5 Secret Weapons of the Nazis | History Hit

5 Secret Weapons of the Nazis

Laura Mackenzie

29 Aug 2018

The Nazis were famous for their development and design of innovative weapons, including their revolutionary Wunderwaffen (Miracle Weapons). Although some of the Nazis’ weapon designs were undoubtedly far-fetched and impractical – such as the Panzer 1000, a monster tank weighing 1,000 tonnes – others were highly sophisticated and way ahead of their time – and the competition.

Here are five secret Nazi weapons that were either manufactured as prototypes or actually saw action in World War Two.

1. Fritz X

The USS Savannah is pictured off Salerno on 11 September 1943 after being hit by a Fritz X.

This guided anti-ship glide munition (see main image at the top) was one of Hitler’s most secret bombs. And it’s not hard to see why. Not only was it the first precision-guided bomb to ever be deployed in combat, but on 9 September 1943 it also became the first such bomb to sink a ship in combat – the Italian battleship Roma.

Deployed by the Luftwaffe, the Fritz X was designed to penetrate armoured boats, including heavy cruisers and battleships like the Roma. The munition is considered one of the precursors to today’s anti-ship missiles and precision-guided weapons (also known as “smart bombs”).

Join James this week for a special episode of Warfare, chatting to the writer and cast of the new film 'Munich - the Edge of War'. Set in 1938, the movie follows Chamberlain's attempts to appease Hitler, desperate to avoid another Great War. Joining James is author Robert Harris, along with lead actors George Mackay and Jannis Niewöhner. Together they discuss the historical significance of Chamberlain and Hitler's relationship, Munich's role in contemporary politics, and the pressures of having to learn German in a week. Munich – The Edge of War is in select cinemas now and on Netflix from January 21st 2022.
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2. Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet

Like the Fritz X, this interceptor aircraft also achieved a number of “firsts”. The only rocket-powered fighter aircraft to have ever been operational, it was also the first piloted aircraft of any type to exceed a speed of 1,000km per hour while in level flight.

But despite being revolutionary in its design and speed, the Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet proved pretty hopeless in fulfilling its intended role as an interceptor aircraft and required a highly technically able pilot to achieve any “kills”.

3. Goliath

German soldiers operate a Goliath mine with a remote control in Russia in April 1944. Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101III-AhrensA-026-12 / August Ahrens / CC-BY-SA 3.0

This remote-controlled mine had caterpillar tracks and resembled a mini tank. There were two versions – one powered by electricity and one powered by petrol. Designed to carry either 60 or 100 kilogrammes of high explosives, the vehicle come weapon was destroyed by the detonation of its warhead and therefore only single-use.

The Goliath began to be deployed in early 1942 and would go on to be used on all fronts of the war where German forces were fighting. Despite its diminutive stature, it was capable of everything from destroying tanks to demolishing buildings and other structures, such as bridges.

4. Horten Ho 229

A rear view of a Horton Ho 229 prototype at the Smithsonian Institute’s Garber Restoration Facility. Credit: Michael.katzmann at English Wikipedia

This prototype fighter and bomber was the first flying wing plane to be powered by jet engines. Its design was a response to a call from Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring for a light bomber that would be capable of carrying 1,000kg across a distance of 1,000 kilometres at a speed of 1,000km per hour.

The first prototype flew on 1 March 1944 but the plane’s design was never sufficiently refined in time for it to see action. Although chosen for a programme that intended to accelerate the production of relatively inexpensive Wunderwaffen, its inclusion didn’t come until nearly a week after the US Army had launched its operation to cross the Rhine river.

Tim Bouverie has a look at the old questions about appeasement. Was it right to appease Hitler in order to buy time to re-arm? Why did Chamberlain and Halifax not take action when the Rhineland was re-occupied, or during the Anschluss of 1938, or during the occupation of the Sudetenland?
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5. Zielgerät 1229

The code name of this infrared device alone is enough to send shivers down the spine: Vampir. Not to mention the fact that the grenadiers who used it were known as “night hunters”. First used in combat in February 1945, the Zielgerät 1229 was designed to sit atop the Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle so that it could be used effectively in the dark.

The Vampir.

Laura Mackenzie