that included two free gyroscopes (a horizontal and vertical one) to help stabilize the rocket. Additionally, the V-2 used a PIGA accelerometer to cutoff the engine at a pre-specified velocity. Since the V-2 was launched from a location that was pre-surveyed, the distance and azimuth to the target location were already known. This would allow the Fin 1 on the missile to be aligned to the target azimuth. V-2's used later in the war would make use of guidance beams sent via radio transmission from the ground to keep the rocket on course. The early models of the rocket made use of an analog computer that would adjust the azimuth for the rocket via engine cut-off, would be ground controlled through a Doppler system, or via different variants of on-board integrated accelerometers.
V-2 attacks against English and French targets only decreased when Allied troops were able to push back Germans forces and place targeted cities out of range. The last V-2-related casualties in Britain occurred on March 27, 1945. Accurately placed V-2s could cause extensive damage and over 2,500 were killed and nearly 6,000 wounded by the missile. Despite these casualties, the rocket's lack of a proximity fuse reduced losses as it frequently buried itself in the target area before detonating, which limited the effectiveness of the blast. Unrealized plans for the weapon included the development of a submarine-based variant as well as the construction of the rocket by the Japanese.
On February 5, 1945, the U-Boat U-864 slipped from its quay in Bergen as it departed on a secret mission known portentously as Operation Caesar.
U-864's compartments were filled with key technology and resources that Nazi Germany planned on transferring to Japan. These included schematics and components for Jumo 004 turbojets to aid in the development of a Japanese jet fighter, and two engineers from the aviation manufacturer Messerschmitt. There were also guidance components for V-2 ballistic missiles and two Japanese technical experts. U-864 also carried more than sixty-seven tons of liquid mercury, carried in 1,857 steel flasks. The mercury had been purchased but not entirely delivered from Italy in 1942, and was a key material for manufacturing explosive primers.
Using intelligence gathered by Enigma codebreakers, the British submarine, HMS Venturer, located and sank U-864 before it could deliver its V-2 components and technicians to Japan.
Weight: 12,500 kg (28,000 lb)
Length: 14 m (45 ft 11 in)
Diameter : 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)
Warhead : 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) Amatol
Wingspan: 3.56 m (11 ft 8 in)
Propellant: 3,810 kg (8,400 lb) of 75% ethanol and 25% water + 4,910 kg (10,800 lb) of liquid oxygen
Operational range: 320 km (200 mi)
Flight altitude: 88 km (55 mi) maximum altitude on long range trajectory, 206 km (128 mi) maximum altitude if launched vertically.
Originally, plans called for the V-2 to be launched from massive blockhouses located at Eperlecques and La Coupole near the English Channel. This static approach was soon scrapped in favor of mobile launchers. Traveling in convoys of 30 trucks, the V-2 team would arrive at the staging area where the warhead was installed and then tow it to the launch site on a trailer known as a Meillerwagen. There, the missile was placed on the launch platform, where it was armed, fueled, and the gyroscopes set. This set-up took approximately 90 minutes, and the launch team could clear an area in 30 minutes after launch.
Thanks to this highly successful mobile system, up to 100 missiles a day could be launched by German V-2 forces. Also, due to their ability to stay on the move, V-2 convoys were rarely caught by Allied aircraft. The first V-2 attacks were launched against Paris and London on September 8, 1944. Over the next eight months, a total of 3,172 V-2s were launched at Allied cities, including London, Paris, Antwerp, Lille, Norwich, and Liege. Due to the missile's ballistic trajectory and extreme speed, which exceeded three times the speed of sound during descent, there was no existing and effective method for intercepting them. To combat the threat, several experiments using radio jamming (the British erroneously thought the rockets were radio-controlled) and anti-aircraft guns were conducted. These ultimately proved fruitless. Consequently, there was no defense against the V-2.
The cost of the development and manufacture of the V-2 was staggering, estimated by a post-war US study at about $2 billion, or more than was spent on the Allied Manhattan atomic bomb program. Yet the entire seven-month V-2 missile campaign delivered less high explosive on all the targeted cities than a single large Royal Air Force raid on Germany. While such a massive expenditure might have been justified if it had a military impact, the V-2 accomplished nothing of significant military value. Not only was it a mistake, it was a spectacularly bad one. Germans went hungry to supply the massive amounts of potatoes needed to produce the alcohol that fueled the V-2. Had the resources been spent on improving the V-1, it might actually have affected the outcome of World War II in Europe. Hitler's initial assessment of the V-2 as little more than an overly expensive artillery shell proved correct. Unfortunately for the Third Reich, he later became obsessed with "wonder weapons" which to his way of thinking would win the war for Germany.
If V-2's had been equipped with atomic warheads, they would have been formidable weapons. However, by the end of the war, Germany had made little progress towards developing an atomic bomb. With scant central planning except when Hitler personally endorsed a project, German technology suffered from largely uncoordinated, individualized development. The fact that V-2 rockets lacked proximity fuses is evidence of that shortcoming.
The V-3 Cannon
"[The] multiple long range artillery which was being prepared against London . . .might well have seen London as shattered as Berlin." - Winston Churchill
Lesser known than the V-1 and V-2 is the V3—which the Nazis also called the "London Cannon"—massive, multi-charge gun designed to shoot a 215-pound shell nearly 100 miles. Adolf Hitler hoped it would blast the British capital to smithereens.
A ballistics engineer named August Conders sold the concept of a super cannon to the Fuhrer in 1942. Conders's design called for an initial charge in the gun's breechblock that would propel a 150 millimeter shell into a huge, 139-yard-long barrel. The shell would then be accelerated through the barrel by successive detonations of 32 additional charges, creating a muzzle velocity of 1,640 yards per second. According to Conders's calculations, a deployment of 50 guns launching 3,000 rounds a day would saturate London with shells over a 15-square-mile area.
Hitler entrusted the V3 project to Armaments Minister Albert Speer. Speer's first task was to select a suitable location in which to construct the necessary cavernous bunkers. Of paramount importance for any potential gun site was its proximity to London, but the Germans chose Mimoyecques in June 1943 for several additional reasons. Six miles from the coast, it was too far inland to be targeted by Royal Navy guns or a commando raid. It was also close to a railway line, along which munitions, materials, and workers could be transported. Finally, the geological structure of Mimoyecques was ideal—the hill of solid chalk reached a depth of 110 yards, ensuring stability for the weapon's foundations.
The basic idea of the multi-charge concept is that in a traditional single-charge gun the pressure in the barrel is at its peak when the charge is fired, and then continually dwindles to some much lower value as the shell travels down the barrel and the combustion gasses expand. This requires a traditional gun to be much heavier at the breech end in order to successfully contain this pressure, and as the gun grows in power, the weight becomes untenable. The multi-charge concept uses a low-power initial charge and continues adding more charges as the shell moves along the barrel, resulting in a much more constant pressure as the shell moves. This reduces peak pressure and the need to have a heavy breech, as well as providing smoother acceleration.
The origin of the multi-chamber gun dates back to the 19th century. In 1857, U.S. inventor Azel Storrs Lyman (1815–1885) was granted a patent on "Improvement in accelerating fire-arms", and he built a prototype in 1860 which proved to be unsuccessful. Lyman then modified the design in collaboration with James Richard Haskell, who had been working for years on the same principle.
Haskell and Lyman reasoned that subsidiary propellant charges could increase the muzzle velocity of a projectile if the charges were spaced at intervals along the barrel of a gun in side chambers and ignited an instant after a shell had passed them. The "Lyman-Haskell multi-charge gun" was constructed on the instructions of the U.S. Army's Chief of Ordnance, but it did not resemble a conventional artillery piece. The barrel was so long that it had to be placed on an inclined ramp, and it had pairs of chambers angled back at 45 degrees discharging into it.
It was test fired at the Frankford Arsenal at Philadelphia in 1880 and was unsuccessful. The flash from the original propellant charge bypassed the projectile due to faulty obturation and prematurely ignited the subsidiary charges before the shell passed them, slowing the shell down. The best velocity that could be obtained from it was 335 meters per second (1,100 feet/second), inferior to the performance of a conventional RBL 7 inch Armstrong gun of the same period. New prototypes of multi-charge guns were built and tested, but Lyman and Haskell abandoned the idea.
In 1918, the French army tried to create a long range multi-chamber gun using the Perreaux's patent. However, the initiative did not reach the prototype stage. The plans were archived, and 20 years later, the German troops acquired them when France collapsed in June 1940. August Conders, one of the chief engineers for the Nazi troops was intrigued by the plans. He managed to construct a full-calibre gun near Magdeburg, but he could not put the gun's basic principle into operation.
Conders thought that the gradual acceleration of the shell by a series of small charges spread over the length of the barrel might be the solution to the problem of designing very long range guns. The very strong explosive charge needed to project shells at a high speed was causing very rapid degradation of the gun tubes of conventional guns.
Conders proposed the use of electrically activated charges to eliminate the problem of the premature ignition of the subsidiary charges, the problem experienced by the Lyman-Haskell gun. Conders built a prototype of a 20 mm multi-chamber gun using machinery readily available at the Wetzlar plant, machinery that was producing tubes of this calibre for the Flak 38 anti-aircraft guns of 20 mm. The first tests were encouraging, but to get the support of the Ministry of arms, Hermann Rochling had to present to Albert Speer Conders' project of a cannon capable of firing on London from the coast of the Pas-de-Calais. The project intended to use two batteries to crush London under a barrage of hundreds of shells per hour, shells of 140 kilograms (310 pounds) with an explosive charge of 25 kilograms (55 pounds).
The enormous cannons, designated HDP for "High Pressure Pumps" so as to conceal their true purpose, had barrels one hundred meters in length—slightly longer than a football field. The cannons were smoothbore (unrifled) to enable a higher muzzle, and relied on fins on special finned shells for stability. The barrels were laid along tunnels dug into the side of a hill—called "drifts"—with a fifty degree slope, all zeroed in to fire in the vicinity of Westminster Bridge. Their "millipede" barrels were composed of bolted modular sections lined with pairs of solid-fuel rocket booster chambers perpendicular to either side of the barrel. These vented gases that accelerated the shell as it traveled down the barrel's length.
A total of ten drifts were planned to house fifty of the immobile guns, which would be deployed to two separate underground bunker facilities, each benefitting from sliding armored doors to protect against the anticipated counter strikes. A railway line would funnel ammunition to the guns from the outside world for the planned round-the-clock bombardment of the English capital, while another underground tunnel connected the two bunkers. Ultimately, one thousand men from the newly formed 705th Artillery battalion were to man the secret facility.
Speer told Adolf Hitler about the proposal in May 1943. After the Royal Air Force (RAF) bombed the Peenemunde rocket center on 17 August, Hitler agreed to Speer's suggestion that the gun be built without more tests. Conders constructed a full-calibre gun at the Hillersleben proving ground near Magdeburg but, by the end of 1943, he had encountered severe problems both in putting the gun's basic principle into operation and in producing a feasible design for the shells that it was to fire. Even when everything worked, the muzzle velocity was just over 1,000 meters per second (3,300 feet/second), which was nowhere near what had been promised. Nonetheless, a proposal was made to build a single full-sized gun with a 150-meters (490 feet) barrel at Misdroy on the Baltic island of Wolin, near Peenemunde, while construction went ahead at the Mimoyecques site in France (which had already been attacked by the USAAF and the RAF). The Heereswaffenamt (Weapon Procurement Office) took control of the project by March 1944, with no good news from Misdroy, and Conders became one of the engineers working on the three chief problems: projectile design, obturation, and ignition of the secondary charges.
Trials were held at Misdroy from 20–24 May 1944 with ranges of up to 88 km (55 miles) being attained. On 4 July, 1944, the Misdroy gun was test-fired with 8 rounds (one of the 1.8 meter (5.9 feet) long shells travelled 93 kilometer (58 miles). The gun burst during the testing, putting an end to the tests.
The German Army still managed to deploy a battery of V-3 guns to a ravine in Lampaden, near Trier, Germany, though these had shorter fifty-meter-long barrels. Two of the guns were finally used in action during the Battle of the Bulge, starting a bombardment of the city of Luxembourg on December 30, 1944. A total of 183 discarding sabot shells were lobbed until February 22, causing ten deaths and thirty-five injuries. This unimpressive result is unsurprising given that the gun crews of the 705th Artillery Battalion were basically blind firing the weapon, and the shells packed a relatively low explosive yield.
Another battery of V-3s was deployed to support the Operation Nordwind offensive aimed at retaking the city of Strasbourg, but was forced to withdraw from the firing site at Buhl by advancing U.S. troops before it ever had a chance to fire.
If the V-3 had been perfected and became operational, would it have made an impact on the outcome of the war? The answer is yes, however, the V-3 was never perfected. Had the resources wasted on the V-3 been spent on improving the World War I era Krupp K-5 railway cannon (whose projectiles shot further than those of the V-3), it may well have made a noticeable difference. Again, the ineffectiveness of the V-3 was primarily a case of too little, too late. That thousands of V-3 shells were manufactured before the V-3 cannon was fully tested, was a colossal waste of resources. While Adolf Hitler may have been a master strategist and tactician, he proved less than adequate at allocating resources to the development of new weaponry.
V-4 Four Stage Surface-to-Surface Missile
"Think a Thousand times before making a decision. But, after making a decision never turn back even if you Get a Thousand difficulties!!" - Adolf Hitler
The Rheinboten were launched from adapted "Meillerwagens", designed for the V2. These were placed in the desired direction and angle of fire.
The V-4 or "Rheinbote" rocket is undoubtedly the least well known weapon that was pressed into service as a vengeance weapon. It would eventually only see use against Antwerp for strategic reasons, as was primarily the case for the more famous V-1 and V-2 by that time.
One of the problems for the German military, and indeed any mobile military force, is the weight of the artillery and, more importantly, its ammunition supply. Battlefield rockets were intended to circumvent the problems, which led to the development of Rheinbote. The Rheinbote was the successor of the earlier Rheintochter (Rhine Maiden).
From 1940 to 1945, in a secluded marshy forest in northwest Poland, Nazi scientists conducted top-secret ballistic tests for short and long range missiles. Both the Rheintochter and the Rheinbote were tested at this site.
The principals for multi-stage rockets existed in the Far East from medieval times and were researched in the years before World War II to increase the range of artillery without the mobility problems of increasingly heavy guns.
From 1943 the company Rheinmetall-Borsig developed a design with four separate propulsion stages. The large distance that could be traveled this way and the potential to use it in large numbers made it appear useful to those planning the vengeance against England. Despite plans for the production of thousands, there were reportedly some 220 produced in total.
To launch the 88 pound projectile, of which some 66 pounds were explosives the desired 100 miles, a combination of four rockets were used, with a total length of more than 36 feet.
The first stage with six nozzles only fired for one second which lifted the rocket in the air at 65 feet per second. Despite the short time before it detached this stage fell some 2.5 miles from the launch point. The next stages fired at 2, 12 and 22 seconds, the 2nd and 3rd firing for five seconds and the last for three. The last stage did not detach from the projectile. With a top speed of almost 3700 mph and maximum altitude of about 50 miles, the parabola it traveled allowed hitting targets at a great distance.
Despite its limited impact as a weapon and great cost in materials for every shot, it was ordered into operational use.
In December 1944 Artillerie-Abteilung 709 arrived in Nunspeet (Holland) and fired the first "Rheinboten" at Antwerp, 102.5 miles away. This first operational use on December 24, 1944, started at noon and consisted of a preliminary salvo of four rockets which was followed by six more similar salvos within the hour.
Although the launches were successful, it was by no means certain that the right distance had been traveled, checking this was hardly possible.
The determination of a correct firing table, which indicated the correct angle of fire to travel a certain distance, was not finished by this time so that the unit had to go by a theoretical calculation. Finding the relatively small, four feet impact crater after every shot to determine its accuracy had proven difficult with tests in controlled territory giving little hope to do so when firing deep into that of the enemy.
After more launches took place near Nunspeet in January 1945, the whole project was stopped several weeks later.
Additional testing had meanwhile shown that all earlier shots had landed far beyond the target. The 64 degree firing angle that had been calculated and used did not give the projectiles the expected range of 100 miles but rather an average of 140 miles.
The V-1's warhead contained a proximity fuse which rendered the weapon extremely effective. Both the V-2 and the V-4 lacked proximity fuses and tended to bury themselves into the ground upon impact. Lack of centralized planning led to the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.
"He who would live must fight. He who doesn't wish to fight in this world, where permanent struggle is the law of life, has not the right to exist." - Adolf Hitler
The Panzerfaust was an inexpensive, single shot, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a relatively small, disposable pre-loaded launch tube firing a high-explosive anti-tank warhead, and was intended to be operated by a single soldier. The Panzerfaust's direct ancestor was the similar, smaller-warhead Faustpatrone ordnance device. The Panzerfaust was in use from 1943 until the end of the war.
This weapon was the most effective Germany had against tanks at close range, taking out about half of the Allied tanks killed at short range. And the weapon was nearly on par with dedicated anti-tank guns, requiring just a little over twice as many shots per tank killed despite having much lower logistics and training requirements.
A forerunner of the Panzerfaust was the Faustpatrone (literally "fist cartridge").
The Faustpatrone was much smaller than the better-known Panzerfaust. Development of the Faustpatrone started in the summer of 1942 at the German company Hugo Schneider AG (HASAG) with the development of a smaller prototype called Gretchen ("little Greta") by a team headed by Dr. Heinrich Langweiler in Leipzig. The basic concept was that of a recoilless gun; in the Faustpatrone and the Panzerfaust a propellent charge pushed the warhead out the front of the tube while the blast also exited the rear of the tube balancing forces and therefore there was no recoil force for the operator.
The Faustpatrone klein, 30 m ("small fist-cartridge") weighed 3.2 kilograms (7.1 pounds) and had a total length of 98.5 centimeters (38.75 inches); its projectile had a length of 36 centimeters (14.5 inches). The 10 centimeters (3.9 inches) diameter of the warhead was a shaped charge of 400 grams (14 ounces) of a 50:50 mix of TNT and tri-hexogen. The propellant was of 54 g (1.9 oz, 830 grains) of black powder, the metal launch tube had a length of 80 centimeters (31.5 inches) and a diameter of 3.3 centimeters (1.3 inches) (early models were reportedly 2.8 centimeters). Fitted to the warhead was a wooden shaft with folded stabilizing fins (made of 0.25 millimeters [0.01 inches] thick spring metal). These bent blades straightened into position by themselves as soon as they left the launch tube. The warhead was accelerated to a speed of 28 meters per second (92 feet per second), had a range of about 30 m (100 feet) and an armor penetration of up to 140 millimeters (5.5 inches) of plain steel.
Soon a crude aiming device similar to the one used by the Panzerfaust was added to the design; it was fixed at a range of 30 meters (100 feet). Several designations of this weapon were in use, amongst which Faustpatrone 1 or Panzerfaust 30 klein; however, it was common to refer to this weapon simply as the Faustpatrone. Of the earlier model, 20,000 were ordered and the first 500 Faustpatronen were delivered by the manufacturer, HASAG, Werk Schlieben, in August 1943.
Development began in 1942 on a larger version of the Faustpatrone. The resulting weapon was the Panzerfaust 30, with a total weight of 5.1 kilograms (11.2 pounds) and total length of 104.5 centimeters (3.4 feet). The launch tube was made of low-grade steel, 44 millimeters (1.7 inches) in diameter, containing a 95-gram (3.4 ounce) charge of black powder propellant. Along the side of the tube were a simple folding rear sight and a trigger. The edge of the warhead was used as the front sight. The oversize warhead (140 millimeters [5.5 inches] in diameter) was fitted into the front of the tube by an attached wooden tail stem with metal stabilizing fins.
The warhead weighed 2.9 kilograms (6.4 pounds) and contained 0.8 kilograms (1.8 pounds) of a 50:50 mixture of TNT and hexogen explosives, and had armor penetration of 200 millimeters (7.9 inches). The Panzerfaust often had warnings written in large red letters on the upper rear end of the tube, the words usually being "Achtung. Feuerstrahl." ("Beware. Fire jet."). This was to warn soldiers to avoid the blowback.
The Panzerfaust was produced from 1942 to 1945 at the Schlieben concentration camp, which was where one of Hugo Schneider AG's workshops was located.
After firing, the tube was discarded, making the Panzerfaust the first disposable anti-tank weapon. The weapon, when correctly fired from the crook of the arm, could penetrate the armor of any armored fighting vehicle of the period.
American soldiers were known to pick up discarded Panzerfauste because they were more effective and easier to operate than bazookas. The lack of recoil gave it a simplicity of use and even German civilians were given instructions on how to use them in the event of an attack.
The Panzerfaust consisted of a thin steel tube containing a propellant charge of gunpowder. The conical warhead, which consisted of a small bomb attached to a wooden stem and fins, was inserted into the front end of the tube. When a firing pin on the outside of the tube was cocked, it set off a percussion cap that in turn ignited the propellant charge. This in turn propelled the warhead a short or moderate distance to the target, where it exploded.
To use the Panzerfaust, the soldier removed the safety, tucked the tube under his arm and aimed by aligning the target, the sight and the top of the warhead. Unlike the Americans' original M1 60 millimeter bazooka and the Germans' own heavier 88 millimeters Panzerschreck tube-type rocket launchers based on the American ordnance piece, the Panzerfaust did not have the usual trigger. It had a pedal-like lever near the projectile that ignited the propellant when squeezed. Because of the weapon's short range, not only enemy tanks and infantry, but also pieces of the exploding vehicle, posed dangers to its operator. As such, the usage of Panzerfauste required relatively great personal courage. The blowback from firing went back around two meters behind the operator.
When used against tanks, the Panzerfaust had an impressive beyond-armor effect. Compared to the bazooka and the Panzerschreck, it made a larger hole and produced massive spalling that killed or injured (via burns and shrapnel) the crew and destroyed equipment. One informal test found that the Panzerfaust made an entry hole 2.75 inches (7 centimeters) in diameter, whereas the Panzerschreck made an entry hole at least 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter; contrastingly, the bazooka made an entry hole that was only 0.5 inches [1.3 centimeters] in diameter). Much of this can be attributed not only to the size of the Panzerfaust's warhead but also its horn-like shape, as opposed to the traditional cone-shaped warheads of rockets used in the bazooka and Panzerschreck. This design was later copied in the modern-day AT-4 anti-tank weapon to produce the same effect against modern main battle tanks.
It quickly became known that the weakness of the Panzerfaust was that it was disposable, therefore being a waste of materials. When the soldier carried two sets of ammunition, he was forced to carry two launchers, increasing overall weight. It was not a big problem with the early and small Faustpatrone, but it became more serious for newer and heavier Panzerfausts like the Panzerfaust 150. So a reloadable Panzerfaust was planned. The base of development was the Panzerfaust 150, but to make it able to be re-fired, its firing mechanism was totally remodeled. The result was named the Panzerfaust 250, which was the last development of the Panzerfaust-series. It used a reloadable tube and now featured a pistol grip. With propellants in both the firing tube and on the projectile itself it was projected to reach a projectile speed of 150 meters per second (490 feet per second). To use propellant energy fully, a venturi tube was attached to its back-end. A pistol grip was also adopted. The range rose up to 250 meters.
Serial production was scheduled to begin in September 1945. However, the development of this weapon never got completed and not a single one was produced.
In the Battle of Normandy, only 6 percent of British tank losses were from Panzerfaust fire despite the close-range combat in the thick bocage landscape. However, the threat from the Panzerfaust forced Allied tank forces to wait for infantry support before advancing. The portion of British tanks taken out of action by Panzerfauste later rose to 34 percent, a rise probably explained by the lack of German anti-tank guns late in the war and the increased numbers of Panzerfauste that were available to defending German troops.
In urban combat later in the war in eastern Germany, about 70 percent of tanks destroyed were hit by Panzerfzauste or Panzerschrecks. Soviet and Western Allied tank crews modified their tanks in the field so as to provide some kind of protection against Panzerfaust attacks. These included logs, sandbags, track links, concrete and wire mesh, along with bed frames with springs (bedsprings), similar to expanded metal-type German tank side skirts. In practice, about one meter of air gap was required to substantially reduce the penetrating capability of the warhead, thus side skirts and sandbags, along with other improvised armor, were virtually entirely ineffective against both the Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust. Moreover, the added weight from such add-on armor overburdened the vehicle's engine, transmission and suspension systems.
Later on, each Soviet heavy tank and assault gun company were assigned a platoon of infantry in urban battles to protect them from such infantry-wielded anti-tank weapons, often supported by flamethrowers.
The Panzerfaust did have one big shortcoming: It was an infantry weapon with a range between a few dozen yards and 200 yards, and the 200-yard variants were not deployed during the war. So, tank crews could slaughter Panzerfaust crews from hundreds of yards outside of the anti-tank team's range.
But only if they could spot the anti-tank teams from out of the weapon's range. Panzerfaust teams would hide in brush or trenches and wait for tanks to roll up, or they would sneak through buildings and hit the tanks from close range.
The Italian Social Republic (RSI) and the Government of National Unity (Hungary) also used the Panzerfaust. Several RSI army units became skilled in anti-tank warfare and the Hungarians themselves used the Panzerfaust extensively, especially during the Siege of Budapest. During this brutal siege, an arms factory, the Hungarian Manfred Weiss Steel and Metal Works, located on Csepel Island (within Budapest) kept up production of various light armaments and ammunition, Panzerfaust included, all the way until the very last moment, when attacking Soviet troops seized the factory by the first days of 1945.
The US 82nd Airborne Division captured some Panzerfauste in the Allied invasion of Sicily and later during the fighting in Normandy. Finding them more effective than their own bazookas, they held onto them and used them during the later stages of the French Campaign, even dropping with them into the Netherlands during Operation Market Garden. They captured an ammunition dump of Panzerfauste near Nijmegen and used them through the Ardennes Offensive toward the end of the war.
During the last stages of the war, due to the lack of available weapons, many poorly-trained conscripts, mainly elderly men and teenage Hitler Youth members, were often given a single Panzerfaust, plus any type of obsolete pistols or rifles (some only had a Panzerfaust and nothing else). This caused several German generals and officers to comment sarcastically that the empty launch-tubes could then be used as clubs in hand-to-hand combat.
Actually, it was Panzerfauste, wielded by a contingent of Volkssturm and Hitler Youth, that prolonged the Fall of Berlin by destroying scores of Soviet T-34 tanks, forcing the Red Army to pay dearly for every building they took.
Panzerfauste were both economical and effective. Although a handful of German officers may have joked about them, the Russians certainly weren't laughing.
"Vampir" Night Vision
"You stop fearing the dark when you become it." - Anonymous
As early as 1939, the first night vision devices were introduced by the German army. The first devices were being developed by AEG starting in 1935. By the end of World War II, the German army had equipped approximately 50 Mark V Panther tanks, which saw combat on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. The "Vampir" man-portable system for infantrymen was being used with STG-44 Sturmgewehr assault rifles. For soldiers, the units were bulky, consisting of a gun-mounted "dish" or spot light above the scope and a large, heavy battery packs slung over the shoulders.
As the war progressed, growing Allied air superiority made daytime travel nearly impossible for armored units. Furthermore, daytime fighting had become an increasingly dangerous proposition. As early as 1942 an infra-red gunsight had been created for the 7.5 centimeter Pak40 self-propelled gun (which used an infrared headlamp in addition to a viewer). The reports from troop testing were favorable, therefore it was decided that sighting devices should be developed for tanks as well. The effect of massed armored assault under the cover of night (as the Allies had no night-fighting capability) could have been potentially devastating.
The ZG 1229 Vampir weighed about 5 pounds and was fitted with lugs at the weapons production facility. The soldier carrying this was known as night-hunter. As well as the sight and infrared spotlight, there was a wooden cased battery for the light, and a second battery fitted inside a gas mask container to power the image converter. This was all strapped to a Tragegestell 39.
The searchlight consisted of a conventional tungsten light source shining through a filter permitting only infrared light. The sensor was not sensitive to body heat because it operated in the upper infrared (light) spectrum rather than in the lower infrared (heat) spectrum.
The Vampir gear was used for the first time in combat in February 1945. Three hundred ten (310) units had been delivered to the Wehrmacht in the final stages of the war. Eastern Front veteran reports consisted of snipers shooting at night with the aid of "peculiar non-shining torches coupled with enormous optical sights" mounted on their rifles. Similar infrared gear was fitted both to MG34 and MG42 machine guns. It is doubtful that the low number of night vision devices deployed by the Wehrmacht had any significant impact on the outcome of World War II in Europe.
Landkreuzer P. 1000 "Ratte" - English: Land Cruiser P. 1000 Rat
"If the tanks succeed, then victory follows" - Heinz Guderian
The Landkreuzer P. 1000 "Ratte" (English: Land Cruiser P. 1000 "Rat") was a design for a 1000-ton tank to be used by Nazi Germany during World War II which is thought to have been proposed by Krupp director Edward Grotte in June 1942, who had already named it "Landkreuzer". Submitted designs and drawings of the vehicle went under the names OKH Auftrag Nr. 30404 and E-30404/1, which were presented in December 1942. The tank was planned to be 1000 tons, being far heavier than the Panzer VIII "Maus", the heaviest tank ever built (weighing 188 tons). The project gained the approval of Adolf Hitler, who had expressed interest in the development of the tank, but was cancelled by Minister of Armaments Albert Speer in early 1943.
The development history of the Ratte originated with a 1941 strategic study of Soviet heavy tanks conducted by Krupp, the study also giving birth to the Panzer VIII Maus super-heavy tank. The study led to a suggestion from Krupp's director (Grotte), a special officer for submarine construction, who, on 23 June 1942, proposed to Adolf Hitler a 1,000-ton self-propelled gun which he named "Landkreuzer" (Land Cruiser). It consisted of a fully tracked chassis carrying one of the surplus main gun turrets left over from the planned refitting of the Scharnhorst-class battleships. To protect this immense economic investment, the hull of the vehicle was to carry armor up to 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) thick, and several anti-aircraft guns were to be installed on the vehicle's engine deck to fend off Allied ground-attack aircraft.
Hitler became enamored with Grotte's concept and ordered Krupp to begin development of it in 1942. As of December 29, 1942 a few preliminary drawings had been completed, by which time the concept had been named "Ratte" ("Rat") by Hitler himself. These submitted designs went under the titles OKH Auftrag Nr. 30404 and E-30404/1. Albert Speer saw no reasonable use of the tank and canceled the project in 1943 before any prototype could be manufactured, although this did lead to the concept of the Landkreuzer P. 1500 Monster self-propelled siege gun, which would have been heavier than the Ratte. The general idea for such a big tank was summed up by Heinz Guderian, saying that: "Hitler's fantasies sometimes shift into the gigantic".
Not all historians are convinced that the P.1000 even got as far as an outline design. Although it is generally accepted that Hitler asked for a feasibility study into a 1000-ton tank in 1942, there is much doubt around the specifics of the plan to use the 280-millimeter (11 inch) guns or spare turrets from the battleship Gneisenau. The turrets alone weighed approximately 750 tons and required a five story structure to house the associated handling rooms and rotating machinery. Such weapons would also require separate magazines and shell rooms as well as handling machinery for the ammunition, all of which required space and power well beyond the scope of what would be possible in a 1000-ton tracked vehicle. Accordingly, some historians believe the P.1000 Ratte diagram to be either a hoax, or alternatively a speculative engineer's sketch made for personal amusement.
The Ratte's proposed size was enormous: it would have weighed 1,000 tons, more than five times the weight of the Panzer VIII Maus, the largest tank ever constructed by Nazi Germany. The divided weight of the Ratte included 300 tons of armament (the total weight of the guns themselves was 100 tons and the turret armor would have weighed 200 tons), 200 tons of armor and frame, and 100 tons of track and automotive components, while the remaining weight would have been distributed to miscellaneous features. Three tracks were on either side, each track nearly 4 feet wide and riding on 11 large wheels. The hull was conventional like other tanks, with straight skirted sides and sloping front and rear; its armor was up to 9 inches thick. It was planned to be 35 meters (115 feet) long (39 meters [128 feet] when including naval guns), 11 meters (36 feet) high, and 14 meters (46 feet) wide. This immense weight was to be distributed across the ground by six 1.2 meter (3 feet 11 inches) wide and 21 meter (69 feet) long treads, together forming two composite treads with a width of 3.6 meters (11 feet 10 inches) each. This would help stability and weight distribution, but the vehicle's sheer mass would have destroyed roads and rendered bridge crossings next to impossible. It was expected that its height, and its ground clearance of 2 meters (6.6 feet), would have allowed it to ford most rivers with relative ease, thus eliminating the need for bridge crossings.
Planned propulsion was by two MAN V12Z32/44 24-cylinder marine diesel engines of 6,300 kW (8,400 horsepower) each (as used in U-boats or eight Daimler-Benz MB 501 20-cylinder marine diesel engines of 1,500 kW (2,000 horsepower) each (as used in E-boats) to achieve the 12,000 kW (16,000 horsepower) needed to move the tank. The engines were to be provided with snorkels, also like those used by German submarines. The snorkels were designed to provide a way for oxygen to reach the engines, even during amphibious operations while passing through deep water.
The Ratte's primary weapon would have been a dual 28 centimeter SK C/34 naval gun turret. This was the same turret that was used on the German battleship Gneisenau but modified by removing one of its three guns and its associated loading mechanism. Removing the third gun allowed extra accommodation of ammunition, and reduced the total weight of the tank by 50 tons. The guns used for the Ratte would have fired ammunition developed for other naval guns. It also included armor-piercing rounds with 8.1 kilograms (18 pounds) of explosive filler, and high-explosive rounds with 17.1 kilograms (38 pounds) of explosive filler.
Further armament was to consist of a 128 millimeter anti-tank gun of the type used in the Jagdtiger or Maus, two 15 millimeter Mauser MG 151/15 autocannons, and eight 20 millimeter Flak 38 anti-aircraft guns, probably with at least four of them as a Flakvierling quad mount. The 128 millimeter anti-tank gun's precise location on the Ratte is a point of contention among historians, most believing that it would have been mounted within the primary turret, with some others thinking a smaller secondary turret at the rear of the Ratte more logical. Some concept drawings exist to suggest a flexible mount on the glacis plate. The tank was to be provided with a vehicle bay that could hold two BMW R12 motorcycles for scouting, and several smaller storage rooms, a compact infirmary area, and a self-contained lavatory system.
Landkreuzer P. 1000 "Ratte"
The large size and weight would have rendered the tank unable to cross bridges at the risk of collapsing them, and traveling on roads would soon destroy them. Though its top intended speed was 40 kilometers per hour (25 miles per hour), its huge size and high visibility would have made it extremely vulnerable to aerial bombardment and artillery fire. Its great size would also have meant that once built the vehicle's strategic, operational, and tactical mobility would be entirely dependent on its own drivetrain, for there were no other realistic means of moving it from one firing position to another. No existing railway or train car could bear its weight and its width was too great for existing tunnels.
As Heinz Guderian commented, the Landkreuzer P. 1000 "Ratte" was yet another instance when one of Hitler's fantasies spun out of control. Steel production was allocated to other, more practical weapons of war by Albert Speer. It is difficult to believe that any engineer or administrator could have seriously considered building this monstrosity. In the end, the Landkreuzer was a monumental waste of time and effort.
Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus
"Hitler's fantasies sometimes shift into the gigantic" - Heinz GuderianPanzerkampfwagen VIII Maus (English: "Mouse") was a German World War II super-heavy tank designed by Ferdinand Porsche and completed in late 1944. It is the heaviest fully enclosed armored fighting vehicle ever built. Five were ordered, but only two hulls and one turret were completed, the turret being attached, before the testing grounds were captured by advancing Soviet military forces.
These two prototypes underwent trials in late 1944. The complete vehicle was 10.2 meters (33 feet) long, 3.71 meters (12.2 feet) wide and 3.63 meters (11.9 feet) high. Weighing 188 metric tons, the Maus's main armament was the Krupp-designed 128 mm KwK 44 L/55 gun, based on the 12.8 centimeter Pak 44 towed anti-tank gun also used in the casemate-type Jagdtiger tank destroyer, with a coaxial 75 millimeter KwK 44 L/36.5 gun. The 128 millimeter gun was powerful enough to destroy all Allied armored fighting vehicles in service at the time, with some at ranges exceeding 3,500 meters (11,500 feet).
The principal problem in the design of the Maus was developing an engine and drivetrain which was powerful enough to adequately propel the tank, yet small enough to fit inside it—as it was meant to use the same sort of "hybrid drive", using an internal combustion engine to operate an electric generator to power its tracks with electric motor units, much as its Porsche-designed predecessors, the VK 30.01 (P), VK 45.01 (P), and Elefant had. The drive train was electrical, designed to provide a maximum speed of 20 kilometers/hour (12 miles per hour) and a minimum speed of 1.5 kilometers/hour (0.9 miles per hour). However, during actual field testing, the maximum speed achieved on hard surfaces was 13 kilometers/hour (8.1 miles per hour) with full motor field, and by weakening the motor field to a minimum, a top speed of 22 kilometers/hour (14 miles per hour) was achieved. The vehicle's weight made it unable to use most bridges, instead it was intended to ford to a depth of 2 meters (6.6 feet) or submerge up to a depth of 8 meters (26 feet) and use a snorkel to cross rivers.
The Maus was intended to punch holes through enemy fortifications in the manner of an immense "breakthrough tank", while taking virtually no damage to any components.
The development of the Maus originates from a contract given to Porsche for the design of a 100-ton tank in March 1942. Porsche's design, known as the VK 100.01 / Porsche Type 205, was shown to Adolf Hitler in June 1942, who subsequently approved it. Work on the design began in earnest; the first prototype, to be ready in 1943 was initially to receive the name Mammut (Mammoth). This was reportedly changed to Mauschen (Little Mouse) in December 1942 and finally to Maus (Mouse) in February 1943, which became the most common name for this tank.
The Maus was designed from the start to use the "electric transmission" design which Ferdinand Porsche had used in the VK 4501 (P), his unsuccessful attempt to win the production contract for the Tiger. The initial power plant was the Daimler-Benz MB 509 gasoline engine, an adaptation of Germany's largest displacement (at 2,720 cubic inches) an inverted V12 aircraft engine, the Daimler-Benz DB 603 petrol engine, and later changed to the Daimler-Benz MB 517 diesel engine. This drove an electrical generator, and their combined length occupied the central/rear two-thirds of the Maus's hull, cutting off the forward driver's compartment in the hull from direct access to the turret from within the tank. Each 1.1 meter-wide track, which used the same basic "contact shoe" and "connector link" design format as the Henschel-built Tiger II, was driven by its own electric motor mounted within the upper rear area of each hull side. Each set of tracks had a suspension design containing a total of 24 road wheels per side, in six bogie sets, staggered to be spread over the entire width of the track.
Due to the return "run" of the uniquely 110 centimeter-wide tracks used being completely enclosed within the fixed outer side armor panels that defined its overall hull width, with the inner vertical lengthwise walls of the hull used to mount the suspension components, a narrow lengthwise "tub" remained between the hull's inner armored walls, under and to the rear of the turret to house the engine and generator of the tank's powertrain.
The armor was substantial: the hull front was 220 millimeters (8.7 inches) thick, the sides and rear of the hull were up to 190 millimeters (7.5 inches). The turret armor was even thicker, the turret front was up to 240 millimeters (9.4 inches) and the sides and rear 200 millimeters (7.9 inches). The gun mantlet was 250 millimeters (9.8 inches), and combined with the turret armor behind, the protection level at that section was even higher.
The initial plan for the Maus was for the prototype to have been completed by summer 1943, with monthly production scheduled to run at ten vehicles per month after delivery of the prototype. The work on the Maus would be divided between Krupp, responsible for the chassis, armament and turret and Alkett, who would be responsible for final assembly.
The Maus tank was originally designed to weigh approximately 100 tons and be armed with a 128 millimeter main gun and a 75 millimeter co-axial secondary gun. Additional armament options were studied including various versions of 128 millimeter, 150 millimeter, and 170 millimeter guns. In January 1943 Hitler himself insisted that the armament be a 128 millimeter main gun with a coaxial 75 millimeter gun. The 128 millimeter PaK 44 anti-tank field artillery piece of 1943 that Krupp adapted for arming the Maus as the Kampfwagenkanone (KwK) 44 retained, in parallel to the Ferdinand Porsche project, its original anti-tank Panzerabwehrkanone family designation of PaK 44 when mounted in the casemate-style Jagdtiger tank destroyer.
By May 1943, a wooden mockup of the final Maus configuration was ready and presented to Hitler, who approved it for mass production, ordering a first series of 150. At this point, the estimated weight of the Maus was 188 tons.
In his book Panzer Leader, Heinz Guderian wrote:
On 1 May a wooden model of the "Maus", a tank project of Porsche and Krupp, was shown to Hitler. It was intended to mount a 150 millimeter gun. The total weight of the tank was supposed to reach 175 tons. It should be considered that after the design changes on Hitler's instructions the tank will weigh 200 ton. The model didn't have a single machine gun for close combat, and for this reason they had to reject it. It had the same design flaw that made the Elefant unsuitable for close combat. In the end, the tank will inevitably have to wage a close combat since it operates in cooperation with the infantry. An intense debate started, and except for me, all of the present found the "Maus" magnificent. It was promising to be exactly that, a "giant".
This lack of close combat armament was later addressed with the addition of a Nahverteidigungswaffe (short-range defensive ordnance) mounted in the turret roof, a 7.92 millimeters (0.31 inches) MG 34 machine gun with 1,000 rounds mounted coaxially with the main weapons in the turret, and three pistol ports for submachine guns in the sides and rear of the turret. Future planned modifications included provisions for a MG 151/20 cannon for anti-aircraft defense mounted in the turret roof.
The first, prototype [without a turret] (Version 1) was assembled by Alkett in December 1943. Tests started the same month, with a mockup turret fitted of the same weight as the real turret. In June 1944 the production turret, with armament, was used for tests.
The Maus was too heavy to cross bridges. As a result, an alternative system was developed, where the Maus would instead ford the rivers it needed to cross. Due to its size it could ford relatively deep streams, but for deeper ones it was to submerge and drive across the river bottom. The solution required tanks to be paired up. One Maus would supply electrical power to the crossing vehicle via a cable until it reached the other side. The crew would receive air through a large snorkel, which was long enough for the tank to go 8 meters (26 feet) under water.
In March 1944 the second prototype, the Version 2, was delivered. It differed in many details from the Version 1 prototype. In mid-1944, the Version 2 prototype was fitted with a power plant and the first produced Maus turret. This turret was fitted with a 128 millimeter KwK 44 L/55 gun, a coaxial 75 millimeter KwK 44 L/36.5 gun and a coaxial 7.92 millimeter MG 34. The Version 1 prototype was supposed to be fitted with the second produced turret, but this never happened.
Making use of a Daimler-Benz V12 gasoline engine in its first prototype, the more complete second prototype used a marine-grade Daimler-Benz diesel V12. Designated the MB517, this engine was a supercharged version of the MB507, which in turn was based on the DB603 aircraft V12. Capable of 1,200 horsepower, this engine would become incredibly thirsty when trying to haul the 188-ton weight of the Maus.
Carrying two fuel tanks, one internal, and one mounted in a barrel on the back of the tank, the Maus had a total of 924 gallons of fuel onboard. Despite this massive load, the Maus could travel just over 100 miles on paved roads, and less than half that on rough terrain.
By July 1944, Krupp was in the process of producing four more Maus hulls, but they were ordered to halt production and scrap these. Krupp stopped all work on it in August 1944. Meanwhile, the Version 2 prototype started tests in September 1944, fitted with a Daimler-Benz MB 517 diesel engine, a new electric steering system and a Skoda Works designed running gear and tracks.
There was also a special railroad carriage made for transporting the Maus prototypes.
By the time the Maus was finished in 1945, it was a boondoggle. No amount of awe at the size, weight, firepower, or armor on this beast could disguise the incredible waste of resources it accounted for, nor could it make any difference to the outcome of the war.
"Tough kitty, Cold kitty, Big machine of doom; Deadly kitty, Panzer kitty. Boom. Boom, Boom." - Anonymous
The Tiger was a formidable machine that pushed the boundaries of armored warfare and forced the Allies to devise better tanks. It powerfully symbolized all the might of the Nazi war machine, as dreamed of by Hitler, and later turned through propaganda into a "Wunderwaffe" (wonder weapon) in a mostly defensive war. The Tiger, like all new tanks, had teething problems at first and it was never an easy tank to maintain, but it was always deadly effective (with a 10:1 up to 19:1 kill ratio), earning a capital of fear that was unrivaled during the war.
Allied crews found themselves hopeless with their inadequate machines, having to improvise costly tactics to deal with it. The Tiger gave fame to a few WWII tank aces, like Michael Wittman, something rarely heard of before, since the life expectancy of a tank crew was always quite shorter than that of fighter pilots.
The Tiger I was a German heavy tank of World War II that operated beginning in 1942 in Africa and in the Soviet Union, usually in independent heavy tank battalions. It gave the German Army its first armored fighting vehicle that mounted the 8.8 centimeter KwK 36 gun (derived from the 8.8 centimeter Flak 36). 1,347 were built between August 1942 and August 1944. After August 1944, production of the Tiger I was phased out in favor of the Tiger II.
While the Tiger I has been called an outstanding design for its time, it has also been called over-engineered, using expensive materials and labor-intensive production methods. In the early period Tiger was prone to certain types of track failures and breakdowns and was in general limited in range by its high fuel consumption. It was expensive to maintain, but generally mechanically reliable. It was difficult to transport and vulnerable to immobilization when mud, ice, and snow froze between its overlapping and interleaved Schachtellaufwerk-pattern road wheels, often jamming them solid. This was a problem on the Eastern Front in the muddy rasputitsa season and during periods of extreme cold.
The tank was given its nickname "Tiger" by Ferdinand Porsche, and the Roman numeral was added after the Tiger II entered production. Its designation was Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausfuhrung H (literally "armored combat vehicle VI version H", abbreviated PzKpfw VI Ausf. H) where 'H' denoted Henschel as the designer/manufacturer. It was classified with ordnance inventory designation Sd.Kfz. 182. The tank was later re-designated as PzKpfw VI Ausf. E in March 1943, with ordnance inventory designation Sd.Kfz. 181.
The VK 30.01 (H) medium tank and the VK 36.01 (H) heavy tank designs pioneered the use of the complex Schachtellaufwerk track suspension system of torsion bar-sprung, overlapped and interleaved main road wheels for tank use. This concept was already common on German halftracks such as the Sd.Kfz. 7. The VK 30.01 (H) was intended to mount a low-velocity 7.5 centimeter L/24 infantry support gun, a 7.5 centimeter L/40 dual purpose anti-tank gun, or a 10.5 centimeter L/28 field gun in a Krupp turret. Overall weight was to be 33 tons. The armor was designed to be 50 millimeter on frontal surfaces and 30 millimeters on the side surfaces. Four prototype hulls were completed for testing. Two of these were later modified to build the "Sturer Emil" (12.8 centimeter Selbstfahrlafette L/61) self-propelled anti-tank gun.
The VK36.01 (H) was intended to weigh 40 tons, with 100 millimeters (4 inches) of armor on the front surfaces, 80 millimeters on turret sides and 60 millimeters on the hull sides. The VK 36.01 (H) was intended to carry a 7.5 centimeter L/24, or a 7.5 centimeter L/43, or a 7.5 centimeter L/70, or a 12.8 centimeter L/28 cannon in a Krupp turret that looked similar to an enlarged Panzer IV Ausf. C turret. The hull for one prototype was built, followed later by five more. The six turrets built were never fitted and were used as part of the Atlantic Wall. The VK 36.01 (H) project was discontinued in early 1942 in favor of the VK 45.01 project.
Combat experience against the French SOMUA S35 cavalry tank and Char B1 heavy tank, and the British Matilda II infantry tanks during the Battle of France in June 1940 showed that the German Army needed better armed and armored tanks.
On 26 May 1941, Henschel and Ferdinand Porsche were asked to submit designs for a 45-ton heavy tank, to be ready by June 1942. Porsche worked on an updated version of their VK 30.01 (P) Leopard tank prototype while Henschel worked on an improved VK 36.01 (H) tank. Henschel built two prototypes: a VK 45.01 (H) H1 with an 8.8 centimeter L/56 cannon, and a VK 45.01 (H) H2 with a 7.5 centimeter L/70 cannon.
On 22 June 1941, Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Germans were shocked to encounter large numbers of Soviet T-34 medium and KV-1 heavy tanks, which were resistant to tank and anti-tank guns, and, [according to Henschel designer Erwin Aders: "There was great consternation when it was discovered that the Soviet tanks were superior to anything available to the Heer."]
A weight increase to 45 tons and an increase in gun caliber to 8.8 centimeters was ordered. The due date for the new prototypes was set for 20 April 1942, Adolf Hitler's 53rd birthday. Unlike the Panther tank, the designs did not incorporate sloped armor.
Porsche and Henschel submitted prototype designs, each making use of the Krupp-designed turret. They were demonstrated at Rastenburg in front of Hitler. The Henschel design was accepted, mainly because the Porsche VK 4501 (P) prototype design used a troubled petrol-electric transmission system which needed large quantities of copper for manufacture of its electrical drivetrain components, a strategic war material of which Germany had limited supplies with acceptable electrical properties for such uses. Production of the Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. H began in August 1942. Expecting an order for his tank, Porsche built 100 chassis. After the contract was awarded to Henschel, they were used for a new sans turret, casemate-style tank destroyer; 91 hulls were converted into the Panzerjager Tiger (P) in early 1943.
The heavy armored battalion 501 was set up in 1942 and a complete company of the unit was shipped to Tunisia in November 1942, where it was to be used against the Allies who had landed during Operation Torch in French Northwest Africa. The company's Tiger tanks saw action at Tebourba and Hamra, and in February 1943 in the Kasserine Pass area.
The units sent to North Africa were forced to capitulate in May 1943 together with Army Group Africa. However, the battalion was replenished with the help of other companies that had remained in Europe and were now carrying out occupation duties in France.
After the battalion had regained its full strength, it was sent to the Eastern Front and was immediately involved in defensive battles near Vitebsk and Gorodok.
In July 1944 the battalion was re-equipped with the even more powerful King Tiger tank. Afterwards it fought in the defense during the retreat of the German armies through Poland, where it was involved in particularly heavy fighting near Radom and Kleice.
In practice, the inherent strengths and limitations of the Tiger II soon shown through. She was extremely well armored, capable of withstanding direct hits from any Allied tank gun. Her improved 88 millimeter main gun - coupled with excellent German optics and a trained crew - ensured that the Tiger II held the advantage in range and firepower for a true "shoot first" capability. Allied tanks had to approach within the range of her main gun to apply their brand of firepower and even then, multiple Allied tanks were required to destroy a single Tiger II.
The Tiger was still at the prototype stage when it was first hurried into service, and therefore changes both large and small were made throughout the production run. A redesigned turret with a lower cupola was the most significant change. To cut costs, the river-fording submersion capability and an external air-filtration system were dropped.
The Tiger differed from earlier German tanks principally in its design philosophy. Its predecessors balanced mobility, armor and firepower and were sometimes outgunned by their opponents.
While heavy, this tank was not slower than the best of its opponents. However, at over 50 tons dead weight, the suspension, gearboxes, and other such items had clearly reached their design limits and breakdowns were frequent if regular maintenance was not undertaken.
Although the general design and layout were broadly similar to the previous medium tank, the Panzer IV, the Tiger weighed more than twice as much. This was due to its substantially thicker armor, the larger main gun, greater volume of fuel and ammunition storage, larger engine, and a more solidly built transmission and suspension.
The Tiger I had frontal hull armor 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) thick, a frontal turret of 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) and a gun mantlet with a varying thickness of 120 millimeters (4.7 inches) to 200 millimeters (7.9 inches). The Tiger had 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) thick hull side plates and 80 millimeter armor on the side superstructure/sponsons, turret sides and rear. The top and bottom armor was 25 millimeters (1 inch) thick; from March 1944, the turret roof was thickened to 40 millimeters (1.6 inches). Armor plates were mostly flat, with interlocking construction. This flat construction encouraged angling the Tiger hull roughly 30-45 degrees when firing in order to increase effective thickness. The armor joints were of high quality, being stepped and welded rather than riveted, and were made of maraging steel. The Tiger I's armor overall was of the highest quality available for production to Henschel and Germany at the time.
The 56-caliber long 8.8 centimeter KwK 36 was chosen for the Tiger's armament. A combination of a flat trajectory from the high muzzle velocity and precision from Leitz Turmzielfernrohr TZF 9b sight (later replaced by the monocular TZF 9c) made it very accurate.
The ammunition for the Tiger had electrically fired primers. Four types of ammunition were available but not all were fully available; the PzGr 40 shell used tungsten, which was in short supply as the war progressed.
The rear of the tank held an engine compartment flanked by two separate rear compartments each containing a fuel tank and radiator. The Germans had not developed an adequate diesel engine, so a petrol (gasoline) power plant had to be used instead. The original engine utilized was a 21.35-liter (1303 cubic inch) 12-cylinder Maybach HL210 P45 developing 485 kW (650 horsepower) at 3,000 rpm. Although a good engine, it was underpowered for the vehicle. From the 251st Tiger onwards, it was replaced by the upgraded HL 230 P45, a 23.095 liter (1409 cubic inch) engine developing 521 kW (700 horsepower) at 3,000 rpm. The main difference between these engines was that the original Maybach HL 210 used an aluminum engine block while the Maybach HL 230 used a cast-iron engine block. The cast-iron block allowed for larger cylinders (and thus, greater displacement) which increased the power output to 521 kW (700 horsepower). The engine was in V-form, with two cylinder banks set at 60 degrees. An inertia starter was mounted on its right side, driven via chain gears through a port in the rear wall. The engine could be lifted out through a hatch on the rear hull roof. In comparison to other V12 and various v-type gasoline engines used for tanks, the eventual HL 230 engine was nearly four liters smaller in displacement than the Allied British Rolls-Royce Meteor V12 AFV power plant, itself adapted from the RR Merlin but de-rated to 448 kW (600 horsepower) power output; and the American Ford-designed precursor V12 to its Ford GAA V-8 AFV engine of 18 liters displacement, which in its original V12 form would have had the same 27 liter displacement as the Meteor.
The 501st Heavy Panzer Battalion (sPzAbt 501) reported in May 1943:
"...Regarding the overheating engines, the HL 210 engine caused no troubles during the recent time. All occurring breakdowns resulted from the low quality of driver training. In several cases engine failures have to be put down to the missing remote engine thermometer. Five engines have reached more than 3,000 kilometers without essential failures. A good driver is essential for the successful deployment of the Tiger, he must have a good technical training and has to keep his nerve in critical situations...."
The engine drove the front sprockets through a drivetrain connecting to a transmission in the front portion of the lower hull; the front sprockets had to be mounted relatively low as a result. The Krupp-designed 11 ton turret had a hydraulic motor whose pump was powered by mechanical drive from the engine. A full rotation took about a minute.
Another new feature was the Maybach-Olvar hydraulically controlled semi-automatic pre-selector gearbox. The extreme weight of the tank also required a new steering system. Germany's Argus Motoren, where Hermann Klaue had invented a ring brake in 1940, supplied them for the Arado Ar 96 and also supplied the 55 centimeter disc. Klaue acknowledged in the patent application that he had merely improved on existing technology, that can be traced back to British designs dating to 1904. It is unclear whether Klaue's patent ring brake was utilized in the Tiger brake design.
The clutch-and-brake system, typical for lighter vehicles, was retained only for emergencies. Normally, steering depended on a double differential, Henschel's development of the British Merritt-Brown system first encountered in the Churchill tank. The vehicle had an eight-speed gearbox, and the steering offered two fixed radii of turns on each gear, thus the Tiger had sixteen different radii of turn. In first gear, at a speed of a few kilometers per hour, the minimal turning radius was 3.44 meters (11 feet 3 inches). In neutral gear, the tracks could be turned in opposite directions, so the Tiger I pivoted in place. There was a steering wheel instead of either a tiller—or, as most tanks had at that time, twin braking levers—making the Tiger I's steering system easy to use, and ahead of its time.
Powered turret traverse was provided by the variable speed Boehringer-Sturm L4 hydraulic motor, which was driven from the main engine by a secondary drive shaft. On early production versions of the Tiger maximum turret traverse was limited to 6 degrees/second, whilst on later versions a selectable high speed traverse gear was added. Thus the turret could be rotated 360 degrees at up to 6 degrees/second in low gear independent of engine rpm (same as on early production versions), or up to 19 degrees per second with the high speed setting and engine at 2000 rpm, and at over 36 degrees/second at the maximum allowable engine speed of 3000 rpm. The direction and speed of traverse was controlled by the gunner through foot pedals, the speed of traverse corresponding to the level of depression the gunner applied to the foot pedal. This system allowed for very precise control of powered traverse, a light touch on the pedal resulting in a minimum traverse speed of 0.1 degrees per second (360 degrees in 60 minutes), unlike in most other tanks of the time (e.g. the U.S. M4 Sherman or Soviet T-34) this allowed for fine laying of the gun without the gunner needing to use his traverse hand wheel.
The suspension used sixteen torsion bars, with eight suspension arms per side. To save space, the swing arms were leading on one side and trailing on the other. There were three road wheels (one of them double, closest to the track's center) on each arm, in a so-called Schachtellaufwerk overlapping and interleaved arrangement, similar to that pioneered on German half-tracked military vehicles of the pre-World War II era, with the Tiger I being the first all-tracked German AFV built in quantity to use such a road wheel arrangement. The wheels had a diameter of 800 millimeters (31 inches) in the Schachtellaufwerk arrangement for the Tiger I's suspension, providing a high uniform distribution of the load onto the track, at the cost of increased maintenance.
Removing an inner wheel that had lost its solid rubber tire (a common occurrence) required the removal of up to nine other wheels first. During the rainy period that brought on the autumn rasputitsa mud season and onwards into the winter conditions on the Eastern front, the road wheels of a Schachtellaufwerk-equipped vehicle could also become packed with mud or snow that could then freeze. Presumably, German engineers, based on the experience of the half-tracks, felt that the improvement in off-road performance, track and wheel life, mobility with wheels missing or damaged, plus additional protection from enemy fire was worth the maintenance difficulties of a complex system vulnerable to mud and ice. This approach was carried on, in various forms, to the Panther and the non-interleaved wheel design for the Tiger II. Eventually, a new 80 centimeter diameter 'steel' wheel design, closely resembling those on the Tiger II, with an internally sprung steel-rim tire was substituted, and which like the Tiger II, were only overlapped and not interleaved.
To support the considerable weight of the Tiger, the tracks were 725 mm (2 ft 4.5 in) wide. To meet rail-freight size restrictions, the outermost road wheel on each axle (16 total) could be unbolted from a flange and narrower 520 millimeter (20 inch) wide 'transport' tracks (Verladeketten) installed. The track replacement and wheel removal took 30 minutes for each side of the tank. However, in service, Tigers were frequently transported by rail with their combat tracks fitted, as long as the train crew knew there were no narrow tunnels or other obstructions on the route that would prevent an oversized load from passing, despite this practice being strictly forbidden.
The Tiger tank's combat weight of 56 tons was often too heavy for small bridges which had 35 ton weight limits, so it was designed to ford bodies of water up to 15 feet (4.6 meters) deep. This required unusual mechanisms for ventilation and cooling when underwater. At least 30 minutes of set-up time was required, with the turret and gun being locked in the forward position, and a large snorkel tube raised at the rear. An inflatable doughnut-shaped ring sealed the turret ring. The two rear compartments (each containing a fuel tank, radiator and fans) were subject to flooding. Only the first 495 units were fitted with this deep fording system; all later models were capable of fording water only two meters deep. However, this ability was found to be a limited practical value for its high cost and was removed from production lines in August 1943.
The internal layout was typical of German tanks. Forward was an open crew compartment, with the driver and radio-operator seated at the front on either side of the gearbox. Behind them the turret floor was surrounded by panels forming a continuous level surface. This helped the loader to retrieve the ammunition, which was mostly stowed above the tracks. Three men were seated in the turret; the loader to the right of the gun facing to the rear, the gunner to the left of the gun, and the commander behind him. There was also a folding seat on the right for the loader. The turret had a full circular floor and 157 centimeters headroom. Early versions of the Tiger I's turret included two pistol ports; however, one of these was replaced with a loader escape hatch and the other deleted from later designs.
Post-war testing by the Allies found the tank to be uncomfortable and spartan. This was in contrast to German crews who found them to be spacious and comfortable.
The main problem with the Tiger was that its production required considerable resources in terms of manpower and material, which led to it being expensive: the Tiger I cost over twice as much as a Panzer IV and four times as much as a StuG III assault gun. Partly because of their high cost, only 1,347 Tiger I and 492 Tiger II tanks were produced. The closest counterpart to the Tiger from the United States was the M26 Pershing (around 200 deployed to the European Theater of Operations [ETO] during the war) and the IS-2 from the USSR (about 3,800 built during the conflict).
From a technical point of view it was superior to its contemporaries, and despite the low number produced, shortages in qualified crew and the considerable fuel requirement in a context of ever shrinking resources, Tiger tanks had a large impact in the war with Tigers (including Tiger IIs) destroying at least 10,300 enemy tanks, and 11,380 AT guns and artillery pieces in World War II. This was achieved for the loss of 1,725 Tigers (including large numbers of operational and strategic losses, i.e. abandoned, broken down, etc.).
The Sturmtiger is arguably the tank's only major variant. It is a powerfully armed and heavily protected assault gun designed for urban combat. Another variant is a recovery vehicle called Bergetiger. It wasn't registered in the Waffenamt and was either built on purpose or not. Thus, It is a subject to debate today.
The King Tiger tank was a formidable weapon. Given a few hundred more and enough well trained soldiers to man and service them, the war in Europe would have possibly had a different outcome.
"I'm not doing politics any more. It repels me so much." - Adolf Hitler
Before the First World War, the collaborative research efforts of the German university system and German corporations enabled the German corporate sector as a whole to obtain a virtual worldwide monopoly on drugs whose production required chemical expertise and industrial capacity. This research was fueled by revenues from the sale of morphine, an alkaloid found in opium, first identified by a German chemist in the early 19th century and patented by Merck soon afterward. German pharmaceutical companies' work with morphine and its derivatives found particular success in using them as pain relievers and cough suppressants, with Bayer eventually recognizing the potency of heroin, which was legal in Germany at the time (and until the 1950s, before which it was banned only in Asia and the United States). During the era of the German Empire, consolidated in the late 1860s and early 1870s, the German government's militaristic inclinations prompted it to add financial support to research in sectors including pharmaceuticals and the optimization of industrial processes.
The unprecedented casualties of World War I brought the need for treatment of acute and chronic pain, the means of treating that pain, and the side effects of that treatment, including opioid dependence, to the forefront of public consciousness.
The German populace's experience during and after the First World War inspired the Weimar and Nazi governments to adopt an attitude of tolerance toward the use of drugs to relieve pain, increase performance, and avoid withdrawal. Most drugs were permitted either universally or for individuals with a medical prescription. Many of the drug addicts in 1920s and 1930s Germany were First World War veterans who required addictive drugs for pain relief and/or medical personnel who had access to such drugs. During the Weimar era, addiction was seen as a curable disease. Following the advent of Nazism, addiction continued to be viewed as curable for all. Among members of such groups, symptoms of drug addiction were often attributed to other conditions, which themselves were often pseudo scientifically diagnosed; even when addiction was recognized as such, Nazi physicians often viewed it as incurable in light of what they believed to be an inherent predisposition or weakness.
Many in the National Socialist regime used drugs regularly, from the soldiers of the Wehrmacht, all the way up to Hitler himself. The use of methamphetamine, better known as crystal meth, was particularly prevalent: A pill form of the drug, Pervitin, was distributed by the millions to Wehrmacht troops before the successful invasion of France in 1940.
Developed by the Temmler pharmaceutical company, based in Berlin, Pervitin was introduced in 1938 and marketed as a magic pill for alertness and an anti-depressive, among other uses. It was briefly even available over the counter. A military doctor, Otto Ranke, experimented with Pervitin on ninety college students and decided, based on his results, that the drug would help Germany win the war. Using Pervitin, the soldiers of the Wehrmacht could stay awake for days at a time and march many more miles without resting.
In 1940, as plans were made to invade France through the Ardennes mountains, a "stimulant decree" was sent out to army doctors, recommending that soldiers take one tablet per day, two at night in short sequence, and another one or two tablets after two or three hours if necessary. The Wehrmacht ordered 35 million tablets for the army and Luftwaffe, and the Temmler factory increased production.
Was Blitzkrieg, then, largely the result of the Wehrmacht's reliance on crystal meth? The invasion of France was made possible by the drugs. No drugs, no invasion. When Hitler heard about the plan to invade through Ardennes, he loved it [the allies were massed in northern Belgium]. But the high command said: it is not possible, at night we have to rest, and the allies will retreat and we will be stuck in the mountains. But then the stimulant decree was released, and that enabled them to stay awake for three days and three nights. The tank commanders were high—and without the tanks, they certainly wouldn't have won.
Thereafter, drugs were regarded as an effective weapon by high command, one that could be deployed against the greatest odds. In 1944-45, for instance, when it was increasingly clear that victory against the allies was all but impossible, the German navy developed a range of one-man U-boats; the fantastical idea was that these pint-sized submarines would make their way up the Thames estuary. But since they could only be used if the lone marines piloting them could stay awake for days at a time, Dr Gerhard Orzechowski, the head pharmacologist of the naval supreme command on the Baltic, had no choice but to begin working on the development of a new super medication, a cocaine chewing gum that would be the hardest drug German soldiers had ever taken. It was tested at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, on a track used to trial new shoe soles for German factories; prisoners were required to walk, and walk, until they dropped.
Meanwhile, in Berlin, Hitler was experiencing his own unreality, with his only ally in the world his podgy, insecure personal physician, Dr Morell. In the late 1920s, Morell had grown a thriving private practice in Berlin, his reputation built on the modish vitamin injections he liked to give his patients. He met Hitler after he treated Heinrich Hoffman, the official Reich photographer, and sensing an opportunity quickly ingratiated himself with the Fuhrer, who had long suffered from severe intestinal pains. Morell prescribed Mutaflor, a preparation based on bacteria, and when his patient's condition—Patient A, as Hitler was thereafter known—began to improve, their codependent relationship began. Both were isolated. Hitler increasingly trusted no one but his doctor, while Morell relied solely on the Fuhrer for his position. Dr. Morell also treated Mussolini—Patient D (for "Il Duce")—and Hermann Goring.
Hermann Goring, Hitler's closest aide, had served in the Luftstreitkrafte during World War I and suffered a severe hip injury during combat. He became seriously addicted to the morphine that was prescribed to him in order to relieve the pain which resulted from this injury and the gunshot wound, variously described as a thigh or groin injury, that he sustained while taking part in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich. In 1925, after consulting his wife, he entered a Swedish mental hospital for detoxification and treatment. When Goring was captured near the end of the war, he was found to be addicted to dihydrocodeine and was subsequently weaned off it.
When Hitler fell seriously ill in 1941, however, the vitamin injections that Morell had counted on no longer had any effect—and so Morell began to ramp things up. First, there were injections of animal hormones for Hitler, the most notorious of vegetarians, and then a whole series of ever stronger medications until, at last, he began giving him a "wonder drug" called Eukodal, a designer opiate and close cousin of heroin whose chief characteristic was its potential to induce a euphoric state in the patient (today it is known as oxycodone). It wasn't long before Hitler was receiving injections of Eukodal several times a day. Eventually, he would combine it with twice daily doses of the high grade cocaine he had originally been prescribed for a problem with his ears, following an explosion in the Wolf's Lair, his bunker on the eastern front.
Hitler trusted Dr. Morell. When National Socialist Party officials tried to remove Morell in the fall of 1944, Hitler stood up for him. Hitler and Morell got along very well. Morell loved to give injections, and Hitler liked to have them. He didn't like pills because of his weak stomach and he wanted a quick effect.
When the factories where Pervitin and Eukodal were made were bombed by the allies, supplies of Hitler's favorite drugs began to run out, and by February 1945 he was suffering withdrawal. Bowed and drooling and stabbing at his skin with a pair of golden tweezers, he cut a pitiful sight. It is estimated that Doctor Morell administered 800 injections to Hitler during the course of his treatment.
There is literature and rumors which suggest that a bad trip and over abuse led to Hitler's decline and ultimate suicide at the end of the war. In fact, in recent years, Hitler's drug use has been much better detailed and he has been more frequently referred to as a drug addict. In fact, the most recent accounts made available to the public have described his final days in drug-withdrawal agony, with an arm full of track marks, absolutely begging for another hit. Regardless, there is no argument that without the drugs, Hitler would have lost a lot of his crowd-energizing appeal, thus also losing a lot of his momentum.
Were drugs beneficial to Hitler and the war effort? In the short term, yes. In the long term, no. In any event, the drugs made it easier for Germans to follow orders without ever questioning them.
Stahlhelm (Steel Helmet)
"Their leader wore a Nazi helmet and had renamed himself Heimlich in honor of the man who ran the SS, not knowing he'd confused the Heimlich maneuver for rescuing choke victims and Heinrich Himmler."—William Kotzwinkle
The German Army began to replace the traditional boiled leather Pickelhaube ('spiked helmet') with the Stahlhelm, which was made of nickel steel and engineered to deflect grenade fragments and shrapnel, in 1916. The Stahlhelm, with its distinctive "coal scuttle" shape, was instantly recognizable and became a common element of propaganda on both sides, just like the Pickelhaube before it.
The man responsible for the design of the German Stahlhelm was Dr. Friedrich Schwerd of the Technical Institute of Hannover. In early 1915, Schwerd completed a study of head wounds that were the result of trench warfare and submitted a recommendation for steel helmets.
He was ordered to Berlin shortly thereafter. Schwerd then undertook the job of designing and producing suitable helmet steel. In some respects, it was an advantage for Germany to have a chance to test both the English and the French types before making conclusive decisions of its own, judging that both designs were far from adequate.
The design of the completed helmet included three sections: the dome, the visor, and the neck guard. The dome was the main head covering and was cylindrical in shape and somewhat flat on top.
The visor extended out to provide shade and protect the soldier against bad weather. It also acted as an open shield against fragments. The neck guard flared out below the brim, which provided more protection around the neck and ear area.
The basic helmet shell is formed from one steel disk and went through at least nine stamping stages before it reached its final shape. The complete M-16 weighed 2 pounds and six ounces (1.08 kilograms).
Its color was field green, and the metal was composed of manganese, nickel, silicon, and carbon steel, which was often referred to as nickel steel. Its thickness was between .40 and 0.45 inches (1-1.15 centimeters), and it was said to have been pressed hot on electrically heated dies and later dipped into a mixture of japan for the antirust finish. As a result, the Stahlhelm had a greater unit cost than the British helmet, which could be formed in one piece.
Helmets were referred to as "shells" when they were empty of any liners and straps. The M-16 shell was manufactured in six sizes: 60, 62, 64, 66, 68 and 70.
The sizes were engraved on the inside of all of the shells, and the manufacturer's identification could be found along with it. The inscription was on the left side of the skirt.
There were eight factories involved in the manufacturing, identified by eight different code letters. The head size was never marked in the shell, only the bowl size. It was the metal liner that offered the correct head sizes.
All M-16 helmets were equipped with one style of chin strap. The strap was the same type found on the leather spike helmets. It consisted of a strip of leather looped around the two slide buckles and connected to each end by means of attaching "eyes".
These were fastened to the inner side of the neck guard to specially mounted lug bolts. Since the straps were detachable, many were lost, and so replacements were commonly provided.
The lining inside the M-16 helmet offered a cushion and the glove-tight fit necessary for wearing steel headgear. This consisted of a mounting band of leather or steel that ran the length of the inner wall of the shell.
In addition to the comfort and the safety designed into the M-16 liner was the ease of changing the fitting. If the soldier felt that the supporting cushions were too hard or thick, he was at liberty to remove some of the stuffing to whatever degree he pleased.
No other feature is as recognizable on the M-16 as the side lugs. They stand out and are quite impressive. The lugs served two functions. The first function was for ventilation of the helmet; and the second function was to support a heavily armored plate, called a Stirnpanzer.
It was thought that this armor would protect sentries and machine gunners who were more exposed to enemy fire than other troops. Generally, the soldiers threw the armor away at the first opportunity, as wearing the cumbersome armor in the trenches was of dubious value.
The combined Wehrmacht military forces of Nazi Germany consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy), and the Luftwaffe (air force). While not technically part of the Wehrmacht, the Waffen-SS ("Armed-SS") tactically operated as such and was considered part of Germany's armed forces during the war. The same was true of some Sturmabteilung (SA) units, along with other subsidiary organizations, which functioned as part of the armed forces particularly towards the end of the war. Wehrmacht branches typically displayed distinctive emblems in the form of decals on their helmets. The Heer, or army, displayed a black shield bearing the frontal view of a silver colored German eagle holding a swastika in its talons (known as the Reichsadler), while the navy used the same eagle emblem in gold. Luftwaffe decals displayed the side view of an eagle in flight, also holding a swastika. The SS was both a paramilitary and a political organization, and its black runic initials on a silver colored shield (normally applied to the right side of the shell) looked like twin lightning bolts. Other military, political, and civil or defense organizations used similar decal insignia to distinguish their helmets. Such visible identification devices were gradually abandoned as the war progressed, however, so that by war's end most Wehrmacht helmet insignia had been eliminated to reduce the wearer's visibility in combat.
A variant of the helmet with a shell lacking the projecting visor and deep flared rim was issued to Fallschirmjager (German paratrooper) units. It was so designed in order to lessen the risk of head injury on landing after a parachute jump; also to reduce the significant wind resistance and resulting neck trauma. Early Fallschirmjager helmets were manufactured from existing helmets by removing the undesirable projections, which were omitted when the new design entered full production. The modified shell also incorporated a completely different and more substantial liner and chinstrap design that provided far more protection for German airborne troops. The chinstrap featured a superior four-point retention system.
The 1942 model (M42) is the most common of all German army helmets used during the Second World War. This is primarily due to the fact that the release of M42 was carried out from 1942 to 1945, while most of the helmets of the early models were lost during the fighting. For this reason, currently, of the entire "model range" of German helmets during the Second World War, the M42 model is the most common.
By the time the M42 helmet was in full production the German military was experiencing set backs across every front. The need for helmets continued to expand however, therefore manufactured helmets which might not have been considered acceptable in prior years were sent to the front. Due to this fact M42 helmet was frequently made from poorer quality steel than their predecessors. M35 and M40 helmets almost always exhibit smooth steel free blemishes. M42s however are often encountered with rough seemingly unfinished steel. These blemishes were caused by impurities in the steel, in years past these impurities were removed during the refining process. This was both an added cost and it slowed the manufacturing process down. Thus, the extra steps necessary to produce finer steel for helmets were abandoned.
The M42 helmet was mass-produced until the end of 1944 - the beginning of 1945, when most of the factories that manufactured helmets and components for them were captured by the Allies or stopped due to lack of materials for further production. Released M42 were used in the army along with M35 and M40 until the very end of the war, gradually replacing them.
Due to its quality design and production, the stahlhelm did an excellent job of protecting German soldiers from head and neck injuries; so much so that a popular German veterans' organization adopted its name.
Because it came in multiple sizes, the stahlhelm was more effective than the American "one size fits all" "steel pot" World War II helmet which, from personal experience, sometimes interfered with a soldier's aim.
Sturmgewehr 44 (assault rifle)
"Every gun that is made...signifies...a theft from those who hunger and are not fed. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron." - Dwight D. Eisenhower
During the invasion of the Soviet Union, increasing numbers of semi-automatic Tokarev SVT-38 and SVT-40s were used by the Red Army—mostly elite units and non-commissioned officers—while some Soviet rifle companies were completely equipped with PPSh-41 submachine guns.
After experiencing high volumes of automatic fire from these weapons, German commanders re-thought their small arms requirements. The German army had been attempting to introduce semi-automatic weapons such as the Gewehr 41, but these proved troublesome in service, and production was insufficient to meet requirements. Several attempts had been made to introduce lightweight machine guns or automatic rifles, but recoil from the powerful 7.92x57 millimeter Mauser round was too difficult to control in automatic fire.
By 1941, it was becoming clear that action needed to be taken. Although various experimental rounds had been developed to one degree or another by this point, the Army instead decided to select yet a new design, the Polte 8x33 millimeter Kurzpatrone ("short cartridge"). This used a spitzer bullet and basic cartridge design of the standard 7.92x57 millimeter Mauser rifle cartridge, cutting down the cartridge from the original 7.92x57 millimeter Mauser to 7.92x33 millimeter Kurz. It was understood that this was not ideal, but it would minimize logistical problems.
In July 1944, at a meeting of the various army heads about the Eastern Front, when Hitler asked what they needed, a general exclaimed, "More of these new rifles!". The exclamation caused some confusion (Hitler's response is reputed to have been "What new rifle?"), but once Hitler saw the MP 44 being demonstrated, he was impressed and gave it the title Sturmgewehr. Seeing the possibility of a propaganda gain, the rifle was again renamed as the Sturmgewehr 44 (StG 44), to highlight the new class of weapon it represented. The designation translates to "Assault rifle, model 1944", thereby introducing the term "assault rifle".
A common belief of Hitler's influence over the Sturmgewehr was that he was against manufacturing yet another variant rifle round. In reality, he could have ordered the project to be canceled entirely if he wanted to, especially if it had been hidden from him. Numerous reports and company correspondence reveal frequent presentation of the rifle's stages of development to Hitler. Rather than being opposed to the entire idea, his apprehension seemed to be from reluctance to send a new weapon to the front in too small numbers. Industry would not be able to replace some 12 million Kar 98k rifles in a short time, and the already strained logistics structure would have to support another cartridge. While the Sturmgewehr required specialized tooling to manufacture it, it consumed less materials and was faster and easier to make than a Kar 98k. Without suppliers to quickly produce components, companies could not manufacture sufficient numbers to replace the Kar 98k quickly. Introducing the new assault rifle in quantities that would not make an impression on the front would be counter-productive. Hitler instead wanted to introduce it on the largest scale possible, which has been misinterpreted as his resistance to new technology.
Production soon began with the first batches of the new rifle being shipped to troops on the Eastern Front. By the end of the war, a total of 425,977 StG 44 variants of all types were produced and work had commenced on a follow-on rifle, the StG 45. The assault rifle proved a valuable weapon, especially on the Eastern front, where it was first deployed. A properly trained soldier with a StG 44 had an improved tactical repertoire, in that he could effecti[citavely engage targets at longer ranges than with an MP 40, but be much more useful than the Kar 98k in close combat, as well as provide covering fire like a light machine gun. It was also found to be exceptionally reliable in extreme cold. The StG 44's rate of fire was 540 rounds per minute.
One unusual variant of the StG-44 produced during wartime was the MP-44 Krummlauf. The oddball project involved an MP-44 fitted with a curved barrel and mirror sights attached to the muzzle. The objective was to create a weapon that could be poked through the firing ports of halftrack armored personnel carriers, firing on enemy infantry attempting to place magnetic anti-tank mines on the sides of friendly vehicles. A large amount of German war resources were spent on the Krummlauf, far outstripping the theoretical value of shooting Red Army soldiers through firing ports, and few guns were actually produced.
To its credit, the StG 44 was the first successful weapon of its class, and the concept had a major impact on modern infantry small arms development. By all accounts, the StG 44 fulfilled its role admirably, particularly on the Eastern Front, offering a greatly increased volume of fire compared to standard infantry rifles. In the end, it came too late to have a significant effect on the outcome of the war.
8.8 centimeter Flak (Artillery)
"[American troops] knew that the greatest single weapon of the war, the atomic bomb excepted, was the German 88 millimeter flat-trajectory gun, which brought down thousands of bombers and tens of thousands of soldiers. The Allies had nothing as good, despite one of them designating itself the world's greatest industrial power." - Paul Fussell
The 8.8 centimeter Flak 18/36/37/41 was a German 88 millimeter anti-aircraft and anti-tank artillery gun, developed between 1917 and the 1930s. It was widely used by Germany throughout World War II and is one of the most recognized German weapons of that conflict. Development of the original model led to a wide variety of guns.
Despite the Treaty of Versaille forbidding the German military to produce such heavy weapons in the interwar period, the 88 series were constantly improved and developed. The semi-automatic loading system made it easy to use since the shells would be disposed of by levers and the loader would insert the second shell.
But the trick in producing any functional anti-aircraft gun was in achieving high muzzle velocity while firing heavy projectiles high into the air. This was the main trait of every Flak 88 model—from its introduction in 1917 as an anti-aircraft cannon to the late World War II versions adapted for heavy tanks and tank destroyers such as the Tiger and Jagdpanther.
The name Flak 88 applies to a series of related guns, the first one officially called the 8.8 centimeter Flak 18, the improved 8.8 centimeter Flak 36, and later the 8.8 centimeter Flak 37. Flak is a contraction of German Flugabwehrkanone (also known as Fliegerabwehrkanone) meaning "aircraft-defense cannon", the original purpose of the weapon. In English, "flak" became a generic term for ground anti-aircraft fire. In informal use, the guns were universally known as the Acht-acht ("eight-eight") by Germans and the "eighty-eight" by the Allies.
Air defense units were usually deployed with either a Kommandogerat ("command device") fire control computer or a portable Wurzburg radar, which were responsible for its high level of accuracy against aircraft.
The versatile carriage allowed the 8.8 centimeter Flak to be fired in a limited anti-tank mode when still on its wheels; it could be completely emplaced in only two and a half minutes. Its successful use as an improvised anti-tank gun led to the development of a tank gun based upon it: the 8.8 centimeter KwK 36, with the "KwK" abbreviation standing for Kampfwagen-Kanone (literally "battle vehicle cannon", or "fighting vehicle cannon"), meant to be placed in a gun turret as the tank's primary armament. This gun served as the main armament of the Tiger I heavy tank.
In addition to these Krupp designs, Rheinmetall later created a more powerful anti-aircraft gun, the 8.8 centimeter Flak 41, which was produced in relatively small numbers. Krupp responded with another prototype of the long-barreled 8.8 centimeter gun, which was further developed into the anti-tank and tank destroyer 8.8 centimeter PaK 43 gun used for the Elefant and Jagdpanther, and turret-mounted 8.8 centimeter KwK 43 heavy tank gun of the Tiger II.
Prototype 88s were first produced in 1928. This early model, the Flak 18, used a single-piece barrel with a length of 56 calibers, leading to the commonly seen designation L/56.
The Flak 18 was mounted on a cruciform gun carriage. A simple-to-operate "semi-automatic" loading system ejected fired shells, allowing it to be reloaded by simply inserting a new shell into a tray. The gun would then fire and recoil; during the return stroke, the empty case would be thrown backward by levers, after which a cam would engage and re-cock the gun. This resulted in firing rates of 15 to 20 rounds a minute, which was better than similar weapons of the era. High explosive ammunition was used against aircraft and personnel, and armor-piercing and high-explosive anti-tank against tanks and other armored vehicles.
Widespread production started with the Nazi rise to power in 1933, and the Flak 18 was available in small numbers when Germany intervened in the Spanish Civil War. It quickly proved to be the best anti-aircraft weapon then available. The flak detachment with 88s proved accurate and versatile in combat against mainly land targets, the high muzzle velocity and large caliber making it an excellent long-range anti-vehicle and anti-bunker weapon. This experience also demonstrated a number of minor problems and potential improvement opportunities.
The Flak 18's carriage allowed it to fire in an emergency when still on its wheels and without its outriggers, but with a very limited traverse and elevation. For normal emplacement, one single-axle bogie was detached from the front outrigger and one from the rear, side outriggers were then hinged from the vertical position to the ground; the total time to set up was estimated at two and a half minutes. Both modes of operation made the gun much more suitable for fast-moving operations, the basic concept of the blitzkrieg. The weight of the gun meant that only large vehicles could move it, the Sd.Kfz. 7 half-track becoming a common prime mover.
Targeting indicators were attached to the central controller to each of the four guns of a battery, allowing for coordinated fire. Indeed, with the automatic loading system, the gun layers' job was to keep the gun barrel trained on the target area based on the signals from the controller. The loaders would keep the weapon fed with live ammunition which would fire immediately upon insertion—all while the gun layer aimed the weapon according to the data.
A while later, the Flak 37 was developed to include updated instrumentation that would allow the gun layers to follow directions from a single director more easily. In some sources it is mistakenly stated that the Flak 37 was not equipped for anti-armor operation. In fact all 8.8 centimeter Flak guns were capable of operation in the dual role.
The parts of the various versions of the guns were interchangeable, and it was not uncommon for various parts to be "mixed and matched" on a particular example.
Both Flak 18 and Flak 36 had the same permanently attached fuze setter with two "Zunderstellbecher". The Flak 37/41 had the simplified fuze setter of the 8.8 centimeter Flak 41.
As early as 1939, the Luftwaffe asked for newer weapons with an even better performance, to address the problems of defending against attack by high-flying aircraft. Rheinmetall responded with a new 88 millimeter design with a longer cartridge and a longer barrel.
A prototype was ready in early 1941 leading to the designation 8.8 centimeter Flak 41. The new gun fired a 9.4 kilogram (20 pound) shell at a muzzle velocity of 1,000 meters per second (3,280 feet per second), giving it an effective ceiling of 11,300 meters (37,100 feet) and a maximum of 14,700 meters (48,200 feet), which General der Flakartillerie Otto Wilhelm von Renz said to be "almost equal to the 128 millimeter." It featured a lower silhouette on its turntable mounting than did the 8.8 centimeter Flak 18/36/37 on its pedestal mounting. The barrel was at first a three section one with a length of 74 calibers, and then redesigned to dual section with a length of 72 calibers. Improvements in reloading raised the firing rate, which was said to be 20 to 25 rounds per minute.
Due to problems in service, the guns were almost exclusively used in Germany where they could be properly maintained and serviced. The Flak 41 had the disadvantage of complexity, and was prone to problems with ammunition, empty cases often jamming on extraction. Because of the high cost and complexity of this weapon, German industry manufactured relatively few of them; 556 in all. The first deliveries were made in March 1943 and, as of August 1944, only 157 were fielded; with 318 in January 1945.
Given very low production numbers and ongoing problems with the Flak 41, attempts were made to install the Flak 41 barrel onto other guns' chassis. During 1942 tests were made using the Flak 41 barrel and Flak 37 chassis but these identified that the chassis could not take the strain even when strengthened. Work then continued using a Flak 37 barrel re-chambered for the Flak 41 round and with a muzzle brake. After other parts were strengthened this functioned as desired. The resulting piece was 74 calibers long (78 with the muzzle brake). Problems with the multi-part barrel construction of the Flak 37 were encountered and a new barrel based on the mono-block construction of the Flak 18 was designed. Production was cancelled after approximately only 13 units were built, as the resources required to build these were similar to those needed to produce a true Flak 41 and those were simply no longer available at the time.
A further attempt was made to use a Flak 41 barrel on an existing mount from the 10.5 centimeter FlaK 39. The resulting unit outperformed the 105 millimeter original and was called the 8.8 centimeter Flak 39/41. However, production did not take place as no Flak 41 barrels were available.
Throughout the entire war, the majority of 88 millimeter guns were used in their original anti-aircraft role.
The guns were usually equipped with a Kommandogerat system, which was an analog gunnery computer. The Kommandogerat systems were introduced starting in 1925, and the Kommandogerat p40 was the standard system during the majority of the war. It allowed extremely precise fire, and would even take into account how far away the guns were from one another and the aiming crew, cancelling out the offset and aiming all weapons at the same point. This allowed multiple guns to be aimed precisely at the same target by a single command crew of five men, instead of requiring trained crews on each gun.
Radar aiming systems were also developed to complement these systems. The Wurzburg radar series of radars was produced in the thousands and used widely. It allowed general area fire without line of sight, but had poor accuracy compared to the visual systems. This resulted in the Giant Wurzburg, which had sufficient accuracy to precisely control guns without direct visual contact.
The financial costs associated with anti-aircraft cannon were substantial, especially when compared with fighter aircraft. For example, in January 1943, at a time when Germany was desperately fighting to regain the strategic initiative in the East and was also facing a heavy bombing campaign in the West, expenditures on anti-aircraft defenses were 39 million reichsmarks, whereas all the remaining weapons and munitions production amounted to 93 million (including 20 million of the navy budget and only nine million of the aircraft-related budget).
By August 1944, there were 10,704 Flak 18, 36 and 37 guns in service, now complemented also by the 10.5 centimeter Flak 38 and 39, and the formidable 12.8 centimeter Flak 40, owing to the increase in US and British bombing raids during 1943 and 1944. There were complaints that, due to the apparent ineffectiveness of anti-aircraft defenses as a whole, the guns should be transferred from air defense units to anti-tank duties, but this politically unpopular move was never made.
The 8.8 centimeter Flak performed well in its original role of an anti-aircraft gun and it proved to be a superb anti-tank gun as well. An American tanker who survived losing three tanks wrote to Chrysler after V-E Day that "an 88 sure makes quick work of them. They go through them just like they were a piece of paper". Its success was due to its versatility: the standard anti-aircraft platform allowed gunners to depress the tanks' muzzle below the horizontal, unlike most of its contemporaries. As WWII progressed, it was becoming increasingly clear that existing anti-tank weapons were unable to pierce the armor of heavier enemy tanks and ground commanders began increasingly to use the 8.8 centimeter Flak against tanks.
Similar to its anti-aircraft role, as an anti-tank weapon the 8.8 centimeter Flak was tactically arranged into batteries, usually four guns to each. The higher-level tactical unit was usually a mixed anti-aircraft battalion (gemischte Flak-Abteilung). It totaled 12 such guns on average, supplemented by light guns.
The German Condor Legion made extensive use of the 8.8 centimeter Flak 18 in the Spanish Civil War, where its usefulness as an anti-tank weapon and general artillery piece exceeded its role as an anti-aircraft gun. For the Battle of France in 1940, the army was supported by eighty-eights deployed in twenty-four mixed flak battalions. The 8.8 centimeter Flak was used against heavily armored tanks such as the Char B1 bis and Matilda II, whose frontal armor could not be penetrated by the standard light 3.7 centimeter anti-tank gun. The 8.8 centimeter Flak was powerful enough to penetrate over 84 millimeter of armor at a range of two kilometers, making it an unparalleled anti-tank weapon during the early days of the war and still formidable against all but the heaviest tanks at the end. Erwin Rommel's use of the eighty-eight to blunt the British counterattack at Arras ended any hope of a breakout from the encirclement of May 1940. In the entire Battle of France, the weapon destroyed 152 tanks and 151 bunkers. The Battle of France also saw the introduction of vehicle-mounted 8.8 centimeter Flak 18s, the so-called "Bunkerknacker" on the Sd.Kfz. 8 heavy tractor.
During the North African campaign, Rommel made the most effective use of the weapon, as he lured tanks of the British Eighth Army into traps by baiting them with apparently retreating German panzers. A mere two flak battalions destroyed 264 British tanks in 1941. Repeated high tank loss from well-placed 8.8 centimeter Flak guns in the battles of Halfaya Pass earned it the nickname "Hellfire Pass". Later in that theater, in the Battle of Faid in Tunisia, Rommel camouflaged many 8.8 centimeter Flaks (with additional 7.5 cm Pak 40s and 5 centimeter Pak 38s) in cactus-filled areas. Inexperienced American tankers and commanders rushed into a valley at Faid only to be obliterated. When the U.S. Army's M4 Sherman tanks pursued, concealed German guns picked them off at ranges far beyond those of their 75 millimeter guns.
For Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, Germany deployed the 8.8 centimeter Flak in 51 mixed anti-aircraft battalions. They were mostly Luftwaffe-subordinated units attached to the Heer at corps or army level, with approximately one battalion per corps. The weapon saw continuous use on the eastern front. The appearance of the outstanding T-34 and the later KV tanks shocked the German panzer crews and anti-tank teams, who could only penetrate the Soviet tanks' armor at extremely close range on the order of 200 yards when using the standard 37 millimeter and 50 millimeter guns, while the Russian 76 millimeter gun was effective out to 1000 yards.
The 8.8 centimeter Flak in its anti-tank role was arguably most effective in the flat and open terrain of Libya, Egypt and the eastern front. The less open terrain in Italy and Northern France was less suitable for long-range anti-tank guns. The success of the German anti-tank weapons caused the Allies to take steps to defend against it with new tank designs. On July 18 and 19, 1944, a Luftwaffe 8.8 centimeter anti-aircraft battery was re-purposed by then Major Hans von Luck to attack British tanks near Cagny taking part in Operation Goodwood. Twenty tanks were destroyed by these guns within the first few seconds and at least 40 tanks were knocked out by 8.8 centimeter Flaks during the engagement. Just as important, the success of the 8.8 centimeter Flaks spawned the development of dedicated 8.8 centimeter PAKs, which were even more adept at anti-tank missions due to their lower silhouette design. By February 1945, there were 327 heavy anti-aircraft batteries facing the Red Army, which was 21 percent of those used for anti-aircraft defense.
In 1938, the idea arose for a self-propelled gun designed to fight ground targets (bunkrom). Details of the proposal were discussed at a staff meeting on August 16, 1938. In 1939, 10 twelve ton halftrack chassis Sd.Kfz.8 (DBs 8 and DB 9) were used to build makeshift bunker destroyers armed with anti-aircraft 88 millimeter Flak 18 cannons. A gun shield was provided for the 88, but the gun crew was completely exposed on its sides and rear, having no other protection than the shortened, reshaped gun shield. They were too lightly armored to make an effective assault gun and, although they were more maneuverable and could be brought into action more quickly than towed guns, the restricted working area on the vehicle made it harder for the crew to work the gun. These heavyweight vehicles underwent their first deployment during the 1939 Polish campaign with 1.Kompanie / Pz.Jag.Abt.8. Later, the unit underwent an organizational change (February 1, 1940), after losing four of its vehicles in combat. The remaining six operational self-propelled 88s fought with the Guderian XIX Army Corps in France. In June 1941, the unit was deployed to the Eastern Front. On January 29, 1942, it was renamed Panzerjager Kompanie 601 and subsequently on April 21, 1942, it became 3.Kompanie / Panzerjager Abteilung (Sfl.) 559. The last three machines were destroyed in March 1943.
On 14 September 1942, Flak-Abt. I./43 (Major Wegener) employed these guns against a commando landing raid called Operation Agreement by the British Royal Navy near Tobruk. Between them, Italian 155 millimeter (6-inch) shore batteries and aerial attack, the destroyer HMS Sikh was so severely damaged that she sank while being towed by HMS Zulu.
As anti-aircraft weapons the 88 millimeter Flak line was the anchor of the German field armies and of the defense of the Reich under Luftwaffe control. This type was never replaced by later versions as had been intended, and in August 1944 there have been 10,704 of all 3 versions operating. Manufacturing was carried out at a number of centers, and a wide variety of ammunition was manufactured for this weaponry, along with a large percentage of armor-piercing shells.
Beginning in World War I and continuing through World War II, the 88 millimeter Flak was one of the most effective weapons in Germany's arsenal, despite a few boondoggles such as the self-propelled 88. Overall production ran smoothly, considering that central planning during the Third Reich largely depended on the whims of the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. Had there been sufficient resources, the 88 millimeter Flaks no doubt would have been manufactured in even greater numbers, possibly effecting the outcome of the war. Allied bomber and tank crews held the 88 in deep respect and, judging by how many of them were put out of action by this weapon, rightfully so.
National Socialist Propaganda
"The announcement that Jews were being exterminated served as a group unification factor to preclude desertion and force the Germans to continue fighting. Germans were fed the knowledge that too many atrocities had been committed, especially against the Jews, to allow for an understanding to be reached with the Allies." — David Bankier (2002) The Use of Antisemitism in Nazi Wartime Propaganda
Hitler and Goebbels did not invent propaganda. The word itself was coined by the Catholic Church to describe its efforts to discredit Protestant teachings in the 1600s. Over the years, almost every nation has used propaganda to unite its people in wartime. Both sides spread propaganda during World War I, for example. But the Nazis were notable for making propaganda a key element of government even before Germany went to war again.
Adolf Hitler devoted two chapters of his 1925 book Mein Kampf, itself a propaganda tool, to the study and practice of propaganda. He claimed to have learned the value of propaganda as a World War I infantryman exposed to very effective British and ineffectual German propaganda. The argument that Germany lost the war largely because of British propaganda efforts, expounded at length in Mein Kampf, reflected then-common German nationalist claims. Although untrue – German propaganda during World War I was mostly more advanced than that of the British – it became the official truth of Nazi Germany thanks to its perception by Hitler.
While writing Mein Kampf, Hitler coined the term Big Lie (in German: Grose Luge), to refer to the use of a lie so enormous that no one would believe that someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."
Mein Kampf contains the blueprint of later Nazi propaganda efforts. Assessing his audience, Hitler writes in chapter VI:
Propaganda must always address itself to the broad masses of the people...All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed...The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses. The broad masses of the people are not made up of diplomats or professors of public jurisprudence nor simply of persons who are able to form reasoned judgment in given cases, but a vacillating crowd of human children who are constantly wavering between one idea and another...The great majority of a nation is so feminine in its character and outlook that its thought and conduct are ruled by sentiment rather than by sober reasoning. This sentiment, however, is not complex, but simple and consistent. It is not highly differentiated, but has only the negative and positive notions of love and hatred, right and wrong, truth and falsehood.
As to how to go about it, he explains:
Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favorable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favorable to its own side...The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward...Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must, of course, be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula.
Hitler put these ideas into practice with the reestablishment of the Volkischer Beobachter, a daily newspaper published by the National Socialist Party from February 1925 onwards, whose circulation reached 26,175 in 1929. It was joined in 1927 by Joseph Goebbels' Der Angriff, another unabashedly and crudely propagandistic paper.
During most of the National Socialist Party's time in opposition, their means of propaganda remained limited. With little access to mass media, the party continued to rely heavily on Hitler and a few others speaking at public meetings until 1929. [One study asserts that the Weimar government's use of pro-government radio propaganda actually slowed National Socialist Party growth.] In April 1930, Hitler appointed Goebbels head of party propaganda. Goebbels, a former journalist and Nazi party officer in Berlin, soon proved his skills. Among his first successes was the organization of riotous demonstrations that succeeded in having the American anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front banned in Germany.
A major political and ideological cornerstone of Nazi policy was the unification of all ethnic Germans living outside the Reich's borders (e.g. in Austria and Czechoslovakia) under one Greater Germany. In Mein Kampf, Hitler denounced the pain and misery of ethnic Germans outside Germany, and declared the dream of a common fatherland for which all Germans must fight. Throughout Mein Kampf, he urged Germans worldwide to make the struggle for political power and independence their main focus, made official in the Heim ins Reich policy beginning in 1938.
On 13 March 1933, Nazi Germany established a Ministry of Propaganda, appointing Joseph Goebbels as its Minister. Its goals were to establish enemies in the public mind: the external enemies which had imposed the Treaty of Versailles on Germany, and internal enemies such as Jews, Romani, homosexuals, Bolsheviks, and adverse cultural trends such as "degenerate art".
On March 13, 1933 Reich President Paul von Hindenburg issued a decree ordering the establishment of a Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. It is important to note that at the time the German word 'Propaganda' was value neutral. In today's terms, the ministry could be understood to have had a name that meant roughly 'ministry for culture, media and public relations'.
The ministry moved into the 18th-century Ordenspalais building across from the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, then used by the United Press Department of the Reich, Vereinigten Presseabteilung der Reichsregierung. It had been responsible for coordinating the Weimar Republic's official press releases but by then had been incorporated into the Nazi state. On March 25, 1933, Goebbels explained the future function of the Ministry of Propaganda to broadcasting company directors: "The Ministry has the task of carrying out an intellectual mobilization in Germany. In the field of the spirit it is thus the same as the Ministry of Defense in the field of security...Spiritual mobilization [is] just as necessary, perhaps even more necessary, than making the people materially able to defend themselves."
The Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda was tailored for Joseph Goebbels, who had been the Reich propaganda leader of the Nazi Party since April 1930. By a decree of June 30, 1933, numerous functions of other ministries were transferred to the responsibility of the new ministry. The role of the new ministry was to centralize Nazi control of all aspects of German cultural, mass media and intellectual life for the country.
For months prior to the beginning of World War II in 1939, German newspapers and leaders had carried out a national and international propaganda campaign accusing Polish authorities of organizing or tolerating violent ethnic cleansing of ethnic Germans living in Poland. On 22 August, Adolf Hitler told his generals:
I will provide a propagandistic "casus belli." Its credibility doesn't matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth.
The main part of this propaganda campaign was the false flag Operation Himmler, which was intended to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany, in order to justify the invasion of Poland.
The Nazis' use of radio propaganda helped it consolidate power and enroll more party members.
There were a variety of factors that increased the obedience of German soldiers in terms of following the Nazi orders that were given to them regarding Jews. Omer Bartov, a professor on subjects such as German Studies and European History, mentioned in his book, Hitler's Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich, how German soldiers were told information that influenced their actions. Bartov mentioned that General Lemelson, a corps commander, explained to his German troops regarding their actions toward Jews, "We want to bring back peace, calm and order to this land...." German leaders tried to make their soldiers believe that Jews were a threat to their society. Thus, German soldiers followed orders given to them and participated in the demonization and mass murders of Jews. In other words, German soldiers saw Jews as a group that was trying to infect and take over their homeland. Omer Bartov's description of Nazi Germany explains the intense discipline and unity that the soldiers had which played a role in their willingness to obey orders that were given to them. These feelings that German soldiers had toward Jews grew more intense as time went on due to the German leaders constantly demanding for Jews to vacate Aryan land and calling for the total annihilation of the Jewish race.
Real and perceived discrimination against ethnic Germans in east European nations which had gained territory at Germany's expense following World War I, such as Czechoslovakia and Poland, was the subject of Nazi propaganda. This propaganda sought to elicit political loyalty and so-called race consciousness among the ethnic German populations. It also sought to mislead foreign governments—including the European Great Powers—that Nazi Germany was making understandable and fair demands for concessions and annexations.
Der Sturmer, a fascist propaganda newspaper published by Julius Streicher, but not an official organ of the National Socialist Party, told Germans that Jews kidnapped small children before Passover because "Jews need the blood of a Christian child, maybe, to mix in with their Matzah." A version was published in Romania by Karl Leopold von Möller. Posters, films, cartoons, and fliers were seen throughout Germany which attacked the Jewish community. One of the most infamous such films was The Eternal Jew directed by Fritz Hippler.Use of radio propaganda incited antisemitic acts. Nazi radio was most effective in places where antisemitism was historically high but had a negative effect in places with historically low antisemitism.
Adolf Hitler and Nazi propagandists played on widespread and long-established German antisemitism. The Jews were blamed for things such as robbing the German people of their hard work while themselves avoiding physical labor. Hitler declared that the mission of the Nazi movement was to annihilate "Jewish Bolshevism", which was also called "Cultural Bolshevism". Hitler asserted that the "three vices" of "Jewish Marxism" were democracy, pacifism, and internationalism, and that the Jews were responsible for Bolshevism, communism, and Marxism. Joseph Goebbels in 1937 The Great Anti-Bolshevist Exhibition declared that Bolshevism and Jewry were one and the same.
At the 1935 Nazi party congress rally at Nuremberg, Goebbels declared that "Bolshevism is the declaration of war by Jewish-led international subhumans against culture itself."
Soon after the takeover of power in 1933, Nazi concentration camps were established for political opponents. The first people that were sent to the camps were political opponents, especially communists and socialists. They were sent to camps due to their ties with the Soviet Union and because Hitler zealously opposed anything and everything to do with international Communism. National Socialist dogma dismissed the Communists as "Red subhumans".
Goebbels used the death of the Nazi Party's Sturmabteilung (SA) Berlin leader Horst Wessel who was killed in 1930 by two members of the Communist Party of Germany as a propaganda tool for the National Socialist Party to stigmatize "Communist subhumans".
Goebbels used the death of the Nazi Party's Sturmabteilung (SA) Berlin leader Horst Wessel who was killed in 1930 by two members of the Communist Party of Germany as a propaganda tool for the National Socialist Party to stigmatize "Communist subhumans".
Until the conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad on February 2, 1943, German propaganda emphasized the prowess of German arms and the humanity German soldiers had shown to the peoples of occupied territories. Pilots of the Allied bombing fleets were depicted as cowardly murderers and Americans in particular as gangsters in the style of Al Capone. At the same time, German propaganda sought to alienate Americans and British from each other, and both these Western nations from the Soviet Union. One of the primary sources for propaganda was the Wehrmachtbericht, a daily radio broadcast from the High Command of the Wehrmacht, the OKW. Nazi victories lent themselves easily to propaganda broadcasts and were at this point difficult to mishandle. Satires on the defeated, accounts of attacks, and praise for the fallen all were useful for Nazis. Still, failures were not easily handled even at this stage. For example, considerable embarrassment resulted when the English aircraft carrier Ark Royal proved to have survived an attack that German propaganda had hyped.
The successful sinking of the Ark Royal was falsely reported on the German radio several times, with the British crew of the ship even choosing to listen in to the blatant propagandist lies as a form of entertainment. The sinking of the Ark Royal was so pivotal in Goebbels' militaristic propaganda, that Lieutenant Adolf Francke who led the Luftwaffe attack on the ship and reported a successful sinking, was publicly decorated. In reality, the bombing had broken nothing but the ship's cutlery and Winston Churchill himself invited the US Naval Attache to view the Ark Royal in dock, in a bid to both reassure the Allied forces and embarrass the German Navy.
Goebbels instructed Nazi propagandists to depict the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) as the "European crusade against Bolshevism".
After Stalingrad, the main theme changed to Germany as the primary defender of what the Nazis called "Western European culture" from the "Bolshevist hordes". V-1 and V-2 "vengeance weapons" were promoted in an attempt to convince Britons that Germany was invincible.
Nur fur deutsche Fahrgaste ("Only for German Passengers"), was a Nazi slogan used in occupied territories, mainly posted at entrances to parks, cafes, cinemas, theaters and other public facilities.
On June 3, 1944, the Nazis permitted the Red Cross to visit the concentration camp Theresienstadt to dispel rumors about the Final Solution, which was intended to kill all Jews. In reality, Theresienstadt was a transit camp for Jews en route to extermination camps. In a sophisticated propaganda effort, fake shops and cafes were erected to imply that the Jews lived in relative comfort. The guests enjoyed the performance of a children's opera, Brundibar, written by inmate Hans Krasa. The hoax was so successful for the Nazis that they went on to make a propaganda film with the same name. The shooting of Brundibar began on February 6, 1944. Directed by Kurt Gerron, it was meant to show how well the Jews lived under the "benevolent" protection of Nazi Germany. After the shooting, most of the cast, and even the filmmaker himself, were deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz where they were murdered.
The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring was introduced on July 14, 1933, and various propaganda was used to target the disabled. A special euthanasia program, called Aktion T4 began in 1939, related propaganda arguments were based on the books, Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens ("Allowing the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living"), written by Karl Binding and Alfred Hoche and the book Human Heredity Theory and Racial Hygiene, written by Eugen Fischer, Erwin Baur and Fritz Lenz.
In 1935, antisemitic laws in Nazi Germany were introduced known as the Nuremberg Laws, the laws excluded non-Aryans and political opponents of the Nazis from the civil-service and any sexual relations and marriage between people classified as "Aryan" and "non-Aryan" (Jews, Romani, Blacks) was prohibited as Rassenschande or "race defilement". The Nuremberg Laws were based on notions of racial purity and sought to preserve the Aryan race, who were at the top of the Nazi racial hierarchy and were said to be the Ubermenschen "Herrenvolk" (master race), and to teach the German nation to view the Jews as subhumans.
In 1941, when Jews were forced to wear the Star of David, Nazi pamphlets instructed people to remember antisemitic arguments at the sight of it, particularly Kaufman's Germany Must Perish!. This book was also heavily relied on for the pamphlet "The War Goal of World Plutocracy".
The Holocaust was not a topic for discussion even in ministerial meetings; the one time the question was raised it was dismissed as being of no use in propaganda. Even officials in the Propaganda Ministry were told atrocities against Jews were enemy propaganda. But with the Holocaust, aggressive antisemitic propaganda was quickly implemented. Goebbels's articles in Das Reich included vitriolic antisemitism. The supposed documentary, The Eternal Jew, purported to show the wretched lives and destruction wrought by Jews, who were lower than vermin, and the historical drama Jud Sub depicted a Jew as gaining power over a Duke by lending him money and using the power to oppress his subjects and enable the Jew to rape a pure German woman, by having her husband arrested and tortured. Wartime posters frequently described the Jews as responsible for the war, and being behind the Allies. Fervently antisemitic pamphlets were published, including alleged citations from Jewish writing, which were generally poor translations, out of context, or invented. An attack on "Americanism" asserted that the Jews were behind it.
The difficulty of simultaneously maintaining anti-Communist propaganda, and propaganda against Great Britain as a plutocracy also led to increased emphasis on antisemitism, describing Jews as being behind both.
Instructions for propaganda speakers in 1943 directed them to claim that antisemitism was rising throughout the world, quoting an alleged British sailor as wishing Hitler would kill five million Jews, one of the clearest references to extermination in Nazi propaganda.
Poster art was a mainstay of the Nazi propaganda effort, aimed both at Germany itself and occupied territories. It had several advantages. The visual effect, being striking, would reach the viewer easily. Posters were also, unlike other forms of propaganda, difficult to avoid.
Imagery frequently drew on heroic realism. Nazi youth and the SS were depicted monumentally, with lighting posed to produce grandeur.
The posters were placed in train cars, buses, platforms, ticket windows&mdashanywhere there was dense traffic flow. Very few individuals, at the time, owned a car, most biked, walked, or used public transportation daily. Exposure to the Word of the Week posters was high in German cities. The messages and Nazi ideologies "stared out at the mass public for a week at a time in tens of thousands of places German pedestrians were likely to pass in the course of a day".
Jeffery Herf, author of The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust, described the poster campaign as a "combination of a newspaper editorial, political leaflet, political poster, and tabloid journalism."
Adolf Hitler personally appointed artist Hans Schweitzer, known as Mjolnir, with the task of translating Nazi ideology into images for the wall newspaper. The posters were 100 centimeters high and 212 centimeters wide. The visual style of the posters was bold text and Nazi influenced colors, it meant to capture the attention of the German passersby. The text was big so that several people could read it at the same time and from a distance of a few feet.
The majority of the posters were centered on Jews and the Allied countries of Great Britain, the United States of America, and Russia. During the time period when antisemitic articles decreased in publications, the antisemitic rhetoric was ramped up in The Word of the Week posters. From 1941 to 1943 about twenty-five percent of The Word Of The Week posters included an attack on Jews. The Jews were depicted as enemies because of their supposed economic war, capitalism, and connection to the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. The Nazi regime fostered the idea that the Jews were the masterminds behind all oppositional political forces. Images often showed a Jewish figure positioned behind, or above, symbols of economic and political influence. Additionally, it was also common to depict the Allied forces of Great Britain, the United States, and Russia as overtaken by Jewry.
Posters were also used in schools, depicting, for instance, an institution for the feeble-minded on one hand and houses on the other, to inform the students that the annual cost of this institution would build 17 homes for healthy families.
To ensure that everybody could hear Hitler speak, Goebbels facilitated the sale of inexpensive radios. these were called the "People's Receiver" and they cost only 76 marks. A smaller version cost just 35 marks. Goebbels believed that if Hitler was to give speeches, the people should be able to hear him. Loud speakers were put up in streets so that people could not avoid any speeches by the Fuhrer. Cafes and other such properties were ordered to play public speeches by Hitler.
Goebbels and his skill at masterminding propaganda is best remembered for his torchlight night time displays at Nuremberg. Here, he and Speer, organized rallies that were designed to show to the world the strength and determination of the Third Reich. In August of each year, huge rallies were held at Nuremberg. Arenas to hold 400,000 people were built. In the famous night time displays, 150 search lights surrounded the main arena and were shone vertically into the night sky. Their light could be seen over 100 kilometers away in what a British politician, Sir Neville Henderson, called a "cathedral of light".
As advocated by Goebbels, propaganda was used to control every aspect of German citizens' lives; making certain that they did not deviate from norm values set by Hitler and the Nazi Party. Was propaganda effective? For the most part, yes, so much so that Germans who lived near Dachau claimed that they were not aware that Jews were being exterminated, despite the overpowering stench of burning human flesh. The average German followed orders without question—or else!
Under Fascism, the individual exists to serve the state. Thus, Hitler and the National Socialist Party were able to prolong World War II until the bitter end, long after it had become obvious that Germany was losing the war.
"There were not six million Jews murdered; there was one murder, six million times." - Holocaust survivor Abel Herzberg
The Einsatzkommandos were charged by the Nazi hierarachy with implementing the Final Solution to the Jewish Question (genocide>. In the end, they succeeded in murdering six million of the eleven million Jews living in Europe at the start of World War II.
The Einsatzgruppen were formed under the direction of SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich and operated by the Schutzstaffel (SS) before and during World War II. The Einsatzgruppen originated in the ad hoc Einsatzkommando formed by Heydrich to secure government buildings and documents following the Anschluss in Austria in March 1938. Originally part of the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police; SiPo), two units of Einsatzgruppen were stationed in the Sudetenland in October 1938. When military action turned out not to be necessary due to the Munich Agreement, the Einsatzgruppen were assigned to confiscate government papers and police documents. They also secured government buildings, questioned senior civil servants, and arrested as many as 10,000 Czech communists and German citizens. From September 1939, the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office; RSHA) had overall command of the Einsatzgruppen.
As part of the drive by the Nazi regime to remove so-called "undesirable" elements from the German population, from September to December 1939 the Einsatzgruppen and others took part in Action T4, a program of systematic murder of persons with physical and mental disabilities and patients of psychiatric hospitals. Aktion T4 mainly took place from 1939 to 1941, but the murders continued until the end of the war. Initially the victims were shot by the Einsatzgruppen and others, but gas chambers were put into use by spring 1940.
In response to Adolf Hitler's plan to invade Poland on September 1, 1939, Heydrich reorganized the Einsatzgruppen to travel in the wake of the German armies. Membership at this point was drawn from the SS, the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service; SD), the police, and the Gestapo. Heydrich placed SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Werner Best in command, who assigned Hans-Joachim Tesmer to choose personnel for the task forces and their subgroups, called Einsatzkommandos, from among educated people with military experience and a strong ideological commitment to Fascism. Some had previously been members of paramilitary groups such as the Freikorps. Heydrich instructed Wagner in meetings in late July that the Einsatzgruppen should undertake their operations in cooperation with the Ordnungspolizei (Order Police; Orpo) and military commanders in the area. Army intelligence was in constant contact with Einsatzgruppen to coordinate their activities with other units.
Initially numbering 2,700 men (and ultimately 4,250 in Poland), the Einsatzgruppe mission was to murder members of the Polish leadership most clearly identified with Polish national identity: the intelligentsia, members of the clergy, teachers, and members of the nobility. As stated by Hitler: "...there must be no Polish leaders; where Polish leaders exist they must be killed, however harsh that sounds". SS-Brigadefuhrer Lothar Beutel, commander of Einsatzgruppen IV, later testified that Heydrich gave the order for these murders at a series of meetings in mid-August. The Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen—lists of people to be murdered—had been drawn up by the SS as early as May 1939, using dossiers collected by the SD from 1936 forward. The Einsatzgruppen performed these murders with the support of the Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz, a paramilitary group consisting of ethnic Germans living in Poland. Members of the SS, the Wehrmacht, and the Ordnungspolizei also shot civilians during the Polish campaign. Approximately 65,000 civilians were murdered by the end of 1939. In addition to leaders of Polish society, they murdered Jews, prostitutes, Romani people, and the mentally ill. Psychiatric patients in Poland were initially murdered by shooting, but by spring 1941 gas vans were widely used.
Seven Einsatzgruppen of battalion strength (around 500 men) operated in Poland. Each was subdivided into five Einsatzkommandos of company strength (around 100 men).
Einsatzgruppe I, commanded by SS-Standartenführer Bruno Streckenbach, acted with 14th Army
Einsatzgruppe II, SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Emanuel Schafer, acted with 10th Army
Einsatzgruppe III, SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer und Regierungsrat Herbert Fischer, acted with 8th Army
Einsatzgruppe IV, SS-Brigadefuhrer Lothar Beutel, acted with 4th Army
Einsatzgruppe V, SS-Standartenfurer Ernst Damzog, acted with 3rd Army
Einsatzgruppe VI, SS-Oberfuhrer Erich Naumann, acted in Wielkopolska
Einsatzgruppe VII, SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Udo von Woyrsch and SS-Gruppenfuhrer Otto Rasch, acted in Upper Silesia and Cieszyn Silesia
Though they were formally under the command of the army, the Einsatzgruppen received their orders from Heydrich and for the most part acted independently of the army. Many senior army officers were only too glad to leave these genocidal actions to the task forces, as the murders violated the rules of warfare as set down in the Geneva Conventions. However, Hitler had decreed that the army would have to tolerate and even offer logistical support to the Einsatzgruppen when it was tactically possible to do so. Some army commanders complained about unauthorized shootings, looting, and rapes committed by members of the Einsatzgruppen and the Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz, to little effect. For example, when Generaloberst Johannes Blaskowitz sent a memorandum of complaint to Hitler about the atrocities, Hitler dismissed his concerns as "childish", and Blaskowitz was relieved of his post in May 1940. He continued to serve in the army but never received promotion to field marshal.
The final task of the Einsatzgruppen in Poland was to round up the remaining Jews and concentrate them in ghettos within major cities with good railway connections. The intention was to eventually remove all the Jews from Poland, but at this point their final destination had not yet been determined. Together, the Wehrmacht and the Einsatzgruppen also drove tens of thousands of Jews eastward into Soviet-controlled territory.
On Friday, September 26, 1941, when the Germans occupied Kyiv, announcements printed in Russian, Ukrainian and German began to appear on lampposts and walls around the city, ordering all Jews to assemble Monday at 8 a.m. near the site of a Jewish cemetery. That morning, the day before the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur was set to begin, over 33,000 people gathered—mostly women, children and the elderly, as the Soviet government had already mobilized the men capable of fighting into the Red Army.
The multitude was marched under guard through a barbed wire enclosure leading into Babi Yar. ("Yar" means ravine in Russian and Ukrainian.) The site is actually a system of ravines, with estuaries that once fed into a tributary of the Dnieper River leaving steep troughs and inland fields.
As the assembled Jews entered the ravine that day in 1941, German SS units, together with Ukrainian prisoners recruited from a nearby prisoner-of-war camp to serve the Nazis as local police, robbed them of their money, possessions and documents. They made the Jews wait in the meadow, from where, behind a mound of earth, they could hear the relentless sound of machine gun fire. Over the next 36 hours, the Germans took small groups of Jews, stripped them naked and murdered them.
On March 13, 1941, in the lead-up to Operation Barbarossa, the planned invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler dictated his "Guidelines in Special Spheres re: Directive No. 21 (Operation Barbarossa)". Sub-paragraph B specified that Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler would be given "special tasks" on direct orders from the Fuhrer, which he would carry out independently. This directive was intended to prevent friction between the Wehrmacht and the SS in the upcoming offensive. Hitler also specified that criminal acts against civilians perpetrated by members of the Wehrmacht during the upcoming campaign would not be prosecuted in the military courts, and thus would go unpunished.
In a speech to his leading generals on 30 March 1941, Hitler described his envisioned war against the Soviet Union. General Franz Halder, the Wehrmacht's Chief of Staff, described the speech:
Struggle between two ideologies. Scathing evaluation of Bolshevism, equals antisocial criminality. Communism immense future danger ... This a fight to the finish. If we do not accept this, we shall beat the enemy, but in thirty years we shall again confront the Communist foe. We don't make war to preserve the enemy ... Struggle against Russia: Extermination of Bolshevik Commissars and of the Communist intelligentsia ... Commissars and GPU personnel are criminals and must be treated as such. The struggle will differ from that in the west. In the east harshness now means mildness for the future.
Though General Halder did not record any mention of Jews, German historian Andreas Hillgruber argued that because of Hitler's frequent contemporary statements about the coming war of annihilation against "Judeo-Bolshevism", his generals would have understood Hitler's call for the destruction of the Soviet Union as also comprising a call for the destruction of its Jewish population. The genocide was often described using euphemisms such as "special tasks" and "executive measures"; Einsatzgruppe victims were often described as having been shot while trying to escape. In May 1941, Heydrich verbally passed on the order to murder the Soviet Jews to the SiPo NCO School in Pretzsch, where the commanders of the reorganized Einsatzgruppen were being trained for Operation Barbarossa. In spring 1941, Heydrich and the First Quartermaster of the Wehrmacht Heer, General Eduard Wagner, successfully completed negotiations for co-operation between the Einsatzgruppen and the German Army to allow the implementation of the "special tasks". Following the Heydrich-Wagner agreement on April 28, 1941, Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch ordered that when Operation Barbarossa began, all German Army commanders were to immediately identify and register all Jews in occupied areas in the Soviet Union, and fully co-operate with the Einsatzgruppen.
In further meetings held in June 1941 Himmler outlined to top SS leaders the regime's intention to reduce the population of the Soviet Union by 30 million people, not only through direct murder of those considered racially inferior, but by depriving the remainder of food and other necessities of life.
In 1941, at the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa), four commandos of Einsatzgruppen C, the Security Police, and Security Service followed the Wehrmacht's armies in northern and central Ukraine. Sonderkommando 4a (Special Commando 4a or Sk 4a) swept through Volhynia while Sonderkommando 4b (Sk 4b) moved through Galicia and Podolia. Behind the army was Rear Area Army Group South under the command of General Karl von Roques.
Although prewar plans had anticipated the restriction of special commandos to the army rear areas, 6th Army High Command called Sk 4a and Sk 4b to the frontlines, leaving security measures in the rear to be split up between the Wehrmacht, SS, and police forces. The division of labor between the Sonderkommandos near the front and the Order Police battalions in Rear Area Army Group South initially worked according to plan, but when the Germans reached central Ukraine, this division began to blur.
The term "security measures," encompassed a wide range of duties but, initially, the main focus was the murder of Soviet political functionaries and other perceived political enemies. In order to fulfill this goal, security task forces were instructed to kill all Jews occupying state and party positions and target Jewish able-bodied men who might foment serious resistance on the behalf of the Soviet state. Consequently, during the first weeks of the invasion, as German troops secured territory in Ukraine, large numbers of Jewish men were rounded up in cities and towns. Those who were deemed useful—skilled laborers, doctors, and specialists—were spared, while the rest were shot.
As large sections of the Soviet Union fell into German hands, the military assumed administrative control before a civil government could be set up. It was during this time that subsequent directives detailed the manner in which the Jewish population was to be exterminated.
In an order dated July 11, 1941, a commander of a police regiment in Belarus recommended that Jews be shot on the outskirts of towns and villages to shield local residents from the sights and sounds of mass murder. In order to "erase the impressions of the day," the order also called for "evenings of comradery" to follow every mass killing incident, which typically included meals prepared by local residents, music, and drinking.
In the second half of July, 1941, orders for persecuting and murdering Jews became more extreme.
On July 21, 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, the chief of the Security Police (or Sipo, which included the Gestapo) and Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst) ordered his commandos to kill all military and civilian Jewish prisoners, not just those who belonged to the Soviet Communist Party or held government positions. It was also at the end of July that Friedrich Jeckeln, the Higher SS and Police Leader Russia South and the personal representative of Heinrich Himmler, ordered his forces to kill anyone suspected of having "abetted the Bolshevik system."
By the end of 1941 it is estimated that at least 1,100,000 Jews were killed by the Einsatzgruppen, police battalions, and various nationalist units operating in the territories of the Soviet Union.
On September 29th and 30th, 1941, the Nazis and their collaborators murdered approximately 33,771 Jewish civilians at Babi Yar (a ravine in the Ukraine). The order to murder the Jews of Kyiv was given to Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C, consisting of SD and SiPo men, the third company of the Special Duties Waffen-SS battalion, and a platoon of the No. 9 police battalion. These units were reinforced by police battalions Nos. 45 and 303, by units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police, and supported by local collaborators. Sonderkommando 4a and the 45th Battalion of the German Order Police conducted the shootings. Servicemen of the 303rd Battalion of the German Order Police at this time guarded the outer perimeter of the execution site.
The commander of the Einsatzkommando reported two days later:
The difficulties resulting from such a large scale action—in particular concerning the seizure—were overcome in Kiev by requesting the Jewish population through wall posters to move. Although only a participation of approximately 5,000 to 6,000 Jews had been expected at first, more than 30,000 Jews arrived who, until the very moment of their execution, still believed in their resettlement, thanks to an extremely clever organization.
According to the testimony of a truck driver named Hofer, victims were ordered to undress and were beaten if they resisted:
I watched what happened when the Jews, men, women and children, arrived. The Ukrainians led them past a number of different places where one after the other they had to give up their luggage, then their coats, shoes, over-garments and underwear. They also had to leave their valuables in a designated place. There was a special pile for each article of clothing. It all happened very quickly and anyone who hesitated was kicked or pushed by the Ukrainians to keep them moving.
The crowd was large enough that most of the victims could not have known what was happening until it was too late; by the time they heard the machine gun fire, there was no chance to escape. All were driven down a corridor of soldiers, in groups of ten, and then shot. A truck driver described the scene:
Once undressed, they were led into the ravine which was about 150 meters long and 30 meters wide and a good 15 meters deep ... When they reached the bottom of the ravine they were seized by members of the Schutzpolizei and made to lie down on top of Jews who had already been shot ... The corpses were literally in layers. A police marksman came along and shot each Jew in the neck with a submachine gun ... I saw these marksmen stand on layers of corpses and shoot one after the other ...The marksman would walk across the bodies of the executed Jews to the next Jew, who had meanwhile lain down, and shoot him.
In the evening, the Germans undermined the wall of the ravine and buried the people under the thick layers of earth. According to the Einsatzgruppen Operational Situation Report, 33,771 Jews from Kyiv and its suburbs were systematically shot dead by machine-gun fire at Babi Yar on 29 and 30 September 1941. The valuables, underwear, and clothing of the murdered were turned over to the local ethnic Germans and to the Nazi administration of the city. Wounded victims were buried alive in the ravine along with the rest of the bodies.
The revelation of the Holocaust, the mass graves, and charred bodies, coupled with the inhumanity of the Einsatzkommandos motivated the Allies to demand Germany's unconditional surrender rather than a negotiated settlement. When seen with 20/20 hindsight, it was Hitler's biggest mistake.What a monumental waste! The Einsatzkommandos were primarily recruited from soldiers who would have otherwise contributed to the Nazi's combat effort. Genocide did not just happen, it turned the Third Reich into an international pariah which had to be eliminated before business as usual could resume.
"Operation Mercury" — The Invasion of Crete
"No other troops in the world but German paratroops could have stood up to such an ordeal and then gone on fighting with such ferocity." - Harold Alexander
The Battle of Crete was fought during the Second World War on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of May 20, 1941, when Nazi Germany began an airborne invasion of Crete. Greek and other Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island. After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered heavy casualties and the Allied troops were confident that they would defeat the invasion. The next day, through communication failures, Allied tactical hesitation, and German offensive operations, Maleme Airfield in western Crete fell, enabling the Germans to land reinforcements and overwhelm the defensive positions on the north of the island. Allied forces withdrew to the south coast. More than half were evacuated by the British Royal Navy and the remainder surrendered or joined the Cretan resistance. The defense of Crete evolved into a costly naval engagement; by the end of the campaign the Royal Navy's eastern Mediterranean strength had been reduced to only two battleships and three cruisers.
The Battle of Crete was the first occasion where Fallschirmjager (German paratroops) were used en masse, the first mainly airborne invasion in military history, the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from decrypted German messages from the Enigma machine, and the first time German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population. Due to the number of casualties and the belief that airborne forces no longer had the advantage of surprise, Adolf Hitler became reluctant to authorize further large airborne operations, preferring instead to employ paratroopers as ground troops. In contrast, the Allies were impressed by the potential of paratroopers and started to form airborne-assault and airfield-defense regiments.
British forces had initially garrisoned Crete when the Italians attacked Greece on 28 October 1940, enabling the Greek government to employ the Fifth Cretan Division in the mainland campaign. This arrangement suited the British: Crete could provide the Royal Navy with excellent harbors in the eastern Mediterranean, from which it could threaten the Axis south-eastern flank, and the Ploiesti oil fields in Romania would be within range of British bombers based on the island.
The Italians were repulsed, but the subsequent German invasion of April 1941 (Operation Marita), succeeded in overrunning mainland Greece. At the end of the month, 57,000 Allied troops were evacuated by the Royal Navy. Some were sent to Crete to bolster its garrison until fresh forces could be organized, although most had lost their heavy equipment. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, sent a telegram to the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir John Dill: "To lose Crete because we had not sufficient bulk of forces there would be a crime."
The German Army High Command (Oberkommando des Heeres, OKH) was preoccupied with Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, and was largely opposed to a German attack on Crete. However, Hitler remained concerned about attacks in other theaters, in particular on his Romanian fuel supply, and Luftwaffe commanders were enthusiastic about the idea of seizing Crete by a daring airborne attack. The desire to regain prestige after their defeat by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the Battle of Britain the year before, may also have played a role in their thinking, especially before the advent of the much more important invasion of the Soviet Union. Hitler was won over by the audacious proposal and in Directive 31 he asserted that "Crete ...will be the operational base from which to carry on the air war in the Eastern Mediterranean, in co-ordination with the situation in North Africa." The directive also stated that the operation was to be in May and must not be allowed to interfere with the planned campaign against the Soviet Union. Before the invasion, the Germans conducted a bombing campaign to establish air superiority and forced the RAF to move its remaining airplanes to Alexandria in Egypt.
No RAF units were based permanently at Crete until April 1941, but airfield construction had begun, radar sites had been built and stores delivered. Equipment was scarce in the Mediterranean and in the backwater of Crete. The British forces had seven commanders in seven months. In early April, airfields at Maleme and Heraklion and the landing strip at Rethymno on the north coast were ready and another strip at Pediada-Kastelli was nearly finished. After the German invasion of Greece, the role of the Crete garrison changed from the defence of a naval anchorage to preparing to repel an invasion. On 17 April, Group Captain George Beamish was appointed Senior Air Officer, Crete, taking over from a flight-lieutenant whose duties and instructions had been only vaguely defined. Beamish was ordered to prepare the reception of the Bristol Blenheim bombers of 30 and 203 Squadrons from Egypt and the remaining fighter aircraft from Greece, to cover the evacuation of W Force, which enabled the transfer of 25,000 British and Dominion troops to the island, preparatory to their relief by fresh troops from Egypt.
The navy tried to deliver 27,000 long tons of supplies from May - 20, 1941, but Luftwaffe attacks forced most ships to turn back, and only 2,700 long tons were delivered. Only about 3,500 trained British and Greek soldiers were on the island, and the defense devolved to the shaken and poorly equipped troops from Greece, assisted by the last fighters of 33, 80 and 112 Squadrons and a squadron of the Fleet Air Arm, once the Blenheims were ordered back to Egypt. In mid-May, the four squadrons had about two dozen aircraft, of which only about twelve were serviceable due to a lack of tools and spares. The unfinished ground at Pediada-Kastelli was blocked with trenches and heaps of soil and all but narrow flight paths were blocked at Heraklion and Rethymno by barrels full of earth. At Maleme, blast pens were built for the aircraft, and barrels full of petrol were kept ready to be ignited by machine-gun fire. Around each ground, a few field guns, anti-aircraft guns, two infantry tanks and two or three light tanks were sited. The three areas were made into independent sectors, but there were only eight QF 3-inch and twenty Bofors 40 millimeter anti-aircraft guns.
On April 30, 1941, Major-General Bernard Freyberg VC a New Zealand Army officer, was appointed commander of the Allied forces on Crete (Creforce). By May, the Greek forces consisted of approximately 9,000 troops: three battalions of the 5th Greek Division, which had been left behind when the rest of the unit had been transferred to the mainland against the German invasion; the Cretan Gendarmerie (2,500 men); the Heraklion Garrison Battalion, a defense unit made up mostly of transport and supply personnel; and remnants of the 12th and 20th Greek Divisions, which had also escaped from the mainland to Crete and were organized under British command. Cadets from the Gendarmerie academy and recruits from Greek training centers in the Peloponnese had been transferred to Crete to replace the trained soldiers sent to fight on the mainland. These troops were already organised into numbered recruit training regiments, and it was decided to use this structure to organise the Greek troops, supplementing them with experienced men arriving from the mainland.
The British Commonwealth contingent consisted of the original 14,000-man British garrison and another 25,000 British and Commonwealth troops evacuated from the mainland. The evacuees were typically intact units; composite units improvised locally; stragglers from every type of army unit; and deserters; most of them lacked heavy equipment. The main formed units were the 2nd New Zealand Division, less the 6th Brigade and division headquarters; the 19th Australian Brigade Group; and the 14th Infantry Brigade of the British 6th Division. There were about 15,000 front-line Commonwealth infantry, augmented by about 5,000 non-infantry personnel equipped as infantry and a composite Australian artillery. On 4 May, Freyberg sent a message to the British commander in the Middle East, General Archibald Wavell, requesting the evacuation of about 10,000 unwanted personnel who did not have weapons and had "little or no employment other than getting into trouble with the civil population". As the weeks passed, some 3,200 British, 2,500 Australian and 1,300 New Zealander troops were evacuated to Egypt, but it became evident that it would not be possible to remove all the unwanted troops. Between the night of 15 May and morning of 16 May, the allied forces were reinforced by the 2nd Battalion of the Leicester Regiment, which had been transported from Alexandria to Heraklion by HMS Gloucester and HMS Fiji.
On 17 May, the garrison on Crete included about 15,000 Britons, 7,750 New Zealanders, 6,500 Australians and 10,200 Greeks. On the morning of May 19, these were augmented by a further 700 men of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who had been transported from Alexandria to Tymbaki overnight by HMS Glengyle.
On 25 April, Hitler signed Directive 28, ordering the invasion of Crete. The Royal Navy retained control of the waters around Crete, so an amphibious assault would have been a risky proposition. With German air superiority assured, an airborne invasion was chosen. This was to be the first big airborne invasion, although the Germans had made smaller parachute and glider-borne assaults in the invasions of Denmark and Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and mainland Greece. In Greece, Fallschirmjager had been dispatched to capture the bridge over the Corinth Canal, which was being readied for demolition by the Royal Engineers. German engineers landed near the bridge in gliders, while parachute infantry attacked the perimeter defense. The bridge was damaged in the fighting, which slowed the German advance and gave the Allies time to evacuate 18,000 troops to Crete and 23,000 to Egypt, albeit with the loss of most of their heavy equipment.
In May, Fliegerkorps XI moved from Germany to the Athens area, but the destruction wrought during the invasion of Greece forced a postponement of the attack to 20 May. New airfields were built, and 280 long-range bombers, 150 dive-bombers, 90 Bf 109s, 90 Bf 110s and 40 reconnaissance aircraft of Fliegerkorps VIII were assembled, along with 530 Ju 52 transport aircraft and 100 gliders. The Bf 109s and Stuka dive-bombers were based on forward airfields at Molaoi, Melos and Karpathos (then Scarpanto), with Corinth and Argos as base airfields. The Bf 110s were based at airfields near Athens, Argos and Corinth, all within 200 miles (320 kilometers) of Crete, and the bomber or reconnaissance machines were accommodated at Athens, Salonica and a detachment on Rhodes, along with bases in Bulgaria at Sofia and Plovdiv, ten of the airfields being all-weather and 200-250 miles (320-400 kilometers) from Crete. The transport aircraft flew from bases near Athens and southern Greece, including Eleusis, Tatoi, Megara and Corinth. British night bombers attacked the areas in the last few nights before the invasion, and Luftwaffe aircraft eliminated the British aircraft on Crete.
The Germans planned to use Fallschirmjager to capture important points on the island, including airfields that could then be used to fly in supplies and reinforcements. Fliegerkorps XI was to co-ordinate the attack by the 7th Flieger Division, which would land by parachute and glider, followed by the 22nd Air Landing Division once the airfields were secure. The operation was scheduled for May 16, 1941, but was postponed to May 20, with the 5th Mountain Division replacing the 22nd Air Landing Division. To support the German attack on Crete, eleven Italian submarines took post off Crete or the British bases of Sollum and Alexandria in Egypt.
It had only been in March 1941, that Major-General Kurt Student added an attack on Crete to Operation Marita; supply difficulties delayed the assembly of Fliegerkorps XI and its 500 Ju 52s, then more delays forced a postponement until 20 May 1941. The War Cabinet in Britain had expected the Germans to use paratroops in the Balkans, and on March 25, British decrypts of Luftwaffe Enigma wireless traffic revealed that Fliegerkorps XI was assembling Ju 52s for glider-towing, and British Military Intelligence reported that 250 aircraft were already in the Balkans. On March 39, Detachment Sussmann, part of the 7th Flieger division, was identified at Plovdiv. Notice of the target of these units did not arrive, but on 18 April it was found that 250 Ju 52s had been withdrawn from routine operations, and on 24 April it became known that Goering had reserved them for a special operation. The operation turned out to be a descent on the Corinth Canal on 26 April, but then a second operation was discovered and that supplies (particularly of fuel), had to be delivered to Fliegerkorps XI by 5 May; a Luftwaffe message referring to Crete for the first time was decrypted on 26 April.
The British Chiefs of Staff were apprehensive that the target could be changed to Cyprus or Syria as a route into Iraq during the Anglo-Iraqi War (2-31 May 1941) and suspected that references to Crete were a deception, despite having no grounds for this, and on 3 May Churchill thought that the attack might be a decoy. The command in Crete had been informed on 18 April, despite the doubts, and Crete was added to a link from the GC & CS to Cairo, while on 16 and 21 April, intelligence that airborne operations were being prepared in Bulgaria was passed on. On 22 April, the headquarters in Crete was ordered to burn all material received through the Ultra link, but Churchill ruled that the information must still be provided. When Freyberg took over on 30 April, the information was disguised as information from a spy in Athens. Remaining doubts about an attack on Crete were removed on 1 May, when the Luftwaffe was ordered to stop bombing airfields on the island and mining Souda Bay and to photograph all of the island. By 5 May it was clear that the attack was not imminent and, next day, 17 May was revealed as the expected day for the completion of preparations, along with the operation orders for the plan from the D-day landings in the vicinity of Maleme and Chania, Heraklion, and Rethymno.
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the Abwehr, originally reported 5,000 British troops on Crete and no Greek forces. It is not clear whether Canaris, who had an extensive intelligence network at his disposal, was misinformed or was attempting to sabotage Hitler's plans (Canaris was killed much later in the war for supposedly participating in the 20 July Plot). Abwehr also predicted the Cretan population would welcome the Germans as liberators, due to their strong republican and anti-monarchist feelings and would want to receive the "...favorable terms which had been arranged on the mainland ..." While Eleftherios Venizelos, the late republican prime minister of Greece, had been a Cretan and support for his ideas was strong on the island, the Germans seriously underestimated Cretan loyalty. King George and his entourage escaped from Greece via Crete with the help of Greek and Commonwealth soldiers, Cretan civilians, and even a band of prisoners who had been released from captivity by the Germans. 12th Army Intelligence painted a less optimistic picture, but also underestimated the number of British Commonwealth forces and the number of Greek troops who had been evacuated from the mainland. General Alexander Lohr, the theater commander, was convinced the island could be taken with two divisions, but decided to keep 6th Mountain Division in Athens as a reserve.
The Germans used the new 7.5 centimeter Leichtgeschutz 40 light gun (a recoilless rifle). At 320 pounds (150 kilograms), it weighed one-tenth as much as a standard German 75 millimeter field gun, yet had two-thirds of its range. It fired a 13 pound (5.9 kilogram) shell more than 3 miles (4.8 kilometers). A quarter of the German paratroops jumped with an MP 40 submachine gun, often carried with a bolt-action Karabiner 98k rifle and most German squads had an MG 34 machine gun. The Germans used color-coded parachutes to distinguish the canisters carrying rifles, ammunition, crew-served weapons and other supplies. Heavy equipment like the Leichtgesuctz 40 were dropped with a special triple-parachute harness to bear the extra weight.
The troops also carried special strips of cloth to unfurl in patterns to signal to low-flying fighters, to co-ordinate air support and for supply drops. The German procedure was for individual weapons to be dropped in canisters, due to their practice of exiting the aircraft at low altitude. This was a flaw that left the paratroopers armed only with knives, pistols and grenades in the first few minutes after landing. Poor design of German parachutes compounded the problem; the standard German harness had only one riser to the canopy and could not be steered. Even the 25 percent of paratroops armed with sub-machine guns were at a disadvantage, given the weapon's limited range. Many Fallschirmjager were shot before they reached weapons canisters.
Greek troops were armed with Mannlicher-Schonauer 6.5 millimeter mountain carbines or ex-Austrian 8x56R Steyr-Mannlicher M1895 rifles, the latter a part of post-World War I reparations; about 1,000 Greeks carried antique Fusil Gras mle 1874 rifles. The garrison had been stripped of its best crew-served weapons, which were sent to the mainland; there were twelve obsolescent St. Etienne Mle 1907 light machine-guns and forty miscellaneous LMGs. Many Greek soldiers had fewer than thirty rounds of ammunition but could not be supplied by the British, who had no stocks in the correct calibers. Those with insufficient ammunition were posted to the eastern sector of Crete, where the Germans were not expected in force. The 8th Greek Regiment was under strength and many soldiers were poorly trained and poorly equipped. The unit was attached to 10th New Zealand Infantry Brigade (Brigadier Howard Kippenberger), who placed it in a defensive position around the village of Alikianos where, with local civilian volunteers, they held out against the German 7th Engineer Battalion.
On May 26th, with the German attack around Galatas stalled and the Fallschirmjager units suffering heavy losses (all of the surviving German paratroopers were awarded the Iron Cross}, Reich Marshal Hermann Goering requested Mussolini to commit air force, naval and army units to Crete and thus take some of the pressure off the German invaders. Mussolini immediately agreed, and two days later a reinforced Italian regiment from the Regina Division, with supporting units, landed near Sitia in the eastern part of the island. By the end of the month, Italian reinforcements reached Ierapetra on the south coast, linking up with a German detachment.
On May 27th, the Italian Army Regina brigade (protected by the Regia Marina destroyer Crispi and the Spica-class destroyer-escorts Lira, Lince and Libra), lands behind British lines at Sitia Bay, slipping past HMS Ajax, HMS Dido, HMS Kimberley and HMS Hotspur, forcing the British 14th Infantry Brigade to issue orders to abandon Herakleion.
Though Kippenberger had referred to them as "...nothing more than malaria-ridden little chaps...with only four weeks of service," the Greek troops repulsed German attacks until they ran out of ammunition, whereupon they began charging with fixed bayonets, overrunning German positions and capturing rifles and ammunition. The engineers had to be reinforced by two battalions of German paratroops, yet the 8th Regiment held on until 27 May, when the Germans made a combined arms assault by Luftwaffe aircraft and mountain troops. The Greek stand helped to protect the retreat of the Commonwealth forces, who were evacuated at Sfakia. Beevor and McDougal Stewart write that the defense of Alikianos gained at least 24 more hours for the completion of the final leg of the evacuation behind Layforce. The troops who were protected as they withdrew had begun the battle with more and better equipment than the 8th Greek Regiment.
British and Commonwealth troops used the standard Lee-Enfield rifle, Bren light machine gun and Vickers medium machine gun. The British had about 85 artillery pieces of various calibers, many of them captured Italian weapons without sights. Anti-aircraft defenses consisted of one light anti-aircraft battery equipped with 20 millimeter automatic cannon, split between the two airfields. The guns were camouflaged, often in nearby olive groves, and some were ordered to hold their fire during the initial assault to mask their positions from German fighters and dive-bombers. The British had nine Matilda IIA infantry tanks of "B" Squadron, 7th Royal Tank Regiment (7th RTR) and sixteen Light Tanks Mark VIB from "C" Squadron, 3rd King's Own Hussars.
The Matildas had 40 millimeter Ordnance QF 2 pounder guns, which only fired armor-piercing rounds—not effective anti-personnel weapons. (High explosive rounds in small calibers were considered impractical). The tanks were in poor mechanical condition, as the engines were worn and could not be overhauled on Crete. Most tanks were used as mobile pillboxes to be brought up and dug in at strategic points. One Matilda had a damaged turret crank that allowed it to turn clockwise only. Many British tanks broke down in the rough terrain, not in combat. The British and their allies did not possess sufficient Universal Carriers or trucks, which would have provided the mobility and firepower needed for rapid counter-attacks before the invaders could consolidate.
Hitler authorized Unternehmen Merkur (named after the swift Roman god Mercury) with Directive 28; the forces used were to come from airborne and air units already in the area and units intended for Unternehmen Barbarossa were to conclude operations before the end of May, Barbarossa was not to be delayed by the attack on Crete, which had to begin soon or would be cancelled. Planning was rushed and much of Unternehmen Merkur was improvised, including the use of troops who were not trained for airborne assaults. The Germans planned to capture Maleme, but there was debate over the concentration of forces there and the number to be deployed against other objectives, such as the smaller airfields at Heraklion and Rethymno. The Luftwaffe commander, Colonel General Alexander Lohr, and the Kriegsmarine commander, Admiral Karlgeorg Schuster, wanted more emphasis on Maleme, to achieve overwhelming superiority of force. Student wanted to disperse the paratroops more, to maximise the effect of surprise. As the primary objective, Maleme offered several advantages: it was the largest airfield and big enough for heavy transport aircraft, it was close enough to the mainland for air cover from land-based Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters and it was near the north coast, so seaborne reinforcements could be brought up quickly. A compromise plan by Hermann Goering was agreed, and in the final draft, Maleme was to be captured first, while not ignoring the other objectives.
The invasion force was divided into Kampfgruppen (battlegroups), Center, West and East, each with a code name following the classical theme established by Mercury; 750 glider-borne troops, 10,000 paratroops, 5,000 airlifted mountain soldiers and 7,000 seaborne troops were allocated to the invasion. The largest proportion of the forces were in Group West. German airborne theory was based on parachuting a small force onto enemy airfields. The force would capture the perimeter and local anti-aircraft guns, allowing a much larger force to land by glider. Freyberg knew this after studying earlier German operations and decided to make the airfields unusable for landing, but was countermanded by the Middle East Command in Alexandria. The staff felt the invasion was doomed now that it had been compromised and may have wanted the airfields intact for the RAF once the invasion was defeated. The Germans were able to land reinforcements without fully operational airfields. One transport pilot crash-landed on a beach, others landed in fields, discharged their cargo and took off again. With the Germans willing to sacrifice some transport aircraft to win the battle, it is not clear whether a decision to destroy the airfields would have made any difference, particularly given the number of troops delivered by expendable gliders.
Despite taking Crete, Hitler saw the battle as a fiasco and lost faith in the paratroopers under General Kurt Student. He never ordered another major airborne attack for the remainder of the war. Of course, Hitler didn't know that the paratroopers had failed in part because the Germans lost the element of surprise after the British intercepted their plans.
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