Human and weapons have a very special chemistry between them. Every weapon of different shape and size, exhibit the mental and economical characteristics of its inventor. No matter when or how a weapon was made, it is solely intended to disable or perish targets. But sometimes things can get horribly wrong and useless. During the World War II many of those machineries were built for no good. Here is an exclusive list of those weapons.
The Tauchpanzer was a series of amphibious tanks developed under the Operation Sea Lion, by the Germans during the World War II. These tanks were specially designed to facilitate support for German solders near the British coastline. Being modified from the Panzer III tanks, it retained most of its features including one-way exhaust valves and a unique air intake system for cabin crew and engine to get fresh air.
Even though it was manufactured as an amphibious tank with special modifications, the Tauchpanzer could only be 20 minutes under water and only descend at a depth of up to 15 meters, mostly because of the length of its air hose. After the operation was canceled, the remaining units were allocated to other Panzer divisions where they were converted to normal tanks.
14. DD tank
Image credit: wikimedia
The amphibious tanks were first conceptualized during the World War I. As the tanks were heavy for their size, providing them with enough buoyancy was a difficult engineering problem to tackle. Designs that could float unaided were generally small and light weighted such as the Soviet T-37.
In 1941, the allied nations introduced several key modifications to their existing tanks that allowed them to float with the help of a special detachable rubberized canvas, which could easily be pulled around the tank to make it afloat. The name DD is derived from Duplex Drive tanks after installing those modifications.
After a series of intensive testings, the allied forces opted for the M4 Sherman tank as the one to be fitted with these modifications. The Sherman DD saw first major action during the D-Day in 1944. The DD tanks were generally carried by the Landing Craft Tank (LCT) and launched about 2 miles from the shore.
Karl Gerat or Morser Karl was a series of German self-propelled siege mortar, produced during 1940-42. The Germans initially wanted to develop a weapon that could be transported near the target by several tracked vehicles or wagons and then it could be assembled on the spot. But excessive amount of time wasted upon preparation and transportation forced them to change it into a mobile weapon.
It was not an ordinary mortar though. The Gerat had a 600-millimeter barrel that could launch a 1,800 kilogram shell at nearly 5 kilometers distance. A total of seven Karl-Gerat were constructed. In 1945, two of those were captured by the American Forces and others were probably captured by the Red Army.
12. The Surcouf
The Surcouf was a French cruiser submarine launched in 1929, and was the largest submarine until it was surpassed by the Japanese I-400-class submarine during the World War II. The Surcouf was the result of the Five Power Treaty sanctioned by the Washington Navel Conference held in Washington during 1921-1922.
She was extremely powerful, enabled with 10 torpedo tubes and with 203 mm gun anti-aircraft cannon and anti-aircraft gun mounted on the top of the hangar. Although the Surcouf had an imposing specification, it was plagued by several mechanical problems.
After the embarrassment of Stalingrad in 1943, the Germans were determined to add artillery to their arsenal capable of providing heavy fire support for infantry units, especially in the urban areas and to demolish heavily defended buildings or fortified areas. They eventually came up with the sturmtiger. It was primarily an add on, mostly applied on the popular Tiger I tank. A huge rocket launcher was added in the place of an 88 mm electrically fired tank gun; the hull and suspension were untouched.
Initially, the rocket launcher caused some serious problems. The smoke produced after the propulsion couldn’t be vented into the fighting compartment, resulting structural failure to the barrel. To correct this fatal flaw, a ring of ventilation shafts was put around the barrel which channeled the exhaust.
The total capacity of the tank was limited to just 14 projectiles due to their excessive weights, so it was necessary that each sturmtiger should be accompanied by an ammunition carrier. The sturmtiger was successfully used during the Warsaw upraising, where Nazi army out-gunned the Polish resistance home army, in 1994.
10. Nakajima A6M2-N (Rufe)
In the 1940, the Imperial Japanese Navy commissioned a dedicated fighting float plane capable of operating from water but also keeping the firepower of modern military aircraft. It was necessary as the Japanese were planning to gain control over the far fetched islands on the Pacific. The Mitsubishi A6M “zero” was chosen which eventually became the A6M2 after several modifications, including a triple float arrangement utilizing a larger central float section with two relatively smaller ones on either side.
The first prototype flew on the same day of the infamous Pearl Harbor incident, and earned the code name Rufe from the Allied armies. Although its massive float degraded the potential significantly, the A6M2-N was very effective in many combats including the Solomon Islands.
Read: Secret Military Aircraft
9. Unrotated projectile
20-barrel 7-inch UP projector
The unrotated projectile was a short ranged anti-aircraft weapon developed by the Royal Navy during the 1940s. The name is justified due to the fact that the projectile was not spin-stabilized. A small non-smoke propellant was used to ignite a motor which further propels the rocket out of the tube to a distance of about 1,000 feet, at the point of explosion it released a mine attached to three parachutes by 400 feet of wire.
The weapon was not effective – it was slow and the technique behind it was a total disaster. In a demonstration of the weapon for Winston Churchill, a bomb after firing, due to unexpected wind change, drifted back towards the ship dangerously, though no one was harmed. It was soon replaced by the Bofors 40 mm gun.
8. Luftwaffe Mistel
In 1942, the German institute for sailplane propounded a concept of an unmanned airframe stacked with explosives to serve as a glided bomb, which is carried near the target by compact yet powerful manned aircraft. But it was not until 1944, when the German high command found the concept useful and needed. And thus it was launched under the name of “Mistel”.
More than 100 Junkers Ju-88 bombers were stripped right off and transformed into a gigantic flying bombs packed with 1,000 of kilograms (4,000 lb) of explosives. A simple strut network was able to affix the bomber with mother ship. The Mistel were inaccurate and slow resulting their attacks being largely ineffective.
7. The Zveno Project
Ever heard of a parasite aircraft? No. Well a parasite aircraft is a component of a compound aircraft which can be carried along with a larger craft or mother ship and launched mid-air during operations. The Soviet Union developed a similar kind of aircraft during the 1930s. It consisted of a giant Tupolov-TB-1 heavy bomber as mother ship and various small fighter aircraft or dive bombers used all the way during the different phases of this project.
6. Type XVII Submarine
In the early 1930s, German engineer Hellmuth Walter propounded a revolutionary design of a submarine propulsion system which will produce more power than the existing diesel powered engines and will allow much longer sessions underwater. The proposed engine was powered by high test peroxide which has a significant use in rocket propellants. Because of futuristic design, the Nazi navy command did not approve the design until 1939, when the new U-boat was tested based on Walter’s design.
5. Canal Defence Light
Image source: wikimedia
The Canal Defence Light was one of the British “secret weapon” of the World War II. The idea was credited to a Greek citizen living in Britain named Marcel Mitzakis during the 1930s. It was intended to be used during night-time attacks, when the light would reveal enemy positions.
A shutter could flash the beam on and off as fast as twice a second. A flashing beam would further dazzle and disorient enemy troops by not giving their eyes a chance to adapt to either light or darkness causing nausea and dizziness.
The Allied forces used CDLs to protect the famous Ludendorff Bridge to prevent it from going under German occupation once again. The Germans used all possible ways to try to destroy the bridge, but failed. They even tried to send frogmen using the Italian underwater breathing apparatus to plant mines but were unsuccessful, thanks to Canal Defence Light tanks.
4. Beetle tank
Photo credit: wikimedia
The Beetle tank was a German made remote controlled demolition vehicle. Its original name is Goliath tracked mine and the name Beetle tank given by the allies during the World War II. It was the first ever military robot designed to carry a minimum of 60 kg explosives and to roll under the enemy armor and bunkers before exploding. Although, the Goaliath’s were slow due to limited power supply, more than 7000 copies were produced from the early 1942.
3. V3 Cannon
Prototype V-3 cannon
After the 1940’s invasion of France, Hitler diverted his full attention towards the English coast. It was not an easy task thought, and for the first time since the beginning of World War II, Hitler was on the back foot. To regain total control in the War, he propounds a super-gun to destroy the whole city of London, known as V3 or vergeltungswaffe 3.
The workings of the German super-gun remains a mystery till date, because most of it was destroyed and only a few photographs and documents have survived. If the gun had survived, it might be the biggest gun the world has ever seen.
The V3 was built in an underground military complex Mimoyecques situated in chalk hills, in the northern France. In its original conception, nearly 25 barrels were positioned at an angle of 50 degrees. The German engineers thought that would be the right setting to fire projectiles at London, one per minute producing a rapid fire effect.
Fortunately, it was never used for London, but recent studies also enlightened to the fact that if the V3 was never destroyed by the British Tallboy bombs, the artillery would have been highly unsecured even for the crew.
2. Schwerer Gustav
Image source: wikia
The Schwerer Gustav is one of the most astonishing and insanely impressive artillery pieces you will ever see. With a total weight of 1,350 tonnes and a barrel length of 32.5 meters, it can fire massive shells weighing almost seven tonnes to a range of 47 kilometers.
The Gustav was initially designed and developed by the Germans to destroy the French Maginot Line, but France surrender in 1940, making it unnecessary. It was first used during the siege of Sevastopol in 1941. By the end of the siege, the city of Sevastopol lay in ruin where it fired almost 30,000 tons of artillery ammunition.
Despite being the ultimate killing machine, it also has major drawbacks. To relocate this gigantic metal piece, it had to operate on specially constructed railway tracks. It needed around 2,500 men to lay those tracks and dig embankments, and took around 250 workers to assemble it in three and a half days. It has an even bigger tactical disadvantage, due to its enormous size, it was an easy prey for the allied bombers during the World War II. The Germans were forced to destroy the Gustav to prevent its possible capture by the American forces in 1945.
It was believed to be a reconnaissance vehicle or a cable layer as there is not much information available to know what it actually was or what it did. To the Russians it is known as the item no. 37. It is really a mystery. Almost nothing is known about this machinery apart from that this was built in Germany and was shipped to Japan when it was captured by the Soviets in North eastern China in 1945. The tank was powered by a two stroke engine and has a small trailing arm behind and viewing slides at the front. The Kugelpanzer is still preserved at the Kubinka tank museum in Russia.