Super Weapons Kept Hidden By The Nazis In WW2 | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Callum Janes
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In this video, Unveiled takes a closer look at the bizarre and terrifying Nazi super weapons that thankfully never made it to wide use in World War Two! From monster tanks that would've destroyed whole battlefields... to cosmic weapons that might've rained down from space, the Nazi war machine was nearly very different!

Superweapons Kept Hidden by the Nazis in WWII

The Second World War dragged on from 1939 to 1945, though Germany had already been developing state-of-the-art weapons for years before they invaded Poland. Some of these so-called “wonder weapons” were successfully used in warfare, but many more were left top secret and uncompleted by the time the Nazis surrendered.

So, this is Unveiled, and today we’re taking a closer look at the “superweapons” that were kept hidden by the Nazis.

The Second World War isn’t the only war for which novel superweapons have been made. World War I infamously saw the development of devastating chemical weapons, like mustard gas, first used by the German army. It also saw the invention of tanks, which were built by the British to cross No Man’s Land. Tanks were kept secret at first, with their true purpose not even told to the workers responsible for making them. Instead, engineers were told they were for carrying water on the battlefield - hence the name, ‘tanks’. Due to mechanical and mobility problems, tanks weren’t actually decisive in the Allies’ victory… but they still terrified German soldiers and showed how crucial cutting edge technology was during conflict.

When the Third Reich came to power in the interwar years, they didn’t intend to lose their military supremacy again. Violating post-war treaties, Hitler began to rearm Germany, rebuilding the army, air force, and navy, and prioritizing the development of bigger, more powerful weapons. They had top-of-the-line bombers, fighter jets, submarines, and tanks, and ultimately spent the entire Second World War trying to further one-up themselves. But of course, the Nazis didn’t win World War II, and many of their superweapons were not only expensive and time-consuming to build, but proved impractical and full of design errors.

One invention that profoundly exemplified the flaws in the Nazis’ weapons was the Land Cruiser P.1000 “Ratte”. Perhaps still sore about their lack of tanks during the First World War, the Third Reich set about constructing some of the biggest, most powerful tanks ever built. Tanks like the Tiger I and Tiger II were used extensively, but bigger tanks never quite made it. There were a whole range of super-heavy tank designs drawn up, like the Panzer VIII “Maus”... but the problem was that prototypes of the Maus were barely able to function in reality. The heaviest of all, though, was the Ratte, which would have weighed 1000 metric tons. Had it been finished, it would have been the biggest tank ever built by some margin. But, really, it was simply too big.

The Ratte’s massive size and weight required engines so large that there would have been no room left within the tank for operators. It also would have been basically impossible to camouflage, making it a massive target for aerial bombing – especially considering its extremely slow speed. And while most tanks are capable of destroying things that get in their way, the Ratte would have taken this to the extreme, completely ruining roads and collapsing bridges. Considering that the tank is the armored vehicle that goes first during a military surge, this would have left other vehicles unable to follow it… and would have made life difficult for the trailing infantry, too. It’s also been suggested that Ratte would have had a gun taken from a naval battleship mounted onto it; something virtually impossible to achieve with a moving vehicle. There’s clearly a reason why, then, even a century later, the world record for the heaviest operational tank hasn’t been defeated. THAT tank was the Char de Rupture 2C bis, used by the French in the 1920s. So, despite getting Hitler’s personal seal of approval and apparently going to the design stages – although some historians dispute this – the Ratte remains the stuff of legend only.

But there were other tanks of unusual size in World War II, as well, including some particularly small ones… like the enigmatic “Kugelpanzer”, which literally means “ball tank”. The Kugelpanzer is one of the weirdest tanks ever built, and definitely the weirdest one ever constructed by the Nazis. Unlike the Ratte or the Maus, it’s believed this one was approved for actual use. That said, there’s only one known example of it; a captured machine which had been shipped from Germany to Imperial Japan. If the Soviet Union hadn’t intercepted it, we likely wouldn’t know about it at all, today - where it survives as a museum exhibit in Moscow.

Unlike a traditional tank, the ball tank didn’t have a mounted gun and is believed to have been primarily intended for use in reconnaissance. Other theories, however, include that it could have been equipped with a machine gun or even used for bombing attacks - which would have been inevitably fatal for the operator, as well. This wasn’t the only such fatal device that the Nazis thought about building. There was also a manned version of the V-1 bomb, called the “Reichenberg”, that got deep into development until eventually being canceled. The true intended purpose of the Kugelpanzer remains one of the enduring mysteries of World War II, and it’s not likely we’ll ever really learn exactly what it was supposed to do. OR if it was ever used by Japanese forces during the war.

Ultimately, tanks both implausibly large AND small were never really brought back into warfare post-World War II. But there was another technology worked on by the Nazis that has remained in the public consciousness for decades: nuclear power. While you may have heard that Nazi Germany came worryingly close to having atomic bombs of its own during the Second World War, it’s now increasingly thought that this was actually yet another spectacular failure on the part of the Third Reich. The Nazi scientists apparently failed to see the potential in nuclear fission… focussing most on the development of fission reactors, in the hope that THIS alone could help them win the war. History shows, however, that they never really pursued it. And even the world’s true “first nuclear reactor” wasn’t their doing; it was instead the Chicago Pile-1, completed in America in 1942, around three years after Germany had seemingly given up with its own designs. Today, nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs are a US breakthrough and legacy... although some remnants of the unsuccessful Nazi nuclear program do remain, including some strange uranium cubes that found their way to the United States for closer study.

Indeed, much of the early work surrounding nuclear science and conducted by Nazi Germany did make its way into America’s nuclear weapons program, too… thanks to setups like Operation Paperclip, which brought Nazi scientists over to work for the US. One of the most notable Paperclip alums was Wernher von Braun, former member of the SS and the “wunderkind” behind the V-2 rocket used by the Nazis in the final year of the war. Later on in history, the V-2 was eventually developed into the Saturn V, which led the Americans to victory in the Space Race when they landed on the moon in 1969. Those same rockets were also capable of launching nuclear warheads across the globe, however. So, despite their eventual failure, the Nazis may have been close to realising that potential… a shift that may have significantly affected the outcome of World War II.

But we’ll stay in space for our final hidden (or unrealised) Nazi superweapon. Because, even before the Nazis rose to power, German scientists had reportedly put together extremely ambitious plans to build a space station. But all signs are that they didn’t want to build a space station so that they could carry out research on it, like we’ve now done with the ISS. Instead, they wanted one so that they could attach an enormous weapon to it. This weapon was called the “Sonnengewehr”, which literally means “sun gun”, and it seemingly would have used a giant mirror to beam sunlight back down to Earth. That intense ray of light would have then doubled up as the weapon, for a targeted and deadly orbital strike. Thankfully, the “sun gun” never got off the ground, although it has remained a much discussed and rumored “what if” topic from World War II.

The good news is that, following the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, such a weapon would now never be allowed without it being a massive violation of international law. In fact, and scarily, it’s been argued that this might be the only reason that no-one else has built (or planned) a sun gun since, despite it being technically possible. That, and the fact that it might not have been a particularly effective weapon, either, when you consider the massive cost and difficulty in building it. Thankfully, for whatever reason, and unlike with nuclear technology, this is one wartime blueprint that has remained in the past.

With just these four examples, however, we can see how World War II could’ve played out differently. With giant tanks, tiny tanks, a slightly shifted nuclear program, or a bizarre (but potentially devastating) solar weapon. For all the money funnelled into the Nazis’ military machine, those were some of the most significant ideas that thankfully never came to fruition.