Could Nazi Secret Weapons Have Changed the Course of War?

Photo: Could Nazi Secret Weapons Have Changed the Course of War? National Geographic Program Examines Hitlers Secret Arsenal

A fleet of long-range bombers meant to destroy the New York City skyline. A 1,000-ton tank said to be the largest ever designed. A radio-guided bomb with a success rate 80 times higher than that of its rivals.

Those weapons in Adolf Hitler's fantasy arsenal were never fully brought to light, but a National Geographic program airing tonight explores what might have happened if they were.

In "Nazi Secret Weapons," a team of military historians and aviation experts use unearthed blueprints and reconstructed Third Reich technology to determine whether some of Hitler's top-secret armaments might have changed the course of war.

Under Hitler's heavy hand, the German military developed some of the world's most destructive technology during World War II. But it might have paled in comparison to one of his more shrouded projects, the Messerschmidt 264 bomber, also known as the "Amerikabomber."

While no aircraft at the time could cross the Atlantic Ocean without a re-fueling stopover, Hitler wanted to leapfrog aviation technology of his time with the proposed plane.

Historian: Hitler Wanted to Fly Over Atlantic to Bomb N.Y.

The four-engine bomber was designed to carry a 6.5-ton bomb load that Hitler hoped could unleash a strike against the continental United States.

"The general plan from the Germans was to start in France to fly 4,000 miles over the Atlantic to bomb New York and to fly back to France," Sonke Neitzel, a military historian, told National Geographic.

Historians said Hitler became consumed with the project as three prototypes of the bomber were built. Though the German air force targeted factories along the East Coast of the U.S. starting in April 1942, by July 1944 Allied air raids successfully destroyed all the Messerschmidt prototypes.

"It was not really a realistic plan," Nietzel said. "It was just a war game in the year '42, and the only person who was really interested to put this forward was Hitler."

In the same year, Hitler also reportedly gave orders to construct a tank code-named "The Mouse."

Despite its humble name, the tank weighed about 190 tons. And it was dwarfed in comparison to another one of Hitler's pet projects -- the Landcruiser P-1000, code-named "The Rat."

Engineer: The Rat Tank Would Have Had 'Tremendous Killing Power'

Considered by some to be the largest tank ever designed, the Rat was supposed to weigh 1,000 tons and extend 114 feet in length.

"The Ratte-tank had such a large diameter projectile that its destructive force would have been absolutely enormous: many, many feet of concrete, tremendous blast, tremendous killing power," engineer Peter Robbins told National Geographic.

But the mega-sized marvel had one mega-sized drawback: mobility.

"You can't go down roads with it, and you can't go over bridges with it," Robbins said. "And it might be able to go through a river, but who knows if it had enough displacement, positive displacement, positive buoyancy to stay on the surface and get across the river without becoming a submarine, so I think in reality it was more of a dream than everything else."

Germany's minister of armaments at the time reportedly put an end to that dream, deciding it wasn't the best way to use dwindling resources.

But some of Hitler's dream technology did actually find its way into reality. And some think that one of his most powerful bombs, the Fritz X bomber, might actually have had history-changing potential.

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