PODCAST: HISTORY UNPLUGGED
J. Edgar Hoover’s 50-Year Career of Blackmail, Entrapment, and Taking Down Communist Spies

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Fiction abounds with stories of Nazi Superscience: From Captain America’s nemesis Red Skull to the B-movie treasure Iron Sky (which suggests the Third Reich established a moon base after the war). But the trope is based on some facts. Nazis did aggressively research cutting edge weapons to turn the tide of a war they were increasingly losing. Some weapons, such as the V2 rocket, did see production and terrorized the Allies. Others were advanced but impractical, such as 1000-ton tanks. Still, others existed completely in the realm of science fiction, such as an orbital mirror that could focus enough solar energy to create a laser that could incinerate a city or fry an ocean.

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Scott Rank 0:12
History isn’t just a bunch of names and dates and facts. It’s the collection of all the stories throughout human history that explained how and why we got here. Welcome to the history unplugged Podcast, where we look at the forgotten, neglected, strange, and even counterfactual stories that made our world what it is. I’m your host, Scott rank.

In this episode, I’m going to be addressing a topic that manages to combine Captain America, the fiction of Golden Age, sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein, and a lot of B movies all in one. That is the topic of Nazi super science. The idea for this episode came from listener Ryan Gillan, and he has this question I believe Germany had or developing weapons that they either never deployed or didn’t deploy a lot of them. I’d be interested to hear about these. All right, well, this idea of Nazi super-science and all of these superweapons that they had in development that for whatever reason weren’t used in World War Two, or only use them limited areas at the end of the war, is a trope that appears all the time in fiction. So for example, Marvel’s red school in Captain America and Hydra the secret organization that is a shadow organization within shield you can see in any of the Marvel movies, ideas in Dr. Strangelove, there’s also Robert Heinlein 1947, novel rocket ship, Galileo, some golden age sci-fi and if you like it, I recommend it. Especially if you have let’s say a brainy middle schooler to read it to. Let’s give a very brief Plot Synopsis because I think it’s worth recounting where after world war two three teenage boy rocket experimenters are recruited by a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project to Refit a conventionally powered surplus mail rocket to deliver the mail, they take off for the moon take three days to get there. And after they establish a semi-permanent Quonset hut, they claim the moon on behalf of the United Nations. But when they set up a radio to communicate with Earth, they pick up a local transmission. And they find out that there are Nazis that are on the moon, and through a lot of 1940s hijackers are able to beat them. And lastly, the idea of Nazi super-science you can see it in the awesome cheeseball be a movie from 2012 iron sky that establishes that Nazis set up a secret base on the moon and then they come back for an invasion. So this is a trope that appears all over the place in fiction. And there’s a lot of usefulness to it, at least from a storytelling perspective, because you have villains who are morally repugnant, and you don’t have to explain why Nazis are bad. It’s a very easy establishment. And when you give them superweapons, then they make our protagonist the underdogs. But is there a historical basis to this trope, the idea of Nazi super-science? And this episode, we’re going to look at the historical basis of Nazis having incredible science and technology and superweapons, whether it’s true, and even if it isn’t why this trope has stuck, and we’re going to be looking at a lot of specific weapons such as the conceptual ones like a space Death Ray, yes, the Nazis actually did think of this or bombers that could fly all the way to the United States and then returned to France. Actual weapons like thousand-time tanks and bombs or at times more precise, and their competitors and also programs that didn’t come to fruition, but we don’t really know why they didn’t for sure, such as the Nazis atomic bomb program. Why wasn’t their version of the Manhattan Project successful? Well, first off the Nazis were ambitious about developing superweapons, whether or not they were successful, we should look at that perspective. First. There’s a book called taking Nazi technology from Douglas O’Regan that talks about what Americans found when they began looting Nazi Germany after they won the war. And while they were overall disappointed in their whole, the United States didn’t have technological parity with Nazi Germany at the beginning of the war, and there was some insecurity there. And many so believed in the German military and technological supremacy, an idea that was held in the United States before and during the war.

They knew about the sophistication of the v2 rocket, and they heard about the rhetoric of Nazi superweapons. But it should be noted that Germany was actually conservative in its technology at the beginning of the war. It’s only near the middle and the end of the war where they really focus on their superweapons. warfare history network has an article on this and they note that during Germany’s early string of victories between 1939 and 1941, Hitler informed members of the German aerospace industry that he decided to impose new restrictions on aircraft Research and Development, thinking that they’re tightening a logical base was already solid to push their war effort forward. But by 1942, Hitler in his Airforce High Command recognize this mistake and they were beginning to fall behind the allies. There was an increasing weakness in the fighter arm. And Hitler saw that faithful aircraft like the Messerschmitt Me at 109. We’re losing ground to new allied long-range fighters, like the North American p 51. Mustang that was used to escort us and British bombers. And these were devastating the German Air Force, this barrage of Allied bombing force Hitler to invest in producing airplanes at the cutting edge of technology. But it was very difficult to do so when there was already a war going on. Some of these items included bombers capable of carrying the war as far as America and beyond the Ural Mountains into Russia. So this idea of building weapons at the cutting edge of technology in order to swing the war back into the momentum of Germany led to The development of so-called wonder weapons or Vonda Rafa, which in German means miracle weapon. This is a term made by the Nazi propaganda ministry to revolutionary superweapons. Now, the main point here is that most of these weapons remain prototypes. They never saw combat, or even if they did, they were too late in their development, or they were too insignificant in number to have a military effect and they couldn’t be learned by soldiers and combined with other technology to become part of the unified military front. Some weapons like the rockets, the V weapons were developed earlier, and I saw considerable deployment, especially against London and Antwerp. And these go back to the same pool of highly inventive weapons. So these superweapons were mostly propaganda because there’s a war situation worse than for Germany from 1942. These claims about the development of weapons that could turn the tide became a prominent part of propaganda directed at Germans by their government in order to make them optimistic about What was happening? some advanced designs like the Panther tank or Panzer tank, and that type 21 submarine rushed into production and their performance was disappointing to German military and leadership due to poorly planned construction or inadequate pre-production. So because of this, the term wound or voice in German generally refers to a universal solution and its use ironically, as if this thing could solve any problem when you really don’t know what you’re doing and you’re way out of your depth. Now, I’m just going to list off a few of these different vendor offers that were either in development or maybe made it to the final end of the prototype stage. We even saw some combat for aircraft carriers. You had the Graf Zeppelin, it was a 33,000-ton aircraft carrier that was laid down in 1936 but never completed. And there was also a plan 56,000-ton aircraft carrier that was converted from transport but it was canceled before work started. Ocean-going u boats you have the rocket u boat, a planet ballistic missile submarine, but this project was abandoned. The Type 18 u boat that was designed to use air-independent propulsion. So these were actually under construction by the time the war ended. Finally, of type 21, u boat called the electro boot, the electric boat. It was the first boat designed to operate completely submerged underneath were built only for completed. Moving on to the tanks. One of the most notable was called the rat, a plan super-heavy tank that weighed 1000 tons. It was armed with 280-millimeter cannons, 128-millimeter anti-tank gun 820-millimeter flank guns, and 250-millimeter heavy machine guns. It was canceled in early 1943 just moving this would be mind-boggling. So that’s a little bullet point list of some of the things are in the planning stages or in the conceptual stages. I want to take a look at some of the more out there conceptual and ambitious plans that Germany had before we drill into those That was implemented but fail on the battlefield. The first one is called the stun gun or the Helio beam. And I’m excited about this one because it actually resembles something that Roman historian says the scientists Archimedes came up with. In around 200 BC, the Roman Navy was invading Syracuse was Archimedes, the Greek mathematician lives. And according to some accounts, he was able to take concentric mirrors and array them all together. So they developed into a solar beam. And were strong enough to basically fry the Roman fleet. I have a podcast episode on this topic and short to say people try to recreate this experiment, it wouldn’t work. It’s more of a testimony to the image that Archimedes had is a genius, kind of like similarities of Nazi super-science that the reputation precedes him. And it makes some people think that he’s capable of impossible things. So anyway, this was completely conceptual. There’s no way this would have been possible with 1940s technology with the Helio beam it A giant mirror that would conceivably launch into space by an advanced v2 rocket was orderable weapon research by Nazi Germany during World War Two. German physicist Hermann Oberth drew up plans for a space station. The station was to house 100-meter wide concave mirror that could be used to reflect the sun’s light into a point on earth like a magnifying glass. Later on, a group of German scientists at a research center further tweak Oberto original idea, the sun gun Ruby at 200 kilometers above the earth while above low Earth orbit, I don’t think it’s in geostationary orbit at that point, if you need metallic sodium and have enough power to boil an ocean or fry city. Now the Germans estimated how long this would take and they said 50 to 100 years so this is purely conceptual. Now, something more straightforward was called the crew mouth, which was a weapon designed in response to the trench warfare of World War One and something that could overcome the difficult conditions there. One difficulty with How do you shoot around a corner without potentially exposing yourself? A British born Australian soldier Lance Corporal William beech came up with the solution to this in 1915. During the glibly campaign, he modified a standard Lee Enfield 300 rifle. The stock was cut in half and then the two halves were connected with a board and a mirror Periscope. Beach horizontally aligned the site so the rifles use a string to pull the trigger and allowed it to be fired from within cover, so you could fire it around a corner. So the crew mouth the Nazi weapon crewmen off means curved barrel. It was something that didn’t work, but it was a bent barrel attachment for an assault rifle that was developed by Germany in World War Two included that periscope height for firing around corners. The problem with this is that the barrel and bullets were under great stress, bullets would shatter and they’d exit the barrel and multiple fragments. So as buckshot, it could be effective but Not as a rifle. Another conceptual weapon was called the mouse. It was a heavy tank. It was the heaviest fully enclosed Fighting Vehicle ever built. But only two holes in one turret were completed before Russia advanced on Germany. two prototypes were built one with a turret one without. They went through trials in 1944. The vehicle was 10 meters long, over 30 feet long 3.71 meters height about 14 or 15 meters wide, and nearly four meters high. It weighed about 200 metric tons, which is the weight of nearly 30 elephants. The biggest problem was moving the mouse It was too heavy to cross bridges it break them and it was actually fitted with a snorkel across rivers and cold it gets emerged up to a depth of eight meters. The problem was finding an engine that was powerful enough to move the tank but small enough to fit inside. Alright, that was a brief overview. Now I want to dive in a lot deeper with weapons that were developed and push the envelope on technology where there is a little Little bit of truth to the concept of the vendor Rafa warfare history network has an article link to in the show notes where they detail specific aircraft and tanks and others that were on the cutting edge of technology but too difficult to implement. Something that Nazis focus on a lot at the end of the war was jet fighters. The engines of new jet types stem from work that was carried out before the war by Britain’s sir Frank middle in Germany’s hands yo keen pops fun Oh hain. The innovation that both inventors provided was creating centrifugal and axial flow turbojets, which form the basis for operational jet aircraft. The production design for Germany was the Messerschmitt Me 262. It was chosen because test pilots preferred its range and better speed from its twin engines. When the commander of the Luftwaffe is fighter force general Adolf Galante flew that me too 62 in 1943. He reported that his flight in the jet was like being pushed by Angel How to speed to 540 miles per hour. In combat capability, it was much better than any allied plane. Some consider the plane the Wrights’ best chance of turning around a lost war. But by the winter of 1943, there were increasing waves of Allied bombers over the Reich and Hitler worried about the 260 choose high fuel consumption and he postponed the Jets production. But in January 1944, after reading an article in the British press on the success of their experiments with jet aircraft, he ordered the design be rushed into production with a goal of 1000 being manufactured a month after November 26, 1943, which was the day Hitler first saw the aircraft. He decided to me to 62 which was built as a fighter should be used as a fast bomber. So he directed all weapons on board the jet be removed so it could carry a greater bomb load. His rationale was that as new jets wouldn’t have to defend themselves since but their superior speed they could avoid enemy fighters and wouldn’t need escorts the way up Barnwood Hiller’s decision that the Emmy 262 should we use exclusively as a bomber cause extensive design modifications. It’s not as if the guns can be removed and bombs can be put in their place. This deletes the aircraft production and introduction in the service. By October 1944. Further versions of me 262 were introduced photo reconnaissance ground attack and two-seater radar-equipped night fighter models.

Messerschmitt built theme 262 a one a, and it was flown by a single pilot and powered by two jet engines, giving it a thrust of nearly 2000 pounds at a 41-foot wingspan and the aircraft was almost 35 feet long weight nearly 7000 pounds and fully combat loaded and could reach an altitude of 37,000 feet and had a range of nearly 700 miles. But it came too late in the war effort to really make the difference. Probably the most famous bit of advanced technology that didn’t see white deployment was the V program the rocket program. With me. 262 fighter jets were tactical weapons used to protect German skies from allied aerial assaults and blunt enemy ground attacks. The rocket program was designed as an instrument of terror. The Virgo was designed as revenge against British and American bombing of German cities. The goal was for London to be hit by up to 3000 missiles a week on June 6, 1944, only a few hours after D day and Allied soldiers landed on the beaches of Normandy. orders were issued from German High Command to activate these rockets. The development of Hitler’s retaliation weapons began with experiments in rocket technology in the early 1930s. Under the supervision of army captain Walter Hornberger, and his associate rocket enthusiasts named Wernher von Braun, who famously led the Apollo moon mission program and made America’s status as the first nation on the moon possible. But 1934 liquid fuel era stabilized rocket prototypes have been designed the next year in order to keep the development of this weapon a secret. Research Laboratories testing sites and power plants and factory facilities were set up on an isolated island off the Baltic Sea coast of Northern Germany. But in 39 models a one through a four of the aggregate rocket series was produced. But Hillary thought that the program wasn’t needed, at least until the Luftwaffe lost the battle of Berlin and it needed another means of harassing England. The a4 program was restarted and given top priority and testing of the missile commenced in 1942. This 40-foot long 12-ton rocket, which carried a one-ton explosive warhead up to 200 miles was known as the v two. A successful launch occurred in 1942. After a number of failures, leading to further improvements in the device in July of 1943. Hitler believed in the weapons potential in order to that’d be mass-produced Along with other large concrete launching bunkers. At the same time, a team of loot wafaa, scientists were working to create a weapon that was similar to the v2 but would be cheaper to manufacture and take less time than the guided missile would. Within a few months, aloof wafaa came up with a small, cheap pilotless aircraft, called the anti-aircraft target device, or better known as the flying bomb or the v1. For Hitler, the v1 as a means of retaliation for the Allied bombing campaign against Germany without the risk of bomber losses on Germany’s part, and it was quickly losing fighters and pilots as well. codenamed cherry stone or Kishan. The v1 program was instituted at Penta mood that island north of Germany in the Baltic Sea. The v1 look like a small plane with a stovepipe over its tail and no cockpit. It was 25 feet long and had a 17-foot wingspan. The jet engine which was housed in a stovepipe assembly was fueled by 80% octane petrol had a one-time warhead and was launched by a catapult or launching ramp 150 feet in length. The bomb flew along a preset gyroscope control course. It wasn’t very accurate, but the goal was to mass for two so it didn’t really need to be. It was accurate enough at least to hit its intended objective. The City of London. The missile attack on the British capital, which is codenamed target 42, was scheduled for Christmas Day 1943. But technical difficulties and the V one’s manufacturer push this back to the summer of 1944. When 5000 operational v ones are ready to be sent against London. The operation was put under the control of Lieutenant General Eric’s hymens. The missile offensive would be carried out for more than 95 launch sites. These were small facilities with ski shaped buildings designed to protect the personnel firing the missiles, or explosion set off by unassembled flying bombs. In December 1943 52 of these sites were bombed by Allied air units, resulting in the destruction of seven sites. The response to the relentless Allied bombing detachments of anti-aircraft guns was positioned around each installation.

By January 1944, a quarter of the v1 launch sites have been put out of action by Allied attacks. On June 13, 1944, even only 10 of the 55 v one launching ramps were ready. The first flying bombs which traveled at 360 miles an hour flew from their bases in northern France, each loaded with a ton of high explosives. aiming point for the v1 was London’s Tower Bridge, and it took 22 minutes to reach the target. Of the five successfully launched flying bombs that day, one fell into the English Channel, three landed in open areas on the English East Coast, and the fifth The only successful one hit a railroad bridge, killing six people and injuring nine on June 15, and 16th. The missile offensive resumed from 55 operational v one sides Which watch 144 bombs on southern England 73 of these struck London. For the next three months, the Germans fired an average of 97 bombs a day in London. Due to its speed, British anti-aircraft couldn’t fire it out of the sky. By the end of August, 2224 v one-two dropped on England, killing over 5000 British subjects and destroying thousands of homes and factories. It was only the repeated Allied air attacks and the advance of their ground forces in France and Belgium that caused the Germans to dismantle their v1 bomb installations in those regions, and finally ending the v1 Blitz by September. The v1 danger was over, but a more serious missile threat was initiated by the Germans, the v2, it was fired from Holland and the v2 is used mobile launchers. In Transit the 12-ton 46-foot long rocket was laid out on a trailer, which transported the weapon and also served as its firing platform. Any small clearing would do to launch the v2, and it only took an hour to prepare and fire the missile, which could gain an altitude of 55 miles and a speed of 3580 miles per hour, with a range of 200 miles. Only four minutes after takeoff, the v2 would strike London. The program was controlled by the ISS and the first vetoes were fired at Paris and London on September 8, 1944. From an area around The Hague in the Netherlands. During the next few weeks more rockets, both v ones, and V twos hit London, with 82 falling on the city in November, killing hundreds of civilians. Antwerp was hit by nearly 1000 rockets up to the end of the year, while a total of 447 were aimed at London. The last rockets of the war were fired from the Hague on March 27, 1945. The final v2 exploded in London, killing 134 and injuring 94. In total, Hitler’s v2 is killed 20 754 wounded 60 523 is one last of these rockets the Nazis wanted to use as a weapon. Hitler had one more retaliation weapons prize, the v3, or the London gun as it was called. It was effectually an artillery piece, following an initial firing charge that forces a projectile up the barrel. Set of secondary charges placed in lateral chambers along the length of the barrel. Space three yards apart and firing electronically would detonate, adding to the propellant pressure and increasing the project’s velocity and range to a maximum of 102 miles. So the v3 was a supergun, and the super guns projectiles were nine feet long, thinned, and fitted with a 300-pound high explosive warhead. The site for this new weapon plan for the installation of a 50 gun battery was a two-mile labyrinth of concrete line tunnels and galleries dug out by forced labor near a village in northern France. These were the largest guns ever manufactured. The v3 barrels were 412 feet long. It was soft steel with six-foot bores in diameter, and all fitted with conventional breech-loading mechanisms.

The v3 site was first bombed by the British Royal Air Force on November 5 1943, but it had negligible results. A test firing of the v3 battery by the Germans delivered seven shells on to the town of Maidstone, your London on June 13 1944. This surprise bombardment caused a massive Allied bombing raid that involved 106 handily Paige Halifax for engine bombers against opposition on July 6, 1944, which destroyed the site with bombs. By August the Germans abandoned the facility. In September the region fell into the hands of the Canadian First Army as they swept through data Calais from the Normandy beachhead. Alright, so let’s hop back to speculative weapons. So I thought it’d be nice to hop back and forth between science fiction weapons and actual web things that were developed. And as I explained earlier, the reason that Nazis had this type of futuristic technology was due to it relying on more conventional weaponry and then having to develop things from Nazi labs and using that as propaganda late in the war. But speculative technology for the Nazis also comes out of the strange mind of Adolf Hitler, and his long-ranging plans of what Germany would do Following the war, such as ethnic Germans in areas colonizing Eastern Europe and liquidating the Slavic peoples and building a new capital called Germania with this ugly architecture. This is another facet of where these types of speculative weapons come from. Some of these include a fleet of long-range bombers meant to destroy New York City or 1000 time tanks or radio guy two bombs with a success rate that would be 80 times more accurate than that of its rivals. A few years ago, the National Geographic editor program called Nazi secret weapons where a team of military historians use unearth blueprints to reach instruct Third Reich technology to determine whether some of Hitler’s top-secret weapons could have changed the course of the war if they had been used. So even if these wonder weapons could have seen the light of day and been implemented in large numbers wouldn’t have made any difference. One such speculative weapon was the Messerschmitt 264 bomber, also known as the American bomber. At the time, no bomber could cross the Atlantic without a refueling stopover. So Hitler wanted to leapfrog the aviation technology of the time with this proposed plane. The plan was for a four-engine bomber that could carry six and a half tonnes that hilar hoped would rain down terror on America’s eastern seaboard. A military historian some Cannata said that the general plan for the Germans was to start in France fly 4000 miles over the Atlantic, bombed New York, and then fly back to France. Hitler became consumed with this project, as three prototypes of the bomber were built, though the German Air Force targeted factories He’s on the east coast of the US starting in April 1942. By July 1944, Allied air raid successfully destroyed all of the Messerschmitt prototypes. These military historians say that this Messerschmitt was not a realistic plan. The only person really interested in putting this forward was Hitler because other scientists and advisors didn’t believe it was feasible and it would draw resources away from time tested conventional weapons. But in the same year, Hitler gave orders to construct a tank called the rat. This is considered by some to be the largest tank ever designed. The rat was supposed to weigh 1000 tons and extend 114 feet in length. That’s such a large diameter projectile that its destructive blast could have been enormous. If you go through several feet of concrete, have incredible killing power. But again, like other super tanks, it didn’t have any sort of mobility. You couldn’t go down roads with it. You couldn’t go over bridges with it. And it could go through a river, but who knows how much displacement it had and with such positive displacement, positive buoyancy, we don’t know if it would have stayed on the surface and been able to get across the river without becoming a summary.

Germany’s Ministry of armaments at the time decided it wasn’t the best way to use the nation’s dwindling resources. That’s something that could have had history-changing potential was the fritz x bomber. The Fritz X was a precision bomber, which according to prototype testing, had a success rate at times higher than other free-falling bombs at the time. It was first us in combat in 1943. This radio guy to bomb was used against one of the biggest battleships in the Italian Navy, the Roma. It’s sunk the ship after two hits in just 35 minutes, bringing 1200 sailors down with it. Hitler then turns his attention to the US Navy A few days later, targeting the USS Savannah, a cruiser used for us landings in southern Italy. But the bomb didn’t down the ship, it actually came down and penetrated the roof of the number three gun turret, and it actually glanced off the breach of the center gun of that turret and continued down through the handling spaces and explored in the magazine as an exit at the bottom of the warship. This was actually a lucky thing for Savannah because had been contained within the magazine and the magazine completely detonated, then this would have broken the ship in half. In other documented cases, the power of the bomber was so extreme that it ran right through the ship exploding only on the exit or in the water. Some military historians wonder if the bomb suffered from technical imperfection. explain the reason why it wasn’t used elsewhere. Or if it was simply too powerful for its time and ahead of its time. Holger bowl who’s a model maker of life-size World War Two weaponry who lives in Germany, partner with American aviation experts to reconstruct the fritz x bomber and tested it in privately owned part of California’s desert after reconstructing it including the bombs in Turn electronics. They teamed up with a company they own several world war two aircraft. To Fritz, x replicas were transported to the airfield, and they were loaded onto a b 25 aircraft. The Fritz x wasn’t loaded with explosives, but the team designed an experiment to figure out the ballistics and destructive power of the reconstructive Nazi bomb. They drew an outline in the desert of the Roman battleship, which was more than 780 feet long and 100 feet wide, and tried to drop the fritz x replicas on the target one at a time. The crew missed their target by a few dozen yards, but the experiment was considered a success. The force of the impact of the bomb suggested the destructive power the fritz ax was too much for the battleships of World War Two. According to the group’s calculations, the bomb hit the ground traveling about 290 miles per hour. after the collision, seven feet of the bomb’s total length of 11 feet were buried underground. So these balls performed exactly as the originals did. And as they came down on their target, so for whatever reason, the fritz x wasn’t put into mass deployment, but if it would have it really could have made a big difference. Okay, so those were speculative weapons. Let’s get to something that a lot of people talk about when they talk about German weapons in World War Two. And that’s Germany’s development of an atomic bomb. Now, of course, Germany had an atomic weapons program. The name of its program in the English was uranium club. And it began in April 1939, only a few months after German scientists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman discovered fission. Germany actually had a head start over the Manhattan Project and some of the best Atomic Scientists and that industrial base sufficient materials and military officers were interested in the program. But despite all that, they were far away from actually developing a nuclear weapon or Heisenberg, the head of the German nuclear program after heard the news of the United States that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima said, I don’t believe a word of the whole thing. Alright, so why were they so far behind if it seems like they had every advantage going into it?

Well, let’s go back a few years. The United States was aware of the German nuclear program in August 1939. Albert Einstein wrote to President Roosevelt, warning that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction and a large mass of uranium, which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium like elements will be generated. So the United States started a race to develop an atomic bomb, believing that whoever had it first would win the war. The site’s atomic heritage describes Germany’s nuclear program in detail and especially delves into America’s reaction to this. Rubber Fermin, who was assistant to general Leslie grows and the Chief of foreign intelligence for the Manhattan Project described how the Manhattan Project was built on fear that the enemy had the bomb, or would have it before we could develop it. The scientists knew this to be the case because they were refugees from Germany, a large number of them, and they’d studied under the Germans before the war broke out. physicist Leona Marshall, Libby recalled, I think everyone was terrified that we were wrong. The Germans were ahead of us. Germany led the civilized world of physics and every aspect and at the time were set in when Hitler lower the boom. It was a very frightening time. The United States was equally afraid. General Grove said unless and until we had positive knowledge to the contrary, we had to assume that the most competent German scientists and engineers were working on an atomic program with the full support of their government, and with the full capacity of the German industry at their disposal, any other assumption would have been unsound and dangerous. There was even consideration of kidnapping Werner Heisenberg in Switzerland in 1942. But this never happened. In 1943, the US launched the Alsace mission of hoarding telogen project focused on learning the extent of Germany’s nuclear program. But by 1944, they realized that the Germans hadn’t come close to developing a bomb and only advanced to preliminary research. The la certain 10 German scientists after Germany’s defeat at farm Hall, about the house in England, they were there from July 3, 1945, to January 3, and they suspected the scientists would unwind and not knowing they were bug speak freely. Some of them such as Heisenberg, Kurt Wagner, and Carl von wisecracker. Were directly involved in the project. Heisenberg’s disbelief hearing the United States have dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima confirmed to the allies. The German effort was never close. As one German scientist explained, it must have taken factories large as the United States and make that much uranium 235. Part of the reason that they didn’t succeed is that they didn’t have something like the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was a closed question. the effort between science and the government-industry. But there wasn’t anything like this in Germany. While at farm Hall, the German physicist Horst quashing said, You Americans are capable of real cooperation on a tremendous scale, but he said it would have been impossible in Germany. Each one said the other was unimportant. Also being successful would have required an enormous logistical and financial push, which the United States had. But with the German government, not believing that the bomb project would be successful, they committed fewer and fewer resources to it.

One of the flaws of the German project was that many top German scientists had left Germany. Some of them were Jewish, fleeing the new laws of German national socialism. Others left in protest, decreasing the number of experts available to work on the bomb. Many of them actually came to the United States to work on the Manhattan Project. But the bigger problem was support. Hitler was more interested in the v2 project than he was in the atomic bomb after leader hearing in 1930. to lecture given by Heisenberg to scientists and government officials, Hans Beth remarked, my first reaction is that Heisenberg knew a lot more than I have always thought. The fact he reached many of these conclusions in one evening is most remarkable. In his lecture, it was clear he was talking to people who are quite ignorant. Apparently the other people didn’t know very much about vision. And whatever work was happening in Germany was halted in June of 1942. They didn’t achieve a successful chain reaction. They couldn’t enrich uranium, and they didn’t consider plutonium a viable substitute. Heisenberg said in his memoir, the government decided that work on the reactor project must be continued, but only on a modest scale. No orders were given to build atomic bombs. It became clear that the technical prerequisites for production would take years to develop two years at the earliest, even if the program was given maximum support and German resources were given to other priorities. Now, a popular theory for Failure of the project is a Heisenberg sabotage the program so that Hitler wouldn’t have the bomb. But there’s not much evidence about this. Author Richard Rhodes wrote, there was at least one speculation that one of the German scientists deliberately falsified measurements and graphite, hoping to stop a German bond program. I don’t think there’s really evidence to support that but seems to have been a mistake in the course of developing these various components of the technology. So historians mostly agree that problems with the German project came from miscalculations and lack of popularity. The allegations of sabotage really aren’t that well substantiated. So the summary is that even though the German nuclear program didn’t come close to fruition, it did kickstart the Manhattan Project. Something that’s forgotten in the wake of Hiroshima Nagasaki, is that the Manhattan Project was originally conceived for the war in Europe and that nuclear weapons will be used there. But the bomb wasn’t ready for operational use at that time, hadn’t been it most likely would have been used. Especially if Germany was digging in its heels and refusing to surrender. As I said, at the beginning of this episode, the myth of Nazi super-science came out of a fusion of two things. First of all, Germany was a scientifically advanced nation that had some of the oldest universities in Europe and produced several engineers and scientists that are famous and their names are synonymous with their inventions like Gutenberg Fahrenheit Geiger, and Zeppelin. And many of the Nobel Prize winners were from Germany, Erwin Schrodinger, Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein, 14 of the first 31 Nobel prizes for chemistry went to the Germans. So this scientific base coupled with the Nazi’s open declaration that they were developing advanced weapons for the purposes of propaganda. What did this belief and it lived on in fiction and Captain America in Robert Heinlein in the iron sky, because it was a specter that existed at the end of The War and Nazis have always been a convenient villain. So you put those two together and you have a good trip to work with. But to run off this episode, there is a more realistic legacy of Nazi super weapons that go beyond a fiction trope. And that’s interestingly enough, the space program in the United States. When I talked about the v2 rocket program, I mentioned Wernher von Braun, and he ended up being one of the architects of the Apollo program. He and other scientists were brought to the United States in secret in 1945. So I think it’s good to focus a little bit on him to close out this topic and maybe a positive note.

When the war came to a close in 1945, both American and Russian officials wanted this scheme to get that technology for themselves for the v2 rocket program. Even though it didn’t make a huge difference in the war. They both saw the incredible potential if the Rockets could be industrialized and built by the thousands and powered for the long-range attacks. Well, that’s essential. What the Cold War was, it was an arms race. So what happened is that 88 Nazi scientists arrived in the United States or put to work for the US. And the weeks after Germany’s surrender, American troops combed the European countryside to search for hidden caches of weaponry to collect, and they were shocked at the things that they found. Annie Jacobson wrote in her book, Operation Paperclip The Secret Intelligence program that brought Nazi scientists to America, that they had no idea that Hitler created this whole arsenal of nerve gas. And they didn’t know that Hitler was working on a robotic plague weapon. So this is where paperclip began, where the Pentagon realized that well, we need these weapons for ourselves. But it wasn’t just enough to study the weapons. Because the Soviet Union the one time allies of the Nazis were doing the same thing. The US government hatched a plan to bring 88 Nazi scientists captured during the fall of Nazi Germany back to America and get them back on the job. The military tried to whitewash their past and The scientists call themselves prisoners of peace, but many of them did have blood on their hands. Wernher von Braun was one of the brains behind the v2 rocket program but also knew what was going on in the concentration camps. And he actually hand-picked people from terrible places, including concentration camps, to work to build his rockets. Operation Paperclip was top secret. Many of these weapons were classified, and even agents with the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, which the US government tasked with hunting Nazi officers who fled after the war. Didn’t know for decades the extent to which government officials were collaborating with our one time enemy. The United States benefited from the expertise of the scientists for their rocket program. And they also learned much from Germany’s jet engine industry with respect to the engines themselves and on German testing procedures. The German chemical industry also held value for the United States, as Germans had invested in developing synthetic oil and rubber technology. terms of what to do with this technology. As long as there weren’t scientists that were directly caught up in it and able to train Americans like Operation Paperclip. One idea was to develop a public-private partnership, where our firms would send their own personnel to Europe to investigate their German counterparts and try to learn as much as they could. The US government supported this hoping to facilitate the technical and scientific processes in the American business sector. But interestingly enough, Americans were disappointed by what they found in Germany when they investigated areas where they thought there would be major advances like machine tooling or assembly line procedure and similar areas that we engineers had been working. There wasn’t anything terribly advanced about what Germany was doing. There are many different reasons for this, Doug, so Reagan writes in his book, taking Nazi technology, that there are three reasons that other than a few wonder weapons Germany really wasn’t that far ahead. First, the antisemitic nature of the German regime drove scientists and engineers away. Second, the regime made it difficult for the German engineers to collaborate with foreign scientists and learn about foreign inventions because they were disinvited from conferences and shunned by collaborators. And while the immense German investment in military capabilities did drive innovation, it drew funding away from basic research and civilian applications. So it goes to show that taking foreign technology is harder than it seems. So in the age of intellectual property theft, and talk about China stealing the intellectual property of other governments, it’s not as simple as a copy, cut and paste other people’s work. As we saw at the end of World War Two, it’s hard for scientific progress to advance unless there’s an international base with scientists and engineers benefiting from knowledge and expertise from colleagues. scientific breakthrough doesn’t come from a top-down cloistered program, for the most part, I mean, the Manhattan Project is an exception, but you had a massive nation with its full military base devoted to it. So while there are some scattered small bits of truth To the idea of Nazi super weapons and Nazi super science. For the most part, it’s a myth that there were a few brilliant minds who were making advances like Wernher von Braun. But his best contribution to human civilization the Apollo mission happened when it was in the course of collaboration with people from other nations working together for a larger project.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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"Nazi Super Science: The Third Reich’s Plans for Transatlantic Bombers, Atomic Weapons, and Orbital Death Rays" History on the Net
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