Unfortunately, war can drive innovation. During World War II, the world’s major powers set their sites on advancing technology, medicine, and communications in order to be efficient and fearsome in battle. Some of the advancements made in WWII were fundamental to modern technology — others, not so much.
Here is a look at some of the most bizarre, useless, and downright insane weapons developed on both sides during WWII.
1. A ship-mounted aerial mine rocket launcher
The unrotated-projectile rocket launcher was an especially ill-conceived antiaircraft measure. Created to protect ships from enemy planes, the unrotated projectile was fired from a ship, and, upon reaching 1,000 feet in elevation, it would explode and disperse mines attached to parachutes via 400 feet of cable.
The general idea was to create an aerial minefield wherein enemy planes would become ensnared in the mess of cables, pulling the mines into their fuselages and downing the plane. However, the mines, cables, and parachutes were all easily visible and enemy pilots had no trouble flying above or below the “aerial minefield”.
Here’s what the weapon looked like when launched:
The undetonated mines would then be at the mercy of the wind, and they would often float back down toward the British ships that fired them.
“There are no records of UPs bringing down any aircraft. It’s entirely possible that this system injured or killed more Britons than enemies due to accidents, fires, etc,” according to a page dedicated to one of the battle cruisers that carried the weapon.
2. Suicide bomb dogs
In 1942, Hitler’s Nazi infantry invaded Soviet Russia with German “Panzer” tanks.
The Russians, who had used military dogs since 1924, sought to turn their canine soldiers into antitank mines by strapping explosives around the dogs’ bodies.
During training, the dogs were starved and let loose on stationary Soviet tanks that had food hidden under them.
Once the dogs were underneath the tank they were trained to pull a detonator chord with their teeth. However, most dogs were unable to comprehend or execute the task while the sights, sounds, and smells of battle raged around them.
The dogs would usually turn around and run toward their Russian handler, only to be shot and killed on sight.
3. The largest gun ever used in battle
Eager to invade France, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler demanded a new weapon that could easily pierce the concrete fortifications of the French Maginot Line — the only major physical barrier standing between him and the rest of Western Europe.
In 1941, the year after France fell, German steelmaker and arms manufacturer Friedrich Krupp A.G. began constructing Hitler’s Gustav gun, according to the documentary “Top Secret Weapons.”
The four-story, 155-foot-long gun, which weighed 1,350 tons, shot 10,000-pound shells from its mammoth 98-foot barrel.
Here’s what this beastly weapon looked like when fired:
The gun’s size was not only its source of strength, but also its downfall.
The huge gun could only be transported via rail system and was an easy target for Allied bombers flying overhead. The project was scraped within a year.
4. V-3 cannon
The V-3 was the unnecessary younger sibling of the V-1 and V-2 rockets that pulverized London during the Blitzkrieg.
Devised in the summer of 1944, the V-3 was designed to fire 300 nine-foot-long dart-shaped shells every hour. A series of secondary charges positioned along the 416-foot barrel were meant to speed up the projectile, which would hypothetically be able to reach London from well over 100 miles away in the French town of Mimoyecques. But when the V-3 finally became operational, the velocity of the shell was a mere 3,280 feet per second, which was estimated to be about half what was needed to reach London.
Hitler had authorised the production of 50 of these weapons, but before the original plans for the V-3 could be implemented, Allied forces bombed and destroyed the gun, despite Germany’s best efforts to hide the munitions under haystacks.
In the end, only two miniature (if you can call 150-feet long miniature) versions of the gun became operational, with only a few shots ever fired to an unknown effect.
5. A mini “tank-like” remote-controlled demolition vehicle
The Nazis’ Goliath tracked mine was anything but Goliath-like in stature. Known as the “Doodlebug” by American troops, the Goliath was run with a joystick operated by a controller. It had coiled within its compartments 2,145 feet of cable leading back to the controller. The mini-tank was powered by two electric motors, later replaced by gas burners, and able to carry more than 100 pounds of high explosives.
The Goliath was meant to slide under Allied tanks and deliver its explosive payload to their vulnerable undersides. However, it proved to be susceptible to cord-cutting and later on radio-controlled models were introduced. The Germans built 7,500 Goliaths during the war, which suggests that they met with some success.
However, the real success of the Goliath was that it paved the way for radio-controlled weapons, which in our modern age are becoming the new mode of warfare.
Amanda Macias contributed to this report.
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